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

Archive for the ‘Pastoring’ Category

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.

Homosexual Inclination

Sexual activity, according to the precepts of the Lord, is to be only between a couple joined together in marriage. That couple is to be made up of one male and one female. According, to God’s pure and established order the sexual inclination of the male is to be towards a woman and vice versa. The full physical expression of this inclination is be be enjoyed within marriage.

Our Lord Jesus gives an important nuance on all this teaching, when he observed that not only is the physical expression of sexual lust outside of marriage sinful, but so also is the expression of this in the heart. So we read in Mathew 5:27-28: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” 

Alas the way of our beings has been marred by the fall. We are malfunctioning beings. This is clear for anyone to observe, given that we all gets colds and suffer in our bodies in many ways. Even Christians suffer in this way. However, the suffering is not just in our bodies. Our minds are affected as well, as also is our sexuality. One of the ways that our sexuality malfunctions is when people experience same-sex attraction. Their inclination deviates from the norm as established by God.

To give expression to their warped sexuality physically is clearly wrong, given what we have said already. It is also wrong for lust to veer into lusting in our hearts.

However, is the inclination wrong in itself? I would argue that it is as wrong as it is to have a broken leg. Both of them are manifestations that we live in a fallen world. Creation does not function as it was originally intended to and we, as humans, are part of that creation. However, to say that it is sinful to someone to have a same-sex inclination has to be viewed in the light of someone having a broken leg. If having a broken leg is not wrong then neither is having same-sex attraction.

Now there can be cases where people move on to be freed from same sex attraction in the same way that a broken leg can be healed, However, others have to live with this for the whole of their lives. Like someone with arthritis, for example, they have an affliction which they have to live with.

To have the affliction is not sinful. To give expression to that affliction is sinful.

This being the case, means that there should be great sympathy in the church for those who suffer in this way. Harsh, insensitive attitudes towards those with same sex attraction should be banished.

Those who commit themselves to celibacy because of their endemic same-sex attraction, are, in a sense, those who are described in Matthew 19:12b as eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Such are to be admired for their courage to commit themselves to this course. They should never be despised, mocked, rejected or ignored. Their lives are modelled by a daily taking up of the cross and following Christ, their Lord.

Shepherds And Their Sheep

Peter exhorts elders to shepherd the flock of God that is among you (1 Pet. 5:2a). Shepherds must take an interest in their sheep or else they deny their calling. This means those who are called to the role of elders must take every opportunity to find out about the sheep under their care. If we don’t know those sheep then we will not be able to care for the Lord’s sheep into our care.

This means we take every opportunity for find our about those sheep. There is a countervailing force in this though because we are not to be busy-bodies. We are not prying into people’s business out of some kind of malign voyeurism. Neither are we meddling in peoples business in order for us to use that information to our advantage. Both those things are reprehensible sins.

Rather, our desire is to find out about our sheep in order that we can care for them. This finding out is in order that we have the most background knowledge possible of our sheep. With the benefit of this we are most likely to be able to fulfil our caring ministry to the best effect.

Gathering such information only comes when we are among the sheep. When we are among the sheep we see how they actually respond in certain situation. When we are among them we speak with them and find out information about them.

However, we also speak to others including elders of previous churches of which they have been members so as to bolster our knowledge. An eagle eye on social media participation can also yield helpful insights as to the spiritual and moral condition of the sheep.

In all this we must guard our hearts against abusing our position to obtain information personal gain. All our seeking of information is because we love the sheep committed to our care.

Definitive Statements

.I want to write here about how people make definitive statements This theme is closely related to that which I wrote about on Tuesday here. I am thinking about how we, without fully considering an issue, hastily rush to make definitive statements on a matter. Accordingly, people’s tendency to impose a narrative, can cause hurt and dismay by the definitive way people speak about situations without having fully considered those situations. Without fully considering a situation people make statements which categorically affirm a certain understanding of the situation or proposed course of action.

What we need to do is fully consider a situation by speaking with either the person or people involved. When we have fully considered a matter we can then make a response. Very often the most generous and tender thing to do is to make suggestions about what you consider the best way forward in the pertaining situation.

I, must emphasize though, that I am not advocating that there should be never definitive statements about anything. A parent who does not clearly establish what has happened when a child has carelessly used a knife and cut themselves. for example is being neglectful. And not to make definite statements about what the child must do is similarly neglectful.

Moreover, when someone has clearly done something wrong, as measured by the Word of God, we should be unhesitating to declare it to be such.

However, we need to be careful about making unconsidered definitive statements. This is, I would observe, very much against the spirit of our social media age where all sorts of things are slung out with unconsidered definiteness. Let us not fall into the trap of following that spirit in our dealing with others.

 

Imposing A Narrative

What I am thinking of here is the issue of how we respond to peoples’ situations. This can be an issue for parents with their children, friends with one another, employers with their employees. In fact it applies in many situations. I want to think about how we interact we the situations of others.

General. In all situations we must impose the narrative of the gospel to understand the situation we are dealing with. The malaise of this world, as manifest in peoples’ lives, is caused by the entrance of sin into this world. The remedy for the issue of sin is the blood of our Lord Jesus. His salvific work to redeem lives, will work ultimately to retrieve this world form disorder and chaos.

There must be great wisdom and sensitivity in applying the gospel narrative into the situation with which we are interacting. Simplistic cause and effect reasoning are very much cautioned against in Luke 13:1-5. That passage reads:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

However, that passage also indicates that in a destabilized world, it is sin in the world that is the root cause and as sinners we need to repent. In all this our Lord is imposing a gospel narrative on the situation.

Specific. On the other hand when we come to deal with specific situations we need to be wary of imposing any pre-conceived narrative. I have been very much aware of this through my being afflicted with depression. People may or may not have been right about the narrative they were bringing to my situation. However, what took me aback, at times, was the unwillingness to actually establish with me what had happened to me. People either would not ask or, if they did ask, would not listen to what was said.

I am arguing that always before we jump to conclusions we should stop and consider what has happened. This means we actually listen to the person and find out what there experience is and what they have been through to get there.  For parents, I feel we will fulfill the requirement to not exasperate our children (see Eph. 6:4) if we follow this approach.

Always remember, as well, that even though two people are experiencing something identical that does not mean that the causes of that experience are the same. So don’t assume when you come across someone displaying certain things that you have seen in someone before that the cause is the same in both cases.

It is very frustrating to be on the end of certain counsel or certain views about your situation from people you believe have not taken time to find out about your situation.

So my conclusion is when interacting with any situation always impose a gospel narrative, but never impose a personal narrative.

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