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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Befriend Your Minister--Test and Trust



“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.”—Titus 3:1, 2 NIV

We live in a culture of vigorous independence. We love the idea of ‘do-it-yourself’. Men boast about installing stereo systems without looking at the directions. Women gather in the kitchen and say, “Oh, I just added a bit of this and a bit of that—I rarely follow recipes.”

That’s all well and good with stereos and casseroles. But what about Christian leadership? Are we willing to listen to instruction from leaders, or do we consider ourselves self-sufficient? Are we willing to adhere to behavioral expectations within the Body of Christ, or do we prefer to add or subtract a “bit of this” and a “bit of that” to the instructions according to our whims?

If we cling to stalwart independence and refuse to listen to the guidance of our Christian leaders, I believe we’re missing the blessing and the joy of coming under godly authority. If we underestimate our leaders’ worth, we don’t benefit from their wisdom. If we consider ourselves more knowledgeable and capable, we run the risk of becoming insufferably prideful.

Christians are in a unique relationship with our ministers. We are believers, just as they are. We are all equally valuable in God’s eyes. Jesus’ sacrifice is as available to our ministers as it is to the smallest children in the pews. The most learned Christian theologian is no more saved than the pudgy-fisted preschooler who lisps through “Jesus Loves Me”.

Yet the Bible asserts that the Spirit gifts believers in many ways, and appoints some to lead the flock. To ministers belongs the responsibility of Biblical teaching and godly example. They must not only talk the talk, they must know the translations of the talk. They must not only walk the walk, but must know every foothold on the trail—and if they’re unsure, they must seek the resources necessary to light the path.

Our ministers are given great responsibility, and the Bible uses strong language to warn leaders against false teaching. When I encounter a new minister or pastor, I listen carefully. I’m no Biblical scholar, but I have studied the Bible. I know when Truth resonates in my fallible mind. I know when Truth sings in my soul, and I listen for it in the words of leaders.

Once I hear Truth in the words of the minister, I know I can trust that person. Testing the minister for Biblical truths is crucial, but brief. Trusting a leader is ongoing and sometimes much more difficult.

Trust becomes an arduous process when we expect our ministers to be everything to all people. We want a theologian in our Bible studies, a great motivator in the pulpit, and an expert in childhood development for our young congregants. We want someone who’s adept at marriage, end-of-life, and addiction counseling. We want a valued friend, a wise advisor, a savvy business leader, and a knowledgeable guide. Oh, and we want him to be available with a single phone call—twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year—and twice for Christmas Eve services, thank you.

I believe trusting our leaders means giving them wide berth to be the people God made them to be. God calls all Christians to tasks that reflect His glory, share His love, build His Kingdom, and bring us joy. He calls ministers especially, not only to Christian leadership, but to the very flock they are leading. We should honor whatever strengths our ministers bring to their churches and celebrate their unique contributions.

Perhaps your minister’s humor rubs you the wrong way, but his approachability will bring others to Christ. Perhaps you wish your minister related to youth better, but God has appointed a wonderful youth leader from the congregation so your minister can concentrate on adult Bible study—an area of need in your church. Perhaps your minister feels inadequate to offer marriage counseling, but refers couples to an expert nearby. No one person can have talent in every aspect of ministering.

Celebrate your minister’s talents, and trust them even in their shortcomings. Trusting our ministers breeds all the attributes of the verse above. If we trust that God chose them specifically for our congregation, we become obedient. We show consideration. We act peaceably, and can even extend true friendship. In remembering that we need instruction and guidance, we stay humble. And in humility, we’re able to put some of that famed American independence aside. Do-it-yourself has its place in mundane tasks, but Christian living is no mundane task. It’s to be approached with the holy and loving influence of the Father, gratitude toward His Son, guidance through the Spirit, and a healthy dose of respect and trust toward those in authority: our Christian pastors.

May God bless them richly today as they work tirelessly for His Kingdom and their flocks.


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11 comments:

  1. I like the theme for the week. Great insight regarding the role of the minister.
    I think each one of us (believers) is a minister and we face the same expectations from people around us.
    For the minister to have a lot of information about the Bible is very important and living these principles is even more important.
    Thank you for your insights.
    Dani

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  2. Just FYI, Dani is in Finland this week, which is why he keeps beating everyone to the comment posts.

    Very wise advice, Gwen. It is important to have Biblical authorities in our lives and also to respect the gifts of our pastors as well as accepting that they are not superhuman.

    I've been taught that a leader is only as strong as the support system around them. I believe that is true.

    Dina

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  3. Gwen, thank you for sharing! Though I'm the Southern brand of a little-bit-of-this and a little-bit-of-that cook, you've convinced me to try a listen-to-your-pastor approach with spiritual matters. And that greatest Counselor, the Holy Spirit.

    Have a blessed day!

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  4. Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Gwen. You've brought up some excellent points. Pastors are no more or less called than any other Christian. They just have a different calling, and it's in teaching, preaching, leadership, etc. It takes all of our gifts to build up the Body of Christ.

    I love your thorough list of expectations we all place on our pastors. Add to those the duties of a small business owner, too. Many pastors have to be adept at health insurance policies for employees, budget issues, and sometimes even plumbing emergencies. Guess you can tell I speak from experience here ;)

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  5. Good counsel, Gwen. A few years ago I would have wondered what you were talking about but then we attended this one church and I saw it again as I read your words. It wasn't in what the minister was telling us, for his words were filled with God's love... it was in what he wasn't saying. Every week his sermons were a slightly different repetition of the week before. Yes, he spoke of God's love for us and cited verses from the Bible. But, he didn't remind us of Jesus' journey to the cross. He didn't uses parables to show us how Jesus taught us to live and pray. In effect, he patted us on our heads and sent us on our merry way basking in God's love... but he didn't nourish our soul. And I didn't even realize this until someone in the church asked me, 'Do you feel yourself fulfilled after the service?' I started listening and realizing that no, I really didn't. I thought I did but I didn't walk away with that feeling of satisfaction that hits you when you've just learned a new insight in the life of Jesus or had a verse explained that you didn't quite understand before.

    My mom is considered a 'church hopper'. It wasn't until I attended the church above that I understood why my mom goes from church to church each week. She's seeking a minister who can really satisfy her soul.

    Heed Gwen's words. Listen to your minister. Is he really satisfying you? If he is, then stand by him during times of need for truly he is a treasure. (And as I said yesterday, I'm blessed that our present pastor is a treasure.)

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  6. I've been trying to work but my mind keeps coming back to my comment above and I should clarify something:
    My mom church hops because what she hears doesn't satisfy her but most of that isn't because of the minister but because she's not going to settle until a minister tells her what she wants to hear. Thats a big difference. No one will be satisfied if they aren't receptive to what God wants to tell them regardless of where they attend.

    I can't stress enough the importance of treasuring a minister and his family who give you what you need.

    October is usually set aside for Pastor or Clery Appreciation Month. It's a time for congregations to show their ministers how much they truly appreciate their guidance.

    Because we're a small church in a small farming community, we showed it one year by giving baked goods to our pastor. He kept talking for months after how much he enjoyed eating them and his wife was so thankful with a full freezer and more time on her hands for other things. It wasn't much and yet it was something we lovingly made for them.

    Because I'm not sure if another Inky will be posting about it I won't say anything else about Clery/Pastor Appreciation Month except for this:
    Let your minister know how much you appreciate the work they and their family do in a 24/7 job where they come last.

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  7. Good post, Gwen. So full of wisdom and well written!

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  8. Such a wonderful, thought provoking post. I had to actually sit back and think about this one and analyze whether or not I am doing my own pastor justice in his leadership. I see some need for change in my attitude so I thank you for helping me to have this insight.

    cherierj(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  9. I understand what you mean, Anita Mae.

    Sometimes we need to HEAR what is being said even if we don't want to.
    It's sad to see people slowly build up a wall so that they work themselves out of a church time and again. It's usually a small point where you think your very human pastor has disapponted you. Well Duh. They aren't always right and God gave you a brain and His word so that you can figure it out, move on and allow the pastor to be working it out in Grace just like the rest of the congregation.

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  11. What a great post! Just in time for Minister's Appreciation Month!

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