The Gospel

The Gospel

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Convictions Of A Pastor - Part 1

John Stott wrote a wonderful book called The Living Church:  Convictions of a Life Long Pastor.  It is a helpful reflection on his many years of faithful ministry.  Recently, I have been reflecting on my much shorter ministry.  I have been doing that from the pew of a local church here in Simpsonville, SC where my family  and I have been placed.  We don't know why God has brought us to this place at this time in our lives yet I am confident (as my friend Mel would say) that I have much to learn and God is teaching me that through the ministry of two pastor friends (one that I have known for years {Jason} and another I am getting to know {Kyle} as we speak).  I doubt any one reads my blog - I am not famous and I am not eloquent.  Over the next few months, an exercise that God may only use to build me up and make me into Christ - I hope to list some of the things that I have been challenged with, convicted of or are growing in on my journey of faith and my personal grace story (as Jason would say).  Some of these things will come from sermons at the church I have been attending (Summit Mauldin) and others will come through the music I have been listening to in my IPOD - both I am confident are orchestrated in my heart by the Holy Spirit. 

Four weeks ago I caught the last sermon in a series.  The Title was asking Big and was part of a series on team (church) membership.  The text was from Acts 17:26 - 27, which says "26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us..."

The teaching pastor reminded the congregation that God, in verse 26, has sovereignly put each one of us right where we are, even at this very moment, so that we can be used by God for the advancment of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and the Gospel - that others might might be drawn to seek and find hope in God.

As I sat there that Sunday I felt the Spirit not tap my on the shoulder but trather yank me be the back of my ear (as I can vaugley remember my mom doing when I was a mouthy preteen).  You see, for the last two months I had been moping around Greenville County South Carolina pouting and I had fully convinced myself that not only was I justified but that it was somehow noble and spiritual.  You see, after two years of struggling with various crisies and conflicts with people at the church I was serving in, I walked away and humbly moved in with my parents and got a job at a local grocery story.  Not exactly the kind of thing I thought I would be doing with my life at 35.  My fellow co-workers kept asking why a guy pursuing his doctorate was working third shift at a grocery store.  And me, a guy who preached or taught every week bringing to the attention of my hearers the sovereignty of God in all things, was acting like I had no idea. 

To a degree I was right - I had no idea why God had brought me here  for me - yet Luke tells me about the greater purpose of why I am here even if I couldn't see it at that moment - God placed me sovereignly for the advancement of the gospel.  Sitting in the pew that day I knew my attitude had to change.  Not because I wanted to eventually find a new ministry for God to use me in, but rather because God had already called me to minisitry right where I was in SC and I was missing it. 

Luke tells us that God is much nearer to us than we can imagine - Jesus came down out of heaven, put on flesh, dwelt among us and is continually summoning sinners, like you and me, to Himself for his glory.  But God has also called me, at this time and in this place (Or as Mordecai says - For Such a Time as this), to live in such a way that those that I come in contact with in SC would see Jesus in me.  I was not doing that - Jesus does not pout about his circumstances - that is a sinful, self centered thing to do.  Jesus did not pout when he willingly put aside his majesty for our flesh.  He did not have a pitty party when his own people and a host of Roman soldiers stapled him to a tree. 

As a pastor, I was convicted - God was doing something in my circumstances even if I couldn't yet see it.  And his purpose, no mater what the journey may look like, is for me to be an agent of the gospel so that others might come to faith in him - even in SC.

Maybe you are in a place where you have felt like I did - you lost your job, your family circumstances are not what you thought they should be, someone in your life is sick and dying - and you walk around saying spiritual things while in your heart you are pouting like a five year old.  I pray that Acts 17:26-27 will remind you that God has put all those things in your life for your good and for His glory - and for the advancment of the kingdom.  Many of us are striving to buld and attain kingdoms - they just aren't Christs'.  When we come to the realization that our lives are not for our sake but for the Glory of God, then we will stop pouting and start rejoicing in the places, often full of muck and mire, that God has placed us and seeing how we can show others the life changing power of the gospel that comes only through Jesus Christ.

After all, this is the point of scripture, from Genesis to Revelation - God is saving a people for himself and for his glory and he has chosen the foolish things of the world - Us - to be the agents that he uses to take the gospel to the world. 

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