Pastor's Blog

Over the centuries people have created a concept that doesn’t appear in the Bible.  It’s called “the ministry” – as in “He’s going into the ministry” – meaning, “He’s going to become a paid professional in religion – a pastor.”

But if you look closely at the New Testament epistles, pastors aren’t “the ministers”.  Pastors “equip the saints for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4.12).  The ministers are “the saints”.

“Saint” doesn’t mean “super-spiritual Christian”.  Paul used the word to refer to the everyday Christian.  Every Christian in every congregation is a saint – a holy one, set aside for God’s use.  You are a saint.  And if you are a saint, you have been called into “the ministry”.

The word “minister” just means “serve”.  When you minister to someone, you serve them.  You see a need in their life and try to meet it.  You show love, care, and attention toward another soul.

If you help children learn to read or coach their sports team, you are “ministering” to them.
If you cook a meal, or teach someone to cook, you minister to them.
If you listen to a person’s woes, if you weep with them or encourage them, you minister to them.
If you help a person learn to budget money or lose weight or teach them some other life skill, you minister to them.
Any time you serve another person, investing your time and energy to benefit their life, you minister.  When you do, you are “in the ministry”.

Everyone, including the atheist, approves of people being served for good.  But it usually isn’t the atheist funding such service or putting the time in to do the dirty work.  There are exceptions, but it’s religious people who usually do these things because belief in God is connected to a sense of love and service to others. Care of people tends to flow out of religious beliefs. 

If nature just takes its own course, we find we don’t care about our species.  We care about our offspring, about those related to us.  Religion in general (and Christianity in particular) stretches us beyond nature and gives us supernatural reasons to care about those that nature would allow us to overlook.  Christianity teaches us to see beyond nature.

The world busies us with natural life – putting food on the table and protecting and providing for our own.  “Church” and “worship” leads us to momentarily put aside the natural and refocus our lives around the One Who is beyond nature.  And we listen to teaching from God’s revelation that reminds us how to approach life beyond nature’s dictates

This is where the function of the pastor-teacher enters the picture.  He equips others with truth to invigorate their perspective and encourage their service to others.

This is the simple foundation upon which a church is built.  Theologians call it “philosophy of ministry”.  You don’t need to know Greek to get it.  It’s right there in the English sentences of Ephesians 4. 

Believe it – and start translating it into action.  In no time you’ll find a niche in which you really are “a minister”.

 

 

When dead orthodoxy stagnated the Church of England, God breathed life into it through John & Charles Wesley and George Whitefield, the founders of Methodism.

Whitefield was renowned as a preacher, but he was a terrible administrator.  John Wesley was an adequate preacher, but a much better administrator and organizer.  Whitefield’s branch of Methodism never quite got off the ground, and Methodism has been dominated by Wesleyan thinking.

I often feel a kinship with Whitefield.  People respond and seem to learn when I preach and teach.  But I am not a gifted organizer or administrator.  I have seen lives rescued, restored, and built up – but I feel I have done a poor job constructing an organization – an effectively functioning and coherent body of believers.  I am simply not gifted for that.  I am rejoicing that others have seen that and are taking up that work, and may God continue to bless our church in days to come through them!

My opening blog of the year (“Windshields and Mirrors”) was dedicated to that challenge – building for the future.  Where are we going?  Given the things taking place in our society it is even more pressing, I think.

As of June 2021, our church will have been in existence for 66 years; I will have been the pastor for 39 of those years.  The years before me were a rollercoaster in the church’s life; there were blessings but when I read the old minutes there seems to have been a good bit of infighting and inability to pay bills and struggles with a few bad eggs for pastors.  The pastor that immediately preceded me told me he was trying to shuttle people gently to other churches and quietly close the doors and lay the church to rest. 

God had other plans.

I have invested my life trying to clean up past messes, straighten out confusions, and lay a foundation in biblical truth for a better future.  My hope is that future generations will not abandon that foundational concept.  We must always be about understanding the revelation of truth in God’s Word and applying it to our lives in this ever-changing world. 

There are many other things to be done.  Ministry – serving – is a lot broader than just solid biblical teaching.  But ministry without solid biblical teaching at its core is just “social work” or “philanthropy” – and without Christ it will lose its direction.

The Wesley’s organized well, but much of Methodism has been blown off-course these days, away from an adherence to biblical truth.  The winds that seek to detach us from our moorings in the truth seem to blow fiercely and relentlessly.

Faithfulness to the truth requires great effort and constant attention.

Over the past four years a growing part of my job has been viewing videos sent by people who want to know whether the things in them are true or not.  They are usually videos produced by conservative people, often conservative religious people, that claim to have “secret information” about a political topic from sources that go unrevealed.

Quite a few folks sent me the “My Pillow” guy, Mike Lindell’s, two-hour video “Absolute Proof” about the stealing of the 2020 election.  I watched the whole thing, and I am still waiting for the “absolute proof” part.

Lindell proposes a complex hacking of the 2020 election by the Chinese to install Biden as President.  What I wanted to know the entire time was:  How did a pillow manufacturer get all this complex technical and politically sensitive information?

I kept rewinding the video, trying to find the source of Lindell’s charts so I could verify the information he was providing.  Sources were lacking.  Lindell just posted a chart and said “This is an election audit” or “This is a computer presentation of the hackers at work during the election” – and I was supposed to take his word for it.

Lindell seems like a genuinely nice and sincere guy.  If you don’t provide sources – if I can’t trace your work back to a credible eyewitness – you broke one of the first rules of good journalism and good research.  The most that can be said is that your case is interesting, but not yet proven.  Give me more and better information – and tell me where you got it and from whom.

Without eyewitnesses, evidence is just hearsay, and most of us learned that hearsay is unreliable playing “Whispering Down the Lane” as children.  Hearsay is only credible evidence for gossip columns, tabloids, and junior high girls.

The court of public opinion has a very low bar for what constitutes reliable evidence.  That is why politicians – regardless of party – like to appeal to it.  

If we’re interested in truth -- as Christians should be -- we need to be more demanding about what constitutes the truth.  We need to check and doublecheck our sources and our information.  Where did it come from?  Who said it and to whom and under what circumstances?  Why and in what context did they say it?  Do we have the whole story or was something ripped out of context?  We need to be relentless about confirming the truth -- not just accepting what we're told because it’s what we want to hear.

More than once I have chided people about the need to confirm sources lest they spread false information, and more than once I have received the response (even from professing Christians) “What does it matter?”

The truth always matters.  Only the father of lies doesn’t think so.

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