PAYING YOUR PASTORS
- Pastor Mark Driscoll
- 1 Corinthians 9:1-18
- June 04, 2006
Father God, thank you that the Bible is an honest book, and it encourages us to be honest people. And God, I pray today that I would be frank, that I would be honest, and that God, you would receive glory. That we would receive joy, and that there would be an understanding among the people in this church the great joy and the great burden it is to carry the title of pastor and to do the work of ministry. For this to happen, I ask that we would look at the Lord Jesus.
That he is our leader, and we are to follow and emulate him. May he be the sum total of our conversation today, and we give our time to him, and we pray in his name. Amen.
Well, as we get into it, we’re talking about what it’s like to be in ministry. How many of you dudes want to be a pastor – you’re thinking about going into full-time ministry? You were raised in the homeschool co-op, went to Bible college – you’re totally naïve, do not know what you’re talking about. How many of you are there, right? I had this great opportunity. I was speaking at a conference – I think it was in Florida – about a month or two ago. Church planters’ conference, and sitting there talking to guys, signing books, whatever, dah-dah-dah-dah-dah. A couple Bible college guys come up – love Bible college guys. They’re so dang cute.
They got a Bible, and they come on up, “Pastor Mark, we just wanted to ask you some questions about ministry. We’re in Bible college. We’re gonna graduate in a few years, and we’re so looking forward to serving the Lord!” And so they said, “What is ministry like? What is it like to be in full-time ministry? We can’t wait!” And I said, “Well, I’ll tell you a story, kids. In high school I played baseball and I played football. I had a decent arm, even though I was short – I had a decent arm still.”
And I said, “It was spring – for football, we had spring drills, which is where you don’t wear a helmet or pads or a cup, and you go out – that’s a little clue where this is going – and what happens is you just go out and you throw the ball around. And you’re working on timing routes with receivers, and defensive linemen are running drills. And it’s just informal practice before the season officially starts.” And they’re like, “Okay. Okay.” And they’re holding their Bible, and I said, “I was throwing out routes, just working on throwing out routes, timing with receivers, and a bunch of the defensive linemen were running drills. And so we ran just basically drills on the quarterback. So I get a red shirt on, which means don’t hit me, right, no helmet, no uniform, just shorts, T-shirts.”
I said, “I drop back – three step drop – and I throw my out route, leave myself totally exposed. And so he comes at me full steam and sticks a knee right in my middle at full stride, right? So I’m like this – he hits me right in the center, takes me off the ground – I got no uniform on. All I remember is feeling like I was gonna barf and blacking out. I hit the ground, I blacked out – totally blacked out from this guy hitting me right in the middle.”
And I woke up, I told these kids, and I said, “A lot of the team was standing over me, laughing and making fun of me.” I said, “Ministry’s just like that. It’s just like that.” And so I signed their book, and I patted them on the back, and I said, “So good luck,” and I just sent them away. And the kids are like they never had this in chapel. But that would be a good chapel talk in every Bible college in America, right. We know you got straight As in the homeschool co-op. We know you can play three chords on a guitar and lead a youth ministry. We know that you went to Bible college, and you’ve really mastered eschatology. But when you go into ministry, somebody’s going to knock you out, and then they’re going to make fun of you, and that’s the way it’s gonna go.
Now, you may say, “Oh, this is discouraging.” Oh, we’ve only begun! I want to talk to you about the reality of being in ministry. Now, I know there’s always a few 20-year-old Calvinists in the room who are like, “I cannot wait to be in full-time ministry so I can read full time.” Oh, you kids, you’re so cute! Here’s the reality of pastoral ministry. And I want to talk to you about just what it is to be a pastor, and this is my set-up for 1 Corinthians 9, because in 1 Corinthians 9 Paul is talking about what it is really like to be in ministry, what it really is like to be a full-time pastor, and what the real cost of serving the Lord is.
Here’s the facts: pastors, every month, leave the ministry. They’re just done, okay. It is because of sin – usually sexual in nature, burnout – they’re just baked, fried, done, or fighting in their church, right? The church just starts scrapping over something, and eventually the pastor gets caught in the crossfire. Pastors’ marriages end in divorce. You ever wonder why certain guys don’t talk about sex, marriage, family, money – because their whole life is jacked. That’s why. Their whole life is jacked, and so as a pastor, if everything is chaotic in your life, you can’t talk about certain things because, well, you’re a hypocrite.
Right, here’s the thing when you’re a pastor: if you’re a good pastor, you can’t get a job doing anything else. They won’t – like how many places am I gonna get paid to yell at people, right? Like there’s not a lot of jobs for that.
And if you say, “But I’m also good with the Greek text,” ducky, you know – that’s a dead language, right? “Well, I’m good at Hebrew too.” No one knows Hebrew, right? Hebrew’s a dead language. You’re good at two dead languages and yelling at people – oh, good – yes, yes, you can have a company. You’re obviously skilled and gifted at yelling with people and dealing with dead languages. 80 percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter ministry leave ministry within the first 5 years, and they are done for life – 80 percent. How much is Bible college and seminary – tens of thousands of dollars.
Additionally, pastors admit to fighting depression – they’re always depressed, right? Pastors confess to committing adultery while in ministry – many of them still in ministry.
So you look at the health of pastors, it’s not so good. How about their wives? Pastors’ spouses feel their spouse is overworked, right? “The church is killing my husband, and it’s taking all his time, and it’s killing the family, and this is just not right.”
“Can’t you get another job? Can’t we do something else? Can’t we just quit? Can’t we move on? Isn’t there another option for us?” And the majority of pastors’ wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered vocational ministry. You ask a pastor’s wife, “What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you?” “My husband became a pastor.” That’s the reality of ministry. Now, what happens is many of us have an idealized sort of naïve idea of ministry that well, you read the Bible for 20 hours, and then you sing hymns for 20 hours, and then you pray for sick people. Isn’t that what it is?
No, it’s not. It’s brutal. People die in this job. I mean I know guys that have had heart attacks at age 30 in ministry. I know a long list of guys that I knew personally who are no longer in ministry because of sexual sin, and I know dozens of them. It is brutal. It is harsh. It is like being a kamikaze pilot – if you make it, you are a miracle.
It’s just constant, and until or unless you realize the pain of ministry, it does kill you. Now, that being said, I don’t think that this is unusual. Okay, a lot of people would say, “Well, that’s unusual that it would be that hard. It’s unusual that you would get depressed. It’s unusual that you would be frustrated. It’s unusual that you wouldn’t get paid enough. That’s unusual.” And what we find today is, sadly, that is normative. We look at Jesus, who was hated, despised, mistreated, abused, and flat-broke homeless, and if he’s the leader, you pretty much know what you’re getting into signing up for his team.
Now, the deal we’re dealing with today is Pastor Paul starts the church at Corinth. He goes there. He works for free for about 18 months – doesn’t collect a salary. He leads 30, 40, 50 people to Jesus, right – they become Christians through his ministry. He brings them together as a church, and rather than celebrating him, loving him, honoring him, cheering him, what do Christians do? Well, they shoot their pastor. It’s like a part-time job for a lot of Christians. They’re ungrateful. They don’t say “thank you.” They’re disrespectful. They look at him and they say, “Well, who are you to tell us what to do?” He’s like, “I’m the dude who wrote like a huge chunk of the Bible. That should count for something. My resume is decent.” And they refuse to pay him.
This is what is so funny. They look at Paul and they said, “Why should we pay you?” He’s like, “Well, I started the church, I worked for free, and if you’ve read the Bible, I wrote that. Maybe – maybe I should get, at least a stick of gum and a pat on the back – something.” Okay? And this is how their church dealt with their pastors. So, he starts off in 1 Corinthians 9, speaking from his heart, real brutally and honestly, about what it’s like to be their pastor. Hang with me, okay? The first principle is a pastor should be respected, if he’s respectable, right? If a good guy does a good job, then you respect him.
Chapter 9:1: “Am I not free?” Paul says. I’m not a dang slave, right? I don’t work for nothing. I can’t just get bossed around and yelled at all the time. “Am I not an apostle?” he says. Didn’t you read my business card? It says “apostle.” That’s a big deal, you know; that counts. “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” Here’s what he’s saying: I wouldn’t have taken this dang job if Jesus didn’t come down from heaven, beat me up, blind me, and make me. Jesus had to whup me to make me take the job. It’s not like I volunteered. It’s not like they had the commissioning at the Christian high school and said, “How many of you want to be pastors?” and I came forward and had them lay hands and pray over me.
Jesus came down and punched me in the mouth, so I took the job, right? “Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?” Hey, didn’t I lead you to Jesus, tell you about him, baptize you, bail you out of rehab, disciple you? I mean, come on, man. I love you. I’ve tried my best. At least give me a little respect. “Even though I may not be an apostle to others” – even if the people in the other churches don’t give a hoot about me and don’t pay attention, and they don’t respect me, you should; surely I am to you. “For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.” When people say, “Paul, how’s it going?” I say, “Well, you know, I’m in Corinth right now and I started the church. It’s going pretty good, and I feel encouraged that people met Jesus.”
And now you guys don’t even like me. It’s amazing how converts turn on their pastor quickly. Here is his basic point: if a pastor is faithful and fruitful, then you respect him. You don’t just respect somebody because they’re a pastor. I learned this a long time ago. I know pastors that aren’t Christians. I know pastors that are stealing money from their church. I know pastors that are committing adultery on their wife. I know pastors that are just lazy – just super-lazy.
I dealt with this one guy recently, he’s a pastor. We went out to lunch – because pastors always want to do lunch. “How you doing, brother?” and they always want to do lunch. “Well, I’m good,” you know. And so we go out to lunch, we’re doing lunch, and I look at this dude, and I said, “Dude, I know you love – I think you love the Lord. I know you know your Bible. You got a decent church.” I said, “But is anybody meeting Jesus? Is anybody becoming Christians in your church? Anybody?” I said, “Because all I hear about is all these arguments over finer points of theology, and all the sort of theological neatniks go to your church.
“And all the guys with OCD and a Bible, they all go to your church. And they all argue over stuff, but I don’t know if anybody’s meeting Jesus there. Are they?” He said, “Nah. We haven’t seen anybody meet Jesus in quite a few years.” I said, “Well, how do you feel about that?” He said, “Well, you know, God predestines the elect, and if he wants to he can save somebody. Whatever.” I’m like, “Oh, that’s great. What a heart!” And I said, “Well, dude, why don’t you, you know, talk to non-Christians, build relationships, tell them about Jesus? Why don’t you do that? Why don’t you encourage your people to do that?”
He looked at me – this is literally what he said. He said, “Dude, you know how much work that is?” Right? I said, “Huh?” He said, “Well, you know, non-Christians, it takes time to get to know them, build trust. And then they’ve got all these questions. They come to your church, and then they’re having sex, and they’re drinking too much, and their marriage is a wreck, and their kids are messed up. And then they become Christians and then you got to fix them, and do you know how much work that is?” I said, “Dude, yeah, I do. Yeah. We got a whole line of people who are – yeah. Yeah, I know. I totally know.”
He said, “And you know what, I just feel like, you know, the church is going good. Why screw it up with a bunch of new people?” Some guys are just lazy. They won’t do their job. Some guys are cheating on their wives, stealing money. I’m not saying that just because somebody’s a pastor, you respect them. If they’re respectable, you respect them, okay? So you look at their faithfulness – are they Godly? You look at their fruit – do they do their job? Are people meeting Jesus? Are they teaching the Bible? Is the church growing? Is anything happening? If so, you respect them, all right?
That’s what Paul’s essentially saying. “Guys, look, I love Jesus, and I’m working hard, and things are going pretty good. So, you know, respect me a little bit here.” His second point, then, is that a pastor who is respectable, a decent pastor, is worth a decent wage. One of the ways you show respect and appreciation is salary. Now, I know your boss doesn’t get this, but he should, right? I mean if you do a really good job, you expect your company to say, “We’re giving you a raise, a promotion, or at least a plaque, or a gift certificate to Applebee’s,” or something, right – something to say, “Hey, nice job.” But if you do have a decent pastor, one of the ways you respect him is by paying them a decent salary.
Paul says, verse 3: “This is my defense to those who sit in judgment of me.” Now, here’s the first thing you find out when you’re a pastor: the reason they put you on a stage is so everybody can get a better aim, okay? That’s how it works. And everybody loves to critique the pastor. Everybody, “I think he’s too short. I think he’s too tall. I think he’s too Arminian. I think he’s too Calvinist. I think he’s too charismatic. I don’t think he’s charismatic enough. I think he says the wrong words. I think he says the right words. You know, I think his wife is nice. I don’t think his wife is nice. I don’t think he has enough kids. I think he had too many kids.” It’s like (groan),
And then everybody’s like, “Now make us happy,” right? Well, this could be difficult. It could be difficult to make everyone happy. But people love to sit in judgment over the pastor. Verse 4: “Don’t we have the right to food and drink?” Paul’s like couldn’t you at least buy me lunch?
Like I wrote the Bible. I’m a pastor. I led you to Jesus. I mean shouldn’t we at least go to like Red Robin, and you pick up the fries? Like can’t we start with some basic respect? “Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us?” Traveling – I travel a lot. Traveling stinks. How many of you hate traveling? You have to travel for your job. First thing you do, you go to the stinking airport. I hate the airport!
Then you get on the plane, and you’re like this, you know. There’s always, you know, a big guy on each side, and then some kid behind you screaming. And then you put your laptop down, and then the dude in front of you lays his seat back. You’re like whispering sweet nothings in his ear. “Hi, how are you doing? I can’t type – or breathe,” you know? And then they cut the air, and it gets hot, and you get sick, and there’s always a dude in the next row who’s got like Ebola. (Coughs) You’re like, “Oh, this is gonna go great!”
My last flight to Chicago, I got off the plane and puked. That’s how I started. And in puking, I missed my ride. The seminary guy went; he left me. He said, “I looked for you.” I said, “I was puking. I apologize; I missed you.” So then I take a cab, like a hundred-dollar cab ride. I get there, and I got the flu for 2 ½ days. I just hate traveling, right? Paul says, “When I travel, should I at least be able to bring a nice Christian wife along – somebody to talk to, rub my back, hold me, you know, dole out my meds?” Oh, yes! “As do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas,” who is Peter.
Now, I was raised Roman Catholic – not to bang on all the Catholics, but they said, “Priests should never marry because the apostles weren’t married and Peter wasn’t married.” Peter was the leader of the disciples, the apostles, and he was married. It says so right here. He was married, as were Jesus’ two brothers – that’s the other thing I was told as a Catholic. “Jesus’ mom was a virgin.” Not forever, right? Every dude here is like, “I’ll marry a virgin, but I won’t be married to a virgin,” amen? You don’t mind getting married to a virgin, but like at your 15th anniversary you’re like – “It was cute when we were dating. I appreciated it. Now I find it annoying.”
“Or is it only I and Barnabas” – the two single guys – “who must work for a living?” Right? “Who serves as a soldier at his own expense?”
Can you imagine what morale would be like in the army if you showed up, you had to pay for boot camp? You had to bring your own uniform, bullet, guns, Kevlar cup, the whole thing, right? You had to bring your own SUV, right, I mean, and they didn’t pay you, and then when you got hungry they’re like, “Dude, figure it out. You’ve got a gun. Shoot something, eat it, you know?” Paul’s like you know, there should be a little remuneration here. “Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes,” right? If you’re a farmer, and you grow a crop, you can eat it. Nobody’s like, “Hey, put that down.” You’re like, “I’m the farmer. I get to eat that. Thank you very much.”
“Who tends flocks and doesn’t drink the milk?” right? Where have you seen – have you ever seen a farmer die of dehydration while milking a cow? Probably not. “Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn’t the Law” – the Old Testament – “say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.’” Right? He says it’s a cruel thing when you got a farm animal, and you muzzle it so it can’t eat. Yet the poor animal all day is just working hard to prepare food and harvest, yet it doesn’t get to eat anything. That’s just cruel. And he goes on to say is he only talking about animals?
Meaning if God cares about animals, doesn’t he care about us? I mean, God does love and care about the animals, and he even cares more about us because we’re his image-bearers. I mean there are people who are in churches that they don’t really worry about their pastor eating, but they make sure that their pastor’s dog gets good, nutritious food. “Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he?” Verse 10. “Yet this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.” He goes on to say, “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
Here’s what he’s saying: if you’re a farmer, and you run a farm, and you have a good harvest, you can eat it, and nobody thinks less of you. If you start a company, and you take it to profit, and it’s going well, and you make a living off of that, and feed your family and pay your mortgage, nobody thinks ill of you. Everybody says, “Well, that’s reasonable.” He says then why should it not be that if a person starts a church, or if they’re pastoring a church, and the church is growing and flourishing, and it’s going well, and they love the Lord, and they’re doing a good job, that they can’t make a living from it, if it is in fact their full-time vocational job? That’s his question.
Now, part of the reaction is an overreaction, because there’s something in some circles of Christianity called prosperity theology, and it says if you love Jesus, you’ll be rich and have bling and rims and the whole deal, right? You’ll just be rich and loaded.
But on the other side, there is not just prosperity theology. Some churches have poverty theology, which is like, “We don’t want our pastor to get proud.” Well, how about lunch? I mean, you know, he probably won’t get arrogant if he gets lunch, you know, there is sometimes then this realization that the pastor might get arrogant. He might get proud. He might make too much money. So let’s not take care of the pastor. The result, then, is that in many churches the pastor’s wife has to work, even though they got small kids. He’s out a lot of evenings. He’s out a lot of work.
You know, he’s working 60, 70, 80 hours a week. Mom’s working 30-40 hours a week. Sometimes it’s because the church just won’t pay the pastor, and the guy’s starving, and his wife’s working, and they’re stressed out, and they’re overburdened, and the kids are suffering, and the ministry’s killing them. And the people in the church then like to get real spiritual and say, “Hey, the birds brought food to Elijah; don’t you have faith, brother?”
“Hey, Jesus found money in a fish, in the mouth. Maybe you should go fishing.” The church at Corinth, they’re totally disrespecting Paul. They say, “We’re not gonna pay you.” He’s like, “I worked for free for 18 months. I worked a full-time job plus started the church. Now that the church is doing okay, I should get a salary; isn’t that reasonable?”
So the first thing: if you have a good pastor, respect him. If you have a good pastor, respect him with some remuneration. His third point is this: sometimes a pastor, though they have a right to a good salary, sets it aside for the sake of the gospel. Paul says, “But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.” Paul says, “We knew you were an immature church. We knew you were an ungrateful bunch. We knew you were a selfish bunch. And because of that, we had a right to a salary, but we didn’t fight for it. We didn’t even ask for it. We just took jobs, because we’re single guys without kids, and figured well, we’ll just work 100 hours a week and make it happen.
“Because what’s more important than how much we make is how many people get to hear about Jesus. That’s what really counts.” “Don’t you know those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share is what is offered on the altar?” Verse 14: “In the same way, the Lord” – he’s speaking about Jesus – “has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. But I have not used any of these rights.” There’s a right that Paul has to be compensated, but he doesn’t exercise that right because the people are not being Godly and mature. And rather than just quitting – and some pastors quit, and some should.
Rather than just complaining, or rather than protesting – and you know what, Martin Luther – here’s a funny story about Martin Luther – he got so frustrated with his church on one occasion that he went on strike against his church. He went on strike. I mean I don’t know if he showed up on Sunday with a sign that said, “I won’t preach. You people stink.” I mean literally he protested his own church – he went on strike. Rather than going on strike, Paul says, “I still did my job because I wanted people to learn about Jesus.” “Am I not-” Verse 15: “And I am not writing this in hope that you will do such things for me. I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast.”
Paul says, “I’m not looking for the money. I’m telling you I have a right to it, but I’m also telling you that I’m not looking for it, and I don’t want it.” “Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach.” And sounding like Jeremiah, he says, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” Here’s what Paul is saying: I don’t preach because I get paid. I preach because I have to. I can’t help it.” And I’ll tell you what, I’m the same dude. I can’t help it. Even when I was a new Christian, I would preach. I would preach for free at churches, ministries, missions, college groups. I couldn’t help myself.
You can ask my wife. I preach at her – I mean just because nobody else would listen. I would just preach. I’m such a freak. I would drive around in my car preaching, and I would sometimes – okay, here’s the truth – I put the cell phone earpiece in, so that people watching me wouldn’t think I was nuts, right? So I’m driving around pretending like I’m talking on the phone, and I’m preaching. I’m such a freak with preaching, sometimes my wife says I preach in my sleep. And she told me one time, she said, “I woke up, and you were yelling, and I thought maybe you were having a nightmare. And then I started realizing you were going through Ephesians.”
Like I’m hooked; I can’t help it, right? So I have to preach; I can’t help myself.
And Paul says, “I can’t help myself. I gotta preach. I gotta talk about Jesus. I gotta open the Bible. I have to do that.” You can’t help yourself. So a good preacher doesn’t preach because it provides a good living. A good preacher preaches because he has to. He loves Jesus, he loves the Bible, and he can’t shut up, and he can’t help himself, and he has to preach. He says in verse 17, “If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I’m simply discharging the trust committed to me.”
What he’s saying is this: I don’t preach for the money. I preach for the calling. I preach for the mission. I preach for the Lord. “What then is my reward” – you look at it and you say, “Then why in the world would you be a pastor if people are ungrateful, disrespectful, judgmental; they won’t pay you, they’re neatniks, nit-picks, they’re not nice to you? Why – why would you go into ministry?” “Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.” Paul says this: people meet Jesus. That’s why I do it. People meet Jesus. Sometimes it doesn’t pay well. Sometimes the hours stink.
Sometimes even the people that meet Jesus turn on you and become your worst enemies. But people meet Jesus, and if I can go talk about Jesus, and people meet Jesus, then that’s all that matters. And at the end of the day I’m happy, because I just want people to meet Jesus.
So I’ll close by telling you the gospel, because what Paul says, the money’s not the issue. The gospel is the main issue. I’ll tell you guys the gospel, and then we’ll transition.
Here’s the good news: there is one God. And that God made us in his image and likeness, with dignity and value and worth. And that God loved us, he cherished us, he adored us, he provided for us, and we sinned against that God for no good reason; just wicked, arrogant, self-righteous, independent people. We sinned against that God, and we’ve destroyed ourselves. We’ve destroyed our world. We have made a mess of everything. And that God suffered in seeing this. That God was pained and grieved to see what we had done and who we had become. But because of his great love for us, that God did not leave us to ourselves.
That God came into human history as the man Jesus Christ. He came humbly to identify with us. He was tempted. He suffered. He was opposed. He bled. He died. He was homeless. I want you to know this. Jesus Christ didn’t get paid for his ministry. He didn’t get paid a dime. I mean tens of thousands of people would come and hear him preach, and no one would give him a gift. He would heal people, and they still wouldn’t support him. He would tell people about salvation, and their lives would be transformed. Only a few people would invite him into their homes to feed him, according to Scripture. That he was often homeless, he was often broke, he was often without a meal.
That’s how we treated God – total disrespect. Yet in love – not in anger or violence or jealousy – in love, that God Jesus Christ, he suffered, and he died as a substitute in our place for our sins. And he loved us to the full extent. And that God has risen from death, conquering all of our enemies of Satan, sin and death. That God, Jesus Christ, has exalted himself back into the heavens, where he is seated as King and Lord and God, and he rules over all of creation. He knows every one of our names. He knows every hair on our head. He knows every hope in our heart and every tear that we’ve ever shed, and he knows us better than we know ourselves.
And he invites us to himself, to confess our sins, to be forgiven, to be redeemed, to be restored, to be renewed. To be filled with the Holy Spirit, to be empowered to live a new life free from sin, and free to his glory and our joy. And that God, Jesus Christ, has knit us together as the church. And that God, Jesus Christ, has gifted us with abilities and talents to do meaningful service of ministry in this life. Some of us will get paid. Most of us will not. All of us will get paid in the end when we stand before Jesus and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And that God, Jesus Christ, is here today, and that God, Jesus Christ, is here today to take any sin from any person in this room.
To forgive it; to cleanse it; to heal your hurts; to mend your brokenness; to renew your vision; to give you new life and a future – one that continues throughout this whole life. And then upon death, you’re ushered into his presence to be with him forever, free of sin and the curse and all of its effects in your life and in the world in which you live. And in the meantime, as we are here, we have a wonderful opportunity to share the love of Jesus with people who don’t know Jesus, but Jesus knows them. With people who don’t yet love Jesus, but whom Jesus already loves. We have an opportunity to be missionaries at an important time in an important place among people whom Jesus desperately loves.
And so we need to heed the words of Paul, saying it’s not just about our church. It’s not just about our money. It’s not just about our rights. It really is about Jesus. It’s about Jesus so giving himself to us that in return all we can do is respond and give ourselves to him, including the totality of our lives, all that we have and are. And so we invite you to Jesus today. Do you know Jesus? Do you love Jesus? Have you given your sin to Jesus? Do you pray to Jesus? Do you read your Bible to get to know Jesus better? Are you walking with friends who love Jesus and encourage you in love of Jesus? Are you looking forward to telling others about Jesus?
Do you pray for others, that they would come to know Jesus? Do you spend your money in such a lavish way that you are blessing those who do not yet know Jesus? And when you die, do you look forward to seeing Jesus? That’s what it’s all about. And on behalf of my wife and my five kids and our elders, I thank you very much for allowing me to preach the gospel; for allowing me to do so freely; for allowing me to feed my family, and to be set up to do this job for the rest of my life, without having to say any of the things that Paul had to say. I pray they never need to be said. And as of right now, they don’t, and so we’re all blessed today.
And we’ll respond by thanking Jesus for his goodness to us individually and corporately. You repent of your sin. You tell Jesus you’re sorry for who you are and what you’ve done. You ask him to forgive you, and he will. If you’re a Christian or become one today who’s repented of sin, you can take communion, remembering Jesus’ body and blood. You can give of your tithes and offerings. If you’re a visitor or not a Christian, don’t give. Again, we love you, we’re glad you’re here – it’s not about the money, it’s about Jesus. That’s what counts.
And then lastly, we’ll respond with singing and celebration and gratitude that we oftentimes do spend more time thinking about our money and our rights than Jesus. And the object of our affection must be Jesus.
So Jesus, we pray in your name. We sing in your name. We study in your name. We gather in your name, and in your presence. Jesus, I thank you that you were not well respected by many during your time of ministry. You’re still not respected by many today. The people were ungrateful. The people didn’t compensate you. They didn’t thank you. They didn’t take care of you. But Jesus, I thank you that in spite of that you gave yourself to the mission of saving people like us. And Jesus, I thank you for the example of Paul, who went the same long, hard route that you did – ingratitude, disrespect and poverty.
And God, I thank you that in the early years of this church I was honored to go the way of Jesus – disrespect, poverty and hardship. And Jesus, I thank you that you have grown this church by drawing people to yourself; that you have grown them in maturity and in gratitude and in worship.
May they meet Jesus. May they love Jesus. May they worship Jesus. May they serve Jesus. May they know Jesus. May they know Jesus. May they follow Jesus. And when they die, may they see Jesus. That’s our hope. Amen.
For some reason, pastoral ministry remains for some a glowing, naive, dreamy life idealized as hours of Bible reading, prayer walks with Jesus, and days spent singing worship songs and smiling. But statistically, being a pastor is the spiritual equivalent of being a kamikaze pilot.