Monday, July 09, 2007

Dealing with Departures

Today I will be preaching to a group of preachers. It is a bit intimidating for a young pastor to address such a audience, but God's Word will do all the teaching, all I have to do is expose it. As I prayed about what these men need to hear and God laid a burden on my heart about people leaving the churches they pastor. It is an all too common occurrence and painful for anyone trying to build a ministry. After reading scripture on the matter here is what I learned.

1. Many disciples left Jesus - Jn 6
- If many left Christ many will leave you. And when that happens it is natural to withdraw and question even your most loyal followers, but ministry marches on and some faithful will stay true to the vision and some devils will stick around too. Many quit Christ, many will quit you.

2. Godly ministers disagree - Acts 13 & 15
- John Mark wimps out on Paul's first missionary journey and it drives Paul and Barnabas to separate. In the end, ministry goes on and is actually multiplied. When this happens we must guard ourselves from bitterness, and you never know when that John Mark might come in handy. 2 Tim. 4.

3. Fellow laborers will fall - 2 Tim. 4
I think every pastor can identify with Paul when he said "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me" Ministry can be lonely at times, but we still have His promise to never leave us or forsake us. When Demas fell back into the world's grip Paul had to continue on. The plain truth is that others in ministry will fall away. Their failure cannot determine our faithfulness.

So, what do we do about it?

1. Refuse to fall in love with another man's bride.
- In truth the church is not ours. She belongs to Christ. Too many of us as pastors fall in love with the ministry to the point that we develop an unhealthy relationship.

2. Refuse to be more concerned with who you are losing than who you are winning.
- The temptation of most churches is to chase down absentees and runaways at the expense of those who have never been. Unfortunately when this happens we are usually wasting out time on people who have already decided that our church is not the church for them. We must let them go and take the gospel to the undecided.

3. Refuse to judge the success of ministry based on the number of people in the pew or pennies in the plate.
- When we look at these gauges as soon as the service is over, we are keeping score in the wrong game. A worship service is about worship of God, not worship of numbers. Number are important but they are not primary, and probably not even secondary.

4. Refuse to believe you have the ability to build it or break it.
- Pastor, you did not build the church. Jesus said He did. And if the gates of hell cannot destroy it then neither can you. Stop taking credit for everything both positive and negative.

5. Refuse to change your mission based on who gets on or off the bus.
-Pastoring a church is like driving a bus. Bus drivers do not base their driving on keeping people on the bus. They just drive their route. Along the way people will get on and people will get off, but we must keep driving because that is what we are commissioned to do.

I know that many of those who read the blog are from Cornerstone, and hopefully this will be helpful for you to know. To you church planters and pastors hang in there, and stay focused on your mission!