Jump Start # 2407
Proverbs 15:17 “Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served with hatred.”
On Tuesday I wrote about the elder-preacher relationship. I knew when I wrote that the preachers throughout the country would carry me on their shoulders and the elders would want to lock me away in a closet. But that hasn’t been the case. The comments, which have been many, were positive, encouraging and what I truly wanted to see take place, the beginning of conversations.
There shouldn’t be competition, tension, suspicion and turmoil between shepherds and the preacher. They need to be on the same page and I believe honest conversation and transparency are the steps that get us there. Our verse today has much to do with that. Veggies or meat—I’m a meat guy. My sweet wife is veggies. Ribs at my favorite bar-b-que place or, meat on the grill, nothing like it. I have eaten veggie lasagna and it’s ok, but put some meat in it and it’s even better. And, yes, I probably eat way too much meat.
But this verse is not so much about what is on the plate, but what is in the air. The greatest meal just doesn’t taste so great when you have to sit across from hatred. You just look down at your food and eat. There is no conversation. There is no wonderful experience. It’s just food and it’s ruined because of the atmosphere. It is hard to have dinner with your mate after you have just been in an argument. It is hard to sit down and eat with the kids when everyone is mad at each other. The opposite is veggies with love. The meal may not be so great, but the memories, the experience is. Wonderful conversations. Laughter. Depth. Insight. Love. I’ve known people who have worked in restaurants. After the meal is eaten, some just sit around and talk and talk and talk. Food servers are ready to clean the tables, get new people in there, but here sits people simply talking. They are having a great time. Love fills the air.
Now, imagine that experience, not at home, not with friends in a restaurant, but between preachers and elders in a congregation. Laughter. Love. Depth. Sharing. Wanting to be there. Each feeling accepted, wanted, and appreciated. Each wanting the best from the others. When that atmosphere is natural and true, it spills over into the rest of the congregation. The mood changes at church. People stick around. People enjoy each other. You’ll hear conversations of laughter. You’ll see sharing and hugs and smiles. People want to be there. And, when that happens, folks naturally start inviting friends and family to come and worship. A spirit of love and family fills the air. But it is necessary for it be first exist between the preacher and the shepherds.
Now, a few thoughts connecting this and Tuesday’s article.
First, what can be done when many in the church sense things are not right? Maybe the preacher is left in the dark. Maybe many in the church are left in the dark. I’ve been in congregations where elders have decided to start sending support money to other preachers or they decided to stop sending money to other preachers and no one knew anything about it. No announcements. No letting the church know that it is the church who is supporting these preachers. The only way people knew was to see a new letter on a bulletin board from some preacher they never heard of before. Then the conclusion would be reached that we must now be supporting this person.
What’s missing is a spirit of team work, togetherness, love and trust. The elders often acted independent of the church and never felt like they needed to tell the church anything. I have been there. People start talking about the elders. And, what they say isn’t nice.
My suggestion would be to take the Tuesday Jump Start and ask the shepherds to read it. Give them some time to think and chew on it. Then ask them if you could talk to them about these things. Don’t push. Don’t threaten. Present this in a way that you’d want someone to help you. Show them some things, through Scriptures. Spend some time with Ezekiel 34:4. Look at all those words slowly and carefully. Ask some meaningful questions from that passage, such as:
- What is the difference between being broken and being diseased?
- Why do some sheep get this way?
- What would be some signs that shows a sheep is getting sick spiritually?
- What would you do to help the injured?
- What could be done to prevent others from falling into the same situation?
Do you see how to do this? Thoughtful, depth, insight, observing and considering. From that, which sheep are like this now? Which sheep are heading this way? Now, this becomes practical, personal and real.
Now, what if I try this and it’s not received well? What if they tell me to mind my own business? What if they say, as one elder did, “Are you trying to tell me how to do my job?” Or, as another said, “Do you think after all these years, I need to learn anything?” Of course, my spirit wants to scream YES. But that’s not the respectful way to deal with this. Biblically is the right approach. Preachers ought to preach about shepherding. When preaching about the organization of the church or elders, don’t spend three weeks on “husband of one wife.” Look at what shepherds do. Preach on Ps 23. Preach on Ezekiel 34. Recommend other preachers who understand this to come and preach on this. There are many good books on this. We even have a few Jump Start books, such as Vision, Welcoming Church, Shepherding, that would be great to pass along to get conversations started.
But, even with all of this, some won’t get it. Some fight change. Some will think this is a grab for power, rather than a means to help people. It is then that one must decide what’s best. Wait it out until newer men can be appointed elders or find another place to worship. So many congregations are simply drifting today. No plans. No vision. No legacy. No future. Just Sunday to Sunday. Things could be so much better. Change is hard and change is slow. Be patient. Teach. Teach. Teach. Encourage. Plant ideas. Pray. Always pray.
Second, many congregations now have two preachers in house. That’s wonderful. How the second man is chosen can be wonderful or it can be a disaster. Most times it’s becoming a disaster. And, what congregations find is that instead of having two preachers, both leave and now they have none. Hiring a second preacher without any input from the current preacher is pretty close to the old shotgun weddings of years ago. The two may not gel well together. They may not even agree doctrinally. Their egos may clash. And, two our verse today, rather than having a meal with love, you have two preachers who can’t stand each other. Does that happen? I could put way too many names to this. Have the elders even asked the current preacher how he feels about another preacher there? Is he being pushed out? Have you talked to him about that? How long is the second preacher going to be there? What are the expectations and who is to do what? So often, a man is hired and then the elders think about those things. TOO LATE.
We have another preacher where I am at. He’s not the second preacher. If he’s second that would make me first, and I’m not first. We are equals. I have been preaching nearly as long as he has been alive, but he runs circles around me with ideas and ability. It took a long time to find what we wanted. I took the lead in finding someone that I could work with, or more so, who could work with me. I was picky. And, when Jason came, it was stated that he was to be my replacement. He’s here for the long haul. In time, when I give all of this up, he will take the lead and find someone to work with him. Legacy, is the model that we were after.
Now, often when another preacher is hired, the current preacher can feel like he’s being pushed aside. He can feel like he’s no longer useful, wanted or needed. All the attention goes to the new preacher and the current preacher can feel like no one cares about him. Remember our verse about love and hatred? This is where the elders can make it or break it with the preachers. Veggies with love or ox with hatred? Don’t play favorites among the preachers. Each is unique in their own way and each has their own talents and strengths.
I remember when my kids were little and at home, one would have a birthday and when we got ready to do pictures, there was always one who was pouting. It wasn’t their birthday and they were being a party pooper. We don’t want to be like that. Be thankful we are on the same team. Be thankful that we have each other to support and to help. There will be days that one preacher hits it out of the park more than the other. The congregation will tease about one being better than the other. They try to be cute but some of the things they say can hurt. Egos can be dented. Jealousy can arise. This is when a sharp eldership knows just want to do.
Teamwork is the key. Everyone working for the glory of the Lord. Each using our strengths and abilities to make things the best.
Hope these thoughts help! Lets make the kingdom the best that we can for this generation!