Saturday, April 2, 2011

Remember Your Leaders

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. ~ Hebrews 13:7

Pastor Ron has been my family's "undershepherd" (as he likes to say) for nine years. He has been my friend, counselor, and my primary ministry adviser and cheerleader for almost twelve years.

I will have the honor of once again standing in my pastor's pulpit this Sunday. He has been away from the office and pulpit for more than a month, battling pneumonia. His doctors are relatively confident that he can return to his pastoral responsibilities in about 2-3 weeks. Your prayers for him are certainly appreciated.

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to enjoy a short visit with my pastor, in his home. It had been a while since I've seen him. It was obvious to me that his battle with pneumonia has been a tough one. But my pastor, who is also a retired lawman, is a tough guy. Though visibly tired, his smile lit the room.

I brought him up to speed on my various ministry projects and the family. He brought me up to speed on his recovery, and how the Lord has drawn him even closer to Himself as a result of this physical trial.

I felt myself clinging to my pastor's words more so than in times past. It could have been because his speech was more deliberate with a hushed tone, due to the fact his lungs are still healing; but it was more than that.

I was multitasking as my pastor spoke. I was listening to his words while, at the same time, remembering how much he has done for me, my family, and our church. I've always loved and respected my pastor, but it deepened that day. I also considered how much my less-than-perfect pastor exhibits Christ-likeness in his life--in his prayer life; in his devotion to the Word of God; in his love for his flock; in his ability to forgive a wrong suffered, even at the hands of his own people; and in his love and compassion for the lost.

My pastor is not a "rock star." That is to say my pastor will likely never be known outside of the hundreds (if not thousands) of people to whom he has directly served, over decades of ministry. He is content leading, serving, and loving his flock of under 150 people. He has not written any books. He doesn't have a blog. He doesn't have a YouTube channel. He doesn't have a Twitter or Facebook account. I remember once asking my pastor for permission to post on my blog a letter he wrote to our church family. His response: "No. I write these letters just for our church family."

So what makes my pastor special? Everything. For one, he loves me in spite of who I am, at times. Beyond that: he faithfully teaches his people the Word of God. He is a man of prayer. He loves his people, even when they are most unlovable. Sometimes the sheep bite the shepherd. He loves Christ and His gospel, and he begs his people to love Christ and share the gospel with the lost. He would rather be sold out for Christ than sell out to please himself. He puts in 80+ hours a week to serve Christ and His people, instead of only 40 hours a week so he can spend the rest of his time promoting or serving himself.

My pastor, in so many ways, is the epitome of Philippians 1:21. "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

Please don't misunderstand me. Again, my pastor is not perfect. In fact, if you were to ask him, he would likely tell you that he is far from perfect. And I don't write this to place my pastor atop a pedestal (he would not stand for it). I write these things to encourage you, the Christian reader--particularly the evangelists, to remember your leaders.

If your pastor is faithfully dividing the Word of God, sacrificially caring for his flock, and is a man who would rather pray than play, then stop comparing him to your favorite preachers on the Internet--other faithful men of God under whose direct leadership you will likely never sit. Remember your leaders.

How often do you pray for your pastor? I ask this to my own shame. For I have prayed more often and more consistently for my pastor in the last month than I have in times past. The fact that I have prayed more for him in the last month is no cause for praise. I should have been praying for him as often and as intensely, for the last nine years.

Instead of dreaming about sitting under another man of God's ministry, remember your pastor, the man of God who now speaks the Word of God to you. Consider the outcome of his way of life, and imitate his faith.

I look forward to sitting under my pastor's teaching again in a few weeks, with even greater appreciation for who he is and what he has been called to do. And I thank God for my time with my pastor the other day. It was during that visit I considered his way of life, which gave me a Spirit-induced desire to imitate his faith.

Thank you, Pastor Ron.