April 3, 2017
Dear FBCD Family:
The most important work of a pastor (and church) is both the most visible and the least visible: forming souls.
It is the most visible, in that it is the primary goal of preaching, worship, and Bible study, which happen publicly each week.
But it is also the least visible, because soul-growth is barely visible and almost impossible to measure.
Only God knows (quite literally) whether the souls of the 600 people who regularly participate in worship at FBCD are growing in the right direction — or whether our collective soul is doing well. We humans can only see evidences, manifestations, illustrations.
It is the highest responsibility of the pastor to shepherd the flock spiritually (cf Acts 20). Every conversation, Bible lesson, FBU class, and sermon is an opportunity, and a responsibility, to shepherd the flock. I am fully convinced that I will be held accountable by God for how I shepherd this flock, including whom I entrust with teaching and preaching opportunities, as well as the overall performance of the rest of the ministerial staff.
My understanding of spiritual maturity — healthy soul growth — should be increasingly clear by now as the months have gone by and the evidence piles up! I believe that Christian spiritual maturity involves growth in devotion to Jesus Christ, growth in Christlike character, growth in Christlike behavior, growth in participation in the overall way of life that Jesus taught and the apostles echoed and extended.
I think we can see (or catch glimpses of) growth in these areas in our church when we see the practices Jesus taught put into practice by us — practices like peacemaking, forgiveness, and solidarity with outcasts. And when we see the virtues Jesus taught becoming more deeply engrained among us, like humility, mercy, and singleness of purpose.
We are called "up" to the exalted paradigm Jesus set. We are called "down" to humble service rather than prideful domination. We are called to the "form" of Jesus — to an urgent desire to have the shape of our life — individually and collectively — take the form of Jesus Christ. This always involves transformation of our natural selves so that they look like conformation with the form of Jesus himself.
I guess this reminds me of one final thing. It is so apparent to me that one aspect of soul growth is an awareness that none of us has arrived. We can be 8, 28, 58, or 88, we can have a church attendance history that goes back five minutes or five decades, be that as it may, none of us has arrived. We keep "pressing on" to be who Jesus wants us to be.
All of this is hard to measure. But I do think it is what matters the most. We could have 800 people here on Sunday, but if we are not growing in Christlikeness it doesn't matter. The church is supposed to be that outpost of humanity in which Jesus Christ is being imitated, followed, obeyed. If we keep growing in that direction, we will be just fine. And God will be well pleased.
Hope to see you all for some or all of the MANY wonderful upcoming activities as we move toward Easter.
God bless you, sisters and brothers —