I See You Pastor

Thank you to the rural church pastor. I am one of you, and I want to thank you for some things most people would not understand

Thank you for the fact that holiday weekends are more weekend to you than holiday, and a weekend means a Sunday when you will be ready.

Thank you for the countless times others’ emergencies have become your emergencies because pastoring is a 24/7 calling.

Thank you for missing football games and naps to make time for sermon prep. 

Thank you for working the “other job” to pay the bills so you can do this job with skill and compassion.

Thank you for altering your family plans to ensure that the traditions of families in your congregation can be maintained.

Thank you for being there when everyone else is on the road and standing at your post like a good soldier.

Thank you for picking up the slack when volunteers disappear for the holidays because “things are just so busy.”

Thank you for seeing the stress and pace of a holiday season as an opportunity that you can’t miss in hopes of making an impact.

Thank you for taking care of your family, our family and the church family and doing it with a prayer and a smile.

Thank you for putting more in the offering plate than is often put in your paycheck.

Thank you for forgiving us when we didn’t know we assumed of, presumed upon, or consumed you.

Thank you for responding to a calling and sacrificing daily and for the countless things too numerous to name and remember. Thank you1

This Thanksgiving, I pray that you know this rural church pastor: you are not alone, you are seen, and you are loved.

Today, I am thankful for you.

Philippians 1:3–5 (ESV)

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

Prayer for Pastors

This is Andy Addis speaking here. I want to share with you a letter sent to pastors from a friend and mentor who is the Associational Mission Strategist of the Heart Of Kansas Southern Baptist Association. Glenn Davis is a treasure to me, and I hope this letter is a treasure to you.


Father,
On this occasion of Pastor Appreciation Month, I come to You to pray for the men who lead churches across this association.

Heavenly Father, I come to You because You are good, and You are gracious.  Your love is a steadfast love, never faltering and never fading.

I come to You because You are all powerful.  You are Creator and Sustainer.  You are King above all Kings, You are Lord of all and able to act in behalf of your shepherds.  There is no place in all of creation where Your voice is not heard and Your purpose not accomplished.

Father, I pray today for these pastors.

They are men whom You have called out for a unique role.  They have been chosen by the Almighty God to serve as undershepherds of Your flock.  You have chosen them to lead, to love, and to feed Your church.  You have assigned to each of them their duty station where they faithfully defend the bride of their King.

Father, the enemy they fight is real.
He is cunning and relentless and ruthless.
He appears as an angel of light to deceive.
He is relentless.  When his attack at the door is thwarted, he moves to rattle the window bars.  When assault from the outside is resisted, he works through those inside the church.
And he is ruthless, attacking wives and children and families.

But our enemy is no match for our King.  Our enemy will one day be cast into the pit.

Father, I pray for pastors to be clothed with Your armor and to stand against our enemy.

  • Protect them by faith.
  • Encourage them with the truth of Your Word.
  • Fil them with joy in Your presence.
  • Cause their hearts to abound with Your love.

Father, I thank You for these men, my fellow servants, my brothers in arms, my friends.

On this day, and every day,

  • make them aware of how great Your love is for them,
  • use them to encourage one another,
  • empower them for the work,
  • give them peace and great joy in their homes,
  • and glorify Yourself, extending Your Kingdom through their lives and ministry.

Your story, my story, our story

The following is an excerpt from the introduction of  “Doing More Together” which you can download in its entirety on the resource page resource page!


His old late ‘90s pickup rolled up in front of their house and seemed to settle into place with familiar creaks in the suspension and pops of gravel still stuck between the treads from the dirt road that brought him home.

After he turned off the ignition, he sat for a moment, enjoying the quiet. A couple of bicycles littered the front yard, expressly left where they had been instructed not to be left just the day before yesterday.

The kitchen light burned brightly, and then the silhouette of his amazing wife flashed past. Flashed past is no exaggeration as she seemed continually to move 90 miles an hour in that house.

She was super mom to two grade school-boys, part-time (more like full- time) receptionist at one of those downtown boutiques, an experienced chauffeur to the block and chaperone to everything happening with those under 15 in that small town.

Add to that list the multi-page resume of experience in volunteer positions all over their church, ranging from mentoring to childcare to janitorial and anything in between; she was amazing.

He felt himself breathe out the words, “I wonder how long it’s been since I told her that.”

Hearing his own voice, he realized his internal conversation was making its way into the real world, and it jarred him into reality. Time to start his second workday.

He gathered his bag and jacket from the bench seat of the truck and left the worries of the day job behind, as much as he could, knowing it would start all over again tomorrow at 7 am.

Swinging the front door wide open (one of his favorite parts of the day), two boys paused a brutal smackdown via video game long enough to greet dad at the door, the younger with a hug and the older a fist bump. They stood there long enough to answer a question or two about their day, but dad knew what they wanted to hear. “Okay, good to see you, boys. You can go back to your game.” No further urging was required as they both resumed their game without missing a beat. Their eyes were on the screen, but their voices were directed at him as they said as if in rehearsed unison, “Love you dad!”

As he stepped through the dark dining room settling against the doorway of the bright kitchen, he saw her, in all her frenetic energy.

Wearing an apron and armed with a spatula, he could see she had already taken care of dinner. He must be later than usual.

Her head was cocked to the left, pressing a phone to her shoulder as she bustled around. There was a 70-80% chance it was her mom or sister from back home, which she missed so much. She mouthed the words “I love you,” then glanced at the clock before mouthing, “About 30 minutes?”

He kissed her on the forehead and then slipped off to get a head start on his other job. Maybe these thirty minutes would give him enough of a head start so he could go to bed at the same time as his wife.

He walked down the hallway to the spare bedroom they call an office and closed the door behind him. It was a third bedroom which was cleverly disguised as a bi-vocational pastor’s office:

  • A haven for free books from past conferences.
  • A desk stacked with denominational fliers and church bills.
  • A few knick-knacks and thank you gifts from over the years from church members (including that odd painting of Jesus whose eyes followed you wherever you sat that his father- in-law “found for him” at a garage sale).

It wasn’t much of an office, but he wouldn’t have to worry about that for too long because in about 18 months, when his oldest became a teen, he knew this office would become a bedroom once again. A fact his twelve year-old son, currently rooming with a nine-year-old brother, never failed to recall at all family meetings.

Turning on the desk lamp, he pushed away a stack of papers while glancing at the bulletin board. There was a schedule pinned up for the current series at the church, reminding him he was already behind on his preparation for this weekend’s message continuing through the book of Ephesians.

He knew he needed to pour into some study. He should read the passage in multiple versions, study some commentaries, try to figure out some original language stuff and, oh yeah, maybe pray about it.

That thought threw a quick shiver down his spine.

It’s not that he didn’t want to pray; he loved prayer. But it was a reminder to him that his own personal devotions had suffered at the hands of a schedule that could only be described as undoable: working 7am-3pm five days a week, coaching every afternoon, caring for a young and active family, and then trying to pastor a small rural church that had enough meetings to steer a church five times its size!

He hadn’t even studied the passage, and he knew he still had to come up with a fantastic outline that was simple enough for the lost to hear the Gospel, yet deep enough to give something to sister Sally who’d been grading sermons for more than 50 years. He needed to produce argumentation, thoughtful exegesis, powerful (yet never before heard) illustrations, notes for the bulletins, PowerPoint slides for the screens, and direction for the song leader who wanted all this yesterday.

He likes preaching, but he doesn’t love it. What he does love kept creeping in under the door to this makeshift office:

  • The sound of his kids laughing.
  • The smell of the dinner being made by the woman he cherished.
  • The thought of togetherness just outside the door.

But, there was even more that he loved.
He was a bi-vocational pastor because he loved people, especially those in his little church.
He loved the community and wanted to give his life for that out of the way place. He loved mentoring, pastoring and holding that little piece of ground for the Kingdom of God.

But it did not matter how much he loved it all, something was going to have to give. The pace, the energy and the work just were not sustainable. Something was going to have to give before he did.

He would die for his family and that little church… but he’d rather live for them.

He did not know what it was but he knew he needed something that would help him love and lead his congregation while opening that door to be with his family.

Preaching Is Hard

Let me begin with an understatement: preaching is hard. We love it, we’re called to it, but every time we stand in the pulpit, we expose a little bit of our soul and stick our neck out.

Preaching is hard.

One of the many reasons preaching is challenging is the different kinds of ears receiving the message. I’ve always found it amazing how the same message can affect individuals in the same congregation entirely differently.

After a recent message, I received several pats on the back from members of the congregation who told me things like, “Man, I really needed that, “I love how you make the text come alive,” and “That was a real punch in the gut that I needed.“

Then later, I received a text message outlining how I had disappointed someone with my “non-inspiring” message.

It was a reminder of a principle that Jesus taught (though not about preaching) that if you live by the sword, you die by the sword.

You see, preachers can’t do what they do for the applause, or they will quit doing what they do because of the criticism. You’re always going to get both.

We need never forget that both good and bad comments come from good and bad places. Sometimes when you hear something positive and affirming, it’s because the message really served the purpose and they applied it well, but sometimes they’re just positive because they love you.

And sometimes, someone is negative concerning the message because there was something in that message that probably should’ve been left out or handled differently. But, sometimes, they’re negative just because they’re negative. Or, maybe one line in the message soured them to everything else; you know how we humans can be? You are one, right?

Either way, I’ve learned in 30 years of preaching that no matter what comes your way, don’t get inflated by the compliments or deflated by the criticisms, but instead, make it a meal of campfire trout.

Eat the fish and spit out the bones.

There’s always something to learn, even if the comment is overly gracious or absent of grace. Please take the opportunity and hear what needs to be heard, learn from it and then leave it behind!

Let me give you our lives in a microcosm. In July 2022, because of multiple camps, all church staff gatherings, and special events, I will deliver 44 different messages. Here are some factual statements:

  • Forty-four messages delivered in 30 days will not all be “home runs.”
  • You are human and won’t get everything right every time.
  • God can still work amazingly and do miraculous things even through a “mediocre performance.“
  • You weren’t called to be awesome. That’s His job.
  • Faithful obedience and hard work, that’s the job… the outcome, that’s not your job.

So, if you’ve ever pondered a message before delivery or after and thought, “I wonder what so-and-so thought about that,“ or “Man, I wish I did better with that.“ Let’s put some things in perspective by listening to what the apostle Paul encouraged a young preacher to focus on in 2 Timothy 4:2.

“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

Preach the truth: to reprove someone in a message is to point out clearly where the line is, even if it’s been stepped over. There is a black, there is a white, there’s an up, there’s a down, and there’s a wrong, and there is a right. Good preaching will clarify that in a blurry world. Sometimes people will applaud it; sometimes, they won’t. That doesn’t matter. Reprove yourself and others as you preach the truth

Preach restoratively: The word rebuke is more than just calling someone out. It means to command. So we need more than one of those “you fish-eyed, fool heathen, turn or burn” messages. We need real direction, helpful criticism, and authoritative instruction. Once the preacher clarifies the problem, the preacher should have a clear response. Preach restoratively.

Preach alongside: the word to exhort is a compound word in the original language pronounced parakaleo. The first half is from the same place we get parallel, like railroad tracks. The second half means to speak or to talk. Exhorting someone is to come alongside them and speak with them. Good preaching isn’t yelling at someone; it’s coming alongside them and saying what needs to be said. Some of the most powerful messages I believe I’ve ever delivered made Jesus the hero while showing my weakness in identifying myself with those in the congregation. Preach alongside.

There’s no doubt that preaching is hard, but we make it even harder when we listen to the voices of our congregation as a source of our mental well-being or a source of our feeling valued.

You were called to this task because you were already valued by the One that matters. You deliver the word not for the applause that it might invoke. You stand in the pulpit because it’s a place God has given you to steer the ship in the tumultuous waters of a broken world and chaotic culture.

Be ready in season and out, my friend, and listen to the One voice that truly matters. Preach, not because you love it, not because it’s necessary, not because they need it, but because it’s a privilege to which God has called!

Separating Theology From Methodology

We’ve all been there. Flipping through the channels on a sleepless night, attempting to drown out all the thoughts with senseless infomercials. And, for a moment, we might even be tempted to give in:

  • Maybe that’s all you need to do to lose weight.
  • I wonder if that stuff could flex enough to seal the baptistry?
  • A panini would be good right now.
  • Yes! I am finally getting those washboard abs.

But, long before dawn, you come to your senses and realize there are no easy fixes or one size fits all solutions, and you dodge the bullet of 3 easy payments of whatever.

It’s a similar feeling I have experienced at church/leadership conferences lately. I hear the great success stories, I am moved by powerful testimonies, and I find myself believing that if I just “do that” everything will finally fall into place. Yet, nearly 30 years down this road of ministry, I can assure you of one thing: we all need more than a conference quick fix.

The problem is a mindset that there is an answer, and we just need to go on a treasure hunt to find it. We all know that the only ‘solution’ is the presence and the movement of God, but it doesn’t keep us from pursuing the gold at the end of someone else’s rainbow.

That’s a hamster wheel that I invite you all to get off right now.

One way to break that cycle is to separate theology from methodology. One we hold firmly with a tight fist, and the other we must hold loosely with an open palm.

Theology requires a tight grip because there is a right and a wrong, there are dangers and errors, and there is a true orthodoxy that must be remembered, revered and relived in each of our lives and ministries.

But, methodology… that’s a different story.

Never forget that everything we do in the church today was once brand new. Always remember that missionaries need to minister contextually, and you are a missionary. Continually keep your eyes open, heart receptive, and ears tuned to what God is doing; it may be different than what you are planning.

Let me give you an example.

I pastor a network of rural churches called CrossPoint. In the last 19 years, we have grown from one declining congregation of 100 plus people in a single location to a network of 13 sites with more than 2500 attending weekly.

We have grown by revitalizing our original location, planting new sites and partnering with existing ministries to replant.

We have become a video-driven, rural, multisite.

I have written all of this just to drop that last line on you. If I am right, every word of the previous description probably caused you to pause.

Video-driven: “Ah, a tv preacher. That would never work here, and it’s probably of the devil anyway.”

Rural: “Really? I bet they aren’t really rural. He’s probably just a poser in a town that has their own Walmart.”

Multisite: “Yeah, no.”

I know these terms and methodologies are struggles for many, and I understand. The reason I know this is that I did not move my family to the middle of Kansas to pursue these “models of ministry.” I came there to pastor a church and follow God’s leading.

In the process of reading the context of the community, seeking the leadership of the Holy Spirit in decision making and making the most of every opportunity, this is what we became.

And, whenever I share our story, I am always careful to say:

What we do is not THE way to do ministry. Its not even the BEST way to do ministry, necessarily. But, it is A way.

And, that is my hope for you. A hope that you would not be locked into a model or be a believer in a methodology. Just be open to the fact that God will lead you in your ministry, mission or replant in a way that might not seem normal, but it could be just what you need!

That’s all for now. I have to finish my insane cardio workout before I warm up some nutritional system food and get snuggied up on the couch for some infomercials. Shamwow!

An open letter to church planters (and others)

I write this open letter to church planters because of the importance of the work you do, because I have a heart for pioneers and risk-takers, and because I pastor a church that believes in church planting and lives it.

But, the truth is this letter is for pastors, leaders, and believers of all stripes.

This is a dark world, and times are (to use the nicest term I can think of) precarious.

These indeed are days when people have started to call good things evil and evil things good. Doing the work you are called to often feels fruitless at best and dangerous at worst.

But you, we, are not alone. The Apostle Paul was a man who knew how to suffer for the sake of the Gospel and kept his joy. This rock star pastor saw the miracles of God drip from his fingers and proclaimed that any suffering here is light and momentary compared to the eternal glory that awaits.

If I could be frank, his strength, determination, endurance and spiritual prowess are so incredible that sometimes… I really dislike him.

Maybe that’s why I was drawn to Acts 18.

  • Paul moves from the cosmopolitan, spiritual epicentre of Athens to the dirty, outskirts travel hub of Corinth. Comparatively, this place was a hole.
  • The city was complex and full of sexual dysfunction and immorality.
  • He was broke and had to revert to a day job to support himself.
  • And the people he was trying to reach with the love of Jesus “opposed and reviled him” (Acts 18:6).

The rejection was so public and defeating that Paul “shook out his garments and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads!'” (Acts 18:6)

It was an obvious low point for Paul, and maybe this says more about my brokenness than his circumstance, but this is where I started to like him again.

He apparently doesn’t wear a cape; this guy bleeds too. Now we can share a cup of coffee and lick our ministry wounds.

But, at just this point in the story, we see one of the rare ‘red letter’ passages in the book of Acts.

In Acts 18:9 it says, 

“And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.””

I don’t believe we doubt the continual presence of Christ with us, even in the dark times.

I bet most of us don’t struggle with speaking up, even when the world tells us to shut up.

And most of us have just settled in with the knowledge that attacks will come, and personal loss is a part of the game.

But did you catch that last part?

“For I have many in this city who are my people.”

I wonder if Paul woke from his vision and said, “Really… where are they?”

Paul couldn’t see them because God talked about His “already not yet” church. They were unknown, unreached, unconverted, undisciplined, but they were there! When Paul was ready to shake the dust from his feet and move to someplace where things were more fruitful, God showed up and allowed him to see through the eyes of God.

God was doing more than Paul knew, expected or could even begin to understand.

This same chapter says that Paul’s response was to plant, dig in and commit. He stayed there for 18 months, even in the face of failure. He adjusted his ministry to focus clearly on his calling.

That’s when God did what only God could do:

  • A new location, right next door to the synagogue (the house of Titius Justus)
  • A celebrity convert who caught the city’s attention (Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue)
  • New friends and instant leaders that would be with him for the next 16 years (Aquila & Priscilla)

I don’t know where you are right now leader, but don’t give up.

God is doing more than you know, expect or can even begin to understand. Many in your city are already His, starting with you.

 

Seeking more of Him and less of me,
Pastor Andy Addis
John 3:30

Praying for you, for real this time

Do you ever just say stuff? You know, those moments when your mouth gets away from you and somewhere behind your eyes, your good ol’ pal, the brain is screaming, “What are you talking about?”

Let’s consider a couple of examples:

Someone asks you to run the school fundraiser even though your kids graduated last year, and before you think it through, your mouth pops off with a confident, “Sure!”

Someone at church asks if you’re ready for the presentation tomorrow and even though you don’t have a clue what they are talking about, you hear the word “Absolutely” coming from that hole in your face.

The officer taps your window, asking if you know how fast you were going. You respond, “no sir”, with big sheepish eyes and a softened tone, even though you know you were rushing because you were late and hoped that rule about going five mph over as a safe zone where they wouldn’t pull you over was true (that’s not a real thing, by the way, testify).

Yep, we all get ourselves in trouble when our mouth gets ahead of us. Here’s one more that I bet many of us are guilty of: “I’m praying for you.”

Ouch.

What we mean, we intended to pray for them, that we care about them, and that we may have even thought about them, but very often, we never really prayed for them.

It’s a shame, too. Because I truly believe that prayer is purposeful and powerful. I know and can feel the difference when I am the subject of prayers.

For instance, I had major brain surgery in 2009. It was risky and extensive, and my church prayed like crazy. The surgery was excellent, and my recovery was like a vacation. I couldn’t have been more thankful.

Later that same year, I broke a bone in my hand. The surgery was ‘difficult,’ the recovery was painful, and it still aches me today.

Everyone will pray for brain surgery because it’s a big deal, but hand surgery? I could almost hear the church say, “Come on, pastor, just suck it up.”

It’s not something to kick yourself over; in fact, many people would pray for one another if they knew how. Well, here are the words of Apostle Paul from Colossians 4:12 to give us three simple ways we can pray for someone in their time of need:

“Always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.”

First, understand that sometimes prayer is a struggle. You may need to make an appointment and put it on your calendar. Turn off the TV, take a moment and pray. Schedules are complicated, and attention spans are flaky; the struggle is real.

Second, pray that they would stand mature. In whatever situation, hurt, or uncertainty they are experiencing, pray God would intervene, and they would gain the valuable lessons of growing up in the process. That’s a gift in itself.

Third, pray they would be fully assured in the will of God. That’s a prayer for their confidence that no matter what, God is in control, and they are in His hands.

We may not always know what to pray, but don’t give up. The next time you say I’m praying for you, I hope you can back it up on your knees.

An Open Letter to Pastors

This was an open letter to my brothers, friends, and comrades in arms known as CrossPoint Location Pastors, but I share it here as my heart for all of you as well.
———————————————
Brothers,

As I have been studying the book of Joshua in my devotional time, I have been gleaning some lessons on leadership. I know the purpose of my study time is to hear from God and submit to Him. But, the side notepad of leadership ideas that stream from this book has caused me to think much about what I, you, and we do here at our church.

I will hopefully put these thoughts all together someday and (even more hopefully) I pray they will be a blessing to us all, but something struck me today that I need to share immediately.

Chapter 12 of Joshua is one of those pass by chapters. It’s just a list of names of conquered kings and geographic designations you can’t even find on the maps in the back of the book.

While I know each name and location are significant, let’s be honest; most of us skip a chapter like this and leave it to the seminary profs.

However, I want you to see the placement.

Joshua is a 24 chapter book, and this ‘pass by’ chapter of names and places divides the book in half. From a leadership perspective, the division is essential.

The book’s first half is about conquest, war, taking the land, fulfilling the promise, and achieving victory. It’s exciting, fast-paced and the stuff found in most pulpit pounding sermons.

The book’s second half is about maintenance, administration, putting out’ fires’ and setting up the systems to inhabit this new promised land. While it has its highlights, the second half of Joshua doesn’t seem to have the same power-punched excitement of the first half.

Despite the difference between the front and the back of this book, both are equally important aspects of leadership.

We all love the passion of the vision, the launching of the new, and the exhilaration of pioneering. And, guiding a church through these waters is most definitely in your wheelhouse… it’s what you do, what you are called to, what you’re gifted in, and the requirement of being ‘the pastor.’

But, in the same breath, the distribution of resources, the placement of people, the mediation of grumbling, and the discussions on the direction and the day to day mechanics of sustainable ministry are also your direct responsibility… it’s what you do, what you’ve been called to, what you’re gifted in, and the requirement of being ‘the pastor.’

I am thankful for your partnership in the Gospel. I am privileged to know and work with you. I am more confident on this day than I have ever been in my professional life that I am surrounded by the finest men I have ever called brothers and pastors.

I offer this letter to you, not as a rebuke… not at all. I send this to you as a reminder to us all (and, now to all the readers outside of our network).

Taking new ground, blazing a trail and pounding out Kingdom victories are what we do. But, JUST AS IMPORTANT are the day to day, grinding it out, working the process and the using what you’ve got moments that God has given you the privilege of getting done.

Be the leader.

Be the pastor.

Much love to you all and blessing on your families.

Seeking more of Him and less of me,
Andy Addis
Lead Teaching and Vision Pastor, CrossPoint Church

Hey pastor, calm down and just preach

As I’m preparing for preaching weekend, I was thinking about my fellow pastors who are doing the same all across the country and around the world. It caused me to want to send them a note, so here it is.

For my personal devotional time, I’ve been cycling through the book of Romans. Many of you in the theological “know” will recognize that portions of this book are a battleground for specific theological camps regarding issues of predestination, free will, determinism, the free agency of man, Calvinism, Arminianism, reformed… if there’s a title to make you pick a side, it can be applied somewhere here in the book of Romans.

I’ve also thought about all the strained friendships I have over these issues. I tried to recount the endless hours lost in friendly (?) debates. And I remembered numerous side conversations where friends drew invisible lines around people and groups saying so-and-so belongs to ‘that’ school of thought and so-and-so was ‘lost’ to that way of thinking.

I was praying through that study while taking a walk around a pond thinking about these things when the Lord put in my mind an image from the not-too-distant past. It was a couple of school-age children at camp who didn’t realize I was overhearing (because eavesdropping sounds too creepy).

They were arguing with one another about God, one struggling to believe and the other confident in his faith. The childhood skeptic had weak arguments that you could tell were repetitious banter heard from some adult he admired. And, the childhood believer offered unsubstantiated proofs that offered no philosophical underpinnings as to why he believed what he believed.

I wanted to jump in and correct them both, show them the error of their ways… but I controlled myself since they were children… and it was Rec time at summer camp.

Again, as I was walking around the pond, this was the image that popped into my mind. I didn’t have to wonder why very long.

The foolishness of their arguments and the silliness of their debate seemed so apparent to me. And, to an infinitely greater degree, so must our tiny theological squabbles appear before the enormity of God.

We argue, brood and fight over a 6-inch gap on a theological spectrum that’s a football field long. In no way, shape or form can I ever think that the God of the universe is pleased with us when we act as such. In fact, we probably look like small children arguing about something they know relatively little about, sitting on a wall looking at a pond eating grape snow cones.

This weekend pastors, as we think about what we’re going to share with those crowds who come filing in for the annual remembrance of Easter Sunday, let me remind you of a tiny verse from Romans that should keep us all in check:

“So do not become proud, but fear.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Ro 11:20.

Paul was speaking of Gentiles grafted into the vine that is the kingdom of God. He warned that instead of thinking much of themselves, they should remember that broken off branches don’t do anything on their own.

Only the Gardener can save them from the brush pile. So, instead of arrogance… tremble.

I would offer us the same advice.

Don’t worry about astounding the crowds with our theological prowess. Don’t determine that this is the weekend we should establish our doctrinal purity. And, whatever we do, let us not think that we have to impress the crowds this weekend. This weekend is just like every other weekend when we only have an audience of One.

Instead, drop the pride and come to the podium with some fear and trembling, working out your own salvation. Share the message of broken humanity rescued from itself by a loving and amazing God.

Reject the urge to “pull off” a service to make them think that you have the best church since the apostle Paul retired, your worship band is the most gifted crew this side of heaven, and that you are the best preacher they’ve ever heard.

Instead, remind them God is great, even if we must play the fool to make sure they see it.

May He increase. May we decrease.

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