In writing to the church at Philippi Paul begins with a prayer for the congregation, “I thank my God,” the prayer opens, “every time I remember you…” (3:1).
I want to take a moment and affirm to each one of you that I thank God for you every time you come to mind. It is difficult to be a leader in the church today. The church no longer holds a position of prestige in the community. In fact, it seems that more often than not the church is the scapegoat for all of peoples’ disappointments and frustrations.
Declining attendance, the closing of many houses of worship, and the failure of many new church starts to succeed makes it difficult to cast vision and dream the dreams of God.
However, I want to say, “thank you.” Thank you to all of you who freely offer your time to serve the church, often in unseen roles of quiet service. “Thank you” to those who continually lift your pastor and church staff up in prayer. “Thank you” to all of you who teach Sunday school, lead a small group, set up tables and chairs for special events, serve in the food pantry, provide special music, usher, make coffee, unlock the doors, take care of the building and grounds, prepare meals for children on Sunday evening, drive the van, pick up the trash, or any one of the myriad other tasks that are required to keep the ministries of the church functioning.
It is easy to sit back and criticize those who lead the church. The ugly words “clique” and “elite” get bandied about freely by those who do not step up and share in the tasks of ministry. To those who hide behind these words I want to challenge you to take a risk and actively join one of the “cliques” that you so gleefully condemn. When you make that effort, you will quickly discover that there are no such things as “cliques”. Ministry is open to everyone who chooses to be engaged. It is only a “clique” because we have refused to be involved.
This is an outstanding church! You need to know that. Many churches and pastors are suffering terribly because Christian people have forgotten whose church it is. Churches split; pastors are sacrificed because we have taken our eyes off Jesus and determined that it is “my” church. Guess what? It’s not your church. It’s not my church. It is Christ’s church. Anything that takes the focus away from Christ and places it on human endeavor is heresy.
You need to know something else. Your pastor loves you! Your pastor walks with feet of clay and thus is vulnerable to the same temptations and failures that plague you. Your pastor falls, makes mistakes, gets frustrated, and sometimes lets you down. But know this, your pastor loves you! “I thank my God every time I remember you…”