New Year, New Location, Same Job!
On January 2nd my wife and I said so long to EastPointe Bible Church in Peru, our church home of the past twenty plus years. At our sendoff celebration so many kind and gracious words were spoken. Among the compliments were many pieces of sage advice that are all so full of meaning. And in the midst of those wonderful things the charge from our now former pastor is most exceptional. It is vital advice. If you know Pastor Jim it is no surprise that each and every one of them are founded on the word of God. My prayer is that you will find them helpful whether you are considering being a part of Light City Bible Church here in Wabash IN or if you worship elsewhere.
First, he said “You are not God’s gift to the pulpit!”. Emphatically he made the point that the hero of the pulpit, the thing that has the most influence and deserves the most credit is Jesus Christ. If the pastor's first goal is to be well known especially as a priority over feeding his own flock, he is worshipping something other than the one true God. Watch out for heroes. They attempt to replace Jesus.
Next came the statement that may be shocking to some but the reality is that a faithful pastor must “embrace the fact that his church won’t be for everybody”. Since I love people and I certainly love for people to like me in return, this one may require the most diligence on my part. Wanting to please all the people all the time can very easily become idolatrous. Instead, a faithful pastor must be okay with the reality that “there will be blessed additions and blessed subtractions!”. Light City might not be a good fit for you for any number of reasons including what we teach on God's sovereign choice in salvation.
Thirdly, my dear friend exhorted me to “never compromise on godly leadership”. Far more important than filling a position in a model of polity, even the most biblically based, will be a mistake. The qualifications in 1stTimothy 3 and Titus 1 are not suggestions, they are there for a reason. Warm bodies are a formula for pain and heartache. One key for growth for anyone but perhaps more so for Pastors in particular is to “surround yourself with godly believers that love Christ more than they love you!” The good news is that God will “give the needed resources” including qualified elders & deacons.
Next, he turned our attention to Galatians 4:19 and gave the imperative, “don’t try to be a visionary; be a theologian”. You will probably recognize a very similar DNA (not a coincidence) in my own favorite pastoral vision verse. Colossians 1:28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me (ESV). This is God's vision. Light City Bible Church and your church needs “expert teachers and expert theologians not marketing gurus”. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Finally, my encouragement from my Paul; my mentor, my father in the faith, was simply the words of the apostle; 2 Timothy 4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (ESV). Nothing else deserves hours of study and preparation. Nothing else should be a priority “no matter what the emergency!”. This defines what is at stake; souls transformed by the Word of God.
My prayer is that God will so bless Light City Bible Church and your church with these characteristics in its pastor(s). Namely; a man who is humble and not the hero, who is not a people pleaser, who takes raising up godly leaders very seriously, who stays anchored by Christ’s vision for his church without consulting a church growth expert and perhaps most importantly, your pastor and I should “labor to exhaustion” in the word, for the good of the people which is Christ in them.
Thank you Jim for 20 plus years of modeling this. May God grant His grace to many people through me (and others) following in your footsteps and doing my utmost to keep Christ on His throne. So be it!