I’ve had a lot of response from my post about Kim Davis and my opinion about what she’s doing. I thought it may be beneficial if I share the underlying truth that drives me to my conclusion. This especially since the topic brings much debate and because some Christians may struggle to understand why I said what I said. (If you haven’t read that post you may want to take time to read it by clicking here).
Have you ever noticed that the longer you are a Christian, connected and involved in a church, the more seasons you see of difficulty? I’m speaking about the relational, spiritual and emotional challenges that cause some people to walk away from fellowship and seek it somewhere else. Often even seeking it in community outside of the church.
I find myself often talking to new and growing believers and almost warning them. I warn them because I know that what is now so fresh and so potent in their life, their new life in Christ and the unbelievably liberating joy it brings, is a feeling that they will not always have. Eventually, to continue in Christ and in fellowship with the local church in which He places us becomes difficult. There will always be seasons of that. Why does it become difficult? Because we know in our world that anything worth doing will be difficult or bring difficulties. If that is true, and it is, how much more true will that be for eternal things? So, we agree that difficulty will come. As a matter of fact, we’re promised that difficulties will come. (John 16:33)
But, here’s the question: How can I stay faithful when faithfulness gets difficult?
1. Remember truth is not about how I feel. It’s about who God is.
On of the biggest stumbling blocks that keep Christians from continuing in what and where we’ve been called is self. In our culture of self, feelings rule. The problem is feelings so often take us away from the truth. That’s why Paul wrote Philippians 4:6-8. You’d better believe that he struggled from time to time with his feelings. But, he never let them rule his thinking. “Whatever things are true…”
2. Keep Jesus as the greatest authority in my life.
The necessity of Jesus’ authority in life will always bring us to this question: who am I trying to please? The answer to this question will (or should) determine much, if not all, of what I do and why I do it.
This won’t be easy, however. There are times that Jesus will ask us to do things the we don’t want to do. Remember, He’s taking us away from self and toward him. We need to recognize that when He asks us to do things we don’t want to do, it’s not a curse, it’s an unbelievable act of grace!
3. Recognize the spiritual battle.
The spiritual battle gets people off the path and out of the fellowship of faith quicker than anything. Satan wants to divide, and he’s good at it! He’s been practicing for millennia. That means that the major temptation you have to walk away may very well be straight from the playbook of the evil one.
This is why it’s paramount that when Christians have relational problems with others in the church, they go to that person, or people, and seek resolution. That’s what Jesus is asking the people of His church to do.
4. Resist the devil and draw near to God.
This is the only response to spiritual struggle that will keep you on the path on which Christ is leading you. And, by the way, He is leading you into His church and to continue faithfully. (Jesus leads everyone that’s following him to the same place: the church, local, active and faithful. And also to the cross. But, that’s a different blog post.)
We are not told anywhere in Scripture to fight the devil. We are told to straight up run! He’s powerful and he’s a jerk. But, when we resist him the promise is that we can drawn near to God who will ultimately keep us where He wants us. (James 4:7)
5. Pray – ask for help and strength.
Jesus connected prayer to both watching and waiting. Prayer keeps your focus right and that focus must always be the One you call Lord and Savior. Only then will you and I be able to stay faithful when faithfulness becomes difficult.
So, if your currently in community within a church and you’re struggling to stay faithful. Remember, God led you there for a reason, and He didn’t do that on a whim. Remember also that community takes patients, forgiveness and even a little work. But, because of the Gospel it is worth it! Remember, anything worth doing will be difficult.
Stay faithful, He’s worth it!
I’ve noticed on social media several churches/pastors who are beginning new preaching series called, or based upon, 50 Shades of Grey. I’m not surprised by this. It’s common to “borrow” themes from movies or shows, and other pop-culture things en vogue. That’s been done in the teen ministry for decades.
I don’t have a problem with someone preaching a series called 50 Shades. Some of those who are I consider friends and colleagues. But, this is why I’m not preaching a series called 50 Shades…of anything.
1. I knew what I would be preaching right now a year and a half ago.
I planned what I’m preaching right now in our church long before this movie came out. I always do. I stop at the beginning of each year, get quiet, pray, listen and think. That’s how I plan. I believe if God can show me what he want’s to me preach next Sunday, He can show me what to preach 6 months from now too. Planning this way, I couldn’t keep up with cultural trends if I wanted to.
2. I don’t need to name a series after the latest popular movie (good or bad) to be relevant.
I’m not in any way saying the church doesn’t need to be relevant. I think it does though I don’t think it’s as difficult to do as some make it out to be. But, you need to hear this:
The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Word of God is always relevant. And it always has been.
Identifying with every aspect of culture does not make me relevant. What makes my preaching and teaching relevant is when I give my listeners tools to live in the current culture. They already know how to identify with it as I do. We live in it.
3. The equipping of the saints happens when Christ and His Word are the target, not what the world’s doing.
So, do I need to make sure I do my part to equip the church I pastor so they know the dangers of a movie like this? Of course I do. 50 Shades of Grey, from what I understand, is a movie (and book) that takes sexual perversion to a whole new level. It’s a continuation of what the culture of media set by Hollywood has be doing for decades.
How, then, I do equip them? By continually directed their attentions, and my own, to the person and holiness of Christ through worship and the Word. He is the One who equips.
So, if you or your pastor is planning a new sermons series “50 Shades” go for it. No problem here. Just make sure it’s taking attention away from a messed up, over-sexed culture and placing it on the awesome beauty of Christ. He is the ultimate measure, life-changer and relevant to the culture.
I shared a blog article from Thom Rainer yesterday on Facebook called “Seven Ways to Hurt Your Pastor”. I shared it, not to make a point nor to direct it at anyone, but simply because I agree with the article. I received quite a bit of feedback from sharing it which prompted me to write this post. I have experienced all of the hurts that Thom Rainer listed as well as some that are not there but I thought it would be good to write a article from the other perspective. I used the word “heal” in the title because it’s a pseudonym of “hurt” but what I mean is how you encourage your pastor. Having pastored a church for 5 1/2 years now, I’ve not only experienced some hurts but also some encouragement. This list may surprise you because it doesn’t included saying how good you thought the sermon was or how good of a person you think he is. It’s different than that.
This is how you encourage your pastor:
1. When you’re faithful
There is nothing that encourages your pastor more than your faithfulness. It’s true that when you don’t come it can be discouraging but when you’re there, when you’re faithful to worship, it lifts your pastor’s spirit in ways you’ll never know. The pastor spends his entire week getting ready for Sunday. Oh, there’s a lot of things we must do throughout the week with church administration, helping the hurting and making disciples but there’s nothing like Sunday morning worship. We look forward to it all week long!
Also, when you’re faithful in your giving. Nothing will put a knot in your pastor’s stomach on Monday morning quicker than a bad offering report from Sunday. But, the opposite is also true. Nothing makes a Monday morning sweeter than when your pastor sees the offering report and you were faithful to give. Now, he can go on through his week without financial worry nagging ruthlessly at his subconscious.
Your faithfulness is amazing!
2. When you’re loving each other
Every pastor has stories of watching church people shred each other in disagreement and conflicts. But, when you love each other, I mean really love each other, it is incredibly uplifting to your pastor. Not only when you say “I love you” but more when you treat each other in genuine love in how you act, live and cooperate. To see you do that, makes your pastor feel like you’re loving him.
3. When you’re telling others
So many people come to church just to get something out of it, but to watch you and hear your stories of how you are telling others about Jesus and inviting others to the gathering of the church is uplifting and inspiring. Not only is this true of how your pastor feels but also how others in the church feel. It’s encouraging to see you living your life for Christ and with His heart for others. Your pastor knows that this happens as God’s Word works in your heart like it’s working in his and he knows that you’re truly “abiding in the Vine.”
4. When you sacrifice
When your pastor sees you pour out your life when it’s not easy, that’s so encouraging. It’s at this moment he remembers that he’s not doing this alone and it’s not all up to him. Sometimes he feels like everyone is expecting him to spend his life (and sometimes his family’s life too) for the Gospel but when you live a sacrificial life it let’s him know you’re willing to spend your life too. I can’t tell you how uplifting it is for your pastor when he gets to serve with you in this kind of way (instead of just serving you).
5. When you pray
It’s always encouraging when you tell your pastor you’re praying for him but that’s not what I’m talking about. I mean when your pastor sees you come to prayer meetings, praying at the altar, or even better, when he finds out that you took it upon yourselves to have a group prayer time without him planning it or asking you to do it. I can’t put into words what that means to your pastor. Again, he’s reminded that he’s not alone and he’s reminded that people are impacted by Christ and following Him.
6. When you Worship
What I mean by worship is when your pastor can hear your voices filling the worship center, when you raise your hands (those of you who do that sort of thing) and when you’re so focussed on Christ that the tears are running down your face. It is so encouraging when you worship with smiles across your face and joy beaming from your countenance. It so makes a pastor remember why he’s doing what he’s doing and that the Word is bringing return. (Remember, Sunday is the day he’s always working for and toward.) There’s nothing like people worshiping God is Spirit and Truth!
7. When you love his wife
Many pastors wives don’t struggle because of people disrespecting or being unkind to them, they struggle because they so often feel left out. As awesome as it is for your pastor to see you interacting with each other, especially outside of church services, it’s incredibly uplifting when you invite and include his wife. Nothing breathes life into your pastor more than when the church is breathing life into his wife. When she has joy in the ministry so does her husband.
Do any of these surprise you?
Much more than verbal expressions like, “that was a nice sermon” when you’re walking out the door Sunday, the above are ways that you can be a huge encouragement and even bring healing to some of the hurt your pastor has. Try it out, you’ll make a difference.
Here’s an announcement video about some upcoming things about which I’m very excited. Hope you’ll take part!