Tag Archives: minister

God’s will, not the popular will or giving in to adversaries

I’ve been in business, the military, for the most part, there are generally accepted best practices and that’s what you follow in order to conduct business or execute military tactics. Sure you don’t always follow the blueprint, you do want to take advantage of different circumstances.

Ministry? Wow! Things are just all over the place, people tell you what they expect, and they are not interested in any other consideration. It does astound me how people who have been part of a church for decades, know so little about church, about the Bible, about doctrine. And before you give me this “doctrine isn’t important, blah, blah, blah…” It’s all about love. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Have ever really stopped to think what you’re talking about? Doctrine is what keeps us doing what we’re supposed to be doing, and why we’re doing it. Way too often the church gets off into sentimentality, emotionalism, what makes me happy, “well Jesus would want me to be happy!!” Really?

The Blackaby’s have some good advice “…If you concentrate on your opponents, you will be sidetracked from God’s activity. Don’t base your decisions on what people are doing. They can prevent you from carrying out God’s will (Rom 8:31)”. People just aren’t interested in why, why not we should, shouldn’t do something. That is what doctrine is about, developed over decades/centuries, by the greatest minds. In the Lutheran Church that is over 500 years and have had some incredibly great minds. But that doesn’t matter, no one’s interested in coming to me to find out what they should do, they come to me to tell me what they want and what I should do. That’s backward and destructive.

Now of course the quandry is this, if I’m not “cooperative”, as I’ve been accused of, then how do you resolve the issue of people leaving, running out of money. Well, the Blackaby’s certainly address that. Paul was being strongly confronted in Ephesus, riots broke out (Acts 19: 23-41), no doubt people were telling Paul how he was messing up, should give up, doesn’t have it, needs to leave. Paul took a lot more abuse then I probably ever will. He knew he was being faithful to God’s will and stuck with it. I need to do my best to discern God’s will, not worry about what others are pressuring me to do, not what is the popular move, not give in just because of adversaries and opposition and stick to what I’m doing.

Furthermore people just don’t seem to get that the way they “want” things, not based on any other consideration, because frankly they don’t know what they’re doing or what any of it’s about, they don’t care, just want it their way. How do you somehow pacify people who want to make the rules, but have no idea of what they’re doing. Further they don’t understand that no one else is really interested in their world-view, no one is going to follow their agenda, because it’s not anyone else’s and most people can tell it’s just wrong. Again that’s what doctrine is about, not some guys opinions, but people who have worked hard to try and reconcile what we are taught in Scripture and how we have to deal with that as a group. Too many people honestly think that they can just make it up and because that’s what they want, based on nothing other than their emotions, sentiments, feelings, that everyone should just follow along. It’s amazing, people today really aren’t looking for truth, what should be, they are looking for what I want and to somehow justify their completely unfounded opinion.

Just because I’m being opposed and deserted doesn’t mean I’m wrong. It does seem to mean that there are a lot of misguided, opinionated people around me, another reason why this church was failing when I got there and it is up to me to stay faithful to what God is leading me to do in ministry and to trust Him with the results. His church will prevail, Jesus promised us that, it will prevail on His terms and in His time. I am responsible to do my best to carry out His will in my little part of the world. It certainly wasn’t easy for Paul and the church as a whole, even up to the present. No reason it should be easy for me.

Dignity and respect, let’s try to live that at the appropriate times in our relationship with Jesus.

I’ve been meaning to write this for awhile, it’s been over a year since the events I will describe happened, so ya, it’s been bugging me for awhile.

I went to the bedside of a man who was dying. He was a member of my congregation, but not really. Ya kinda one of these deals. He had pretty much just walked away a few years before I got there, and while I had visited him at home, he frankly kind of abused that too and I called a stop to the home visits. But now he was dying and didn’t have another pastor and I couldn’t turn my back, regardless of his questionable decisions.

I am  doing my best to get this man focused on Christ as my parishioner goes through his last moments on earth. While I am with him, the man in the next bed is also in his last few hours. In romps his 20-something pastor, suitably attired in shorts, baseball shirt and wearing his baseball hat, backwards. It used to be customary for a man to at least remove his hat in a  hospital, certainly in the presence of a dying parishioner. It was pretty obvious that this guy wasn’t really concerned, didn’t want to be there, didn’t appreciate the gravity of the situation. He certainly wasn’t the least bit concerned with the dignity of the pastoral office, or the dignity of the dying. He was doing what he had to do and then to get on to what was really important, the softball game he was on his way to.

Oh yea, I can hear those oh so open minded souls out there clucking their tongue at me: “It doesn’t matter what he’s wearing, it doesn’t matter what his attitude is, you’re just an old fuddy-duddy”, although I’m sure they would probably call me something much more colorful. Nevertheless Ms Free Spirit, how would your attitude change if it was your faithful, much loved grandmother/father, on that bed, expecting to be faithfully served by their pastor? Oh yeah, your tune would change in a trice. Just a truly classless, move on the pastor’s part, but frankly that’s where our culture is well on its way to. We’re really not concerned with the dying, they’re just kind of a nuisance, a chore to handle, not a person in pain and fear. I often do feel a little at a loss when I’m in the presence of the dying (I’ve had a lot of experience, 29 years active and reserve in the U.S. Coast Guard, five years of ministry, averaging 5 funerals a year). And for most of the big box churches, death just doesn’t fit into their message. Afterall, if that person had more faith, he wouldn’t be dying????

Speaking of baseball, apparently the parishioner was a regular attendee at the local college baseball team’s games. OK, good for him, I’m a baseball fan, I should try to get to more of the local teams baseball games myself. Lutheran worship is not about eulogies. It is about the person faithful in Jesus, and His church and how Jesus has saved Him and also intended to be a message to those in attendance. You need to really pray that God is merciful and will save you too. I very bluntly told people who asked, that any eulogies would be after the funeral service.

This may sound a little harsh, but good call on my part. The eulogies lasted longer than the funeral service. They were all about how this man showed up at every game to score the game. OK, nice, certainly worthy of mention. But it was essentially the topic of every eulogy for about a half hour. (At least the interment went on in a dignified manner, there really weren’t that many people there.)

There was little mention of his work, and essentially none of his life in Christ, just college baseball. Hey fine, we all want to be remembered for our unique life, but I, want to be remembered for that unique life as a servant of Christ. It’s not that any life is more or less worthy, as long as it’s in Jesus.

As a Coast Guard Petty Officer I was both a United State Law Enforcement Officer and also a member of the Armed Forces of the United States. In both capacities the uniform conveyed important messages. As a police officer to assert control, protect anyone from harm and to neutralize anyone that constituted a threat. The more I asserted power and authority through my uniform and weapons, the more seriously I would be taken and the less likely other people, me included, would be hurt. If I looked less than professional, than I would not be as capable of asserting control, I would not be taken seriously and other people might be more in jeopardy. The same principal as a pastor. The more I appear as a serious representative of Christ, what I say about Jesus, the more I symbolize Jesus and His promises (the black shirt, suit, the white collar, the prominent cross/crucifix) all assert things about my relationship with Jesus, how I represent Him to others. This is taken seriously and the intent is to comfort those who are going through trauma, up to and including death. Anything less than that trivializes you, trivializes Jesus, trivializes the comfort that you are trying to provide to those who are going through their final moments and to those who will be left behind to mourn his/her loss.

There’s a time and a place for casual clothes and conduct, playing, games, jump around singing. But we have to make time for the dignity of a human life, to honor and respect the person who is dying or dead. We have become such a frivolous world, “hey, don’t want nothing to harsh my buzz. Need to make this as easy as I can, I don’t want to be uptight.”

Sure remember happier times of their lives. But please if you can’t think of more than one limited capacity that person was in, don’t camp on it over and over. It takes it from an interesting aspect of one’s life, to overdoing it to the point of being a tragic waste of life. Death is a time to remember what Jesus does in our life, in our death and in the eternal life of the resurrection and to remind others that it is about what Jesus has done for us. Let’s not trivialize it.

God’s minister or the people’s minister?

Yes, for the second day in a row I am ripping off Dr Dale Meyer, but for good reason, because it brought up an issue that is important regarding worship. Dr Meyer’s commentary is first and then my slant  on the reasons why I preach from the pulpit.

Meyer Minute for November 21

Here’s a question I’m often asked. “Does the Seminary teach students to preach in or out of the pulpit?” This ranks right up there with the other great questions of the universe. Why does God hide Himself from us? Why does God permit suffering? How can Christianity claim to be the only true religion and only way to heaven? Catch my sarcasm?

We have chapel services on campus every weekday. Most chapel sermons are delivered from the pulpit but it’s not unusual for the preacher to stand in the center of the chancel or even down in the aisle. I teach preaching and always get the question, “What about preaching out of the pulpit?” There are, I answer, logistical considerations. For example, if you’re standing in the aisle, can the people on the flanks or in the balcony see you? There are deeper considerations. What is the congregation used to? If they’re used to one way or the other, is this an issue worthy of controversy? Ask the elders, I tell them. But going farther, my sarcasm getting the better of me, why do you ask? I’ve learned that they imagine that standing out of the pulpit somehow means being relevant. I also hear lay people say, “We love our pastor. He preaches out of the pulpit.” Huh? The real issue is what he’s preaching! A compelling sermon from God’s Word will be compelling wherever it’s delivered from. A sermon of theological jargon that doesn’t speak to life will be irrelevant wherever it comes from.

In my mind it comes down to this. To congregation members: Are we so at home with one worship style that we get upset by something different? Aren’t we driven to come to church by this question, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) To students: Don’t make the pulpit the hill you’ll die on, or off. Instead, make God’s Word so applicable to people’s lives that they’ll listen intently wherever you are. In or out? Sounds like a belly-button question, naval gazing. I’m desperate to know more God, wherever the preacher stands.

My thoughts on why I preach a certain way – Pastor Jim Driskell

I certainly get Dr Meyer’s point, well I kind of have to, he’s the one that taught my Homiletics II course, I passed. Fits with my philosophy of life “Semper Gumby”, always flexible. You do have to factor in the situation, the hearers, survey all the considerations. All things being equal, I do prefer the pulpit. It’s not due to some ego need, but I also have to remember what I’m doing there. Richard Foster asked the rather germaine question; “Am I a minister of the people or of Christ.” I’m called “minister” because I represent Jesus to His church, His people. Yea, sometimes you do have to come down and get right in the middle of people. But as I’ve been discussing for awhile, it’s not our “comfort” that it’s about, it’s how we glorify the Lord and pick a part of His earthly ministry and you can see that He was terribly concerned about our “comfort” He was concerned that we are growing, that we are becoming mature in Jesus. How does that apply here? I feel it’s my duty in as many ways as possible to remind people of the Lordship of Jesus. Not that He’s aloof, or separated from us, He’s not, as baptized children who eat Jesus’ Body and drink His blood, we could not be closer or more apart of anyone. But we also let ourselves get way to buddy-buddy with Jesus and we forget what He’s done, continues to do and what He will do. He told us that when He returns He will return in His glory, we know that He rules in glory from heaven. If He chooses to treat us as His friends, and He told us He did, that’s His call and I would certainly welcome it. But as His minister, as one who has been chosen to represent Him and bring Him due honor in front of His people, that’s what my aim is. That when we are in worship together we all know that it’s Jesus who is with us, who is using me to preach. I may not be that great as I conduct worship and I may not be worthy of that tremendous privilege and duty, but I strive to do it to the best of my ability and I want people coming in and thinking about our Great King and I intend to honor Him that way and leave it to Him if He chooses some other way. So Dr Meyer’s point is well taken, if you are in worship, be there for the right reasons. It does none of us any good to get hung up on whether I’m in a pulpit, wandering around, yada, yada. Be focused on what God’s doing, that, hopefully, He is using me to preach His word and I’m doing it well enough and you are getting a message that will lift you and encourage you, know that our great and powerful God is in control and watching over you and to bring Jesus to all you know. In the meantime I will faithfully do what I can to honor Him.