Critical Encouragement Church Leaders Need Now
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We’re supposing here.
Suppose your church assembled the following people: the pastor and staff, the office staff, the deacons, Sunday School teachers, committee members, and program leaders. This is virtual or in the flesh, maybe spaced across the room. And suppose I have 30 minutes to say anything on my heart.
Now, assuming I had the undivided attention of the group, I would begin by telling this from Scripture.
A few weeks before Moses retired from the scene and Joshua stepped in to lead God’s people out of the wilderness into the promised land of Canaan, Moses had some final words. The book of Deuteronomy is the essence of what he shared, a recap of where they had been and what had happened in their recent past.
Moses strongly felt the need to impress one huge thing on God’s people as they were about to possess “a land of milk and honey.” We might even call this a warning.
“You are about to come into a land filled with everything you’ve ever wanted. You’ll move into houses you did not build.
You’ll harvest crops you didn’t plant or cultivate.
You’ll drink from wells you did not dig.
You’ll gather grapes from vineyards and olives from groves you did not plant.
You will eat and be satisfied for the first time in your memory. And when that happens…
Beware lest you forget the Lord.”
Never Forget Your Blessings
Prosperity has a way of fogging up the spiritualities. Deadening the spirit. Dulling the memories. Derailing the well-intentioned. Dimming the sensitivities.
–Do not forget God. (Deuteronomy 6:12)
–Do not desert God. (Deut. 6:14)
–Do not test God. (Deut. 6:16)
Instead, be careful to obey Him. Do what is right in His sight.
And just in case anyone did not get that the first time, Moses repeated these words in Deuteronomy 8:12-14.
Leaders, your church is prosperous in a hundred ways. Your community is thriving. Personally, you are living at a higher standard than your grandparents ever dreamed of attaining. Furthermore, you do it with hardly a thought, as though this were the norm and anyone could do it if they worked as hard as you do.
You and I have forgotten how blessed we are.
3 Things It's Time for Leaders to Do
Leaders, it’s time once again for you to:
–renew your thankfulness to God for His abundant blessings upon you, your church, your community, and this nation. And no, that does not mean we have no problems. Anyone who has to wait for the absence of a problem before they can praise God has more problems than we can deal with here!
–recommit yourself to be faithful with what He has given you.
–restructure your lives to practice the faith you say you believe. The old structures (like some ancient bridges in this country!) do not hold up forever, but must be constantly inspected and often replaced.
Now, let me admit to you my minor disappointment with what Moses said.
Moses addressed an actual situation that was about to confront God’s people. They were about to take this land away from the pagans whom God had judged as unworthy to inhabit it another day. God’s people would be moving their families into houses furnished with every item necessary for life. And when that happens, Moses says….
Don’t Forget God, Keep His Commandments
That’s it. Frankly, I was expecting something a little more profound than that.
But that says it all, doesn’t it?
Note that Moses does not limit this to keeping the Ten Commandments. Scripture nowhere calls them that.
Moses tells Israel they are to:
Be sure to keep the commands of the LORD your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. Do what is right and good in the LORD’s sight... – Deuteronomy 6:17-18
So, today, if I could assemble your church’s leadership for 30 minutes, I would use the first 15 to remind them of the danger of self-satisfaction over where they have come and all they possess, the danger of seeing God as the Source of none of it, and the danger of pride. And I would urge them to go back and do the first things that make up the ABCs of the Christian faith.
The ABCs, the basic elements, of the Christian faith involve reading God’s word, praying, gathering with other believers for worship, giving to one another and to the Lord’s work, and ministering in the community. Love, integrity, truth. The fundamental stuff. As Micah said, “Do justice; love mercy; walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:6-8). Our Lord told the Pharisees their tithing was good, but they should not have overlooked the weightier matters such as justice and mercy and faith (Matthew 23:23).
The other 15 minutes of my allotted time, I would address them as individuals and ask two questions:
1) What is bothering you about your church or community?
2) Why don’t you do something about it?
Question 1: Do You Have a Burden Regarding Your Church or Community?
Every vision from God, every call from Him, it seems to me, begins with the individual having a burden for something.
Isaiah was anguished that the people around him were in as bad a shape as He. So, God called him to do something about it (Isaiah 6)
Are you concerned about the people living in that trailer park at the edge of town and upset that no one seems to be ministering to them? You assume the residents might not feel comfortable in a church like yours and that bothers you even more.
Good. A divine burden is a precious thing.
Are you concerned that your church has a marvelous fellowship and much to offer the young families of your community but no one seems to be telling them? That no one is reaching the children in your town? The senior adults? People in prison? The foreigners who are moving in?
Excellent. Stay concerned. Don’t shrug it off. Your burden is a gift from God.
Question 2: Are You Willing to Do Something about Your Burden?
Now, don’t get ahead of me. I’m not suggesting you jump in and try to fix anything. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Since the burden is from God, you want the remedy—the vision, the answer—to be His also.
So, if God has given you a burden for something in your community or for something your church needs to be doing, I have three suggestions:
1. Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Keep it before Him. Do nothing until He begins to open the door and give you direction.
2. As you begin to sense what He wants you to do, try something small.
This is no time to come up with a full-fledged program “on paper,” which you will present to the pastor and deacons. Far from it. At this point, it’s safe to say you don’t know what you are talking about.
If the Lord has burdened you for that trailer park, let’s say, then suppose you sit across the street from it as the school bus unloads. Observe how many children live there. Count the number of trailers. Drop by and visit the manager. Get information. Find out whether anyone has a ministry there of any kind. Ask what the greatest need is. Ask if the churches were to do anything for those people, would it be welcomed and what would he recommend. See if the ownership is open to someone coming onto the grounds of the park to help.
Make no promises. Look to the Lord for direction and timing and wisdom and resources. Wait on Him. Pray constantly.
3. Tell a small handful of people so they will pray for you and with you.
When you decide to begin some kind of small ministry there—and you will be the one doing it, be certain of that; God does not give you the burden so you can hand off the ministry to someone else. You’ll want their prayer support and maybe the participation of one or two.
Pray. Go slow. Wait on the Lord. Gather information. Try something small. Let it grow.
Ask denominational leaders or community activists if they know of similar outreaches to trailer parks, that you could study and learn from.
Then and only then, talk to your church’s leadership (pastor, staff, etc). Bring the work under the church’s umbrella, and as always, put yourself under the authority of your spiritual leaders.
You’re Doing Good Work
You’re staying close to the Lord personally and exhibiting a Christlikeness in your daily walk. You are having a ministry in the church or community which was going unfilled, exercising your spiritual gifts, touching lives, glorifying your Lord, and strengthening your church.
You are encouraging your pastors more than a dozen after-church fellowships and plaques for their walls could accomplish.
You’re on your way. Have fun.
Joe McKeever has been a disciple of Jesus Christ more than 65 years, been preaching the gospel more than 55 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian publications more than 45 years. He blogs at www.joemckeever.com.