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(This will meander a bit…please read it through and connect the dots)
I’ve been a pastor since 1989. Most of the pastors I am friends with genuinely love people. They sincerely care. There are other pastors that I have met that seem to be more concerned with being celebrities, but they are in the minority of my personal circles.
If my experience with other pastors is accurate, my conclusion is that pastors care about people. That means they feel things…emotional things…spiritual things…and they think about things…and are concerned about people…and situations…and potentials for danger…and possibilities for greatness…and the list goes on.
Good pastors don’t just work with their minds and bodies…they also work with their hearts. Their hearts are their most valuable asset, and perhaps their area of most vulnerability.
Good pastors are anointed men. When they speak, it can sometimes seem larger than life…and that’s because it is larger than life. There is an anointing from God upon them. When they are doing their thing, it’s other worldly (Heavenly). The Apostle Paul said, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels”. The pastor is only a clay pot, at best. The treasure is Jesus, and the treasure is the Gospel message. Sometimes people confuse the treasure with the clay pot. If a pastor is really “bringing it”, some people erroneously focus on the man instead of on the treasure. There seems to be a fine line between the two.
A good pastor is an honest man, and seeks to be transparent…and he lays his heart out there…and sometimes he makes people feel like they have become his confidantes. Most people I know crave intimacy and honest relationships. A good pastor might seem to be offering that on an individual level, when all he is really doing is trying to be transparent from the pulpit and make a point about the frailty of man and the greatness of God.
(I hope you are still reading…I’m going to connect the dots soon)
A good pastor has wisdom from on high. He can counsel in many ways…sometimes from the pulpit or sometimes face to face. It can be an amazing thing to receive a word from the Lord through a pastor.
A good pastor is an encourager…he encourages people to have faith and to be everything that God intends them to be…and he sometimes genuinely believes more for a person than they believe for themselves.
A good pastor is a good listener…he isn’t in a hurry to find a solution to your problem. He knows that you are more than a problem to be solved…you are a person to be understood and loved.
A good pastor seems to be able to move forward when other seems stuck…he has navigated through his life well enough to be further ahead than he was five years ago. Paul told Timothy…”Let you progress be evident to all”. A good pastor’s progress in life is evident.
(Dot connection now follows…)
If all that is true, then here’s where it can get weird for some people and their pastor. I’ll list a few things numerically.
- Your pastor cannot be your best friend. Yes he is a good listener, and genuinely cares about you…but that doesn’t put him in the BFF status. It just doesn’t. Love between brethren is one thing…but being best friends is something altogether different. Please allow your pastor to choose his own personal friends as he continues to be genuinely friendly with as many people as he can be.
- Your pastor cannot tell you every decision to make. He has had to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling…through his own tears, doubts, disappointments, poor decisions and good choices, etc. He has failed and succeeded on his own. Now you have to do the same for yourself. He will be there to give you general counsel, and to pray for you and support you, but you have to pray and make your own decisions. Spiritual growth is costly, and there are no shortcuts. Pay the price.
- Your pastor cannot be blamed for your lack of spiritual progress. He encourages you to be all that you can be, that is true…but maybe he sees that you don’t have the calling to be the next Billy Graham, and so he gently suggests that your strengths lie elsewhere. I have heard men say that they are called to be (fill in the blank), but for the last twenty years, their pastor has held them back. If God has called you to something, no one can hold you back…but there is wisdom in the multitude of counselors. If none of your friends are affirming you in an area, maybe your strengths lie elsewhere. Don’t blame your pastor. He can’t hold you back if God has called you…he doesn’t have that kind of power…but maybe God hasn’t called you.
- Your pastor cannot be expected to choose you to be his confidante. It’s great that you care about your pastor, and want to be there for him, but please allow him to choose his own confidantes and counselors. Instead, if you sense that your pastor isn’t looking for another confidante, pray for him instead. He needs it. Let him choose his own confidantes.
- Your pastor cannot set the trajectory of your life for you. He cannot decide what you are going to be. He cannot be expected to tell you what your life purposes are in any kind of detailed sense. Every Christian is here to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever”, but the details of how that works out is between you and God.
Alistair Begg says, “The best of men, are men at best”. Most pastors I know wouldn’t even consider themselves the best of men. Martyn Lloyd Jones, the great British preacher said, “I wouldn’t walk across the street to hear myself preach”. Most of my pastoral friends would say the same thing.
Dear Christian…your pastor can’t do a lot of things for you, but he can do some things very well. Receive him for what he is, a pastor. If God makes it to be anything more, that’s great.
Ephesians 4:11-12 (NKJV) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…
The world is full of negativity and sadness. That is a huge understatement. Even the Church has plenty of sad challenges within its four walls; God’s people are not immune to tragedy and setbacks. I have pastored since 1989…I have seen much within the church that can break one’s heart. Many times, my heart has been broken over the effects of sin within the church.
It seems that in the minds of some church leaders, the solution to sadness and negativity is to never talk about it. I think that the motivation to encourage people is a good intention. People need to be encouraged, and church is a great place for that to happen.
All that being so, I am concerned about what I believe is an unhealthy trend in many churches. There is a deliberate avoidance in talking about sin or judgment. The Body of Christ isn’t warned against straying from God, but instead is taught about how Jesus can improve your life. The unbeliever isn’t warned about fleeing the wrath to come, but is told that Jesus will fill the emptiness of their heart.
I DO believe that Jesus improves the life of His followers, and that he DOES fill a believer’s heart, but that is NOT the full preaching of the Gospel, nor is it the full counsel of the Word of God.
I think that some pastors are failing.
I don’t say that because I feel superior to anyone. I say that because some pastors are not teaching their congregations all of God’s Word, but only selected portions. In doing so, they are not making mature disciples, but only meeting the felt needs of the people. They are teaching from the Bible, but they are not teaching the Bible. There is a huge difference between those two practices.
Chicken Legged Disciples and the search for deeper teaching…
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I used to never want to post articles that covered the material that follows. I was fearful that people would think that I was complaining or wanted sympathy.
The Apostle Paul spoke candidly about his challenges, sufferings, and difficulties. He did so to further the Gospel. It is in that spirit that I post this link.
I complain to God, my wife, and a few friends. I don’t want sympathy…I love being a pastor. But for the sake of whoever this might help…please read. Blessings.
The good Bible teaching that occurs in many churches is not enough to equip Christ following congregants to interact effectively with the world. In fact, I believe that some pastors are unconsciously hindering their flocks, and are, as a result, “ill-equipping” them for the work of ministry.
I recently heard a tremendous quote, and I will try to paraphrase. The speaker spoke of the American Church and said, “We are a subculture of a sub culture. We read each other’s book, we sing each other’s songs, and we scratch each other’s backs”.
I completely agree that the Body of Christ is a sub culture, and that each movement or denomination is a further sub culture, and finally, that each individual church within a movement or denomination is a sub, sub, sub culture. There is nothing wrong with that…to a point.
Each culture and sub culture has its own language. The lack of awareness that we (the Church) have regarding our sub, sub culture language is the thing that concerns me. What do we sound like to the world?
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This is an article I wrote for Cross Connection, a blog committed to church ministry.
Soldiers fight. That is what soldiers do.
Yes, they do other things. Soldiers feel the same things that non soldiers feel, think things that non-soldiers think, and want some of the same things that non-soldiers want, but in a major part of life, they are very different. Soldiers fight.
The soldier fights when others are at rest. He has a different schedule than the non-soldier. When he does rest, he doesn’t forget that there is a battle, and always feels that he himself is ready to respond at any moment. He is always ready. He may not be fighting, but he is never out of the fight. He must not resent the non-soldier’s abundance of free time. The soldier is a soldier by choice. His life is different by design and purpose.
The soldier fights because he understands what is at stake. Others may not understand the enemy, the battle, or risk, but the soldier understands that there is much at risk. Others may mock the idea of there being a battle or an enemy. Non-soldiers may imagine that soldiers exaggerate the facts, and embellish the reports. The non-soldier may imagine that the soldier is in the fight only for the glory. The non-soldier cannot relate to the intensity of the soldier’s mind and heart, for he doesn’t understand the battle. The soldier does, however, understand the non-soldier, for the soldier used to be passive, indifferent, and distracted, just like the non-soldier, until the reality of the fight was revealed to him. Then he raised his hand, committed his heart, and changed his lifestyle.
The soldier understands that he belongs to something much bigger than himself. He is not his own. He doesn’t make his own decisions. He doesn’t plan his own life. He listens for the voice of his Superior, and he responds accordingly.
The soldier cannot allow himself to be discouraged by those that analyze and make comments about the battle, but do not fight. The soldier knows that he is not fully understood except by those that fight with him, and share the same struggles. It is among fellow soldiers that he finds most of his best comradery. The analysts and pundits pontificate, while the soldier does the work. He sometimes resents the so-called experts that criticize from the safety of their well-furnished vantage points. He has justifiable anger at those who second guess his best efforts, but have never faced the enemy. Yet in all of this, the soldier fights for the pundit and for the analyst. He shakes his head from time to time at their naivety and arrogance, but then gets back into the battle.
The soldier sometimes wants to quit. He remembers past failures, and how those failures allowed others to be hurt, or prevented victories. He has heard the call to charge, but hesitated. He knows true fear, and at times reverts back into his instinct of self-preservation. He also fears making a mistake that will allow others to be hurt, yet he cannot allow himself to be paralyzed by fear, for the enemy keeps coming. The soldier must fight forward, regardless of his fear for himself or for others.
The soldier must be careful about his evaluation of his comrades. He understands their frailties, for he shares them, and has felt them. He may feel critical of his comrades at times. They may seem to lack intensity, focus, and dedication, but except for rare occasions, the soldier realizes that he has walked in those boots, and his criticism fades.
The soldier lives for the cause though others minimize the cause. The soldier fights for others who cannot or will not fight for themselves. The soldier hopes for the best for others, while often times, others only hope for themselves.
The soldier continues on though few thank him, shake his hand, or consider his sacrifices.
In all of this, the soldier realizes that he cannot be anything other than a soldier. It is who and what he is. He cannot do anything else, though at times he may want to. He is what he is.
He is a soldier. God has made him one.
You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. (2 Timothy 2:3, 4)
These are some of John Calvin’s comments from 1 Timothy 5:13: “And besides they learn [to be] idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not.”
“For none are more exposed to slanders and insults than godly teachers. This comes not only from the difficulty of their duties, which are so great that sometimes they sink under them, or stagger or halt or take a false step, so that wicked men find many occasions of finding fault with them; but added to that, even when they do all their duties correctly and commit not even the smallest error, they never avoid a thousand criticisms. It is indeed a trick of Satan to estrange men from their ministers so as gradually to bring their teaching into contempt. In this way not only is wrong done to innocent people whose reputation is undeservedly injured, but the authority of God’s holy teaching is diminished.”
“The more sincerely any pastor strives to further Christ’s kingdom, the more he is loaded with spite, the more fierce do the attacks upon him become. And not only so, but as soon as any charge is made against ministers of the Word, it is believed as surely and firmly as if it had been already proved. This happens not only because a higher standard of integrity is required from them, but because Satan makes most people, in fact nearly everyone, over credulous so that without investigation, they eagerly condemn their pastors whose good name they ought to be defending.”