This has been an interesting season in the ministry in my life. At a time where most believe I should be locked down pastoring a growing church in a big city and continuing the climb upwards on their perceived ladders of ministerial success, I am instead observing church life again from the perspective of a worshipper and a member. Don't get me wrong, I preach whenever I am offered the opportunity to preach. But as far as pushing hard to be the pastor of a church, I have chosen to return to my core belief that God don't need my help to place me where He wants me. Meaning I am no longer sending out resumes when I hear of a church opening. I am no longer trying to find someone who knows about the church who can get my business card to a key person to get a chance to preach. I am no longer scouring the internet to find of openings even if far away. I am perfectly content to sit, worship, and observe until and if God places me. If He don't, it is still well with my soul.
While doing this, some things have become alarmingly clear for me since 2008 while fellowshipping at churches with pastors and churches without pastors. It is apparent that some things have to change in what we do and how we do it. Briefly I want to lift five core things that need to change:
Our focus must be on Christ and His work. "And when I came to you, bretheren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I Corinthians 2: 1-2
I hear so much more these days about what we "have done, are planing to do, and going to do" with very little reference at all the leading of the Holy Spirit or the approval of God for such measures. How can churches can tell their history down to the most minute detail and only give token appreciation and shout out to God? Pastor Rick Warren wrote in the Purpose Driven Church that "God doesn't measure a church by its seating capacity but by its sending capacity". When it comes to sending men and women out into the hedges and highways to compel the lost; when it comes to standing firm and being found as faithful witnesses in every walk of life, are we are missing it in favor of building up our own palaces and given only a token Thank you Jesus?
Sadly I have sat in churches and heard songs sung and sermons preached that did not focus on Christ and His redemptive work. They shouted till the song stopped, praised till they passed out, danced till they dropped over an exhortation of emptiness, devoid of substance that will sustain a believer before, during and out of the storms of life. We need more than a great word, we need God's word! Self promotion must take a distant backseat to the Savior. "Promotion comes neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge. He putteth down one, and setteth up another." Psalm 75:6-7 This is something that many need to be purged from as many have lifted their needs and desires over and above the Lord's needs and desires for their life. I understand that there is a business push out there for many ministers and ministries today. Those that are trying to get their name out there, to get their name known, and sell their products,books, CD's, financial plans, etc. But when we hear so much about what you are doing, about and going, and nothing about the redemptive work of God, the efficacy of the blood that Jesus shed on Calvary to wash our sins away, the power of God to save the vilest, most wretched of us and give us another chance at a life worth living, then in my humble opinion you are missing it. If the only time you can get happy or cry or shout is when the spotlight is on you and you are trying to "bring em in" that needs to change.
A Spirit of Excellence is a must "Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.." Nehemiah 2:18
It does not matter the size of a church, whether the church has a pastor or not, if the church has a music ministry that should be heard around the world, or a praise team of the faithful few who know that is not their gifting but serve because no one else with the gifting will. We have got to stop throwing together church on Sunday morning like we don't know what we are doing. There is little excuse for not being prepared on Sunday from the pulpit to the pew because you knew it was coming all along. What we offer we offer up to God first! If we know God would not be pleased with what we have done, we need to get it together.
We also must recognize that it is a team/group effort led by God and steered by His mighty hand. As long as we let flesh fight it out over who is going to be in charge or get credit, it becomes corrupt where it lies. There are too many that are still embracing the if I can't run it, I will ruin it mindset.
Love the People "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." St John 13: 35 This can not be said enough. People come to church battered, bruised and bloody. They come hurting, hungover and helpless. They come crying, complaining and criticizing. The come traumatized today, pondering the past, fearful of their future. They are debating decisions, spiritual and otherwise that will impact them ad those around them for years to come. LOVE THEM! They need us to demonstrate the love of God towards them. There will be a time for instruction, for correction and even for discipline, if necessary. But you need to make sure that before you do any of that you love them! People don't care how much you know until they know you care. Let's return to a caring community of believers. Give God the Glory "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth." Psalm 34:1
The psalmist declared in Psalm 124:1 "If it had not been for the Lord on our side..." It is God who has kept us, sustained us, nurtured us, and brought us through. We need to give that testimony over and over again because it is the truth. We are not so educated, so connected and so elevated as to not need the Lord to make ways for us every day! Yes we praise God for what He is doing in us, thru us and with us, but we should praise Him the more simply because He is who He is! We are who we are and do what we do by His grace and that alone. We worship Him because He is who He is! We are nothing without Him. The church does not exist without Him! Your next project will fall flat without Him! Your next sermon will be DOA without Him. Give Him the Glory while you can.