Ten Ways to Treat Shepherds That Safeguards Peace

Spoil them? Really? I never imagined writing such a post. It seems rather self-serving for a pastor like me to post an article like this. But my experience last week changed things.

Along with several other men from our church, I attended this year’s Shepherds’ Conference in LA. I gotta tell ya. Those guys pampered this pastor from start to finish.

They paid my way, made me ride shotgun in the vehicles, waited in line to save a primo seat in sessions for me, got me some coffee and food, sprang for some books, and even bought me a gorgeous all-leather messenger bag! They insisted the economy canvas version I had purchased wouldn’t do.

If all that didn’t blow me away, they then catered to my request to leave the venue early on the last night to livestream the final message back at the hotel. That meant I/we could get to bed at a decent hour for the marathon travel day ahead.

Good grief, I felt loved!

OK, so “spoiled” may be a bit over the top, but I can make a biblical case for contributing significantly to your pastors’ joy.

After all, they are God’s gift to your church (Eph. 4:11-12). You are commanded to follow in a way that serves their leadership happiness (Heb. 13:17). And they exist to work with you for your joy (2 Cor. 1:24).

Here are ten ways you can “spoil” your pastors in the interest of eagerly preserving church unity (Eph. 4:1-3).

One, pray for them (2 Thess. 3:1). If you do anything on this list, do this. A family in Orlando still prays for me DAILY, even though I stopped shepherding them over a year ago!

Two, obey and submit to them (1 Cor. 16:16; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:5). Or to put it as the Greek imperatives suggest, cultivate an easily led disposition.

Three, respect, honor, and esteem them very highly in love (1 Thess. 5:12-13). Their work demands this–see chapter 9 in The Peacemaking Church.

Four, pay them well (Rom. 16:1-2; Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17-18). Give toward your vocational elders’ adequate financial support. No ox-muzzling please!

Five, protect them from false accusations (1 Tim. 5:19). When someone takes aim, refuse to entertain charges without sufficient witnesses.

Six, when necessary, practice biblical peacemaking with them (1 Tim. 5:20). Tough love–that’s what that is.

Seven, refresh and encourage them (1 Cor. 16:18; 2 Tim. 1:16-17). Think of the myriad of ways to do this from writing a note of appreciation (aim for ten affirmations per one constructive criticism) to treating them to a meal and more.

Eight, imitate their godly example (1 Cor. 11:1; Heb. 13:7). What shepherd doesn’t do cartwheels of joy when that happens?

Nine, partner with them in the ministry (Phil. 4:2-3). Don’t sit on the bench! Get in the game by using your spiritual gift (1 Pet. 4:10-11).

Ten, look out for their interests (Phil. 2:3-4). They are attending to yours. Return the gospel favor.

If God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7)–and surely he does–then God loves a cheerful pastor too.

You can make a difference in your pastors’ joy and not just during Pastoral Appreciation Month every October.

Spoil on, sheep!

Question: What’s an idea you have for “spoiling” pastors?

One Word Prayer Requests of Pastors

pray-for-us-560x374Earlier today I wondered how I could reach out to encourage some of my pastoral counterparts fighting the good fight (1 Tim. 6:12). The trick with this kind of thing comes with realizing that pastors fall into the crazy busy category. None of us relish the idea of getting spam-like texts, n0 matter how well intentioned.

So the Lord gave me what I think amounted to a pretty sweet idea. I texted this to a bunch of guys:

One word from you please? Pray for my _________________ .

So far I have received the following in reply:

  • words
  • faith
  • daughter
  • inner being (OK, cut us some slack. Pastor-wordsmiths struggle with brevity, this one included)
  • exercise
  • heart (spiritually speaking)
  • children (painful story attached to this one)
  • efficiency
  • niece (getting married)
  • wisdom (um, that would be mine)

Not a huge sample by any means. But, I would suggest we can distill some takeaways from it for building a prayer list for our pastors.

One, pray for our hearts. Jeremiah 17:9 warns us of their default condition. We may know that better than most as we day-in and day-out attempt to minister to others’ hearts. Unbelief can plague our dispositions more than we care to admit.

Two, pray for our families, immediate and extended. Before we are shepherds to our flocks, we are shepherds to our households. Your pastor may carry greater burdens than you ever imagined about the state of his marriage and the welfare of his children.

Three, pray for our health. I battle constantly the temptation to sacrifice self-care, like exercise, on the altar of pastoral demands. Some of that comes from my struggle with ministry idolatry, but not all of it. Most of us labor under excessive demands, feeling the weight of the responsibility upon us. Neglecting things like walking, running, and working out in some way over time can easily lead to weight of another kind.

Fourth, pray for our ministries. We want to be efficient/effective on every front. We need massive doses of wisdom for pastoral care dilemmas that occasionally boggle the mind and seemingly defy solution. We long to bring words of life in preaching, teaching, and shepherding that flow like a fountain of life in the lives of our people (Prov. 10:11).

Bottom line? “Brothers and sisters, pray for us” (1 Thess. 5:25).




The Conclusion That Wasn’t


This morning I reversed field rather abruptly at the close to my message about discipleship, defined by me this way: mutual investing by Word and Spirit for growth in Christ-likeness to the glory of God. You can listen to the audio of “A Restoration like Many Others (Part Three)” here.

Battling the clock, as always, I opted to omit a devotional piece by John Piper from Desiring God with which originally I intended to finish. As promised, here it is on the blog:

Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31–32)

What about the other ten apostles (not counting Judas)?

Satan was going to sift them too. Did Jesus pray for them?

Yes he did. But he did not ask the Father to guard their faith in the very same way he guarded Peter’s.

God broke the back of Peter’s pride and self-reliance that night in the agony of Satan’s sieve. But he did not let him go. He turned him around and forgave him and restored him and strengthened his faith. And now it was Peter’s mission to strengthen the other ten.

Jesus provided for the ten by providing for Peter. The strengthened becomes the strengthener.

There is a great lesson here for us. Sometimes God will deal with you directly, strengthening your faith alone in the wee hours of the morning. But most of the time (we might say ten-elevenths of the time) God strengthens our faith through another person.

God sends us some Simon Peter who brings just the word of grace we need to keep on in the faith: some testimony about how “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Eternal security is a community project. Whenever God encourages your heart with the promise that in Satan’s sifting your faith will not fail, then take that encouragement and double your joy by using it to strengthen your brothers and sisters.

This pastor calls that discipleship – our priority obligation – if we love Jesus more than life itself.

Are You Sunshine or a Cloud?

When I preached on Hebrews 10:24-25 a few weeks ago, I made reference to a definition of encouragement I read by Kevin DeYoung in September’s edition of Tabletalk.

I stumbled across the same content in a post on his blog and decided to pass it along on our blog.

To whet your appetite, I give you this sample where he defines biblical encouragement and distinguishes it from flattery:

According to my biblically informed definition, encouragement means highlighting the evidences of God’s grace in the gospel or in a gospel-centered person to the glory of God. Each part of that definition is important. Encouragement is not spotlighting a person, but underlining God’s grace. It is not about simply commending nice people to make them feel good, but about commending the work of the gospel in others to glory of God.

You can read the entire piece here.

Angel Work

This quarter’s edition of The Free Grace Broadcaster focuses on Comfort in Affliction.

I have taken much of value away from the articles within, especially a sermon by Charles Spurgeon called Cheer Up, My Dear Friends.

In it he addressed those discouraged that they could do nothing due to being laid aside by sickness or some other hard providence. I pass it on for its encouragement, especially with respect to the high work of refreshing God’s saints.

The refreshing of God’s saints is one of the highest works in which anyone can be occupied. God will send prophets to his servants at times when they need to be rebuked; if he wants to comfort them he generally sends an angel to them, for that is angel’s work. Jesus Christ himself, we read, had angels sent to minister to him. When? Was it not in the garden of Gethsemane, when he was bowed down with sorrow? Comforting is not ordinary work: it is a kind of angelic work. “There appeared unto him an angel strengthening him.” A prophet was sent to warn the Israelites of their sin; but when a Gideon was to be encouraged to go and fight for his country, it was the angel of the Lord that came to him. So I gather that comforting work is angel’s work. You, dear kind Christian men and women, who think that you are not able to do anything but to condole or to console with cheery words some souls cast down and sore dismayed, you are fulfilling a most blessed office, and doing work which many ministers find it difficult to perform. I have known some who have never known suffering or ill-health, and when they try to comfort God’s weary people they are dreadfully awkward over it. They are like elephants picking up pins: they can do it, but it is with a wonderful effort. God’s tried people comfort each other con amore; they take to the work as a fish to water. They understand the art of speaking a word in season to him that is weary, and when this is the case they may not complain that they are doing nothing.

Paul certainly thought highly of this angelic work. In 2 Timothy 1:16-18 he praised one such angelic servant in these terms:

[16] May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, [17] but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me—[18] may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.

Can you think of someone who might need refreshing through a kind word or note of encouragement. Why not undertake some angel work today?

Encouraging Words for Strategic Leaders in Kingdom Work

Our five week capital fund campaign for our building has come to an end.

The image above was taken by one of our folks on the property this morning as we gathered for a prayer service at 9:30 AM. What a sweet time we had in the relative cool of the morning!

Tonight we meet at the SDA for a celebratory meal and report of what God has done. Whatever the outcome, He is good, all the time.

The closing message from Haggai 2:20-23 is now on the web. You can listen to it here.

Here is how I summarized the sermon and made application to our church:

So clearly this prophecy to Zerubbabel had unique application and fulfillment to him and through him to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. It was designed for his encouragement from two angles: God’s intention most thoroughly to abase the nations of the world through a cosmic and historical shaking of events soon to come and His intention most assuredly on that day of visitation to exalt the Leader (I made it capital on purpose as pointing to Jesus, the Messiah) of His people. So whatever comes church, however much we raise in these commitments, whenever we get a building and subsequent phases if God blesses, wherever we seek to engage peoples everywhere for pursuing ultimate fulfillment in Jesus, let us leader and follower alike take courage, be strong, keep working, go on believing that God will most certainly do whatever it takes to accomplish His kingdom purposes. Jesus will build His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (Rev. 11:15).

If per chance you were not able to attend the service today and would still like to give your campaign pledge/gift, you may send it to our offices at any time.

Another huge step toward making a permanent home for OGC now lies behind us. May God give us continued grace to run the race set before us and not grow weary. He most certainly will do whatever it takes to accomplish His kingdom purposes.

30-Day Spouse Encouragement Challenge

Nancy Leigh DeMoss has a one-page article in the Spring 2010 issue of Life Action Ministries Revive magazine that recently caught my attention. She called it The 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge.

She leads with Proverbs 31:12 which says that the virtuous wife does her husband good, and not harm, all the days of her life. One way to do that, Demoss argues, is through encouragement.

She issues this two-part challenge:

  1. For the next 30 days, commit to say nothing negative about your husband–not to him, and not to anyone else about him.
  2. Every day for the next 30 days, tell your husband something that you appreciate about him; then tell someone else about it.

Among the numerous responses from women who have taken the challenge illustrating  the power of affirmation of encouragement was this one:

This hasn’t been easy going for me. There’s a lot of hurt and anger and resentment toward my husband to overcome. But you have encouraged me to remember why I fell in love with this guy, what was so special about him. You’ve given me hope for my marriage. I may not be able to change my husband, but I can change m heart and attitude toward him with God’s help. My husband is talking to me more–really talking from his heart. We still have a long way to go, but it is working. Every day gets a little easier, and some of that anger and resentment is fading away. I married a great man. I have just forgotten to nurture him in the day-to-day busyness of our lives. I love my husband (emphasis added).

It seems to me that the challenge can certainly cut both ways. Husbands may very well need to take on the same commitment toward their wives.

Perhaps this is something of what Paul means when he writes in Romans 12:21, Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Does God want you to take the 30-day spouse challenge?