It’s never too early to celebrate the incarnation
“Men must be so stricken, that being brought to know their guiltiness, they may earnestly fly unto the remedy of pardon.”-John Calvin
I was privileged yesterday to preach the Word at Lifepoint Church here in Ozark. It was a tremendous blessing for me to preach after having not done so for over a month. However, after I finished preaching, I got reacquainted with what I like to call “The Preacher’s Dilemma”.
So what is “The Preacher’s Dilemma”?
I’m glad you asked. The preacher’s dilemma is guarding his heart against two things that threaten to overtake him immediately after preaching. The first of those things is pride. For me this occurs when I preach what I think is a decent sermon. The people are responsive to the preached Word. They seem affected by the message preached. Some are shedding tears of conviction. Others are coming forward in prayer at the altar. People come up and encourage and thank me for preaching such a “wonderful message.” Herein lies the great danger. If I am not careful, the crafty serpent carefully plants the seed of pride in my heart. I can think too highly of myself because “I preached such a powerful message.” I mean, they said it. Not me, right? So long as I’m not praising myself with my own lips, it’s okay to be a little proud isn’t it? Absolutely not! Nothing will destroy a preacher more quickly than pride. When a preacher comes to the conclusion that he can affect change in hearts as a result of mere oratorical skill, he is sadly deceived.
The other side of the preachers dilemma is to step down from preaching and see that no one is responding. No one seems affected by what was just preached. No one really comes up to share with you about how the sermon encouraged them. Or worse yet, they come forward and give a very shallow pat on the back and a generic sort of “Good sermon, son!” This can lead my heart to despondency and discouragement. Anyone who has preached or led in a worship service knows exactly what I’m talking about. If you pay attention to your heart in those moments after you descend from delivering the Word, you will quickly find your heart given to pride or discouragement. Pride because you think you did great or discouragement because you didn’t do very well. Pride and discouragement are two of the nearest companions for preachers on Monday mornings.
Why do I feel this way? Why do preachers face this dilemma of pride and discouragement.
1) We place confidence in ourselves and not in the preached Word.
2) We have a bad case of misplaced identity.
Our identity before it is “preacher” or “pastor” is Christian. Our identity is found in Christ. Therefore, we can preach a message that deeply affects people and guard against pride by acknowledging that it was God the Holy Spirit who brought the transformation. This lead to humble rejoicing instead of prideful boasting. It was not my preaching skill that led to transformation. It was the Holy Spirit attending the preaching of the Word. This is how transformation happens when the Word is preached.
Likewise, I can “bomb” a sermon and while I may battle momentary discouragement, I ought not dwell there because God the Holy Spirit can still use a frail attempt to impact lives. The Holy Spirit uses imperfect preachers who preach imperfect message to impact people’s lives.
So the answer to the preacher’s dilemma is the gospel.
We are not justified by preaching good sermons nor are we condemned for preaching poorly. Our identity is in Christ and what he has done for us upon the cross to bring us back from our wayward and lost state.
So preacher brethren, Preach the Word and pray that God the Holy Spirit would use your sermons to impact lives and bring glory to Christ.
But don’t despair on this Monday morning. Whether you knocked it out of the park yesterday or you dribbled your sermon through the infield, Christ will never love you any more or any less than he does at this very moment.
Yesterday was one of the toughest days of my short life.
Announcing my resignation was one of the most emotionally challenging things I’ve ever done. It’s hard to know that the decision you’ve made would momentarily hurt people that you love dearly. As I’ve thought about resigning and the emotions that come with it, I’ve identified several that I’ve experienced personally and that other church leaders might experience when announcing your resignation. I experienced many of them yesterday over the short span of a 12 hour period. Some of them are very fleeting and others linger much longer. Here are the few that I’ve been able to identify in my own heart:
All the details of our new assignment are yet to be determined. We don’t know where we are going to live yet. We don’t know exactly what our income will be. There are many ways that we are stepping out in faith without having all the answers. Much like Abraham, we’ve heard God tell us to leave behind a familiar land and go where he shows us. We don’t know all the details of where we will end up in the long term. As I meditate on Matthew 6 and the care of our heavenly Father, my anxiety turns to excitement. What better place to be than in a position of desperate dependence upon God!
Have I really made the right decision? This emotion was fleeting. I quickly think back over the multitude of ways in which God has worked and orchestrated this move for our family and if he wrote it in the clouds it wouldn’t be any clearer. There is no question in my mind that this move is God’s will for our family. As disciples of Christ, the only option for us is to obey what he commands, even when it is unnerving or unsettling to our current comfort.
Disappointment or resentment
I am my biggest critic. I’ve been overwhelmed by the emotion of disappointment, not with the congregation, but with myself. I think about my shortcomings as a leader and pastor, how I could have done things better to leave the church in a better position for the one who will come after me. This emotion has been remedied by meditating on the gospel and that I am accepted in Christ despite my shortcomings. I’m better than I used to be and God’s not done with me yet.
Satisfaction and Joy
In the midst of sadness and mourning, there is also great satisfaction and joy. Obedience brings a deep and inexplainable joy. To know that we are pursuing his will obediently has given us great joy that will see us through the storms on the horizon.
Through it all, I’ve realized Christ is the anchor of my soul. So if you are a pastor navigating the onslaught of emotions that come with resigning from a church, cling to Christ as the anchor of your soul. He has been with you. He is with you. He will be with you throughout the rest of your life no matter where you’ll be.
An excellent reminder on a Monday morning:
This is one of the best books I have read this year. I haven’t put together a formal top ten list but I would imagine that if I did this book would be near the top of the list. Gospel Coach by Scott Thomas was written for the following purpose: ”GOSPEL COACH provides Christian leaders a theological foundation and a practical system to develop and equip other leaders in the local church to make disciples and to shepherd them to glorify God.” This is much needed in the church today and this book accomplishes exactly what it says. This is essentially a book on Discipleship and Leadership Development.
I highlighted 244 passages in this book. That should give you a strong indication of how much I enjoyed it. Here are a few of my top highlights.
* “Dallas Seminary professor Howard Hendricks once estimated that between 80 and 90 percent of leadership development is on-the-job training. This means that without on-the-job training, much of the work of training and equipping a leader is simply a waste of time.”
* “Faithful leaders will make disciples, but great leaders focus on making other leaders. A leader doesn’t learn to lead by attending a class or reading a book on leadership. A leader learns to lead best when he or she begins to lead others and is coached along the journey by a mentor.”
* “The key benefit of this type of coaching is not that it somehow produces the next all-star, celebrity leader. The benefit of gospel coaching is that it takes the message of the gospel — a message proclaiming that God takes weak and ordinary people and does great things through them to show off the surpassing greatness of Jesus Christ — and uses it to transform leaders and their churches so that they, in turn, will be used to transform the lives of others.”
* “What leaders need is someone to shepherd their souls so that they, in turn, can lead others to the chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Coaching for church leaders looks less like corporate consulting and more like biblical shepherding.”
* “If the gospel is not at work in the life of church leaders, then it is highly unlikely it will be at work in the life of the church.”
* “The gospel is God’s explosive power that changes everything. First, the gospel makes us Christians … God forgives your sin, declares you righteous in Christ, gives you eternal life, adopts you as his child, and ushers you into an intimate relationship with himself … Second, the gospel grows us. The gospel is not merely the way we enter the kingdom; it is also the way we make all progress in kingdom living.”
Who should read it:
I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants to develop leaders and help others grow as a disciples of Christ who want to live on mission. The book is very helpful in discerning sin patterns and getting to the root issues of the heart. This book is definitely going to be on my list to read every year.