Monday, September 13, 2010

OK, this is going to be a long one. I wrote this letter to a pastor in Ukraine. It flows out of my desire to help him focus his energy in leading a church over there. it also challenged me to focus my energies. Here goes...........

I have been thinking about a couple more things that have sharpened my focus at Ada. I have been asking myself the question – what is the purpose of the church as an organization? A lot of answers to that question came to my mind. To help the poor, to feed the hungry, to give praise to God, to worship together, to evangelize, etc. I then began to think about it in these terms: when I stand before God, what is he going to judge me, one of the leaders of His church, on? What are his commands to me as leader of the church? What am I supposed to accomplish so I can hear the words “well done pastor” from my Savior’s lips?

As I have been reviewing the directives in the New Testament, there are tons of commands for individual believers – how they are to relate to God, how they are to relate to other believers and how they are to relate to non-believers. In fact, a vast majority of the commands are given to guide the behavior of individual believers in their relationships with others. There are a few commands that are given to church leaders and most of these are found in the letters to Timothy and Titus.

The more that I think and read scripture about this the more I believe that when I stand before God, I will have to give an account as a pastor for the following things:
  • Did I teach people how to do the work of the ministry (Eph 4:11)?Also, did I release my congregation to do the work of the ministry.It does no good to train them if I don’t release them to do the work and then celebrate with them what God is doing through them?
  • Did I teach people how to be mature in their walk with Christ (Eph 4:12); not only the facts about Christian living (knowledge), but also modeling Christ-like behavior in my day-to-day activities, praising someone when they behaved like Christ and teaching people what a practical faith looks like (for example, when someone is not behaving in a Christ-like way, do I sit down with them, help them understand how God would want them to behave by showing them scripture and then teach them what this could/should look like)?
  • Did I keep them from false teaching (I Tim 1:3; 4:1-11,13) and teach them the Word of God; not my opinion, not my views on life, but the Word of God?
  • Did I set an example for the believers of what Christ-like behavior was supposed to be (4:12)?
  • Did I direct the affairs of the church well (5:17)?
  • Was I impartial in my work and teaching within the church (5:21)?
  • Have I entrusted the work to faithful men who have entrusted it to faithful men (II Tim 2:2)?
  • Do I remind and warn those in my care (2:14)?
  • Do I teach, rebuke, correct and train to equip my congregation (3:16-17; 4:1-2; Titus 2:13)?

Notice what this list does not contain. It talks nothing about feeding the poor. It talks nothing about orphans. It talks nothing about creating community. It talks nothing about gathering the people together to worship. It only talks about discipleship – preparing people to do the work of ministry. That is what we are going to be judged on as leaders of His church – how many people did we equip to do the work of the ministry and what did we teach them.

I realize that this might be a overly simple view of what the church is to be. I understand that in order to equip people to do the work of the ministry that we sometimes have to model certain behaviors such as worship, caring for orphans and feeding the poor; but this is not our core function and never should be. These behaviors SHOULD be a natural reaction to discipleship – the work of the ministry that our congregation members need to be doing IS worshiping, feeding the poor, visiting those in prison, helping the sick, etc. (see Matthew 25:31-46). OUR job is to disciple; their job (and ours as individual believers for that matter; if we don’t model it, then our congregation won’t do it) is to do the work of the ministry.

Sorry about the length of this one. Hope that it helps...

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