These seven points were articulated by Dr. Lawless, Dean of The Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The April 12 edition of the Towers at Southern was devoted to discussing issues that Pastors should or should not do in order to not blow up a church. I found the edition very helpful and several of the points that Dr. Lawless made caused me to nod in hearty agreement – whether it was due to the fact that I was guilty of doing some of the foolish things he states in his article is something I won’t tell you. Here they are:
- Begin my ministry as a teacher and refuse to be a learner. One of the comments I made to the pastor search team and to the congregation at large was to acknowledge my age (I has just turned 29 months prior to officially becoming the Pastor at Oak Park Baptist Church) and let them know that I promise to make mistakes and I promise not to act as if I have everything together. In fact, as I said recently to a fellow pastor just the other day, I’m cognizant everyday of the fact that I have so many things to learn. Yet, there are times when pride creeps in and deceives me into thinking that I have it “all-together.” May God expose my pride and crush it.
- Assume that the “honeymoon period” as a church leaders is the time to make as many changes as possible. This seems rather foolish to me and to say “well, the honeymoon will last six months so try and implement in as many new ideas as possible” isn’t something that I regularly think or say to myself.
- Expect to fix everything overnight. This has been a truth that I continually say to myself, as well as others. Oak Park is a great church, but it’s not a perfect church – no church is. So naturally, there are things I’d like to fix and the best way to fix them (all of them, if that is even attainable and realistic) is to do so over the course of years, not days or months. As Dr. York said in the same Towers edition, “as soon as possible, find the place to plant your life and stay there. Lasting change in a church will only come through a lasting commitment to providing loving, Christlike leadership through that change.” Amen and amen.
- Teach a theological system more than the Bible. A theological system isn’t what I’m trying to win people to. Rather, as question four in the Heidelberg Catechism asks, “what does God’s Law require of us? Answer. Christ teaches us in summary in Matthew 22 – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.” My job as a pastor and christian is to teach people to love God with every ounce of their being, which culminates in believing upon the person of Christ. We love God for who He is when see His glory poured out on the One who conquered death and sin and acknowledge Him in our lives as our Savior and Lord.
- Study always and seldom “hang out” with people. I love to read and study and at time if I’m left to my own selfish desires I would naturally gravitate towards this, but my job is to engage and connect with people and that only happens when I spend time with them.
- Blame undiscipled members for acting like believers who have never been discipled. I’ve only been at Oak Park for six months but even in that short-time I’ve cast judgment on individuals without ever delving into their life and seeing where they are spiritually or taking the time to share with them what the Scriptures teach. What an indictment that is – may I be relentless in opening up the Word to people, as well as my life to point them to Jesus.
- Pray reactively rather than proactively. Wow, enough said with that one huh? I’m so stinking guilty of this. May I, by God’s grace be more proactive in my prayer life rather than reactionary.
Dr. Lawless, a sincere thanks for your pastoral, insightful and timely (at least for me!) words. Love you brother.