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Archive for the ‘Pastoring’ Category

Pastoring Our Wives

As a husband one of my primary responsibilities is to shepherd my wife. If we start to think of this as a patronising activity, whereby we consider them to be lesser entities to ourselves, then we have got things completely wrong. This is rather a ministry of self-sacrificing devotion to our wives so that they prosper in all their life and callings. What does this entail?

We are protect them. Peter says in 1 Peter 3:7 that husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. We are to make sure that they are not shamed, but rather honoured and respected by us. This means that we will physically protect them if necessary. But also we will shield them from happenings or information which will be harmful to them,

We provide for them. The husband has the primary responsibility to be the provider into the family unit. Although our wives may work, we must not shirk this responsibility.

We encourage them. We have a relentless ministry to encourage our wives in their ministry. Their responsibility of looking after home and family can often be a thankless task. Moreover, we live in a society that belittles these activities. We must aware of this make them know that their labour is oh so valuable.

We study them. We should truly know our wives as to who they are. We should know their interests. We should know their loves and hates. We should be able to tell what circumstances have a negative or positive impact upon them.

We bear with them. As we understand our wives we will be inclined to bear with them in all of their challenges and vulnerabilities. We will understand the impact that the monthly period has upon them and respond accordingly.

We speak well of them. In our conversation with we should be willing to speak of our wives in a wholesome way. We should not seek to belittle them in the presence of others. This does not exclude humour, but it does me that any humour is never to their harm or embarrassment.

Growth. We long and labour for their growth in the Lord. We must make sure that they are spiritually nourished and built up. This may well mean scheduling our day so that they can have time with the Lord and attend church activities.

Usefulness. We want them to be useful in serving the Lord. So we work to see them equipped for their service. We seek to make sure that their opportunities for them to serve the Lord. And when we see them being useful for the Lord we rejoice that this should be the case.

Prayer. We pray for them in everything. We pray concerning the responsibilities that they have. We pray for their prospering in all their ways. We give thanks to the Lord for them. And we make sure that we pray with them.

So dear brothers in the Lord let us hear this from the Lord: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25). Let us give ourselves unstintingly to this ministry of caring for our wives and be glad to do so.

Praying For All The People

One of the calls of shepherding ministry is to give ourselves to prayer. We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word is what the apostles said in Acts 6:4 as they sought to resolve the issue of the disputation over the widows support.

So a priority for any elder and group of elders is to pray for the sheep that the Lord has placed under their care. We pray above all for their welfare in the Lord. To use the prayer of Paul for the Colossians as a model would be no bad thing:

Asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col 1:9-14).

This call to prayer is a delightful duty for all elders. To fail to pray for the people is an abrogation of responsibility. The people should know that as a part of our care for them; we pray for them.

Moreover, we should pray for all of them. Not just the ones we find encourage us or we find easy to get on with, but for all of them.

And as people are added into our congregations we should be diligent to pray for them. In fact I am led to ponder, that if we are not praying for all the ones that he has given our church connection with then why should He supply us with more? If we are failing to care for the ones given to us, and that must include praying for them, then why should He trust more of His dear sheep to us.

So if we are shepherds to God’s people we must pray. Otherwise we are actually displaying that we are not really shepherds, even though we may bear that title.

Moved By The Heart

2 Corinthians 8 and 9 provides us with a remarkable piece of literature. In this passage Paul is seeking to bring forward the Corinthian Christians in their giving. They had been excited at first to contribute to relieving the needy saints at Jerusalem. However, over time their fervour had sagged and the coffers for the offering remained sparsely filled.

Into such a situation Paul writes to get the Corinthians giving again. It is such a wonderful piece of literature because Paul dose not merely command obedience by forcing their wills. Rather, he is using all of his writing artistry to get the hearts of the Corinthians moving so that their hearts are the prime-movers in their beings.

Accordingly, the key statement in this passage is so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction (2 Cor. 9:5b). And the key theme in this passage is grace. He wants grace to so impact them that they will naturally respond with giving to the Lord.

In such a context we have the marvellous incarnation revelation of our Lord Jesus in 2 Corinthians 8:9. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. This presents the Corinthians, and us, with the ultimate display of grace. As we see that grace we should be propelled to be grace-filled people ourselves.

It is so important that we take heed to Paul’s approach. Parents in particular need to make sure that their children have hearts which are won to the Lord. Wills which are forced to bring lifestyle conformity will ultimately lead to a child being resentful and there being no glory to the Lord. Hearts that are drawn into the Lord’s purpose in our children will lead to children who move for God and that will be for the glory of God.

Preachers and church leaders need similarly to take heed. Above all we need to be relentlessly representing the glories of God and the grace of our God so that hearts are given appropriate juices to respond delightedly and lives are thereby propelled into into the Lord’s way. Such leads to the Lord being pleased. Whipped Christians are generally legalistic and miserable Christians. Grace-filled Christians are generally willing and happy Christians.

Depression – What Not To Say

As I have observed here staying quiet and listening can be one of the best responses we make to those in need. Notwithstanding that it is good to show our interest in others by actually speaking to them, being quiet and listening is vital. With depressed people we can so easily think that we have to give our advice to seek to give them help. In such a situation we can blurt out all kinds of unhelpful things. So here are some things not to say to the depressed:

Just Relax “I would love to be able to do that; to just relax and feel my being eased. Don’t you think I want to be relaxed!” is how the depressed person would want to respond to this. A far better way is to know the person and to guide them into the ways that help them to relax.

You’re better off than a lot of other people – to which the depressed person may well say: “I know that I am, but that does not alleviate the pain that I am feeling.” When dealing with depressed people you need to know that at the heart of the experience of depression is that of a mental dysfunction. Physical and circumstantial re-arrangements may have little impact upon their mental and emotional well-being. Their circumstances may be far better than that of others, but that is not the issue

You need to get better sleep. “If only I could! I would love to be sleeping better. However, I am so mangled with stress that sleep is so often elusive. And then there is that waking up with a feeling of hopelessness and disarray.” So says or thinks the one assailed with depression.

How are your wife and family coping with your depression? – “Oh no I’m not just in a mess myself, but i am causing all kinds of difficulties for my family” thinks the depressed person. Ask the family directly, if it is appropriate, about how they are getting on, would be a better approach in exercising your care for the family.

Cheer Up – “Oh I do wish I could be brighter and not so deflated by life, but it’s not just about cheering up.”

Pull yourself together. “If only I could. I would love to be back together like I have been in the past. But my being is now in a state of disrepair and I can’t get things together.”

Christians should not get depressed – Urrh, what about Elijah then in 1 Kings 19? The man who had it all together in facing the prophets of Baal in chapter 18 is now in disarray under the broom tree. So we read: But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 18:4). And what of the soul’s cast downcast condition related by the sons of Korah in Psalm 42? Is that not depression?

Christians should not take medication for depression. This may be true for some people who have a variety of depression that is more appropriately dealt with by counselling or lifestyle changes. However, for many the chemical imbalance that leads to reduced serotonin levels is appropriately dealt with through medication.

Finally:

  • please do not shun people with depression and do not feel you have to avoid the subject when speaking with them. However, do be careful with what you say.
  • remember that depressed people likely do not have a great capacity for interacting about matters, so short times with them is probably best for them.
  • before you say anything pray to the Lord for wisdom.

Fifteen Years Today

At about 8.40 on the evening of 15th October 2004 I was recognised as Pastor of Feltham Evangelical Church. Fifteen years have passed during which I have been:

  • loved
  • hated
  • told that I was the cause of someone’s death.
  • told that I had helped someone find life in Christ.
  • able to preach approximately a thousand messages
  • able to lead about five hundred Bible studies.
  • challenged to a fight.
  • stingy and hard-hearted in not giving to someone.
  • able to help strengthen some marriages.
  • a failure in helping other marriages.
  • able to undertake some baptisms.
  • responsible for leading several funerals (some joyful and some sad)
  • able to see people want to receive God’s Word.
  • the witness of those who have hardened their heart against God and His Word.
  • told I am the only person in the church they don’t get on with.
  • able to share great fellowship in the Word of the Lord and work of the Lord.
  • witness to church members disgracing the Name of Christ
  • a delighted onlooker as I have seen church members bear hardship with the joy of Christ.
  • encouraged to see the Word being studied in the homes and among the people of the church.
  • devastated to see youngsters walk away into destructive lifestyles.
  • let down by many people.
  • a let-down to many people.
  • supported by a great wife and family.
  • prayed for by many saints.
  • the recipient of anonymous letters.
  • sad witness to see people make bad decisions.
  • at services where people have boycotted because I was the preacher.
  • through periods of depression; one of which was very severe.
  • blessed by the provision of solid and supportive elders.
  • saddened by squabbling church members.
  • made joyful to see suffering saints get to church.
  • encouraged by our increasing missionary interest.
  • encouraged by our greater drive to evangelism.
  • told that someone has learnt so much through my preaching.
  • told that some just don’t get with my preaching.
  • made joyful in Christ by the Holy Spirit.
  • in the presence of God.
  • informed that I should not be pastor of the church.
  • frustrated as I have wanted to help people, but they have not wanted it.
  • saddened to see people want the world more than Christ.
  • gratified by the generosity of God’s people.
  • completely unable to help some people even when I so wanted to.
  • lacklustre in my devotion to Christ.
  • encouraged by many faithful servants of the Lord.
  • situated in a spiritual war-zone which has at times been intense.
  • deprived of sleep
  • granted sleep.
  • a receiver of wonderful hospitality.
  • a struggler with sin and idolatry (Arsenal Football Club in particular).
  • blessed to be able to study the Word of the Lord for a living.
  • delighted to see saints praying together.
  • frustrated when people just wanted it their way.
  • frustrated when I have just wanted it my way.
  • able to visit Ethiopia and India and see the Lord’s servants and His work.
  • glad to welcome people into membership.
  • sad to see people leave membership.
  • guilty of making bad decisions.
  • prayed for by my church
  • misunderstood.
  • guilty of poor communication.
  • endeavouring to shepherd the flock of God given to our care.
  • in despair to see people choose false teaching, rather than the way of Christ.
  • joyed to see people making steady progress in the Lord.
  • supported and provided for by the Lord and his people.
  • helped for several years by able PA / Administrator.
  • seeking to be faithful to God’s Word.
  • guilty of not preparing my messages and studies well enough
  • honoured too easily by some people.
  • despised by some people.
  • kept by a faithful God.
  • secure in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
  • sealed by the Holy Spirit.
  • anticipating the great day when I will be taken home to glory.
  • a sinner saved by rich and full grace; God’s grace.

We’ll praise Him for all that is past and trust Him for all that’s to come. J. Hart

Moving On To The Next………

One of the hard experiences of pastoral ministry is to see people either drifting away from the Lord, turning away from the lord or not going on to follow the Lord. It is a source of distress and grief that such happens. The sense of wastage of life in people not wanting to go the Lord’s way is hard to take.

When this happens there is the inclination to dwell upon the loss. There is the desire to chase after the people and get them back in the right way. These responses are legitimate and are understandable if you have a caring shepherd heart. To see people go off and to greet that with a sense of “good riddance” is not the godly response of a true shepherd.

However, when people reject all your advances to restoration or just ignore the loving exhortation of the godly then there is a time when you have to move on. Not that these people should leave our hearts or our prayers. But to continue to pursue can amount to harassment and a lot of wasted time.

Moreover, we must be reminded that there are others we need to care for and go and seek after. In fact we should be continually praying that the Lord would be bring us the next set of sheep to care for and nourish and look after. Pursuing those who do not want the rich pasture of the Lord is time not well spent.

There are obviously balances to be struck here because we do not want to be too quick in giving up our pursuit of people for the Lord. But we do need to exercise wisdom.

Personal Appearances

Generally in church, and particularly as an elder, there is need to be great wisdom exercised about how we speak about each other’s personal appearance. Great damage can be done by needless throw away comments which can cause frustration and distress to people.

Humour, in particular, can be particularly destructive. By way of example it is best to steer clear of joking about someone’s summery clothing. You may think that their appearance provokes a response, but is it called for for you to joke about it? The person may have issues of health or personal comfort. If you think their clothing is immodest then you need to speak to the person about it seriously.

Men making comments on the clothing of women, particularly those who are younger to them, should be a completely embargoed. If such is done it can arouse all kinds of feelings in the woman about the man being interested in her.

However, when the clothing of a woman is unseemly and not fulfilling the call of 1 Timothy 2:9-10 to be discrete. The Word there says: likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. In such a situation an elder or older sister should approach the lady involved.

In all this husbands should encourage their wives as regards to appreciating them and treasuring them. They should tell them of how they appreciate their appearance.

I just feel it is area where great care be exercised. In everything we say we need to think about whether this is contributing to building someone up.

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