Monday, June 3, 2013

What is MY Purpose?

What is my purpose?
June 4, 2013

1 Corinthians 9:16-18 [HCSB]
16For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason to boast, because an obligation is placed on me. And woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17For if I do this willingly, I have a reward, but if unwillingly, I am entrusted with a stewardship. 18What then is my reward? To preach the gospel and offer it free of charge and not make full use of my authority in the gospel.

What is MY purpose as a pastor? As one God has called into the Ministry of the Gospel? It would seem that on the surface my calling is rather straight-forward and simple, and for the most part it is exactly that… I have been called by God to preach His message of hope, love, mercy, grace and forgiveness to those who do NOT know Him. I have been called by God to love others as Christ loves me and to share Jesus with all God places in my life. My vision is really pretty clear, but sometimes the vision/calling from God on my life runs counter to the vision/desire of my own heart!

Let me take a moment to explain. As a pastor, my goal is to share Christ and to make disciples. As a pastor, there is NO place in Scripture that delineates a requirement that I am supposed to grow the church I pastor. Quite the contrary, the only statement about ‘growing the church’ is made by Jesus who states that HE will grow the church. However, as is the case for 99.99% of pastors in America, the ‘growth’ of the church is tied to the position of pastor.

So even when I realize that my TRUE calling as a minister of the Gospel is to make disciples, I am also called by my church to enlarge the congregation as well. This is to be done by personal and corporate evangelism, but as is the case with many pastors it can lead to a sense of failure when one attempts to quantify results. Success in the eyes of the world, or even your own congregation, is often FAR different than in the eyes of God. Success in the eyes of God is simple and consistent obedience to His calling.

Success in the eyes of the world screams more people in the seats, more dollars in the offering, a larger staff, multiple ministries and several others indicators for their view of success. This can lead to confusion of the heart on behalf of the pastor, as it can easily denigrate into a contest to see how many seats can be filled each Sunday and how large an offering can be brought in during the service. Neither of which are bad things, but neither of which should be the focus of the pastor! When we are commanded to make disciples, it does not mean they have to become members of our own church, and that is why many congregations shy away from what is defined as “Kingdom evangelism”.

Kingdom evangelism is what Scripture speaks to when it commands us to ‘…go and make disciples…’ and many pastors/churches do not desire to add to the numbers of others pastor/churches, so their focus is only on what they can do to add to their numbers. This leads to competition instead of cooperation within the body and within the fellowship of churches and it actually destroys the witness of the churches.

As I was reading on FaceBook the other day, I saw a picture that, when I read it, it shocked me and actually scared me just a bit. However, in reality this picture relates the truth about the mission of any minister and what their focus should be when serving God. The picture (which you can see here) is captioned, “Go preach the Gospel, die, and be forgotten!” At first glance, the message seemed rather gloomy and depressing.

However, as I looked at it and as I contemplated upon the message it brought, God revealed to me that this is what He has called me to as a minister! As Bonheoffer said in his book The Cost of Discipleship, “…“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die…”  As ministers, ours is NOT a calling of fame or notoriety, that is something our culture or this world brings about… our calling is to come and die IN CHRIST and FOR CHRIST!

So with this in mind, my prayer is that my heart always remain focused on:
1st – from where God has delivered me (I am a sinner saved by the magnificent grace of God)
2nd – to where God is leading me (I am on HIS path, not on one of my own)
3rd – on what God desires of me (My plan is His plan)
4th – on those who need Christ (My focus is His focus)

Let us NOT lose sight of our calling in Christ and FOR Christ! Let us be vigilant and ever mindful of the calling God has on our lives!

1 comment:

  1. Part #1
    Wow!! What an awesome and humbling question to ask! My first response is to simply offer some logical points: a) Preaching the Gospel brings an obligation, therefore, there is no reason to boast and a woe to come if I do not preach; b) to respond to preaching willingly will bring reward; c) if I am preaching unwillingly, I still have a stewardship that is due the Word of God; d) The reward - to be free of lucre, filthy or otherwise, as regards the preaching of the Gospel. e) The reward is not based upon my ability to convince others of the truth of the Gospel.
    As you can see, you have opened a big can of very important worms regarding the preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, his relationship with God and hjs relationship with those to whom he would preach.
    So, let us engage these ideas, building upon your four concluding points re: What is my purpose?
    Part #1B - Preaching is an obligation, or at the very least an act of stewardship from the position of absolute humility.
    God makes it clear throughout scripture that we each have an obligation to share information that will aid ourselves or others to walk more closely with Him. This starts with Adam and Eve; progresses with Cain and Abel and just about every pair of individuals serving the Lord in the Old Testament, be they married (eg, Abram and Sara) or just, same gender friends (Jonathan and David). Paul even speaks in Colossians 1:28 "Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: "
    This reveals the obligation for the preacher; that is to warn, teach and present every man in Christ Jesus.
    Out of this, we can see the need for stewardship. Whether we want to or not, when called by God to preach, at the very least, we must keep to the veracity of the scripture and not add or remove any principle that God has given toward the meaning and application of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
    Oh, how challenging that we as filthy men, "of unclean lips", says Isaiah; we with "hearts that are dark and deceptive in every way", says Jeremiah, of all people, are most miserable in our need to share the Gospel!!
    I can do nothing but fall at God's throne of grace and mercy to state as John the Baptist noted at the end of his ministry in John 3:30 "He must increase, but I must decrease." The natural end of any preaching ministry, as you have so well put from Count Zinzendorf “Go preach the Gospel, die, and be forgotten!”, reminds us that our work is to point others to Christ, not ourselves.
    Therein lies the third aspect of this part, humility. What is my motivation to preach? Do I seek to have a TV show?; perhaps a DVD series; a YouTube following? or can I say as John in 3 John 1:4 "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."
    The object of the preacher's humility is not man but God. The preacher's power in the pulpit does not come from winning the local popularity contest, rather, it comes from the fear of failing God and interjecting his filthy self into God's message. The preacher should so desire that those God has called Him to warn will be so close to Jesus Christ after each message that no man or situation may cause fear to prevent him from storming the gates of Hell! CT Studd says it all, "Some wish to live within the sound Of Church or Chapel Bell. I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of Hell."
    Part #2 later,