To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘Pastoring’ Category

What Motivates You?

What motivates you in Christian ministry? Is that I might:

  • be complimented on my service?
  • Manipulate people to do what I want?
  • Gain power over people?
  • Win an argument?
  • Flog myself so others might admire my exertion?

Paul had one overwhelming motive driving his service and that was love. He says to the Corinthians Christ’s love compels us (2 Cor. 5:14). The Corinthian Christians were being affected by the spurious super-apostles who were urging them to be suspicious of Paul. They wanted to represent Paul as someone who just wanted to bring pain to the Corinthians.  Paul  says though : For I wrote to you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you (2 Cor 2:4).

It is passionate love for the Corinthians that motivated Paul to want to distress them over their failure to deal with sin. Love motivated Paul to get agitated and uncomfortable with the Corinthians. We so often cop out and do not want to get involved with the difficulties of potentially upsetting people. Paul, loved people too much to cop out in such a way

Do I love people enough to risk upsetting them? Love that makes everyone think well of me is not really love at all.

This all applies so very much into parenting as well. If we just want to avoid upsetting our children then we are most likely spoiling them and not loving them.

Leading In Repentance.

This post from last week leads me to think about how leaders should demonstrate their leadership in repentance. This is essentially counter-intuitive because the thinking of the world is that you have to prove yourself to be strong and in control if you are a leader. However the godly leader is not of that ilk.

The model of our leadership is a Saviour who was humble and lowly of heart. Now our Saviour never had to repent of any sin. However for us who are weak in our beings and prone to wander from the ways of God there should be the readiness to repent.

This so important because it is how we display the gospel into our family and into our church. Parents and church leaders who are not repenters set a bad example to those under their care. The gospel we affirm, after all, is a message which has its fulcrum in repentance. Gospel grace swings into our lives when there is repentance. Forgiveness is experienced when there is repentance.

So parents and church leaders make sure that you are a leader in repentance. Children and church members who see their leaders ever proving their strength and refusing to face up to their sins are hindered from seeing the gospel clearly displayed before them.

Happy To Be Wrong.

Some leaders are a menace because they always have to be right. Such people are generally quite insecure because if they are found to be wrong they feel themselves to be threatened. It is my persuasion though that leaders should be happy to be wrong. Leaders should be happy to lose arguments.

Now I am not talking here about matters of principle, particularly those established by scripture. We should not be prepared to be wrong about those issues. If we are prepared to accept being wrong on such issues, we are truly untrustworthy people. But we should be happy to be overruled on matters of procedure; if others have a better way of doing things we should be happy to accept that. Another instance would be when when we have simply misunderstood a situation we should not obfuscate the matter rather we tell openly of our wrongness.

This is refreshing for those under our care because if we defy the evidence and deny our wrongness then we just lead to them being exasperated. Which leads me to ponder upon the scripture Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4). Parents should be willing to own up on the occasions when they are proven to be wrong. If they don’t then they will exasperate their children.

We win so many over to our leadership if they realise we are honest people who do not just force our will upon others. Lets us not exasperate our people / children through our leadership, but rather delight them and encourage them through our willingness to accept when we are wrong. There is a sense in which leaders should lead in acknowledging their failure and wrongness.

Undermining The Ministry

Churches need to have the faithful bringing of the Word as part of their dna. Whether it be through preaching times, bible studies, one-to-one-studies or whatever, the Word needs to be relentlessly brought into the church.

I fear though that no matter how faithfully and powerfully the Word is brought, much of the benefit is being dissipated by what people are watching, listening to and reading outside of church. The problem has always been there, but it has been exacerbated by the internet. There is now such easy access to everything and anything that people easily fall into the trap of feeding their souls on what is junk at best and poison at worse. The likes of Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer are so pervasive online that the undiscerning so easily fall under their sway.

So what needs to be done?:

  • There is the challenge of teaching about discernment.
  • We have to be more open about who the false teachers are out there.
  • We need to confront false teaching.
  • We need to encourage the people to come and ask the shepherds what they should be listening to and watching.
  • We need to confiscate everyone’s phones and computers until they have learnt that to make sure they will only listen to healthy teaching. Well perhaps that’s going to far, but I feel like doing it sometimes.
  • I need to keep loving the sheep. I despair at times, but I need to keep leading them into green pastures.

(Originally published in Venabling on 25th September 2017)

Bless Your Home

The ark has arrived in Jerusalem and David has been celebrating and praising the Lord for this tangible evidence that God has come among His people. After his celebratory praise we read Then all the people left, each for their own home, and David returned home to bless his family (1 Chron. 16:43). I want to focus on David here and learn:

  • Church and home are not enemies in the service of God. David had enjoyed His time in the Lord;s place with the Lord’s people, but now it was time to return home. So we learn that there is a time for each.
  • Moreover, we learn that the time celebrating with the Lord’s people was actually beneficial for his home life. He would now go home and be a blessing. The spiritual energy developed “in church” would be expended for God among his family. Church and family can and should go together. this means that that the family do not begrudge Dad being in church, but rather love it because they know that blessings are bestowed to them as a result.
  • He actually went home. He was not a stay-away husband and dad. He was there among his family. It is a disastrous development for our society that Dad’s are absent from families. Dear brother in Christ you need to have time in your family.
  • He goes home to bless. There seems to be a purpose here. He actually goes into the home with a goal of blessing. This means interaction with your wife and children. It means that you purpose to do good.
  • He wants to serve. Many husbands and fathers treat home as a hotel where they get board and lodging and a bit of pampering. But no! It should not be. Home is to be a place where I engage and bring blessing.

Pastoring For Sympathy.

It is very easy in pastoral ministry to “play the sympathy card”! After all, there are plenty of struggles and difficulties in such ministry and so there are many ways you can get people to sympathise with you.

I am reminded here of our Saviour. How, as He approached the cross, He was greeted by women weeping and wailing and expressing their sympathy for Him. His response is simply to say I don’t want your sympathy I want your repentance and obedience in the light of what is ahead. The passage reads in Luke 23:27-31:

A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, “Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!” Then

‘“they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’
    and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’”

For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?’

Similarly it is our desire and longing, that we want people to become followers of Jesus and not to be sympathisers of us in all our struggles.

One way in which this can all become so very complicated is through the subtleties of our hearts. We can easily use sympathy for us, to get those under our care, to be obedient to God, But I suggest that this is manipulative ministry and is not acceptable. Paul would talk in 2 Corinthians chapter 4 about how we should not be guilty of these practices. He says we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Cor. 4:2). What I am thinking of here is getting people to live a certain way because you have spent so much time with them and/or spent so much money on them. As a result, so runs our persuasion, they should respond to go in God’s direction. Such manipulation is wrong.

Notwithstanding what I have written there are those times when it is appropriate to seek the prayers of the saints, so that they know we have struggles in this world as well. We do need to be genuine in seeking help whether practically or prayerfully for the furtherance of the ministry. These things bind us to our brothers and sisters. However, that is very different to using dubious means to accomplish good ends.

Take Your Time.

It is a good principle to exercise in all matters of life, but particularly if you are involved in church leadership. The principle I am referring to here is that you do not rush to respond to a situation that is presented in front of you. It is always best to make sure that you “field” the information about a situation so you can go away and pray and consider. People may be demanding an instantaneous response, but so very often that is just not necessary. Sometimes you have to risk offending people so you can get the space to consider something. Very often that will be through discussing the matter with others.

Quick decisions are very often bad decisions. So take your time. This applies in parenting matters as well and, as I mentioned above, in so many other realms. The principle is stated generally in Proverbs 18:13 where we read To answer before listening– that is folly and shame. We must always listen well, and listen fully, before making a decision.

Now there are, I know, times when decisions must be made. In such times we need to utter a Nehemiah type prayer, (then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king (Neh. 2:4b-5a)), and look to God for what to do. In doing this we trust that all will be for the best even though we may not have had time to consider things sufficiently.

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