Tag Archives: church life

September 18; Beneath Me

Nehemiah 1-4

There are a lot of things required for the effective running of a local church. Of course we need pastors, deacons, teachers, singers, song leaders, and musicians. We need cooks and childcare workers.

But we also need people who sweep floors, clean toilets, mow grass and pull weeds. We need people who visit the sick, and move furniture for widows. Not all jobs in a church are glamorous.

I’ve often said the book of Nehemiah might be my favorite book of the Old Testament. It’s a beautiful picture of what a church should look like. But I saw something today I don’t remember ever noticing before. 3:5 says:

The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors.

The thing that I love about Nehemiah’s book is how everyone chipped in and did their part in the building and repair of the wall around Jerusalem. Even some of the women got their hands dirty. But here we see the “nobles” refused to lend a hand.

Shame on them.

But as God often does when I begin to fill a little self-righteous and point my fingers at those obviously not doing the right thing, He places a hand on my shoulder. “Shame on who, Connie?” He seems to ask.

Have I declined a ministry I felt was beneath me? Am I too proud to work behind the scenes? Do I think someone less educated is better suited to some menial task than I who have gone to college? Am I afraid to get my designer clothes dirty?

Shame on me!

My thoughts went to Jesus. Was anything beneath my Savior? Was He ever too proud to get down and dirty with people who needed Him? Was He too dignified to be hanging on a cross stark naked?

If the God of the Creation stooped so low for me, there is nothing too low for me to do in response. I don’t want to be counted with the “nobles” we read about in Nehemiah who would not put their shoulders to the work. Count me in with Shalhum’s daughters, chipped and dirty fingernails and all.

I guess God may be speaking to me about this topic today as I get ready to serve on the Nominating Committee at my own local church. We will be talking to people about the various areas of service that keep our fellowship running smoothly. We will be asking people to consider serving on the food committee, the grounds committee, the congregational life committee, etc.

May we all remember that nothing done for the glory of God is beneath any of us. May I remember nothing done for God’s glory is beneath ME!

I Samuel 28-31; Dividing the Spoils

David and 600 of his men went and attacked the Amalekites who had raided their homes, and taken their families and property. 200 weary soldiers stayed back and guarded the supplies, even though their own families had been captured as well.

David successfully defeated the enemy and rescued the women, children, livestock, and even took plunder from the Amalekites. The 200 men who didn’t fight in the battle were reunited with their families, along with the 600 who did fight.

Now, the 600 men who had gone to war thought they should be able to divide the spoils among themselves. After all, they’d put their lives on the line, they did the dirty work. It seemed right that they should be rewarded more than the men who’d stayed behind.

David didn’t agree. In essence he said, “God gave us all the victory. He’s the one who protected us and handed over our enemies to us. Everyone will share the blessings equally.”

You might be a pastor who puts himself out there every week after hours of study and prayer. Or you might be a song leader, a musician, an elder whose face everyone recognizes.

Or not.

Maybe you’ve never taught Sunday School, or sung in the choir. Maybe you’ve never actually prayed the sinners prayer with anyone, or gone on a missions trip.

Should God give a bit more blessing to one group than another?

If your ministry is public and demanding, do you think you deserve a bit more blessing than those who sit in the pews every Sunday and seemingly ride your coattails? Beware of that attitude.

God would have us know that it isn’t about the ministry. It’s about obedience. Some are called to be obedient to preach and teach, while others are called to encourage others and show hospitality. Some people’s gifts are more easily seen, but they certainly are not more important than the ones whose gifts are used behind the scenes.

I don’t know what spiritual gifts you have. I don’t know what talents you possess. But I know God is calling you to do something to further His kingdom, to fight or support the fight against the enemy.

Let’s remember we are all a part of the same army. As Christians, we are equally blessed because we have all received Jesus the exact same way. Jesus didn’t die more painfully for some than He did for others. He died once and for all.

And He wants to lavish all of His children with blessings beyond what we ask or think.

Be faithful to use what you have been given, and don’t compare yourself with anyone else. If you have confessed your sins, you deserve what Jesus died to give you.

Himself.

 

 

Joshua 1; Leadership and Changes

I remember sitting in the third pew on the left side of the sanctuary one Sunday morning when my life changed. The church itself was a daughter church, only a couple of years old. Our pastor and his wife were young, vibrant, loving people. And I loved them. Even as a teenager, I learned so much from them both about loving God, studying the Word, about living for Him.

But that morning, our pastor walked to the pulpit, and announced his resignation. He was taking a position at the district level of our denomination.

I was stunned. I felt betrayed. Never in my wildest imagination did I see that coming. I guess I thought they’d be there forever. I went into a period of mourning. And I’m not proud to say I was pretty resistant toward the next man who filled that pulpit.

Most of us have experienced pastoral changes, or changes in leadership at work. Maybe you’ve been the leader who steps into someone else’s shoes. You stand before your new congregation, or look at the faces looking back at you at your first staff meeting, and what comes out of your mouth first might be the difference between acceptance, and rejection, between success, and failure.

Moses had died. Moses, who was loved and respected, known to represent God in a mighty way, would lead Israel no longer. He had been a trusted leader. For most of the Jews living at that time, he had been the only leader they’d ever known. And Deuteronomy tells us that when he died, the nation of Israel went into mourning for thirty days.

Then Joshua, in obedience to God, stepped up to the plate. And I think his example should be a blueprint for all of us facing change in leadership.

The first thing Joshua did was spend time with God. We read that God talked to Joshua in the same way He’d talked with Moses. The Lord gave Joshua clear instructions concerning the direction He wanted the Jews to go. Joshua got instruction as well as encouragement from spending time with God.

The next thing Joshua did was to go to the officers. These men had served under Moses and were loyal to him. Joshua needed their loyalty as well. He gave the officers a commission, and assured them the plan was still to go across the Jordan and take the land God had promised them, just as Moses had said.

Then Joshua went to the people, and told them the agreement they had with Moses was still in effect. The three and a half tribes would stay to the east of Jordan, but only after they fought with the rest of the Jews to defeat the inhabitants of Canaan. Nothing had changed, he promised them.

And the people pledged their loyalty to Joshua.

I believe all three parts of this transition of authority is important. Some congregations are uncomfortable without a pastor. They don’t take time to mourn the loss, to put a bit of distance between the separation, and moving on. They end up taking the first available candidate, and especially if the former pastor was loved, it’s a recipe for disaster. Not many pastors survive a quick transition.

Another mistake some newly hired pastors make is not reaching out to the established leaders. The elders, the Sunday School teachers, the Youth leaders, and the choir are important workers who can make or break a pastor’s ministry. Joshua went to the established leaders first.

I knew a young preacher, right out of seminary, who was a youth pastor with dreams of being the senior pastor of a church as soon as possible. He and I would talk about spiritual things fairly often and I learned a lot from this young man. But he shared with me what his first sermon would be as a senior pastor. It went something like this: Things are going to change around here. There’s no room for dead weight. So if you aren’t going to run with me, walk somewhere else.

I asked him to pray about that. I said the people he would be offending were the prayer warriors and regular givers. They were the older saints who were the glue that held the church together.

Sadly, he did give that sermon one day. The church he pastored went through a really hard time before they healed, and lost a lot of solid followers of Jesus because of it.

One of the worst things a new pastor can do, I believe, is begin their ministry by pointing out everything that is “wrong” in the church. Wouldn’t finding common ground be a better way of starting out?

Change is good. It’s necessary. And it’s hard for most of us. As a pastor, or a person in some other leadership position, I believe the best advice comes from God’s Word. And I think Joshua is a pretty good example of how to make change successfully.

If your church is facing a change, I hope that you will encourage the congregation to be patient, to wait on God, to pray, to read His Word. Take time to find the pastor that will fit best, and whose ideas for the future aligns with yours.

And if you are a pastor who is making those changes yourself, slow down. Relinquish some control, ease into your position of authority with love and kindness. So often you hear a pastor talk about “his” church. A pastor friend of mine always had the attitude that the church was the congregation’s. He was their servant, not the other way around. He deferred to the elder board on every issue I can recall.

We can learn from Joshua to first and foremost spend time with God before making any change. Seek the council of others. Look for ways to connect instead of alienating. Don’t just write off the established way of doing things, but grab hold of what is working. Change for the sake of change is as bad as holding on to tradition for the sake of tradition.

At least that’s what I think Scripture is telling us.

 

 

Genesis 46-47 There Is Work To Do

Pharaoh asked Joseph’s brothers, “What is your occupation?” They weren’t coming to Egypt for vacation. They were expected to work. Yes, they were Joseph’s family. But that didn’t entitle them to a free ride.

When Joseph was responsible for feeding the Egyptians during the seven year famine, he never once gave away any grain. If the people wanted to eat, they had to buy it, until they ended up selling everything, including their freedom. But I don’t read where any of them felt entitled to the grain Joseph held. They paid the going rate, and seemed glad for the food they bought

Now I could get political here in light of our welfare system, or our dear millennials and socialism. But I’m thinking God would have us Christians take a closer look at our churches instead.

How many people attend church for a worship experience, then leave unchanged, unchallenged, and unproductive? Oh, they feel good about going to church, and enjoy the message and praise team. But the only contribution they make to the ministry is an occasional check in the plate, a hearty “Amen,” and applause after the worship leader tells them to “clap for Jesus.”

That’s not what being a child of God is about. And that’s not what God intends for His Church.

What is your occupation? What are your gifts? What is your role in your church fellowship? If you aren’t pulling your weight, you have no claim on the blessings. If you aren’t busy serving the Lord, you are a drain on the church, and your church can’t be healthy. And neither can The Church.

Just like the early Jews in Egypt, we are expected to contribute, to use our gifts, to make disciples of every nation. There is work to do. There is work for YOU to do.

March 15 – Don’t Forsake The Levites

Deuteronomy 11-13

Moses is talking to the Jews about how to handle sacrifices once they cross the Jordan into the Promised Land. He told them where they could offer sacrifices and where they could not. He told them what they could eat, and what was forbidden them to eat.

Then, kind of randomly, he said:

Be careful that you do not forsake the Levites as long as you live in the land. (12:19)

The Levites were in charge of the spiritual welfare of the children of Israel. Like our pastors today. And this verse has me asking the question: Do I forsake my pastor?

I’m blessed to be a part of two amazing fellowship of believers. As a snowbird, I worship in one church in Ohio, and in another when I live in Georgia. And I am blessed to sit under the teaching of two Godly men who share the Truth according to Scripture every Sunday.

But one of my pastors is grieving the loss of a friend whose death was sudden and unexpected. His young daughter has a medical condition that can be life threatening, and there are some questions still unanswered about her condition. Plus, our church has started a building campaign. Yet he continues to preach, to teach, to counsel, to visit, with enthusiasm and a passion for reaching the lost.

My other pastor’s dear wife has medical challenges, and our congregation is so small he has to work another job. But that doesn’t stop him from spending hours in preparation for Sundays, teaching Sunday School, preaching two sermons on Sundays, and a study on Wednesday night.

I don’t know either man really well, so I am sure there are things on their hearts I do not know. They carry an enormous weight on their shoulders. Yet they both greet us every Sunday with sincere smiles, share what God has laid on their hearts in a meaningful and passionate way. They both challenge me and bless me every time I am privileged to worship with them.

I pray for them both. But do they know I appreciate them? Have I encouraged them, thanked them? I know October is Pastor Appreciation Month but shouldn’t we always appreciate these dear men who have answered God’s call to be our shepherds? Shouldn’t we let them know?

I hope you are worshiping in a church with a Godly pastor. I know there are some who take that job who are not as gifted as my pastors, or who aren’t preaching God’s Truth. If that is your experience, I am praying that God will give you wisdom, and bring about a solution that honors Him.

But for those of us who appreciate our pastors, let’s tell them so. Let’s not neglect or forsake them in their very difficult job. And don’t forget their wives and children. They are in this with him, too.

If you are a pastor reading this blog today… Thank you! God bless you. And may I encourage you to hang in there. We need you. And what you do in Jesus’ name is not going unnoticed.

Father, I pray for the pastors out there who love and obey You. Thank you for the hours they spend pouring over your Word, listening to your voice, praying for guidance, praying for us. I pray that they would have clarity in their study. Give them the words that would help us understand what it is You want us to know through them. I pray for their health, their energy, their commitment, their focus, their patience, their passion, their joy. May you grant exactly what they need, and then some. I pray for their families, those dear ones in their homes who love them and challenge them. Grant patience, wisdom, and genuine love. I pray for their marriages. Keep them strong. May their marriages be sources of joy and refreshment. Surround the shepherds of your sheep with protection. And may your sheep let those shepherds know how much they are loved.

Feb 10 – Let Me Do That

Exodus 33-35

Did you think of your church fellowship when you read these chapters in Exodus today? God moved people to action. And they obeyed. Some gave of their material possessions. Some gave of their time as they used their talents for sewing, building, carving, designing…

The Tabernacle would be made by hundreds of people, working together, following God’s leading. This is what being a church is all about.

There is a dear woman in my church who loves to sew. God laid on her heart to start a sewing ministry, not knowing how many women would even be interested. But she was faithful. Once a month from five to twenty five women gather in the fellowship hall. Some bring sewing machines, some have scissors, some bring irons. They have made Salvation Dolls and sent them to a missionary who uses them to introduce children in Africa to their Savior. They made draw string bags to put in the boxes for Operation Christmas Child. They’ve made walker bags for a nursing home in our neighborhood. They’ve made neck pillows, bookmarks, snuggle pillows for a children’s hospital, blankets, and they’ve only been meeting for about a year.

My sister feels led to minister to elderly women in her church who live alone. (Happy Birthday, Peggy. I love you!) Through her church’s visitation ministry, she visits about five women every month, takes them to the grocery if they need, takes them to lunch or the doctor, prays with them, or just sits with them. She sends them cards, and calls them just to say hi.

There is a church where a few retired men got together and formed a committee that will pick up used appliances, clean and repair them, then give them to needy people in the community. They fix furniture for the same reason.

I’ve shared that my church provides a free meal every month for the community. There are several people in this tiny fellowship who organize, cook, serve, and clean up month after month for about 100 people who enjoy a hot meal with all the fixins.

Some people are called by God to teach Sunday School, work in the nursery, mow the church lawn, cook, clean, sing, work with Youth groups, give financially.

And when these people follow God’s lead, great things can happen for our churches in Jesus’ name.

Do you feel God’s call to some ministry in your church? Don’t depend on someone else to obey your call. Step right up and say, “Let me do that!”