4 Posts from March 2012

The Perils of a Servant

Nobody who was alive in the 1970s will ever forget Jonestown. At least, I hope not. That tragedy stands as a mute reminder of the awful results of a leader gone wild.

I shall never be able to erase from my mind the same horrible scene that appeared on one television newscast after another. It was not just death but a mass suicide—over nine hundred bloated corpses in the steamy jungle of Guyana. People lying there in rows, “looking like full-grown rag dolls,” was how one reporter described them. Except for a few defectors who managed to escape at the last minute, every soul in that cult compound gave up his or her life as the leader demanded.

Whoever takes the time to investigate the evidence that led to such a bizarre atrocity soon discovers that the man at the top (who claimed to be a servant of God) fell into the trap that has ruined many a strong, natural leader.

Beneath every dreadful photograph of that unforgettably sick scene could be written the same five-word caption: THE PERIL OF LIMITLESS CONTROL. Rather than remaining a true servant of God and gentle shepherd of the people, instead of modeling humility, teachability, and unselfishness, Jim Jones eroded into an empty shell of authoritarianism, sensuality, and unaccountability . . . an arrogant, untouchable prima donna who fell into the clutches of his own lust and pride.

Most every calling and occupation carries with it peculiar hazards—some subtle, some obvious. It’s not just the steeplejack or submarine crew or high-rise window washers or S.W.A.T. teams who face perils in their work. We all do. No exceptions.

Including pastors. That’s you and me.

—Chuck

The Gospel to the Lost . . . Grace to the Saved

Want a wonderful paradigm for ministry?

Paul’s message emphasizes the gospel to the lost and grace to the saved. As I’ve studied the life of Paul, particularly in his later years, I find two prominent themes woven like threads through the tapestry of his ministry.

First, his message offers the gospel to the lost. “Let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses” (Acts 13:38–39). Imagine the impact our churches would have on our communities if each Christian committed to sharing the gospel once a week with someone who expresses a need.

Second, his message includes large doses of grace for the saved. Just as the lost don’t understand the gospel, the saved rarely understand grace. There are few activities more exhausting and less rewarding than Christians attempting to please the people around them by maintaining impossible legalistic demands. What a tragic trap, and thousands are caught in it. When will we ever learn? Grace has set us free! That message streams often through the sermons and personal testimonies of the apostle Paul.

The lost need to hear how they can cross the bridge from a life filled with emptiness and guilt to a life flowing with mercy and grace, peace and forgiveness. We help build this bridge when we lovingly and patiently communicate the gospel. You don’t need a seminary degree. You don’t have to know a lot of the religious vocabulary. In your own authentic, honest, and unguarded manner, share with people what Christ has done for you. Who knows? It may not be long before you will know the joy of leading a lost sinner from the darkness of death’s dungeon across the bridge to the liberating hope of new life in Christ.

Once they’ve arrived, please release them. Release them into the magnificent freedom that grace provides. Don’t smother them with a bunch of rules and regulations that put them on probation and keep them in that holding tank until they “get their lives straightened out.” Making us holy is the Spirit’s work, not ours. You be faithful to dispense the gospel to the lost and grace to the saved. Then leave the results in the Lord’s hands.

That was Paul’s paradigm.

                                            —Chuck

Objectives, People, and Places

In every ministry, there are at least three essentials that produce an atmosphere of joyous cooperation. They are objectives, people, and places.

First, whatever God plans, He pursues. That has to do with the ministry essential of objectives. There’s nothing wrong with having a clearly defined mission statement that gives direction and purpose to the vision of a ministry. In fact, there’s everything right about it as long as it is the Lord who provides the direction. God’s plan unfolds in ways that confound human wisdom and sometimes defy common sense. But it is His plan. Objectives are essential when they are His objectives, not ours.

Second, whomever God chooses, He uses. That has to do with the ministry essential of people. And, I must quickly add, the people God chooses are never perfect. That includes me. That includes you. In fact, we prove more useful to the Lord as pastors when we accept that reality . . . and trust Him with our imperfections.

Third, wherever God selects, He sends. That has to do with the ministry essential of places. I wish He would send all of the great people to Stonebriar Community Church. And I wish He would never let any of them leave! That’s a desire based on my limited human perspective. I never prayed this prayer, but I’ve been tempted to pray, “Lord, send us only the great ones and keep them here forever. Don’t ever take them anywhere else.” (Being imperfect, I’m not above a few selfish prayers!)

God’s plan, however, includes removing some very gifted people from among us and sending them elsewhere. Out of those who ministered in Antioch, God chose to send Barnabas and Saul (Acts 13:1–2).

His ways are not our ways. His places are not the places we would choose to go on our own. None of that matters. What matters is this: God sends people of His choosing to places of His choosing. The sooner we accept and embrace that truth, the more contented we will be.

––Chuck

Follow Our 2012 Israel Video Blog

My fellow pastors,

I’ll be in Israel for the next couple of weeks, leading our Insight for Living Israel Tour. During that time, I won’t be posting my regular pastor’s blog.

However . . . I invite you to follow along with our tour by subscribing below to our Israel Tour user experience blog. The blog will feature video of sites we’re seeing and lessons we’re learning, plus posts from our fellow travelers. I believe you will enjoy it! 

http://www.insight.org/ministry/events/video-blog/2012-israel-tour/

Please pray for me as I teach at many of these locations. Pray that God’s Word would take firm root in the hearts of those pilgrims who travel with us.

                    Shalom,

                    Chuck

P. S. Although I won't be posting to this blog, I will post regular FaceBook and Twitter updates throughout the trip. If you are interested, you can begin to follow me on Facebook and Twitter.