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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Quehanna Highway
Quehanna Highway on the Allegheny Plateau in north-central PA.
This area is near where we lived for nearly 16 years.
(Click on photo to enlarge)

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"Pastoral Criticism"

"They watch for your souls, as they that must give account" (Hebrews 13:17).

This month is Clergy Appreciation month. Having served for 25 years in pastoral ministry and now serving in another form of Christian service (internet ministry and chaplaincy) finds me sitting out in the pews in a typical worship service so as a former pastor I have an interesting perspective on pastoral/lay relations.

The daily phrase from Scripture is a powerful description of the heart of a pastor's ministry.  The Amplified Version states the first part of the phrase as; "they are constantly keeping watch over your souls and guarding your spiritual welfare."

Writing, radio, TV, tape and Internet based ministries such as this one may be a helpful supplement in our Christian lives, but I believe it's still God's plan for believers to meet together regularly in worship as they did in the very beginning. In fact I chafe at the term "internet churches" and those trying to set up a church over the internet seeking to simulate a local church.  I believe everyone calling themselves a Christian should be in regular association with other believers in a local church with pastoral leadership and care. (Thought we're aware that there are those who
cannot attend services due to confinement and political oppression.)

One of the greatest sources of discouragement and grief for the minister of the Gospel is dealing with criticism.  I received my share of it during my years of pastoral ministry.  I know all of my peers in ministry have as well.  Early this week I heard a very candid message from H.B. London, a veteran pastor, who shared a perspective on this.

I know of one dedicated minister who had a very effective ministry in a church he had founded and served faithfully.  But after he left there was division in the church and a group arose that criticized both his appearance and speaking ability. 

Such criticism just goes with the job but can still be very personally painful.  Pastors are often criticized in ways that are mutually contradictory.  I believe that most criticisms are merely personal preferences by members of the congregation.

Let me ask you.  Does your pastor faithfully preach God's Word and teach sound doctrine?  Is he faithful to his wife and family?  Does he care for the flock of God?  Does he manage the financial and business affairs of your church with honesty and integrity?  If so you are blessed.  Why don't you pray for your pastor and let him know of your appreciation.

By the way, the dedicated minister I referred to above who received painful criticism was the Apostle Paul.  In his second letter to the Corinthians he referenced this criticism made of his ministry gifts, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing" (2 Corinthians 10:10).  I sure bet those people feel foolish now!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer:  Father, we pray for those who watch over our souls and care for our spiritual needs.  May we be a source of blessing to them as we faithfully uplift them in prayer and through our conversation with others.  When we find fault increase our desire to pray rather than maliciously gossip to others about him.  Help us to attend worship services with an expectant attitude and find our place of service. May our minds be attentive so that our thoughtful responses will spur our pastor on as he looks out upon the congregation as he teaches from Your Holy Word.  Bless his family, provide for their needs and guard them against the many temptations sent by the evil one.  May they know by the fruit of our lips and good deeds that they are greatly loved.  Amen.

Here's a prayer to publicly pray for your pastor. I encourage you to use a prayer like this, adapting it for each situation. It would be powerful to have the board gather around him and offer prayer together. I can tell you from experience such a prayer would be a real blessing to him and the congregation!

Here are some resources to assist you in honoring your pastor.
Online Cards  
Appreciation ideas and more ideas.

Yesterday we had a pleasant visit.  After finishing the message a motorcyclist drove up.  Brooksyne did not recognize the driver so I went out to meet him. Turns out it was a reader who just wanted to meet us and drove over our way looking for our house using the soybean fields I periodically mention as a guide!  We visited with Brad for awhile. Though he made a decision for Christ as a boy he  became very serious about his relationship with the Lord only about a year ago. He came across our website and has been reading the messages ever since. He shared this link to a powerful story of commitment, faithfulness and impact.  Take a moment to listen to it. The outcome will surprise you and perhaps bring tears to your eyes!

EnochToday I want to share the latest entry in my humor blog. I shared this true story many years ago with Daily Encouragement readers but many are new to the ministry and have not read this "tribute" to the dog Brooksyne and I had when we first got married in 1976 titled My dog Enoch.
Many years ago Phil Bongiorno, my former district superintendent here in Pennsylvania, got such a kick out of Enoch's most notable achievement; becoming an "ordained minister"!

Today's suggested music:
"I Will Overcome" (Audio)

A final smile today: H.B. London shared how he preached a message on healing and ten people in the congregation were instantly healed of insomnia as he preached!

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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