Anyone who has ever pastored (served as spiritual leader and “shepherd”) of a congregation of people for any length of time knows that sometimes fulfilling God’s call faithfully can give you grey hair, a few sleepless nights, drive you to your knees in prayer, and an occasional bout of mounting frustration. The issue? People problems… helping redeemed and recovering sinners become “the body of Christ!” (Check out 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:1-16 and Romans 12:3-8)
All you have to do is read through 1 and 2 Corinthians to know what I am talking about… Corinth, a congregation that gave Apostle Paul absolute fits and heartbreak!
So, during my time of “Coffee with the Lord” this week, I was very impressed with Apostle Paul’s response to this congregation (dysfunctional, frustrating and just a “bit carnal”) at the beginning of his letter to them! In my opinion he set a wonderful example for Spiritual leaders who sometimes face the frustration of leading people who are sometimes less than authentically “spiritual!”
He started out by reminding them of their “high calling”…
They were, in his words… “The church of God in Corinth, sanctified [set apart] in Christ Jesus, called to be saints [“holy ones”]! (From 1 Corinthians 1:2 ESV)
Then, believe it or not, he says that he “always gave thanks to God for them!” because he saw “the grace of God in Christ Jesus” at work in their lives (Grace – not only God’s undeserved favor, but His boundless provision that would enable them to be and become all that God envisioned for them!)
Then he got really specific about how he saw this “grace” expressed among them…
Then Paul declared… “God is faithful!” who called them into fellowship with Jesus Christ!
(Check out 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 and see if I’m right)
What a way to start of difficult letter as a church leader – a letter in which you have to deal with a lot of church problems – people problems if you please. Oh, listen to me, I want to always follow the example of Apostle Paul in dealing with the “stuff” of pastoral ministry!
Was watching some Winter Olympics the other day and was struck by the shouting and loud cries of support as downhill skiers began their runs… I’ve also been impressed by the battle cries of soldiers in war movies following a rousing speech by their commander… You’d have thought they could conquer any enemy – maybe even the world! Now the enthusiastic, decibel enriched, shouts at the Olympics and those in war movies sometimes lead to victory… but realistically, maybe not! It may simply be an exercise in empty enthusiasm – ill-advised and arrogant!
There is an exercise in empty shouting recorded in the Bible… 1 Samuel 4:5–11 (ESV)
“As soon as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, ALL ISRAEL GAVE A MIGHTY SHOUT, SO THAT THE EARTH RESOUNDED! And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, ‘What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?’ And when they learned that the ark of the LORD had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid, for they said, ‘A god has come into the camp.’ And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight.’ SO THE PHILISTINES FOUGHT, AND ISRAEL WAS DEFEATED, and they fled, every man to his home. And there was a very great slaughter, for thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell. AND THE ARK OF GOD WAS CAPTURED, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.”
So a loud, enthusiastic shout – an earth-shaking battle cry – can actually mean nothing! But on the other it’s different when God shouts! His shout means victory! Here’s what I read during my time of “Coffee with the Lord”…
“Sing to the LORD a new song, His praise from the end of the earth! You who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the habitants of Sela sing for joy, LET THEM SHOUT FROM THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAINS! Let them give glory to the LORD, and declare His praise in the coastlands. THE LORD GOES OUT LIKE A MIGHTY MAN, LIKE A MAN OF WAR HE STIRS UP HIS ZEAL; HE CRIES OUT, HE SHOUTS ALOUD, HE SHOWS HIMSELF MIGHTY AGAINST HIS FOES!” (From Isaiah 42:10–13 ESV)
Just let me say, I want my shout to be His shout! I want my shout to join His shout! I want my victory to be initiated and led by His victory! I’m not into empty shouting!