Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Open Letter to Pastors from Jesus

Dear Pastor,

I want you to know my deep love for you. I know that there are many pressures on you. And some of them go with the job. But most of the pressure you feel is self-imposed. You do not have to earn my love. I love you just as you are right now. You know that message of grace that you preach to others. It applies to you as well.

The most important thing you can do as a pastor is to relax in my love for you.

And while we are on the subject of relaxing, remember, it's my church. It's not your job to build it or make it grow. That's our job (the three of us you call the Trinity). We like to work through people, but the people who are the most useful are the ones who depend upon us the most.

And here's something you keep forgetting, you are most useful when you are "weak." We don't work in spite of your weaknesses. We work through your weaknesses. When you are weak, I am strong. So don't be wasting all that energy trying to convince yourself and others that you are omni-competent. Instead, just be yourself—honestly and vulnerably.

Remember what the title "pastor" means. It means shepherd, not business mogul. I have entrusted you with the care of my sheep. Feed them and watch over them. Don't get sucked in by all this talk of the church as a business. You are not a CEO. You are a shepherd who is caring for someone else's sheep. They are not yours. They belong to me.

I don't need you to be a "leader." I don't want you investing your time and energy devising brilliant strategic plans and then forcing people to conform to them. The kind of leader I'm looking for is the person who leads by example in becoming more like me and exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit.

What I need from you is faithfulness. Keep doing what is right. Keep trusting in me. Keep growing in love.

I've already warned you that it was going to be difficult. You have real enemies out there. But your enemies are not the people in your church who are resistant to change. Neither are your enemies the people who subscribe to a different branch of theology. (All of you are in for a shock when you learn how much you've gotten wrong.) And your enemies are not the sinners who are yet to believe. Your real enemies are the forces of evil.

And these forces are at work in obvious and not so obvious ways. One of their most effective methods is to distract people like you. If they can get you to become focused on "professional fulfillment" or success, then it is just a matter of time until they can render you ineffective. And before long you will forget your true calling.

Don't lose heart. Sometimes it looks as if we are losing, but I have already overcome the world. My kingdom is advancing in ways and places that you would never expect. Some of my best people are working "undercover." Unfortunately, they sometimes get as much opposition from "church people" as they do from my enemies.

Don't worry so much about who's in and who's out. Focus on drawing people to me. Of course the real work here is done by the Holy Spirit. It is your job to live the gospel and call people to true discipleship. Don't reduce the gospel to getting people signed up for heaven. Teach them to do what I've commanded. I really did mean all that stuff Matthew collected in his "Sermon on the Mount."

As one of my shepherds, you have several serious responsibilities. But the most important responsibility you have is becoming one of my true disciples. You must deny yourself every day, take up your cross and follow me. Where did you get the idea that you could convince others to be committed to me when your own commitment is half-hearted?

I don't want your compliance. I want your heart. I want you to fall passionately in love with me. I'm not talking about being your boyfriend. There's far more to love than just the romantic and sexual part (as important as that is). Your culture, in its attempt to promote sex to "transcendent" status, has ironically cheapened it and also lost contact with other important expressions of love.

You see, the Father, the Spirit and I know something about love. It's at the essence of who we are. And in the same way the Father loves me I love you as well. I think you've heard those words, but I don't think you really understand them. I love you—with all your flaws, mistakes and selfishness.

The most important thing you can do as a pastor is to bask in that love.

If you do that, everything else will pretty much take care of itself.



M. Pease said...

While you (or someone) have tailored this message to apply specifically to pastors, is it not really a message for the body as a whole? After all we are all members of that royal priesthood. Oh, I forgot to mention peculiar. Yes. . . very peculiar.

I am intrigued by your statement about people working undercover, would you expand on that thought please?

On a completely different track, I'm not sure that believers are actually the sheep. It worked for the Israel of Jesus' time, but the term is not used for the church outside of the Gospels. Maybe that concept/metaphor isn't actually for the present age unless it's become the shepherd's job to either train sheep to find more sheep or, perhaps, to keep them entertained until the owner returns. Just a thought.

Pastor Rod said...


Yes, much of this would apply to all Christians. But some of it is specific to the pressure placed upon pastors. Yes, all believers are priests.

My comment about people working undercover is a reference to those who are outside the institutional church. You might know some of these types :-)

Jesus tells Peter, "Feed my sheep." I don't think that way of thinking ended with the age of the Apostles.

In Acts 20:28, Paul tells the elders from Ephesus, "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood."

Peter writes, "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:2-3).

Of course, I don't think it is the only metaphor that applies. And I certainly don't think it means that Christians are to be passive.

Thanks for your comments.


jeff franczak said...

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Vast, unmeasured,
Boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me,
Is the current of Thy love[!]

Samuel T. Francis, 1875
O The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus