Good news for church leaders! It doesn’t depend on you.


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This morning I did my daily reading of the news headlines and then scanned several minister’s blogs and websites. As I tried to get a fix on the pulse of some of America‘s most well-known church leaders I thought about the other 98% of preachers and other church leaders who are out there in the trenches toughing it out day after day, week after week, trying desperately to make it work. It occurred to me that some of the reasons ministry is so hard is really the key to making local church ministry easier.

Since I am not a pastor or church leader it’s a fair question to ask “Why do you think you can offer anything worthwhile to a struggling pastor?” The answer is, “I read the Bible”. Yes, it’s too simplistic, it’s almost a smart aleck answer, but nevertheless it’s the right answer. So, here I offer some well-intentioned advice, just some suggestions that might help you.

GROWING THE CHURCH IS NOT YOUR JOB

I believe most pastors feel the weight of church growth almost all of the time. They might not speak about it, or in most cases not even be consciously aware of it, but it’s there. The reason is that success in ministry is usually measured by numbers. Numbers of baptisms, numbers of new members, the measure of giving, etc. All of those things are necessary and important but not any of them is your responsibility. Your responsibility is to make Jesus and his claims known and to teach the Word of God as clearly and plainly as you can. And, you are to live the Christ life out before your people, being an example of one man devoted to Jesus and totally dependent on him, for everything!

The burden of growing the church is on Jesus, not you! Jesus made this important truth very clear.

will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)

If Jesus is the one building the church (and He is!) check that task off your list of “to do’s” and move on to what you can do. That’s one job you can’t do!

FOCUS ON DOING WHAT YOUR JOB REALLY IS

When I read job descriptions that church’s post when searching for preachers I am amazed at how unbiblical they are and they have no idea they are so offensive to God. They want SuperRev to do everything in church life in the community. I read one ad in disbelief, what they were expecting was impossible for a human who also had expectations of being a father and husband and having a life.

Your job is to feed the sheep. If you faithfully give your people a steady diet of Jesus and you get them focused on living out his life in the power of the Holy Spirit you will not have to be concerned about whether or not the local nursing home gets visited or not. And, you will not have to worry about if the community is going to hear the gospel.

A pastor’s focus must be on discipleship, primarily. If on Sunday morning the pews of your church are populated with people who know and exercise the disciplines of prayer, repentance, confession, Bible study, loving God and others in tangible ways, ministry will get done.

Every successful pastor is one who preaches Christ centered messages and teaches the people to be completely devoted to Jesus. We must understand that websites, programs, presentations, music, atmosphere, and every other innovation are only tools to get people to Jesus. No church reaches the lost because it has a world-class website or a really big presence on Twitter. People who reach people for Jesus are themselves intimately related to him themselves. It is the pastor’s job to facilitate his people’s loving and living for Jesus. If that happens ministry of all sorts is the natural outcome. Don’t try to do what God never intended you to do.

KEEP FIRST THINGS FIRST

If you are a family man (most are..) your first responsibility is to your wife and then your children. If you get that wrong you’ll be wrong. Right under your devotion to God your number one allegiance must be to those who live in your house. Ministry and everything related to church life comes after God and family, not before. Many pastors fail because the allow “church” to inch up slowly so that it becomes more important than family or sometimes even God. Be careful. Plan your days and weeks so that you have time for your personal discipleship, and for loving and caring for your family. It takes quality time to love your wife and kids as you should. Plan to do it!

Never, never, get far from the gospel of Jesus. In your personal life, in your family life, and in your ministry, keep focused on Jesus and the implications of what he has accomplished for you and those you minister to. You must see the gospel as not only the entrance into the kingdom but as the strength and power for everyday living with all it’s challenges. Make this passage the foundation of your life and work.

for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)

Be constantly aware that it is God who is doing in you what is good for his cause. It doesn’t depend on you, it depends on him. Your task and mine is to surrender to his perfect will and to be available to do his bidding. It is in view of God’s work in us for his pleasure that we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. As my friend Edward Fudge puts it, “We work out what God has worked in”. I think that nails it!

Preach and practice and promote Christ and him crucified, risen, and coming again. That is what ministry, church, and God’s mission is all about.

THE WAY UP IS DOWN

Again and again the Bible cautions us to not think more of ourselves than we ought. Especially young men in ministry sometimes take too seriously the nice comments, gifts, dinner invitations, etc that usually accompany the new preacher. And, for sure, some older guys get the “big head” because of their position of authority and the respect the position demands. The truth is you are not all that different from the average Joe in the pew. You just have greater responsibility.

Humility, sincere humility, is a rare thing in my view. And that is especially true of ministers. Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing”. If any good has been accomplished in your ministry it’s God’s accomplishment, not yours. One of your greatest enemies is pride. All of us love the praise of men to some degree. Don’t get caught up in being proud of yourself. It’s a potentially fatal character flaw. It can kill your ministry dead in it’s tracks!

The most humble are the most prayerful. Unless you see yourself as very needy before God you will never amount to much in God’s kingdom work. You must realize that using your talents, your training, and all of your energy, at the end of the day all you can do alone is what a man can do. But, if you surrender your whole being to God and rely completely on him for everything you can expect God sized results. The failure to pray and depend on God is an admission that you really don’t think you need him.

Try the best you can to let God call the shots in your life and work for him. If you humble yourself He will lift you up!

I LOVE PREACHERS

My heroes and some of my best friends are preachers. Those “beautiful feet” souls are a special lot. There is not a more important job on earth in my view. I hope this post encourages you to keep at it. If my words help only one struggling preacher out there my time thinking about this and writing these words will be well spent.

Preach Christ! Leave the results to God.

Royce Ogle

Sorry Peter, you don’t qualify to preach here.


The chairman of the pulpit search committee begins speaking to the other elders and members of the committee.

As you know brothers, we have been praying for a preacher for some months and we have had little success. We know that for our beloved East Jerusalem Church of Christ to prosper we need an able man to preach, do evangelism, visit the elderly, and teach the young people in the temple court twice weekly.

I have good news! God might have answered our prayer, in a big way! Although he is getting older, the beloved Apostle Peter has shown interest in the job. He is no longer able to travel extensively as he once did and thinks he might like working here with us. He should be here soon for an interview. I will begin the questioning and each of you may ask any question in turn after me. Let’s hope we have found our man.

In a few minutes Peter is ushered into the shaded area of the court where the interview will take place. Greetings are given back and forth, one of the elders leads in prayer asking for God’s blessing and for wisdom for all concerned.

The chairman makes some comments and asks the first question.

Of course we heard about your ministry a few years ago and rejoice in the way God has blessed you. I want to begin by asking this question.

Will you describe for us your theological training? And which brotherhood school did you graduate from?

Peter: I have no formal theological training. I only have the experience of working with Jesus and others for the building of the kingdom of God.

Elder 1: Oh? None?

Peter: None.

Elder 2: We want to make sure we remain a sound congregation so will you confirm or deny that you have spoken in tongues? I saw a copy of a manuscript by Luke the physician that said you did.

Peter: I did more than once.

Elder 2: Oh my! Are you Pentecostal?

Peter: Not being a trained theologian or churchman I’m not sure what that means. Let me only say when I was baptized in the Holy Ghost it just happened to God’s glory and the salvation of souls.

Elder 2: Uh…that’s it for me..

Elder 3: I don’t know how to ask this in a subtle way so I’ll just ask, Do you believe in faith healing?

Peter: Of course, don’t you?

Elder 3: I believe God answers prayer… but I’m…I’m not sure. I don’t have any other questions right now.

Elder 1: I have been told that you told the elders some years ago in defense of baptizing Gentiles that you received the Holy Spirit when you believed. I think you are reported to have said that twice. Is that right?

Peter: That’s exactly what I said. How could I not baptize in water those who had received the Holy Spirit just as I and the other disciples did when we believed? The leaders accepted my statement and me and rejoiced that God had granted repentance to the Gentiles.

Elder 1: That leads me to another question. Do you believe God chooses people to come to him, that He gives repentance?

Peter: I do with all my heart. I have written about it and distributed it to some churches.

Elder 1: We believe that the doctrine of election is a dangerous teaching, is that what you are talking about?

Peter: That is precisely what I am talking about.

Elder 1: Does anyone else have a question for brother Peter or are we about done?

Elder 4: I’m always concerned about our young people. If you were to come here to be our minister, what would you do for our youth? Please tell us 2 or 3 things.

Peter: I’ll tell them about the life and work and worth of Jesus. I’ll teach them to live holy lives. I’ll tell them to submit to authority. I’ll teach them to be prepared to suffer if they will follow Jesus. I’ll teach them to beware of false teachers. And I’ll teach them to be looking for the return of Christ and to keep themselves unspotted from the world. That’s about it.

Elder 1: Are there other questions? …Thank you brother Peter for coming and answering our questions. After a season of prayer and consultation we will make our decision. Oh, by the way, we can’t pay much for your sustenance, but there is a room you could sleep in.

Peter: God provides all I need and more. May you be learners about Jesus and be clothed in his righteousness without spot or blemish when He comes. Good day.

Peter is ushered out and the conversation ends with some final comments.

Elder 2: If I didn’t say I’m shocked I would be lying! I don’t see what is so special about him. No education, believes in Holy Ghost baptism and speaking in tongues, believes in faith healing, predestination, salvation by faith… He seems like a “holy roller” to me. And, what’s more, I don’t ever recall anyone talking about when he was baptized. And I refuse to accept anyone who believes a person can receive the Holy Spirit before they are baptized in water. The very idea…!

Elder 4: I agree! And, he has nothing to offer our youth. They don’t want to be preached to, that would drive them away from the faith.

Peter wouldn’t get the job would he? I wonder sometimes how many miles off the mark we are. Our idea (I include Royce) of what is right and good and necessary hardly resembles what is obvious in Scripture.

Not long ago I posted this, “Questions churches should as when hiring a preacher but don’t“. it continues to get lots of readers but few comments. One thing is sure, we can and should do better.

Royce

Preachers are People Too


“Granville Oral Roberts was born into poverty in Bebee, Oklahoma, on January 24, 1918, according to a brief biography released by Ethridge. His Christian ministry began with what he described as his own miracle healing of tuberculosis at age 17.

Roberts pastored churches in Oklahoma and Georgia and preached at revivals around the country while studying at Oklahoma Baptist University and Phillips University in Oklahoma, according to the biography.

In 1947, he founded the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association in Tulsa, “and began conducting crusades across America and around the world, attracting crowds of thousands — many who were sick and dying and in search of healing,” the biography said. “Through the years, he conducted more than 300 crusades on six continents” and “laid hands” on an estimated 2 million people, according to association officials.” (CNN)

Oral Roberts was the Godfather of modern Pentecostalism. I have vivid memories of watching those snowy telecasts on black and white TV where people gathered under a huge tent to hear this man talk about God and the Bible and to have him pray for their healing.

While I disagree with much of the theology in the Robert’s tradition I honor him as one who preached the gospel. Paul’s attitude should be mine when he said long ago of those preachers he disagreed with

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love,knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” (Philippians 1:15-18)

May God comfort the family and friends of Oral Roberts. RIP
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I heard the news today that Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village Church in Highland Village, Texas received word from his doctor that a tumor just removed proved to be malignant and that he couldn’t get it all.

As expected, Matt and his young family are taking the events with much grace and dignity. It is my hope and prayer that his life can be saved. But, I fully expect that whether he lives a long life or only a few more months he will glorify Christ the best he can.

I recently listened to a sermon Matt preached to a room of seminary students using as his text Hebrews 11. He pointed and sobering message made the case that there are many who want to stop the mouths of lions and be delivered from the flames but no one is lining up to be sawed into or sleep in a cave. Whatever their circumstance, all of those heroes of the faith were indeed ‘faithful and faith filled” people.

Now it is Matt’s time to live out his sermon. I fully expect many to consider Jesus as they watch this young man of God suffer and give God glory as he does.

Please remember Matt Chandler and his family, and the Village Church when you pray.

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John Piper, pastor, theologian, and author is a close friend of Matt Chandler and since they are both of the Reformed theological persuasion, have a lot in common. Piper himself was very young when he left a professorship to become a pastor.

In 2006 John Piper was diagnosed with prostate cancer and he published a sermon he preached at Bethlehem church, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer. I recommend it, especially if you or a loved one has cancer. You might not agree with all of it, not sure I did, but it is very sobering and worthwhile.

I love and appreciate every person who stands before God’s saints with an open Bible and preaches biblical messages that lift up and honor Christ. I don’t know even one preacher with whom I agree about everything. But, unless they preach “another gospel” and pervert the gospel of the grace of God I’m for them and have deep respect for them.

Many folks think preachers only work a couple of hours a week and are way over appreciated and over paid. HOGWASH! If some of you hypocrites would follow a pastor around for a week you would that he carries a heavy weight of responsibility, is on call 24/7 just like a doctor, and is often treated like a second class citizen even by some of those supposedly mature brothers and sisters in his own congregation.

A word of advice. You had better be very careful how you treat God’s servant!

Royce