Friday, August 04, 2006

Remembering our mission

Here's a follow-up to yesterday's post on advice to those considering devoting their lives to the ministry of the Word. In a sermon on 1 Cor. 4:1-7, the late Ray Stedman shared a story that defines the role of a congregational preacher:
A young pastor at a pastors' conference once said to me, "What would you do if you were in my shoes? My Board called me in and said to me, 'Look, there are some things we want you to understand. One is that this is our church; it is not your church. We were here before you came, and we are going to be here when you leave; therefore, we expect you to do what we want you to do and not what you think you ought to do.' What would you say to a church like that?" I said, "Well, I would call together the elders of the church and I would say to them, 'Brothers, I think you are suffering from two very serious theological errors: "'One, you think this is your church, but this is not your church. This is the Lord's church. All churches belong only to him; they do not belong to the people; they are not a democracy owned by the congregation. Jesus said, "On this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," {cf, Matt 16:18}. So all of us are under the authority of the Lord of this church, and it is his job to tell us what he wants the church to be, and not our job to tell him what we think it ought to be.'"

"'The second error is that you think you hired me to work in this church, but you have not. I did not come on that basis. I have joined you to share the ministry with you. I appreciate the fact that you have set me aside, and given me support from the congregation so that I do not have to spend time earning a living, but can devote my full time to the ministry of teaching and preaching. If you will not accept those terms then I will have to look elsewhere. I cannot work on any other terms because that is what the New Testament says.'"

He went back to his church and they fired him, but now he has another church and he made his stand clear from the beginning and things are working out very well with him.
Preachers, if we really want to preach transforming sermons, we must remember who our boss is: not the congregation, not the elders, but the one who transforms hearts and minds through the Word we proclaim.


Blogger steve w said...

I was introduced to your blog through Paul Littleton's blog a few months ago. You mine out and post some of the most incredible stuff consistently day after day! Just wanted to let you know that even though I don't comment, I greatly appreciate your blog. Thought I should let you know.
- Steve Walker

7:48 PM, August 04, 2006  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Thank you Steve, for your encouragement, and I hope and pray you'll continue to find worthwhile ideas here. Peace.

9:32 PM, August 04, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These posts about advice for those entering into the ministry of the church are very insightful and encouraging.

It is nice to know that the situations I am encountering, which discourage and trouble me sometimes, are not unique to me. There are others who have faced these things, and the wisdom they have to offer helps renew my conviction to give my life in service to the Lord and His church.

Thanks for addressing these things.

10:23 PM, August 04, 2006  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

You're welcome, James. Praise God that you've found something helpful here. Next week I'll be running a link to another side of the story: an essay telling ministers to get over it.

From my experience, though, vocational ministry puts stresses and demands on Christians that many if not most other jobs do not. When I worked in business and government, I was able to take a view that however seriously management took our work (and I took it seriously, too), it really had little effect on eternity. Not so with the work of the church. Every day I'm involved with people making eternal decisions, and it seems that as often as not they make bad ones. When they do, it's easy for members of the congregation (and the minister himself) to try putting some of the blame on the minister. If we continue to do so, it will begin to crush us. It's tough sometimes to sort all these kinds of issues out faithfully. Not whining here, just observing.

6:10 AM, August 05, 2006  
Blogger Andrew said...

This is perfect!!! Of course, I'm presently out of a pastoral appointment too. Keep up the great work, Milton.

3:54 AM, August 16, 2006  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Thanks, Andrew. Glad you can relate. Peace.

5:55 AM, August 16, 2006  

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