Sunday, August 31, 2014

It Christ's Church, not yours! (September Newsletter)

I have said once or twice before that I want to put a sign on the pulpit, for only the preacher to see. It would say, “God once spoke out of the mouth of a donkey—you're not that important!” Pride certainly afflicts pastors, often more so than other people, and we clergy need to be put in our place as often as we step into the pulpit. It is certainly not about me, or any other pastor; it is all about Christ.

I've thought about that a lot as I've pondered calls. A wise pastor said that you don't take a call because you think that God can't get His work done in that place without you; nor do you stay for the same reason. It's Christ's Church, and He will take care of it. He doesn't need me to get His work done, as if I'm somehow essential to His Church, and the whole thing would collapse if I don't go to one place or stay in another. That's not how Jesus works. He is the Lord of His Church, His bride, and He will provide for her. He does this work not through the pastor in and of himself, but through the Office of the Holy Ministry, into which He places men, providing for His Church wherever she is found.

That goes for lay people, too. It's Christ's Church, not yours. In one sense, that is stern Law, for we often think that it is our Church, and we seek our own way, dominating others and making power plays just as if we were still in the world. We spend a lot of time acting as if Christ's Church is our own to manage how we want, and we need to repent. There is only one Lord of the Church; it isn't you, it isn't the pastor, it's Christ.

But there is also sweet, comforting Gospel here. It's Christ's Church, not yours. That means, despite your foibles, your sins, your stumbling, the Church will endure, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. It means that it is not up to you to expand the Kingdom of God, that His Church will not collapse simply because you made a mistake. It means that you have the privilege and opportunity to serve in His Church, to spread the Gospel to the world, not because it won't happen if you don't but because God in His grace uses human instruments to accomplish His work. It is an honor to serve in Christ's Church, using the gifts God has given, loving God and neighbor by the vocation into which you have been placed.

The Church is built upon the Rock which is Christ, and because He is risen never to die again, His Church will endure forever. Even if congregations close, even as pastors stay or go, His Church endures, and it will shelter us as our mother until the day that Christ returns to call us into the Church Triumphant.

1 comment:

Shawn Linnell said...

Wait, are you trying to say this isn't my grandfather's church?