A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for. J.A. Shedd
Moving forward in any meaningful way demands a step in faith. Faith–deep soul-rooted, life-directing faith–may lead to danger. We take the steps of faith because we trust in God for what may come, whether it be into blissful comfort or the first tentative steps into the enemy’s territory, fully aware that sacrifice may be the result. A church that never moves from the sanctuary is safe, but that is not what the Church is for.
Read Paul’s boasting in 2 Corinthians 11:16-33. Contrary to the witness of those who merely call themselves Apostles, Paul has the scourge scars and water marks of one who has walked, trusting God with each step as he fulfilled His calling to bear witness to Christ to the Gentile world. We continue to marvel at his effectiveness thousands of years later as he is held up as the model for our own vocational calling. We marvel, but are tempted time and time again to retreat to the safety of tradition and practice.
Church, this is not what we were created to be or do. We are the last hope of a dying world. We possess the fire of the indwelling Spirit meant to guide our hands and feet in boldly stepping into the darkness to call others out. Like the sailor who knows nothing of buoyancy and displacement but who trusts the Oak, nails and pitch to keep them afloat in the capricious and danger-filled seas, Christians need not know how or why God may lead them into a ministry effort, only that they may trust Him that it will not be in vain.
Grace and peace in the Spirit to you…
image National Library of New Zealand
I flew in to our prayer meeting this morning on my private jet. A car service whisked me from the airport to the doors of the sanctuary at 5:55, just in time to hear the first notes of the hymns that were raised by the choir before setting the day’s prayer concerns before the congregation. Two hours later I rose from my kneeling position, noting that I was the first to leave of the hundreds of souls gathered, convicting me all over again of my accountability for the spiritual welfare of those God has brought me to shepherd.
Okay, that wasn’t my reality, but it might have been some pastor’s morning!
The truth is I drove my 12 year old creaky pickup truck to the church, arriving at 5:30 to turn on the lights, open the doors and start the computer and projector to display the concerns of the church for the gathered. I don’t do this for my glory or to be noted as a servant. I do it out of love for my God and my church. (We, your pastor included, don’t do this for our glory or to be noticed. We do it out of love for God and Church.) We do what we do out of love for you.
The book of Ezekiel can be a tough read, but it can be a convicting read as well. Turn to chapter 33 and read it with your pastor in mind. He is called to be the Watchman, accountable to God for your spiritual welfare. God has called him or her to warn you of the roaming lion or the sweeping sword.
But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood. (vv 33:6)
Few pastors who take passages like this seriously would do what they do, giving sacrificially of their lives for you in return for 30 pieces of lucre. One need only turn the page to the next chapter to see a warning against taking on the role of spiritual shepherd strictly for material gain or personal status. As the prophet records:
This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? (vv 34:2b)
Pastoring with love and humility, I wish you grace and peace.
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord who is going to betray you?”) When Peter sah him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:20 – 23)
This small section of scripture, buried in the larger pericope of Peter’s restoration is one that I go back to again and again to remind me of my proper relationship to the Lord and others in His Church. Dr. Vernon Grounds once spoke on passage in chapel, reminding the ministers in attendance that our ministry was never to be compared to someone else’s. Whether we were successful in the eyes of the world (i.e., megachurch growth) or a failure by the same standard (nurturing a small, unnoticed body), the minister was simply to make sure that he was a success according to the call of the Lord. If Jesus calls you to toil in some small body, go and do it with all your heart. If he places you in a megachurch, work every day to ensure your own humility knowing that the success is the Lord’s, not yours. Blogging pastors who spend more time bragging about all the conferences they speak at or their world travels that an ‘unnamed benefactor’ sends them on should bookmark this passage.
As Dr. Grounds said, pointing to men and women in the chapel body, “don’t worry about him or her and what they have been called to do. Simply follow Jesus.”
Amen Dr. Grounds.