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04
Renewing Your Mind About God's Continuity for Leadership
November 4, 2018

Renewing Your Mind about God’s Continuity for Leadership

Good Morning Everton Community Church. It’s so great to be here with you this morning, and for Jo-Anne and I to introduce ourselves and an opportunity to get to know us – And – for us to get to know you.

The search committee of course has met with me several times over the last few months to represent the congregation to get to know me as a candidate; learn my theological beliefs; and to get a sense of pastoral fit for this church. These interviews have been an opportunity for me as well – to meet with a representative group from this church – and do some research on the Church’s history – and more importantly, get a sense of God’s direction and call.

And here we are – November 4th - I stand in the pulpit before you-

to tell you that Jo-Anne and I are very pleased to be here.

So, I’ll just share a little about us. I’ll share more throughout the sermon but for now:

I lived in Guelph for 30 years and before that, lived in Kingston, followed by Erin for 3 years. In 2003 I experienced a difficult and painful circumstance, at which time - I gave my heart and life to Jesus. It was a road to Damascus experience, quite unexpected, and I went from non-believer to believer overnight. Before long I was attending Church, then bible study and one thing I learned early that has not changed since.

A love for the LORD and studying His word.

At the time - I was selling real estate in Guelph, and in a private week of retreat before the LORD, I heard a call to move. I certainly had no plans to move. I had been sensing around 2007 a call to Seminary, but God led me to Kingston -and to work at Queen’s University. And I continued to study the word. Seminary continued to beckon. I moved to Waterloo to work at Wilfrid Laurier, and Seminary continued to beckon. In 2014 it came to a decision point: Beckon turned to acceptance, and decided Seminary it is.

My call is to teach the word of God.  When I understood that God is in control of our lives and circumstances – what He was doing in my life Pastor made sense.

I could see what the LORD had been doing and why. I told a co-worker when I was leaving Queen’s: I’d prefer to serve God than to work at a University. I really loved Kingston – but God was leading again – and Waterloo became my home.

I met Jo-Anne at church and we married September of 2016. She works as an Occupational Therapist in the community covering the Elora, Fergus and Belwood area. I had a house in Waterloo. Jo-Anne had a house in Elmira.

Currently we live in Elmira. Horse and buggy area -Jo-Anne has reminded me it’s in the bible belt- but our intent is to move to the north end of Guelph.

Ok. That’s enough about us for now. Let’s turn to the message for today.

When the pastor role for Everton was posted, I wanted to check to see what kind of church this was. I read the Statements of Faith, and I listened to several of Pastor Kratz’s sermons, including his last sermon regarding leadership. It’s the role of the search committee to find someone to fit this church and ensure where - and to whom God is leading, but it is a two way process. The candidate also is interviewing the church, to make sure it is where God wants Him and his family, to make sure it is a good fit for them as well.

Questions: What is the church about; who pastored before him; what kind of teaching have they been receiving; why did the pastor leave. Wonder what the congregation would be like. These are important questions.

I also did some research on pastoral transitions. There’s quite a bit written on it. In the spirit of God’s continuity of leadership, I really want to say that from what I read about good exits and bad exits, is that I am grateful to Pastor Kratz. From what I listened to and read, he was a faithful servant of the word. But I also want to thank this congregation. You gave him the blessing of allowing him to be faithful to teaching the word. And to do that, there has to be willingness – and desire – to hear the word. And that tells me something about this church, and my own desire to be faithful to God’s word.

Pastor Kratz’s last message on June 24th was titled “Renewing Your Mind about Leadership”, and what Scripture reveals about it. He also gave some solid teaching and charge on the matter in regards to a pastoral call.

This morning, as this church is transitioning from one pastor and candidating another, I would like to follow on a theme of continuity from Pastor Kratz’s sermon,  as this church moves from past to present, - present to future - one call from God to another call from God: and as it is God who is directing His servants in Continuity for His Church, which is why my sermon this morning is Part 2: Renewing Your Mind about God’s Continuity for Leadership

The bible is full of examples of God providing new leadership from one to another. How about Numbers 27:18 when the Lord instructed Moses to lay hands on Joshua to take over when his task was completed – or 2nd Kings Chapter 2 when Elijah is taken up in a Chariot as Elisha watches and receives a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, or Paul passing the torch to Timothy in 2nd Timothy. So too Jesus commissions the disciples in Matthew 28 in the Great Commission to “go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations”. The great missionary Paul demonstrated this installing leadership when he planted one church and moved on to another.

And so here we are today, in the continuity of God’s leading and direction as he moves and shepherds his people. A shepherd moves his flock from place to place that they may be fed and cared for – we wouldn’t need a shepherd if we are standing still, and the Great Shepherd is always moving, and we follow.

To quote Pastor Kratz from June 24, he stated he “believed that he had fulfilled what God had called him to do here and he was calling him to minister to another group of his flock”.

God is in control placing his servants where He wants them. In the same way Jo-Anne and I sense God has called me to minister to this church, and we are following the Great Shepherd.

 So, using Pastor Kratz “outgoing” outline, let’s look at 5 of God’s expectation of leadership for the “incoming” to shape his ministry. Like searching the bible for God’s theme of redemption, this message is not about these 5 things specifically, but I wanted to use these 5 things as a “continuity connector”.

So, here we go: The Scripture is Acts 20:28-38 (pg 930 of your bibles)

 

 

Number 1. Be Right with God

     28 “Pay careful attention to yourselves”.

There are many things I can say about this Scripture in regards to examining ourselves, and that means, seeing ourselves honestly in comparison to the word of God. In paying attention to ourselves; to become a pastor, if he is to challenge a congregation, it is necessary to ask oneself, as I’ve had:

Do I believe Scripture to be the word of God? Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  Except, it is not.

In the book of Joshua, even though the Israelites saw the great powers of God, Joshua had to exhort and challenge the Israelites in Joshua Chapter 24:15 “choose this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD”. In doing this, Joshua by direct confrontation was in fact shepherding the people to a commitment, and in verse 21 the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD”.  This is Joshua’s call to “pay attention to yourselves” in self – examination, and once they’ve decided and voiced whom they will serve, Joshua says “You are witness against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve Him”. Or in other words, “hey, remember what you just promised”. Then when they got to the promised land, they feared and would not go in – even though God said he would give it to them, and they wandered for another 40 years. In self-examination – as God prepares a pastor – the pastor needs to honestly answer questions like – does God actually answer prayer? Can we trust God to lead? Is Jesus the “only way”. Is Creation true or is evolution? Is there only one way to God?

What I realized in my own life, is that God had put me, as he does with all of us, through the fire, shaping and molding, as I learned to trust Him and believe that His word is true.

Have you ever felt God confronting you if you believe Him or not? IF we are honest with ourselves, we can be just like the Israelites: say it, but when action time comes, do something else.

Grace. Don’t we need it. Here’s some good news. It’s not your promises to God. It’s God’s promises to you. He keeps them. Can you believe that?

The nation of Israel was called to “self-examination”. Elijah calls all the people together asking whom they will serve in 1 Kings 18: “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if BAAL, follow him”. Where the people responded to Joshua they would serve the LORD, here is the response of the people to Elijah: “And the people did not answer Him a word”. If Elijah was to ask us, could they – be us - silent as we’re not sure where we stand?

As for me and my house, my wife and I have chosen to serve the LORD. What God has called upon my heart is to preach the gospel, to pastor and shepherd God’s people. Because here is the truth of the matter, to use the words “renewing our minds”: commitment creep can sneak in, and without us realizing it, we’ve drifted from the Chief Shepherd.

Here’s one of the ways Jesus elicited self-examination: Follow Me. Short -and simple. But following Jesus comes at a cost. Will we or will we not deny ourselves to follow Christ. One of the things I like to do when preaching is asking questions of self-examination for the congregation - to make us think about how we conduct our own selves- to make Godly choices. And just so you know: I need it too. Iron, sharpens iron.

2: Shepherd the Flock : from verse 28b

and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with his own blood”.

The church, that He obtained means it’s His – how – with His own blood.

As I have already described with Joshua, he shepherded the flock leading them to choose God. One of the reasons God has placed the call to pastor is my own truth: I was once lost – well into adulthood – and I have been found. I am so grateful to the LORD for choosing me before I chose Him. Without the difficult circumstances I went through – without that – I wonder if I would have forever missed the boat. God often uses circumstances to bring us to Him – to trust Him. It is that thankfulness to Christ – and knowing God – that God has put a burden on my own heart- that there are still others who do not know Him, who are lost. I also know that becoming a Christian, my suffering did not go away. God put me through many things to mold me.

 

Quote: Oswald Chambers July 6: My Utmost for His Highest:

God gives us a vision, (mine is to be pastor) and then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of that vision. It is in the valley that so many of us give up and faint. Every God-given vision will become real if we will only have patience. Just think of the enormous amount of free time God has! He is never in a hurry. Yet we are always in such a frantic hurry. While still in the light of the glory of the vision, we go right out to do things, but the vision is not yet real in us. God has to take us into the valley and put us through fires and floods to batter us into shape, until we get to the point where He can trust us with the reality of the vision. Ever since God gave us the vision, He has been at work. He is getting us into the shape of the goal He has for us, and yet over and over again we try to escape from the Sculptor’s hand in an effort to batter ourselves into the shape of our own goal.

In shepherding and caring for the flock, we know there will be suffering. The pastor is a steward – an overseer - to care for God’s people and the church. This Scripture says the Holy Spirit has made us overseers - that we are to care for the Church. As pastor the responsibility given by the Holy Spirit is to care for Everton Community Church and you are the Church. This scripture also says that Jesus obtained the church with his own blood.

 The church belongs to Jesus. Further, that Jesus says in Matthew 16:18 that “upon this rock I will build My church”. The church does not belong to people as Jesus says the church is His. For that matter we are His and all that is in the earth is His.

In the last 6 months Jo-Anne and I have ministered to two other small churches where I have filled in as pulpit supply.

One we visited 3 times this past summer; it was 5 hours away so we drove up the day before and stayed overnight in the parsonage. We were able to connect with some of the congregation socially on the Saturday night. While there briefly, we connected with them and we have realized we miss them. They have been hurting without a pastor for well over a year and we have been praying for them.

I have also been doing pulpit supply twice per month in another church. We learned the first day the sufferings of some of the people in the church of about 8. To compound this, their church is close to closing its doors and they wonder what will happen there. Each Sunday after speaking we all go out for lunch together. Last Sunday Jo-Anne and I realized we will miss these people. There is a uniting of spirit and hearts when we pray and care for each other in Christian love. And I have also learned there is a special connection when you are pastor, and his wife shares in that as you care for the people. But we’ve also been able to share in great joy as the rural church without a pastor has found one: moved into the parsonage October 31. The church close to closing its doors in the last couple of weeks, out of the blue was approached by a church doing a church plant and has started discussion of merging with a church plant in their church – a breath of new life into a dying church. And at the same time these two churches are undergoing new life, we are here for a pastor call. Can I just say that God is good, and God does answer prayer?

3: Guard the Flock

 29 “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears”.

If there is one of the five that stand out for me, that God has convicted my heart, it is this one. If I was to name one of the gifts that God has given me, I would name it as discernment.

One of my favorite places to go is New York City. When I travel there, sometimes I go to Times Square Church – right in Times Square. One of sermons that led me to visit there was a sermon by their Pastor – an Ottawa man who had been a police officer. A man who became a Christian in his 20’s- and surprisingly became a pastor. David Wilkerson, who you may recognize as the author of Cross and the Switchblade and who started Teen Challenge started the church in the early 80’s and hired him as Lead Pastor. But the sermon was September 16, 2001 – a few days after the Trade Centers fell. One of the lines of the sermon he speaks that as the Trade Centers were burning, and falling, firemen and police officers, while everyone was running from the crumbling building, they were running toward the buildings saying “run for your life, at their own peril”. He sermon was about false teachings, false leaders, false religions. But he stated that he wants to be a pastor running toward the spiritual conflict yelling “run for your life”. I have that same conviction.

This is a two- fold response to the 5 leadership factors. A shepherd leads His flock, in this case away from danger, but also in the process protects them.

Jesus says in John 10:

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers”.

This sounds spiritual rather than practical. We know that Jesus is making a point to follow Him and that He is the Shepherd- and the sheep listen only to Him.  Paul, tell us how it happens practically:

Galations 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ”.

Paul says there are those who are familiar to you but they are teaching you another Gospel. Paul continues in Galatians 2: 4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

Jesus says that His sheep know His voice, and that the sheep will not listen to strangers. But what Paul says is, there are false messengers, often those who are not strangers- those who are friendly whom we might know, who sneak in, or as Jesus says, climb in another way.  And their goal is to lead astray.

  We are living in a secular world of ideologies, all with a voice who are calling for us to follow. We are to listen to the voice of the one true Shepherd. By knowing the Scriptures, we recognize His voice and teaching. Follow Me, He says. Follow me…..

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name's sake.

For His name sake and no other. There are many voices stating there are many ways to God, but there is only one. The pastor must protect this.

4: Study and Pray

 From verse32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified”. 

To the word of His grace which -the word- is able to build you up. You know what the opposite of “build you up is? Tear you down”. Build you up is such an encouragement. You know who was an encouragement in Acts” -Barnabas. Barnabas was great at building up. As a Pastor, it is my hope that all within the church will be students of the word. Many time Jesus would say to the Pharisees, “have you not read”.  Jesus is making a point: Pharisees were to have studied what was written so much as to memorize the Pentateuch.  Have knowledge of the word. In Mark 2 verse 2 it says about Jesus; “And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching – the word – to them. The Shepherd was teaching inside the gate. The word that is written. When I started to think of Seminary back in 2007, this is the one thing that I knew God had placed on my heart. Reading the Scriptures. I am just going to be frank…..I love the Scriptures. I’ve never cared for reading a book twice. But I have never been tired of reading Scripture. Maybe it’s my labour relations background…I don’t know. But I always enjoyed reading collective agreements. Like the bible, you need to know a collective agreement if you are going to be a union steward or union president or work for an employer’s labour relations unit. I’ve done both. People ask you for interpretation….and you should know what it says, or able to understand it to explain it. And just because a manager or union rep read it once, doesn’t mean they know it. I sold real estate in Guelph and when preparing offers -these are prepared contracts or was presented with one by another agent with legal clauses in them. Software can plunk a clause into an offer….usually there were several in which to choose, and I was surprised at how many times agents didn’t actually know what it meant, and I would have to explain to them what their own contract language said. They just chose it without understanding it, and the language could seriously affect a house sale.

Study!!!..... -and - pray. Prayer not just as a pastor, but individually - and as a church. In Luke 22 after the Lord’s Supper, Jesus took them to the Garden of Gethsemane and told them to “pray that you may not enter into temptation”.  Jesus then withdrew from them a stone’s throw away, and knelt down -to do what - to pray. When Jesus returned to the disciples, they were sleeping and He asked them “why are you sleeping, rise and pray”. Doesn’t sleep often get in the way of prayer – have you ever fell asleep – during prayer?

I like to pray after my quiet time in the morning. Jo-Anne likes to pray together at the end of the day. I don’t know the practice here, but it is my hope to gather together as a church at times throughout the year to pray.

Finally, God charges church leaders to:

5)Be Free from Self-Interest (Acts 20:33–38)

33 I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.

My dad told me a story that he worked in NYC at a retirement home when he was 19 operated by Nuns. Sister Andrea, whom he trusted and named my sister after, saved his wages for him and he used it to purchase a ticket on a ship to England. All the nuns came down to accompany him to the ship. I told my Dad, they likely came down to pray for him – over his life.

 I like this ending to Scripture. Paul obviously ministered to the people with his own hands and cared for them. The people obviously cared for Paul as well. When I read this section of Scripture, I am reminded of Jesus words:

John 13:34-35 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

I am sure people knew, upon seeing everyone come down to the ship to see Paul off, that they loved one another.

Pastor Kratz as he concluded this point # 5 wrote this:

Although false teachers do seek the ministry for personal financial gain, a pastor needs the assurance that he and his family are coming to a congregation that genuinely care for his needs. This may require assistance and advice in schooling, housing or general personal support. It is a stressful and often daunting prospect to leave extended family, congregation and community to uproot to a new congregation.

Can I just tell you about the goodness of God? How he cares for those who are His and looks after their needs?

First, Jo-Anne and I wondered where I would end up after Seminary. I left a profession by God’s call to do what I really wanted to do: which is what God wanted me to do, and I left secular work for Seminary. I was single at the time; I had asked God, how am I to do this alone, and God provided me with an excellent wife. We thought that Jo-Anne would have to leave her job –when I saw the posting here, we drove here to check it out, pray about the LORD’s leading, and as I mentioned, I did some research as well. We both knew this church seemed to be an excellent fit. As far as housing, we had already planned on purchasing a house together, but we had to wait to see where I would end up. Our plan would be to move to the north end of Guelph – God has looked after all the details. We just need to trust in Him. To respond to what Matthew wrote: We would not be moving far from extended family. We have no requirement for schooling.

But a Pastor is just a man that God has put the burden on his heart to teach, and we go to Seminary to learn it. But teaching is just one of the gifts as you all have gifts. And we have the same things in our lives as you have in yours. Jo-Anne and I would most welcome your love and support. Oh yah, and maybe some strong hands when we do move…….and I confess - that’s a gratuitous plug……

It brings to mind the vision of this church that is found on the web site: I see it is also in the bulletin.

1 Thessalonians 2:8   So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

So, in the spirit of continuity, I’ve used 5 points that Pastor Kratz identified for pastoral leadership.

But from here the point is not to look back but forward.

There is much more in the book of Acts for Spiritual leadership than these 5.

I did a paper on Leadership in Acts for a course on Acts. I am not going to go into them in detail -that is for another day – but I am going to share the 5 points from Acts as we look forward.

  1. The spiritual leader’s task is to move people from where they are to where God wants them to be.
  2. Spiritual leaders depend on the Holy Spirit.
  3. Spiritual leaders are accountable to God.
  4. Spiritual leaders can influence all people, not just God’s people.
  5. Spiritual leaders work from God’s mission and agenda.[1]

In closing, whether it be individually, or in this church, we are to be involved in God’s Mission to all the world to share the gospel, it is our desire to equip this church to fulfill God’s mission and the Vision of this church, that we wish to share the gospel of Jesus Christ as well as our own selves.

As I mentioned, over the last few months Jo-Anne and I have been part of 2 churches of which I have been a supply for the pulpit, as well as our home church, and they have become very dear to us, and as we get to know you and learn about you we know our hearts will be entwined with you also.

If you look at the bulletin, I asked Andrea to insert the image of the passing torch. I praise God for the service of Matthew Kratz and his teaching he has provided to this church. It is my hope and prayer that the torch – the baton, as Paul says we are to run the race, will be handed to me here.

In concluding, I share from my heart what Paul shared with Timothy, the torch the Lord has given me for my own charge, commission and call:

 2 Timothy 4 

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure soundteaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Praise be to God and our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Let’s pray.

Benediction:

Hebrews 13:20-21 

20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.



[1] Henry and Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 20-22

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