Tag Archives: pastors

(Ezekiel 34) Called to be a Pastor

If you are a pastor of a church, or if you feel God is leading you into ministry, please read Ezekiel chapter 34 today and know that God is talking to you. He takes the shepherding of his flock very seriously, and so should you.

Years ago I knew a man hired to pastor a church who very matter-of-factly told his Board that he felt called to preach, not visit sick people, not to pound on doors, not to be involved in children’s ministry. None of that was in his wheelhouse, so they needed to hire an assistant pastor to do those things so he could devote his time to study. He told them he read about a dozen books a week and didn’t have time for boots on the ground.

Now, I would say (or at least hope to say) that this man is an extreme example. But God, through Ezekiel, has something important to say to any pastor who doesn’t shepherd. Again, I would highly suggest you read chapter 34 if you are a pastor, or if you go to a church with a pastor.

Sadly, there are pastors who love to hear the sound of their own voices, who have left their sheep unprotected against the enemy. The people under their care have become “prey and food for every wild animal.”

I know that the New Testament Church appointed deacons to care for the physical needs of the people so that Paul and the other Apostles could devote themselves to the preaching. But Paul wasn’t a pastor, was he? He was an evangelist. And even in that, if you read his letters to the churches, you see how much he cared for and protected those congregations, too. When he was with a church for any length of time, he didn’t just sit around preparing his sermon for Sunday. He worked with them, beside them, supported them, spent time with them, made friends of them.

Let me suggest that if you feel called to ministry, but say, “Children’s ministry isn’t my thing,” or “I’m not comfortable around old people,” or “I hate hospitals,” or “I’m too shy to entertain people in my home or to visit them in their’s,” maybe you are called to be a public speaker. But you are NOT called to be a pastor. Get out now.

Allow your congregation the right to have a real shepherd who will protect them and care for them. A shepherd doesn’t throw out a handful of food at his flock once a week and think he’s done a good job. A pastor shouldn’t do that, either.

Get out now for your own sake because you will be held to a high standard of care over your flock. Will you one day look into the eyes of Jesus and say, “Well, Jesus, you know I never really did like children?” Good luck with that.

If you are a pastor – be a shepherd. That congregation is your responsibility from the nursery to the grey haired ladies’ Sunday School class. If you recognize weaknesses in yourself, ask God for strength. If He has called you to care for His flock, He will answer that prayer. But don’t simply pass that responsibility off to someone else and think that will cover you. Don’t feed yourself rather than God’s flock.

Are you called to be a pastor? Then you are called to be a shepherd.

Shepherds and Warriors (Numbers 27)

Oh, for more leaders like the one Moses prayed would succeed him. A shepherd. A warrior.

I know I’m cynical, but I think too many leaders in our churches are businessmen, entertainers, and followers. So much focus is on making their churches look like everyone else’s church, I wonder how much real shepherding is going on.

I don’t know of any warrior who invites the enemy into camp in order to fight a battle. Yet the emphasis in many churches today is to make worship inviting, to bring people in to hear the Word and be saved. I wonder how many pastors are truly leading their people into battle, going into the neighborhoods and towns to make disciples. Too many are focused on fighting the battle within the safety of their church walls.

That was never part of Jesus’ plan according to Scripture.

I pray God will raise up more leaders in our churches whose focus is in being the shepherds and the warriors God needs for His Church. Maybe God is calling you.

February 23; Prepared

Leviticus 22-23

As a Sunday School teacher, and a Bible teacher for our Good News Club, I need to be careful. What a privilege I have to be entrusted with sharing the Word of God. But as I read God’s instructions to Aaron, I am reminded that God demands I take care of sin in my own life before I stand before anyone I plan to teach. I’m reminded that my obedience must come before my service.

If I take a position of leadership, I need to be sure my offering is not tainted by sin, like an Old Testament Jew offering a deformed animal to God. I’m not talking about a monetary tithe. I’m talking about the offering of my time as I study God’s Word and prepare a lesson. I’m talking about the time I spend in prayer concerning the lesson. I’m talking about those Sunday mornings and Tuesday afternoons when I share what God has laid on my heart.

If you are a pastor, a teacher, a nursery worker, a song leader I would suggest you approach your responsibilities with the same intentionality as Aaron did. And, really, the same goes for any of us who dare to share the Gospel with people we come in contact with. May we search our hearts and confess sin as God reveals it. And may our ministries be blessed because we did it God’s way. May Jesus be glorified in each of us.

Numbers 25-27; Leading By Example

When Moses found out he was about to die, he prayed that God would raise up a man to take his place. I was struck today about how he prayed:

Moses said to the Lord, “May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (27:15-17)

Moses knew that, left to their own devices, the Jews would go astray like sheep without a shepherd. He prayed two things about the one who would come after him. And I can’t help but think we should be praying the same thing for our own leaders, those dear ones who accept the responsibility as pastors of our church fellowships.

  1. Moses prayed that his successor would “go out and come in before them.” This seems to be speaking of the kind of example our leaders should present. Does your pastor (or do you if you are a pastor) demonstrate how to share the Gospel, and not just talk about it on Sunday mornings? Is he (or she) a presence in your community, does he talk about Jesus over coffee at McDonalds? Are people coming to your church on Sunday because of the contact your pastor has made? I knew a pastor one time who said that visitation wasn’t his gift. I’m sorry, but I question his calling. I don’t think a pastor should be making excuses for not “going out and coming in” before the people he is called to shepherd. We sheep learn by example. Moses knew that, and he prayed for a leader that would be that example.
  2. Now before you get too hard on your pastor for not being the perfect example, Moses didn’t let us off the hook. He prayed that his successor would “lead THEM out and bring them in” as well. I am reminded that Jesus wasn’t just speaking to preachers when He commanded that we get out there and make disciples. We aren’t to sit comfortably in our sheep pen while the shepherd is out there knocking on doors. We are all to be sharing our faith, calling on people God puts on our hearts, striking up conversation with people in the grocery line if God prompts us to do that. Are people coming to church because you have made the effort to invite them? It’s not just the pastor’s job to share the Gospel.

But it is his job. I will say that both of my pastors, the one in my Ohio church and the one here in Georgia, are men who are leading by this example. Going to school board meetings, or Rotary Club, or striking up a conversation with the waiter who brings coffee, or helping a neighbor pull weeds, finding opportunities to share Jesus… and taking those opportunities, these dear men aren’t just preachers on Sunday mornings. They live their faith openly every day. And they challenge us to do the same. I think this is what Moses had in mind when he prayed like he did.

Yes, our pastors have a grave responsibility to lead by example. Pray for yours. His is a very difficult job, and Satan would love nothing more than to shackle him to his desk.

And pray that God will prompt each of us to get busy, too. May we be people who eagerly put ourselves out there and lead people into our fold.

For Jesus’ sake. May He find us faithful.

Numbers 17-18; Budding, Blossoming, and Bountiful

Priests were highly regarded men, respected, obeyed. It’s no wonder that men from other tribes wanted to enjoy the same honor. But God made it plain that Aaron was His chosen, and only Levites were to attend to priestly duties. The staff that represented Aaron not only budded, it blossomed, and produced fruit over night.

The other staves? Nothing.

This side of the cross, as God’s kingdom of priests, we can learn from Aaron’s staff. As believers, we are chosen by God to grow in grace and knowledge, to go and make disciples, to stand in the gap between heaven and hell. We also can delight in God’s Presence, His love, His forgiveness, and protection. Buds and blossoms and bounty.

But chapter 18 reminds us of the great responsibility that goes along with all that. God told Aaron that he and his sons, “bear the responsibility for offenses against the sanctuary…

Verse 5 says: You are to be responsible for the care of the sanctuary and the altar, so that wrath will not fall on the Israelites again.

The commentaries I read seemed to agree these verses warn me that, although being God’s child through the blood of His Son is a precious gift, there are serious consequences if I don’t use it, if I hoard it or abuse it.

I must bear fruit. If I don’t, God’s wrath will be my fault. If my neighbor goes to hell because I didn’t reach out to him to introduce him to the Savior, his blood is on my hands.

My pastor is going through I Thessalonians verse by verse with us, and yesterday we got to 5:12-15. These verses talk to us about how we are to regard those who are over us in the Lord. In other words, our pastors.

He shared the grave responsibility he has as our under-shepherd, and the fact that he will stand before God some day and account for his care of us who worship with him in our church body. He asked us to pray for him, for his faithfulness to God’s Word, and his purity, that God would keep him grounded in the Truth of Scripture, and victorious over sin in his own life.

I’m teaching a Sunday School class this quarter, and would ask the same of you. Please pray for me as I take on the responsibility of being God’s voice to the dear women who trust me to speak the Truth. And pray that Satan will be defeated in my life.

My pastor also pointed out these verses address “those who work hard AMONG you.” Isn’t that all of us who name the name of Jesus? We need to be in prayer for our elders, deacons, youth leaders, worship leaders. We need to be in prayer for each other in our workplaces and neighborhoods as we represent Jesus to a lost world. These verses tell us to live in peace with each other, to encourage each other in the work we have to do, to be patient and kind with everyone, and always want what is best for everyone.

We are all in this together. We all have jobs to do so blossoms will grow and fruit is produced. I pray that God will find all of us faithful, and that our fruit will be bountiful for Jesus’ sake.

November 28 – A Private Conversation

Acts 18:19-19-41

I like Priscilla and Aquila. They were good friends of Paul’s, and had put their faith in Jesus. I’m sure that, after hanging out with Paul for very long, they were pretty grounded.

So when they heard Apollos preaching a partial truth, they were able to recognize his error. They knew Apollos as a man instructed in the way of the Lord, fervent, and speaking accurately concerning Jesus as taught by John the Baptist. But Priscilla and Aquila also knew there was more to the story than what Apollos was preaching.

Now here’s what spoke to me today. The couple went privately to Apollos and had a conversation. I don’t see that they went to their neighbors first to complain about the preacher. They didn’t make a scene by stomping out of the church service. And they didn’t post their frustration on FaceBook.

“… they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” (18:26)

The result was exciting. Apollos became a missionary who spoke powerfully, “…demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.”

Our pastors are human. And Satan would like nothing more than to introduce a little apostasy into their messages on Sunday mornings. Would you recognize it if you heard it? What would you do if your pastor said things that weren’t exactly consistent with Scripture?

Churches have split over situations like this. And Satan wins. If your first action is to complain to the Sunday School class, or call another member on the phone to point out the preacher’s error… you are wrong. We need to learn from Priscilla and Aquila and have that private conversation with our pastors first. We need to hold them accountable. And I believe, if your pastor is sincerely interested in speaking the Truth, he will listen like Apollos listened.

I encouraged you to pray for your pastor yesterday as you went to Sunday worship. Let me encourage you to pray for him on Monday, too. And Tuesday. Pray that God will keep him grounded in the Scripture, that he will be open to the Spirit’s leading, and that God will be proclaimed in Spirit and Truth every time he stands in front of the congregation.

I don’t know your pastor. But I know he covets your prayers.

November 27 – Pastors And Prayer

1&2 Thessalonians

Today is Sunday, and I’m getting ready to worship with a very special group of people. It’s a tiny church where about 20 of us will gather. And God will be there.

The pastor is a busy man of God. He not only spends many hours each week shepherding this precious flock, but he also works another job to support himself and his dear wife. I don’t get to worship with them very often any more, but I’m always blessed and challenged when I do.

My home church’s pastor is also a godly man who serves God and our congregation with passion and love. His enthusiasm for sharing the Gospel is contagious. And I know God will be pleased to be present in their service today, too.

Paul reminds us in I Thessalonians 5:12-13 to:

appreciate those who diligently labor among (us) and have charge over (us) in the Lord and give (us) instruction, and that (we) esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.

I hope you are as blessed as I with a pastor who loves God and is true to His Word. I hope you are praying for, and support him (or her) in his ministry. I hope you are praying for his family, for the people he comes in contact with every day, for the hours he spends preparing to share Jesus from the pulpit each week. Our pastors have an enormous responsibility.

So Pastor Bill and Pastor Whit, I appreciate you both. Your love for us who worship with you, your availability to us, your hours of preparation, and your faithfulness to God’s Word do not go unnoticed. I am blessed every time you share God’s Word. May God continue to bless your ministries and your families… and you. I prayed for you both today.

November 4 – Warm Fuzzies

Matthew 22; Mark 14

I love reading the Bible. It can humble me, challenge me, encourage me, or tickle me. Today I was tickled.

Jesus has less than a week to live on planet Earth, as reported in the chapters we read today. He still has a large following, and the Jewish elite are still trying to trap Him: Should we pay taxes? Who is married to whom in the resurrection? What’s the greatest commandment?

They tried hard to get him to say something… anything… that would show Him up in front of his followers, and give them reason to get rid of Him once and for all. So Jesus gave them a bit of their own medicine. He asked them:

How can the Christ be David’s son, if David himself called Him, Lord?

Here’s what tickled me. The large crowd were listening to Jesus answer question after question. They heard Him ask the hard question, too. Their response?

And the large crowd enjoyed listening to Him. (Mark 12:37b)

I’m not a preacher. But I think if, after preparing a sermon and preaching my heart out, someone shook my hand on Sunday morning and said, “Enjoyed your sermon today, Pastor,” I’d go home and throw something. If all you get out of hearing God’s Word proclaimed is a good time, then either your pastor isn’t doing his job, or you aren’t going in there prepared to hear what God has to say to you.

I said this verse tickled me. It did. I even laughed out loud. Until I remembered that these very people, these followers who “enjoyed” listening to the exchange between Jesus and the Jewish leaders, were the same ones who  cried, “Crucify Him,” only days later. I guess they’d stopped enjoying what they were hearing.

Your pastor is preparing a message he’ll give two days from now. Are you preparing, too? God has something to say to you through the words He has given your pastor. I can say with confidence that God isn’t interested in tickling your ears, or giving you warm fuzzies so you go away feeling good about yourself. I’m pretty sure He wants to challenge you to live for Him in a more effective way, He wants to put a finger on sin in your life so you’ll repent of it, He wants to humble you, drive you to your knees, so you’ll admit how much you need Him.

I dare you to prepare your heart to be changed Sunday morning. If your pastor is doing his job, and you are doing yours, you can expect something truly amazing to come out of it.

Father, I want to be ready to hear from you on Sunday. I pray that You will point out sin so that I can ask you to forgive me, and enter Your house with a pure heart. I want you to beat me up, if I need it. I want you to humble me, light a spark within me, draw me closer to you. I pray for my pastor. Thank you so much for this man who is truly a vessel you use to speak to me. God, encourage his heart. Give him clarity, discernment, power. May he continue to allow You to speak through him right to me. Defeat Satan’s attempt to block what You want to do in our church. May my pastor be an instrument in Your hands to help me love You more, and serve You better. Bless my pastor today, Lord. And make him a blessing to your people who are not looking for warm fuzzies on Sunday morning.

August 20 – Rags And Armpits

Jeremiah 38-40; Psalms 74, 79

I like Ebed-melech, and I bet you don’t even know who he is. (I didn’t either until I read Jeremiah 38 this morning). But I think he is one of my new favorite Old Testament personalities.

Ebed-melech was an Ethiopian eunuch who worked for King Zedekiah. When he heard Jeremiah the prophet had been thrown into a cistern and left to die, Ebed-melech went to the king and asked permission to bring Jeremiah up out of the muddy pit. The king not only gave that permission, he told his servant to hurry before Jeremiah died there.

Now this is what made me want to hang out with Ebed-melech: He ran and gathered old clothes and rags, and threw them into the cistern. He told Jeremiah to put them under his armpits under the ropes. Ebed-melech was going to pull Jeremiah up, but Jeremiah had been sinking in mud for who knows how long. It wasn’t going to be easy to pull him out of that. And Ebed-melech figured that those ropes would tear into Jeremiah’s skin if left unprotected.

Ebed-melech considered the prophet’s well-being, he recognized a need and met that need even before Jeremiah knew he had the need!

Our pastors are our modern-day prophets, those who proclaim the Word of God. Oh, I pray for my pastors. I lift them up, so to speak. But Ebed-melech has me asking if I really take care of them.

Do I consider their well-being? Do I anticipate a need they might have, and meet that need even before they realize it? I am blessed to sit under the teaching of two godly, hard-working men. And I want to be their Ebed-melech. I’ll continue to lift them up before the Lord, and ask for their protection, and blessings on their ministries. But I also want to be sensitive to any need they might have that I can meet. They are pulled in so many directions. I’d like to be the rags under their armpits.


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.