I was recently asked, “ what are you grateful for in your current ministry context?” For me the answer was super easy. I am grateful that I serve in a church where there is no weird chasm between me as the pastor and the people. Often times there is an awkward distance between the members of a church and their pastor. This doesn’t exist for me and Grace Church. This means I am free to serve with my gifts and passions as a larger part of the rest of the body. I am also allowed to serve with my warts, flaws, and wounds (yes, all pastors have theses) with zero judgement. Not only do I bring my brokenness to the table, I bring those areas of strengths. All of these are combined and laid before the cross with the other members of Grace to fulfill His mission in and through us. To God be the glory!
In Acts 6 we learn the role the apostles take in the early church, “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6: 4). This becomes the primary role for a pastor within the local church. This one verse is a summary statement of all the other bible passages that talk about pastoral leadership. In my Course study for my post-graduate studies, I have been introduced to the Puritans. They give another living example of this verse. They led their congregations, counseled their congregations, they shepherded their congregations, and fed their congregations a steady diet of the pure preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The result was the eventual Great Awakening under the peaching of Matthew Henry and George Whitefield. Oh, how I am challenged to learn and grow even more with their example set before me.
In Acts 5: 29 we read, “But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’” Paul writes in Galatians 1: 10, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Again Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 2: 4, “But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” And lastly we read in Proverbs 29: 25, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” I think you are starting to see a pattern in scripture with this. The role of the pastor is to please God rather than man. I struggled with this early on in ministry. I thought that if people were pleased, then God would be pleased. Boy did I have that wrong. This line of thinking only birthed anxiety, frustration, and eventual depression (I will share in another post my story, struggle, and victory with this). I found it very interesting that the people who I was trying to please had very little understanding of what the role of the pastor is and does in the life of a church. (We have a role among many roles). In many cases, those who projected their view of what a pastor is and does were loosely connected to the church (the Bride of Jesus with Jesus as the head) if connected at all (being connected in a church always affords a healthier view in these matters). Or, their projected view was an outflow of their own emotional insecurities and / or pain and then placed upon me as the Pastor. Most pastors who read this would agree. The reality is that a Pastor is often a target of peoples angst, anxiety, and anger. This is why so many good, Gospel centered Pastors resign the ministry. As soon as I got my heart and head around the truth that I will stand only before Jesus Christ for the ministry He entrusted me with and answer accordingly. I only answer to Christ, so Christ is the one I aim to please. That any arrows shot my way, more often than not, where more about that individual than me.
Now, do I have all this figured out? Nope. This is why life is often referred to as a journey. You learn as you live. The Lord shows you and teaches you at every step. I am no different. I am intrigued with the Puritans and challenged by their way of life and commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a holy life. I am eagerly anticipating the Lord continuing to grow me in these ways. I am grateful for Grace Church in this journey as we all strive to please the Lord with our lives. As we do so, we are going to see God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit do amazing things in and through us.