Feb 15 2014
As I was filling the tiny individual cups we use for the Lord’s Supper with grape juice not long ago, I began to think about the meaning behind the symbol: the blood of Jesus, spilled for us for the forgiveness of our sins.
I’m a little bit of a perfectionist, so as I was filling the tiny cups, I tried to fill each cup with approximately the same amount of grape juice. I remembered how when I was a teenager, I would always try to get the cup that had the most juice in it. Like drinking an extra milliliter of juice would make me more holy or something. I wondered how many other people did the same.
Of course, it doesn’t matter how much juice we drink when we observe the Lord’s Supper. What matters is that we trust in the blood that this juice symbolizes.
But just as I always tried to get the most juice, sometimes I feel like I need more of Jesus’s blood. I feel like I’ve messed up more than the average guy. More than the average pastor. So certainly more of Jesus’s blood was spilled for me on the cross than for the average person sitting in the pews.
But that’s not how it works. Jesus didn’t spill one drop of blood for one sinner and two drops for a slightly worse sinner. He spilled it all for each of us. Because our sin, no matter how much or how little, no matter how big or how small, is what separates us from the holy and perfect God. We deserve death and separation from God.
But in His love, God did not want us to die and be separate from Him. So He sent a substitute to die in our place: Jesus Christ. He died for us, and we receive the gift of salvation by grace through faith in Him.
That’s so much more important than an extra milliliter of grace juice.
Feb 14 2014
Maybe it’s just because I’m not that great at being a leader, but in my opinion, leadership is tough. It doesn’t come naturally for me. I have to work at it. It takes planning, and organization, and patience, and a whole lot of thought. And even when I do all of these things, I still make a lot of mistakes.
It’s a miracle that anyone is still following me at all.
But I have to remind myself that it’s not about me. Because as soon as I think anyone is following me because of how great of a leader I am, I’m leading people in the wrong direction.
God appointed me as a pastor not so that I can gain a following for myself, but so that I would point to Him as the one we should all follow. God alone is good, and perfect, and gracious, and HE is the one worthy of all our attention and devotion. It’s not my job to come up with creative ideas or programs that will bring people to the church; it’s my job to point people to Scripture, and encourage them to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
It certainly takes some leadership abilities to do that. And I’m definitely going to be held accountable to God for the flock that He’s entrusted me with. But I also trust in the One who will be working in me and through me and through the church so that He will be glorified in all of us.
Jan 21 2014
There’s a sweet elderly woman in my church who occasionally calls me “Reverend Shuff.” She gets my last name right most of the time, but once in awhile when she calls me by the name of some old friends of hers: “Shuff” instead of “Huff.”
And I’ve never once corrected her.
I know it’s not a big deal, but to correct her would be (in my mind) to point out a mistake when it really wasn’t necessary. She knows I love her in the Lord. She knows I’ll pray for her and her family every time she gives me a call. She knows I’ll check on her when the weather’s bad, or just occasionally when I haven’t seen her for a few weeks.
And I know that she loves me. She encourages me, and has told her friends about the young pastor at her church who is just so nice. So what if she gets my name wrong once in awhile?
Here’s my point: sometimes we get so wrapped up in ourselves that we miss the bigger picture. What matters is that this widow is getting cared for, and that she knows she can call on her pastor and church anytime she has a need, and that we’ll minister to her in the name of Christ. I am nobody, Christ is everything.
So I’ll gladly be Reverend Shuff from time to time, because it further illustrates and reminds me that my ministry is not about me. It’s about God, and God should receive all the glory.
Jan 9 2014
Keeping Score: How to Know If Your Church is Winning by Dave Ferguson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’ve been looking for a resource like this! I had to laugh out loud a few times while reading this, because the author described my church frighteningly well (we still have the “register of attendance” board at the front!).
I love stats because I think we can learn a lot by paying attention to the numbers. But I’ve also been frustrated with the stats that we traditionally collect and monitor. They focus on the wrong things, and they don’t say enough. This resource encourages us to monitor the things that matter.
I love the transparency of the author. He fully admits that his system isn’t perfect, and that it won’t work in every context. But I think it is a good starting point. It’s useful in helping church leaders think through the types of questions we should be asking, and the types of stats we should be monitoring.
I think the only thing that could make this resource better is a stronger theological foundation. In my opinion, it’s definitely biblical to give more attention to the things that matter (making disciples, being on mission), but it would have been helpful to have all that laid out better.
I’ll be coming back to this book again in the coming months as I lead my church to think about who we ought to be and what we ought to be doing.
Jan 8 2014
I’m currently reading “Speaking the Gospel Through the Ages (A History of Evangelism)” by Milton L. Rudnick. It’s a little dry and academic, but it contains some powerful reminders for Christians today.
One such reminder is that evangelism ought not be a chore, but a delight. Rudnick put it this way while talking about the enthusiasm of Christians in the first and second centuries:
During these early centuries Christianity grew so rapidly that the chief agents of growth were, not the leaders of the church nor professional evangelists, but rather ordinary believers who shared the Gospel in the roles and relationships of their daily lives. Without the benefit of evangelism programs or materials, without even any special encouragement, these people talked to others about the help and the hope they had found in Christ. It was an informal and spontaneous type of sharing, natural rather than forced. People talk quite readily and enthusiastically about things that matter a great deal to them… (p. 28)
Like I said: dry and academic. But allow me to paraphrase in my own words.
The early church exploded with growth! And it wasn’t because of “professional” pastors and evangelists. No, it was because of normal Christians who were excited about Jesus!
This is what I want. I want to be a Christian who joyfully shares the gospel wherever I go. I want my church to be so thankful to God for salvation that they naturally tell others about the Savior.
I think one of the biggest problems with our churches today isn’t that we’ve embraced a false gospel, or that we need to restructure our churches for growth, or that we have a lack of volunteers. It’s that we’ve forgotten how great a salvation we have in Christ! We need to remember daily where we’d be without Jesus, and what He endured for us, and who we are in Christ now that we’ve been forgiven of all our sins.
We need to earnestly pray with the Psalmist:
Make me as happy as you did when you saved me;
make me want to obey! (Psalm 51:12, CEV)
God, do this in me. Amen.