It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors & teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.
"Don't look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easy-going formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don't fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life -- to God! -- is vigorous and requires total attention.
Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or the other. Don't be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preacher ARE is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or you pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned."
Matt. 17:13-20 (Message Bible version)
Every other Tuesday, a group of guys from Living Waters get together at the church office to go through a chapter of The Story. It's usually the same group of guys, give or take. I really enjoy these times. It gives me a chance to get to know the individual stories of the people there.
One guy in particular that I always appreciate is our Pastor, Scott. (His nick-name from his kid years is "Putt." I have yet to hear how he earned that.) I have known Scott for many years. He was my Youth Pastor back when I was a teen. Other than getting gray, he looks exactly the same. So does his wife...although she has not gone gray yet...only Scott. (And this gives me great amusement.)
When my family first moved to Minnesota, we began attending Bloomington Baptist church. BBC did a church plant in a suburb to the south called Berean Baptist. Berean planted another church farther south in Lakeville, called Living Waters. We meet in a middle school. Scott is our shepherd. It must be destiny at work.
My natural inclination is to be suspicious of other people who call themselves "Christians." I'm not proud of that, per say. But it does sometimes save me from being duped. It is something that has developed over the course of negative experiences to numerous to count. Even more so the many preachers I see on the T.V., hear on the radio, and the ones I read and hear about in the news. I often wonder if there are any actual followers of Jesus out there, or if preachers are simply out there to gain power and/or money buy saying things that have some Jesus-sauce dripping off whatever it is they are peddling.
It gets even creepier when there are preachers out there who actually believe much of what they say. Especially the ones who have looney followers, and seem to angle for the nearest niche-market power base.
Scott is not one of these.
Towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned his followers to look for the fruit that the various trees produced. I used the Message Bible's version, so it's worded differently, but I still like it.
So many people use the label of "Christian" to describe themselves. The simple fact is that for me, the word means almost nothing anymore. To me, you had better look an awful lot like the character that Jesus displayed, and concern yourself primarily with the things he concerned himself with, or I will quickly come to doubt you.
Apple tree produce apples. If you call yourself an apple tree, and then I see avocados blooming, we may have some issues. It's even worse when the supposed apple tree actually looks and behaves like a thorn bush.
I am not talking about "Legalism." I don't much care if you have a couple of beers. I am not all that offended to hear some cuss words...depending on the context. I'm strictly independent, so if you want to vote for someone other than the Republican, I will not call your salvation into question. In fact, if you are really squeaky clean, my mind starts seeing more red-flags than the May Day parade in Beijing.
However, if you call yourself a "Christian," a Believer, etc., and I begin to see how messy you are, but also with a desire for repentance and a contrite heart, then we got game.
Pastor Scott has issues. I like that. I have about 5 times as many issues as the next guy, so it is good for me to have someone who can empathize with me. I have noticed that Scott often has as many, if not more, questions than he does answers. In fact, unless it is on some very basic and central tenants of the faith, Scott will often use a variation on the following phrases; "Well, I think that..." Or, "Well my opinion is..." And then often end it with, "What's your thoughts on this?"
This is good. It's healthy. It's right. It also shows that his heart is in the right place, and not assuming to have YHWH all figured out and reduced.
Scott is not afraid to talk about what ever might be troubling him on a personal level from the pulpit. I have heard that he has been criticized for this by other pastors. I do not understand this.
In the days of the early church, there was not this black & white division between the professional clergy and the rest of the church body. Near as I can tell, in cities and towns back in those days, everyone knew everyone else's business...both good and bad. Hiding behind a robe and a degree would not have cut it. You could not put a mask on in a little house church and pretend that everything was hunky-dory.
Scott is not afraid to be open about stuff that might be bugging him. That gives the rest of us the strength to be honest, too.
Scott is a good father. He has two adopted kids. I am adopted. This is important to me. He and his wife also have some foster kids. One of them recently became a man because he learned how to change diapers on the grandchild. I would wager that Scott has made everyone mow the lawn at some point and clean up the dog poo. Scott is a good father.
I like to talk to Scott. I'm never sure if he likes to listen to me. But he does nod and smile when I open my mouth for long periods. This is good for me and my fragile self-esteem.
Scott knows almost all of my dirty, little secrets. He never uses them against me. Sometimes he will turn them around so that I can see how God has used them to strengthen me. We all have our guilts, fears and weaknesses. We try to hide them. They get worse when we do that, and people seem to find out anyway. I don't have to hide anything around Scott.
Be very careful of any pastor that looks polished. Be wary of any pastor that always has an answer for everything. Be nervous around a pastor who is a control freak. Run away from a pastor that hesitates to admit their own imperfections and limits. (And I ain't talking lip-service admissions.)
Scott is not one of these.
Often times, I do not think that pastors get enough compliments and encouragement. The big & famous preachers do. They have numerous sycophants that live vicariously through them. The normal, everyday pastor spends most of his time in the trenches with messy people. It's my opinion that, if anything, spending time with people like me would make a pastor want to go in to some other line of work. They do not get enough encouragement.
Scott is a good man. He is a good man not because he is naturally good. Scott is a sinner...like me. Scott is a good man because his faith is in the only one who ever lived the perfect life for the sinners who could not. Scott knows what is deep in his heart that needs redeeming, and he does not shy away from acknowledging how much he has to depend upon Jesus to get him through his life. That is why Scott is a good man. I am glad that he is my pastor.
I see his faith and the fruit the Spirit produces in Scott. Perhaps Scott is an apple tree that produces good apples for making pies. Sometimes though, I do not think this illustration by Jesus applies to all Believers. Perhaps Scott is not a fruit tree. Perhaps he is bush, and his heart is a flower.
Scott's flower is good, and so is the aroma that it gives off.