We have held up this Pastor's Report an extra day so something dealing with recent developments could be included. I apologize for not having been able to communicate more with you since being in this present position, but these have not been normal days, to say the least.
Right now there are just a few things I would like to say which I hope you will find helpful during our present circumstances.
You fellows are the pastors of the churches. You are the daily shepherds of God's people. You are the ones who can discern most accurately right from the grass roots level, the health, stability, concerns, fears, doubts, hopes and trends of the people in God's church. Also, you are the ones who can have a tremendous personal impact and influence on the membership. As a shepherd cares for his sheep, moves them to new feeding grounds, waters them, watches over them, etc., so this analogy applies to you as ministering servants to God's people.
We know we cannot, and should not drive people in our care. We are not ultimately responsible for the actions of others so long as we have done all we can do in service to them as needed. But, any local pastor who has dedication to God (which is perceptible to those around him), and has a sincere, service-oriented attitude toward those God has placed in his care, does have a very powerful impact on those he serves. This power of influence, an aspect of leadership, must be used cautiously, discreetly and for the proper reasons.
Human nature being what it is, it is sometimes easier for us to use our influence to disorient, create negativism or confusion rather than lift people above despair, discouragement, hopelessness, etc. We all know this, so I do not need to dwell on this aspect of my subject.
But, fellows, aren't times of stress, change, uncertainty, and crisis the times that really test a man's strength of leadership: test his mettle and possibly test the depth of his own personal conviction and loyalty? A famous writer once wrote, "It is good for a man to stand against the wind." Standing against the wind is being able to withstand prevailing forces — strong elements capable of moving heavy weights, strong pressures affecting surrounding conditions.
What are our responsibilities as ministers of the Worldwide Church of God during times of crisis? Are they not to 1) stabilize the church, 2) establish and maintain credibility in ourselves, the institution and leadership as much as possible, and 3) to work diligently to create, maintain and/or renew, as required, a sense of optimism, hope, and quiet resolve to look forward in faith?
Some of the elements we may be able to use in our efforts to fulfill these responsibilities might include an honest admission that we as an institution are suffering problems and difficulties. But problems in the Work of God, both internally and externally, are not modern phenomena without precedence in God's Word. We don't need to be specific in such statements, but to deny the obvious certainly isn't going to make you very believable.
Another element we need to bear down on is "be patient." Don't over-react. In time problems will be resolved. We need to wait for the resolution. And, while we wait for it we need to trust God for the answers to come His way. Often, I suspect God has answered a prayer or intervened in a matter, but His answer or act was not recognized because He answered His and not the way the requester had expected it.
We need to maintain faith and trust in GOD. God's ways are not man's ways (Isa. 55). God's ways are at times unsearchable — past finding out (Rom. 11). God does not always act as we might expect. Taking sides, getting polarized, wanting some specific answer, deciding what is the "better solution" can become s. giant personal problem if God decides to do it some other way.
God expects us to respect and follow leadership. When God places someone in a position of responsibility in His Work, He expects us to acknowledge that position, submit to it and respond to it. We can all preach powerful sermons dealing with specific examples on this subject. I believe deeply in the "mantle of authority" God gives to His servants. For me to repudiate this is for me to repudiate my own position. That "mantle" should be respected whenever and to whomever God may transfer it. But until such a transfer has been made, then there is no choice in one's loyalty, submission and response.
This contains a very important lesson, I believe. Let none of us lose sight of the God who called us, gave us to Christ, imbued us with His Holy Spirit. Our faith is in Him. No problem, no challenge, no muddle is too great for-Him to solve. My commitment, my surrender was and is to Him. My hope is to be a productive member of His Work. I may not always know where He is leading me. But, if I could always see where I was going then I'd be walking by sight rather than by faith. (See II Cor. 5:7.)
So, in conclusion, fellow ministers, let us bear down in our sermons to God's people about the beautiful, exciting, precious truths God has given us. Jesus said the Kingdom of God is like a "pearl of great price," something for which a man would sell all he had so he could purchase it. The meaning of the Kingdom of God — the hope for ALL mankind throughout all ages (even though most have had "blinded eyes and deaf ears") — is the glorious destiny, the fabulous potential of becoming born-again Sons of God. This is the very heart and CORE of our teachings. We know and understand the mysteries that wise men, princes and philosophers have tried to grasp (See I Cor. 2.) Surely, when we focus on this message, this hope, this promise, we can weather the storms of unrest — we can truly "stand against the wind."
The elements we need to bear in mind in fulfilling our responsibilities as ministers are: 1) Honesty, admitting problems without being specific. 2) Exercise Faith: Our faith is in God. He can move in any way He chooses whether predictable or mysterious. We resect those God appoints as leaders and we follow their administration. But, our confidence and faith is in GOD. 3) Be patient. In patience we possess our own souls...our very lives. Patience was a virtue God taught ancient Israel as He moved in many strange and mysterious ways. 4) Don't expect perfection among human beings. Disillusionment and disappointment result from unreasonable expectations of those God uses in leading His Work. But regardless, the Work of God is no less the Work of God! 5) Be Christ-centered. He is the "Captain of OUT salvation." He will lead us through the "sea of adversity," the rough periods of life. 6) Never lose HOPE! God will complete the Work He has begun in each of us. (See Phil. 1:6-7.) God will never fail nor forsake us. Our every hair is numbered. Christ is the Rock... the mooring... the anchor of our life. He is the author and Finisher of our faith.
God's people need to see and hear strong leaders. As God's leaders, we have a noble, high, rewarding calling to uphold.
I hope these remarks have been helpful. I love all of you. We're on the team together. Please stay in touch.