“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” -Romans 12:12
What if you made a decision to respond to the predictable “How are you?” greeting, not with the expected “Fine,” but with “I am grateful.” Reactions to this response would be engaging. Very few would reply, “For what?”; more often folks would pause for a second or two and answer with something along the lines of “And so am I.” Then we could inquire with “Why is that?” or “For what are you grateful?” Hopefully this could be the start of a brief conversation, and then we would part with smiles and a bit more liveliness in our steps.
If I were to ask “How are you, St. John’s members?” I feel the only possible response should be “We are grateful!” Then I would quiz, “For what?” And conversation would ensue.
In the past five years we brought in multi-media equipment, painted the sanctuary, re-furbished our stained glass windows, re-furbished our organ, started Lenten meals, started new out-reach ministries like F.L.O.C.K, and Re-Purse It and so many more. During this same time we lost about 80 members and it really could have been a time to quit doing ministry and just reflect on our losses. Instead, St. John’s members kept on doing what needed to be done: serving those in need; providing powerful worship experiences; being good stewards of our resources; educating spirits and minds. We are grateful.
During the challenging months of at-times frustrating experiences faced by worshiping in the basement, or crunching the numbers, our ministries did not stop; with God’s Spirit at work, the ministries continued. We are grateful.
When it came time to address our lack of young people, a group of capable, faithful members offered to accept the months-long responsibilities associated with the search process. We prayed for direction so members could listen intently to the voice of the Spirit to discern our vision for a possible future filled with young adults and youth. In the Fall, we will have some youth address the congregation with their concerns and share why we need to grow with a new Youth Minister and a second service they can relate to. We are grateful.
Through all this time joyous music filled our sanctuary, administrative matters were addressed smoothly and professionally, building and property issues were attended to swiftly and effectively, committee work moved forward faithfully. We are grateful.
And now God has showered us again with blessings as God has given us direction through prayer. As we wind down for the summer, I pray you keep our future in your prayers. Pray for further direction, pray for St. John’s, and pray for God’s guidance. God has significant plans for this church. We are grateful.
So now I conclude by asking, “How are you, members of St. John’s United Church of Christ doing?” And all God’s people say …………………
Rev. Tom , A Grateful Pastor
An Insiders Look at Your Pastor’s Heart (Taken in part by an article by Stephen Cavness)
Paul’s letters in the New Testament are full of prayers for his fellow believers. He prayed for their growth in faith, wisdom, knowledge, and love for one another. He prayed they would be filled with righteousness, unity, and joy. I often wish that I could convey to the people of my church the earnestness with which I pray these things for them. Here are a few things about your pastors that you may not know.
We really do love you – not just because it’s our job. We love you because the Lord has placed us here for a purpose. God has placed a love and concern for you in our hearts that you probably would not believe if we tried to explain it to you. Pray we find the words.
A church should be filled with Christ’s love. The reason we really want you to know and love the gospel and each other, and to have your life shaped by the grace of God, is not so that we can consider our ministry a success. It is because we know that when the church is filled with this love, it is the closest thing to heaven on earth – and we want that for you. Pray with us.
We do not expect you to be perfect, and we are aware that we are not. In fact, many times, we are afraid that you may find that we are not the “person of God” that you think we are. Not because of some culturally perceived gross sin, but because we, too, can be lazy, selfish, tired, frustrated, and distracted in our walk with Christ. Pray that we would not be.
For every sermon you think we bombed, you can bet your pastor thinks they have bombed at least twice that many. But know this: Sometimes the sermons people love the most leave us frustrated because what people tell us they loved about it misses the point we were trying to make. Other times we feel invigorated having proclaimed the text exactly the way the Lord would want – until we realize everybody was bored. Knowing that we should not be people-pleasers but wanting people to be encouraged and engaged is hard to balance. Pray for us.
One of the most frustrating things as pastors is for everyone to think that we are the first to know everything when, very often, we are the last. Few things are more discouraging than finding out that there has been heartache, sickness, turmoil, etc. after everyone has been talking about it for the last week while they wonder why we have not called or stopped by. We could use you help in this area.
Sometimes we have no idea what we are doing. I do not mean to say that we have not been called to the ministry, but sometimes our schooling does not prepare us for every situation. Things often come up where we have no idea what to do. Sometimes by the grace of God we get it right. Sometimes we swing and miss. Pray that we would be bold in trusting Christ at all times and in all circumstances.
It bothers us that we cannot make your situation better. We do not care about being the hero, but we want your marriage to work; we want your rebellious child to see the truth; we want your parents to show you affection; we want the memories of abuse to go away; we want you to overcome your doubts that God is real and faith is genuine. We know that God is in control and God alone can heal the hurts, but when our prayers are not forthcoming, it breaks our hearts for you and we wish we could fix it.
We know you do not always agree with everything we do. We may even know that your way would be better but, sometimes, we also know that to keep the peace, we might have to do things a certain way a little longer or change things a little slower for the greater good. You may be aggravated at us but our intent is to prevent fighting among church members. Work with us.
There are times when you fill us with joy. Whether it is your consistent attendance; asking questions that show you have been thinking about the gospel; treating one another with mercy; smiling when you sing; welcoming a guest; volunteering and the list goes on. We are joyful because we see the Lord bringing His work to completion in you.
And then, there are other times. There are times when we are frustrated, broken, and sad because we hear through the grapevine that a church member feels we have failed them in some way. Talk to us. Forgive us and please be honest (but gracious) if you feel we have let you down.
We want our labor to bring honor and glory to God. We know we blow it sometimes. We know that there are instances when we simply should have done better. Our calling as a pastor often terrifies us because we know our inadequacies better than anyone else. However, we long to get it right because we love Christ and we love you. When God gets glory, you get the benefit, and we relish in the joy that is rooted in God. And that is why we pray for you.
- Submitted by Pastor Dotty