This is part of the message that I shared with the people of Our Shepherd Lutheran Church at the installation of Rev. John Moore. especially apropos is the reference to building (Place) in light of the fact that Our Shepherd lost its building in the Hurricane Harvey flooding.
If you’re familiar with the King James Version of Proverbs 27:19, you might think that the title above is a mistake – another of the all-too-common typos on this blog. It is not. It is an insight we gained at St. John through a Strategic Ministry Plan process we recently completed.
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” – Matthew 9:35-38
Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,
but blessed is he who keeps the law. – Proverbs 27:18
There are four things people generally identify as what they love about their church:
- Place: Real Estate, Church Building
- Personality: Pastor
- Program: Women’s Ministry, Youth Program, Worship Services
- People: Friends & Family, People like me, or people unlike me.
We took a survey about this at St. John a while ago and discovered that we were equally divided among the four: 26% People & Personality; 24% Place & Program.
That’s neither good nor bad. There is no one correct answer. The question is, Which of these do you like most about your church? Not, Which of these is the best thing about our church?
Sometimes, however, there can be problems with these things.
- Buildings flood and require renovations – Our Shepherd & St. John…and others!
- Pastors leave, and – sadly – some even have moral failures
- People can get cross with one another and ruin the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.
- Programs can become outdated and not effectively lead people to Jesus and the true riches of his grace.
There is also another way in which a problem occurs. It occurs when we make the gifts of God more important than the purpose for which God has given these gifts. It’s when we take these provisions God has given you here at Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, and make them more important than the vision God has for Our Shepherd Lutheran Church.
While these are in fact gifts of God, they are even more a stewardship from God.
It’s when we think the provisions God has given are actually ours and divorce them from the vision he has for a lost and dying world.
Some say, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” But I want to say where God’s vision is lacking the people cherish the wrong things. The make the provision of God more important than the mission and vision of God.
Jesus helps us here:
Jesus was on a mission to proclaim the Good News of the reign and rule of God.
- God is coming to be with us.
- He is coming with healing in his wings.
- Where God rules and reigns will be a place of peace, health, joy, and direction (not like sheep without a shepherd – pastor!
Jesus was aware of the needs, hurts, and brokenness of the crowds.
- God has a heart for all people.
- Are you harried and helpless? Are you as sheep without a shepherd? No longer, for God has seen your need and provided a shepherd for you. Please follow him! Dear Brother, these people – without a shepherd are like sheep left to their own devices. That’s no complement to them, but it is a warning and encouragement to you.
- Jesus has sent you a shepherd to bless, guide, encourage, and equip you for your mission. You see…
Jesus was aware of the manner in which God would heal, comfort, and save his people.
- It wasn’t ever going to be all on him. There were even times when the Son of God could do no miracles (for lack of faith). There were times when he was so tired he went to sleep in the boat and the disciples nearly drowned.
- He pointed his disciples to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send laborers into the harvest. Prayer!
- He pointed out that the fields are already white to harvest. God has set all this up for us to succeed! It’s his harvest. We’re given the privilege of reaping it.
The provision of God is a great blessing. People, place, personalities, and programs are wonderful gifts of God for the purpose of furthering the rule and reign of Jesus Christ in the hearts and lives of more and more people. But let’s not confuse the provision of God with the Mission of God: to seek and save the lost. Thankfully he has sought you out and saved you. When we use the provision he has supplied, for the purposes he has intended, he is glorified. People are blessed. And we have the opportunity to be his instruments for the cause of his mission – all for his glory and our great good. In Jesus’ name; Amen.
* I cannot take the credit for the title of this blog post. We learned it at St. John through Bryan Rose, our Auxanō Vision Frame® consultant. I suspect that he may have gotten it from Will Mancini, the head guru of Auxanō. Nonetheless, under the “If my bullet fits your gun, shoot it” rubric (thanks Rick Warren), I used the phrase on Sunday afternoon for the installation sermon of Rev. John Moore as pastor of Our Shepherd Lutheran Church in Crosby, Texas. The fine people of Joy Lutheran Church in northeast Houston kindly allowed Our Shepherd to use their building. Our Shepherd’s buildings were flooded out during Hurricane Harvey. The Facebook Live Feed is provided below for any who are interested.