Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Open Letter to the Growthinistas, Pt. 1.5

Dovetailing just a bit with my previous OLTTG post, I just read this a.m. (again, in my Bloglines reader) another great post from the Church Matters dudes, this one examining the question of whether or not I consider my gifts to be "too big and spiffy" for the field that I'm currently called to.

I.e., though I know the Bible tells me to not "despise... the day of small things," do I subtly in fact view the "day of small things" I'm currently in as somehow just a stepping stone to "something better," or do I view my lot as what it really is - my calling that I am to discharge as a faithful steward, no matter what the cost?

This blogpost from the 9Marks dudes is something of a book report on the biographical preface to The Letters of Samuel Rutherford by Andy Bonar. My wife had fallen in love with the Letters a few years ago, and had read them to me (I like the sound of her voice - she could read the ingredients of squid pituitary and aardvark navel goulash to me, and I'd like it...), at which time I really came to like Rutherford.

Samuel Rutherford was a Scottish Presbyterian in the 17th century whose writings on the Rule of Law have had immeasurable impact on, among other things, the formation of our own federalist/constitutionalist government here in the U.S. of A. The Letters (which are available online here) are a collection of...well...letters that Sam wrote during a time of great personal trial and first published as soon as three years after his death in 1661.

All-in-all, a stupendously good and spiritually eye-opening read.

Specific to the question of the OLTTG, however... the author of the 9Marks blogpost added the Letters to his devotional reading, and was commenting on the biographical sketch of Rutherford that Andy Bonar put in to his (and the currently most enduring edition of) the Letters. He makes one particularly timely and telling observation:

I wonder if one of the main challenges facing churches might not be that too many potential shepherds think their education, gifts, and abilities would be wasted in humble, anonymous service? If there are not too many of us who remember too infrequently that the Chief Shepherd knows His blood-bought sheep in country villages are worth caring for? I wonder how many men "settle" for this or that little congregation as a "stepping stone" to a bigger, "better" ministry? How many fear that anonymity is synonymous with unfruitfulness and a certain kind of death?

And, yet, Rutherford speaks to us hundreds of years later and his faithfulness shames the most gifted and talented among us (well, let me not project onto others; it certainly shames me). Bonar adds this line a couple paragraphs later:

Anwoth was dear to him rather as the sphere appointed him by his Master, than because of the fruit he saw of his labours.

Because Christ place him there--not because he saw "great fruit"--Rutherford rooted his heart in that place and that people. May we all be satisfied to serve, and find satisfaction in serving, wherever the Master places us. And may we never regard our congregations--however small--as unworthy of our gifts or our care.

The pastors whose legacies endure and whose lives and ministries we respect as we look back on them from the perspective of history are those who weren't consumed by things like numerical growth, or setting tithing goals, or...or...or...

The pastors whose legacies endure and whose lives and ministries we respect are those whose driving passion was faithfulness to their calling, no matter the cost. The pastors whose legacies endure and whose lives and ministries we respect are those who loved the Lord with abandon and lived that out in life by pouring themselves out and giving the last full measure for the flocks that God entrusted them with - completely without consideration to so many of the things that dominate the thinking of so many of our contemporaries.

Many (probably most) of us aren't called to be shepherds over dynamic, explosively growing congregations whose monthly budgets are measured in excess of five digits - though, upon reading many other pastors' blogs, I think that's what we (and by "we" I mean "pastors in general") lust most after.

I want to be like Sam Rutherford.


Matt said...

Wow. I Can't believe I let this sit in my Google Reader for over a week before reading it. I saw more than a paragraph and shelved it as "unread" for later.

This is GREAT stuff. It really convicts me, even though I'm not a pastor. But how many of us, walking in the Lord, really want to be used in a HUGE way. We somehow think that taking out the trash after services, or shoveling a neighbor's sidewalk, or ministering to children is less desirable, and less worthy. We look at even these actions as second-class things that we do to lead to something bigger.

I have to remember personally that it is a gift from God to be ABLE to do these simple things. I've gotta tell ya, a televangelist has never brought me to Christ, and only rarely brought me a good message. But I've been blessed beyond measure by a few good friends doing simple things like that for me when I am in need.

Good job Mike.

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