Preparing for Sunday is about getting our minds focused and our hearts ready for worship. It starts long before we grab our Bibles, jump in the car, and race to arrive on time. I’m convinced that one of the disciplines for getting the most out of meeting with The Lord is simply taking some time in preparation.
Here’s my prayer as I think about gathering with God’s people in worship on Sunday:
“Lord, create in me a clean heart. This week has been busy and I want to download my bad attitudes and any thought that might interrupt your voice as I come into your presence in worship. Help me embrace my role as pastor with humility, gratitude, and total dependence on Your power. Blaze your Word into my mind and ignite a fire to share it deep in my soul. Help me love your people and see them through eyes of compassion. Give me clarity as I offer the hope of life through Christ. Fill every space on our campus with the strong sense of your presence.
Allow your people to come hungry – fill us with anticipation and an overwhelming sense of awe and wonder as we sing your praises. Let our prayers be real, authentic, and genuine. Give us opportunity to meet new friends and see people saved by the power of the gospel. I am grateful for another day to live and breath and share the good news with others. My heart is full, my mind is clear and my flesh is weak. I am totally dependent upon your power as the only hope of transformation. Speak, Lord – give us ears to hear and hearts to obey. I offer this prayer in the strong and beautiful name of Jesus; amen.”
My hope is that every week, more and more of our church family will engage in spiritual preparation for worship. It will change the way we see Sundays!
My favorite biblical image of a minister is that of being a shepherd. Peter referred to the high calling of this relationship in I Peter 5:2-4 when he said, Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
I always think of this role as being very near to the heart of the Savior. Maybe it’s because Jesus referred to Himself as a Shepherd and God’s Word has a lot to say on the subject of faithful and unfaithful shepherds (see Jeremiah). For the past 19 years, it has been my privilege to serve as the shepherd (pastor) with our wonderful church family at Faith. I’ve learned so much about the role as a result of these dear people loving me and allowing me to learn along the way. It has also been an honor to serve alongside some incredible men who helped me shepherd the church. I also love to coach young men who are training or just beginning their role as shepherds
Here are a few principles that I believe are essential for being a faithful shepherd:
- Shepherds ought to smell like sheep. There are no shortcuts in this role – you have to spend time with people and get to know them on a personal level. Sometimes it can get messy.
- Shepherds ought to model their message. Sheep can spot an impostor fast. They deserve an authentic role model who practices what he preaches to others.
- Shepherds must always love as they lead. It takes time to earn the respect of sheep – especially if they have been wounded in the past. Once they know you love them – really, really love them – they will follow you gladly.
- Shepherds must never intentionally do harm to the flock. The local church is very fragile; people don’t have to attend, give, or serve. If they know they are safe, they will be much more likely to be healthy in all areas.
- Shepherds should never forget that every sheep is valuable. Don’t give up too easily on that member that seems to be difficult – sometimes it takes more time to see the results of good shepherding.
- Shepherds are ultimately accountable to the Chief Shepherd. The sheep don’t belong to us; we are merely servant leaders who will be held responsible for how well we lead.
- Shepherds must stay long enough to enjoy the journey. I’m convinced that being a shepherd is the greatest work in the world. Sharing life with a church family has both tears and joy, but some will miss the beauty in the work because they leave for greener pastures too soon.
Charles Dickens once said, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” That is certainly the way I see our American culture shaping up. Never before has there been such a season of spiritual and moral downward spiral than in our lifetime. We are repeating the days of the Old Testament when men “called good evil and evil good.” The values have literally been turned upside down and a total disregard for God’s truth has been the result.
At the same time, we live in a world filled with empty, hurting, and spiritually confused people in every walk of life. The party life of pleasure, wealth, and sexual immorality has left a generation completely wasted. Like the younger son in Luke 15, people are wondering if they can ever go home again. Those who know the truth of the Gospel know the answer – repentance always leads to rescue and restoration. The way things are is not the way they should be or could be – nor the way they are going to be by the grace of God!
Rather than giving up on our generation and ringing our hands in despair, I am choosing to love people who are lost more deeply than ever before. God has placed a renewed burden in my soul for sharing the love of God with zeal and passion. Let the church be the church like never before. We are people who have embraced the light of God’s truth and we must display it boldly and with great compassion.
Let’s resolve to be part of the solution. It is a Gospel moment if ever there was such a thing. Let’s share it, declare it, live it, display it, and tell the world that Jesus saves!