Consider Both the Needs and Capacity of Your Congregation


Well for shepherding a church
that takes into account that we’re dealing with different
kinds of people and their situations are going to vary. I think it’s always the task of
a pastor to be looking forward and backward, so what have we
covered and what do we need to cover for two or three different
purposes. What do we need to cover to
bring people to faith, I mean I sometimes need to say ‘are there
people who don’t know the Lord?’ Always in a healthy church there
are going to be mature believers but hopefully there are seekers
and hopefully there are children either of age or understanding. And so I need to be saying, ‘how
do I just say to some people what is this gospel, what is
this good news, what is true repentance, what is turning to
faith in Christ?’, all of that is saying I need to bring some
people to faith. I also think we need to always
be asking how do I bring people to maturity and so I’m saying
what subjects have we covered in the last few months, in the last
few years, what did the previous pastor cover, what’s the history
of this church? And as I’m saying what have we
covered then I also need to address what do we need to cover
and that’s looking forward. Now what do we need to cover has
a number of issues that come into mind. The issues of my age will change
so I have to say what are the present issues of the culture
and at least the quotation that’s attributed to Martin
Luther. He said, “You can be faithful in
all matters but fail to address the very issue of your time and
at that very moment become unfaithful to the gospel.” So we have to say what are the
present issues that are going on, what are prevailing sins in
the congregation? You know there are some
acceptable sins that almost any congregation begins to say this
isn’t really bad, we accept this in people. What is the nature of what we
accept? Is it that the judgmentalism, is
it the gossip, is the materialism that we just accept
but is actually undermining the gospel and faith and maturity in
us? So I have to consider that and
finally I think I have to not only look at present issues and
prevailing sins but just what is the time that I will have with
people. And so I think of pastors who
may be in churches where they have people for multiple
generations that they are facing and there are other pastors who
say I’m at a college campus, I’m near a military base, I’m in a
professional youth culture here. I may have people for two years,
what would be a curriculum as it were that I want people to take
from this place to be mature believers wherever God is going
to call them next? So it’s different obligations, I
think, which means the words of the reformers long ago, “I
always need to consider the necessities and the capacities
of my hearers.” What do they need to hear but at
the same time what are they capable of hearing? How much time do they have? How mature are they? How rebellious are they? What is their knowledge base to
start with? What is their educational level? All those go into not just what
they need to hear, I can just be that pastors who says let me
just pour out all this information, here’s what you
ought to know. Well, wonderful, but that’s not
all God is saying. Even Jesus said, “I have more to
tell you but you’re not ready to hear it.” And so the pastor is saying I
know what you need to hear but I need to be assessing what you’re
capable of hearing and to make prudential, pastoral,
shepherding decisions based upon bringing people to maturity. At the same time really
assessing what can they absorb given knowledge or hardness of
heart, or even gentleness of heart, softness, sensitivity,
they may be too fragile in the moment. What can they hear as well as
what they need to hear leads me forward in understanding what I
should be talking about.

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