Imagine if you were a teacher and the majority of your students failed the class. Imagine if you were a choir director and only a few choir members ever learned their part, rendering each performance before an audience as an utter disaster. Imagine if you were a running a manufacturing company where the machines broke down the majority of the time delaying shipment after shipment. That would get frustrating wouldn’t it?
Think about it. The teacher would be dismayed that her students never studied and failed so often on tests, while the choir director (who sought excellence) would be discouraged because he couldn’t get a good performance, and certainly the manufacturer would be devastated when his company went belly up because he couldn’t count on the machines.
Can I tell you wonderful, faithful readers of this silly little blog something: Sometimes I get a bit dismayed like the people mentioned above. Want to know why? It’s real simple:
I really do.
I care a lot!
I try my very best to teach and preach the Word of God and to be as faithful to the Scriptures as much as I possibly can. I study, pray, prepare and work hard so that when I stand to teach/preach, I can do my very best. Consequently, I suppose I have high expectations. I suppose I care enough about what I’m teaching and working hard to preach week in and week out that I want people to succeed. I want people to “get it.” I want people to walk with the Lord in a genuine, powerful way. Bottom line: if I’m preaching and teaching month after month and year after year, then I want to see results. Is that expecting too much? I want to see people grow and mature in their faith and walk with Christ.
Is that okay? Is that over the top?
Let’s say you are teaching someone how to hit a baseball. Let’s say you are being paid to teach someone to “lay wood on leather.” Yet, the athlete you are training athlete simply refuses to buy into what you are saying and continually goes zero for four at the plate in games. That would get a bit old, would it not? Sure it would. In fact, you would begin to question if you were making any difference at all.
The truth is I think pastors/elders go through these same questions from time to time. We ask, “Am I making a difference?” We ask, “Are the majority of people really getting it?” Again, this is no different from a teacher desiring for their students to play well in front of an audience or do well on a test. Yet, as a pastor, (believe it or not) I’m sometimes looked at by people who believe that I shouldn’t care so much. But, I’m not alone.
Today, I met with a young pastor in Statesville, NC. He pastors in Charlotte and he’s solid. Real solid. I was very encouraged and it was great to hear his story and to offer insight to him (as he did for me). Yet, he is facing a lot of what most of us “pastors” face in our world today. He is coming to the place where he is realizing that he can prepare, pray, work hard and do everything in his power to pass along the truths of God’s word and it still might not bring a tremendous amount of change in a lot of lives. In other words, he can do everything right as a pastor and still not have a “passing grade” (in his mind). I told him, “Brother, you are going to have to come to terms with that and it’s hard! And let me tell you…it is hard! Real hard! I’m being honest here…this truth is really, really hard to swallow! Especially if you are a “results” guy like me. Why? Because, I want to see everyone “get it.” I want to see everybody growing.
You see, settling for less than the best is like telling the batting coach, “Hey, don’t worry if he strikes out 3 out of every 4 times he steps up to the plate.” That’s like telling the dance teacher, “So what if she doesn’t point her toes…after all, she’s doing most of the dance right.” No, no, no! That’s not acceptable…not if you are seeking excellence. It’s not acceptable for the choir director to allow sloppy “cut-offs.” No sir! She expects you to “cut off” when her middle fingers touch her thumbs and not a nanosecond later. Right? Exactly! Excellence is the goal.
I love what Paul says in Philippians 1. Try to feel the heart of Paul for the believers in Philippi. Try to feel his yearning for them like a father for his children.
8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Paul wanted them to “approve what is excellent.” He wanted them to be “pure and blameless.” He wanted them to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness.” Hey!! I know how Paul feels! I really do!
Well, the young pastor and I discussed how it’s hard not to care when you see things that you wish you didn’t see and when you point out these things, you are accused of being the “police of the world.” Perhaps pastors are supposed to preach and not care about the results. Perhaps pastors are supposed to stand in the pulpit week after week and month after month and preach with all they’ve got and not care if there is any growth…any excellence. Wrong! I don’t buy that for a second. You know me better than that.
So, I say this to anyone who thinks that I should be like a second grade teacher who teaches 1 +1 = 2, and yet not care if the student says 3 on the test. Look the other way! Don’t worry if they get it wrong. Just teach. Don’t worry about the results. I’m sorry, that’s 100% wrong and it must be pointed out to the student that it’s wrong or they will never learn the truth. The school principal would expect as much, correct?
Does God expect any less of me? I think not.
Therefore, if I see that something is way out of line in a person’s life (who professes to be a believer), then I’m obligated as a shepherd (someone who really and truly cares for his flock) to check on them and see what’s wrong. I’m obligated (if I really care) to say, “Hey, is everything okay?” And if that happens to be you someday, don’t think I’m trying to get “all up in your business” or I’m trying to be the “police” of your life, or that I’m trying to “look down my pastoral nose” at you. I’m not. I promise. It’s just that I care. I really do. I care about you. I care about what happens to you and I care about your life.
Isn’t that what a shepherd is supposed to do for his flock? So, I ask you now to pardon me if I am too passionate or if I expect too much. I promise you…and I really mean this…I promise you I don’t expect any more out of you than I do out of myself. I promise you that if I were your baseball coach and you had the ability to bat .500, then I won’t be happy with .250. I promise you, if I were your guitar teacher and you have the ability to play a difficult song, but you refuse to try…then I’m going to tell you to “step it up.” I promos you, if I’m running a manufacturing company and you always show up late, then I’m going to say, “Get here on time, or else.” Is that too much to ask? If it is…then, I guess I care too much. And if I care too much, then I humbly ask you to forgive me. But, my plan is to continue to preach and teach and give the Lord everything I’ve got and I hope and pray (with all my heart) that will be okay, and that we’ll all continue to grow and mature together…striving for excellence.
Speaking of growing… Something blew my mind last week.
I read this on one of my favorite weather blogs (you know I’m a weather geek):
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
A Final Notice To The Viewers
Isn’t that marvelous? Oh the power of a teenager. They can do so much! Mary was a teenage girl who gave birth to God. Jesus had a rag-tag bunch of teenagers following Him around as a Rabbi. Amazing! Just remember, our teenagers will strive to our level of expectations.
Here’s a few more comments from this young man, Andrew, on his final blog post:
Way to go Andrew! Here’s his picture:
I’m sure going to miss reading your excellent blog and gleaning from your excellent forecasts. I can’t wait to see you on TV one day. Who knows, you might even be Jim Cantore’s (The Weather Channel) replacement!
You know, I think Andrew really cares about the weather. I think he really cared about offering phenomenal weather forecasts and I can truly relate to that. Because I really care too! wink, wink 🙂