Yesterday, I felt compelled to share with you an insight that God gave me about entering into our times of corporate worship ‘cold.’ Today, we must understand the need for pastors to enter the pulpit not simply warm but ablaze with the Spirit of God.
Paul urged Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:6-7). Pastors, when you ascend to the pulpit, you must be on fire through your calling to salvation, your character in holiness before the living God, and your compulsion to preach the Word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
What can douse that flame and leave a pastor cold?
Fear. The moment we take our eyes off the Lord and see the storm around us, we (like Peter) are sunk! The beauty of the church is its diversity of backgrounds being brought together in unity in Christ. Yet, that diversity also means different ways of trying to accomplish the same goals. A negative, stray remark heard by a pastor who desperate loves his sheep can send that pastor reeling. Yet, our course is set by Christ, not the critic. Don’t let anyone usurp the role of Christ in leading a church in his/her direction.
Floundering. When a pastor’s devotional life is struggling or non-existent, it will not be long before the pastor’s private life becomes public knowledge. Floundering in this area must never be. When the only study that takes place is for sermon preparation rather than soul preparation, we will grow cold in our love toward God and our neighbor.
Focus. “Fix your eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2). “I do it all for the sake of the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:23). “Him we proclaim” (Colossians 1:28). I’m seeing a pattern with the apostle Paul. His focus was on Jesus and the gospel (and you can see from Mark 1:1 that Jesus is the gospel)! If the pastor’s focus becomes numbers oriented rather than nurture oriented in working to strengthen the church and share the gospel to the glory of God, we become pragmatic—whatever works to bring the people in, let’s do it. Yes, we must minister, not to be a self-help therapy session, but having a hope in God through Jesus Christ and the Word.
Feeble. When pastors always seek to encourage, but shy away from exhortation and challenging, they grow feeble. Many churches want a nice pastor, but churches need both a shepherd and a prophet. Someone to guide and someone also to defend and warn. In Jude 22-23, we see the both/and of pastoral ministry:
“And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”
Being merciful doesn’t mean being mealy-mouthed. Have mercy toward the sinner, have a hatred toward the sin and the judgment that takes place.
What else do you see that can leave a pastor cold?