Our Hearts Plead for Good Pastors

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I always felt that being a pastor was a lot like this

October has been set aside for appreciation of our pastors. I encourage you to pray for them and their families.

flourish2 Within our personal issues of vulnerability, there are usually great problems. These are tender areas: Alcoholism, drug abuse, mental illnesses, homosexuality, sex addiction, porn and chronic depression are all substantial issues of pain and conflict. But as defeated strugglers we are often intimidated by leadership in the Church.

It seems all we can see is their authority, and we are fearful.  Typically, in our fellowships, our pastors and elders are men.  And that alone can sometimes create issues in hearts looking for a tenderness that will heal.

Rather than opening our brokenness up to our shepherds, we fabricate illusions of sufficiency and invulnerability. We are afraid, and our pain still resides in our hearts.  (We were never designed to carry this.)

As strugglers with great pain and confusion, we often brand ourselves as hopeless and completely defeated.  Some of us secretly believe that they have committed the unpardonable sin. But this is a lie, as God forgives every sin.

They’ve heard they are going to hell no matter what they do, so they are permanently separated from God. They need to know this is a lie, because whenwe confess our sins, the blood of Jesus covers them ALL and cleanses us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Many of us who struggle have a ugly and a twisted sense of our leaders in the Church. We get “really weird” whenever we meet them– an intense paranoia.  Typically, we sense avoidance of those who try to pastor us.  As a result our flaws and weaknesses will only grow us away (not towards) the Church.

Cellulitis is bacterial infection of  the skin and underlying tissue.  While I was in the Army, I developed this inflammation in my right forearm.  It started as a very small spot.  My arm quickly ballooned up, and within days I couldn’t bend my arm.  The infection just continued to grow and spread.  But I refused to see a physician.  When I finally did, they had to drain the wound, and I was put on heavy-duty antibiotics and bedrest. I could have easily lost my arm.

Often we try to live a life separated from outside intervention.  We avoid people who could really help us.  But we are sick, and need a pastor or elder to work through these things. But they intimidate us, and we expect to be rebuked, reprehended and rejected.  Certainly that there is often a need for scriptural correction, but always in love– and even some tears.  

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An Open Note to All Pastors and Leaders:

There is almost always a definite frailty that is common in the hearts of us strugglers.  We have fought for our spirituality, sanity, personality and even our sexuality. We have very few relationships, and the ones we do have are seldom healthy.  We are intimidated by authority and afraid of any kind of transparency.  We live under a enormous pile of shame and nasty guilt.

We need “good shepherds” that can be deliberately gentle and tender. Pastors and elders ought to reflect the astonishing grace of God.  We need His deep love, and you must show us what that’s like.  Please show us.  Verbalize it.  We need to know that we have been forgiven, over and over. Make much of the Grace of God.

You may already know this, but some in your flock have broken walls. Our boundaries are down; they are crumbled, and we are in true danger.  We need you to help us, and share His love and acceptance, and yours as well.  We need to be immersed in the atmosphere of spiritual kindness and forgiveness. It’s not you being a perfect pastor, but us together knowing a perfect God, who flows through yours (and my) imperfection quite willingly.

“We don’t forgive people because they deserve it. We forgive them because they need it–because we need it.” ― Bree Despain

We are not like the “norms” in your congregations.  It is highly unlikely we will be completely healed in this life. Also, many of us are gifted by the Holy Spirit, but we are flawed and we struggle a lot. Pastors must grow in their gifting, so maybe we will grow together. But please consider this; perhaps you need us as much as we need you (?).

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kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy on us, your little flock)
 
 
 
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Eldership is the Backbone of Any Church

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” I left you on the island of Crete so you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town as I instructed you. 6 An elder must live a blameless life…”

Titus 1 :5-6, NLT

For some time I’ve been thinking about the Book of Titus and Paul’s command to establish elders in every city. I began to realize that elders are God’s way to reach a decadent culture. All of a sudden, it began to jell. In Crete the culture was depraved, and in the midst of that Paul did not suggest a program, he didn’t direct Titus to start a parachurch model. He told Titus to set men in place. It is not a program, it is a person— an elder!

As part of the Church, broken and confused as we are, we need relationships desperately.  When I’m depressed or manic, handicapped or not– God’s grace almost always comes through an elder or godly brother or sister.  We are built specifically for that purpose. They do things which none can do.  They are “marble pillars” in our Father’s house. I love and respect them, even if they are wrong. (Which isn’t often.)

Now I believe in programs. They often have a good function in the activity of the local church. But we have a tendency to view them as an answer or solution to the need of the moment. We should however, look to God’s way or plan, which I believe is Godly elders.

Its not a plan, but a man. Throughout Israel’s history, Godly men and women have stood up to bless the Kingdom. Their faith, love, and humility directed victory and revival for the people of God. We seem to have this tendency to want to bring in a fresh program (and there is quite a few) to do what we think will fix a problem (which may be real, or not). They are usually quite witty and clever, and can be reduced to a “Powerpoint” presentation.

I realized several years ago, that the kingdom of God worked,  and flowed out of relationships. This dramatically changed my thinking. I began to see my personal connections as the way God’s grace would flow. Many churches belong to a denomination. The problem is that is primarily an organizational model, not always a relationship.

I believe that God works through relationships between people touching people. We need to adjust how we view things. The elders that Titus set in place were to be Godly men. They would stand in remarkable contrast to the culture of Crete. They were were to be the way God’s kingdom would touch the church and the lost. (Light vs. darkness metaphor.)

I could be wrong. But at least that is how I read Titus.

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“The Church Collects Sinners,” [God’s Hospital]

This following excerpt is from the devotional book, “Living the Message,” by Eugene H. Peterson.  This pastor-professor is probably the person I want to grow up to be like; he has a gentleness and eloquence that is seldom seen–and highly respected.
Author of many books, and his extraordinary translation of the Bible, titled “The Message” which is regarded by many as a masterpiece of the English language. 
Additionally, he has recently focused on the pastor, and on the many issues a pastor might face.  He understands being a servant of the Gospel and the Church. 
I encourage you to read his stuff.  

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“When Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does.  Outsiders, on observing this, conclude there is nothing to this religious business, except perhaps, business…and a distant one at that.  Insiders see it much differently.”
“Just as a hospital gathers the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the Church collects sinners.  Many of the people outside are just as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised.  It is similar with sinners outside the church.”

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 Some other quotes by Eugene Peterson:

  • “All the persons of faith I know are sinners, doubters, uneven performers. We are secure not because we are sure of ourselves but because we trust that God is sure of us.”
  • “When we submit our lives to what we read in scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but our stories in God’s. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves. “
  • “When we sin and mess up our lives, we find that God doesn’t go off and leave us- he enters into our trouble and saves us.”
  • “American religion is conspicuous for its messianically pretentious energy, its embarrassingly banal prose, and its impatiently hustling ambition.”
 
Some Good Solid Websites:
 
 
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Feeding the Beast, [Pride]

I am by nature a rascal who cultivates pride, lust, anger and selfishness. I am inherently dishonest and can be very spiteful. There is NO WAY the beast within me can serve God. When I am acting my best I’m still a phony and a fraud!

Scripture reveals that if I am to be a real disciple I must “deny myself”. There is a reason for this.   Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt 16:24, ESV). If I attempt to be a disciple without dying, I reinterpret the terms of discipleship. But it is impossible.  We have to die, before we can live!

We live in a generation where lust is so prevasive and acceptable that no one bats an eye at pornography. Christian men (and even Pastors) are addicted to porn on the internet.  It is one of Satan’s most powerful weapon to shatter families and destroy marriages.  We don’t realize that we are committing adultery when we choose porn.  We are feeding the beast.

Other sins have become acceptable by our culture.  It seems we accept a lot of them, and point our fingers at a sufficient number as to seem righteous or holy.  But we are only deceiving ourselves.

Romans 6 makes it all very clear.

“So, do not let sin control your life here on earth so that you do what your sinful self wants to do.13 Do not offer the parts of your body to serve sin, as things to be used in doing evil. Instead, offer yourselves to God as people who have died and now live. Offer the parts of your body to God to be used in doing good.”

Rom. 6:12-13, NCV

The beast within us demands fresh sin to feast upon, but we are told clearly not to do this.  The beast cannot please God but only serves sin.  We are to shut him down, and with the same intensity and effort we lusted after sin give God our life.

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires”.

Romans. 13:14, ESV

We are instructed not to plan on feeding the beast, but instead to deny him the sin he craves.  We make provision for him to feed when we turn from God to do what is not fitting for saints. Temptation usually comes in through a door that has deliberately been left open.

I am so easily deceived and turned so quickly from the truth.  I welcome your prayers for strength and discernment as I turn myself from the darkness and enter the light.  I want to be “clean” before my Lord.  I want to quit feeding the beast!

ybic, Bryan

 

 

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The Depression Epidemic

Why we’re more down than ever—and the crucial role churches play in healing.

Dan G. Blazer | originally posted 3/06/2009 at Christianity Today

crossredThe church is God’s hospital. It has always been full of people on the mend. Jesus himself made a point of inviting the lame, the blind, and the possessed to be healed and to accompany him in his ministry, an invitation often spurned by those who thought they were fine as is. We should not be surprised, then, that the depressed populate not only secular hospitals and clinics, but our churches as well. Yet depression remains both familiar and mysterious to pastors and lay church leaders, not to mention to those who share a pew with depressed persons.

Virtually everyone has experienced a “down” day, often for no clear reason. We might say we “woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” are “out of sorts,” or just “in a funk.” Such polite references are commonplace in America. Yet as familiar as melancholic periods are to us, the depths of a severe depression remain a mystery. We may grasp in part the distress of King David:

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King David putting pain in his Psalms

“Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak”

(Ps. 31:9-10).

But most of us have no idea what David meant when he further lamented, “I am forgotten by them as though I were dead” (v.12). Severe depression is often beyond description. And when such deep and painful feelings cannot be explained, they cut to the heart of one’s spiritual being.

Humans are intricately complex creatures. When things go wrong in us, they do so in myriad and nuanced ways. If churches want to effectively minister to the whole of fallen humanity, they must reckon with this complexity. Depression indicates that something is amiss. But what? And what should churches be doing about it?

For the remainder of this article:  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/march/15.22.html

 

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The Fishbowl and Your Pastor

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”  Anon.

“A true and safe leader is likely to be one who has no desire to lead, but is forced into a position of leadership by the inward pressure of the Holy Spirit and the press of the external situation.”  A.W. Tozer

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Having been a senior pastor for three years, and in full-time ministry 20+ years, I have had to adjust to the constant surveillance of my life and my families. To be so visible, was wearying and maybe even demeaning at times. I was constantly “center-stage.” It’s funny but these two ingredients– the fishbowl and a pastor’s love for his/her people combine to create quite the interesting concoction. There is nothing like it. But overall, the fact is we are now quite visible to all.

However there is a special momentum you see when you are a pastor, you have a real sense of things moving , (if they really are.) However your flock will keep you both humbled and elated by their antics. You also will continually fight with the idea of ownership– but you don’t own them, God does! He will make sure you understand this, over and over. The flock is His, you are only a partial excuse, out from His will.

First of all, every pastor is a sinner. They have weaknesses and faults just like church members. This is not to say that they are not to live as an example to the flock (1 Peter 5:3) and are not to have met certain moral qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). But we must be realistic about their sinful nature. They will continually do battle with the old nature which is still part of their lives, and will do so as long as they live. Pastors can be pretty ignorant at times. It does seem to be that folly is the human condition. They should understand this.

Total victory over sin will not be won in this life. Sanctification will take place; victories will occur; bad habits and sins will be overcome – but there will be many battles to fight until the day of glory… Remember that your pastor and his family constantly live in a fishbowl for all the church to see – and sometimes the sight is not always going to be particularly attractive.

They are humans also! The fishbowl life has its own special work in the pastor’s heart. Sometimes I believe His call on us is the deep point He makes in order to save us. It may be true. that those who are called “pastors” are those who are the most desperate, who really need to have this call in order to save us.

“God uses prisons to train people for future roles of leadership or martyrdom.’  Chuck Colson

Pray for your Pastor, pray for his/her family. This is by far and away the most significant work you could do for them. If they preach well, tell them. They want to know (even if they say they don’t!) Encourage their spouses, they alone have to live with failure and discouragement “behind the scenes”, without an outlet. They do know the real person who is a pastor. And please remember this, they are not your servants, but your friends.

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October is Pastor Appreciation Month–

You still have time to do something– (Like an Amazon Gift Card. “hint! hint!”)

Partial Source for post: A section from an email from Grace Notes, Curtis C. Thomas
Life in the Body of Christ, Founders Press, 2006, p. 151, 153,
 

A Pastor’s Transformation

Pastor-homeless-peoplePastor Jeremiah Steepek (pictured left) transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning. He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service, only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food – NO ONE in the church gave him change. He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit n the back. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.

As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation. “We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation.

The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him. He walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment then he recited– Matthew 25:31-46.

 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame. He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?”

He then dismissed service until next week.

Being a Christian is more than something you claim. It’s something you live by and share with others.

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Bryan’s Note: Some have made this account to be nothing more than a “urban myth,” kind of a good piece of  Christian “schlock” that never happened. I personally can’t say for sure. I simply can’t vouch for its veracity. But all I really know is that it speaks to me in many ways about following Jesus. For that alone, I am thankful.

More of Jesus, less of Bryan.

ybic, Bryan

kyrie elesion.