Sunday, June 13, 2010

Follow Me as I Follow Christ

This is completely raw thought, keep that in mind as you read it, don’t judge me too harshly and if you’ve got thoughts, share them. Thanks.

What is the relationship between an individual church and the pastor’s personality?

I remember one day, many years ago, sitting in a restaurant with a visiting seminary professor who had just completed some lectures at our church. He said that the congregation is shaped by the personality of the senior pastor. If the pastor was frantic, the church would vibe frantic. If he was laid back and easy going, so would the church be laid back. If he was loud and gregarious, so would the church be. If he was a people pleaser and passive aggressive, well, er, you get the picture.

At a conference a few months ago, I heard a pastor with a national following talk about the relationship between his own actions and his church. He was frustrated with what he felt was a lack of generosity in his church and then realized that he wasn’t very generous either. So he changed his own life first. The more generous he became, the more the church started to open up and show generosity. He then began to wonder why his people weren’t motivated to share the gospel. So he looked at his own life. He realized that he had no significant relationships in his life with anyone who wasn’t a church going Christian. So he went out and began to develop relationships with unchurched people and he began to lead them to Christ. His church then began to develop a real heart for the lost.

Now, did these two things happen “all by themselves?” No. I’m certain of two things: 1.) The pastor talked about what he was doing and the impact it was having on his own life. The pastor’s life, after all, is a constant testimonial. So, through preaching, the church itself was challenged to change. 2.) The Holy Spirit had a lot to do with it. He is he great shaper and preparer both of churches and pastors.

This leads me to wonder: Does God use pastors to shape churches or churches to shape pastors? I assume the answer is both somehow. But isn’t that amazing? I’m not just talking about two things being impacted because they are in relationship together, I’m talking about a divine intentionality at work for the benefit of both.

Could it mean that God would allow the pastor to go broke so that he might be prepared to preach to the church about priorities and God’s provision during a recession?

I think it was the anchorite, Julian of Norwich, who asked the Lord to give her a terrible disease so she could be a witness in her suffering.

1 Cor 11:1 “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.”

Does this mean that in order to preach, the preacher must have to have experienced what he’s preaching about first? I don’t think it’s a rule, after all, God gave us an imagination. But there is no doubt that the best sermons are preached out of one’s own experiences and that one’s own experiences help enormously in developing empathy.

And there is no doubt that the trials and joys of the congregation shape the expectations and experiences of the pastor as well.

So God’s school of discipleship continues.

What I wonder about is whether there is a way we can participate better with the Holy Ghost in finding the right churches for the right pastors and vice versa.

Thanks for reading. God bless you. PJ


  1. Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”

    God has each pastor in the right place at the right time. This will change over time based on his purposes. It may not always feel right, but faith is trust in his Lordship whether we get our plan or not.

    The way of better participation is faith.

  2. How do we make decisions that glorify God?

    Sometimes we have to choose between a good and a higher good. Our choice should value God above everything created. It will reflect mercy and justice. It will tend to be agreeable among believers. It will tend to serve with humility and love.

  3. Question: How do we get the right pastors and the right churches together?

    Answer: We look for characteristics of a person (God) we know to model our behavior on the things that we can control. With the things that we cannot control, we trust by faith that God is Lord over all (and not just those who obey). God is in control and will even allow us and others to sin for his purposes. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

    This is amazing and gives us hope both in this world and for eternity. Control the things you can in faith and accept the things you cannot control also in faith.