Author | Steve
Last week’s posts (part 1) (part 2) have fueled quite a bit of communication, some of which can be found on my Facebook page, but also quite a bit of personal messages and even a phone call. I’ve had church-workers respond with both frustration at this reality and hope for living in this kind of community. I’ve had lay people ask, “How can we help?” I’ve even had a good friend check in on me and make sure that our relationship was this kind of relationship – one that reminds me of God’s promises and disciples me in trusting and following Jesus. In this post, I want to respond to each of these three groups.
My Friends in Christ
First, I want to say how grateful to God I am for a handful of people that God has placed in my life over my years of ministry who have walked the discipleship trail with me and my family. Your friendship is of more value than the food I need each day, because you have fed me the promises of Jesus on a regular basis and in times of emotional and spiritual famine. You know who you are. I love you.
Your friendship is of more value than food because you have fed me the promises of Jesus.
Pastor, Church-workers, and Their Families
“Do you want to get well?”
This is the question that John records Jesus asking of a man who was an invalid for 38 years (see John chapter 5). It’s an important question, especially as we consider our own discipleship as leaders in Jesus’ church. Do I, as a leader in His church, want to get well? Do I want to apply God’s manifold grace to my own sinful and hurting life? Do I want to risk vulnerability to have true companionship with other disciples – a vulnerability that invites them to speak God’s words of law and gospel to distinct parts of my life?
Do I want to risk vulnerability to have true companionship with other disciples?
Jesus has beautiful gifts of healing and freedom for you. Maybe you’ve been hurt by broken trust in the past. Maybe you can’t imagine having a relationship that close with someone else in your church. But the one who has conquered death by His death can surely triumph over the death of loneliness in ministry. Where would you be willing to follow Jesus if He offered you this kind of friendship? Where is He inviting you to want to get well – to trust Him to provide what you so desperately need? Should you be careful with whom you walk this closely to the Lord? Sure. But not to the point of never doing it. You, especially as a leader in the Lord’s church, should not be making this journey alone. And you don’t have to. Jesus has this gift for you.
You should not be making this journey alone. And you don’t have to. Jesus has this gift for you.
Lay Leaders and All Christians
“How can we help?” That was the common theme of the responses I received.
The first and best way to help your pastor and other church-workers is to regularly receive God’s gifts in your own life. When you live out of His abundant grace, you will overflow with it toward others – including your leaders in your church family.
When you live out of His abundant grace, you will overflow with it toward others
Secondly, God’s Word invites you again and again to pray for those in authority over you, especially for your spiritual shepherds. Here are a few ideas for putting this into practice. When you pray for your pastor or youth director or worship leader, shoot them a brief text or e-mail telling them specifically how you prayed for them. Add a verse or section of scripture as God’s Spirit leads you. To receive a communication like this in the middle of thirty or forty or fifty texts and e-mails about the next task, the next pastoral care need, or the next upset person is not only a nice surprise, but it resets their eyes on Jesus.
As you have a growing relationship of trust with them, ask them how you can pray for them, then follow up with them later that week. Finally, you might discuss with them putting together a small team of people who will commit to pray for them and their family. Prayer is a tremendous gift for your church staff and leaders.
If you are a lay leader, I would encourage you to make it an agenda item with your pastor to discuss how your church can make the discipleship of your staff and their families a priority in the life of your congregation. “What kinds of things would need to stop happening? What kinds of things would need to start happening? Is there something about our structure that works against this kind of culture in our staff? If so, what do we do about it?”
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel…” ~ Philippians 1:27
A young man I’ve met while auditing a class at the seminary recently preached a sermon on this verse. He shared that the word translated “contending” above – sunathlountes in the greek – is a military term with the sense of standing shoulder-to-shoulder against an enemy. What a powerful image for us as brothers and sisters in Christ. We have been brought into the kingdom of light by the power of the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder in His strength to “contend as one man for the faith of the gospel.” This is not only true for the lay person, but for every living person in God’s church, no matter what role or office they fill.
This is a gift from our heavenly Father who gives us the “one spirit” in which we can “stand firm.” We don’t have to manufacture that Spirit of unity – it is given. My prayer is that we will live more and more in the freedom of that one Spirit into which we were all baptized – free to stand shoulder-to-shoulder against the gates of hell, driving out the darkness in each other’s lives with the light of God’s truth and grace.