Friday, February 22, 2008

Friendly fire! (Part 4)

Okay, so here’s my conclusion to this subject of building intimate relationships with the people that you lead and pastor. I unequivocally suggest that it’s imperative that we as pastors and leaders are willing to sacrifice our egos, our time, and sometimes our privacy, in order to effectively coach people in living life well. I believe that we must be willing to endure pain and sometimes even suffer the loss of friendships to ensure that God’s purpose for our lives isn’t short-circuited. Craig Groeschel put it most succinctly at the ARC conference in Austin, TX last year. His statement: “The growth of your church is in direct proportion to the amount of pain you are willing to endure” made a profound impact on me. If anything has shaped my approach to, and philosophy of ministry, it is that statement.

Since for me the goal is to reach the lost (with the truth and power of God’s word), the hurting (with God’s enduring and unending love) and the next generation (with the relevance of His word for their everyday lives), I have settled in my heart that I am willing to pay the price that God requires of me, whatever that may be. My conviction has served to strengthen the bond in my family in the most amazing of ways. My relationship with my wife is better today (twenty years into marriage) than it was when I first got married. My children, rather than balk at the mention of ministry, are empowered by the way they have seen their mother and I walk through our struggles. They are convinced that what we believe in is real and true, and it has set the tone for their own personal relationships with Jesus.

Most of all though, it is the “fruit” of the people that I pastor, which lends credence to the idea that we must ensure that we are authentic, vulnerable, and accessible. I have a file full of letters I have received over the last couple of years, but especially over the last year. I have randomly selected two of them that were sent to me recently so that you can see first hand the value of building intimate relationships with those that you lead. Only the names have been withheld.

Dear Pastor Joseph,

I just wanted to take a moment to share with you some things that are on my heart. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the man of God that you are and being such an example to our whole family and everyone at The Well. We are so blessed to call you our pastor!

...Something which has really stood out to me over the last few months, as well, is your attitude of forgiveness and trust instead of vengeance and bitterness. It has been so evident, and I/we have learned so much from your example. It has pointed us to Christ!

...We truly are products of the vision of The Well, even though we had had a relationship with Jesus for years.

Love and Blessings,
xxx

Pastor,

I just wanted to take time to explain myself a little better since yesterday I was so nervous I was unable to express myself the way that I wanted to. You already know how we met, but when I said that leading up to that meeting I was struggling spiritually, what I was really struggling with was that I wanted (and still do) to know and experience God more. I was watching people struggle with family issues, debt, addictions, lack of knowledge, etc and it bothered me very much.

...I was getting tired of church because I felt like there are all these different religions and churches most of which are not preaching and teaching the whole truth and there are people that are blindly following and their lives are being messed up because of it.

... I just wanted to share some reasons why I have continued to come to The Well. It is mainly because of you: you have never gotten up and made promises of how God is going to bless me (w/ money, cars, good marriage, etc.) even though I believe that He blesses people in all these ways. Every time that you have received tithes and offerings all you have ever done is explain what it is and that’s it. God uses you to bring the message across in an effective way without all the fluff.



...In my opinion The Well is set up to help people grow in the Lord without beating them over the head with “You’re a sinner and you’re going to hell” and without watering down the message so that it strokes their emotions without making a positive spiritual impact. Thank you for continuing to fight the good fight, take it easy.

Xxxxx

Need I say more?

3 comments:

Hope Clark said...

Oh, how wonderful it is to see the fruit of your hard, sacrificial work!

Hope said...

I think that when letters like these are sent by congregants it's a little pat on the back from the Lord. It's His way of using someone else to encourage pastors by saying, "WELL done, good and faithful servant."

Joseph said...

Thank you Hope C. Especially since you and Kenneth have been right there beside Sola and I 'toiling' and loving the people.

Hope, on my worst days it is letters like these ones that keep me focused on the primary purpose.