“Next?…”

shepherd1.jpgOne of the most humbling realities of pastoral ministry; one of the most powerful humility-cultivating truths that pastors need to speak into their own lives and ministries is this: You are not particularly important.

Don’t misunderstand me. Do I think the pastoral office is a vital one for the life of the church? Absolutely. Do I think the church would be weak and lost without God-appointed pastors? I have no doubt (read Judges 21:25). Do I think that I am important to what God is doing in the local church that I serve? Well, sure.

But I am under no illusion that I am important in the grand scheme.

One of the best messages I heard at this year’s Desiring God Conference for Pastors was from Crawford Loritts, a pastor that I was not familiar with before I heard him preach at the conference. His message, “A Call to Courage,” from Joshua 1:1-9 was absolutely outstanding. Here’s my favorite quote from it (which he said with John Piper, D.A. Carson, Joshua Harris, and other great pastors sitting in the front row):

“Don’t eeeeever think that the cause of Christ is gonna go belly-up if some of his great leaders die or fall into sin. God’s not up in heaven going, ‘What are we going to do?! You know… John Piper went to heaven! D.A. Carson, he’s not here! What’s gonna happen to the Cause?! Billy Graham is dead! What’s gonna happen?! God ain’t up there doing that. He’s just going, ‘Next?…‘”

This morning I read a similar sentiment in Timothy Laniak’s outstanding book (well, I’m only 114 pgs. in, but so far it’s outstanding), Shepherds After My Own Heart: Pastoral Traditions and Leadership in the Bible. Laniak writes,

“Leadership continues after Moses’ death because the Spirit of God had chosen and would enable his success. Because human leadership is derivative or divine leadership and dependent on God’s own Spirit for its effectiveness, the death or demise of a given leader is not the end of the community’s story. Biblically speaking, a human leader is none other than God leading his own people through an anointed servant. As Joshua takes up his place in the front of God’s community, the people respond: ‘Just as we obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses’ (Josh. 1:17) (92).”

My prayer is that God would make me a driven and visionary, but also a very humble, leader who always views himself as entirely dependent on and completely submissive to God, the Chief Shepherd, and entirely disposable in the grand scheme to the God who will say on the day of my death or my exit from pastoral ministry: Next?…

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