If you have been following the blogs you might remember that when I worked in the big factory the Lord spoke to me and told me that he wanted me to stop working with machines and to start working with people. I mentioned that at that time I had no idea how that would work out but as I look back over the last fourteen years of my life since the Lord brought me out of the factory I can see clearly the path the Lord took me down.
It started with me becoming a trained counsellor and working as a volunteer in a Christian counselling centre. Then I began working as a volunteer in a charity shop that sent out humanitarian aid to the Ukraine and supported churches, hospitals and orphanages. I then went on to work voluntarily for three years in a drop in centre. In each instance I was directly involved with interacting with people.
During those years I learned a lot about people and I am still learning. Having sat in the pew for over thirty years I suppose it is ok to refer to those years as being a pew person. Now that I have been at the other side of the pulpit for three and a half years it is probably ok to refer to myself as a pulpit person. It has been an interesting transition from the pew to the pulpit. I was going to say that you can imagine the change in perspective but in fact you cannot imagine what it is like unless you actually experience it.
During my thirty odd years in the pew I cannot recall ever trying to view church life from the point of view and perspective of my previous Pastors. I took it for granted that when I went to the mid-week bible study the Pastor would be there with a prepared study. The same applied to the two Sunday services, the Pastor would be there with two prepared sermons. On reflection even though I stated earlier that I did not as far as I know make life difficult for any of my previous Pastors I would have to hold my hand up and honestly admit that by and large I took them for granted a lot of the time.
Recently the thought came to me of how many times during the week do God’s people think of church or their Pastor. When I look back over my life in the pew I am shocked with my answer to that question. I would suggest that for many pew people Sunday is the time to think about church and remember that they have a Pastor. Having said that, in times of trouble or when circumstances are difficult the Pastor and the church may suddenly come to mind.
The night that I was almost killed in a terrorist ambush when three innocent people lost their lives somehow my Pastor found out about the shooting and that I had been caught up in it. I can tell you that when he turned up at the hospital in the early hours of the morning I was very glad to see him. Someone said to me recently that now that I am a Pastor I am more passionate for the church. I went away and thought about that statement.
My conclusions were both yes and no. Let me try and explain. As a young Christian I was taught how important bible study, prayer and attending God’s house twice on a Sunday was important to my Christian development and spiritual well being. Throughout my thirty odd years in the pew I have always valued those things and attended them regularly. When other pew people did not seem interested or deem them necessary for their spiritual well being and development it did not really affect me of bother me too much, all I need be concerned about was myself.
Now that I am a pulpit person I would be lying if I said that it does not bother me. Not long after becoming the Pastor of the church I had a strange experience during one of our mid-week bible study-prayer meetings. As we were singing one of the choruses before the study started, suddenly I began to see the faces of some of our church people above the empty seats. I had never experienced anything like that before and it troubled me. When we had finished singing the chorus I felt that I needed to share the experience with the people who were there.
I tried to explain to them what I thought it meant. I believe the enemy was trying to discourage and dishearten me by pointing out in a very vivid way all the people that perhaps could and should have been there but were not. If that was the enemy’s intention then he had a measure of success but only a small measure. I don’t think that I am any different than other Pastors concerning the apparent lack of interest among many of God’s people when it comes to the mid-week prayer and bible study meeting.
The devil loves us to focus on the negatives and overlook the positives. I will share another true story about that in more detail later. Praise God for his intervention when the enemy comes in like a flood. As suddenly as the absent faces appeared suddenly they disappeared during the singing of the chorus and my attention was turned to the faces of the people who were there. When we stopped singing and I was sharing the experience with the people I thanked them for coming and encouraged them in their commitment to the things of God that will help them to grow and become more mature in Christ.
When I was in the pew the absent faces would not have meant much if anything to me because I did not feel responsible for their lack of interest or commitment but I was not in the pew now, I was in the pulpit and I did feel somehow responsible for them. The Good shepherd cares for the sheep. Passion is personal, I cannot make anyone passionate. Passion I believe comes from a true, strong inner desire or longing for something.
Many years ago when I was a lean, mean, fighting squash playing machine a man approached me and asked me if I would help him to become a better squash player. I gladly accepted the challenge and suggested that first of all we should work on his physical fitness. He agreed and I told him that I would call for him and we would train together. The first night that we had arranged to train together was a cold winter’s night with a blizzard blowing. I ran around to his house and rang the door bell. He opened the door with a look of amazement almost as if he was looking at a ghost, having said that I could have looked like a ghost because I was covered in snow. He was standing in his slippers and nothing else that he was wearing was suitable for the weather outside either. He said that he did not think that I would train in those weather conditions. I was a bit annoyed with his apparent change of heart as it was he who approached me looking for help. Needless to say we never trained together and his squash career never got very far.
I said that I would come back to the true story of how the devil tries to get us to focus on the negative things and thereby miss the positives. There was a period in my life when due to a number of difficult circumstances I felt very alone and disillusioned with my life. I was praying for things to change and get better but they seemed to get worse. I cannot remember where I was or what I was doing but the Lord spoke to me once again through a very vivid picture scene.
He took me back to a real event in my life when I was at Technical College. I was in the art room and the art teacher knew that I had no interest in art so he asked me if I wanted to take a camera and go to the local park which was not far away and take some pictures. I think I was out the door before he knew that the camera had been snatched from his hands. I love being outdoors with nature all around so I had a great time.
When I returned he asked me if I would like to see how the film would be developed, once again I was in the dark room before he blinked. When I had an interest in something I did not need persuading, I moved to it quickly. Sadly there were not many things that I moved quickly to in school, anything to do with sport being the exception. He showed me the process that the film negatives had to go through before they finally became a picture.
The Lord took this real event from my past and was now spiritualising it to help me to understand what was happening in my life at that moment in time. He showed me that I was going through a process of spiritual development but I could not see it because I saw my circumstances as negative and dark, I could not see the positive things that God was doing in my life. Wow what a way to be shown how God’s hand was with me leading me and guiding me. Some of those circumstances have helped prepare me for the other side of the pulpit. When I meet people who are struggling with circumstances and trouble in life I can encourage them that there is a reason and a purpose in it and that God in his time will put them in the picture and they will understand and be blessed.