I love being a local church pastor… most days. God has given me front row seats to watch some amazing stories unfold in the lives of His people. It does not get much better. But I don’t always feel this way as a number of things block my view:
I am my own worst enemy. I mean well, I dream big dreams, I make elaborate plans and work hard, yet almost always fall short of my own expectations. I become discouraged and distracted. I fail, I sin, I let others down. I don’t laugh enough or play enough. I work hard and then harder. I am often frustrated with the lack of results. I look at others and wonder why I have not been chosen or cannot accomplish what they do. I need a holiday, a sabbatical or a new job.
Perhaps you have heard or thought the same also. David reminds us to “Be still and know that I am God.” Tending to our own souls allows us to care for others. Mark Buchanan’s The Rest of God and J Oswald Sander’s Spiritual Leadership are two of my favourite books when it comes to soul care. Make sure to have a mentor to help guide you through these internal struggles.
There are few days when one is not tempted to compare your church to others. One church closes, and another receives all the “leftover” people, and a pastor’s emotions run the full spectrum. We are tempted to measure our success in terms of the number of people who attend a gathering in our facility, or the capacity of our facility, or the finances of the church, instead of recognizing that God looks for us only to be faithful.
One may never lead a church over 200, engage in a building project or write a book on the secret of their success, yet from a kingdom perspective have been completely obedient and faithful. We must overcome the pressure to succeed—to do what works—and instead follow Christ into a life of faithfulness by doing what it right.
Making disciples/missionaries seems to be becoming more difficult. Not only do many in this post-Christian era not know the story of God at work in the world, but even those who do, and profess to be followers of Christ, are distracted by an increasing number of idols.
There are days when I seem almost overcome by the choices made by so many of the people I love. Every day there seems to be another in our church who makes a decision for the kingdom of the world instead of for the Kingdom of God. As pastors, we have seen it before. Many, compromise in areas we know will only lead to great pain and the destruction of their relationship with Abba. We wring our hands and shake our heads wondering why we continue.
But then God shows me areas in my own life where I too compromise, and how He shows such patience and grace towards me. I do suffer the consequences of my sin, but His love never fails and I am reminded that my job is not to change people, but to never quit trying to help people back into relationship with our God. I can be firm and stick to biblical values, but must never grow weary of doing what He has called us each to do. May I encourage you to look at Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart, or Elton Trueblood’s The Company of the Committed.
4. A Truncated Gospel
Another obstacle to me seeing God at work is what we have done with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. We often reduce the good news to the personal salvation of individuals, and even within that, to the receiving of eternal life through going to heaven after we die. It seems to me that we do not help people to see that Jesus came to live, die and be raised from the grave in order that we may get rid of the old life, and enter into new life. This new life allows us to see God at work and to be witness to what He is doing. It allows us to hear Him speak and then to follow His instructions.
Many do not know how to share the Good News of Jesus because they do not realize the presence of God in their midst. Some have never understood what it means to be a witness to a real and present experience of Christ. Still others have never grasped the scope of the Good News being about more than just personal salvation, but about the reality that in and through Christ, all things are made new. The Kingdom is both here and yet to come. Because we have a narrow view of the Good News, we cannot see God at work in our midst.
I want to spend my years both seeing God at work and helping others to see Him at work. Might we, as local church pastors, not just deal with a person’s problems in hopes of them being happy, but to see real joy experienced as people begin to grasp what it is to become witnesses of God at work in their lives.
Join me in the journey.