[thaudio href=’https://www.legana.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/2018-11-23-Pastors_Desk.mp3′]Legana Christian Church, 2018, November 23rd Pastor’s Desk Article[/thaudio]
So David set out, and the six hundred men who were with him, and they came to the brook Besor, where those who were left behind stayed. But David pursued, he and four hundred men. Two hundred stayed behind, who were too exhausted to cross the brook Besor.
First Samuel 30:9-10
How do you see the role of our church? For many, church is a place where worship, reflection, teaching, and prayers happen each Sunday morning. For some, church is a community of people who share common beliefs and values. For others, church is a mission from which resources are collected and stewarded to evangelise. Sadly, for a great many people, church is seen as an outdated irrelevant institution made up largely of elderly people who have not been scientifically enlightened – or worse still – an institution of hypocrites who abuse their positions to hurt others. Whatever your view of the role of our church, I want to present to you a compelling vision of a church that is broader, further, brighter, and higher.
A YOUTHFUL VISION OF A CHURCH
I was in my early teens when I sensed a call to be a preacher. I was 18, in my final year of High School, when I approached my pastor, Joe Bowes, and shared with him that I sensed the call to full-time ministry. His sage advice to me was to get a job, experience what working with others was like, and begin studying for ministry at the same time. This I did. After Kim and I were married, I was credentialed by the Assemblies of God as a Youth Pastor while continuing to work a day job. I was then appointed as an assistant pastor. I then had the opportunity to go and pioneer a church not far from the CBD of Melbourne.
At the time, I was one of hundreds of church planters within the Assemblies of God. Our mission was relatively simple. Gather a community of disciples who could make disciples largely by conducting Sunday meetings which would be attractive. In this context, ministry and serving was what happened on a Sunday in the church meeting. It any pioneer pastor’s hope that as many of their fledgling congregation as possible will get involved in helping make the Sunday services work. If you ever ask a pioneer pastor what their ‘vision’ is, they will tell you (and I should know) it is about what their church will do and become. This is what I consider to be a youthful vision for a church. It’s youthful because it reflects the focus and enthusiasm of the pastor, and ‘youthful’ is a good description of a fledgling church.
HOW DOES A CHURCH GROW UP?
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
It is every parent’s hope that their children will not just age, but grow up. Often it’s the very thing needed for this to happen that many parents today want to prevent their children from experiencing. I’d heard of ‘helicopter parenting’ where a parent will ‘hover’ close by their children to rescue them from any trouble or problems they might encounter, but I hadn’t until recently heard of ‘lawnmower parenting’ where the parent tries to remove any trouble or problem from their child’s life before they encounter it. But guess what helps a child to grow up? It’s the same thing that helped you to grow up. Yes, that’s right. It’s having to deal with troubles and problems!
Last Sunday night during our testimonies time, Ross shared about a season of pain that he and his wife had experienced. If I could paraphrase what he said as I heard him testify that this pain deepened their relationship and obviously gave them great empathy for others, I might put it this way- Pain can be a gift from God.
Over the years I’ve been surprised by who has also said something similar. I’ve heard it from people who have experienced loss, cancer, betrayal, divorce, and trauma. Each of these people have experienced something redemptive (“God brings good out of something bad”) from their pain.
“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
As a child learns that pain is an inevitable part of life, and they learn to deal with it – and even eventually see it as a gift from God, they grow and mature. I suspect that it is much the same for a church to grow and mature. It too has to experience pain. It too has to learn how to deal with pain. Only then can a church truly have the kind of compassion for those who are hurting and are in pain. Or, to put it the way the Apostle Paul put it, if we want to comfort the hurting we must have experienced God’s comfort in the midst of our affliction.
¶ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.
Second Corinthians 1:3-6
The church that goes into denial about its pain, loss, betrayal, will be hard pressed to comfort the hurting, help the distressed, heal the broken or save the lost. The church that avoids the pain of conflict and necessary confrontation is the church that will be hard pressed to help those it is ministering to whose relationships have broken down.
There’s something else that every parent also wants for their children so that they can grow up. When children are little, they need discipline from their parents. This discipline forms within them their guiding principles for how they treat others, how they carry responsibility, and how life’s choices have consequences. As the child accepts this discipline as good and right they begin to adopt it as part of their self-discipline. This means that even when no-one is telling them to bear their responsibilities, they tell themselves! It also means that when given the choice to do wrong, they tell themselves to avoid the wrong and do the right thing – even when no-one is watching.
Similarly, the church that seeks to grow up is going to be the church that is disciplined and self-disciplined.
A BROADER, FURTHER, BRIGHTER, HIGHER VISION
My opening text of Scripture beautifully illustrates the difference between childish and mature. David, a young man in his twenties, has just returned from an arduous battle to find that the Amalekites have kidnapped the women and children of his men who have just fought along side him. They are already exhausted. Some of these warriors are so exhausted they cannot ride into the night to fight another battle – even to rescue their own wives and children. The men are tired and now vying for David’s head because they hold him responsible!
In an episode that could have gone horribly wrong, David shows great maturity and exhibits the very traits that we have just been discussing that transition a child into an adult. David appeals to his men to come with him into the night on this rescue mission to get their wives and children (and bounty) returned. Some of his warriors ride on with him. Some stay with the baggage they leave behind. David’s mission was eventually successful. But some of the men who returned with him scorned the men who stayed behind with the baggage.
David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives. Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken. David brought back all. David also captured all the flocks and herds, and the people drove the livestock before him, and said, “This is David’s spoil.”
¶ Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow David, and who had been left at the brook Besor. And they went out to meet David and to meet the people who were with him. And when David came near to the people he greeted them. Then all the wicked and worthless fellows among the men who had gone with David said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except that each man may lead away his wife and children, and depart.” But David said, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the LORD has given us. He has preserved us and given into our hand the band that came against us. Who would listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike.” And he made it a statute and a rule for Israel from that day forward to this day.
First Samuel 30:18-25
What the men who returned from rescuing their families may not have appreciated is that these two hundred men who remained behind with their baggage were the very men who had fought alongside them in their last battle – and quite possibly helped to preserve their lives. Secondly, by leaving their additional baggage behind to go off after the Amalekites their lighter load meant they were quicker and more agile – which would have contributed to their decisive victory.
There is a principle here for a mature church. God calls some people into the front-lines where the battle is fiercest, and some He calls to ‘mind their baggage’.
WHAT CAN HAPPEN WHEN A CHURCH BEHAVES LIKE A GROWN UP
A grown-up church has a broader, bigger, brighter, further, higher vision of life and ministry. In this kind of church there will be those whose ministry has demanded that they ‘battle’ from Monday to Friday. They come into church on Sunday battle-weary. They are tired. Their responsibilities through the week are a heavy burden. Their self-disciplines require of them great concentration. The kinds of challenges they face are challenges that very few share. They are leaders of industry, commerce, education, media, justice, government, the arts, and health-care. They come to a grown-up church not to be a ‘pew-warmer’ but to be refreshed, renewed, revitalised for the continuing of the battle Monday morning. For these ministers (and this is how a grown-up church views them) this is their time and space to be restored.
¶ The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness or his name’s sake.
¶ Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
¶ You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
A grown-up church is better equipped to minister to the hurting, lost, lonely, confused, and broken. It does this each Sunday directly by ministering to such people – but it also does it indirectly by ministering strength, inspiration, encouragement, is far wider than ours on a Sunday. Therefore, each Sunday we want to welcome the hurting, lost, lonely, confused, ill, and broken into our church family – but we also want to make welcome the healers, the leaders, the employers, the entrepreneurs, the innovators, the teachers, the mothers and the fathers – whom Christ has called to minister – who are each a part of the solution our city desperately needs!
Pastor Andrew Corbett