Saturday, August 11, 2007

Another One Bites the Dust

Tomorrow morning will find me preaching at a country church that suddenly finds itself without a pastor. I don't know much about the circumstances that surround the pastoral resignation but I do know that it happens (for whatever reasons) far too often. I spent a few minutes looking through a very disorganized room for a booklet written by a fellow evangelist. In it (I believe) is the staggering statistic that 1300 pastors leave the ministry every month in the United States.

You can't help but wonder, "Why?"

I'm sure that the reasons are varied. No doubt, some of the reasons are quite similar. But for the church that finds itself without a pastor, the real question is, "What now?"

Tomorrow morning, I want to offer them some encouragement. I want to remind them that the "Church" isn't the building they meet in; it isn't about the clergy or lay leaders of their fellowship; they are the "Church." And the purpose of the "Church" goes on in spite of the vacancy in their pulpit.

There is a great story that takes place towards the end of John's Gospel. It is after Jesus has been crucified and His followers now find themselves without their Teacher. They are confused about everything that they have learned over the past three years and they don't know what to do. Peter pipes up and says, "I'm going fishing. Anybody going with me?" And so it is that several of them end up fishing throughout the night. In the morning, the resurrected Jesus appears on the shore and calls out to them. He asks if they've caught anything and then tells them to try the other side of the boat. It isn't until after the huge catch that they recognize that this is Jesus.

The conversation that follows is the one that Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him. Three times Jesus asks the question. Three times Peter answers yes. In the end, Jesus says to Peter, "Follow me."

There are a three things that strike me about this story. The first is this: You can't go back to the place you were before your encounter with Jesus. Peter was a fisherman. When he didn't know what to do next, he retreated to his comfort zone, to what he did know. He went back to fishing. C. S. Lewis once said that God is unscrupulous in His pursuit of us. Like with Peter, He will hunt you down and remind you of your calling.

The second is this: The calling hasn't changed. If you look at when Jesus first called Peter out of his fishing boat, the call was..."Follow me." Three years later Jesus uses these same words, "Follow me."

This story continues with Peter questioning Jesus about one of the other disciples. Jesus tells Peter that he should only concern himself with his own responsibilities. I guess we can easily look around and ask, "Well, what about so and so?" Or we can make the excuse, "If so and so hadn't left..."

And that brings us to the third thing: We should only concern ourselves with our relationship and our calling to serve our Lord and Savior. I think that Jesus would would answer us in much the same way that He answered Peter. "What concern is it of yours how I deal with so and so. You follow me."

Since it is late on Saturday night as I finish this post, I doubt that anyone will read it before you make your way to church on Sunday morning. But I will encourage you just the same--the first chance you get, hug your pastor, tell them how much you appreciate them and offer them some words of encouragement. And then, go out and be as Jesus-like as you can be! It will be the best encouragement of all.


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