I continue to receive lots of letters from readers of this site. And, as you know, I like to print some of them from time to time. Here is a small collection of recent ones which offer comments on a variety of subjects.
Letters on The Missing Elements of Modern Worship
Hi Tim, I am 70 years old. I have experienced these things in worship from when I was a boy and enjoyed the worship in the old way and long for similar experiences today. Not that I want to return totally to the old things but more the old method, with the use of modern facilities. The modern way is, “all about Me.” That is the way daily life proceeds, and success is gauged by how much pleasure I received. But if God is glorified there is a payback to the worshiper and that is far more satisfying that the pleasure of being entertained.
—Ian M, Capalaba, Australia
You raise an excellent point when you mention long time families in which the spouses are unmarried. Whenever I think think about such situations, I usually assume young and not a family. And in such cases, I completely agree that marriage is NOT the best option. Along with the biblical evidence regarding unequally yoked and marrying “in the Lord,” the experiences of many couples who have married act as a warning. I know of several couples who married Christians only to find out that they weren’t Christians (or at least, the fruit dried up for an extended season). The misery of their situations always reminds me that singleness is better than a miserable marriage, particularly since Scripture doesn’t command such a marriage.
I think you are right, though, a couple that has lived together for a long time and raised children together would certainly seem closer to the words of Paul concerning the unbelieving spouse who is willing to stay.
—Nathan, Louisville, KY
Letters on The Pastor’s Job Isn’t To Fix Things
“Fixers” don’t usually realize that they have a problem. They have a false definition of what their calling is. In reality, they are headed for frustration, isolation, and burnout. A person who wants to “fix” has a deeper spiritual issue. Unfortunately, as leaders we put everyone’s needs ahead of our own. I was once asked, “I see you taking care of everyone else, but who takes care of you?” It was a sobering and insightful question that I am eternally grateful for. Our spiritual health should be the highest priority, yet it’s often the most neglected. I offer a few thoughts on how to give our best to those who need us.
First, we all need mentors. Since many of our churches have solo pastors, it’s easy for one to become a “lone wolf.” Perhaps some had rather keep it that way, but there is a huge need for connection among leaders. Since the church is a community of believers, and the Church is a community of churches, there should be no “lone wolves.” Those who become “lone wolves” may feel the pressure, or even desire to, “fix” everything. The can be remedied with a couple of adjustments: a). Develop a network of pastors with the intent of mentoring/pastoring each other. b). Well trained lay persons within the congregation to co-pastor with the solo pastor.
Second, seminary training that includes Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), or a requirement by a denomination before ordination. A well led/run CPE program gets at the heart of a person’s motives and desires to “fixing” people.
Third, denominations that have internships prior to ordination are well poised to equip and develop well-rounded individuals to lead their congregations. Even denominations with autonomous congregations can encourage churches to develop standards for ordination that has requirements for seminary, internships, and/or CPE.
Fourth, churches should make the spiritual health of their pastors a priority. We expect our pastors to take care of their physical health (diet, preventive health, regular medical exams), why neglect their spiritual? Churches can insist, and pay for, their pastor’s take time for retreats, sabbaticals, vacations.
It’s very freeing to find that we are merely tools in the Master’s hand, and not the Master himself. When a church sets the standards of success that center around being faithful to the Word, taking care of oneself as much as they do the flock, they had enabled their pastor rather than just hiring one.
—Randy W, Memphis, Tennessee
Letters on Why Church Membership Matters
Enjoy your blog so much it pains me to take issue with anything. My concern is the comment “members are the ones who get the care of the elders”. As an ex-pastor I have seen the damage churches have done to ex-members. I have heard people say they will never join another church. While this may manifest some dysfunction, can a church eldership really say they only care for the membership when there are other hurting people in the congregation? I suggest there is a “Church Hippocratic Oath”: care for all in need.
—David M, Calgary, Alberta
Tim, thank you so very much for sharing this article. Outstanding! Recently I have been helping a young man who is struggling with this issue in his life. Literally, just minutes before I saw the title and watched the video, I had written some of these thoughts down to discuss with him, especially number one. The Spirit used this article to confirm His truth and my counsel to this young man. Thank you for your ministry to Christ Church! Keep serving Him well!
—Matthew V, Yampa, Colorado