The Way from Above and the Church

I am encouraged as I am reading The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that Has Abandoned It by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel.

It is essentially a call to weakness that lives in the power of Christ. Recognizing that so much of life is lived under power schemes that are actually unhealthy or evil.

Living the way of Jesus though is not a solitary endeavor. Here is what they say of the church, take it to heart.

Because we are prone to waywardness, prone to walk the path of pride, self-sufficiency, and power, we need the church to ground us in Christ and his way. We cannot live in Christ’s way on our own. This likely sounds right, but many of us functionally doubt our need for the church. Pursuing the way of Christ seems like a “me and Jesus” kind of endeavor. But our focus on ourselves unearths a deep foolishness that owes more to our culture and worldliness than it does to Scripture. We have no hope of pursuing the way from above apart from the church.

Pastoral Weakness Saved My Life

It has been a fairly typical morning. I woke early to get prepared for the day and head off to a Bible study with a few men in the church. But as I stood looking in the mirror, ready to shave off the stubble of another long day before, I heard the faint but penetrating accusation. “You don’t have what it takes. The church hasn’t grown at all. None of your ‘disciples’ are making progress. You are too weak to be in ministry, you should just give up…”

I have heard it before. The dull hum of inadequacy as I watch other churches flourish and I present a meager budget to our little replant of a church wondering if the vision will hold out until we reach that elusive and hoped for five-year mark. Where my personality wants to cite my resume and latches on to the positive comments I receive for my preaching or likability. When the numbers just don’t match the church growth models. Do I have what it takes to pastor?

The answer friends is no.

So I stare back into the mirror and embrace the accusation. I don’t have what it takes. I am weak and inexperienced. My preaching is subpar. I am not nearly patient enough. I am too sinful. All of it is true. And it turns out that is the point. The enemy fools himself when he attempts to fool us. My call to ministry is not based on or even measured in my abilities or inabilities as it may be. My personal aptitude is not the point of Christianity or the pastoral role. It is Christ that works, it is his gifts and grace that carry us through, and it is him that I proclaim not myself.

Scripture declares this over and over again and it is to be our relief and confidence in life. That Jesus is working and has all the strength.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV)

Pastoral weakness saves my life in moments like these. I am weak. That is exactly what Jesus had in mind when he called me to be a pastor. Reliance on him. Neediness before him. Helpless apart from him. Where the enemy of our souls desires to lead us to despair, Christ lends his sufficiency and makes his power to rest upon us.

This is not only for pastors though. This is for you. The voice that tells you how you don’t measure up. How dirty you are. How boring you tend to be. Embrace it and run to Jesus. The One who is not ashamed to call you brother or sister. The One who gives you his righteousness, his strength, his inheritance forever. The One who gives you rest.

I am a weak pastor. I am thinking of putting it on my business card. There is nothing in me that can save you. But the One I proclaim, the One I live to see in all of Scripture, the One that knows me by name; he will save you. Run to him. Let’s run together.

In my weakness I am greatly encouraged by this prayer from the Valley of Vision on “Humility in Service.” May it encourage you as well.

“O thou God of all grace, make me more thankful, more humble; Inspire me with a deep sense of unworthiness arising from the depravity of my nature, my omitted duties, my unimproved advantages, thy commands violate by me. With all my calls to gratitude and joy may I remember that I have reason for sorrow and humiliation; O give me repentance unto life; Cement my oneness with my blessed Lord, that faith may adhere to him more immovably, that love may entwine itself round him more tightly, that his Spirit may pervade every fibre of my being. Then send me out to make him known to my fellow-men.”

True Strength

“True strength comes from Jesus living in us and that is most magnified when we are weak and needy for Him. Christ’s presence is most cultivated in us when we embrace the reality of our weakness, sinfulness, brokenness, and humanity. In Christ, we find true strength, not despite our weakness, but in our weakness. A courageous pastor embraces his weakness and finds divine strength.” – Brian Croft, Biblical Church Revitalization.

Croft here is encouraging the pastor to live in this way but I think it goes for all of us, pastor or not. May we find this true strength.

Pastoral Weakness

Confession time: While our culture tells us that those leading church need to at least appear to have it all together; I am a weak pastor. I am ill-equipped to shepherd those the Lord has given me charge of. I often think I am too broken to preach Christ. I suffer poorly. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter that I am a pastor. I am human. So are you. We suffer. We mess up. We still sin. But the glory of the gospel is that we are united with Christ and he is most glorified by our weakness because in it, he is strong. We suffer as people with promise.

Jared Wilson preached this week at the Desiring God Pastor’s conference and it is an encouragement.

Lean into Jesus. He is our eternal strength. No matter how weak we are.

Jared will also be at the Annual Enrichment Conference for CBNW in March. You should come.