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Church is not about a pastor.  He obviously plays a part.  God never intended for one man to make or break a church.  There are safeguards established by the apostles in the New Testament to prevent that.  In a plurality of elders, for example, they can hold each other accountable.  If one of them is unwilling to listen to the concerns of a congregant, perhaps another will.  This is not to encourage division in the leadership, for the point of multiple shepherds is that no one can do everything all the time.  In the weakness of one, another diversely weak leader can be strong.

The burden we place on pastors is not fair.  Their weaknesses and failings are elevated to a critical point.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken – not only because it is harder to break all three at once, but because all three bear and divide the tension, creating a strength in the individual threads that is harder to break.

When I imagine church, I want the big vision, the ideal of what could and should describe the gathering of Christ’s bride.  A pastor sees the path, turns us in the direction, opens the gate leading us there, the practical next step to which I am so blind.

So many times I have seen pastors and ministry leaders get tired and discouraged.  I recognize the signs, having experienced them myself.  The tension is growing and the responsibilities keep piling up, all without any sign of effectiveness.  Or, we don’t know what signs to seek, or where to turn our eyes.

If my reader has read the Bible only, he will not find an altar call there – not for salvation.  The Bible usually records God’s saving work as meeting people wherever they are, in their chariot, on their knees in a jail, by a riverside doing laundry.  Jesus said, “Come unto Me,” without the help of pulpit or altar or stage.  In our church, custom has it at the end of each sermon to invite any heretofore unrepentant sinners to approach the front, to counsel with the pastors, and if they are willing, to pray receiving God’s free forgiveness.  The frequency of responses is used, even subconsciously, to measure the effectiveness of a sermon, ministry, or leader.

God certainly can save people in and through an altar call.  God can save humans wherever they are, remember.  How desperately the Church needs revival!  How many sit in the rows of chairs in our multi-purpose sanctuary having heard the words about sin and death and resurrection and faith their whole lives, but are drowning in the need to be good, in doubt about the existence of God, in despair over the extent of their rebellion?  Those would not answer an altar call.  They don’t need an altar call, or the words repeated.  They need God’s work in their lives, God’s Word proclaimed to their minds, and God’s instruments, His people, lovingly infiltrating the nitty gritty.  I need that, crave that.

If it is true that we are sometimes called to be weak, all the more reason to have companions in life and in church work.  Prophets are called to be strong.  Ezekiel, whose spiritual fate was much like Jeremiah’s, is named “strengthened by God.”  Paul continually emphasized God’s design for the church as a community of strengths – implying also a community of weaknesses.

Perhaps God allows discouraging circumstances to create a cooperative attitude in congregations.  Leaders in the church are not alone.  They are not called to “singleness” either in ministry or in marital status (is it not one of the requirements for a pastor that he be the husband of one wife?).  Therefore they should be experiencing the bonding lifestyle of serving humbly together in ministry, bearing one another’s burdens and being edified by each other.  May it be so.


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Etymology of glad:

O.E. glæd “bright, shining, joyous,” from P.Gmc. *glathaz (cf. O.N. glaðr “smooth, bright, glad,” O.Fris. gled, Du. glad “slippery,” Ger. glatt “smooth”), from PIE *ghledho- “bright, smooth” (cf. L. glaber “smooth, bald,” O.C.S. gladuku, Lith. glodus “smooth”), from PIE base *ghlei- “to shine, glitter, glow, be warm” (see gleam).

This weekend I’m glad. Gladness has been a theme. Friday night I attended a ladies retreat through my church where we had lessons focusing us on God and preparing our hearts for spending most of the day alone with God on Saturday. On Friday we worshiped. A song came to mind, We Will Dance, by David Ruis. If you click the link and read the lyrics, can’t you just envision the glad Bridegroom, Great King of Kings, dancing at His wedding feast with the thousands of people who make up His bride?

Saturday was spent, then, for me, focusing on the relationship of Christ and the Church as Groom and Bride. I don’t know how much you have thought about this or studied it. Recently I’ve become more aware of the betrothal connotations of the Lord’s Supper, of the promises in John 14:2-3, and of course the direct references like that in Revelation 19.

Picture a man engaged to a woman who is far away. He calls her on the phone and reassures her of his love. He sends her gifts. They share delight in their love. She renews her resolve to be the most deserving bride she can be. They spend time building the relationship. And there is the anticipation of the wedding that makes them almost giddy. Closing her eyes, the bride-to-be can envision her Beloved celebrating at the feast. Ah, the dancing and singing and glad shouts. How she will glow!

So, translating those things spiritually, that’s what I did on Saturday. Scripture testifies mightily of God’s love for us. It challenges us to faithfulness and pure living. Books especially of prophecy provide us with inspiration and hope by painting pictures of the victory and fulfillment and restoration at the End. And then there is praise for the incredible, unspeakably undeserved love God lavishes on us.

Today in church people said I seemed to shine. Moses shone after he’d been with God. Can you really see it?

Be glad. Be with God. Shine.

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