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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Reflection on Philippians 2:14-18

It seems that when I see many Pastors' past experience, there tends to be a large list of churches at which they previously served. While I do not have before me any hard statistics, I believe I have read that Southern Baptist Pastors tend to average around 3-5 years in each pastorate.

Surely there are legitimate reasons why some pastorates end so quickly:
1. Some Pastors are deceived by congregants into thinking the church is one way, but after the Pastor arrives, the church is different. For example, the Pastor might have been told that he will have charge of the spiritual leadership of the church (which he should, hopefully alongside with other elders), but when he arrives, he quickly finds out that he has this authority only on the approval of some families or deacons. In effect, he cannot lead the church, so he ends up leaving.
2. Some Pastors end up having to die on hill for Jesus. For example, the Pastor begins to reach out to the local Hispanic population, and after some time, some of them convert and they begin to come to church. At the next leadership meeting, the Pastor is told that the church is not pleased with the influx of Hispanics. The Pastor says that he is going to continue to minister to this people group. The church eventually tells the Pastor to start looking for new employment.
3. Many Pastors labor genuinely and optimistically in a church for 3-5 years, yet the church will not respond to his leadership and in the end the Pastor decides to leave because of this issue.

Yet we all know that many Pastors leave because a bigger, better, higher paying, better located, perk offering church calls and while his current church is slowly moving forward, the enticement of the invitation from the other church is too powerful to turn down.

In Philippians 2, the Apostle Paul exhorts the church toward sanctification (vv12-13), and in v14 he gives practical instruction on how to pursue sanctification. In vv15-18, he gives three reasons why the Philippians should do all things without grumbling and disputing. The first reason is for the Philippians own sanctification (v15a). The second reason is for the sake of the believer's witness to a lost world (v15b).

Interestingly, the third reason for Paul exhortation to do all things without grumbling and disputing is for Paul's sake. In verses 16-17, he says "so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all."

Paul's investment in the Philippians sanctification weighs heavily upon his conscience. He believes that their sanctification is his responsibility. The Philippians must run and finish the race of faith, and Paul sees himself playing a pivotal part in their completion of that race. If they finish, Paul is vindicated and his work has not been in vain, but if they fail to finish the race, Paul seems to see their failure as his own.

Perhaps if Pastors souls were daily pricked with the understanding of this weighty responsibility, we would not be so quick to depart the church where are currently serving. Too often, I believe we do not stay because we have not sufficiently invested ourselves into the lives of our congregations. And as a result, it is easier for us to leave.

Paul says to the Elder Timothy, "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." Let all preachers feel the weight of this commandment. Our congregation's sanctification is our responsibility as we minister on behalf of God in the Holy Spirit teaching the Word of God.

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