This is gold
Eugene Peterson is prying into my life again. He’s kind of annoying that way. Some authors I read and go, “Oh, that’s nice.” Peterson I read and go, “Oh, I’m sinful.” “Oh, I’m a bad pastor.” “Do I love Jesus?”
I am rereading Peterson’s memoir The Pastor and am on chapter 27 where Peterson speaks of three men whose lives and work he used to stay anchored in the rough waters of ministry.
One of those men, Baron Friedrich von Hugel, gave Peterson a “pastoral way of using language.” Marks of this way include: being “conversational–not condescending, not manipulative, but attentive and prayerful. Not instructional, preparing my parishioners to pass examinations on matters of sin and salvation. Not diagnostic, treating these unique souls as problems to be fixed.”
The brief section on von Hugel concludes with Peterson’s summation, “I didn’t want to be a pastor who talked too much, who knew too much. I didn’t want to be a pastor who treated souls as dittos,” (226).
To treat souls as dittos means that people are problems to be fixed and overlook the fact that every soul is unique. General advice and/or superficial diagnosis via psychological categories won’t cut it.
Pastoral ministry is the hard work of knowing and loving people enough to try not to fix them but rather walk faithfully with them no matter the slowness of pace. This is as unsexy of a definition of ministry as I could think of. But it’s true. There are no shortcuts.
That’s the name of the rural church I pastor in Sullivan County, TN.
We are not a congregation of academic elites or paragons of business.
We are a blue-collar congregation. Hard workers. Many are retired after working at one job for 40 years.
We are a loyal people.
And we are a Christian church, a branch of what is known historically as The Restoration Movement (catch up on it here if you’d like).
Down the road from our building about two miles is a Baptist church. I’ve heard disparaging comments from some of our people about those people.
They don’t believe like we do. Which really means, “We’re right, they’re wrong.”
I have spoken with people from that church, nice people from what I could tell. And I’ve had a conversation with one gal who laid out why she thinks we’re wrong, and in the process managed to take jabs at the Catholic Church, which I’ve heard our people do as well.
This, and more, much more, has led me to say on occasion from the pulpit that we will cease to be who God wants us to be until the most important word on our respective signs is Church. Hear the words of the apostle Paul:
4 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 EAGER to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body (church) and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all (Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Campbellites, Catholics, etc) and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6, ESV)
I wonder where Paul got that? You could read the entirety of Jesus’ prayer for the oneness of his people in John 17. And also here in John 13:
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Does this mean we accept what everyone believes without question or testing? No. But it does mean we do it in such a way that Christ is honored and the unity of the Spirit is maintained in a bond of peace. That’s what I don’t see.
And I don’t think we’ll see it until Church becomes the most important word on our signs.
The apostle Paul writes to the churches of Galatia, “Am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or a I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
It’s only one verse.
But in that one verse, Paul shreds his hearers to the core, namely, me.
I can’t seek the approval of man AND the approval of God.
Well, I can, but in the end I’ll favor the people around me.
So as you look at your own life and consider what you’re approving, that is, what you accept, enjoy, turn a blind eye to, refuse to address/confront, whose approval are you seeking?
Whose approval you seek will ultimately determine what you approve.
I am nearly done with Francis Chan’s Forgotten God, a book on the neglect of the Holy Spirit (I’ve enjoyed it in a ‘you have to go to the dentist for your health but it may hurt in the process’ kind of way).
The Holy Spirit indwells those who’ve believed and repented and confessed.
This is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. He is the Comforter and Helper who Jesus said is better to have present than Jesus himself. That’s insane.
So here’s my question to you…
Here it is…
Is your present life explainable apart from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit?
I’ll ask it this way for clarification: Could you live the exact same life without the Holy Spirit?
How you answer that question should tell you a lot about your walk with Jesus.
argue for a 6-day, 24-hour
observe a Sabbath day. A day of rest. A day to be. A day to recover from your six hard days of laboring as unto the Lord.
If God, who needs no rest, took it upon himself to establish a day of rest, a holy–set apart day, then how is it you justify not resting one day?
Well if I don’t work the overtime we won’t have enough…
–That’s what Israel thought in the wilderness even though God already said he’d provide enough for the 7th day if they were faithful in the 6.
Jesus observed Sabbath. Even he rested. So what’s your excuse?
Perhaps Sabbath and taking a day off to refocus and refresh is really a matter of trusting God.
It’s a weird question for sure, but a necessary one.
Is there an active, ongoing conversation amongst the devil and demons (yes, I believe) regarding the fact that you’re making their job harder?
In other words, is hell concerned that you’re making it too hard for darkness and evil to reign supreme around you?
Are committee meetings being held to talk about how you will be slowed down, put down, or cut down?
There’s an incredible account in Acts 19:11-20 from which I gleaned this question, does hell know your name.
Paul and others have been preaching with Spirit-empowered boldness and courage. It’s said in Acts 17 that they’ve “turned the world upside down.” They had positioned themselves to be used by God in crazy ways.
And some who were familiar with the likes of Paul were capitalizing off his name and fame. In particular there were seven sons of a Jewish high priest going around town and casting out demons, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” So basically, “We don’t know this Jesus, but we like what he can do!”
These seven men come across a demon possessed man who isn’t impressed by their religious posture. And he certainly isn’t having any of their presuming on Jesus.
So when the seven feed this evil spirit their one-liner, he responds, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” Don’t you love that?!?
Jesus we’re well aware of. We thought killing him was going to be enough, but turns out he really is the Son of God. And Paul, well we had him on our side for quite some time, but then Jesus knocked him off his horse one day, and we’ve been trying to stop him ever since. But who in the heck are you?
Even hell can tell the posers from the real deal.
What’s most fascinating is that after the possessed man beats the seven guys bloody and sends them running away naked, people all around start repenting of their wicked ways and burning their Harry Potter books (sort of…witchcraft books).
God is going to use the faithful and the imposter, the proclaimers and the posers. You’re going to be used by God to spread the good news of the gospel. It’s really a matter of whether you do that on his side or if you’re the one who ends up bloodied, naked, and that’s how you point people to Jesus.
So, the question remains. Does hell know your name?