LentBlog ’14, Day 10: On being Stewards.

1 Corinthians 4:1-7

Man, do I have a lot going on in my head tonight as I read this passage. As a pastor, it hits me pretty close to home, and the word “steward” comes right to the top of the list. Paul says, “Here’s the deal: I am a servant and a steward. I serve Christ and I’m a steward of the Gospel.”

If you haven’t already, read this closely:

Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. 2Moreover, it is required of stewards that they should be found trustworthy. 3But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. 4I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5Therefore do not pronounce judgement before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.

NRSV

So what is a steward? What does it mean to be a steward of the Gospel, ministerially? I think I wanna just rattle off a few things and see where it leads. Here steward gondor1goes:

As ministers/pastors and stewards of the Gospel:

  • We must be trustworthy. God must be able to trust us. That means integrity, full-blown, with no excuses and nothing held back. NO ulterior selfish motives. We must be authentic servants of Jesus. Being this takes several miracles of God’s grace, to be sure, but there’s no way around untrustworthiness.
  • We must be accountable. And we will be, whether we like it or not. I had a very immature associate pastor tell me once he believed he was no different than any other person in that the idea that clergy/church leaders are held to a higher standard is an unrealistic myth. Turns out he was using that as an excuse to hide his untrustworthiness. Stewards who avoid accountability to the owner have something to hide 99.9999% of the time. Accountability will come for him– and me– someday, direct from the throne of the Lord. As Paul says in the passage, the Lord’s accountability makes human accountability look like a small thing. Stewards had better get used to the idea and practice of accountability.
  • We must understand we are not the owners. This thing of which we are Stewards, namely the Gospel, is not ours. It’s not yours. Repeat that: It’s not ours. It’s the Lord’s. Like our lives, or marriages, our children, our property and our giftedness. They’re on-loan. We don’t own them. We need to stop acting as if we do.
  • We must put the Gospel into action. The best pastors, in my opinion, are the men and women who not only preach the Gospel well, but intentionally find ways of inspiring, empowering, and equipping their people to live-out the Gospel. Putting on an entertaining show Sunday Morning doesn’t matter a hill of beans if we’re not seeing our people actually live this thing out come Monday morning.
  • We must know what battles are worth fighting, and which one’s aren’t. I won’t say much here, because I stink at this one. Suffice it to say there are times to stand up and speak as a faithful steward, and there are times when the issue doesn’t really pose a legit threat in the first place.
  • We must know when our ministry in a place is done, and when it’s not.  This kinda goes back to #3. Leaving too soon just because things got tough is not a good thing (I know because unfortunately we’ve done it). However, we must be able to recognize it’s time to hand the work off to Apollos and move on. Handing the work in a particular place to the next Steward need not be a bad thing. That’s why Paul says in the passage there’s no need to play one off against the other. Paul sowed. Apollos watered. Christ is the boss. ‘Nuff said.

That’s a snippet of what’s on my mind tonight from 1 Corinthians 4.

Blessings,

Mark

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LentBlog Day 38: WAKE UP!

Romans 13:11-14

Our sons are awesome little guys. Our 2-year old, Charlie, is way more a morning person than I will ever be. When the sun is up, so is Charlie, ready for some warm chocolate milk and some Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. The other day we were actually sleeping in a bit on a Saturday when Charlie came in our room and said, “Mommy, Daddy… sun is up! I get up!” Thanks, Spring-ahead time change. The one day we get to sleep in… and it wasn’t happening.

See, I kind of like that early morning, cool sheets, no worries, day hasn’t started feeling of just resting…  That, and my summer of marching Drum & Bugle Corps taught me how to sleep pretty much anywhere. But that “aaaaahhh” feeling of another hour before sunrise to just chill and rest gets me almost every time.

I think this passage of Scripture is a klanging, brassy alarm clock to that kind of attitude when it comes to our faith and life in the world.wakeup

I think would say when the church gets to comfortable with their dreamy, trance-like, snuggly-cozy, no responsibilities, rest of the world doesn’t exist sleepiness, we’re headed for trouble.

And I think many churches have lived there for way too long.

While we’ve been snuggled under the sheets, hitting the snooze-button just one more time, our culture has left us behind. And many times when someone has the courage to come along and say, “WAKE UP!!” they become either targets for unfounded attack or hipster talking points we post about but don’t really heed.

I think Paul is pleading with the church, then and now, to wake up. Turn the Light on. Take a shower and throw some water on your face. Get dressed. Drink some coffee. Now get out there and live-out your calling to love!

The question is, will the Master find us sleeping… comfortable but clueless; rested but ineffective… or will He find his people spending themselves in his Mission to save the world?

I’ll leave you with that while I go set my alarm.

Blessings,

Mark

 

LentBlog Day 2: On Faith and Righteousness.

Romans 1:8-16Image

Even though he is about to totally shred them, Paul follows the typical letter form and begins with a thanksgiving. He also gives us the main point of the letter, introducing two very important words: Faith and Righteousness.

The Good News (of Jesus, to whom Paul is enslaved, remember) is the power of God for salvation to those who believe. Same root word (πίστις: pistis) here for “faith” and “believe.” To believe is the verbal form of faith. In the gospel, God’s righteousness is reavealed… from faith to faith. No bones about it… righteousness comes through faith.

And the faith of the Roman church is being proclaimed throughout the world.

That makes me wonder about the church. It wasn’t their success, their growth, or even their works of piety or service that was proclaimed throughout the world. It was their faith. The faith of Abraham, which goes when God says “go.” Even if it doesn’t make any sense. What would it mean for the church to be known for our faith? For the works we do in the world: caring for the poor and the sick, loving our neighbors without limits, living-out the mission of God… somehow for it to be clearly known that these actions come from faith in the Gospel, not just from a desire to do good stuff.

The other thing that strikes me about this passage is Paul’s desire to be in-community with the Romans church. He wants to go to Rome and help them, yes… but it’s more than that. Rather, he says he wants to see them “so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine” (v. 12). Here’s the Apostle Paul, who in just a few verses is about to get everyone into trouble, admitting he needs to be strengthened by their faith as well. So much so that he proclaims himself a “debtor” (one who owes) to Greeks and barbarians (?!).

One of my greatest joys in this life of ministry is watching the faith of people grow. When my 2-year-old said “thank you, Jesus” when he received communion elements this week (We’re Nazarenes, so we serve communion to little ones) I literally laughed with joy. We pastor types spend our lives trying to open up spaces for folks to develop and exercise the faith that leads to righteousness. When it happens… it helps our faith, too. It runs deeper than more numbers or a notch in our gun belt or something (if it doesn’t we’re in serious trouble). God speaks to us… confirms His call… shows us the Kingdom… grows our faith… through the developing faith of our people. We really do need each other. Really.

Because the converse of that is also true: when our people fail, whether that failure is directed towards us or elsewhere, it tears us apart.

It’s as if Paul here has such a confidence in the Romans’ hunger for God he can’t wait to get there. It’s as if he just knows what’s going to happen. Their faith is about to explode all over the place, and he can’t wait to be a part of it.

“Jesus be the center of your church.”

Lord Jesus, may our churches be communities where pastors can’t wait to get at it, because they know the people are so hungry, so faithful, that sharing in the Gospel together is an intimate part of their own journey.