Here for Them
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4)
I served as pastor of Lantana Road Baptist Church in Crossville, TN from 1996 – 2002. We had a van ministry that would pick up children in nearby communities and bring them to Sunday School and worship on Sunday mornings. My memory fails to recall the names of many of those children, but I can never forget their faces or their stories. Yet one little man, his face, his story, his distinct East Tennessee brogue, and what would amount to a small binder of memorable quotes are forever etched in my mind. One example would be the Sunday he boarded the van and told our driver, Jeff, that he wanted the church to pray for his uncle. Jeff asked him, “What’s wrong with your uncle?”
“He’s dae – ud.”
Jeff tried to wax theological and explain that maybe we didn’t need to pray for his dead uncle, but instead pray for their family. Then, out of curiosity Jeff asked,
“What did your uncle die of?”
The little boy replied,
“Jae –uf. He got the mange and died!”
I am a hypochondriac. "The mange” sounds like a bad way for a man to die.
This same little man met me in the hallway one Sunday morning. I stand about 6’1”. He stood about waist high to me at the time. He walked up to me in full confidence, stood toe to toe, threw his little head back, looked me in the eye and said, “Man, do you own this place?”
If there is any encouragement I can offer on this Tuesday to my fellow compatriots of the cloth it is a subtle reminder, “We don’t own the place!” As shepherds we need to realize that we are not executives. The people in our pasture are not here for us, we are here for them. We are to feed our people the Word of God. We are the guardians of heresy. We are to care for the flock. We need to know their stories.
It seems amongst the modern clergy we have lost the sense of servant leadership and have usurped authority and taken ownership. Because Jesus purchased it with His blood, He is the only one is able to call the church “His.” A wise pastor told me many years ago, “No matter what you do, never forget that you will always fail to have more invested in the church than Jesus. He has more invested in this than you ever will.”
We are often guilty of taking ownership of the church by trying to make the people of the church be like us instead of become more like Him. A church that is led by professional clergy will eventually demand professional laity. At such point, the church ceases to be organic – growth and reproduction based on nurturing; and instead the church becomes mechanical – production based on programming. It makes a heretical leap from body to machine.
We don’t own the place. They are not here for us. We are here for them. Let us serve and love the church and its complete Spirit led, organic rebellion against executive professionalism.