It is early Sunday morning and a pastor of a small church gets up to prepare himself and his heart before the scheduled service that morning. After he spends some time in prayer and reads the scripture that he will be preaching from, he walks into the sanctuary of his small church building. His eyes become fixed on different seats within the building, and in his mind he begins to envision those who regularly occupy those seats. His heart becomes heavy with emotions of disappointment, frustration, discouragement, and even anger. For a moment he even begins to question the legitimacy of his own ministry. His troubled heart cries out to God, “Why don’t the people desire to hear your word?” This pastor is all too familiar with the sad reality that so many other pastors face in their ministries: the people who fill their churches desire nothing more than a religious inoculation to stimulate their spiritual lethargy. In his somber spirit he begins to dream of a day when the people he loves and serves as pastor will desire to hear the word of God and allow it to accomplish the perfect and pleasing will of God in their lives, a day when those who occupy a seat in his sanctuary see themselves as more than a mere Sunday salute to an acceptable service performed by a hired hand, but an empowered minister of the gospel sent forth to bear witness of the extraordinary life in Christ. It is the dream of this pastor to see his peoples’ souls prosper, to adequately equip them for every good work that God has prepared for them to do, and then go do it.
Why is it that the church as we know it has become so inept? Why is it that the greatest institution given by God is quickly becoming extinct in a postmodern society? Is it because unqualified individuals occupy the pulpit of churches today? Or could it be the result of faithless people occupying its pews? Paul wrote, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17 NIV).
One of the first changes we must make is that of desiring the word of God. The scripture says, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1Peter 2:2 NKJV). Even as professing Christians, the word of God holds little value and falls short of having any priority in our lives. However, our faith is conceived, admonished, and grows upon hearing the word of God.
As a pastorb it is my biblical duty to equip those I serve to do the work of the ministry through the teaching of God’s word. Here is how Paul writes it in Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT), “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” There is nothing more frustrating for a pastor than to be given a responsibility, and not be able to fulfill it because those that they have been given the privilege of serving do not position themselves to allow them to, or if they are present in body, they are not present in any other form, spirit, or mind. And yet, there is no greater joy for a pastor than to see those who are present to receive the teaching of God’s word grow in all aspects of Christ Jesus. This becomes evident not only in their attendance, but in their acceptance of its correction, reproof, and training, providing and accomplishing everything necessary for them to fulfill every good work God has called them to do. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (2Timothy 3:16-17 NLT).
I challenge all who read this to carefully evaluate their own hearts. What importance do you place on being in the position to hear and receive the word taught by those that God has appointed and anointed to serve you in your equipping? Become that one who fulfills the dream of your pastor rather than becoming their nightmare.
I leave you with your last scripture, “Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit” (Hebrews 13:17 NLT).