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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Pastor's role in God's House Part III

Click here to read the rest of the entries in the God's House Series

The Pastor's role as Shepherd

I grew up listening to many wonderful pastors.  My Dad and his ministry taught me to love deep teaching.  I remember sitting in church with my Bible on my lap and a note pad beside me.  He had a wonderful way of weaving contemporary situations into Biblical teaching.  He was easy to follow and always left me wanting more.  My mother was also a minister and evangelist.  It was impossible to sit through one of her charismatic sermons and not cry. 

Pastor Reese Thomas inspired and touched my heart during my years at Evangel University.  Pastor Don Argue was one of the kindest and most inspiring ministers I've known.

I could go on and on about the pastors that have influenced my life.  There are many.  All of these men and women were called by God, had a life changing experience and.....they loved the people they served.

I've known some ministers that believe the decision to enter the ministry uses the same decision making process as say....a banker.  So's not the same!  In order to lead God's people and to be responsible for God's house --- you must be "called" by Almighty God himself.  You must have a transformation of your mind, your heart and your life.  You must know in the same way Jonah knew, that there is nothing else for you to do with your life but to "feed God's Sheep".  You must have a clear cut insight into God's will for your life and how your talents will be used to "feed God's sheep". 

John 21:15-17
 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.  When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."  The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.

I actually heard one pastor announce from the pulpit, "I decided to enter the ministry because I am a talented speaker, I have a sense of humor, I like to read and I want to determine my own hours."

Looking at John 21,  I believe there are two huge requirements for being a minister.  Without those two things in place, your ministry will be much less than it should be.  #1  Do you really love Jesus?  (Do I need to ask that three times?)  #2 Are you feeding for and caring for the sheep - those in your fold? 

If a pastor isn't doing those things first....he can't go on to other things without becoming distorted.

What would a John 21 pastor be like?  He's the kind of pastor that greets you at the bread aisle of K-Mart the same way he greets you when you come into church.  He knows your name and he's glad to see you.  He looks at your face when you tell him about your four year old being sick and he remembers to call two days later to see if he's better.

He's excited to be invited to your house for dinner and wouldn't miss your husband's retirement party.  Not only will he pray with you about your rebellious teen, he will get involved.  He might show up to take them for ice cream or he might make sure the youth pastor and your son has the money to go to a concert together.  When he tells you he's praying, you can take it to the bank.  He spends the first hour of his work day praying for his sheep and the last 30 minutes of his work day praying for the entire ministry.

When you call his cell phone to tell him that your mother is being rushed to the hospital, you may find that he's beat you there.  He's waiting at the emergency room door dressed in shorts and has charcoal on his hands.  When you ask what he was doing he tells you about the steaks on the grill.  Then he quickly shifts the conversation to ask if you want to pray. 

How can a pastor do all that?  He can't if he wants to build a mega church.  He can only be that involved if he's not out for the numbers.  He must be more concerned about individual people than he is about building a mega church. Maybe his little church is only 100 people.  Maybe he doesn't have a big choir or a ton of youth in a specialized program....but he personally feeds the sheep he has.  He sings through his day because (other side of this issue) his sheep know his voice and they love him.  They care about him.  They pay him a decent salary - not huge - but enough to live comfortably.  They have birthday parties for him and his family and they lock arms and pray for God to bless them. 

The pastor feels loved and appreciated.  The congregation feels loved and appreciated.  They all become a tightly knit community of caring, kind, loving people.  And what if a stranger approaches....they love him too!  It's not a click.  It's the family of God!  A group of people growing and loving each other until the Father comes back to claim his own.

WOW!  Doesn't that sound great??? 

Hum....Debbie, it does sound great.  But is it real?

Yes.  I know it can happen because I've lived it.  My parents pastored a church in Indiana that exhibited all those traits.  It's hard to maintain and Satan will work on you to try to break it up.  It takes both the pastor and the congregation working together to protect the "family of God".  But...that's the way the church is supposed to be.  And....that type of church makes evangelism easy.  Who wouldn't want to be part of that type of "family"?  Why aren't pastors striving for that kind of ministry today.  Could it be that their eyes are on "bigger and bigger" rather than "take care of my sheep"?

My son is at a large church and we had a discussion on this subject.  He likes the feel of the large churches, the big programs they can produce and the big projects they can execute for God. 

Sounds good....but I wonder, couldn't you accomplish all that with 10 smaller churches that unite once a month to work together on a project? 

Mega churches scare me.  The pastor can hide his own problems and sin.  The parishioners can hide their sins.  The children can run away from accountability and the person of Jesus can get lost in the programs.  There's too much room for people to be disconnected from the original teachings, accountability and Christ like service.  Mega churches have lots of people working, but they also have lots of lazy Christians who take much more than they give.  I've known large churches that have 250 Sunday school classes.  There's no way the pastor can know the lives of the teachers...the way they teach....or the spiritual condition of their unit.  It would take him almost a year to just sit in on the individual classes. 

So....what difference does that make?  He can appoint an overseer to make sure everyone is on the right track.

Yes, yes he could.  But why wouldn't the Shepherd want to connect with his sheep on a personal level?  And then there's the money thing.  Bigger means more money coming in....but also more programs going out and needing more stuff, more staff and more things and more responsibility until's all about money. 

Let's run with the thought of "feeding" the sheep.  Let's look at dining out kind of like Diners, Drive Ins and Dives on the Food Network.  We all love finding that neat little restaurant where all the cooking is special because the chef puts his heart into every dish.

You walk in the door and everyone knows you.  You can ask for special things and the owner smiles and is happy to grant your request.  It feels like coming home or Thanksgiving dinner every time you show up.  But...the word leaks out and suddenly there are bus loads of people from a neighboring town.  You have to wait in line for an hour or so to get a table.  The owner has to hire help that isn't local.  Finally it's too much for him and he sells to a big company.  They come in and change the decor, change the menu so their profit margin is higher, the help is micro managed and no longer fun to talk to and pretty soon you just stop going.  It's lost its appeal as a little diner and with it the feeling of "going home". 

That my friend is what's happening in churches that pursue the "mega" label.  We've lost the feeling of home and the Spirit of God.  I'm sure God is so sick of the micro management, the show type programs and the loss of "family" that even He wants to skip the service.  God desires to be involved in the lives of his people.  Without relationship there can be no worship.  Without worship there can be no Spirit.  Without spirit - God does not inhabit the house!

I called a pastor once and told him my child was discouraged and having a hard time.  "He admires you.  If you could just give him a call, I know it would mean a lot."  Inside I was hoping he would want to spend a little time with my child and be sure he was okay.  After all, our family had attended the church for almost 10 years. 

"Look, I'll pray for your child, but you need to get him to church and get him involved in some ministry.  If he becomes part of my inner circle, then I can spend time with him. I just don't have time to hang with people that aren't part of my inner circle."  I hung up the phone and cried.  My pastor didn't understand the parable of Jesus and the "one" lost sheep.  How Jesus loved that lost sheep and looked for him.  How he took the time to go out and find him and bring that sheep home.  Luke 15:4-7
"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."

I know many of you may be attending a large church.  That's fine.  I just hope that your pastor is a "true" shepherd of God and is leading his congregation with love and more importantly with involvement in their lives.  I hope this discussion on pastors will inspire you to search out the scriptures and hold your pastor accountable to his "heavenly" goals.  I hope you and your pastor will take a look at the people attending and ask yourself if you have properly grounded those "sheep" in the word of God and the love of God's family.

My purpose in this series is NOT to hurt any pastor or member, but rather to get you to "question with boldness" all that is going on in the House of God.  According to the Barna group, every year we lose more Christians than we add.  We better figure out what's wrong and why before Christianity becomes the smallest faith in the world.

God loves you,


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