Last Sunday I preached from Joshua 1:10-19 where the children of Israel prepared themselves to cross the Jordan, and enter the promised land. The main focus is on Joshua motivating the tribes who had already received their inheritance to fight so everyone else could receive theirs (1:12-15).
The Lord began to deeply convict me through this passage because in my own heart there was an unwillingness to fight. Like some Missionaries I’m in a unique situation of filling in at a Church while the lead pastor is away on furlough. The people love pastor Richards (not his real name) and are looking forward to his return, not that they don’t like me, but he is the one who served with them for over twenty years.
In a sense their love for Pastor Richards along with his strong ministry there and return created an idea that my job was to “take care of the Church till he came back” instead of leading it. This wasn’t something I willingly did by giving up the leadership role, but a subconscious embracing of management instead of leadership.
I was thinking about this Thursday morning when a Church member sent a message asking if Mrs. Evans (not her real name) had gotten in touch with me. A few minutes later she was telling me through tears on the phone that her grandmother had been taken to the hospital, and asked if I could come meet with the family.
An hour afterwards I arrived at the hospital but sadly it was too late. Her grandmother about fifteen minutes before had entered into Heaven singing praises to her Savior. For two-hours I sat with the family (and her especially) as they said goodbye, the doctors prepared the body, and it was taken to the funeral home. Later I drove her by a grocery store so she could get some groceries and asked the guidance counselor at Mrs.Evans daughter’s school to inform her after classes.
As I made lunch that afternoon it occurred to me that I had been doing the work of a Pastor. It probably wasn’t done as well as the twenty-year veteran missionary, but my willingness to be a pastor ministered greatly to her heart. Friday she sent me a message saying “thank you, I’ll be forever grateful.”
The work of a Pastor isn’t for the weak of heart. It’s exhausting, frustrating, messy, and thankless. This is why so many like me find themselves consciously or unconsciously taking on the role of “manager.” After all, it’s a lot easier to just preach a few times a week and make basic decisions than minister to Church members on a day to day basis.
My sermon last Sunday was called “Because this is war.” I ended with an apology for inadvertently allowing Pastor Richards to keep me from taking the leadership role, and a promise that from that point on I would do my best to be “the one on the white horse leading the Charge.”
Will I be as good as Pastor Richards? Probably not. The thing is that doesn’t matter. Because in the moments of need what they don’t need is a manager, what they need is a shepherd.