I never dreamed that I would find myself so familiar with death as a pastor. I studied theology in seminary, and learned about expositing a text and church leadership. However, I don’t remember reading a book about what to do when visiting someone on their deathbed. Looking back over the past seven years as a pastor, I’m astonished at how many times I’ve found myself in that exact position. Along the way, I’ve seen firsthand how uncomfortable with death we are as a society. Most people don’t know what to do or say in those moments, and so they call for a pastor.
We did it again. We elected a sinner. When are we going to learn? In fact we elected 435 sinners out of 435 seats in the House of Representatives. And a bunch of Sin-ators. You get the point?
According to Daniel 4:25, “the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone He wishes.” God raises up earth’s leaders, including those in the USA, which means He puts sinners in places of leadership. Some are aggressively hostile against Him and goodness, some are humble, faithful. Most (?) are somewhere in between.
Last weekend I was working with church leaders, tasked with discerning a God-formed vision. It’s mind bending work, but it is the stuff of leadership.
Very often, and for many different reasons, God will shrink a church from one size down to something much smaller. Sometimes the reason a church shrinks is because they have made some poor choices, but often the reasons are totally unavoidable. Changes in employment, changes in the community, changes in denominational affiliation, or a new church opening up down the street are common causes of church reduction. It is very common to find a church that has shifted from 1000 members to 500, or 300 down to 100, or from 100 down to 20. When that occurs, changes are necessary!
Worldly perfectionism causes us to question whether we’re good enough, to miss opportunities because we’re afraid of failing, and to fixate on the immediate rather than eternal. It distracts us from fulfilling our mission by setting our hearts on achieving worldly gain rather than faithful gospel-centered living. In our sinful and competitive hearts, we all want to be that woman (or man): beloved and envied by all. We want to shine bright enough to attract everyone’s attention, and ensure they’re too dazzled by our splendor to notice our flaws.