A Pastor’s Priorities

It may be interesting for you to know that a pastor’s church is not at the top of a pastor’s priority list, or at least it shouldn’t be from a Biblical perspective.  Sometimes, we (meaning church members and pastors) need to be reminded of that.  So, if his church is not a pastor’s top priority, what is?

Here is the way I try to line things out in my life, and I believe it is healthy and scriptural.

  • God
  • Family
  • Church
  • Everything else

I think it is pretty clear that God intends for us to put Him first.  Now, there are a lot of things that go into Him as the top priority.  The things that come to mind are remembering Him in all actions and deeds throughout the day, spending time in conversation with Him (prayer), and Bible study.  I know these are just a few, but they seem to be the most important to me at this time in my life, and they are the ones I actively work on.  I’m sure God will reveal other things He wants me to work on as my relationship with Him grows and strengthens.

It may come as a surprise to some people that I believe family comes before the church.  There are several reasons for that, but keep in mind that God instituted the family before He instituted the church, so it must be important to Him.  Combine that with the passages of scripture that compares Jesus’ relationship to the church to the one between a husband and wife and you get a more definitive idea that this marriage relationship is important.  And, this relationship is the core of the family.  The Bible tells us that our children are a blessing to us; and as that blessing, we are to take seriously the assigned task of raising them with knowledge and respect for God.

Then comes the church.  Yes, I am extremely thankful that God directed me to the Baptist Church at Park Glen, and I pray constantly that I make the right decisions and provide the right guidance.  This church is God’s mission and ministry for me and I take this responsibility very seriously.  The people who make up this church are constantly on my mind.  The facilities we use (the church building) occupy time that I wish I could dedicate to other, more spiritual, things.  But this is the life I have been called into, and I accept it with all joy and enthusiasm.  Even if I was not pastor of this church, I would still want to attend, serve, and be part of a church.

Everything else in life comes after these three – work, play, and everything else you might think important – should give way when they conflict with the other three.  Sometimes, we don’t want to do that, but it is the way God intended it to be.

So, you might ask why I write this blog at this time.  Well, the situation I am in is not always easy.  You might think pastors don’t have anything to worry about, but you would be wrong.  I have a family situation that has me in a difficult position.  I have to choose between my responsibilities as a pastor and the love of a father.  Some think my responsibilities as a pastor should dictate my actions toward my family.  As I have described above, I do not believe that is what God intends, and here’s why.

As I model my life with my family on the relationship that God has with us, His children, I believe that love is the overriding factor.  God loves us in spite of how we act.  If you are honest with yourself, you know there are things that you do of which God would not approve.  Those things affect your relationship with Him and continue to affect that relationship until you go to Him, confess them, and repent of them.  And the thing is, God will do this for you as often as you go to Him.  He does not put a limit on the things He will forgive, or the number of times He will forgive them.  I want you to note, however, that as He reveals those things to you, and as you repent of them, He does not want you to continue in that sin.  The key is that you be willing to go to Him and admit your mistake.  His love for you is so great that He never kicks you out of the family and is willing to restore the relationship.  Aren’t we glad we have a God that is so loving, tolerant, and forgiving?

If He is my model, then how could I do any less for my own family?  Yes, I have to take a stand on Biblical principles.  If you have been a parent any length of time, you know that there are things that children do that would not please God, and therefore go against the standards that the Bible says we must stand on.  When they do that, it affects their relationship with us.  It is hard for us to show and express the love for them as long as they are outside God’s will, but that does not mean we love them any less.

As a father, my heart yearns for my children to make right decisions.  I want them to reflect the Godly principles I have in my life and that I have tried to pass on to them.  When they do not, I have to take a stand, and sometimes, that stand is difficult – it breaks my heart.  I want the very best for my children, just like God wants the very best for me.  When they are in a time of rebellion, I look for any sign that they recognize that rebellion and are willing to make changes.  When I get a glimpse of remorse, I want to grab onto it and nurse it into true repentance.  If nursing that hope conflicts with what other people think I should do as a pastor, then I am sorry.  I will choose my family as long as I see that hope.  Is that not what God does for us?

As a pastor, I attempt to model that same love and respect for my church.  If a member is involved in something that goes against what is clearly outlined in scripture, I still love them even if I am unhappy and disappointed in their actions.  Their actions affect the relationship I have with them, and it generally affects the relationship they have with the rest of the church.  It is my responsibility to take a stand on what is right (and if I happen to preach on something that brings you conviction, I am glad for it, but I do not target messages to individuals).  And the messages I preach are always couched in the love I experience from my Heavenly Father.  Our relationship is affected as long as that rebellion and sin are in that member’s life.  But just as God is ready, willing, and able to forgive those things we do against His will, I stand ready, willing, and (with God’s help) able to forgive those things that affect my relationship with them.

Remember that we are all part of the same body.  When one part hurts, the rest hurt with them.  When one part is healed and restored, the rest of the body rejoices and finds peace.  It is important for us to pray for each other and to lift each other up.  Criticism and grudges only destroy what God has put in place.

God bless you all.


Pastor E.C.

One Approach to a Personal Intimate Prayer

I was tempted to title this article, How to Pray, but that implies there is only one way to pray. Clearly, because our prayers are intimate and personal, there is not a single way to approach God. This article is written based on something that works for me, and it might help you develop an approach that works for you.

To be clear, I am not talking about different channels to the ear of God because Scripture is very clear that Jesus is the only way we have access to the Heavenly Father. What I am talking about are different internal visual tools you might use to aid in your prayer life. The visuals I use are loosely based on the structure of worship and prayer found in God’s Word.

For example, when the people of Israel approached God in the wilderness, there were steps they had to go through to go into the presence of God. This is the way God established worship in the tabernacle, and it can be used as an example. First, there was the outer court. Here, much of the business of worship took place. It was the place where the people offered sacrifices for their sins. From there, priests would enter into the Holy Place where the candlestick and showbread were kept. This was reserved specifically for the priests, so it represents a more personal closeness to God. Finally, the High Priest alone would go into the Holy of Holies. This represents the most intimate contact with God.

Likewise, the Model Prayer found in Matthew, has different layers. The first is worship, followed by confession, then petitions. Sometimes it is easy to look at those stages, understand them intellectually, but find it difficult to implement personally. With that in mind, I want to tell you what helps me. Again, this is personal and may not work for everyone. The key is to find something that works for you, and be consistent.
When I enter into daily prayer, I first have to settle my mind and heart. We are all busy and there are many distractions in life, so I find it helpful to simply take a few seconds to shove those random thoughts swirling around in my mind out of the way and focus on my prayer. Once settled, I step through the door of the throne room of God.

It will take longer to write this, and longer for you to read it, than it does for me to picture it. Directly in front of me is a magnificent dais with steps leading up to the imposing throne. Upon that throne sets God in all His majesty. In my periphery, I see saints who have gone on before me worshipping Him; angels are also worshipping and singing His praises and are busy about doing the work He has assigned them; overhead, the stars in the sky twinkle and shine and make beautiful music to honor Him.

But my focus is on the One sitting on the throne. In Him, I see majesty, power, and strength. In His bearing, I see justice. He is the King that all other kings defer to. He is the Lord that all other lords submit to. He is the creator of all, and it is only by His will that everything stays in its place and performs it purpose. It is in this setting that I know He is worthy of all worship and glory. Here is where I praise Him for all He has done for me. As blessings come to mind, I lift up praise to Him as my gift to Him. In return, I find joy and excitement. But I also see mercy in His gaze as it rests on me, and I experience the unbounded love in those eyes.

That is when I take my next step toward the throne. Now, my vision changes. Gone are the worshippers. All that is in the room is the throne, but God is no longer on it. He is now standing in front of me. I see Him as my Heavenly Father. Still shining through those eyes is the love I know He has for me, but I also see concern and disappointment. You see, there are barriers between Him and me; barriers of sin and rebellion. It is time for me to confront my shortcomings, to see them for what they are, and to understand how they affect our relationship. These sins must be removed in order to fully experience His presence. As they are revealed to me, I confess them and ask for strength to not do them again. I don’t want to see the scolding in His eyes for those things again. Admittedly, there are faults I must address again, but I find that each time I confess them and see in His eyes how they affect Him, I find myself more resistant to their influence.

Finally, all the barriers are removed, all the sins confessed, and there is nothing between God and me. That’s when I see the smile on His face, and the joy in His eyes. And He opens His arms wide. I run into those arms for the hug of a father for a beloved child. As I enter His embrace, I step even closer to His throne. In that embrace, I find that my vision changes again.
God and I are sitting on the steps of the dais. We are no longer Father and child; we are now best friends, confidantes. We are in easy conversation as we exchange thoughts and ideas. Here is where I make my desires known. As we talk, I know that He knows more than my words; He knows my heart, the things I can’t put into words. We talk about my dreams and what I want to accomplish. I receive from Him positive feedback on those things that are within His plans. He directs my aspirations to things that will bring Him glory, and I am grateful. We talk about my cares in life; the situations I find myself in that I am not sure how to handle, and I wait for a sense of direction to come from Him. These are the close times that mean the most to me. This is why I come back every day, because there is nothing like the joy, peace and love I experience during this time.

As a pastor, I bring to His attention each of my church members. We are small now and I don’t know how I will handle it when God allows us to grow; but for now, I bring them one by one to Him and pray for them and ask for His blessings for each one. And, I bring to Him those prayer requests that have come my way. Sometimes they are people I don’t know, but I know the concern of the ones who brought them to me, so offer them to Him, also.

This is an intimate time that has become a vital part of my life and my ministry. The more I engulf myself in this kind of prayer, the stronger I feel; and in spite of my limitations, I have faith and trust that God will give me what I need to accomplish what He has given me to do. The prayer never truly ends, but other things intrude upon the moment. The tasks of life and the activities around me pull me back into the life He has set before me. The difference now is that through His strength, I know I can handle it.