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

Friday, June 15, 2007

Green-Eyed Lady

Don't let the title throw you off -- this will be a post about ENVY, not a woman, or a song by Sugarloaf! :-)

As a small church pastor, this is one of the most difficult struggles I have faced. It is also profoundly unchristian. The Church in Corinth was developing a congregation of envious people, and Paul deals with it -- 1st Corinthians 1:11 - 17 -- For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

It is not much different today, and nowhere do you feel this pinch more, than at a small church. You look down the street and see the another pastor, not near as smart as you, (in your opinion), whose church is growing like a weed. They have even purchased land while you languish in a small storefront. Your envy burns green and hot; now, of course you don't call it envy, you say things like -- "Well, he doesn't preach the gospel as properly as I do", or you may take this tact "Well, after all they are using the Purpose-Driven Model".

Truth be told, we are not called to be competitive, as Paul says clearly in the aforementioned Corinthian passage. We are to be about the business of Christ. When we spend out time focused on what the 'other guy' is doing to be successful, we empty the cross of its power. We preach growth, success (in a numbers sense), and any number of other criterion ABOVE preaching the cross of Christ!

This should not be, as Paul says -- whether we have 1 or 1001 attending our church, our task is to preach the gospel. Our task is one with eternal import -- let us never forget that! We are talking of the souls of men and women!

So, small church pastor -- As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2nd Timothy 4:5. I know the pain of trying to grow at the unreasonable pace that the modern church expects, but I also know the reward of staying the course, doing your job, and watching the small number of people within your church grow more and more into the likeness of Christ. I know the joy of baptizing people who, at one time, told me off and cursed at me. I know the joy of deeply caring about the flock that God has entrusted to me, and taking my eyes off the churches around me and placing them squarely on the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ.

If you are a small church pastor, I would encourage you: If you are staying faithful to the Word of God, proclaiming Christ in your church, loving the people of the church, and living what you preach, then you have nothing to be ashamed of, or envious about.

Yes, there will always be that 'amazing' church nearby that grows by 300 every week, and yes, you will lose some of your folks to them. But we are not here to have the largest, most lavish church in our area. We are here to proclaim Christ and Him crucified!

And finally, a warning -- if you are petty and envious, guess what your congregation will be? Yep, petty and envious! Don't do that to them -- tell them of the great joys of knowing Christ, preach the Word, love the people and above all love Christ.

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