18 June, 2016

Called to Be Faithful, Not a Superstar

I was texting with a friend who is also in the ministry who was beating himself black and blue because, as he put it, he "can't keep up with the big dogs." My friend pastors a small church, just as I do. He has been struggling to find a way to grow to the size of another church who he has been trying to emulate and is frustrated because this church has several hundred people attending while his church seems to fluctuate between 30-50 no matter what he does. As we were discussing this I asked him if he'd seen souls saved. He indicated that they have, but that every time they get people saved and on the right path, they leave for the bigger churches in town. I told him that I could relate to this more than he would ever understand if I tried to explain. As I shared with him, not long ago I went online and looked at my monthly reports and discovered that over the 12 years  I've been pastor where I am that there have been more than 260 people saved through my ministry.  That may not be a huge number by another person's standards, but when I began to think on this, I pastor a church in a town with a population of around 800 people on the outskirts of a town of 33,000. The economy in our area has been devasted over the past 15 years with more than 9,000 good paying industrial jobs lost as factories moved and/or closed. Due to that factor alone, we've seen literally dozens of people who were a part of our church forced to relocate to find jobs. Others, just as my friend was saying have left us for the "greener pastures" of churches with big children's church and youth ministries. Yes, that is painful and it will do serious damage to the ego if you allow it to. (Been there, done that and have the T-shirt.)

The point that I made to my friend and that I am making here is that I had to come to terms with just what God has called me to do and be. God called me to preach the gospel, not to grow a large church. That may sound like a cop-out to some; so be it. I don't worry about that any longer. One day not all that long ago I was reading the Bible and I read a passage that I've read hundreds of times and preached messages from many, many times. But on this particular day, it spoke to me on a personal level. The passage is found in Matthew 25... the parable of the talents. For those not familiar, Jesus is telling a parable and says that the kingdom of heaven is like a wealthy man who is traveling to far country and he calls in three servants and distributes "talents" or money to each of them. To one he gave 5 talents, another 2 and another 1talent. When he returned he called them before him to tell what they had done with what they had been given. The man with 5 talents doubled his talents and presented ten talents to his Lord. The man with 2 talents had doubled his and presented 4 talents to his Lord. But the man with 1 talent had lived in fear and buried his talent so as not to lose it. He came and presented the original talent to his Lord and was rebuked soundly. His Lord told him he should have at least deposited it in the bank and earned interest on it, but he had done nothing.  The thing that stood out to me was that the Lord did not praise the guy with 10 talents more than he did the man with 4. From the sound of things, he would have been happy with the last guy if he had just done something with his talent, rather than live in fear.  As I told my friend, God is not going to compare you and I to Billy Graham or Benny Hinn... nor with the church down the road. What he will do is ask us to give an account for what we were given. My friend also pastors in Illinois, a state that is in desperate financial trouble and his town is similar to mine. I reminded him of the things that I knew of his church had done to impact his community. I reminded him of the family they had literally rescued from drug addiction, walked with them through a horriffic two year period and saw them come to know the Lord, become solid believers and an active part of the church, only to see them move out of state for jobs. I told him, you are multiplying your talents! That is ALL God has asked of you. Nowhere did God say that we were to grow mega churches (nothing wrong with those who do!) but he called us to rescue the lost and make disciples.  That's what God expects of us and we should not expect more than the Lord does. 

As I told my friend, YES, I'd like to be the pastor of a large, thriving church... but God has called me to be the pastor of a soul-saving station. I told him about a local pastor in my area who told me about 2 years ago that he was envious of my ministry. I was stunned. His church is FAR larger than mine with great facilities and money to operate is never an issue in his church, so I did not understand his "envy". Then he told me that he has more than 50 people sitting in his church who have told them that they were saved through the efforts of my little church and that the only reason they had left was because they felt they needed to attend a church where there were more opportunities for their children to be involved in programs. He told me that he had not seen more than two dozen people saved in his church during the time he had been pastor there. He admitted to me that he often wondered what Harvest Church would be like if the people stayed there and built a church rather than changing pastures, but that I needed to know that I was doing exactly what God had called me to do. 

To my friend and anyone else who is going through similar a similar struggle, remember this... "God called you to be faithful with what YOU have been given, not with what someone else has."

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