The Feet of The Messenger

Before I go any farther, I want to make a disclaimer. Pastors aren’t perfect. Not every pastor works hard. Yes, there are some who work upwards of 70 hours a week, but others are just lazy. Pastors are flawed, have weaknesses, get frustrated, and basically are…human. There are good pastors and awful pastors. I have worked with both. Some may argue I have been both. If you are currently attending a church, even virtually, read on.

October is “Pastor Appreciation Month,” when Hallmark tells you to show your pastor a little love. I promise you that churches who make a thing of this are well-loved by their pastors. As with any institution, most pastors receive a ton more complaints than compliments, so a gesture of gratitude any time of the year really goes a long way.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica, he lays out the kind of effort that pastors go through when they are called to shepherd a church. He talks about hard work, hardships, and struggling to make a living so that he could do the anointed work of preaching and teaching the Good News to the people.

1 Thessalonians 1 (Contemporary English Version)

My dear friends, you surely haven’t forgotten our hard work and hardships. You remember how night and day we struggled to make a living, so that we could tell you God’s message without being a burden to anyone. 

In my denomination, we call those folks “bi-vocational pastors.” Many work nine-to-five jobs and then conduct worship on Sundays. Somehow they fit in visiting the sick, attending to the administration of the church, offering counseling, performing weddings and funerals, doing a minimum of ten hours sermon prep, and a host of other things. God bless the bi-vocational servants who bring the good news!

And God bless the full and part-time pastors who juggle church, family, study time, home, social obligations, and community responsibilities as though they are riding unicycles on a high wire, each with a crazed monkey on their head. Pastoring is not easy. Just one small thing can disrupt the delicate, impossible balance and send everything spilling into the ring occupied by the marching elephants.

10 Both you and God are witnesses that we were pure and honest and innocent in our dealings with you followers of the Lord. 11 You also know we did everything for you that parents would do for their own children. 12 We begged, encouraged, and urged each of you to live in a way that would honor God. He is the one who chose you to share in his own kingdom and glory.

A good pastor does exactly this. They focus their life’s work in honest labor to encourage their parishioners to live in a way that honors God. Paul is right. Good pastors love their churches like parents love their own children.

13 We always thank God that you believed the message we preached. It came from him, and it isn’t something made up by humans. You accepted it as God’s message, and now he is working in you.

There is nothing more important to a pastor than to know that they have brought someone to Christ. Nothing beats it. When you walk out of a service and tell your preacher that you have heard God’s message, that is the best kind of appreciation you can offer. And when a pastor sees their congregation serving with a sense of purpose, calling, understanding, and humbleness, it is a game-changer. That is a church we never want to leave.

If you are part of a faith community that is being well-shepherded by a loving pastor, thank God. It is so much harder than it looks, especially now. The pandemic has knocked every pastor I know for a LOOP.

To my fellow pastors, I raise my hand in gratitude and praise for everything you are going through right now as you are faithful to your calling. May God bless you and keep you from going crazy.

Friends, pray for your pastors. Encourage them, uplift them, and let them know you care. Even when it isn’t October.

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of joy!” (Romans 10:15 NKJV)

How Beautiful!

People-Pleasing

How many of you struggle with an addiction to people-pleasing? You may have grown up in a household that taught you this. Pleasing mom and dad meant peace at the dinner table. Displeasure brought different levels of grief.

Folks who have a bent for people-pleasing find themselves in all kinds of trouble. For example, there is the trouble that comes from not being able to say no. Come on now, you know who you are! If you are over-committed to your family and every community and church volunteer opportunity, you are probably a people-pleaser.

Then there are the people-pleasers who can’t stand up for themselves. When others who don’t give a fig about people-pleasing encounter them, they get walked all over and used as door mats.

It is hard to be in a relationship with a people-pleaser because you never quite know where you stand. They will agree with everything you say, laugh at your lame jokes, and tell you that you look good in those jeans that add 15 lbs. of visual weight to your frame.

Beware of the people-pleasers!

In his letter to the newly formed church in Thessalonica, Paul is assuring the congregation that his efforts are completely void of any such nonsense. He states that his words to them have not been based on false information, wrong motives, or deception.

1 Thessalonians 1 (Common English Bible)

2 As you yourselves know, brothers and sisters, our visit with you wasn’t a waste of time.On the contrary, we had the courage through God to speak God’s good news in spite of a lot of opposition, although we had already suffered and were publicly insulted in Philippi, as you know. Our appeal isn’t based on false information, the wrong motives, or deception.Rather, we have been examined and approved by God to be trusted with the good news, and that’s exactly how we speak.

In his work with the church, he and the other apostles have endeavored to do one thing…please God. They have been trusted by God with the good news and they only want to please him.

We aren’t trying to please people, but we are trying to please God, who continues to examine our hearts. As you know, we never used flattery, and God is our witness that we didn’t have greedy motives. We didn’t ask for special treatment from people—not from you or from others— although we could have thrown our weight around as Christ’s apostles.

The integrity of his efforts shines through. The message of the gospel can get out because people know that Paul isn’t just telling them things they want to hear and buttering them up with flattering words. Instead, he is speaking words that convey love, hope, and TRUTH.

Instead, we were gentle with you like a nursing mother caring for her own children. We were glad to share not only God’s good news with you but also our very lives because we cared for you so much.

As we make our way to the polls in America, ask yourself these questions. Does your candidate speak to please God, or to butter up voters? Is he or she operating from selfish motives, hidden agendas, and deception, or is there a sincere desire to serve the public? Are they humble or self-aggrandizing? Do they have integrity like Paul?

The ranks of leadership at every level are filled with people-pleasers. Let’s find the God-pleasers this time.

Rays of Hope by Bruce Winterstine

Welcome?

How many of you are familiar with the British actor known as Mr. Bean? Played by Rowan Atkinson, Mr. Bean is a rubber-faced physical comedy master in the vein of Jim Carry or the Three Stooges. I stumbled upon a skit called Mr. Bean Goes to Church that I found to be both hilarious and distressingly true.

Mr. Bean visits a country church for the first time and struggles with how to do things “properly” because he is new. He can’t figure out the liturgy, sings off tempo, makes too much noise opening a cough drop, and eventually falls asleep during the sermon with his head bobbing on the shoulder and chest of the VERY visibly disgruntled church member sitting next to him.

Watching the reactions of the disapproving church member is where the story of hospitality in the church is told. He is very inconvenienced with this newbie next to him, is reluctant to share his pew and his hymnal, rolls his eyes when Mr. Bean sings at the wrong time, and does everything in his power to say “You’re not welcome here.” Mr. Bean doesn’t fit in.

Have you ever felt that way in a church? I have. My worst experience was in a church in New Orleans where we were spotted as “new” and made by the pastor to stand and not only introduce ourselves but tell “a little something about us.” We were just trying out all the Methodist churches in the area and simply wanted to worship. I am sure that pastor thought he had a very strong hospitality game by doing this. He was wrong. We never went back.

I have used this clip as an ice-breaker when training churches on how to be more welcoming. Hospitality in the church is the most vital part of our evangelism ministry yet we have no idea how we are perceived.

In Paul’s letter to the new church at Thessalonica, he praises them for their outreach efforts. Note that none of it has to do with brochures, a committee, calling out visitors in worship, or any of the things churches do in the name of “hospitality.”

1 Thessalonians (The Message)

7-10 Do you know that all over the provinces of both Macedonia and Achaia believers look up to you? The word has gotten around. Your lives are echoing the Master’s Word, not only in the provinces but all over the place. The news of your faith in God is out. We don’t even have to say anything anymore—you’re the message!

All of us are in the “Evangelism Ministry.” True outreach happens when we authentically walk the talk and live out the Good News of Jesus in front of people with the simple example of our lives. When a fellowship of people truly love the Lord and ALL of his people, the word gets out.

People come up and tell us how you received us with open arms, how you deserted the dead idols of your old life so you could embrace and serve God, the true God. They marvel at how expectantly you await the arrival of his Son, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescued us from certain doom.

This actually has nothing to do with church and everything to do with you. When you put away the dead idols of your preconceived notion of who is included in “God’s people,” it is only then that you can embrace and serve God, the true God.

So be the message. Receive strangers with open arms in the name of Jesus. Jesus rescued us from certain doom! Find a way today to tell this Good News to someone who hasn’t heard it yet. YOU are an evangelist when your life echoes the Master’s Word. Go and tell!

Need a laugh? Watch this.

Go and Tell by Michelle Robertson