Am I making a difference?

thinking manIncreasingly, the posts on this blog are announcements of events, reminders of deadlines and obituaries for those who have served so faithfully in our church.  I don’t mind that being the case, in fact, when I started out doing this, it was an effort to get a lot of information out in a hurry to as large a constituency as possible.  Time will be the judge.

Often, my job as a pastor (yes, I said pastor) consists of praying for the sick, comforting the bereaved and preparing sermons to share with congregations.  My role as a Presiding Bishop becomes more and more administrative and casting vision as a long-term goal.

From time-to-time, well, actually quite often, I ask myself, “are you making a difference?”  I would guess that many of you who read this blog ask yourself the same question. In reality, like the nature of this blog, only time will tell whether we have been effective or not.  But, still it IS a valid questions, and in truth, you are the only one who can answer it in the present.

Too often, we look for results in numbers, which in itself is not bad.  We look at the numbers of attendees at events, the numbers on the budget and balance sheets and the number of members on our church roles.  These numbers are used by the tools of evaluation and determination of trends, but you know, just like I know that they don’t tell the whole story.  Today, I am going to ask you about making a difference in three particular areas.  If you answer candidly, it will be a blessing for you to see the results…if you don’t, you will be like the ostrich who buries its head in the sand.

MY USE OF TIME

There is one thing that is common for us.  We all have 24 hours in the day to use as we will.  Now I know that you will work eight or more hours and you will sleep from four to seven hours, but in the end, there is only 24 hours.  How do you use that time.
In your work time, are you giving an honest day’s work to your employer?  Whether it is a secular job or your ministry, are you a productive laborer?  Colossians 3:23 teaches us this principles:  “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”

Do you give time to spiritual development? 

I have been saddened over the years to watch people prepare for ministry by taking shortcuts, or by stopping with only what is required for credentials.  The call to ministry should include a thirst for knowledge.  Yes, there are exciting ministers on the television and radio, but that doesn’t mean you can just take their sermons, re-title them and use them as your own.  Those are shortcuts.  How sad it is to hear complaints from congregants that they could do an internet search of a statement made by their pastor and with their internet-enabled devices and hear word-for-word what they are hearing from the pulpit.  Its even more sad that some pastors don’t even change the title.  Now don’t get me wrong, everything that will be said has probably been said before, but improper use of a minister’s time is what causes the panic of “borrowing.”

When a minister spends their time in prayer, God will speak to them, and then, in turn, God will speak to the congregation through what the pastor is saying.  I can listen for five minutes and tell you if a minister has “prayed down” his/her sermon…others can too.  You MUST spend time in close communion with the Father.

Faithfulness is a part of spiritual development as well.  Remember, a divided-loyalty will only produce failure and defeat, or as the old cowboy once said, “I’m going to dance with the one what brung me.”

Do you reach out to others? 

Here is a sad thought.  A cheap computer and free software can give the impression that one has a world-wide ministry touching thousands, when in fact, folks are just wasting a lot of precious time (which you will never get back) endlessly surfing and re-creating the next big thing.  I personally enjoy social media.  It allows me to see pictures of my grandchildren and follow my children in their busy lives…but let’s be realistic here, if we are not careful, it will only fuel a carnal ego.  While my status may show that I have almost 2,200 friends, I know that most of these are at best casual acquaintances.  Realistically, a man or woman is blessed to spend their whole life and find ONE good friend.  A friend that will be with you through thick and thin.  But the carnal ego causes you to believe your own hype and lead to a fruitless ministry with wasted valuable time you will never get back.

My time with family. 

I once heard a man say, “stick with your family, because in the end, they are the last ones to let you down.”  Now, I know he was joking about them being there for your funeral, but it also means that they will stick with you when others cast you aside. 

When my son Shaun was a child, he heard all of his friends talking about a movie called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  It was showing at theaters around the nation and he really wanted to go.  At the time, our church was adamant that the members (and especially a bishop) should not attend movies.  I decided that my son was important and that the movie was harmless enough, so I promised that I would take him when he came home from school the next day.

As we were about to leave the house the next day, the telephone rang.  I answered before going out the door, and the voice on the other end was a member of the church.  He said, “Brother McKinley, I’ve got to talk to you right now.”  I asked if someone was sick or had died, and he replied no, but its really important.  I thought for a moment and then said, “I’m sorry, but I have an appointment for the next couple of hours, I will call you when I am finished.”  “No, replied the member, I need to see you now.”  My response was a little more firm when I said, “no, it will have to wait.”

I hung up the phone with pangs of guilt surging through me.  These pangs only lasted as a moment as
I heard my son say, “dad, that’s the first time you’ve ever done that.”

“Done what?”

“That’s the first time you’ve ever put me before a church member.” 

“Shaun, I will never put a church member in front of you again,” was my reply and it is a promise I have kept to this day.  Now, he touches people throughout the world with his ministry.

Pastors listen to me!  Take time with your family…don’t put them last.  Don’t pursue fame or success at the expense of your children.  Treat your spouse like the most important person in the world…after all, they can help determine your success or failure.  God intends for your marriage to be a model for the rest of the church…don’t fail God by failing your family.  Remember, God made the family before He made the church.

FINALLY (for now)

You are making a difference by how you approach the advice given in this blog post.  You are making a difference for good, or you are making the difference for bad.  Either way, the results of the difference you make is eternal.  Please, take these few thoughts to heart and you WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

May God’s richest blessings be your today.

Brother McKinley

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