4 Posts from August 2008

Monday through Saturday

A bewildered woman at church once asked a pastor friend of mine, “I was wondering, pastor, what DO you do all week?” Ever heard that? My friend didn’t say it, but he wanted to reply, “Lady, just show up tomorrow morning at 5:30—and I’ll show you!”

How often have we preachers gritted our teeth at the layman who says to us, “I wish I had a one-day-a-week job.” When I hear somebody say something stupid like that, to quote Steve Martin, “It always makes me want to cut his lips off.”

I recently read the words of a confused churchgoer: “Trouble is, God is like the preacher. We don’t see him during the week, and we don’t understand him on Sunday!” While we can’t help the first part, we labor hard to overcome the second, don’t we?

What DO we pastors do Monday through Saturday? I made a list. We’re praying, we’re studying, we’re counseling, we’re writing correspondence, we’re handling administrative details, we’re answering the telephone, we’re working with committees, we’re doing some visitation and hospital ministry, we’re marrying and burying, we’re taking time with drop-in folks, we’re planning messages for the future, we’re at seminars and conferences, we’re doing outside speaking engagements, we’re participating in extra church involvement, we’re relaxing, we’re with our family, we’re griping, we’re resting, we’re talking with friends, and occasionally we’re wondering, What in the world am I going to say next Sunday? Truth be told, sometimes we’re feeling sorry for ourselves.

The layman doesn’t know what we do. Some think not much is going on. Others imagine we spend most of our time in prayer . . . or in some kind of constant, holy contact with God. I remember a high school girl who dropped by my study for a visit. She looked scared to death. “You seem a little nervous,” I told her. “Yeah, I am,” she answered. “Why?” I asked. She looked up and then, glancing around the room, said, “Because God’s in here.” I thought, Oh, really? People often have the idea that when we’re not around we’re obviously with God. Kind of like Moses on Sinai.

If they only knew, huh?

                    —Chuck

An Ordination Prayer

Not long ago our church had the privilege of ordaining several men to the gospel ministry. These occasions always remind me of my own ordination—both the privileges and the challenges that accompany the pastoral ministry. This particular service was extra-special because one of my mentors, Dr. Howard Hendricks, offered the prayer of dedication I felt should be in print. If you are able, please read it out loud.

Father in heaven, we rejoice in what You have done in the lives of those ordained today. The Savior called them, He taught them, and He greatly used them. And today they stand on the threshold of a lifetime of ministry. Our passionate concern, Lord, is that You will use them way beyond their highest expectation. We know that You are “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” And today we thank You for their parents and grandparents, their spouses, their children, their loved ones, their friends, their teachers, their mentors—godly men and women who have built into the lives of these young men, preparing them uniquely for the occasion to which You are calling them.

And we pray that You will keep them, each one, clean from the midst of a corrupt generation. May they shine their lights in the midst of a darkened world. We pray that God will use them with increasing effectiveness for His greater glory. Your Word tells us that when You call us to do anything, You will always provide the resources needed. And may they draw deeply from the rich well of grace. We are excited to think of how desperately they are needed—men who are committed to the gospel of the grace of God, the exposition of the Word of God, and the faithful and loving service in the will of God. Keep them on their knees, learning the power of prayer and always asking the question, “Is it really worth doing anything if I can do it without prayer?” Give them the passion of our Savior who at the end of His life commanded His disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19).

Father, as a good Shepherd, go before them, lead them in a plain path to do Your will and to do it courageously. Keep them from sin and, in their success, prevent them from believing their own press reports and humble them under the mighty hand of God. Multiply their giftedness to extend and enrich the body of Christ. Reproduce in each individual the body of Christ, the heart of Christ, and the life of Christ. And now, men, we exhort you. Acts 20:32 states: “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” And we ask it expectantly and believingly in the wonderful name of our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Now brothers, let me challenge you to remember your own calling and ordination by personalizing this prayer. Change every “them” and “their” to “me” and “my.” Go ahead, please—take time to do that.

I encourage you to read and pray this often—and also to those you may serve alongside in vocational ministry. What a marvelous challenge. What a magnificent privilege.

—Chuck

Peace in Your Home

“So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another” (Romans 14:19).

Let me apply this verse by paraphrasing it this way: Pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of your children rather than creating division by tearing them down with criticism.

Are you tearing down your kids with your words? The desire for them to be strong, well-mannered, and successful children can be a strong one. In fact, too strong. You may be focused only on fixing what’s wrong, usually by pointing it out. And if we’re brutally honest with ourselves, what’s wrong is they are not meeting our expectations for what we think they should be. You played sports, so your boy should. You were Phi Beta Kappa; therefore, your child should be. You had a vibrant social life, so your daughter should. You’re musical, so your son should be, too. You’re in the ministry, so . . . (you finish the sentence).

Perhaps you have one child who’s a natural with the baseball, which pleases you because you love baseball. You share evenings together playing catch in the backyard. Then along comes another. He can’t catch, he can’t throw, and he wants to go back inside to read or listen to music. The temptation is to favor the child who is most like you and subject the one who isn’t to negative comparisons. But neither favoritism nor holding one sibling out as an example for the others will alter what God ordained for each child. (Remember Jacob’s favoritism of Joseph? Talk about dysfunction!)

Some kids love sports. Some are a whiz with puzzles and math. Some are messy and artistic and messy (they go together)! Some are structured and meticulous organizers. Some are dedicated students, while others barely squeeze by academically. Why? Because God made them that way. But if we’re not careful, we’ll see their God-ordained interests and temperaments as flaws to be fixed. We might even go so far as to make their differences rebellious issues to be disciplined, rather than hidden strengths to be developed.

Allow me to repeat my opening principle: Pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of your children rather than creating division by tearing them down with criticism.

How’s life in your home? Are you a builder?

                    —Chuck

From the Heart of a Father

I know that ministry demands from you more than you have time for. It’s the same for me. If we’re not careful, the casualties of such commitments can be those closest to us.

Please take a few minutes now and listen to a personal story I recently shared at the Christian Leadership Alliance Conference. It should give all of us who are very busy in ministry reason to pause. And, if necessary, reason to turn around.

                    —Chuck