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

Archive for the ‘Pastoring’ Category

“Teach them Romans…….”

……..and then someone will sort out the roof” is, I believe, a phrase emanating from Dick Lucas. I heard it some years ago and it has often reverberated around my little brain. Here are some of the issues that it raises.

  1. Particularly when you are in a small church situation, there is a tendency to do jobs in the church because you feel there is no-one else to do them. But if you are called to pastoral ministry then there is a danger that you are taken away from the work you are called to do.
  2. When the Word of God is being taught effectively then the church starts to mature. And in that maturing people start to discover their gifts. Some will have the relevant practical gifts which lead to them being able to solve the practical problems. So the roof problem will be sorted out.
  3. If you are called to preach the Word, but also focus on the practical work you are likely to burn yourself out.
  4. If you are called to preach the Word, but fail to do so because so many other things are taking your time, then the church will not mature and gifts will not be emerging in the fellowship.

So fellow elders let us be thoughtful about what we prioritise in our ministry.

(Originally published at Venabling on 03/07/2015)

Young Men Hijacked!

I seem to have had several experiences over the last few years concerning certain men who have been hijacked concerning the faith. Here are the characteristics:

  • They are male
  • They are in their 20’s / 30’s
  • They make profession of some conversion experience.
  • They have a degree of zeal regarding serving God.
  • They profess that they want to learn.
  • None of them were with us at the beginning of their confession of Christ.

And what has happened? They have been hijacked concerning the faith. All of them to varying degrees are presently less than useful for the cause of Christ. In many ways it perplexes me. Why has this happened? I am left wondering whether we have failed them. We have labored to provide foundational teaching and to disciple them, but it has come to nothing. I find all the situations so grieving. Perhaps it was that they had all been set on the wrong course before they arrived. This mixed in with the ready accessibility of spiritual gunge online has conspired to their messy condition.

Possibly two scriptures are pertinent here:

  • For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God (2 Cor. 2:15-17). This indicates how the church when operating effectively is a dividing place
  • They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (1 John 2:19). This indicates that sometimes the leaving of the church is proof that these people were not of the church.

What ever it is, the Lord knows all. But I am much grieved.

Leadership and Empathy

A shepherd cares for sheep. A shepherd therefore must know His sheep. A shepherd must be with his sheep. Empathy is vital if a church leader is to fulfill the shepherd role. Empathy means drawing alongside people so as to demonstrate that you not only know about their experiences, but that you actually have a desire to enter into their experience. Empathy is good Samaritan ministry. It is like, to quote from that parable, a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him (Luke 10-33-34). The Good Samaritan came where the man was, he did not stay at a distance like the priest and Levite. To be a leader of god’s people necessitates being aware of people’s situations and empathizing with them. It means feeling with them.

Now we do have to be careful here, in making sure that people know that we are genuine. People will soon know if we are faking our empathy. It is only prayer that will take us into effectively ministering into people’s lives in this way. As we pray about people and tehir situations we will start to feel for people as the Holy Spirit minsters into us and through us. This all reminds me that we should be relentlessly praying for the sheep and all of their situations. An elder who does not pray for the sheep in his care, denies his office.

Finally, we need to avoid crass phrases throw-away statements as we draw along-side people. Phrases like “I know exactly how you feel” should be avoided. To such a statement  “No you don’t” is very likely the unspoken answer of the person. We do not need to rush to say things. Being with people in their distress is very often the best things we can do. Don’t forget that Job’s friends were of most use to him when they sat silently with him for seven days (see Job 2:13)!

(This post follows-on from my post of June 20th about Mrs May and Leadership – see here)

Leadership and Detachment.

There is a methodology in management known as “walking the floor” here is an article about it. The basic thrust of the approach is that the manager must make sure that he gets out among the workers. It is discerned that if this does not happen then the workers become demoralised, managers become detached from day-to-day reality and thus make ill-advised decisions and the organisation suffers.

This practically applies in church life as well. If the leaders detach from the congregation and do not “walk the floor” then the church is likely to become disaffected, whilst the leaders will end up making ill-advised decisions. It is also so important that the shepherds of the church are among the sheep so that they know the sheep and therefore know what is going on in the church. A church leader who is ALWAYS in his study may grow in biblical knowledge, but may be very lacking in wisdom. This is because wisdom is knowledge worked into the warp-and-weft of life.

All this means visiting people in their homes, getting alongside people and simply asking people about what is going on in their lives and ministry. Brother elders, we need to be “walking the floor”. This brings me to Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonian believers Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you ( 1 Thess. 5:12). Elders always need to remember the need to be among the people. Absenting ourselves from the people will be disastrous for our ministry and the church.

(This post follows-on from my post of June 20th about Mrs May and Leadership – see here)

Leadership and Alienation of Core Support

In any institution it is normal that certain people will be very committed to the vision and methodology of that institution, whilst others are not committed at all (and there will be people somewhere between the two). This can most definitely be the case in respect of churches. This is particularly the case when there is a new thrust of direction in the church. Some buy into what is happening and some resent it. It is normally the leadership that are responsible, under God, for that new direction. And as a result a group is likely to arise who are effectively the core supporters among the membership for the vision and methodology of the church.

If you believe that the vision and methodology of the church, that you have established is God originated through the study and preaching of the Word and the Lord directing the way through His Spirit, then you would want the church to carry forward in that direction. The core support within the church will be essential in maintaining that movement. This is particularly so in a church because of the realities of spiritual battles. We have an enemy who wants to prevent any godly progress in a church. Without people in a church who are bound in to progressing in a godly way then the church is likely to be diverted from God’s call. Church leaders need then to nurture the core support in the church so that the church is bolstered in a wholesome way.

However, leaders should not neglect those who are disaffected or indifferent among the membership. We must remember that we serve a Great Shepherd as under-shepherds. We remember that He, our Lord Jesus, is the Shepherd who goes out and seeks that which was lost (see Luke 15:3-7). We demonstrate our unfitness for ministry if we ignore the wandering sheep and just minister to those who are on our side.

There danger is a danger here though and that is of becoming obsessive with chasing the wandering and forget about the solid core base of the church. If we are ignoring those who are committed to what the church is about, then there is a danger that they will be alienated. As a result we may end up losing everybody and the church flounders on the rocks of general disaffection.

(This post follows-on from my post of June 20th about Mrs May and Leadership – see here)

Discipling.

Discipling is an ongoing task. That is both for myself and for others. So for myself I need to be relentlessly pushing forward to know my Master better and follow Him more closely. In dealing with others it means that I can never feel that I have so ministered into their lives so as to have them as the finished article in terms of following our Lord Jesus.

Discipling of course, has everything to do with following a Master. It means learning from that person and imbibing their teachings and lifestyle. In Christian discipling it is critically important that we are not making disciples for ourselves. Our business is to labour into our own lives and into the lives of others so that each are formed in the image of Christ. Paul is speaking about discipling work when he says in Colossians 1:28 that He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.

If we ever think we have made it in discipling, that is in either becoming one ourselves or striving to make disciples of others then we are very wrong. None of us will be the finished article until glory dawns. Whenever I hear someone speaking of not needing further teaching on an issue then I am a little suspicious. We always need further teaching, we all need further rebuking, further exhorting. And we all need a continually good example around us. So becoming a disciple is never done in this life.

 

Being Messed Around.

One of the most potent sources of stress I have found in pastoral ministry involves interacting with people. One particular facet of this appertains to how other people respond to situations in which I am involved. So much mental energy has been used up in pondering upon how other people will act, interact, engage respond etc. in a situation. Here are a few of the scenarios that can run through my mind:

  • Will they get back to me in time are they upset about something?
  • Why are they not interacting?
  • Why do they not respond to expressions of interest/concern?
  • Will they be awkward with me about this?
  • Will they be angry with me the next time we meet?

It is a pressing need for me to grow in wisdom and spirituality so as to not be badly affected by all these machinations. So some things I need to drive into my mind and heart are:

  1. Have I been godly in my conduct? I cannot dictate the actions (or non-actions) and shenanigans of others. I am not answerable for others before God. But God calls me to be full of integrity and the fear of the Lord. The favour of the Lord is more important than whether or not I am being messed around by someone.
  2. If I have done something wrong I need to repent and ask forgiveness of that person.
  3. If someone has sinned against me that needs to be dealt with in a biblical way (see Matt. 18:15-18). It is no good lashing out in frustration.
  4. Talking can be so important. It can be my perception that I am being messed around by someone, but when I speak through the situation with the person I realize it was nothing of the sort.
  5. Love demonstrates that I want to help others grow in grace. If someone is failing in their conduct then I need to speak to them. However, I need to learn to always choose the cool of the moment and not the heat of the moment.
  6. There are times when matters have to be left and I simply have to move on. I cannot get aggravated and seek resolution to every perceived or real indiscretion of others. As Peter says in 1 Peter 4:8: love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
  7. Remember that God is in control. If my plans and arrangements do not work out I can be sure that my Father has a better plan.
  8. I need to be continually praying to the Lord. I need to be casting all my care upon him. He really does care for me. Praise Him!

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