Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT)
1 Take me as your pattern, just as I take Christ for mine. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NJB)
1 Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another. 2 I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind. 3 Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. 4 And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. 5 The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: 6 He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. 7 Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. 8 He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death— his death on the cross.Philippians 2:1-8 (TEV)
It seems more and more advertising dollars are spent trying to convince me that I either should become a life coach, or that I need one. A lot of master’s programs at Catholic and Protestant universities have M.A. and M. DIv programs in becoming a spiritual director. Heck, one group is willing to provide me coaching, via videos and taped phone calls where I have no imput at all, but I can listen to them anytime I want. I also have been inundated with books by preachers about ministry, and how to take my church from a failure to a success, and books about how to preach to my people so their lives turn completely around and they can live a good and proper life.
Lots of advice….
Now, don’t compelte read me out of context, there are those that are wise, and experienced coaches, some of whom I talk to and bounce ideas with on occaison. But I’ve also talked to a coach in revitalization who was trying to get me to hire him as a coach, whose experience in churches under 1000 members was non-existent. They developed their theories and their plan based on statistics and the works of others.
As I look at all these programs, and talk to some who director them, I am reminded of a ministry opportunity I once had, to teach and shepherd a group of young married couples. Only one problem, I was 23 years old and had just broken up with my fiance a few months before!. But hey, I could have purchased the latest book by Dobson, or Trent and Smalley and taught the material.
As I think about the ministry, and how we train our ministers (deacons) and pastors, I wonder what sort of message this sends them about how they should serve their people. Do we want ministers who stand back and observe people and give advice that they haven’t quite experienced themselves? Do we want them to turn to studies and books and “journeys” that are not unlike an old diagram with yes/no questions with tracks to take? Or do we want someone who will be there, who may not have the answers but will continually point us to Christ’s presence in our lives, to His promises revealed in scripture, who assumes that God’s presence in our lives, is the final answer… and how that applies is something we work through together.
I think we need to get away from the cookie cutter approach, whether it is more traditional, or more contemporary, more cutting edge or more based in cautious stewardship of yesterday’s concepts. We have to stop de-humanizing the relationship between pastor and people, and and humble ourselves and get down in the mud together, and see what God is doing. That’s not the way Chirst worked among those with whom He lived. He got involved, He knew their pain, He took their burdens.. and He calls us to love each other in the same way. Including being patient with those whom we serve.. He didn’t meet them in an office, he met them at tax tables, and by the waiting room at the ppol, on the road and where the boats gather… He met them in their life, and endured with them
Maybe that’s the point about all this, that it isn’t just a title, but finding someone to work with who is willing to do what Christ did – to come to us in our brokenness, and minister healing to us. Not just advice, not just a sermon series, not just rubrics and guidelines and 6 steps to that. But someone who comes and serves, and cares, and brings healing and trains us to do the same to others.
May we train ministers and pastors and bishops and our laity – all who minister in Christ’s name.. to do so as Christ did..
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day… and please discuss!
“You need interior life and doctrinal formation. Be demanding on yourself! As a Christian man or woman, you have to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, for you are obliged to give good example with holy shamelessness. The charity of Christ should compel you. Feeling and knowing yourself to be another Christ from the moment you told him that you would follow him, you must not separate yourself from your equals—your relatives, friends and colleagues—any more than you would separate salt from the food it is seasoning. Your interior life and your formation include the piety and the principles a child of God must have, to give flavour to everything by his active presence there. Ask the Lord that you may always be that good seasoning in the lives of others.” (1)
Over the centuries, one of the great issues for the church is how to encourage spiritual growth in the people of God. How to get encourage them to live lives filled with prayer and worship and both meditation on God’s word, and the indepth study of it. There is no doubt to the benefit of such interaction with God and His word, yet how do we do it? Add to this the theological discussion about the proper use of God’s law and gospel, and the issue gets further complicated. We have been told – and can make the case for from scripture, that we aren’t supposed us Law (rules with threats of active or passive punishment/reward) to motivate behavior within the church, but rather – receiving the incredible grace of God should result in our actions changing – as God works the change in us.
This is true not only for private spiritual disciplines like prayer, meditation, devotional study, and being involved in gatherings with other believers, but also things like evangelism, serving the needy…
The above quote is walking on the fence – primarily because of how people read the word “obliged”. If obliged is read as to mean you are blessed if you do, damned if you do not, then it becomes law. THe problem with using the law to motivate the behavior that should be natural to a Christian is that compliance is achieved through fear or greed – the positive or negative reward is why the act is being done. (Some would say – at least its being done – and the ends justify the means.) That form of compliance is often short-lived as well – for the reward diminishes over time, and what was once done with enthusiasm and excitement fades. (This btw is why I believe when the end result of becoming a Christian is the “reward of heaven”, people will soon lose interest – becoming a Christian is about Who we are in heaven with, and Who walks with us here)
But if obliged is something different – an inner compelling to love as a reaction to love, if Christ’s charity to us, to humanity is so overwhelming as it is, then we are compelled the same way a piece of wood is swept away by a river’s current – and the discipline is something internal, natural, the norm, not the goal. The spiritual growth simply becomes part of us, as we are swept along in Christ – the disciplines become part of who we are, rather than what we do.
Yet that still begs the question – how do we introduce these things to the new believer, how do we encourage and train, guide and pastor people, and indeed fellow pastors, in such beneficial and grace filled things. And how do we encourage it in our “mature” believers, those who have done without for so long, yet see themselves as “faithful”. How do we encourage and teach this to those who see no great need for indepth prayer and meditation?
How do we cause them to fall into the river of Christ’s charity and become swept into a life, lived fully in relationship, interacting with God, not just on Sunday morning (or the occaisonal Sunday Morning..) but as part of their life…
For that matter – how do leaders find the motivation to let Christ sweep us away..?
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1722-1730). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.