Thursday, May 8, 2008

What should your pastor (or you) hear?

Among (too) many other tasks, I am preparing for a session at the Moody Pastors' Conference May 19-22. Over 1100 pastors are registered for this great annual event. The conference's tag line is: Relax. Refresh. Recharge.

To my amazement, I have been given a free hand in choosing the text and topic for my morning session. Generally, even small-scale conferences have crafted themes, set Scriptures and other constraints put on speakers. But this is gloriously open for the Holy Spirit. That of course is a problem! It's much easier to respond to a defined topic. How can I ensure I know what God wants me to share? Already, I have sensed the Spirit's editorship strike out what I thought was one good idea. My first enthusiasms were drenched in cold water. Of course, this means much more prayer and spiritual dependence ahead.

So, to readers of this blog, (pastors and others), let me ask what key things you believe pastors should be told. If you had 45 minutes before this group, how would you use it, and if you were sitting there what would best help you? Any insights?

4 comments:

rbirkey said...

Michael,

I think pastors need to hear a Holy Spirit perspective on the massive cultural shifts that are here and will continue coming in this "post-modern" and "post-Christian" world. How can we keep the Gospel relevant in this world? How can we bridge the massive communication and cultural gap? If the church is to "emerge" into this new world and stay intact with the message of the Gospel, how will that be done, and what will it look like?

Those are things that I would be interested in knowing... but I am not an official "pastor."

dawneen said...

Boy, your question, what should your pastor hear, is a good question. Since each person has had different pastors which they have sat under over the years, I am sure that you will receive as many ideas as you receive responses to your question. RBirkey's idea that pastors do need to be concerned how our church presents itself and the gospel and remains relevant given the culture should be on all pastors' radar. That is a more global or big picture perspective than I usually take. From a personal or an individual perspective, I would suggestion two things.

Since your over-arching topic is relax, refresh and recharge, I would suggest that you remind your audience that they are like all mankind, human, and in need of refreshment. They need to build in down time and God provided one means, although not the only way, to that end with the Sabbath. It's a great idea, without following it legalistically, to set aside one day a week for worship and rest. This can include relaxing or nonstressful activity, but should really be some time to rest, reflect, gear down. Spend time alone, and with family and friends who do not pressure you and with the Lord. Leave some blanks in your schedule. Most pastors that I have known over-schedule themselves. Many things can be a good use of your time, but what is best. God can guide you in this regard if you ask him. This leads to my next thought.

Because many pastors over schedule themselves with good things, I wonder at times if they consistently spend time with the Lord for themselves. We can all talk about the Lord without spending time with Him. Reading the Word, meditating on it, introspection, confession, praying about your own walk and concerns should not be forgotten. God and Christ need to be your first love. Christ was a great example; he sought refreshment in the Lord. The point is to be purposeful with our individual walks so that God can unite us with the whole body. He will lead us, but we need to be available to Him to be led. I find prayer and reading God's word is the best refreshment that there is. So I would say refresh yourself in the Lord.

If my pastor asked me what he should hear about relaxing, refreshing and recharging that is what I would say. That is, if I had a pastor, that is what I would say.

Jacob said...

What key things you believe pastors should be told?

Michael:
In response to your opportunity to impact 11,000 pastors in 45 minutes, praise God for your being used by the Lord~ I would humbly suggest that in preparation, you refer to Chapter 7 of Eugene Peterson’s book, “Run with the Horses,” which I think you may have in your library? In this chapter, Peterson references his first assignment after being ordained as a pastor. After preaching his first sermon, he was approached by a group of people at the church to ask that he lead a Bible study. Enthusiastically, he agreed and they began to meet on Monday evenings; about eight or nine men and women attended. He reflects, “They were eager and attentive.” A few weeks later the senior pastor (his boss) asked him what he was doing on Monday nights. He told him; the pastor asked how many people were there? When Peterson told him, the pastor told him he would have to stop. When Peterson asked why, he was told, “This is too few people to spend your time on.” Peterson was then told how he should spend his time.

The principles of a successful church administration:
1. crowds are important, individuals are expendable;
2. the positive must always be accented, the negative must be suppressed;
3. don’t expect too much of people – a pastor’s job is to make them feel good about themselves and about the church; and
4. don’t talk too much abut abstractions like God and sin – deal with practical issues

Peterson soon left the church as he decided it was a bad fit; the music ministry was expensive and elaborate and the sermons were seven minutes long and of the sort that Father Taylor (the sailor-preacher in Boston who was the model for Father Maple in Melville’s “Moby Dick”) complained of in the transcendentalists of the last century: “that a person could no more be converted listening to sermons like that than get intoxicated drinking skim milk.”

Peterson continues, that a pastor’s role should be to proclaim and interpret Scripture; to guide people into a life of prayer; to encourage faith; to represent the mercy and forgiveness of Christ at special times of need; and to train people to live as disciples in their families and communities and in their work. Running a church as efficiently as possible, to be a cheerleader to a dynamic organization, to recruit members, to lend the dignity of the office at ceremonial occasions and to promote the image of a prestigious religious institution is NOT what Jesus had in mind!

Too many pastors are stuck in this role. Read “Run with the Horses!” There are two prevalent philosophies in church pastors today: (1.) enhancing what “I” want; or (2.) a commitment of myself to become what God wants. Pastors are free to choose.

During the reformation of the church under King Josiah, Jeremiah was one of the preachers. However, the most popular preacher was Pashhur, the chief overseer in the temple in Jerusalem. Everyone loved to hear him because he was positive, affirmative and confident. He had the ability to draw out the best from everything. He was able to search the Scriptures and find texts that made the darkest days bright. The function of religion is NOT TO MAKE PEOPLE FEEL GOOD but to make them good. God wants mature, free people who will respond to Him in authentic individuality. For this to happen THERE MUST BE HONESTY AND TRUTH. The self must be toppled from its pedestal; there must be pure hearts and clear intelligence, confession to sin and commitment in faith. Pastors who only preach “peace” turn their backs on what is really needed in Church today. Pastors need to be brave; their flocks need to be fed meat and not milk. If the pastor of any given church will not rise to the occasion to be brave about looking at what is going wrong; be strong enough in his convictions to fix these issues; be willing for the Sprit to flow and not control his congregation in a nicely tied up package; take risks; pray more, spend more time in the word and convict the congregation to do so along with him, then the “Post-Modern” Church today will become irrelevant. Pastors shouldn’t be afraid to make the most important thing in his life God! The focus should not be on comfort, applause, security, but on the living God! Prayer meetings should not be timed for an hour! Worship without astonishment and religion without commitment is DEAD. Pastors should fear getting what they want and missing what God wants. That is the ONLY thing worthy of their fear!

Pastors today should follow Jesus and explore the life of salvation. God is who the congregations need! Our churches are full of emaciated men and plastic women. “There are too many lame souls,” notes R. P. Blacmur. What would I tell a pastor? I want to keep company with the men and women who expand and deepen our capacity to live our true, God-created, Jesus-save Sprit-filled lives.

“Yea, by thee I can crush a troop, and by my God I can leap a wall.”
Ps. 18:29

Where is the pastor that can lead us to empowerment by example?

wsuriano said...

Michael:

Given the conference theme, how about a "comforting challenge?" I think many pastors look at themselves as being just average. In their minds, they're no Bill Hybels. This attitude affects their ability to preach and to lead. So, if I were a pastor at a conference like this, I would love to hear that every pastor can be great in the place where God has put them. God will equip them to do his work. They just have to have a willing, humble spirit before God and let the power of the Holy Spirit work through them. Inspire them with the notion that God has entrusted them with a part of His Kingdom and they have no right to deprive those folks of the same benefits of being Kingdom Citizens than Bill Hybels has of depriving his congregants. I've never given a half time talk at a football game, but I've heard a lot. Maybe you could be the coach at a game where you're down 2 touchdowns at half time, but you know you can win. You just need to get your team to belive they can win.