“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Monday, October 03, 2005

Monday Morning Musings

I have heard it said that pastors should not make comments on Monday morning, the DAY AFTER as it were, but I am going to throw caution to the wind!

Being a bi-vocational pastor at a small church can sometimes cause one to ask questions on Monday morning, such as, "Why do I do this?", and "Who really cares?" This is especially true after one has had an unusually trying day. I must admit that I have gone through phases like this, and may well again. However, I think if we examine what we are doing in the light of Scripture, our hearts and minds can be revived with the import of our calling.

The issues and problems that a pastor at a small church, (and almost all pastors start at small churches), can, nay WILL, face, are manifold, and at times quite painful personally; there are friends who leave, and/or attack you for decisions that are made, the (seeming) lack of growth in some individuals, and the (seeming) lack of growth in the church overall. We are also inundated with SUCCESS books written by men who pastor (or rather ADMINISTER) MONSTER churches and have 'discovered' the secret to pastoral wealth, happiness, and fulfillment. All of these and many other things come at us, and cause us to doubt our calling!

I believe that if we are not careful, we can begin to lose what the church, and pastoring really is. In the post-Christian era we live in, the church has BECOME many things it was never intended to be. Nowadays, it is a health club, a social club, a nightclub, or any number of other 'clubs', but rarely is it considered to be the Bride of Christ, the Body here on earth, a place made up of living stones. Today church 'success' is calculated using tithe dollars, 'consumers' attending, book sales, building/compound size, 'saved' individuals (read that emotionally-charged, but intellectually, and spiritually-devoid decisions) coming forward by the hundreds', and sadly little else. If one is successful in these areas, then they are often free to spout any type of heresy imagineable. The centrality of Christ, and the Word has been replaced with worldly stories and light shows.

Truth be told, there are many churches and pastors out there who would be unable to 'have' church if the power failed in their building. They would, like the Grinch (rarely will I use Dr. Suess to make a theological point), stand amazed at true worshippers, muttering to themselves, " How could it be so? It came with out ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!"

We need to remind ourselves what the church is!! We forget, or ignore, that the early Christians worshipped in the catacombs, or that the church in China worships in underground hideouts whispering their songs of praise to the Father. I daresay that the Lord was/is honored in those places much more than in some of the lightshow-driven, sound-amplified, arenas that pass for churches in this day. The church is the BRIDE of Christ, called to be holy, and separate; worshipping the Father, and working/singing/preaching/ministering for HIS GLORY! We are not called to be ENTERTAINMENT for the lost!!!

The pastor at the small church can forget that it is not the success of this world that we seek, nor require; rather it is the approval of our master. It is He who issues the "Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant", and no one else. We can also forget, if not careful, that the heavens rejoice when ONE comes to a saving knowledge of the Messiah, or that Noah preached for 120 years and never reached more than his immediate family (and that is speculative, regarding HOW MUCH he reached them), or that the prophets spent their years of ministry alone, and often cast out of society.

We also can fail to grasp the incredible task set before us. To speak the Word of God, week in and week out. We should reflect on Paul's words; 2nd Corinthians 2:14-3:6 -- "...But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

It is not our sufficiency which we should be looking to, rather it is the sufficiency found in Christ and Him alone! Our discouragement often comes from a false sense of self in our ministry, an attitude of pride that has often been inculcated into pastors from seminary on. A sense of pride that forgets that at the end of the day, "we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us..."

I say these things not to discourage, but encourage others (should any read this blog); let me finish the quote I started above, found in 2nd Corinthians 4:7ff: But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

If we can get a proper perspective of the role of pastoring, and what the church really is, we will approach it in an entirely different light; some may leave the ministry (and probably should), some may take a break to refocus, and yet others will remember that the task we have been called to is so much greater than the clay vessels that carry it out, and will get on their knees and seek the Lord, asking for HIS strength and wisdom in the carrying out of their pastoral duties; approaching the pulpit in an entirely new manner next week. I pray that for all pastors!

Yes, pastoring a small church is sometimes a pain in a temporal way, but in the eternal it is of surpassing joy that we speak these things of God that even angels wish to look in on!

I would like to close with a final thought: This weekend one of the persons at our church came up and told me that two of his uncles and one aunt had come to a saving knowledge of Christ. They thanked him for his consistent witness (often without saying a word)! Pastors, remember that our job is to edify the saints for works of ministry; it is NOT for us to be the center of attention in the church. Preach the Word in season and out, and the Lord will do His work through the surpassing power of his Word and Spirit!

My brother pastors, we may be afflicted, but we are not crushed, we may be perplexed, but not driven to despair, we may even be persecuted but we are not forsaken! We are called to a wonderful and awesome task, let us put our hands to the plow, and not look back.


jon.marq said...

amen pastor ray.

keep 'em coming! i really needed to hear all this. serving the bride in meico sends me into metaphoric "fits of doubt and despair".

i like the "monster" church phrase. it has a sort of dual meaning doesn't it?

Ray said...

My brother, good to hear from you!

I assure you that what you are doing is every bit as important to the heavenly host as any of the 20,000+ member churches up here in the hinterlands.

Thank you for the comment!

Ephraim said...

I've been checking back in hopes of some midweek musings. You must be busy.

Now it is erev Shabbat. I will check back on day one of the week.


Ray said...

ephraim -- Yes, it has been a bit busy this week... And sometimes I don't 'muse' mid-week... :-)

BTW, before I forget -- L'shana Tovah to you and yours.