June 17, 2018

What a Pastor Wants You to Know

In my closing days of ministry with you I want to prepare you for the arrival of your new Senior Pastor. This is why I want to share “What a Pastor Wants You to Know!” To prepare your hearts let me share two passages that are at the heart of pastoral ministry. These come from Jesus, the Great Shepherd and Peter, the first Pastor. Every Pastor carries these words in their heart.

  • Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” John 10:11-14
  • Peter wrote, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” 1 Peter 5:2-4.

To help you know their heart even better I want to share the findings of a question my friend at Church of God Ministries sent to nearly 2,000 Church of God pastors. The question was, “What do you wish your parishioners knew”? Their answers will allow you to look into the new pastor’s heart. Here are the answers that he received.

1. Pastors are in love with their people.

The simple fact is to seve a church faithfully you must love the church. Pastors care about you! You are on their mind and in their heart day and night. A true Pastor understands what Paul said, “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” 2 Corinthians 11:28.

You are important not just because of what you do in ministry but because of who you are. You have value to them because they see you through the eyes of Jesus. True Pastors aren’t the hired hands Jesus spoke about who, “When he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away…The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” John 10:12-13. They love too much to do this.

2. Pastors wants so much more for you.

A Pastor hopes, prays, and works for what they believe will be the best for you. They hurt when those they love make wrong decisions and face the consequences that may follow them for years. They hurt because all too many have an informational understanding but not a heart understanding of the scriptures. People know the Bible’s content, the stories, and the major teachings and can quote scriptures. But are often like the Priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan. They were the most highly trained religious people in their day but they left the man for dead. They missed their purpose for living.

A good Pastor wants you to experience a life transformation, not just become religions. They long for the Word of God to transform your lives. They want Romans 12:1-2 to come alive in you. They want you, “To offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

3. Pastors want to be themselves.

Pastors live in fish bowls. Sadly, there are those well meaning people who think they know what is best for them. If it turns out that a younger Pastor is called please do not think it is your mission to break, shape or tame their spirit. Instead give them the gift of freedom to be themselves, warts, black heart and all. Every Pastor has a unique personality and set of gifts.

Never forget the new Pastor won’t be Ed, David, Mike or Kathi. They will be who God made them to be if you will allow it. This is a great gift and it will bring great dividends. This is the stuff of long productive pastorates.

4. Pastors want protection for themselves and their family.

Pastors can tell you there is a huge difference between what the one firing the gun feels and what the one getting shot feels. They can because most have been shot. Those who responded to the question spoke of the pain they suffered because of mean-spirited criticism. Be careful you aren’t a self appointed critic.

I was never a farmer but I shared life with them. They taught me this about chickens. If one has a sore the other chickens will peck at it until the chicken is ready for Chik-fil-a. You could say what killed it was the chicken who gave it that last peck. The reality is, all who pecked had a part in its death. The sad fact is, Pastors leave churches and ministry because they were pecked to death.

If you ever have issues with your Pastor (and it can happen) go to them personally with gentleness, humility and in love. Don’t take your issues to others. Pastors said, over and over, I wish they knew that I am human. I hurt, get discouraged and don’t have all the answers. Above all, give them the benefit of the doubt. 1Timothy 5:19 says, “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.” Be a shelter for them and their family. Don’t give the enemy room!

5. Pastors need encouragement.

Encouragement is one of the greatest gifts you can give a Pastor. Prayer, notes of encouragement and acts of kindness mean more than you will ever know. When criticism comes don’t be silent, speak on the behalf of the pastor. Strong doses of encouragement counteract the incessant drain that comes to those who pastor. Pastoral ministry is a complicated and difficult profession. Pastors are expected to be knowledgeable about scripture, leadership, conflict management, psychology and sociology, accounting, building design and construction, counseling, current events, history, politics, ethics and technology; it can be overwhelming. Your words of encouragement will help them feel they are making a difference for the kingdom.

There is no real way to describe the ministry. It’s demanding. It’s 24/7. It involves things that cannot be shared. Most Pastors are not going to go around and tell what all they did this week, because it sounds self-serving. Let me share what one Pastor faced during an all too normal week of ministry. He said, “I performed a funeral for a man I did not know, but I pastor his extended family. I preached on Sunday. That takes everything out of me. I had several meetings (one didn’t go well so I was tense all day.) When I got to the office on Tuesday someone was waiting to talk to me. They told me everything that was going wrong in the church. I felt drained. Later that day I had a counseling session with a woman whose marriage is not going well. Wednesday I found out that a leader of the church has had a moral failure. It’s my daughter’s birthday and I must find some way to shelve all of this.” Then he went on to share how he loved his people. Do you think this Pastor could use some encouragement? My friends make sure your new Pastor takes their vacation, has time for spiritual recharging, and is given learning opportunities. These things not only encourage they also benefit you.

Conclusion

One pastor summed it up when he said, pastoral ministry is a kind of sweet agony. We love it and hate it at times. Yet, for those called there is no escape. We are compelled to follow the call of the Good Shepherd. We feel as Jeremiah 20:9, “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” My dear friends you have given me a great honor by allowing me to speak in to your lives these last nine years. I am grateful for the privilege I have had to serve Jesus Christ with you. I’m praying that great days are ahead with your new pastor. Please take the words I have shared to heart as you prepare for the new day.

Opportunities for Growth:

  • Read John 10:11-15 and 1 Peter 5:2-4. Let Jesus and Peter’s words speak to your heart.
  • Spend time reviewing what a Pastor wants you to know. How will knowing this affect your relationship with your new Pastor?
  • Spend time this week praying for the person God is bringing to South.

June 10, 2018

My Prayer for Daring Faith - Part 2

As I was thinking and praying about this final preaching series something I was told as a young pastor came back to me. An older well meaning pastor said I could never have friends in the church. What he said didn’t sit well with me because I remembered Jesus told His disciples just before going to the cross, “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15. It struck me if Jesus was friends with His followers I could be friends with those that I pastored. This is why, as my final series, I am sharing “My Prayer for My Friends.”

Last week I began the series with “My Prayer for Daring Faith – Part 1.” In that sermon I took you to 1Samuel 17:1-58 where there is an encounter between the shepherd David and the giant Goliath. What I shared last week was “Daring Faith” is:

  • The natural outflow of an intimate relationship with God,
  • Firmly rooted in God’s faithfulness,
  • And, is found in unexpected places and at unexpected times.

Today I am inviting you to return to the battlefield with me. I want to take you there so that you can know the rest of the story. As we enter into the story of David’s encounter with Goliath we discover there is more to embracing a life of daring faith.

1. “Daring Faith” can appear foolish and be discounted.

This is so obvious from two conversations David had. The first was with his brother Eliab. 1Samuel 17:28-29 records, “When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him…he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.” “Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” This is so like a conversation an older brother would have with a younger one. Eliab never thought to ask why he was there. Had he asked, rather than judge, he would have discovered his father had sent him. The second was when King Saul said, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 1 Samuel 17:33. To Saul David’s challenging of Goliath was preposterous.

The truth is there will be times in life when we have heard from God and are called to exercise daring faith that others will see as foolish and dismiss. Sadly those who dismiss us may be other believers and those closest to us. We must be prepared when God calls us to be considered foolish and discounted. But we also must remember, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 1 Corinthians 1:25.

To those looking on David was too young, not trained and his motives seemed suspect. Yet God was in it. There is something in this for us right now. We have heard from God and He has called us to exercise daring faith. What this means is He has South covered and a plan already in place. What we must do is remember the truth of Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." My prayer is that all of you who share the mission and vision of South will embrace a daring faith that in time will accomplish wonderful things with God.

2. “Daring Faith” is tested and perfected by life’s trials.

God knew David would meet Goliath so He prepared him for this great test not by sparing him from tough tests. He did quite the opposite. He exposed him to tests and trials that were life threatening. As a result David could confidently say to King Saul, “When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it...The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:34-35, 37. He knew that God was with him and had prepared him for this challenge. So all he needed was a sling and a few stones. By the way, years ago, I heard it said he only needed one stone and the reason he picked up five was Goliath had brothers.

If we are honest most of us have to admit we will do anything to avoid pain. But this life is full of tests and trials, suffering and pain. And if there is anything that I have learned it is that suffering is one of the greatest teachers and a gift from God.

James understood the positive effect that testing, trial and suffering have. He wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4. Daring faith embraces testing and trials and my prayer is that you will grow deep and strong as you face them.

3. “Daring Faith” can accomplish the impossible.

To those who saw only a young shepherd the idea that David could defeat Goliath was an insane, suicidal impossibility. King Saul didn’t have a lot of faith in him. We hear it when he said, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 1 Samuel 17:33. David wasn’t given a lot of hope or credit. What hope did a shepherd boy have against a giant? Humanly speaking; none! But the shepherd boy was full of the Spirit of God and was led and prepared by God for this very moment.

When it was all over and done with that momentous day not only was Goliath defeated but so was the entire Philistine army. In 1 Samuel 17:50-53 we read, “So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone… Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath and to the gates of Ekron.” What I have seen is when one exercises “Daring Faith” it becomes contagious and others find it for themselves. One interesting aside is until David killed Goliath no giant had ever been defeated by any warrior of Israel. After David defeated Goliath the remaining giants fell one by one. Over the years giants have fallen before this congregation and I fully expect that this “Daring Faith” adventure you are embarking on will lead to other even greater things for God. If you doubt this remember Jesus said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Luke 18:27.

I know this to be true. Take heart God has had a plan for South Meridian from the beginning. It is your time now to exercise “Daring Faith.” As you prepare to do so remember Paul said, “(He) is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” Ephesians 3:20. The time has come to embrace daring faith.

Conclusion

My prayer for you, my friends, comes from a heart full of love and gratitude. God has blessed me by allowing me to minister and journey with you during this season of life and ministry.

Opportunities for Growth:

  • Read 1Samuel 17:1-58 again and as you meditate ask God for an infusion of daring faith.
  • Have you ever had a moment when you know God was calling you and others thought you were being foolish? What did you do?
  • Can you say that testing and trials have been good for your life? Are you willing to embrace suffering for the sake of personal and spiritual growth and maturity?
  • What impossibilities (Goliath’s) are you facing right now? Have you given them to God?

June 03, 2018

My Prayer for Daring Faith - Part 1

In this season of extreme change and disruption (for which I am partially responsible with my retirement) I want to spend the last four Sunday’s with you sharing “My Prayer for My Friends.” To begin with my prayer is that you would be full of “Daring Faith” rather than concern, fear and worry. The reality is for South Meridian to move forward during this season it will be needed. At the same time I understand periods of uncertainty and change test our faith.

When we think of “Daring Faith” most of us don’t see the phrase as descriptive of us. The people who come to our minds are likely the Mother Teresa’s, Billy Graham’s, St Francis’ or some other prominent persons of faith. What I want to address today is just how wrong our thinking is. “Daring Faith” isn’t just for the spiritually elite; it’s for everyone and this is my prayer for you. What we need to remember is God loves the least of these, the unknown, and small, the South Meridian’s of the world. In Zechariah 4:10 He reminds us, “Who dares despise the day of small things…” Paul assured us that, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13.

To help us God gave us stories of “Daring Faith” to encourage, challenge and call us to leave doubt and fear behind. One story in particular, David’s story, recorded in 1 Samuel 17 calls us to dare to believe that we can experience “Daring Faith.” What’s important to remember is this isn’t the story of a great king; it is the story of a young shepherd called by God to embrace a life of “Daring Faith.” In his story we discover the truths necessary to embrace a life of “Daring Faith” during this season of transition and change. As I share these things I hope you will receive them as my prayer for you.

1. “Daring Faith” is the natural outflow of an intimate relationship with God.

The faith required to face Goliath didn’t miraculously pour into David the day he defeated him. In Acts 13:22 we read, “God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart…” God and David’s relationship was the result of hours spent together while David watched over the sheep. In the stillness God nurtured his heart and soul. Probably the most powerful picture of this relationship is found in the 23rd Psalm. The intimate relationship he had with God is evident when he wrote, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1.

Faith isn’t something that we work up. Faith, “Daring Faith” is something that grows as we spend time with God. It develops as we learn that He can be trusted and that we are kept by His love and grace. David understood this to be true and that is why he said, “The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”1 Samuel 17:37. All of us will face our Goliath sooner or later. When he comes if our relationship with God is intimate and growing we have nothing to fear.

The Goliath you are facing right now is uncertainty, change and transition. These are shaking times that can leave you unsettled and discouraged. In the midst of this let me point you to Psalm 46:1-3, 10, where we are called to remember, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…Be still, and know that I am God…” When this is the foundation of our “Daring Faith” we will be at peace. Then we like David will trust that, “the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s” 1 Samuel 17:47.

2. “Daring Faith” isn’t blind faith; it is faith firmly rooted in God’s faithfulness.

David didn’t blindly run out and face Goliath. What happened that day wasn’t beginners luck. David was well prepared for this specific moment in time. There is one little noticed scene in this story that reveals this truth. 1 Samuel 17:40 says, “He…chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.” What we know from this is David had supreme confidence in the abilities that God had given Him. He knew how to bring the giant down. God had taught him this out in the pasture. How many lions and bears had felt the sting of a smooth stone? His victory was no accident.

Blind faith doesn’t exist; it is flailing around in the dark and hoping for the best. Faith has to be rooted in something solid. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” From this we see that faith is confident and full of assurance. Our faith is in the One who gives us everything we need to accomplish what He has called us to do.

I want to encourage you today. The dreams and visions God has given South Meridian won’t be accomplished because you have a blind faith that it will all work out. The dreams and visions will come to pass because the same God who carried this congregation through years of deep struggle and challenge in the past will faithfully guide you in fulfilling the dreams He has for you in the days and years ahead. Remember 1 Thessalonians 5:24 says, “The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.”

3. “Daring Faith” shows up in unexpected places and at unexpected times.

We get a picture of this when David arrived at the Israelite army’s camp. The account tells us, “David…ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear… David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 1 Samuel 17:22-24, 26. David asked these questions because he possessed a daring faith in God.

All too often in the tests of life we assume that strength, power, education and money are the answers. We forget that in God’s economy these mean nothing. He warned Israel through the prophet Isaiah, “Woe to those…who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots an in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the God has unexpectedly shown up and used shepherds, foreigners, harlots, eleven flawed men, and a young girl named Mary. In this time of transition and change, at South Meridian, be looking for God to show up unexpectedly and in unexpected places. I want to remind you that God will use this church if you have the courage to exercise daring faith. I want to encourage you to dare to believe God will use you. My prayer is that your eyes will be open to see God on the battlefield rather than Goliath.

Conclusion

So my friends I am praying for you. I am praying God’s peace, blessings, grace, power, and mercy over you. I am praying that you see Him above all else in the midst of this time of transition and change. With anticipation I look forward to hearing in the years ahead how God defeated the giants you faced.

Opportunities for Growth:

  • Read 1 Samuel 17:1-58. As you read consider the Goliath’s you face today. Have you given them over to God?
  • Daring faith requires an intimate relationship with God. Ask to the Holy Spirit to help you to grow deeper in Him so that you can face your Goliath with confidence.
  • Do you agree with the statement that blind faith isn’t real? Why or why not?
  • Where has God shown up for you in unexpected places and at unexpected times? Have you thanked Him for His faithfulness?