Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!
Last week we reflected on fathers and men who have guided and influenced us. In the same light, I then began thinking about our spiritual leaders, our congregational shepherds, our pastors (or whatever term your denomination may use).
Let’s top up our coffees and I’ll share…
So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. Exodus 17:10-13
And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:15
[ Submission to Governing Authorities ] Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. Romans 13:1-2
[spoken by Paul, a shepherd of the gospel] I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Romans 15:30
I have always had great respect for those in authority due to the fact, simply, that we are called to respect and obey authority. Although this is God’s command, I have come to view those in authority quite differently. When I was younger, along with the need to be respectful to those in authority, came my ignorant and naïve thought that the individuals who held these positions of authority were to be perfect, superhumans in their positions and were performing their duties perfectly: all police officers were 100 percent law abiding, politicians were 100 percent truthful to their citizens, and pastors were 100 percent Christ-like. So child-like, I know. As I have grown older, I have come to learn that this respect is due the position- yes, but as for the individual holding such position, he/she is still a sinner, just like you and me. They are no different. They struggle with temptation, addictions, weakness, insecurity, pressure from the sinful world, weakness of their sinful self, and Satan’s lies. This realization particularly blew my mind when I learned this about our church shepherds: pastors, priests, reverends, etc. If you were like me, I respected my pastors because of their Christ-like care of His Bride, the church; their encouraging words, their words of guidance and correction, and the fact that I only saw them as perfect icons among their people.
I have since learned that it is not fair to put our shepherds on these pedestals for many reasons. First, because it’s not true; they are sinners, they make mistakes and hopefully our pastors are humble enough to admit their errors and are living examples of God’s gift of reconciliation: asking for and receiving forgiveness. Secondly, when we place them so highly, we can become very critical and begin to pick out every little mistake they make. Soon this attitude allows Satan to stir us to becoming bitter or disheartened with our Shepherd’s service, our church, and at times, God Himself. Finally, I believe this type of attitude gives people an inaccurate view of Christ. When people- especially non-Christians, new believers, and our children- hear the gospel preached from the pulpit and see us all acting on our best behaviour in church, while the whole way home we’re complaining and nitpicking about all of their imperfections, we are seen as hypocrites; no better than the Pharisees. (Check them out in the New Testament. Neither John the Baptizer nor Jesus had positive things to say to or about them.) When others see us in this light, we certainly are NOT the lights that Christ calls us to be. In this light, Satan is winning at using us to keep others from knowing our loving, merciful, grace-filled God, that sent His one and only Son to take to the cross their sin, my sin, my pastor’s sin, my church’s sin, and to pay the deadly price that I, they, we deserve.
Our shepherds need our prayers. We need to pray for their families, for their peace of mind, for their dedication to the Lord, for the wisdom and humility to be leaders that help us see the living, daily presence of Christ in our lives, for their willingness and courage to let Christ work through them to be whom He needs them to be for those souls within the community they live and serve. Then, we need to pray for ourselves and how we can be helpers to him/her in our harvest field. Besides serving, this may mean sharing with them when things need to be changed, added, or removed within the life of the congregation. And if such sharing is truly felt, then after much prayerful consideration and God’s guidance, share it with your shepherd in respect and humility, praying that God give you the words to lovingly express your concerns, and that your shepherd receive such words with an open heart and self-sacrificing willingness to seek what is best for your congregation and community, according to God’s Word alone.
I believe that our shepherds deserve our respect as our representatives of Christ in the church, but they also need our support which includes lifting them up to the Lord in prayer, acknowledging that they too are forgiven sinners, like you and me, and openly working with them for the good of those souls whom they have been called to serve, through loving and honest communication and action. God bless our shepherds!
Prayer: Dear Lord, please be with Pastor/Rev./Father__________. Help them to be all you would have them be for this congregation. Give them the strength and will to overcome any adversity in body, mind and soul that they may be facing. Bestow your peace and mercy upon them as they seek you in leading, teaching, and guiding us to a living faith and strong relationship with You. Help me to be whom You need me to be to support them, just as Aaron simply held up Moses arms, when Moses became weak. Forgive me if I speak poorly of ________ or negatively towards the members or events of the congregation. Help me to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, in order to permit our congregation to walk in the path that you have prepared for this congregation. Let my actions and words be an example of your love and mercy to those whom are watching, like the children and those who do not know you yet. Let them see your reflection in me. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!
Reflection: If you don’t already, include your pastor(s) and their family in your prayers each day this week, and following. Take time to thank them for giving of themselves for the sake of the gospel and for being the beautiful feet that brings the good news to your ears, your congregation and community. Finally, take time to reflect on the type of conversation you may have concerning church affairs and your pastors. Do you put the best light on it? How would people view your shepherd and church if all they knew about it is how you speak about them? If need be, take time to repent of any that may need forgiveness. Then, consider how you may be part of the solution for a concern about which you feel deeply.