Pastors often leave churches. They leave for many reasons. Some leave because they have been asked or told to leave by the congregation. Other leave for another ministry. Others for another profession. I want to focus on those that leave for another ministry and how to respond to their leaving. As a pastor, I know the pain of leaving and have seen the pain leaving produces.
1. When your pastor leaves, he ought to be able to give his story. I think some pastors take the opinion that it is a private decision to leave one’s present ministry for another. That is arrogant. People need to know more about how you came to your decision and why you are departing. It helps to know that a pastor is leaving because he is called elsewhere rather than that he’s leaving because his present ministry was stifled. A pastor can do much to leave peace behind him simply by telling his story of God’s grace. Some pastors are leaving because they were stifled – be above blaming your congregation. Speak the gracious matters and leave the pain behind.
2. Staying a long time is a good practice but not always the Lord’s direction. After all, if a church fires its pastor for legitimate reasons, they believed it was the Lord’s time for their pastor to depart. When your pastor leaves, you ought to be very careful about taking an offense over his leaving. He may have little reason that sounds legitimate to you, but if you’ve trusted him to preach God’s Word to you, you probably need to trust him when he tells you the Lord Jesus is directing him elsewhere.
3. Those feelings of abandonment and sadness can actually be a sign of significant ministry. We miss those we love. If your pastor has never become precious enough to you such that you would miss him, either you or he or both are ministering too far apart. Pastors are not saviors, only Jesus saves. Pastors, however, should be significant in your life and that of your family. Don’t be afraid to love a pastor. Pastors ought not be afraid to love their people.
4. We tend to think that suffering an emotional wound is a negative. I think this is an unbiblical assumption. When we work closely together, learn to trust each other, grow in our affections for one another, and devote ourselves together to the mission of Christ, we will be wounded. So what! Paul laments the elders who sough to dissuade him from the mission. He complains that they are breaking his heart with their weeping. The mission transforms our relationships making them deeper. We have to submit our will to God’s and therein lies our peace when our pastor leaves.
I hesitate to wade into this charged environment. In response to the present surge of racism and murder of police officers in Dallas, I thought I might be able to shine some light in the direction of an answer. I believe that “solving” the resurgent racism problem is an ongoing mission together. We have to continually work on the issue. People divide over all types of things: age, economics, job type, or even birthplace. Racism is another way in which people, ungoverned by Christ, attempt to assert their superiority over others. This covetous root has grown into people since Cain killed Able. America is not alone in this fight. However, the church is the answer and here’s three ways it can be:
1. Pastors have to lead out by intentionally diversifying their friends. We don’t mean to, but we resist walking into another person’s world for fear of committing a faux pas. We usually consider friendship as something that happens by chance. Cross-ethnic friendships, especially among pastors, rarely occurs by accident. You have to mean to make a friend.
2. Churches have to embrace all the people in their community. It’s easy to grow frustrated with the people in your community you judge to be problem people. True ministry that engages the community, however, takes into account the customs of the local people and the place in life you find them. Ministry is not about how we wish people would be but about how they are. If you sense racial prejudice, you will have to work extra hard to lower that resistance. Ministering to needs rather than clinging to ideals will enable cross-ethnic ministry.
3. Hear people and address the issue. The churches need to hear one another and pastors need to repudiate racism in all its forms from their pulpits. They need to work for all races in their community. To accomplish that is to listen well. Churches can experience the peace of Christ and leverage that peace against the warmongering of Satan. When the church has listened to people, ministered to them, and consistently renounced racism, the grace of God will begin to bring peace to our communities.
These ideas are in practice at First Baptist Hempstead. We see them happening. Even as Look Like Heaven, a multi-ethnic emphasis of the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention, begins, we are reminded that this war is the churches to win.
[This letter will be sent to the HISD Board, Superintendent, and Principals.]
OPEN LETTER TO HEMPSTEAD SCHOOLS
SUBJECT: ISSUANCE OF “NONDISCRIMINATION DECREE” FROM THE US DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION PRESSURING SCHOOLS THAT RECEIVE FEDERAL FUNDING TO ALLOW STUDENTS TO USE THE BATHROOM OR LOCKER ROOM OF THEIR GENDER CHOICE
Dear School Board Members, Superintendent, and Campus Principals,
The United States Department of Justice and the United States Department of Education, under the direction of President Obama, recently sent a letter that interpreted “non-discrimination” clauses within Federal Title IX Act of 1972 to include transgender identity. Under the new interpretation, a student’s chosen gender identity rather than his or her birth certificate gender identity will determine bathroom usage. I am concerned about consequences to Hempstead ISD students and teachers if you comply with this order.
- Compliance opens the door for sexual harassment and breach of privacy. All children have the privacy right to gender-specific bathrooms where they are not in danger of embarrassment should someone of the opposite birth gender enter the locker room/bathroom. Teachers are in danger of accusations of sexual harassment every time they walk into a bathroom of their birth gender because they may encounter a student of the opposite gender.
- Failure to establish specific policy countering the federal order and detailing procedure to instruct those families that make cross-gender identity claims, even if the reasoning is that it will never actually be an issue, is a recipe for lawsuit. The district will face lawsuits from non-cross gender students should it comply with the Federal order.
- Safety is on the line. Protect the students of Hempstead Schools and our teachers from embarrassment and breach of privacy and harassment. Protect teachers of Hempstead Schools from harassment charges.
If the school allows itself to be bullied into compliance with the overreach of the Federal demand, it will have strayed from its own promise to “do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons: our kids.” Students who identify cross-gender should use the bathroom that corresponds to their birth certificate identity or use a single-use bathroom.
The schools should establish a policy that permits gender specific bathrooms only, and provides individual use bathrooms available to students without question of gender identity. Your moral obligation, legal obligation, and the welfare of the students is on the line. I will remove my student from the school should you fail to stand strong in this manner. I will have no choice morally. REFUSE THIS ORDER!
Kevin and Tracy Jordan, Parents
I find myself increasingly concerned about the lazy attitude of church members toward church attendance. Many reasons have been suggested as to why church attendance has become so lazy, but I want to focus on why church attendance is important. It seems, in my pastoral experience, any reason is good enough to miss a Sunday morning worship time. Feeling tired? Skip. Family time? Skip. Sports? Skip. Tough work week? Skip. Went to bed late on Saturday night? Skip. All the excuses lead to one conclusion: church doesn’t matter much to believers…and it shows in our mission.
1. God Commands Church Attendance. Some will argue that the New Testament church was nothing like the modern church. Those who argue such a thing are naïve to the New Testament church and hung up on procedure rather than on the Spirit. The first church gathered for worship regardless of their circumstances, and they gathered with great rejoicing. Hebrews 10:25 warns against forsaking the assembly of believers. Missing church is evidence of a serious spiritual defect. True, some churches are apostate and do not follow the scriptures, but that hardly explains why a believer does not find a church that does listen to God and preach the scripture.
2. Spiritual Maturity is Priority. Like it or not, the church is the primary community in which we gain spiritual maturity. The Lord ordained the church as the community for instruction in righteousness, confession, and mission. If we attended our jobs, school, or social functions with the same vigor as church, we would be fired, expelled, or de-friended. If spiritual maturity is a priority, gathering for worship with the community of God – with the church – will be a priority as well. Listening to God is more important than anything we could do. The faithful preaching and teaching of the Word should whet our appetite for God. Learning in the church is an expression of love for God’s Word.
3. You Need a Blessing. Acts 2:42 notes the consistent and active devotion the early church practiced toward one another. They experienced God among them as they helped one another and prayed together and listened to instruction together. Their time together was a blessing from God. Many go to church looking for a blessing to happen to them but are no invested in the work of the church. It is in the mission and constant attention to God that we receive the blessing of God. We have to cultivate the presence of God and the expectation of His Spirit. Going to church once a month and living the rest of the time for ourselves is hardly a pure attitude toward God. We need a blessing but we want it as a garnishment on our proud hearts. Consistent and prioritized church attendance produces the blessing that comes from those who are poor in spirit. We go to church needy and allow God to fill us over time.
Of course, I could mention many additional reasons why church attendance matters. I also assume that a believing family would be seeking a Bible teaching church rather than just going to a church around the corner that did not preach the Word. If you find yourself among those who has made excuses for not attending church, the way home is through repentance. Find a Bible preaching church and begin to attend. That church will be imperfect, will lack programs you want, and will be uncomfortable at times, but you will receive the blessings of your commitment to Christ through your church attendance. You need that blessing!
I encouraged my congregation to be thankful as a means of remaining focused on the Lord’s work in their lives. And I encourage all people, likewise, to spend time expressing gratitude to God for all you have faced and overcome and wrestled with this year. We celebrate the work of God generally in Christmas and Easter but we celebrate the work of God individually at Thanksgiving. Don’t short change your Thanksgiving this season. Develop five personal, well defined thanks and share them on Thanksgiving. Make a tradition that glorifies God on this forgotten holiday. Peace and joy will reside in you through Christ as a blessing flowing from your thanksgiving.
Our teens face threats from all angles. Whether its friends or media or emotions, our teens have to protect their future by acting wisely today. In this complex world of voices, parents have to navigate their kids as best they can. Because this challenge is universal to all parents of all times, God provided Proverbs to help us out. Proverbs outlines five chief threats to our teens and explains how parents can help them protect their future.
1. The Threat from the Crowd: Proverbs begins by warning kids from following their peers and ignoring the wisdom of God. If you want your teen to traverse the perils of Jr. High and High School, teach them to know God and remain an active voice of wisdom in their lives. Their friends can’t lead them to good ends. Remain involved and pursue God.
2. The Threat from the Class Clown: Proverbs calls the Class Clown a “scoffer”. This person thinks the rules were made to be broken. God makes wisdom available (characterized as a woman yelling loudly from the head of the market), but scoffers attempt to convince your teen to ignore God’s wisdom. Enforce discipline in the home often and early in order to protect your teen from being the class clown or following the disrespectful pattern of the class clown.
3. The Threat from the Flatterer: Proverbs warns the teen to stay far from the flattery of older people. This flattery can flow from media sources or from irresponsible people who emphasize the wrong choices, glorify overgrown childishness, or seek to use your teen for profit and evil. Recruiters and marketers can fall into this category. Protect your teen by talking through their choices and limiting their access to media.
4. The Threat from the Forbidden Woman or Man: The forbidden man or woman is anyone who does not believe in Christ Jesus. Temptation to date and experiment with love surround our teens and distract them. Protect your teen by refusing to let them date. Describe the type of godly qualities your teen should seek in a future spouse and refuse to treat as “cute” their infantile “crush”. Experimenting with love is a dangerous task and a huge distraction.
5. The Threat of Pride: Last but not least, Proverbs warns against forgetting God’s instruction as a teen ages. Pride is natural among teens but becomes a threat when it imperils their ability to listen to God. Teens have to learn to trust in God for their future success and to trust in God’s wisdom for what they believe. Pride and self-confidence threaten to shake our teens away from their moorings to God’s Word. Encourage your teen to remain with Jesus Christ and his word by living a growing and thriving faith.
Solomon personifies wisdom in Proverbs 1:20. In her first incarnation, Lady Wisdom stands at the head of a noisy street. Her location and the backdrop from which her words proceed describe the important elements of Lady Wisdom’s call. She calls openly but amidst many other voices.
God’s wisdom is not secret or hidden. Wisdom is practical observation of God’s creation and society in the presence of God’s commands. Unlike secret religions where truth is discerned through ritual and secret codes, God’s wisdom is available to all who listen to God. Solomon, however, desires also to explain why many fail to hear the cry of Lady Wisdom.
Many voices compete for the attention of young people and adults alike. Sports stars, singers, friends, businesses all vie for attention. Wisdom is one voice, a superior voice no doubt, among many voices. The wise learn the voice of wisdom. The foolish fail to hear the voice of wisdom and follow the distractions. Though wisdom cries to all, few hear her.
Wisdom speaks in three distinct and important locations. The first place one finds wisdom is on the street. The street refers to the general occasions of life. The street illustrates the social sphere of life. The wise listen, discover, obey, and practice wisdom even in the casual dealings among people. Relationships of minor or major importance require wisdom. The streets illustrate the day-to-day functions where wisdom is learned and listened to.
The wise also find and practice wisdom in the marketplace. The market illustrates the place of trade, business, and various financial and investment dealings. One grows more wise as he or she gains experience in the marketplace. He also practices the commands to speak truthfully, use honest measures, and practice integrity.
The city gates represent the place of decision making. City elders often gathered at the city gates to settle civil disputes, witness the exchange of property, and establish civil regulations for the community at large. Wisdom belonged at the city gates and would carry a person to that place of prestige when wisdom matured in them. Solomon dangles the carrot of nobility and position for those who excel in wisdom. For all who desire to better their lives, wisdom is available through the knowledge of God.