Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Preachers ... hunh! What are they good for? ....

In a blog written by a member of a church that used to be known for heralding togetherness in the willingness to be used by God, a question was asked. Should preachers seek to change the people who hire them into their own vision?

Here is my answer. ..

In a society of churches that still hold too tightly to the idea that preachers are hired to 'do the work' FOR the congregation instead of WITH the congregation, finding preachers who will be the catalyst FOR the congregation is still a problem. Why do we still think it is the man we hire that can spark the changes we have loathed to embrace?

It is the Holy Spirit of God that is the real catalyst of change. It is the preacher's work (not job) to herald the Lord's message faithfully. It is his calling to be used by God and to call others to seek to be used by God and then let God direct them together, as His flock. How God uses the preacher and the rest of His faithful is up to God.

When will the giftedness of our members, our fellow ministers, both leaders and followers, be given the attention God gives it? When will love being shown (and not just claimed and proclaimed) be restored to the center of how we are whose we are? When will we become like popcorn in the heat of God’s love, ready to explode into delicious usefulness, spreading His salt and His light? You want to know why churches grow bigger and bigger? To be fed to a starving world of lost and hungry people. They fizzle when they fail to allow God to open the package and spill the church out where it can be eaten to feed the hungry. Popcorn left in the bag gets stale – which is exactly why the big churches of yesteryear keep getting replaced … God is looking for people who will be used for HIS glory to seek and to save the lost. We do not need bigger bags to hold us in. We need more willingness to explode into usefulness in HIS hands … to be distributed by HIS will.

It is the focus of what is being sought that needs most to be driven by the Holy Spirit and NOT by any other agendas we might think rival the need for faith and the work of God in every life surrendered to HIS agenda and control. That does not depend on the professionalism or organizational capabilities of any one person or small group of persons to substitute for our service. When did the body of Christy stop being an organism created, led and focused by God? Do we leave God's Spirit in favor of having what mankind might see as a spectacular organization or plan or vision? Who is defining successful ministry? Do we trust God to define it, or do we have to meddle in it and tweak it to our own satisfaction?

Seems to me that submission to the Spirit often leads to unlikely choices as God uses the believers HE has gifted in the ways HE intends to use them/us to achieve what HE considers to be HIS purposes. Does He need us to try to tweak that into a more palatable package?

A preacher is a herald - so hire a faithful town crier type. A shepherd is one who serves the flock as protector, feed locator and guide, and as a searcher for strays - to bring them back into the why try to make them chief managers or administrators? Get to know the Author of Life. Learn to recognize HIS voice. Be sensitive to when HE calls you by name and trust God to direct the paths of His shepherds.

Why claim to trust beyond sight when you are afraid to practice such trust? And why keep appointing leaders and hiring people based on our own (oompeting) agendas instead of on the basis of their faithfulness to following God's lead? A worker is worthy of his hire, but where do we find the same said of boards of directors (no matter what we call them)? God did not design a hierarchy, so why do we waste time pretending that is a gap we should fill?

We do not need so much new focus as we need faith to walk in God's steps to work where He is working and call the ones whom He has prepared to respond. The church looks more like a business organization than a family of servant-minded and servant-living body members. Who are we kidding?

We do not need men who want to change others. We need men willing to be changed by God, wherever that leads - not because we trust our plans, but because we trust the only One who can see what we cannot.

Call faithful heralds of GOD'S message and work and movement among the lives of people in the communities to which HE has called us. Call someone who will trust God and work among you as examples of surrendered servants who know only to share Christ and Him crucified.

I was never called to make changes. Even if someone tried to make that call I would decline because that is not the role God calls me to. I was called to herald the gospel of the King and His Kingdom. I am your fellow servant, not your task-master and visionary planner. Those things come from God, not me. Those things come through me sometimes, but can just as easily come through you. I am called to herald and work alongside you - not for you and not over you.

Come, let us serve Him where He leads. Come seek His ways with me. Come live the wonder of a life surrendered and shaped daily by His will. I am a voice called to speak what He wants and when He wants because HE wants it. What gift has He given you to make an impact in this community? I am a voice of encouragement and understanding and determination to glorify God.

Me wanting to change someone? Nope. Me surrendered to be changed? Definitely. That is God's preference for me, whether it is your idea of good preaching material among your community or not. It is even God's own preference for you, too, if you would but listen to His gentle call.

What's that, Lord? Time for me to stop typing? Done.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Enemy Mine

Job 31:29-30
29"Did I ever crow over my enemy's ruin? Or gloat over my rival's bad luck? 30No, I never said a word of detraction, never cursed them, even under my breath.

Proverbs 24:15-18
15Don't interfere with good people's lives; don't try to get the best of them. 16No matter how many times you trip them up, God-loyal people don't stay down long; Soon they're up on their feet, while the wicked end up flat on their faces. 17Don't laugh when your enemy falls; don't crow over his collapse. 18GOD might see, and become very provoked, and then take pity on his plight.

Proverbs 25:21-22
21If you see your enemy hungry, go buy him lunch; if he's thirsty, bring him a drink. 22Your generosity will surprise him with goodness, and GOD will look after you.

Nobody questions what kind of a man Job was, really. He was a righteous man. And we regard Solomon's Proverbs with a general sense of wonder and appreciation for the wisest man of his day and age. Solomon had his issues, but being a fool was not high on that list, despite having too many wives to even begin to be a good husband to. We pretty much trust these guys to know what they are talking about. But is pretty much good enough when it comes to something as momentous as the death of a sworn enemy of our nation whom we have hunted for nearly ten years?

Let's go to the final authority. Let's go to Jesus. If rejoicing is the right move for when a national enemy dies, Jesus will tell us. Here is what Jesus says about enemies ...

What Jesus has to say about enemies …

Ralph and his neighbor, Fritz were talking …

R: “Hey, I met Jesus the other day.”

F: “Yeah? So what’s he like?”

R: “Kinda weird, actually.”

F: “You don’t say. How so?”

R: “He said the old love your neighbor and hate your enemy thing ain’t right.”

F: “No kidding! So did he say what it is supposed to be?”

R: “He said, ‘love your enemies and pray for people that abuse you.’ Can you
believe that?”

F: “You sure you heard him right? I mean, I know people say he’s pretty radical, but that sounds plain old crazy.”

R: “Yeah. He was giving a speech and they had his notes printed out and I got a copy. Take a look …”

F: “Hmm… yeah, you got it right, I guess. Can I keep this and read the rest of his speech?”

R: “Yeah, Fritz. You read it all through to the end. I just finished it and I think we need to talk about this stuff.”

F: “Okay Ralph. I’m going to go read it right now. See you back here after supper?”

R: “Absolutely, Fritz. I’ll bring something to drink; you bring some of your wife’s cookies.”

F: “Sounds good to me. See ya, Ralph.”

R: “Real soon, Fritz. Real soon.”

Here’s what Ralph had highlighted for Fritz to read … (borrowed from Matthew 5:43-48, the Message)

"You have heard that it was said, `YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.'

"But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Fritz wondered to himself, “Why would he say that?” Then he kept on reading and it was like Jesus was answering his thoughts !!

"so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

“Wow!” thought Fritz. “I guess I never thought about God sending rain and sunshine for everybody; but it certainly makes sense to me.” And he kept on reading …

"For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
"If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
"Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

By the time he got done with the whole speech, Fritz could hardly wait to go out and talk to Ralph again. He even talked to his wife over dinner about it. She was stunned to hear him speak and missed his question. “Wh-what did you ask me?”

Then she listened as her obviously excited husband read the section Ralph had highlighted and asked her again, “What do you make of that?” Bernie (short for Bernice) answered, “He sounds like the preacher at my mother’s church. You know, the one you liked when we visited there last year. You don’t have to share that with Ralph, though. And it looks like he’s ready to meet with you over by the fence again. Go ahead, I’ll clean up. Then you can come back in and we’ll talk when you two have it all figured out.”

Fritz was already headed out the door …

**** **** **** **** ****

What about it? Could you live out what Fritz and Ralph heard from Jesus?
Or is it too late already? Have you already been rejoicing over a fallen enemy?

God have mercy on us.