Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pastors Part 4: Steadfast

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore my beloved brethren be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. 

The word steadfast speaks metaphorically of one who is fixed in purpose. It means to be sedentary  and unmovable. When the apostle Paul was taking his final journey back to Jerusalem he called upon the Ephesian Elders for a farewell visit. The Elders of Ephesus were worried about the danger Paul would encounter in Jerusalem, and begged him not to go. In response to their pleas, Paul declared, "none of these things move me"(Acts20:28). In writing to the Thessalonians Paul encouraged the believers not to be shaken or moved when he said, "no one should be shaken by these afflictions for you yourselves know that we were appointed unto this." (1Thess.3:3) 
In pastoral ministry there are many things that could seek to move you from where God has placed you. This never becomes so clear as when you are planting a church. In our first church plant in the South East, it seemed as though there was something daily that sought to move us from continuing. At times in came in the form of lack of resources, lack of help, or lack of opportunity. However in those seasons there is only one thing to do, and that is to remain steadfast. I have found that the ability to stay the course and remain steadfast is strengthened when I am anchored by the Word of God. It is the Word of God that increases my faith, encourages my heart, and keeps me strong. It reminds me of who God is and what God has said. 

Are you facing some challenges that have the potential to shake your confidence in the Lord and His calling? Remain steadfast, stay in the Word, and keep on abounding the work of the Lord knowing your labor is not in vain. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pastors: Part 3 When Sheep Wander

Matthew 18:12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? 

The Bible says that all we like sheep have gone astray. We are all prone to wander off the right path. As a pastor of a congregation, what do you do when you receive word that someone in the congregation has gone astray? How do you respond when you are told that someone has gone back to world? Are you supposed to contact them, or let them be? 
There isn't really any easy answer. We know that the heart of the  Great Shepherd is to seek and save those who are lost. I believe we should have that same heart. We are encouraged from scripture that if we see a brother straying from the truth, to go to them in a spirit of gentleness and seek to restore them. At the same time you don't always have that opportunity. A person may not want to be contacted. They don't want to hear from you. I do believe we should make the effort to reach out, to warn, to exhort, and even at times rebuke in love. Yet I also realize that this will not always be received. In those times when a person cannot be reached, or doesn't want to be reached, it is best to intercede for them in prayer. Ask Jesus to go after the one that is lost. Pray that they will come to the end of themselves. If they are in sin, pray that they will hate it and want to return. If they have gone into a relationship that has taken them away from Jesus and are living in sexual immorality, pray that the LORD will convict them. Pray that they will be miserable in their sin, and desire to come back to Jesus. 
If a person has gotten out of fellowship, and their relationship with the Lord is now something they are apart of only when it is convenient, pray that they will sense the need for fellowship. Pray that God will show them they have left there first love, and that they will return to it.  If they leave your church bitter for reasons you are aware of or are not aware of, pray that the Lord will speak to them.. if they have left your church,  pray that they find one that they can be apart of and grow in. These situations are never easy. As a pastor, these are the things that can keep you up at night. Because you are to have a deep concern and love for Gods people as a shepherd you can feel, and carry the weight of the sheep on your heart. The Lord often brings people to your mind and you  in turn bring them before the throne of grace in prayer trusting that the Lord is working even though you cannot see Him working. 

As a pastor you do the best you can, and trust the Lord with the rest. And remember if that person returns, love them and seek to restore them. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pastors Part 2: Servant

Shepherd the flock of God that is among you…."Serving as Overseer": 1 Peter 5:1

A flock of sheep have many different needs such as: good pasture in which to graze. Also they need protective fencing that provides a safe boundary that protects them from predators. Fresh water is  an absolute must, a  average sheep drinks several gallons of water a day.  All of the needs of the flock provide multiple opportunities for the shepherd to serve. Shepherds exist for the purpose of  serving the sheep.  Jesus informed His disciples that the greatest in the kingdom was the servant of all. When Jesus washed the feet of His disciples He gave them an example to follow. 
I was raised in an environment of ministry where it was made clear to us that if we felt called to pastor, we were being called to serve. We were not there to have people cater to our needs. Nor  were we to get caught up in our title, or ordination certificates; but to be servants. There are some areas of service that are more enjoyable than others. Nevertheless we should never think that we are above even the most menial tasks. No matter where we serve, we are always to do so as unto the Lord Jesus. 
It's also important to consider the motivation for serving. The reason we serve is not for the applause of the people, or that our names will become famous. The reason we serve is because of love for Jesus, and for His glory. In our service we are not to take the bows for what God has allowed us to do. Rather we should point people to the one who gave us the opportunity to serve. 
When I was a janitor at Calvary in Costa Mesa we had a sign over the janitorial closet door that read, "You will know that you are a servant by the way you act when you are treated like one." Even though I did not always like to read it,  it was a great reminder.  
As we faithfully serve our Lord and His people, one day we will hear Him say, "well done good and faithful servant enter into the joy of the Lord." What a day that will be!

Are you a shepherd or a hireling? Are you a servant or a tyrant? Are you above the people or under them? Are you motivated by love for your master, or by the recognition of men? Why do you do what it is that you do? 

These are all questions that I have had to prayerfully ask myself before the Lord Jesus. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Pastors: Part 1

Shepherd the flock of God which is among… 1 Peter 5:1 

The bible draws a comparison between the people of God being like sheep. Sheep are not the most intelligent animals in the animal kingdom. They are prone to wonder. They can easily eat things that are hazardous to their health. What you come to realize is sheep need a shepherd. Thankfully Jesus is the "Best" Shepherd there is. He not only loves and cares for His sheep, but He also died for His sheep. 

The bible tells us that the Lord has called some in the church to be "under" shepherds to the "Chief" Shepherd. Pastors are placed among the congregation to do their best to care for the needs of the sheep. The care that is provided goes far beyond simply getting up and giving a sermon on a weekly basis. Although that is an important part of the job, its not the only part of the job. When you really think about it, the shepherds life is about the sheep. That is why he exists. The sheep do not exist for the shepherd, the shepherd exists for the sheep. 

The pastors ministry is about people. I heard someone once say, "I love the ministry accept for the people." How sad that statement was, especially when ministry is about people. If we loose sight of that it will have a devastating impact on the flock. I am often reminded in my own life and ministry concerning this truth about the importance of caring for Gods people. Recently I got to spend a little time with a brother and who has ALS. We also went to the hospital someone in the congregation had a heart attack. The same day we saw a sister who has a mass on her brain. Again went to the hospital to see someone who was going in for a surgical procedure. Another evening ministered to a young lady coming off of drugs and in need of salvation. I say all this to point out that the shepherds life is about ministering to and caring for the sheep. Its about people. Long after people forget the sermons you preached, or the blogs you post, or the conferences you share at, they will remember the time you spoke to them. The times you stopped what you were doing and came to their side. The moments you were available to listen. Granted, a shepherd can't minister to every need, but he should try to minister to as many as He can. 

The church doesn't need entertainers to amaze the sheep, nor does flock of God need activities directors to put together social gatherings, it needs shepherds. Shepherds that have a heart for the flock of God. Shepherds that will feed, tend, and care for  God's people whom He purchased with His own blood.