chosen

Chosen to Abide and Rest

When I assumed the lead pastor role at a former church, one of the amazingly supportive couples in leadership sent me the following thoughts. The church was going through a grieving process over the loss of their previous pastor, always a tough situation for the incoming pastor.

When I received their note I sensed the presence of God in the words. Somehow I knew I’d need the assurance and confidence they would inspire within me. Now years later, I can see how true that has been. In fact, I find myself leaning upon these truths even today.

Last week I was meditating on John 15, and the Lord reiterated these same thoughts to my heart. Back in September (2012) when I went fulltime into my current ministry, Jesus spoke to me about abiding in Him, and He in me. That would be the key, I heard Him say. He would open doors, give me the wisdom I need, provide for our needs, and direct me clearly into the teachings He would have me share as I travel here and there.

All I can say is that He has been faithful, and I’m continuing to learn how to rest in Him.

I hope these words are a strength to you as well … rhema to your soul. God bless you.

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“You are in God’s place at God’s perfect time. Your days are in His hands, and He is your future. 

“He has gifted you and placed His hand upon you to bless you and make you a blessing.

 “The burden of your ministry is not yours to carry—as you rest, He will work; as you abide, He will bring fruit; as you sow, He will give the increase.

 “He is your shield and your exceeding great reward.” (Roy Lessin, from God Has Chosen You.”)

We thank the Lord that He has called you to Himself, to your ministry, and to us. God Bless You.

“You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.”  —  John 15:16 (King James Version)

directed

Directed Worship

As pastors, what do we teach our churches about worship? Do we approach worship as an event or a lifestyle? As singing or breathing? As being or attending?

In John 4 Jesus tells the woman at the well, “We know what we worship.” He is putting his finger on the fact that worship of God is a response to revelation of God.  How much emphasis do we put on the idea that we are able to worship God because he has revealed himself to us (primarily through his Word)? For years I referred to our singing as “the worship”. I know all the readers here at Cross Connection understand that our music is an opportunity to worship according to a certain form (singing). But how much do our churches catch that? Is worship event based or life based? No doubt there is something special about worshipping God in the assembling of ourselves, but the fundamental fact is, we never actually stop worshipping.

We are incessant worshippers. Jesus doesn’t deny that the woman at the well worshipped. He simply said that she didn’t know the object of her worship. This is why idolatry is such a strong theme in Scripture. Our hearts fixate on objects to worship. In fact, Harold Best, in his book Unceasing Worship, says that when we sin, we don’t actually stop worshipping. Our worship has simply changed direction. This reality is touched on by the woman who asked Jesus about the locality of worship (this mountain or Jerusalem). Jesus moves the discussion from one of locality to one of centrality (spirit and truth).

As the gospel is revealed to me over and over through reading the Scriptures, preaching, good books, the church community etc., my heart is thrilled by the revealed Christ which leads to Godward worship. So too, for our churches. If our churches think that worship is more the issue of on or off instead of direction, then we will be content worshipping the wrong thing on Monday morning or Friday evening. Connecting worship of God to revelation of God helps people see Jesus as all satisfying. This means at work Monday morning they can joyfully and diligently, work fully satisfied in the acceptance and work of Christ versus the acceptance and satisfaction from the job in an of itself. The office then becomes a sanctuary of worship. The mother with small children can joyfully serve her needy little ones recognizing that all her needs are met in Jesus and her service to her kids becomes an outpouring of worship to God.

leadership

The Necessity of Pastoral Leadership

The role of pastor-teacher, especially that of lead pastor-teacher, is one in which a number of spiritual gifts are in operation.

The gift of the word of wisdom is essential, that the pastor might give a word in season in difficult situations (Isaiah 50:4). Prophecy is essential, that the pastor might speak edification and exhortation and comfort to men (1 Corinthians 14:3). Evangelism is helpful, especially for the church planter. Teaching is an obvious need, as the pastor is commanded to feed Christ’s sheep with the whole counsel of God (John 21:17; Acts 20:27). And so on…

But of all the spiritual gifts that a pastor may have, leading is right near the top of the list. The pastor who has strong abilities to tend and teach God’s people will do fine, but without the gift of leadership the church may get stuck in its numerical growth … perhaps at the 75 number that represents the size of the average American congregation; or perhaps at the 200 number that is typical of the size at which many churches remain fixed. [I’ll not be entering a discussion about the ideal size of a church. The ideal size of a specific church is determined by several factors. That discussion is too broad for the purposes of this blog.]

In my experience working with churches and pastors, I have observed that churches that have been able to create a culture of equipping and releasing legitimate ministry and responsibility have been able to exceed these numbers. The churches that remain small or stuck have not been able to create such a culture.

Sometimes churches are stuck because of the desire of the people. Some are not willing to be part of a church that is too large, as they feel uncomfortable. So if it grows past a certain point, they leave for smaller pastures. At other times churches are stuck because of the pastor. He may be uncomfortable pastoring where he does not know everyone personally. Or perhaps he is so engaged on doing the ministry that he neglects the training of others do to significant ministry. I’ve seen pastors that do it all—they clean, they mow, they teach, they sing, they counsel, they bookkeep, etc. Such pastors have something in common; their churches are always small.

In Exodus 18, Moses’ father in law Jethro gave Moses sound advice after observing him doing ministry all by himself. Jethro counseled Moses to find able men with strong character, and to delegate the responsibility of the ministry to them according to their abilities. This thrust Moses into another kind of leadership which not only saved his life but also made life much better for the entire congregation.

In the book of Acts, important ministry was thrust upon the apostles when the Greek speaking widows were being slighted in the daily distribution of food. Wisely, the apostles did not yield to the temptation of doing this ministry themselves. Instead, they oversaw a Spirit-led process of identifying and releasing seven men full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom that would be responsible for the matter. The apostles were exercising leadership by such an action, and were able to be faithful to their God-given priorities of the ministry of the Word of God and prayer. The result was that the church grew by leaps and bounds.

I’m going to include an excerpt from the CCPN church planting manual that speaks very well to the issue of the priority of pastoral leadership. It is Jesus’ desire that His pastors do ministry His way. Hopefully this will encourage some to make adjustments that may prove helpful in the growing of His church.

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Leading: able to cast vision, mobilize, inspire and build systems. It seems axiomatic that lead pastors be able to lead (1 Cor.12:28). Leaders must know where God is leading them (vision) and be able to persuade others to follow them. C. Peter Wagner describes leadership as, “The spiritual ability that God gives to certain members of the body of Christ to set goals in accordance with God’s purposes for the future and to communicate these goals in such a way that they voluntarily and harmoniously work to accomplish those goals for the glory of God.”

Are you able to communicate and strategize effectively? Although pastoral care is important it may not be  the primary role of the pastor of the church, at least not if the church is going to grow numerically. In that case, the more important roles include casting vision, developing leaders, teaching, prayer and making disciples.

Chuck Swindoll observes that the key is inspiring influence, “Those who do the best job of management – those most successful as leaders – use their influence to inspire others to follow, to work harder, to sacrifice, if necessary.” When godliness and great vision are combined in the same person, that individual exerts great influence over others.

The average pastor can care for only about 75 people (the average size of a U.S. church). So, for the church to grow beyond that level requires the pastor to learn to effectively lead by establishing administration, organization, systems, delegating & intentionally mentoring others to lead (as in Exodus 18 and Acts 6).

Lifework: consider your ministry experience to date, what evidence is there to support the idea that you are a capable leader?

Teaching: effectively communicate the truth of the text, in context with cultural relevance, and be able to refute false doctrine since it threatens people’s relationship with God. Preliminarily, recognize that this is the threshold qualification for a pastor-elder (1 Tim.3). Our movement emphasizes expositional Bible teaching, verse by verse through books of the Bible (Is. 28:10). Consider the example of Ezra, he prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord (studied), and to do it (applied the Word in his own life), and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel (note: he did not try to teach until after he studied and sought to live it; Ezra 7:10).

Also, we need to distinguish teaching from a dynamic personality or oratory skills. In other words, you may be able to draw a crowd but might not be teaching the Word of God. James provides a sober warning that those who assume the role of teacher will be headed to a stricter standard (higher judgment) regarding the soundness of the doctrine they expound (Ja. 3:1). Do you have the gift to teach and are you diligent to stir-up that gift? In other words, do you apply diligent effort to grow as a Bible teacher? Do you devote yourself to the study of the Word and seek to grow as a communicator of the truth? Have you studied systematic theology? Do you spend “quantity time” observing and interpreting the text before trying to apply the text to people’s lives? Are people growing in their understanding of God as a result of your teaching? Does anyone want to hear what you have to say? While numbers are not the litmus test of teaching success if you are unable to attract people you may not have the gift.

Lifework: consider your ministry experience to date, what evidence is there to support the idea that you are a capable teacher?

Shepherding: pastors will give an account to God for how they cared for the spiritual well-being of those they were entrusted to care for (Heb.13:17). You need to love people and be diligent to care for the flock – don’t view the people as your audience but love them like Jesus who was moved with compassion (Mk.6:34). Care for people because Jesus loves them & gave His life for them (Ac. 20:28). Protect them from wolves who attempt to draw them from Christ to themselves, & remember the Sheep belong to Jesus (Ac. 20:29). Learn to listen well or else you won’t discover how people are doing. I confess, that I need to remember to listen better, to be patient with people, and to avoid jumping to conclusions. When I listen better I’m a more effective shepherd.

God will set shepherds over His people who will care for them in place of worthless self- focused shepherds who desert the sheep (Jer. 23:4, Zech.11:15-17, Jn.10:12-13). Being a shepherd requires you to see people as individuals with needs instead of a multitude (Mk. 6). A shepherd is on mission to seek and save that which is lost (Lu.19:10).

A pastor’s perspective (from pastor Bruce Zachary): in my “early years” as a church planter I confused being a shepherd, in other words loving people, with wanting to care for every perceived need. It tended to create unhealthy dependency upon me, rather than God, and I tended to like being needed. Nevertheless, it was unhealthy for the church and for me on various levels. Furthermore, this dynamic is prevalent in small churches under 150 adults. Therefore, I suggest that you focus on leading and teaching as priorities and then being a shepherd.

delay

Gospel Interruptions

I think that the dictionary entry for ‘pastor’ should in part define the role as “slave to demands.” At least that can be what it feels like. I do not mean to imply that the demands are bad demands, but rather that needs can be so steady that they can begin to dictate what we do and how we do it. Although these things should enter into our planning and decision making process, they should be viewed as factors and deciders.

One of the struggles I have is finding time to spend with non-Christians. My hours can be so consumed with ministering to Christians (which is vital), that involvement with the world can prove challenging. If I am not intentional about interaction with those outside of the church, I may never see them. I do have a couple times a week where I intentionally interact with non-believers. I go into a secondary school where I primarily work with Christian kids, but interact with some non-believers as well. I am part of a running club, which weekly brings me into contact with non-believers.

A couple weeks ago, I (and some of the other UK pastors) flew to Germany for a pastor’s conference. Would you believe that the highlight of the trip was the travel!? We missed our first flight (sitting at Heathrow airport, just 30 minutes from home for 8 hours), the airline lost our luggage, which caused us to miss our train. On the return flight, the security workers were on strike in Germany delaying our return by several hours.

With each set-back/delay, there was a gospel opportunity. In all seven different people heard the gospel with interest. I felt like I was on a missions trip! There were no gimmicky segues into the gospel in our conversations. But there grew amongst us an expectancy. One of the three in our number is a gifted evangelist and it created a culture of evangelistic expectancy.

I was encouraged that in my going from A to B to serve the Body, I must remember to view everything (even the travel) as potential gospel opportunity. Those things that interrupt me, may be gospel interruptions.

okeechobee

Miles Wide

Last week I traveled to the East Coast as a representative of the Calvary Church Planting Network at a Calvary Chapel Pastor’s Conference in Florida.  In so doing I was honestly amazed by the scope of the Calvary Chapel family of churches.  Walking onto the campus at Calvary Merritt Island was — quite honestly — like walking into a room full of strangers.  Although southern hospitality was truly on display, I [personally] knew only about 6 people at the conference, and 3 of them were representing ministries from my church.  This was a totally foreign experience for me, as every conference I attend on the West Coast is like a family reunion.  In fact, I’d say that the primary reason I attend such conferences is to interact and fellowship with brothers I do not get a chance to see often.  Those are wonderfully refreshing times.  The South East Calvary Chapel Pastor’s Conference was a refreshing time too, but in a different way.

I was genuinely refreshed by the breadth of Calvary Chapel.  There are hundreds and hundreds of Calvary churches throughout the nation (and the world), many, if not most of them are very small community fellowships.  Their pastors are down-to-earth normal guys who stepped into the ministry as unlikely candidates for pastoral work.  Their backgrounds typically have more to do with manual labor than ministry training, but by God’s grace and the work of the His Spirit, these men have become shepherds of God-seekers who are growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and Savior.

I was also struck by the importance of reaching out to those who may not know anyone or are significantly disconnected from others, with like DNA, in ministry.  In San Diego County (where I serve as a pastor) there are upwards of 50 Calvary Chapel’s.  Fellowship with others in the work is not just a phone-call away, but a 5 or 10 minute drive away too.

While there I met Pastor Fred, from Calvary Chapel Okeechobee.  He and his wife started the church and when looking for a house in Okeechobee they happened upon an old church with a parsonage that was right in their price range.  So, they bought a home and with it a meeting place for the church that [literally] is their home.  They serve in a community with more cows than people, or so they said.  I’m sure it’s true too.  It’s there on the north shore of Lake Okeechobee — a lake you cannot swim in cause the gators would get you.  I had no idea there was such a place as Okeechobee, or a Calvary there, but there is; and I’m sure there are hundreds of other Okeechobee’s and Pastor Fred’s in Calvary.  They’ll probably never speak at a conference, and probably wouldn’t want to if they were asked asked, but they are faithfully serving and laying down their lives for Christ’s Bride.

For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.

– Hebrews 6:10