No Longer a Moping Ministry

mopingsmallDo we ever go moping about in our ministry? If you’re like me you might find it easy to confuse moping with mopping, there’s only a letter “p” that distinguishes the two words. Mopping is what you do when you use a mop to clean up. Moping means being dejected, listless, apathetic, sulking, brooding, or downcast.

It might be good to make a list of these defining words for moping and see how many we have to check off as having been part of our mindset in the last week or two:

dejected

listless

apathetic

sulking

brooding

downcast

Ouch! I feel your pain, because it’s my pain too!

Moping isn’t frequently listed as a sin, but I’m thinking it should be. I can’t imagine Jesus ever moping, and He’s the defining standard for us. Moping about could be called grumbling without using words, and you don’t have to look long to find Biblical references as to how God doesn’t think much of grumbling!

If you’re moping through your day or your week you probably are thinking that the last thing you need is to be reprimanded for moping! Now you have another reason to mope, right? Sorry, I really didn’t intend to make matters worse. It’s just that sometimes the best way for us to get beyond a moping attitude is to be reminded that we’re moping!

I don’t have any magic fix for moping, just the sober reminder that we shouldn’t let ourselves get away with it and that a minister who mopes isn’t much good to anyone. I also want to remind us of the combination self-talk/prayer of the psalmist. Modeling his words sounds like a good way to keep from moping about!

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5,11, 43:5)

With Me, Through Me

DaveWalkingI try to keep my prayers from “vain repetitions,” but I still find myself using certain phrases in my conversations with the Lord over and over again. One such phrase, “Lord, work with me and through me.” After having prayed this again just yesterday, I paused to reflect on what my words meant (I suppose trying to backpedal from it being a vain repetition).

I came to the conclusion that it’s a good phrase for me to pray, as long as I mean it when I pray it. Yes, I need to let God work with me before I can hope He will work through me in the lives of others. Sure, I’ve known this all along, but I also know I need to be reminded of this truth time and time again.

I can only share how God can be real and work in the life of someone else if I have experienced that in some measure in my own life first. I can’t give what I don’t have. What this means, then, is that if I have the goal of providing spiritual food for the souls of others I must first feed and nurture my own soul. Over my years of pastoral ministry I’ve had to resist the temptation to go off running in all directions to minister to people and rather move in His direction, allowing Him to minister to me first and to first transform me. Rushing off to others had to take second place to first resting in the Lord. My quiet times with the Lord helped me with the busy times of being with His people. “Yes, Lord, first work with me and then work through me. Amen.”

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’” (Mark 6:31)

Keep Going with the Calling!

piperHaving recently retired, I found this article by a favorite author of mine, John Piper, to be exhilarating and inspiring. Most of you are still in the trenches of pastoral ministry but I believe could still find encouragement in what he writes. It also provides good fodder for the sermon delivered to the older members of the congregation. Enjoy!

Sanctified Stubbornness

turtleshowsmallBeing stubborn is often seen as a negative attribute, but I’m thinking it can be sanctified for good use! I’m further thinking that sanctified stubbornness is good for a pastor’s heart. Words like determination and perseverance are synonyms, but there’s something “edgy” about stubbornness so I’m sticking with it. Even the word itself, with its three sets of double letters (bb,nn,ss), exemplifies and emphasizes its definition!

Pastoral ministry is, to coin a phrase from Eugene Peterson, “a long obedience in the same direction.” I’m thinking of a pastor who served a small rural church part-time several years ago. He had major struggles with a key, longtime leader in the church. From my conversations with my pastor friend I gathered that the troublemaker was getting close to leaving the church, but before that happened my friend resigned. I realize I may not have been aware of all the dynamics playing out in the situation, but it might well have been a situation where the pastor quit too soon.

We’re in a race, as the apostle Paul put it. I’d like to take Paul’s analogy and give it a bit of a different slant. This race, for the pastor, is often a case where the race is between the tortoise and the hare, and we’re the tortoise. A heart committed to the slow and steady running of the race will likely win in the end.

What helps us exhibit this sanctified stubbornness is a profound sense of call from the Lord. We need to determine that until we’re “uncalled” we will continue to carry out our call!

Often, these unholy hassles come from one or two, or no more than a small contingent of people. Why would we allow a small minority of our parishioners to cast the vote for us to stop doing what we believe God has called us to do?

Yes, I believe there’s a place in the pastor’s heart for some sanctified stubbornness! You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (Hebrews 10:36)

Steeping the Tea, Steeping the Teaching

TeaSteepI’m an avid coffee drinker, but sometimes in the afternoon I enjoy a cup of tea. I was recently watching my cup as the teabag steeped in the hot water – what else does a retired pastor have to do but watch tea steep? It occurred to me that just as I steep my tea I had to learn as a pastor to let steep that which I wanted to preach or teach.

The unrelenting schedule of a weekly sermon or teaching was sometimes difficult to keep up with. It’s easy to find yourself hurrying and scurrying to prepare for a presentation that’s coming up too soon. What I came to realize was that I needed to study and reflect on a Biblical passage or subject for a message more than just a few days before delivery. Letting it brew and stew, or steep, for a longer period of time helped me to do more justice to that which I had to deliver. It allowed me time to reflect, to let what I was going to deliver impact my own life first, and to find fresh and creative ways of communicating the truth without resorting to clichés.

Lectio Divina, the quiet and reflective study of a small portion of scripture, is the spirit which I find helpful to use in processing the material that’s to end up in a sermon or teaching several days or weeks away. Turning my mind and heart into something like a quiet library rather than a bustling office or a noisy factory is more conducive to hearing the still small voice of the Lord more easily.

Then, too, I have often been amazed at how an insight, an illustration, or a practical application will seem to pop into my thoughts out of nowhere, when I was focused on something entirely different. This rarely happens when I’m hurried and harried in preparation for a presentation that’s too close for comfort.

It’s good to do what the psalmist did. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.” (Psalm 119:15)

Yes, my tea and teaching have something in common. Both are better with steeping!

Making Light The Burden

yoke

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy
and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

As a pastor/preacher I’ve often approached the yoke teaching of Jesus with ambivalence. On the one hand I have attempted to preach the text so my congregation grasped the truth that He wants to lighten our burdens. On the other hand I have often felt the heavy burden of pastoring the very people to whom I’m preaching the message about having a light burden! Now that I’m retired from active pastoral ministry I see with something closer to 20/20 hindsight the burden I felt, and how I should have better applied Jesus’ invitation to lighten my own burden.

A proper exegesis of the words of Jesus concerning His yoke, as most of us discovered in preparation to preach on this text, reveals that Jesus was referring to the unnecessary burden of legalism the religious leaders of His day heaped upon the people. We grasp the wonderful principle that Jesus taught, that we don’t get right with God by taking on the burden of following right rules and rituals but by accepting the gift of God’s grace (the redundancy of gift and grace is intentional on my part, for emphasis).

I preached it well (I think) but I didn’t always live it well (this I know). Somehow, as a pastor I accumulated burdens of ministry Jesus never asked me to bear. I allowed people’s opinions of how I did ministry to begin to define how well I was doing ministry. A worship service with a higher attendance seemed to be more successful worship than a service where attendance was down. I found it much easier to see God’s miraculous working in the successes than in the failures, though now I see, again, with something closer to 20/20 hindsight, that the formation of Christ within me (and others) was clearly more evident in the valleys than on the mountain tops.

Jesus’ grace is given to pastors as well as to the congregation! Our success will not cause Him to love us more, for He already loves us completely, nor will our lack of success or even failures cause Him to love us less.

Jesus says that the yoke He calls us to bear is a light burden (still a burden but a light burden) because He’s in the yoke with us. Our strength is found in the yoke with Him, our identity is found in the yoke with Him, our joy is found in the yoke with Him. The yoke of pastoral ministry He puts upon us is light and bearable because we share the yoke with Him!

Just a Reminder…

aaalightsstreaks copy

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 26 other followers