I have to admit I was a little shocked when I joined a church. I did not grow up in church. In fact, I knew nothing about church until I was in my 20’s. I stepped into a little country church on January 14, 1996. It was a Sunday evening service. I went with my grandmother. I heard the gospel. I didn’t understand anything about the service. Certainly not the invitation. But I understood one thing. I needed forgiveness of my sin. So I went home to my single wide trailer. I went into my bedroom, laid face down on my bed and gave my life to Jesus. I knew the Lord had done a work in my life. I went back to the church and followed up with baptism and church membership. Nice pastor. Nice people at the church. But to say the least, I was a little shocked at the lack of passion. I was ready to win the world to Jesus. No one else was.
After getting a BA in Theology I took my first job as a pastor. Very quickly I realized that most churches were not that excited about Jesus. I just figured I would preach, folks would get motivated and missions would happen. I was wrong. It took a while for me to realize it, but the truth is that most people, even the ones in our churches, aren’t excited about doing the work of the ministry. I started meeting with other pastors. I realized that their churches were pretty much the same. But I also noticed that some of the pastors seemed to be taking on the characteristics of the churches they were serving. They didn’t want to talk about strategy or overcoming problems in the church. They had settled down into mediocrity. And they accepted that. Not that they were ok with it. But it seemed to me that they accepted it.
Now I don’t mean to cast stones. After a few years in the ministry I started doing the same thing. I could feel it in me. The pressures of being a pastor mount. The disappointments of ministry made me a little less bold. I began to make excuses for why I was not being used by God. I saw that in my life and I hated it. I heard myself and I didn’t like what I heard. I still find myself in those places. Satan will always be there to whisper discouragement. The question is “Will we accept it?” I don’t ever want to settle down into mediocrity.
The fact is many pastors are continually thinking “What do I want to be when my church grows up?” In other words, they figure God will use them when the people get mature. Well, if we are waiting on that we could be waiting for a while. I have made it my personal responsibility to get outside the walls of my church. As a pastor I have determined that I will be in my community reaching people for Christ. In other words, I am going to do what I feel God has called every Christian to do. I want to be a model member for my church. Let me ask you a question pastor:
What if everyone in the church was as involved in reaching your community as you are?
Would that be good or bad? I think that one of the leading reasons that pastors become depressed is they feel God is not using them. They are in a church that isn’t passionate about Jesus. They try to motivate. They try new programs. Eventually they give up. They either just accept that they are going to pastor a dry church or find another place to serve. But too often if they change churches the process just repeats itself. Pastor you need to know God is using you. That will keep you passionate about your calling. The next several blogs will give you some tips on how to keep the fire burning. Let’s get to the first one.
Tip # 1
Don’t allow a small town to keep you from doing big things. In one of my pastorates I served in an extremely small town. Less than 1,000 people. I think I knocked on about every door in town. I began growing cold. I was frustrated. After conviction set in I decided I needed to repent and do something mission minded. I started going around to the community giving out food. I went to homes. While visiting at one home I met a lady that was loading her trunk with luggage. I told her who I was offered her some food and she gladly took it.
She was traveling in and out loading the trunk. I felt the Lord wanted me to share the gospel with her. Finally she stopped long enough for me to do that. The Holy Spirit was evident. She began to fall under conviction of her sin. She began to speak with me very openly at that point. She was a prostitute. She was on her way to the airport. A meeting with a particular man in another state had been set up for her. She had to catch a flight in a matter of hours.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I don’t know everything that I said. I know I spoke of God’s great love for her. I told her how God is not pleased with her lifestyle. I told her how terrible of a person this man is that he would do this to her. I said lots of things. But mainly I spoke of Christ and the cross. Then an amazing thing happened. She said “You’re right!” She started unpacking her car I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy! I talked with her for a long time. She didn’t commit herself to Christ at that point but I knew God was working.
I began to visit with her (never alone!!!!) on a regular basis. She had kept the gospel tract I gave her. She clung to it almost in an unhealthy way. That was our first point of contact. She didn’t immediately begin coming to church. But something happened one Sunday I will never forget. I was in the pulpit and the doors to the sanctuary opened. She walked in. She was late. She was alone. But she came anyway. She had on a raggedy dress. It was probably something she picked up at a clothing ministry. But she looked beautiful to me!! I was so proud to see her at church! She eventually settled in at another church in the community. But when she would see me in the community and speak she would always be so kind and grateful.
I have since left that community. But not long ago I had to go back and perform a funeral. She was there. I had no idea I would see her. We spoke. She wanted my address. I got a letter from her after I returned home. It’s hard to read without crying. She basically tells me that she praises the Lord that I came and saw her that day. She tells me she is saved, in church and doing what she can to serve the Lord. She isn’t smoking crack anymore. She isn’t a prostitute anymore. In fact she said she’s thinking of writing a book about what God has done in her life. And she wants me to do her funeral. Wow.
That’s a big city story. That was a small town. I stayed in that little community for over ten years. If I accomplished nothing for the Lord except that, I’m thankful. There were days I felt discouraged. Days I wanted to give up. But when that happened I decided that I needed to be the type of member I preach about. I need to be in my community making a difference.
We shouldn’t sit around waiting for our church to grow up before we attempt great things for God. And we certainly shouldn’t use the excuse of being in a small town or small church. There are no big and little souls. There are simply souls. No matter where you are there are souls. Reach them. Get outside of the box. Be a member of your church. Get into your community. Meet people. Love people. It will keep the fire burning inside of you. It will model mission minded Christianity to your people. It will make a difference in the lives of others.