Building People of Substance for Works of Power
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever…Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.Hebrews 13:8-9, 17 ESV
My pastoral journey began a bit later than most. I was 32 when I went to bible school. I had been a Christian for less than a year and hadn’t been a churchgoer since high school. When God asked me to pastor, I really had no idea what that might entail. Some of my Bible school instructors were wonderful. They taught me about the office of the Pastor and I was blessed with good information. Then I took my first church and quickly discovered I had no idea what I was doing.
When I was 4 years into my second pastorate, I met a man who was a bit older than me and had been in ministry all his life. We did some mission work together and became friends, though we came from different “streams” of the Charismatic move. He allowed me the privilege of hanging out with him at his home and accompanying him on his pastoral day. What a blessing!
He started every day sitting in his favorite chair with his Bible and his coffee. He would pray and read, until some unseen hand moved him. “Ok, Virgil, let’s go see so and so.” As we visited folks whom the Lord had laid on his heart, I watched as he loved his sheep. He brought encouragement, instruction, and correction, but it wasn’t a better to a lesser, or even a professor to a student. It seemed more like a Dad to a kid. He famously told me, “I don’t do counseling, but I drink a lot of coffee.” Being able to live out real life with him was life-changing for me.
One of the things that I love about smaller churches is the opportunity to know people. In particular, I can know my pastor, and he can know me. The logistics of connection are much different than in a larger congregation. I’ve been part of some large churches and been blessed, but it’s a different flavor of the sheep/shepherd experience. There are several things that a pastor in a smaller congregation can major on that will be needed and appreciated by many sheep.
Hebrews 13:17 says “they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.” We all need someone assigned by God to watch for us. The logistics of this are far more complicated for the larger church. But, large or small, some of the things necessary to “watch for souls” cannot be done effectively online. For pastors of smaller congregations, this is grounds for rejoicing: We have the opportunity to be really good at these things, up close and personal. We can:
- Lead lives that are an example of faith and faithfulness. Paul said to “know them which labour among you. (1 Thessalonians 5:12 KJV)” You can’t do that entirely online. Pastors, get around your people. Sheep, get near your shepherd.
- Provide personal prayer for healing and deliverance. The only method of ministering healing specifically addressed to Christians is: “Let him call for the elders of the church…” He didn’t say “a church,” he said, “the church.” They understood that he meant their church. This cannot be obeyed remotely. (James 5:14-18)
- Allow experience in the manifestation of the Spirit. The gifts flow when we come together. Leaders demonstrate and teach how to discern the true from the false in real time. They also provide opportunities to step out in the gifts and, when necessary, provide loving instruction. 1 Corinthians 14:26; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22
- Cast the vision for the community, local and connected. God has a plan for your church. He knows the needs of your town and each of its subcultures. He has assigned each of us as part of a local body for the purpose of fulfilling that plan. Pastors are tasked with presenting that specific vision. We’re not a competition, we’re part of a Kingdom association. When we all do our bit, the whole thing gets done. 1 Peter 2:9-10; Ephesians 4:11-16
Here’s the point: God knew the complexities and issues of our modern age, and He provided for it. He provided you! Don’t get trapped into competing with churches you see on TV or YouTube. Thank God for them, but you provide the things that only you can provide. Some folks need you, just as you are. Let them have the privilege of knowing you and learning from example and impartation.
Technology can help you watch for the souls of people, but it can’t take the place of personal contact. Be creative. Use the tools (and the people) you have. Do the job you’re called to. Watch for the souls of the sheep among whom God has made you an overseer. You are the biggest asset in your portfolio.
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