“Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” – 1 Timothy 4:37-38
Just last week I was at a major league baseball game. I really like going to ball games. There’s just something about sitting there in the crowd, eating peanuts and drinking a soda under the bright lights and humid night sky, watching grown men play a game my seven year old son plays!
As Humphrey Bogart once said, “A hot dog at the game beats roast beef at the Ritz.” I think he was right!
I have this re-occurring fantasy that I’ll be at a game, sitting in the third row, and the manager of the home team will look up and point at me and say, “You want to give it a try?” I’d pop up, run down to the field, and suit up. Me, playing in the major leagues! Yeah, right. Like that would ever happen!
Just recently, I was talking with a brother pastor over breakfast about something similar. We were talking about – actually commiserating – the idea of campaigning for religious office. In my church, we elect by popular consent the presidents and vice-presidents of our synod and its districts. Yet, we also see it as God calling these men to these offices. Not exactly like he calls men to be pastors, but something close. As such, we thought that men shouldn’t campaign or seek these offices. As it is put in our church, “the office should seek the man, not the man the office.”
As a younger pastor, I had dreams of being a District President or a Synodical President. But after a few years, I’ve come to the conclusion that I probably won’t be and maybe I shouldn’t aspire to these offices. If God wants me to serve in that way, he’ll make it happen. As the years go by, I’ve realized that the office that I have been called to – the office of Pastor – is, indeed, a high calling. As St. Paul said, he who is aspire to be a pastor aspires to a “fine work” (1 Timothy 1:3).
But while we were talking, I began to think about a letter I recently sent out. In addition to electing presidents and vice-presidents in our synod, we also elect other positions. These positions are not “full-time” but rather positions of voluntary service to the church body in specific areas. I sent a letter seeking nominations for one of these positions – specifically a seat on the Board of Directors of our national church body.
I’m not seeking an office. I already have been called to one. But I do wish to serve my beloved synod in various ways. Our synod exists because we can do so much more in our large numbers than we can do as individuals or individual congregations. Each one of us finds our niche and does the best with the gifts God has given us.
Patrick Morley recent wrote about one of our goals as a synod. He didn’t know he was talking about our synod, but it hit home to me. He wrote, “A man said, ‘Wow, that seminar changed my life!’ This was quite discouraging to his pastor. He thought: Gosh, that speaker didn’t say anything to my men that I haven’t been saying for years! And he’s right! God can only reap through a seminar in proportion to what the pastor has sown through his weekly work. The pastor and the seminar speaker must both acknowledge that one reaps where another has sown—then give it all to God for His glory. God’s design is ‘that the sower and the reaper may be glad together’ (John 4:36).” (Discipling for Dummies, New Man Magazine, July/August 2003, page 66).
One of the most important things I’ve learned recently is that Christians must work together. I do see the importance of distinctive denominations of Christianity, but at some level, we all must work together with the one message we’ve been given. Jesus Christ died and rose again for all the world. The 2.6 million Christians in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod cannot possible reach the 7 billion people of the world. However, God has called us in the Missouri Synod to reach those who he brings to us (or brings us to). The hurting wife in the pew who feels lonely. The father who despairs over a son who has made some wrong decisions. The young woman who wants her friends to know how much a relationship with Jesus Christ can mean to them. The young man who feels an emptiness in his heart.
God wants a relationship with each of these people. He wants that relationship established through you. As Morley says in the same article, “As men tell one another their ‘stories,’ the truth of Christ’s gospel gets meaty and fleshy. Simply, I just ‘get it’ (the gospel) better when I see it working its way into your life!” (ibid.).
I’ve been called to serve as a pastor. I think God wants me to further use my gifts to serve in my beloved synod further (but I could be wrong). God also wants you to serve. He wants you to share your relationship with Jesus Christ with someone else. You may not know how to do that. Your pastor can show you how. Why not ask him? That’s what he’s there for!
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