Over the weekend and in recent days, I’ve come across some ideas that might be helpful to you as we move toward Christmas and the launch of a new year.
Life and ministry on planet Earth are always a mixed bag.
I hope you had a great Sunday of worship, fellowship, and service. There’s nothing like preaching a Spirit-inspired sermon or teaching God’s word effectively to a small group, worshipping with the people of God as they sing the hope of Christmas, or seeing the joy of kids as they discover the wonder and meaning of the Christmas story.
At the same time, there is real heartache and heartbreak.
Our nation is grieving with the people of the Midwest where more than fifty tornados have taken at least eighty lives, destroyed hundreds of homes, and left thousands homeless and hurting.
I have a friend whose parents grew up in Mayfield, Kentucky, and he spent parts of his childhood there. It took two days following the tornados to confirm that his aunt was unharmed. He also learned that his cousin’s business was destroyed.
As I write, believers are praying, donating funds, and mobilizing to get to those who need help with food, shelter, clothing, and encouragement. This is the Church being the church in the best of ways: bringing and being the light of Christ amid great darkness.
Added to this tragedy is the ongoing Covid pandemic that is shaping its second Christmas season. As much as we want to be done with Covid, it’s apparently not done with us.
The first thought
In his podcast Good Faith, lawyer and journalist David French said recently about public figures such as pastors, “They are always criticized and sometimes wrong.” That was spot on!
Every pastor knows that some of his people will play “fry the preacher” over lunch on Sunday. For some, it’s their favorite meal. Such reality can make church leaders gun shy and especially vulnerable to the relentless temptation to be defensive.
Years ago I read in Leadership Journal, “At church, when things are going well, we say that God is blessing. When things are going poorly, we say that the pastor and leaders are failing. In that dynamic, we can only receive blame and never credit for our service.”
May God give us the humility and security in Christ to rightly hear criticism and to seek forgiveness when needed.
“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach.”
—1 Timothy 2:1–2a NIV
The second thought
This weekend I worshipped at my daughter’s church, Houston’s First Baptist Church. I learned that the church had recently completed a “new” stewardship initiative based around the Greek work for new, kainos. The pastor is Gregg Matte. My three-year-old granddaughter calls him “Pastor Egg.”
In talking about biblical stewardship, “Pastor Egg” taught his people, “You don’t give to a church, you give through a church.”
That’s a statement worth remembering and repeating as you urge your people to honor Christ financially this Christmas and year’s end. Whether its discipleship ministry, evangelism, or disaster relief, churches don’t gather money for selfish reasons. Churches, at their best, are not reservoirs but rivers, conduits that funnel resources to meet the spiritual, physical, and holistic needs of people.
“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”
—2 Corinthians 8:13–15 NIV
The third thought
I was talking to a good friend recently about how to make the holidays and any relationship better. She answered, “Ask more questions than you answer.”
Ideally, good conversations and good relationships grow when two people are interested in each other and swap caring questions back and forth. A good way to steward these opportunities is to think ahead and to make sure you ask as many or more questions of others than you answer. That will ensure that the focus is not all about you.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
—Philippians 2:3–4 NIV