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Posts Tagged ‘God’s blessing on a church’

Thirty-some years ago, I had a late-night discussion with a Christian leader outside my church office in Silicon Valley.

I don’t remember the leader’s name, but I’ve always recalled a story he told me late that evening.

This leader had a friend who was a former pastor, and his friend told him, “I served as pastors in various local churches over several decades, and looking back, it was all a waste of time.”

During a pastor’s more cynical times, he may feel that way, but the truth is that pastors do much more good than they’ll ever know.

Let me give you an example.

This past week, I read about a bill that is pending in the California legislature.  The bill seeks to strip all faith-based colleges and universities in California that interweave academics with religious doctrine of their exemptions.  According to World magazine, which reported on this story, this bill “would force Christian schools to relinquish their fidelity to Scripture as a distinguishing characteristic of their institutions or risk lawsuits for religious and sexual discrimination.”

If passed, only seminaries would be eligible for exemptions.

(My wife and I live in California for two primary reasons: first, our two adult children live here, along with our two grandsons; and second, we have a large network of friends here. Otherwise, we’d live somewhere else, especially with all the garbage that emanates from the capitol 500 miles to the north.)

What struck me most was not the bill, but a response from a Christian university official.  Here’s the quote from World:

“We are not willing to forego our biblical and covenantal convictions regardless of what laws are passed,” William Jessup University President John Jackson told me. “Jessup continues to believe we are to submit to Scripture and operate in accordance with the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights that includes the First Amendment providing for freedom of press, association, and religion.”

That was a clear and unequivocal response from a Christian college president.  Good for him!

Dr. Jackson also happened to be a kid in my youth group forty years ago.

He was only in the group less than a year, but I remember that he was smart, funny, and for a kid of fifteen, liked girls a lot!

Several years after I left that church, we had lunch, and although that time went well, I lost track of him … but later heard that he was the pastor of a megachurch in Nevada.

Didn’t surprise me one bit.

I don’t take any credit for Dr. Jackson’s ascension to the top spot in a Christian school.  That was due to his parenting, his professors and mentors, his own hard work, and the blessing of God upon his life.

In his case, I’m privileged to hear that he’s been placed in a position of trust in Christ’s kingdom.

There’s another person whose exploits I do follow.

Sheri was a girl in my last youth ministry.  Because we didn’t have anyone who was musically talented, Sheri secured a guitar, learned how to play, and led the youth group in singing praise songs.

I lost track of her more than thirty years ago, and wondered if she was still following the Lord, only to discover that she heads up the children’s ministry in her church, about which she shares Facebook posts several times a day.

Sheri recently wrote an article on Facebook mentioning different leaders who have influenced her life, and I was deeply touched to be included.

So often, pastoring is like watching a parade.  People come … stop for a moment … and then move on.

But on occasion, you hear that someone you taught or mentored is still following Christ, and making an impact … and there’s no greater feeling than that.

Because I am no longer a pastor, I don’t have an influence upon any Christian institution.

But just by being faithful, the Lord used me to touch the lives of people like John and Sheri … and they are now doing their best to advance Christ’s kingdom.

I don’t know why it is, but God often hides the good that His servants do from them.

Back in the late 1980s, I went through a time of doubt and darkness about my role as a pastor, and I clung tenaciously to one verse in particular: Galatians 6:9, where Paul writes:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

When you’re a pastor, you want to see lives changed instantly … you want to see your church grow steadily … and the slowness of ministry can be extremely frustrating.

In fact, that slowness can make you so weary that you’re tempted to give up … and even turn you a bit cynical.

But as J. I. Packer once wrote, spiritual work is slow work.

Instead, Paul advises, “There is a harvest of changed lives ahead, but it’s not going to happen when you want it to happen … it’s going to happen when God wants it to happen.  So keep leading … keep teaching … keep loving … because you never know whose lives God is going to change … and you don’t know when or how He’s going to bless.”

For all you know, someone you’re ministering to right now may just become a church staff member … a megachurch pastor … or a Christian university president.

Even if you’re in a ministry that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere very fast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When I was a pastor, there was one thing I wanted for my church more than anything else.

It wasn’t increased attendance, or above-the-budget offerings, or even mass conversions.

I wanted the blessing of God on our church.

It’s possible to manipulate people into coming to church and giving – at least for a while.  But the divine blessing cannot be manufactured by humans.  It can only come from above.

Whether they articulate it or not, most Christian pastors want the Lord to pour out His blessing upon their church.  God’s promise to His people in Ezekiel 34:26 sums this up well:

“I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill.  I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.”

Some of us used to sing this chorus in church:

“Showers of blessing,

Showers of blessing we need,

Mercy drops ’round us are falling,

But for the showers we plead.”

What does God’s blessing look like in a local church setting?

First, the people come to church expectantly.  They aren’t forcing themselves to show up; they want to be there.  They arrive as early as they can, greet their friends in Christ, look around for guests they can minister to, and sit down early to focus upward.  They don’t cross their arms and inwardly say to their pastor, “Tell me something I’ve never heard before.”  Instead, they eagerly await the worship time and prayerfully look for God to speak to them.  I like the way Dr. Luke puts it in Acts 2:43 when he says that “everyone was filled with awe.”

Second, everyone senses the presence of God.  D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones served as the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for decades.  He was such a great biblical expositor that I’ve read his entire eight-volume commentary on Ephesians and loved every minute.  When he came to the United States, he would visit various churches, and sometimes when a pastor would get up to preach, he’d look out at the congregation and see Dr. Lloyd-Jones sitting there – and he’d want to trade places instantly!  Lloyd-Jones was asked once what he looked for when he heard other men preach, and he said that he wanted to sense the presence of God.  What a profound answer!

When God is blessing a church, people sense His presence in the music, in the message, and in everything else.  They sense that God is present and that He that He is comfortable in that particular location.  When God appeared to Jacob at Bethel, he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.  How awesome is this place!  This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:16-17).

Third, people value right relationships.  When I was a youth pastor, I took various youth groups to retreats in mountain cabins.  As we all drove up the mountain, the group would become fractured as students insulted other students and formed exclusive cliques.  But by Saturday night, a few students would become convicted about how they were treating their peers, and they would break down and ask for forgiveness.  This made the ride down the mountain more joyful and unifying, and at least for a little while, the students would experience God’s blessing in abundance.

If only the adults could learn from the youth.

Young people aren’t very good about hiding how they really feel about anything, including the other kids in their group.  But as those young people become adults, they learn how to mask their true feelings as they interact with people they don’t like.  So it’s possible for two Christians to be cordial to each other in the church patio and turn around and verbally knife each other in the back as they drive home from worship.

Sometimes these kinds of relationships are what prevent God from blessing a church.  If we could learn the practice of keeping short accounts with each other, God’s presence would become clearer and His power would become greater in our midst.

And let me be honest here: oftentimes the greatest relational problems are buried inside the leadership of the church.  If we want God’s blessing, we have to humble ourselves and seek restoration with those with whom we serve.

Finally, spiritually lost people find the Lord.  When God is blessing a church, unbelievers come to faith in Christ in a natural way.  It’s not because the church launches an evangelism campaign, or because they hold an evangelistic crusade, but because believers are sharing their faith with their unbelieving friends and inviting them to church.  The Lord obviously blessed the first church in Jerusalem, and as the people loved God and each other, we’re told that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).

As a pastor, I always sensed God’s blessing when people were becoming Christians, but wondered what was wrong when we went for weeks without a single convert.

What are some of the other indications that God is blessing a church?  What have you seen?  I welcome your comments!

Next time, I’ll discuss what the leaders of a church can do to secure the Lord’s blessing.

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