I Need Grace, My Church Needs Grace Too … and So Do You.

Broken Christian Stock PhotosToday I would like to just be blunt and honest. Can I say that I am a broken, weak, occasionally discouraged, and yes an even struggling person, who happens to be a pastor? Can I admit that my family, my marriage, and my heart are not always ok? Does that make you uncomfortable? Does it encourage you? Perhaps it should do both. The truth is that without admitting weakness you and I will never experience the grace we need to move forward. It’s one thing to talk about grace all day and quite another to give it, live it, and display it for everyone to see and experience. Without this admission and embracing of weakness, the strength that is Christ and Grace are kept at bay and we are left with only the barest of tastes of that glorious meal.

I’m really sick of plastic bubble christianity. Yes, I didn’t capitalize it on purpose. I think I’m finally seeing what outsiders and guests in our church sometimes (oft times?) see when the walk through the doors. There are still some that are pulling that self-righteous, hide behind my little bubble personas over them when they come to do “church”. I’m not talking about putting your best foot forward, “that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in mthe house of God[1]” thing. I’m talking about pretending you’re something you’re not. I’m not talking about a bad testimony or even a two-faced testimony here. I’m talking about knowing you’re a mess and knowing that God knows you’re a mess and not being able to do anything about it because you refuse to allow yourself to be real. The thing is, people that come into our church to visit, they see the bubble and instinctively know that you’re faking it. It seems obvious to everyone but you. I think I first realized this when I was a youth pastor. The teens had this B.S. detector, they didn’t care if you were perfect; they cared if you were real. Transparency is a not so new buzz-word in churches today. But the reality of it is, it isn’t new at all. Have you read the epistles of Paul? Have you seen the mess that the early church made of things? Have you read the admissions of guilt and weakness of these men? The thing is, when we finally let go of the bubble, when we finally embrace our weakness (the truth), and His grace, we can finally be filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Have you met anyone like that recently?

The Apostle Paul had a lot to say about weakness. First he wrote this to the church that he had founded…

1 Corinthians 2:1–5 (NKJV) And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Then he went on to write this to the same church, after they had some high and mighty, holier than thou, and “better” preachers and teachers throw him under the bus…

2 Corinthians 12:7–10 (NKJV) And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Let’s not forget this awesome passage too…

Hebrews 4:14–16 (NKJV) 14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Now, I’m just sayin’, but these last two passages seem to be favorites of a lot of people that are blowing it, and claim them, and claim God’s forgiveness for themselves over and over, but seem so very quick to judge and criticize others. And yes, I’m judging the judgers. I get the irony, but I’ve been called and ordained by God to “convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”[2] Have you been? Do you have the responsibility to one day stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and answer for not only your life, but the lives of those in your church during your leadership?

So for today, consider this… am I in a plastic bubble and have I been pretending that I am something I’m not, meanwhile, feeling free to judge those that are walking through the door looking for something real? Let’s do this thing church, let’s BE the CHURCH that God wants us to be and reach those that haven’t met Him yet, the Grace and Truth man, Jesus. Remember, with Jesus comes grace and truth… it’s time to stop running from the truth and embrace grace!



m Heb. 3. 6. Comp. Eph. 2. 21, 22. 2 Tim. 2. 20.

[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 1 Ti 3:15.

d 1 Tim. 5:20; Titus 1:13; 2:15

e 1 Tim. 4:13

[2] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 2 Ti 4:2.



Watch Out!

 

pastor silHebrews 13:17 (NKJV)

Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

For some that are reading this now, there is disdain and disgust for the above verse. If that’s you, I can only think of two reasons, abuse or rebellion. In fact I have felt the first one keenly, as so many cultural fundamentalist pastors seem to believe this verse gives them complete power over the Bride of Christ. This abuse has caused many to actually hate the Word of God, and there is no way around it, this is the Word of God. I feel for you, I really do.  However, you must also now remember that God placed protections in His Word for you and every church of Jesus. In Titus, 1 Timothy 3 and again in 1 Peter we see that the Lord established some very firm protections for the church in the form of standards or qualifications for the pastors.

  • Not self-willed.
  • Not quick to anger.
  • Not LORDING over God’s people.
  • Hospitable…  Just to name a few.

If you are under a pastor that is constantly angry, or that is inhospitable, or is lording his authority over the church instead of leading in quiet strength, you might be under an abusive shepherd, one that doesn’t deserve the position he has taken.  There are Biblical ways to confront him on this and you should follow them.  The pastor is not above the rebuke of the church or even church discipline should he be unrepentant. Consider the following passage, one often taught poorly and usually only concerning the financial support of the pastor.

1 Timothy 5:17–20 (NKJV) “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.”

The Scripture says that you have a responsibility to “rebuke in the presence of all” that others may fear. It doesn’t say that we cannot accuse an elder, it does require a high amount of security in that accusation. Two or three witnesses to the sin. I believe this is because as a pastor you will surely step on toes and make enemies, so God has given you a measure of protection from unfounded accusations. That said, when two or three witnesses come together to confront you over your abusive, self-serving tendencies, you ought to repent humbly and allow God to restore you to fellowship with the bride. Otherwise they are to rebuke you before all that other pastors may fear.

On the other hand, as you read those three protective passages, and you find that you do have a man; that while not perfect, does measure up to them with consistency, is humble when he fails and seeks repentance and restitution; then your disdain for the above Scripture has fallen into the other category… the category of rebellion. Something that our savior is only too familiar with. Even if you were formerly under an abusive pastor, you should hold your pastor to these standards and if found worthy, you should follow him and avail yourself of his counsel and guidance.  All of this being said…

This morning my devotions (read in the Jacksonville Airport) took me to this verse. The devotion was encouraging church members to enlist the help of their pastor in reaching lost friends, family or co-workers. It rightly lifted up the pastor as someone that they should be able to trust with helping them. But as I read the verse, as a pastor, the words “watch out for” and “give account” are what jumped from the page. If you are a pastor and you are reading this blog, perhaps you and I should spend more time with these words than with the words OBEY, SUBMIT, LOVE your pastor.  We need to be worthy of all of those other words. We need to watch out for the Bride. We need to prepare her for the Judgment Seat of Christ. We need to be ready to give an account for her. Our teaching and preaching and leading needs to build her up in the faith. But our behavior should as well. Far too many believers have a low view of God’s Word because we have taught them to have that view. I have heard so many preachers claim to have such a high view of Scripture only to rip it out of context to serve themselves, their agenda’s or support their preferences.  So To myself, and to my fellow pastors I say watch out for the Bride. Prepare her. Love her. Teach and preach the whole counsel of God, but remember to ask yourself to whom you are preaching and apply the medicine in the right manner and context.

God bless brothers, we serve a mighty King and we answer to Him, not He to us!

 

 


Red Letter Pastor = Jesus Man

Being a Jesus Man

Becoming a Red Letter Pastor is really about becoming a Jesus Man. As I am writing this book I am ever more and more convicted. To be a Red Letter Pastor means that you are first a disciple of Christ yourself. It means that your private life, that life that no one knows about, that life that you keep hidden from your family, your friends and your church needs to measure up to the standard that Jesus gave us. Ouch. Yeah I know that for some pastors out there, this statement is not painful all, you’ve got it all together, but I don’t. I want to be all that God has for me to be and I need to learn to embrace the journey and accept the discipline of Christ.

In my last post I mentioned a pastor that made national news in his abuse of a broken 16-17 year old girl. I have read the things this man wrote and listened to portions of his sermons. The warning signs were all there. This guy, this pastor, assumed a role that his pastor had set up for him. In his church he was king. Above reproach and question. This was how it was established. Something about “absolute power” and corruption would be apropos here. However, I mention this situation because this is not how this man began in ministry. I have it on good authority from someone who knew him that he started out with a genuine desire to serve and follow Jesus. So what happened? One thing I would say is, Pastor, stop reading your own press and believing that you are something you are not. This poor wretch was set up for failure. He was taught that the “man of god” was “special”, was “untouchable”. He went from sincerely desiring to give his life for Christ to something that I am sure he despised when he first started out and even now, as he sits in a cell somewhere, still despises.

time with GodTo be a Red Letter Pastor is to understand that you and I need to spend more time with Jesus, without worrying about our next sermon or paycheck. It means that we really have to be concerned with what He knows about us and it means that we need to become like Him in our down times. IT MEANS THAT WE NEED TO INVITE MEN INTO OUR LIVES TO CALL US OUT IF WE ARE WRONG. IT MEANS THAT WE NEED TO HAVE ACCOUNTABILITY. REAL LIFE, GRITTY, I SCREWED UP ACCOUNTABILITY. IT MEANS DOING THE WORK OF DISCIPLESHIP IN YOUR OWN LIFE. I recently read somewhere that an incredibly small percentage of pastors actually tithe. OUCH. I wonder how many pray daily, or read the Word daily.

Not long ago I read a little book by Ronnie Floyd entitled Ten Things Every Minister Needs to Know. It seems so small and insignificant and obvious, but he used an entire chapter to develop the idea of the power of one hour. In his book if I may simplify and summarize, he postulated that the minister, the pastor, all of what he preaches and teaches and how he acts and the decisions that he makes flow out of his personal relationship with Jesus, of that hour that he has set aside to meet with and worship his savior. Ronnie stressed that this hour needed to be exclusive, that it needed to be free from sermon prep, that it needed to be simply time with God and for God and that it shouldn’t be legalistic, but should contain your personal way of relating to God. Revolutionary? Perhaps not, but for the many pastors that seem to have the wrong idea of pastoring, of being a dictator, of being a boss, of being an above the law ‘man of god’, above rebuke, full of self and pride; it all must start here. IF WE WANT TO BE USED IN A BIG WAY FOR GOD WE NEED TO BE SMALL BEFORE HIM AND RECOGNIZE THAT WE ARE ALWAYS BEFORE HIM. Yes pastor, you have a special call. Yes, this position is special. Yes, we ought to honor it. But friend, YOU need to honor it before you call on others to do so. How do you honor your position? You become the man the position demands.

Yes, becoming a Red Letter Pastor, a Jesus man, is more than just being a nice guy. It’s being real, being authentic, it’s being accessible and even willing to be questioned. It’s walking with Jesus in the dark and allowing Him to be a part of the smallest you.  



Becoming a Red Letter Pastor “Laying the Groundwork”

This is an excerpt from the second chapter of the book I’m presently working on “Becoming a Red Letter Pastor”.  I hope that you enjoy it and I hope as a pastor or church that you are callenged and inspired by it. God bless!

Becoming a Red Letter Pastor takes work.  It takes work particularly if you are dealing with your own misconceptions of what a Red Letter Pastor looks like and especially if you are leading a church that has misconceptions of what a pastor should be. What do I mean by this? Many men that seek the pastorate or that are thrust into it have seen an unbiblical leadership philosophy both in the world and sadly in the church.

I once called this difference in philosophy simply that, a difference, however, it is much more deadly than a simple difference of opinion it is unbiblical. It seems as if the church has been deceived regarding what a pastor should be. On one hand, as I will illustrate below they desire a heavy-handed authoritarian mini-god type of pastor. They won’t believe it’s “preachin” if it ain’t steppin on my toes. Of course they confuse true conviction of the Holy Spirit and accurate, Biblical exposition with abusive and caustic language directed at the sheep. The second type of church desires an effeminate, follower of popular opinion instead of a sensitive shepherd leader. This type of church eats up and spits out some good and godly men, making the Bride much less than she actually is and stunting her growth and effectiveness.

chaos in the churchOf the first type of church, I recently observed an online church service of a formerly prominent church in the Independent Baptist Movement. This poor bride has suffered years of abuse and neglect and “rock star” pastors. Their former pastor had fallen to pride and sexually assaulted a 16 year old victim of sexual abuse after establishing a counselling relationship with her. The details are horrific and the girl was deceived by someone that she was essentially taught to worship.  This is so troubling that I am heated just typing this. These types of pastors will SHOUT from their pulpits, that the church shouldn’t put them on a pedestal, then when they are not treated as though they are on that pedestal, they react like a two year old child that has had his favorite toy taken away. The church learns to walk on eggshells around this “man of god” afraid that they might offend him or worse GOD. I digress… this Bride was reeling from all of this mess and the mess of all of the years of poor theology concerning the pastors’ behavior and role. However this church had been brought up on the rock star pastor is a mini-god broth and so, when a visiting preacher came to fill the pulpit and verbally abused a member of the congregation, to my dismay and disappointment, I heard many “amens” from the others present in that service. By God’s grace, this church has by all accounts that I have heard, chosen a good and godly man to be their pastor.  He will have his work cut out for him as he tries to prove to this abused bride that what they have been suffering is not normal. That there is another way. A Biblical way.

Of the second type of church, I will refer to a church of a good friend of mine which he has gradually led out of the morass of leadership lethargy. This church had a board that felt it was their job to lead the pastor. For example, in order to choose a VBS curriculum, he had get the board’s approval, he had to jump through hoops and ultimately follow or fight the board every step of the way. This is a church that has no respect for the role or the man that they have agreed with God should be in that role. They take upon themselves the place of the pastor and forfeit what protection, leadership and guidance that God desires to give them, and so they wander around aimlessly without a strong godly pastor to lead them as God has ordained. Praise God for this pastor’s patient love of these sheep, that he has been able to work with them and now leads them well.

 



Red Letter Pastors

Well, I have finally decided to start writing my book. It’s my story but more. It is really a challenge to those that are called to pastoring to pastor like Jesus.  I may post some rough excerpts here, so stay tuned. My heart is so very burdened for the church of Jesus Christ that has suffered under some fairly terrible under-shepherds. Oh and I don’t mean incompetent, that would include me! The truth is, God hasn’t called us to be CEO’s even though we need to be administrators. He has called us to pastor His people, to care for His Bride. So without further ado, here is the first excerpt and it is ROUGH. Hope it stirs you.
From the introduction “Who Should Read this Book”…

So then, just who is the book written for?  It is primarily a book for pastors.  For the men on the front lines of ministry, day in and day out that may be losing their grip, or losing their way, or perhaps worse yet, never really found it to begin with. This last is a scary thought, but one that I have encountered more times than I care to bear witness to.  This missive is for pastors that have found themselves neck deep in a place that they never thought they would be, a place of doubts, questions, and fears; a crisis of faith.

crying_brideHowever, this book is for more than pastors, it is for the Bride, the Church of Jesus Christ.  It is for her as well; so that the wounded bride might see a light in the darkness and find hope for the journey that she has found herself on.  I have seen too many churches harmed by the one that should have held her close, and protected her, caring for her needs over his own. I have seen the bride flinch in fear at the sight of the one that had been placed to watch over her. To the church, I would say, there is a way out, and better yet a way FORWARD.

This book is a call back to the red letters of the gospel accounts of the New Testament. It is a call for pastors to review their ministries with honesty and realism. It is call written from the perspective of a fellow soldier and from the perspective of the Bride.  For far too long we have simply followed what we have seen and heard before us and we have missed the message of Jesus to His pastors “feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep”. We as pastors are to care for the lambs and the sheep in equal measure.

Maybe it’s time to rethink some of the things that you have been taught, or have come away with from your college years.  Maybe it’s time for a refreshing drink from the fountain of the Christ, maybe it’s time to realize that your master is no man on earth, but rather is the Man of Heaven.  It is to Him, to Christ, that we owe our allegiance and to Him will give our final answer. Not to a college or convention or even to a mentor. May Christ Alone be our Master as we pastor His Bride.

So who then should read this book? Anyone that longs to find ministry meaningful and more than just another occupation. Anyone that longs to hit the reset button on their ministry and follow hard and fast after Jesus.

 

God bless you on your journey.