Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Joy of Being A Small Church Pastor

In Letters to a Young Pastor, Calvin Miller gives sobering counsel to young and restless pastors like myself: 
"Most of you will be taking churches of 100 members or less.  Twenty years from now, 80 percent of you will no longer be a pastor...The 20 percent of you who have continued preaching will still be in churches of 100 members or less."
Counsel like this has caused me to be content with what God gives me and has for me 30 years from now.  
I was reminded of the joy in serving a small church last night at our prayer meeting.  There were only several of us who showed up.  As we took prayer requests, I came to find out that one family is preparing for a trip to Israel next week.  They were able to share about the trip and we were able to pray at length for them and their time.  It has been a joy to be able to pray for all of the families in our church on a weekly basis and know what is going on in the lives of most of the people in our church.  This would be more difficult if our attendance was in the 100's or 1000's. This is in no way a slam against big churches or bitter resentment against men who have large ministries.  God uses both small and large churches for His glory. 
Of course, there are problems that come with a small church: small budget, small numbers show up to events, and when there is friction between two families it can really be felt in the total congregation.  All that said, it is a joy to shepherd each small flock that Christ has purchased at the cost of His own blood (Acts 20:28).

Monday, February 27, 2012

What I need most

It has been a privilege to pray with other pastors in the community on Monday morning.  Several of us gather together at our local coffee shop, DeKoffiehoek, and pray for about 30 minutes.  It usually consists of general prayers for strength and joy in the ministry and blessings on the local churches.  One reason I go is because I enjoy the fellowship of other pastors. 
The main reason I hope I go is because of how much these leaders need prayer.  I hope that the people in their churches pray regularly for them.  I hope that people pray regularly for me as well.  Thom Rainer has recently written about some of the priorities that people should pray for when praying for or with their leaders.  I found it very helpful:

“Allow me to share with you where I most need prayer as a leader. The list is not exhaustive, but it does highlight my need to be totally dependent on Him.
·         I pray first for wisdom, God’s wisdom.
·         I pray that I will always do what is right, not what is easiest and most expedient. I pray, in that regard, that my motives as a leader will always be pure.
·         I pray that I will be a leader in my family first. If I am not leading my family well, I cannot expect to lead well in any other facets of my life.
·         I pray that I will deal with criticisms well and in a godly manner. I pray that I will learn and change as a result of some criticisms, that I will discard those that have no merit, and that my leadership will not be paralyzed by any of them.
·         I pray that I will always be honest and transparent.
·         I pray that I will be accountable as a leader, that I will accept godly course corrections, and that I will always see accountability as a blessing and not a burden.”

If someone were to come up and ask what I needed most as a pastor, I would reply that a golf membership would be really nice, but prayer is much more necessary.  Just pray for me, it is what I need most. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why Have a Statement of Purpose?

There was a helpful article that I came across from John Piper (written in 1983) on having a clear vision statement for the church: Why Have a Statement of Purpose? I am praying and planning to introduce and preach the vision I have for Cornerstone in Orange City this upcoming Sunday: "To glorify God by making disciples of Christ who will impact the world with His Gospel." I always appreciate any prayers for our church and I am continually humbled to serve Christ.

Monday, February 13, 2012

You Might Be A Pharisee If.....

The following is application from Mark 3:5 when Christ was angered at the hardness of the Pharisees hearts.  It is good for some self examination and personal reflection since most of us at some point have acted like the Pharisees.  

You might be a hard-hearted Pharisee if:

1.     You think that you are always right and everyone else is wrong.  You might even use the category (biblical)—“I’m just being biblical.”  The Pharisees were very “biblical” but had hard hearts.  They were more concerned about being right that having the right heart. 

2.     You use the Word of God in an external way rather than an internal way.  What I mean is that you show off how much you know in front of others, you can quote Scripture but it never penetrates your heart.  You are never convicted by the Word, instead you use it to state your convictions but it never hits your heart.

3.     You don’t love lost people, instead you quickly judge them.  When you see a person in sin you are quick to comment about how bad they are, but you never pray for them or think of sharing the gospel with them or inviting them to church.  You are more concerned about judging sin than seeing someone restored. 

4.     You don’t find joy in what God is doing if it is not within your circle.  The Pharisees hung around with Pharisees; they failed to see and embrace what God was doing with the tax-collectors. If you are critical of everything that happens outside your circles, you may be like a Pharisee. 

5.     You don’t understand the nature of grace. The Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 is not as much directed at the younger son, but the older brother who represents the Pharisees listening to Jesus.  If you don’t understand that God by His nature is overflowing in grace and mercy toward sinners and is drawing them to Himself and you think that by your church membership and Bible knowledge that you have a special standing with the Father, they you are probably a Pharisee.

Hope for the Pharisee: If you identify with any of these five points of Phariseeism, there is still hope for you.  The Lord Jesus stopped a Pharisee on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians and changed his life forever…his became the apostle Paul. 
But he had to be knocked off his horse, he had to be humbled.  This is the challenge of the Pharisee—humility.  Pharisees are full of pride, which is why their hearts are hard.  The promise of the New Covenant is that God gives you a new heart (Ezek 36:26)--one that is not hard. 
If you believe that you are a Pharisee, then you need to seek Christ in humility, asking Him to give you a new heart.  Your hard heart angers and grieves Christ….but there is hope, you can be a new creation.  Recall, it was a former Pharisee that wrote those words in 2 Cor 5:17.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation"  

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Super Bowl, A Son and Sex

One day I look forward to every year is Super Bowl Sunday.  I confess my addiction to the NFL and particularly my allegiance to the Pittsburgh Steelers. I admit I watched the game half-heartedly yesterday because Pittsburgh was not it in this year.  But I have faithfully watched the Super Bowl for years, even when the teams don’t excite me that much.  My son, Elijah, is following in my footsteps. He went to school this morning with a NY Giant’s helmet painted on his cheek.  He pulled for the Giants and I reluctantly pulled for New England to support some die hard Pats fans who go to our church.  We had a great Super Bowl party last night with our congregation.  Good times!
What concerns me though is not that my son will be addicted to the NFL like his dad but that he will be addicted to looking at the half-naked women who are exposed throughout the four hours of television watching. We watched the game on the biggest TV I have even watched a game on, which made the lustful images all that more appealing and enticing. At commercial time I had to get up and refill on wings and pop each time just to avoid sitting in front of the projected soft-core porn.  Thankfully my son was playing most of the time with some other young boys and watched little of the game.  But this will likely change as he gets older. He will probably be more attracted to the game….but also to the women.  It is not going to be easy to raise a young man in our sexually saturated culture, which gets worse each year.  Possibly by the time Elijah is my age, there will be full nudity shown on TV.  I have no easy answers as to how to raise a son in a culture that is becoming increasing sexualized, but I’m thankful that God’s word is sufficient in all things and I hope and pray that my son has a heart that is filled with the wisdom from God’s Word:
“For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.” (Proverbs 5:3-4)
May the next generation of young men, like my son, see how destructive the “forbidden woman” is and how much a blessing a wife from the Lord is.