|H.B. London Ministries|
|─ A Heart for Pastors ─|
I often sit and ponder the reality that all people will not get into heaven — because not all will respond to the life-changing, eternal life-giving message of the gospel.
I walk through airports and sit in packed stadiums. I eat in crowded restaurants and travel busy highways. I have the opportunity to look deep into the eyes of others and wonder: If life ended for them this day, would they enter into the safety of our Lord’s arms? They represent all men and women.
Embrace these words:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever [all people] believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
“I write these things to you who believe [all people] in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us [all people] alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you [all people] have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
There are so many more scriptures. Most of you, as you stand before your congregations, cannot do much about all people. But you can do something about those you encounter and those to whom you proclaim the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). Preach the truth — Jesus Christ alive and available to all men and women.
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men [all men] by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
With Memorial Day upon us, I was thinking about the legacy we as clergy will leave and the overall impact our ministries will have on those we have served.
While reading about the death of Moses in Deuteronomy chapter 34, I was impressed by the following: “He buried him in Moab ... but to this day no one knows where his grave is” (Deuteronomy 34:6). What was he — 120 years old? He still had good eyesight and evidently was strong, but yet he died.
Think about it. They couldn’t even find his grave, but they would not forget his deeds. Read on — “Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses ... who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 34: 10-11).
The point: Even if you are a Moses, it is not so important where you are buried after you have passed on as it is how you are remembered for what you did while you were alive. Your assignment is to live life to the fullest, accomplish all that God has instructed, and then let someone else handle the burial details.
And so, on this holiday, we pause to remember the lives and contributions made by those we have loved and still do — those in the military and those who have served us in some other capacity. But, in every case, it’s not so much about the grave as the person. “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15).
I sincerely hope you had a great Mother’s Day this past Sunday with your own family and with your congregation. If your mother is still living, I hope you were able to reach out to her with your love and words of appreciation. If you have children, I hope their mother felt special and honored by you and the kids.
If you are married, I hope that Sunday provided you and your spouse with an opportunity to give undistracted attention to one another. I also hope you both regularly experience tangible moments that keep the bond between you growing and burning with passion. Cultivating a satisfying marriage is an important part of emotional and spiritual wholeness. A commitment to marriage development is pleasing to God, fulfilling to both partners, crucial in the eyes of children, and healthy for the church.
Marriage offers joy, meaning, and pleasure. The intense demands of ministry, which many consider harmful to marriage, can be used to cultivate closeness that grows out of sharing thoughts and experiencing service together. Every marriage can be better, and happily married pastors are more effective pastors. My colleagues, it’s time to demonstrate in our own marriages all we preach to others about commitment, integrity, accountability, and virtue.
Think for a moment about the topics you cover in your counseling sessions with potential brides and grooms — issues like open communication, personal finances, spiritual oneness, common interests, time alone, emotional support, marital fidelity, and expressions of love for one another. Successful marriages demand time, dedication, and work. And that’s true even in the parsonage.
Do you routinely take time to work on your marriage? Do you practice the principles you recommend to the couples you counsel? Make a concentrated, deliberate choice to strengthen your marriage by just talking to one another about ways each of you could improve the union. Take some time to get out the wedding pictures and reminisce. Play the video of your wedding. Renew your vows. Have a date night for the specific purpose of talking about your marriage and family. Gifts would not be inappropriate either. But, for sure, take a moment away from the hectic pace you’re keeping just to say to the one God has given you, “I love you!”
If your problems are more serious, find a Christian counselor who can help you work on your relationship. As the pastor, you must keep your marriage strong.
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them” (Colossians 3:19). “In everything, set them an example by doing what is good” (Titus 2: 7).
Two weeks ago, the largest Presbyterian church in Colorado voted overwhelmingly to leave its governing body and join a new, more conservative denomination. An estimated 95.5 percent of the congregants who cast ballots at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Colorado Springs voted to leave the mainstream Presbyterian Church USA in favor of the newly-created Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians. At issue was the basic way that scriptures are read and interpreted — underscored by their old denomination’s formal acceptance in 2011 of openly gay clergy being ordained.
“This church is deciding to stand on the Rock,” said one member. “PCUSA is moving away from the Word of God.”
“Getting the Gospel right matters because the Church exists to get the Gospel out,” said an associate pastor of the congregation.
This is one of the churches that I often attended during my 20-year assignment at Focus on the Family, whenever I had a rare weekend at home, so this news caught my attention since I know so many of the people personally. I know this was a difficult decision for them, but I believe it was an important one.
We Christians need to hear the urgent call today to a once-and-for-all loyalty to the mission of Christ, a never-say-die commitment to His person and message. Yet, we live in a day of fickle followers, fair-weather worshipers, and slumbering saints. It is, therefore, vital that we pause to reflect, to be reminded that it is not easy to be a Christian, that it never has been, and it never will be. We need a renewed commitment on the part of those who call Jesus “Lord” to stand up and be counted — regardless of the cost.
You, pastor, have probably preached from the 26th chapter of Acts, where Paul went before King Agrippa. Paul’s argument, aimed at changing the king’s life forever, was powerful, but not enough to convince the man. “Almost” was his response. Our society is in jeopardy of losing its moral compass and we, as Christian leaders, cannot quit when we face a loss here and there. You cannot win every fight, but you can be engaged in the battle.
Three words move all of us forward:
- Perseverance (We are in the fight to save our children and grandchildren.)
- Resolve (There is no turning back.)
- Determination (We are convinced of our position.)
In every community, basic beliefs are at stake. There are threats to the moral fiber of those you serve and to our entire nation. Like Paul, we may not win every argument or succeed in every endeavor, but we must engage the opposition. Do you? Will you?
“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3).