I'm beat today! With a long day Monday, and a slightly slower but still long Tuesday featuring an elders' meeting, I'm running on about 2/3 power. But 2/3 power in the service of the Lord is full strength; it's the Lord Jesus at work in us. And part of what keeps the pastor rolling is the blessings of a faithful people for whom he may give thanks and express appreciation. I've missed a couple days of posting, so this post brings us reasons 3-6 for the first six days of "congregation appreciation month."
3. No Fishbowl. Boy, I can't tell you how important it is for a pastor's family to be able to live without the constant critical observation of others in the church. "The fishbowl" has robbed many a pastor and family of a healthy family life, of grace they need from others, and for opportunity to grow among the people. It's one of the things that pastors going to a new charge worry about. I don't think we have ever felt ourselves to be in a "fishbowl" here at FBC. Certainly people watch our lives, and we hope what they see glorifies our Savior. But our failures, shortcomings, and idiosyncrasies have met with grace upon grace from the saints at FBC. We've been allowed to be ourselves--my wife just another sister in the church rather than "first lady" or "pastor's wife," my children to be themselves without being labeled PKs, and so on. There is so much grace from God through our people in this one aspect alone. And I know all of the pastors are deeply appreciative.
4. Gospel Hunger. I love preaching to a people who want to hear the gospel every time we gather. The saints think something is wrong if they don't hear the cross in preaching. The other day, I had a brother tell me he didn't hear the gospel clearly in a sermon I preached. He was I right. I was thankful that he listened closely enough to tell. The gospel is simply becoming more and more foundational to our lives together, loved for the beautiful truth it is, and missed when not present in some obvious or rich way. I appreciate ears and hearts tuned to the truth.
5. Gospel Partnership. Gospel hunger has led to a deeper gospel partnership. It's nothing but encouraging to think of how the folks here have so eagerly committed themselves to the spread of the gospel. The church was supported in its early years by Lottie Moon funds, and now increasingly it's a sending church. The Lord has graciously grown our missions budget, moved a number of his people to live more actively evangelistic lives, generated constant support for pastors serving beyond the walls of the church, and so on. I feel like I know what the apostle meant when he wrote to the Philippians praising God for their fellowship with him in the gospel from the first day until the last.
6. Eagerness to Be Shepherded. I don't know that I've ever seen a church of people so eager and willing to receive pastoral care and leadership. As elders, we actually have to slow down to make sure we're not leading too fast or too easily accepting the people's support before making sure we're on the same page. If there were a choice between rebelling and perhaps too quickly submitting, the sheep here will almost always err on the side of submitting too quickly and easily, if there is such a thing. In through it all, one gets the sense that folks are genuinely grateful for their shepherds and the shepherding they receive. That's fun.
7. Compassion. I can't really keep pace with the amount of compassion in the church. There are lots of people in the body with gifts of mercy. And I really appreciate that because that's not my primary gifting. They challenge me personally, act as models for me, and call me to think about how we lead and steward that gifting. It's a good thing to be stretched by the compassion of your people.
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