Fill Your Pastor’s Joy to the Brim
by Dana Chau
This morning, we look at Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 2, verses 1-4.
Someone has said, “Leaders are not grabbed; they are grown.” In most cases, when you see a terrific wife, husband or young adult, chances are she or he didn’t start out that way. The husband of that wonderful wife has a great deal to do with her inner beauty; the wife of that wonderful husband has a great deal to do with his inner beauty; and the parents of the wonderful young adult have a great deal to do with that young adult’s inner beauty. This is not always the case, but nurture does have its impact on nature.
We have a great impact and a great responsibility in shaping the people God entrusts into our lives, especially those we have regular contact with, our co-workers, our clients, our family and even our church family.
A pastor’s conference spoke of how the congregation begins to take on the likeness of its pastor over the years, so the pastor has no one to blame but himself, if he does not like the congregation after a number of years. I would make another claim, that I believe is true: The pastor that the congregation has after a number of years is not the same pastor who signed the contract many years before, but a person shaped by the congregation.
This morning, we will look at the “why” and the “how” to fill your pastor’s joy to the brim. The “why to fill your pastor’s joy to the brim” actually doesn’t come from this passage, but the “how” does. The “why” comes from Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” So what we will talk about this morning also applies to the Elders of the church. At each of our Elders meeting, we spend a portion of the time asking about and praying for your spiritual well-being.
How many of us would do everything possible to be pleasant with our mechanic or at least avoid arguing with him when we leave him our car for repair? I would want my mechanic to be in a great mood, because an unhappy mechanic can lead to a poor repair job, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
Again, how many of us would do everything possible to be pleasant with our surgeon, or at least avoid arguing with her before we go under the knife? Again, I would. An unhappy surgeon can lead to my death, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
But few people think about the importance of having happy or joyful pastor and Elders. Our business is the well-being of your souls. We work to make many opportunities for you and your friends to get to know God, and if you already know God, we work to provide many opportunities for you to mature in your relationship with God. We also work to protect your souls and relationships from being damaged by sin and ignorance.
The next time you go into surgery, pray that God will give your surgeon a joyful spirit. He will do a better job on your body. Furthermore, the next time you meet with your pastor or Elder, pray that they would have a joyful spirit. They will do a better job on your soul.
Paul, the church planter and founding pastor of the Philippi Community Christian Church tells us this morning about three areas of progress in which the Philippians can grow to make their pastor’s joy complete. We saw in the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians that he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the Philippians to have the same joy. Now he tells the Philippians how they can be involved in filling his joy to the brim!
If you want the best care for your soul, stay awake and learn how you can get involved.
The first area of progress in which you can grow to make your pastor and Elders’ joy complete is the area of reliance upon God. (We read this in chapter 2, verse 1.)
A pastor who truly is concerned about your soul will not find joy in a bigger paycheck. He will not find joy in a plush house. He will not find joy in the compliments he receives from his sermons. A pastor who is truly concerned about the souls of those he shepherds will find joy when the people he shepherds grow to rely on God as their source of strength enough for them to become a giver and not simply a taker.
Paul’s joy begins to be filled to the brim as he assumed the Philippians have encouragement from being united with Christ, that they have comfort from the love of God, that they have fellowship with the Spirit of God, and that all these enable them to express tenderness and compassion toward Paul.
His “if” statements are like that of the father who says to his son, “If you are a man, you would own up to your mistake.” This statement does not question whether his son is a man, but assumes that to be the truth. A mother who says to her daughter, “If you have a nice dress, why not wear the dress to the party?” This statement does not question whether the daughter has a nice dress, but assumes that to be the truth.
The job of the pastor is similar to that of the parents. The parents teach and model a healthy relationship between a man and a woman so that the child can grow up and have a healthy relationship with the opposite sex. That’s why one of the best things you can do for your child is to love your spouse. Similar to a parent, the pastor teaches and models a healthy relationship between a person and God so that the people he shepherds can grow up and have a healthy relationship with God.
When the people have a healthy reliance upon God for encouragement, for comfort and for fellowship, God becomes their source of strength enough to help them become givers and not simply takers.
Let me give you a few examples. When a person can give encouragement to another without expecting in return because she has encouragement from being unite with Christ, then she has found her source of strength in God. Or when a person can comfort someone who is hurting slightly while he himself is hurting badly, because he has his comfort from the love of God, and he has found his source of strength in God. Finally, when a person can offer friendship to those who reject her, because she has the fellowship with the Spirit of God, and she has found her source of strength in God.
We can only find our source of strength in God when we make our goal in life to know God more. Otherwise, we will seek our strength in the wrong places, in money, in prestige, in possession, or in power. These sources not only will not provide the needed strength in life, but they often produce greed and insecurity. Only one who has found his or her source of strength in God can become a giver and not just a taker in life. And the pastor and Elders who see such progress in the people they shepherd will overflow with joy.
The second area of progress in which you can grow to make your pastor and Elders’ joy complete is the area of resolving to be a loving team in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Resolve means to set your mind to doing. (We read this in chapter 2, verse 2 and chapter 4, verses 2-3.)
Paul calls us away from division, not by thinking alike, but by thinking on the same things, the same love, the same spirit and the same purpose. The church at Philippi was not without problems. In fact, Paul gets very specific and begins to name names when he calls other Christians in the church to help Euodia and Syntyche to resolve their conflicts.
The job of a pastor is similar to that of a coach. A coach leads the team by determining the characteristic, the unity and purpose of the team. I forget which baseball coach was quoted saying, “The secret to coaching successfully is to find out which team members like you, which team members hate you and which ones are undecided. Then the job of the coach is to keep those who hate him away from those who are undecided.”
If there is such division in the church, the pastor has to do more than preserve his job. He has to work with the team to possess a loving unity and purpose. While a baseball team might even win with members who hate each other and who hate the coach, the church cannot win when there is no love and no unity in the members and for the pastor and Elders.
Jesus Christ defined for the Christians what winning looks like, when love and unity characterize the resolve of Christians. Even sources outside of the Bible would affirm the power of having the same love and unity as Christ. From the words of Napoleon Bonaparte, we read, “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded great empires; but upon what did the creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love, and to this very day millions would die for Him.”
The purpose of the church is to make the good news of Jesus Christ known to the community, to the country and to the world. This purpose is why we have local ministries, home missions and overseas missions. The good news is that through Jesus Christ, love and unity is possible between one another, even love and unity with God. But unless we are living such a resolve in our own lives, in our own families, or in our relationships with each other, we speak of what we have not experienced. We become like the salespeople who have never used the product – the product of love and unity.
On the other hand, if we resolve, that is set our minds on the same love, unity and purpose as Christ, we not only have good news to tell others about, but we also have good news to show others about and to share with others our experience. And the pastor and Elders who see such progress in the people they shepherd will overflow with joy.
The third and final area of progress in which you can grow to make your pastor and Elders’ joy complete is the area of relating to one another in humility and not in competition. (We read this in verse 3 and 4.)
As the pastor of the church, I am tempted to pretend that I am closest to God, possessing the most important gifts of the church and knowing exactly what I need to do and what you need to do in your life at any given moment. By the grace of God, I sometimes come to my senses or God withdraws Himself from my awareness, and I discover that God is not in my pocket, that I’m not gifted and talented to do all things in the church, and that I sometimes don’t know what God is doing in my life or in your life until afterwards.
God has not called your pastor to model perfection, but humility. You are to see that if God can use someone like me, He can use anybody in this room. To pretend to be something I’m not, or to think that I am better than you are is not only dishonest but will intimidate you from being the person God is making you to become.
A pastor was given an award for humility. A week later, the congregation took the award back because the pastor displayed it in his office. Humility is not mean to be put on display. Humility is also not downplaying one’s strengths and gifts. Humility is not low self-worth. Humility does not think of oneself more highly than he ought to think. Humility is aware of the good and strengths in others.
Competition, on the other hand, sometimes comes from a need to prove oneself, while humility relies upon God. Competition desires to exalt me, myself and I, while humility desires to exalt Christ, the Father and the Spirit. Competition resolves to distinguish the strong from the weak, while humility resolves to direct one’s power for God’s purposes. Competition has many loves, many allegiances and many drives, while humility has one love, one spirit and one purpose, that is to please God. Competition looks to one’s own interests, while humility looks also to the interests of others.
The one who possesses humility possesses godliness. The example set for us is that God humbled Himself in Jesus Christ. The Infinite became limited in time and space to serve and be a sacrifice on our behalf. Christians must learn to descend into greatness, if love, unity and achievement of God’s purpose are to occur in and through the church. And the pastor and Elders who see such progress in the people they shepherd will overflow with joy
Someone tells the story about a boy scout summer camp where the director found an umbrella neatly rolled inside a sleeping bag. The director asked the boy to whom this bag belonged, “Is there a reason why you brought an umbrella? It was not one of the listed items.”
To which the boy replied, “Sir, have you ever had a mother?”
As your pastor and Elders, we don’t try to be your mother, but we are responsible to God for the health of your souls. This morning, the Elders and I have been reminded of our responsibilities. As God gives us the grace and wisdom to do our job, you would greatly benefit from making our joy complete by growing in your reliance upon God, in your resolve to have the same love, unity and purpose, and in relating to one another in humility.