I have just returned from speaking to 1100 or so pastors at Moody Bible Institute. It's profoundly humbling to be in front of such a crowd. Partly because, indirectly, you are influencing so many more. Stephen Olford used to say (with typical alliteration): Ministry to ministers is ministry to multitudes. But also, because of such honest stories and needs expressed so openly.
Actually, I did refer to all four comments from my blog, particularly the last piece of encouragement. Taking Jesus' promise: I will build my church (Matthew 16:18), I dared to apply it directly to pastors by stressing Jesus' own authority and responsibility for design as well as the church's specific nature. Build my ecclesia means build my "called out people." Jesus specializes in building people together by his grace and love, (of course with the Father and the Son, 2 Cor 13:14!) Pastors can take on so much more responsibility (with pride) than Jesus approves, and we can focus on building organizations rather than letting him build his people (1 Pet. 2:5).
At one point I referred to the way that pastors often seem to seize on one organizational church program after another. Last year, it seemed to be Simple Church (Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger). This is a good book with much good advice, and we need to learn from others' successes (and failures). But sometimes we behave as though Jesus is not enough. As if his grace, love and purpose with our response of obedience, praying, depending is not adequate to the task. We seem to need something more! We act as though this or that program is necessary to boost excitement and get results. What!? It's as though Jesus is not enough. I asked pastors to turn to their neighbors and tell them:
Prayer still works
Worship still works
Preaching still works
Grace still works
Jesus still builds.
The whole place shook with staccato affirmations. Said one pastor to me afterwards:"Yes that's what it is all about: Jesus is still at work and he can use me if I let him." Others spoke about their struggles and need to realize that Jesus can still build even with them.
I feel humbled and grateful to remember this promise holds true: Michael, I will build my church.