Psalms 116-118; 1 Thessalonians 4
Some of the thinking that I share in this blog springs from an article I recently read in Leadership Magazine. The article by Joe Thorn, pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in St. CharlesIllinois, is written to pastors and advocates the discipline of preaching to oneself. What he meant by that was that the person preaching needs to press the claims of the Word of God on himself prior to sharing it with others. He states that the toughest audience any preacher faces needs to be himself. I agree and have unwittingly practiced it for years. I have found that doing so helps me grow in my daily life.
Did you ever wonder what causes people to leave a local church? One reason we often hear is, “I just wasn’t being fed.”
Perhaps an even more important question that a pastor ponders is, “What can I do to make people stick? What makes them stay through good times and lean? What can I do or say or model that will help them build a well of stamina and give them an unshakable sense of belonging? Is what they have seen, heard, and been taught in the church caused them to grow from infancy into spiritual adulthood? Does their self talk relate to what I said from the pulpit and what they have discovered for ourselves from God’s Word?
Unwittingly, we often foist upon people in ministry responsibilities that do not belong to them. Men and women on both sides of the pulpit have certain gifting, passions, and life interests. To strap one person or a team of persons with the assignment of seeing to all the spiritual nutrition of a congregation is not only unrealistic, but impossible.
In our local church we are currently in a process of experiencing life between pastors. It is now incumbent upon all of us to discern the kind of ministry that God has for our future. And preferences are being spoken regarding this important decision:
“We need someone who is well educated.”
We loved our former pastor. Could we find someone like him?
The next pastor should be an evangelist…a teacher, …someone young,…someone seasoned. And the list continues.
During this unfamiliar experience of change, we are realizing that God has a plan and we need to discover it. No one person or persons can meet all the needs of a diverse congregation like ours. We face the wonderful dilemma of simply trusting the Lord for His pleasure regarding our future. Seasons like this allow us to lean on what we have been taught. We have the privilege of applying ourselves to support the entire body. Of maturing and taking on responsibility for our own spiritual growth.
I love what Paul said to the Thessalonians in one of today’s readings. Paul, who established the Thessalonian church, wrote these words to them “Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know the instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.” I Thessalonians 4:1, 2
One of the most important lessons a Christian can learn is to stand alone. I must commend our congregation for doing just that. In spite of grieving loss, they are stepping up to meet the challenge and finding joy in the interim process.
As I write this article, I am preparing to preach next Sunday. As I have preached to myself, I have gained insight into ways of getting closer to the Lord. My prayer for all of us is that we will grow in this process of preaching to ourselves. In so doing we will take a greater share of the responsibility of growing in grace.