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It’s good to stop and look around sometimes and ask ourselves some questions. Where are you going? How did you get here? Are you doing what the Lord intended when He sent you here? Can you do it better? How can you do it better? Are you preaching grace, the cross of Jesus, forgiveness, and love or something harsh and unyielding? How would someone who had never heard of Jesus react to your message?
On and on. There is no end to the questions. But I am not suggesting that we burden ourselves with a constant barrage of self-doubt. I’m only encouraging that, once in a while, we should stop and take inventory.
Here are five questions that occur to me for every minister to ask ourselves:
Question #1: Do I have answers to the difficult scriptures in the Bible? Or do I skirt around them?
If someone replies that there are no difficult scriptures, then we know they are not honest or do not know their Bible.
Even the Bible admits to this difficulty.
...our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. – 2 Peter 3:15-16
And no, we will not be compiling a list of difficult Scripture texts here. What is hard for one might be simple for another. We will each have our list, no matter our doctrinal position. The question is: What do we do with this? How do we answer them?
Once in a while–not often, but sometimes–the pastor might consider a brief series of sermons on Difficult Texts of the Bible. But only as the Lord leads.
Question #2: What do I do with difficult brothers and sisters in the Christian faith?
These “difficult” people come in all varieties and styles. Some may be TV preachers who clearly love the Lord but proclaim weird interpretations of God’s Word in places. Some are members of your church board who are focused on making ministry hard for you. What to do?
I had a deacon who led the movement to oust me from the church. When he saw he did not have the support he had anticipated, rather than accept this, he said to me in private, “Joe, this is not over. It will never be over.” He was determined to get rid of me. And yet…
The man could be generous. My family borrowed his mountain vacation home on several occasions. A Sunday school teacher, he was highly respected. And when he prayed in public, you were impressed that this man knows the Lord. But according to one minister who had known him through the years, he had opposed every pastor he had ever had.
What did I make of the man? Thankfully, the judgment was not mine to make. He’s with the Lord now, I presume, and the sorting out falls to the Heavenly Father.
Every pastor has such members to deal with. They can irritate and wear you down, but the Lord can also use them to make you stronger.
Question #3: What about people who are saved under the ministry of an imposter?
Or under a charlatan, or someone who later admitted being unsaved? In the days before the fall of the USSR, we would hear of Christians with no Bibles listening to a weekly radio program in which the official atheist officer would read Scriptures to attack them. Believers tuned in to jot down the verses, which they then treasured and taught.
After all, even if a devil out of hell were to read the words of the Gospels, God’s truth would still be true.
Question #4: How do I connect with members of religions that seem cultish?
Let’s say you become acquainted with some members of a religion you consider a cult. Their doctrine is so far off base it’s not funny. And yet, you are now meeting some wonderful people in that group, some of whom give every evidence of knowing Jesus Christ. How do you figure that?
My own answer is that people can be saved in spite of their flawed doctrine and not because of it.
If you answer it that way, it might caution you against a harshness in condemning certain aberrations of the Christian faith in order not to wound the weak. It’s a lesson I’m still learning. My tendency is to condemn the cults, period.
Question #5: How’s my preaching?
Your Sunday message appears to be finished and you still have a couple of days before preaching it. You have time to back off and look at it objectively, asking yourself questions like:
Am I missing anything here? Am I assuming something that isn’t so? How does the cross of Jesus figure in this sermon? Would a first-timer be drawn to Jesus by this message? Would a rebel come under conviction of the Holy Spirit? Have I prayed over this sufficiently? Does it tell a lost man how to come to Christ?
The unexamined life is not worth living, they say. We would add that for ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the work we do for Him should be examined also.
God bless every pastor. Give it your best, friend.
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.