I Appreciate My Pastors

 

Here’s a quick blog to remind us that October is Pastor Appreciation month. Frankly, it feels a tad weird to be writing this being that I am currently serving with my church as a pastor. But, it is important to understand that pastors also need pastoring, and I am very grateful to God for the pastors he has placed in my life along the way. As a matter of fact, I was blessed today with the opportunity to play some golf with one of those special pastors.

If you are wondering why there needs to be a specific, calendared time to honor and show appreciation to pastors, let me encourage you with these few words.

First of all, the desire to be appreciated is not absent in the hearts of pastors. They are just as encouraged and filled with joy as the next person when someone shares their appreciation for the work they do. Simply put, it just feels good to know someone is noticing your efforts and is thankful for your faithfulness to do your job well. Make no mistake, pastors’ motives behind their work is never to be about gaining the appreciation of men…but that doesn’t mean they have to shun genuine honor and appreciation when it is given.

Also, God is clear in his word that those who serve in the role of pastor should be shown appreciation and honor. 1 Timothy 5:17 says, “Let the elders (pastors) who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” Yes, that does mean that pastors are instructed and expected to lead well. But, it also very plainly points to the role of all believers to show their pastors the honor and appreciation of which they are worthy.

In my time on this earth, it has been a real privilege to count several men who have pastored me. God has used these men to greatly influence my life, and to continually point me towards Him. They have served and lead well as pastors, and today I am praying God’s blessings on them, their families, and their ministries.

If you go to church…you’re doing it wrong.

 

I’m sure this statement might seem odd at first glance, “If you go to church, you’re doing it wrong.”

Truth is, the “church” never has been and never will be a place or a thing. From the time Jesus instituted the church, it has always been a people. In fact, the original Greek word for church is “ekklesia”, and it means those who are called out, or an assembly or meeting of those who are called out. Most frequently in the New Testament the word is used to describe a gathering or group of people who have professed their belief in Jesus and are meeting together to worship him.

So, you and I (as followers of Jesus Christ) are the church. And, if you are a faithful follower, you are most assuredly actively practicing and growing in your faith as part of a local church somewhere relatively close to your home. To keep from getting into a whole universal church discussion, we’ll stick to the idea of a local church.

As part of a local church body of believers in Jesus Christ, you are the church no matter where you find yourself. When you gather together for meetings or services, you are the church. When you leave that gathering, and go your separate ways, you are still the church. Paul tells us that “we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” in 2 Corinthians 5:20. God intends that his appeal, through our lives, will happen on a 365 day a year, 24 hours a day basis.

So, why is it necessarily doing it wrong if we simply “go to” church? It’s wrong, because you and I are truly the church, and because “church” is not a place we go or a thing we do. It is something we are, and there is no time-out or pause in God’s plan to use his church. When we say that we are “going to church” or we point at a building and say, “that’s the church we go to”, we minimize the universal importance of Jesus’ church.

Interestingly enough, this past weekend a popular pastor tweeted that church was “off to a good start this weekend.” While most pastors clearly know and understand that the people are the church, many still misappropriate the use of the word. My supposition here is that our personal vernacular plays an integral part in us living out what we believe. Our word choice and usage begin to shape or reshape our thinking, and our thinking leads to our practical living.

If we simply “go to” church, it becomes very easy for an unhealthy disconnect to develop in our beliefs and our practices in our daily lives. Unhealthy, because we tend to live a certain way when we are “at church”, and totally different when on our own. Placing your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, and inviting him to be Lord and Savior in your life is a complete takeover, with no room for disconnects in our faith & practice.

Try it out for yourself in the coming days. Use the phrases “church services, church family, and church building/campus” instead of the default “church”. See if it doesn’t begin to make you consider what you are saying, and build a growing understanding of what it is to be the church. Let your heart be overjoyed by the concept of “going to meet with the church” rather than simply going to church.

Remember, always, that you are the church, and make that amazing truth part of your life every single day.

Reaching…From The Inside Out

No matter how long a church searches, they will never find an admonition from God to spend the bulk of their time and effort planning and preparing for those outside the church to come and be their guests at church gatherings. Yet, that has never stopped churches from doing exactly that. It is, in fact, just the opposite of what is found in Scripture. Mark 16:15 says, ““Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”

It is all about outreach, and there are various methods and structure to it. Each individual church bears the responsibility of deciding what is best for their church body. Some will argue inside their own ranks as to which is the best outreach method and struggle to do well at much of anything. Others will tend to gravitate towards a particular type of outreach and end up making all of their efforts and members conform to that type.

So, is there a “best” way to structure church outreach? Is there a list of “right” and “wrong” ways to do outreach? The short answer is, “No.” There are no right, wrong, or best ways for a church to do outreach. While the heart attitudes behind the specific type of outreach can be wrong, it doesn’t make the outreach itself wrong. As a matter of fact, the arguing and bickering over this is a cancer inside many churches that often keeps churches from doing anything in the area of outreach.

Truth is, anyone can look online and quickly find “101 Outreach Ideas” and a myriad of other links to help you find new outreach ideas. However, true outreach has very little to do with the specific activity, event, or method. It could be a carnival, skate party, movie night, computer class, marriage seminar, car wash, etc. The important thing is the purpose behind the method. The purpose will narrow down the options and help point the church in a more specific direction. But, it all begins with purpose.

Here are three types of outreach events and their purposes. After identifying one of these three, a church’s focus can be narrowed to the specific events that will best facilitate their purpose.

1. Evangelical Outreach- The purpose of all evangelical outreach activities or events is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and give people the opportunity to respond by trusting Jesus as their Savior. While there are other aspects involved during the event, it will all hinge on or be built around the time of sharing the Gospel.

2. Community Event- This type has, as its number one goal, the purpose of getting the church out into the communities close to the church campus, to interact with and show God’s love to those outside the church. There will be no formal proclaiming of the Gospel from the standpoint of church leadership or a main stage speaker. Instead, God’s love will be shown and modeled in tangible ways as the church rubs shoulders with and meets others.

3. Service Project- Clearly this is putting some real hands and feet to showing God’s love to others. Most communities have those who have genuine needs who are waiting for someone to lend a helping hand. At other times there are big needs that come from things like storms and various tragedies that call for volunteers to give of themselves in new ways. When someone is in need, and they get a “no strings attached” helping hand, there is often great impact in their lives. It really helps them see the unadulterated love of God at work in their own lives.

All three types of outreach events are important and a church must be balanced in their approach in order to excel at outreach. There are bridges to be built and every opportunity to place another brick on those bridges has to be taken very intentionally and with clear purpose. The old adage, “nobody will care how much you know until they know how much you care” is fitting. Churches have to get outside the walls of their church buildings and share God’s love.