Sermons, Catch and Release
by Nicholas St Jon
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The Lost Art of Ministry
If you've recently been in a church worship service and at the end the pastor, priest, elder, deacon, preacher, or some other staff member has dismissed you and blessed you to have a *GREAT* week, you just experienced the Lost Art of Ministry.
Ministering is virtually non-existent in today's westernized I-did-my-duty-by-attending church services we've become so familiar with.
A quick story better illustrates my point: a well known preacher was doing a “series” on anger for several weeks. Overall it was a great series, pointing out how the followers of Jesus Christ should not be subject to bouts of anger, giving in to its control, harming others or self, repenting of it, and with self-control can overcome it. The “sermons” were stirring, provoking, causing me to evaluate how the information (which was typically Bible based) would apply to my life. And I was not alone, as I could feel in the spiritual realm the cry of many others (some 2,000 usually were in attendance) for help. But help did not come, dismissal to have a GREAT week did, leaving many bewildered, frustrated, and needing to be ministered to.
It was akin to having a very bad cut on your arm with a bandage over it, having someone come over and taking the bandage off to see how bad it was, but only seeing the surface, needing to look “deeper” would pull the wound open to see its depth. Then once they had revealed the damage, walked away and told you to have a GREAT week.
What do we think? Some mystical fairy is going to fly around all week looking for the person that they can wave their magic wand over and last Sunday's message become this life changing event?
It begs the WWJD question or better yet, would or did Jesus do that? It's a rhetorical question of course, NO, He would not nor do we find that He did that!
It has in fact become the Lost Art of Ministry. Leaving the sheep of His pasture with injury, woundedness, vulnerable to attacks, under nourished, set aside, ignored, wondering off, going astray, infected, and useless. That sounds a lot like what the prophets Zechariah in chapter 11 and Ezekiel 34 warned about the shepherds that did not care for the Lord's sheep.
Week after week I'd sit through soul moving messages, only to have the “preacher” let everyone off the hook. One particular message was on the church of Laodicea in the Book of Revelation chapter 3, talking about the Lord's disgust with the Church being luke warm, though He'd rather us be cold or hot, but being luke warm is nauseating. The term “spew/spit” you out of my mouth is better interpreted that it makes Him so sick of the luke warmness, the non-caring, lackadaisical attitude toward NOT reaching the lost, NOT feeding the hungry, NOT clothing those in need, NOT visiting those imprisoned, leaving those in our midst sick, wounded, possessed, and infected, so sick that He is actually THROWING UP! Ringing any bells? Stepping on any toes? You can stop reading, or you can hear the Word of the Lord today about aligning yourself with His Kingdom and what He came to do.
At the end of the message, the preacher actually made the statement that he thought no one from his church was luke warm and let everyone off the hook for owning up to “the higher calling of God in Christ”. Where does this nonsense come from? Our Lord?, do we blame Him for the catch and release style of preaching heard in the vast majority of our services across this country?
Hardly, He actually warned us that in the “last days”, He had Paul write to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,”.
This even sounds like we can blame the flock, that “they” will accumulate for themselves..., but if you are tickling their ears, do you share some of the responsibility also? Maybe you've prostituted yourself and are locked in to a “job” that makes your salary based on those in the flock that support the ministry and if you get in line with the Word of God you'll find yourself either jobless or without a salary. Even Jesus in John 10:12 says “He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.”
Finding a “shepherd” in today's westernized church is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Difficult... is an understatement.
Most pastors, priests, or preachers today have a job, corporate America, CEO of their church, top dog, “Senior” pastor, salary, pension, deliver a message and go home type of job. Yet Psalm 23 describes an entirely DIFFERENT shepherd.
If you really want to see what a shepherd does, let me strongly recommend the book by Phillip Keller, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”. Short read, but tremendous insight by a man who has actually shepherded sheep. Maybe it would be a good idea that before anyone accepts the position as “shepherd” or pastor or preacher that they spend a couple months out in the fields with sheep.
Here's what I know, that we ALL are to be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ. And EVERY time I encounter Him, just as found in the New Testament without failure, when Jesus stepped in front of someone, whether He said anything or not, when moving aside, it reveals a fork in the road, one side was still wide, and the other, a bit narrower or in some instances A LOT narrower, but always a fork in the road and a decision to be made.
So when a “message” or “teaching” is delivered to the flock, you have brought Jesus to stand in front of them and they should be faced with a fork in the road. For some, even though they've been “attending” church for decades, are still on a 10 lane highway, maybe saved, certainly not much conformity to Christ. And for others, its a gut wrenching decision that they just may need help with. Hence ministering to the sheep, helping them to make the right decision on which branch of the fork to take.
I've been involved in churches that offer people struggling with taking the step onto that narrower path the opportunity to have people minister to them via counseling and especially praying for them and their situation. We saw tremendous growth in short periods of time in a lot of cases. These were people who believed that the Lord loves them and wants to see them be more conformed into His image. I've also been at churches that offer prayer for people at the end of the service and virtually no one responds. Why the difference? The Lord told me that the latter really did not believe prayer works. We ONLY do what we believe, and the inaction of people to come and receive prayer to change their lives speaks volumes. The typical response is to blame the sheep, but it starts with the shepherd, leading in prayer and being like Paul who encouraged others to “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” 1 Cor 11:1
In short, the best job description I've found is in Isaiah 61:1-3 which Jesus reads in the Temple in Luke 4:18-19: to preach the good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and to set free those who are oppressed. Add to that the list of Matthew 25:35-36 of clothing, feeding, visiting both the sick and imprisoned, giving drink, and taking in strangers.
If you want your sheep to mature, do these things, teaching, training, equiping, and ministering to them so that they are conformed so much into the image of Christ, the path is so narrow that there are only Jesus' footsteps to step into.
If, and this is a HUGE if, if we are truly building the Kingdom of God just as our Lord Jesus Christ did when He walked the Earth, we will present people day in and day out with the opportunity to be set free, to break curses over their lives, rid them of demonic activity, to lay hands on them and minister Words of Wisdom, Words of Knowledge, Prophecy, imparting the Gift of Healing, Restoration, Tearing down strongholds such as drug addiction, alcohol addiction, sexual addictions, and breaking the destructive cycles of abuse just to name a few of what Satan has put in place to “steal, kill, and destroy”.
When at the end of a “sermon”, we should present Jesus to them bringing with Him the fork in the road, one side narrower than the other. Then be willing to stand with and minister to His sheep in order to help them gain in this being conformed into the Image of Christ.
In short, when you find yourself so conformed into the very Image of Christ, you will find yourself ministering to people as a matter of habit, without even a second thought to pray or minister to the person standing before you.
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