Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Tribute to the Real Pastors

 I've been privileged to grow up and serve under some wonderful pastors.  Today I was praying for these men, and thanking God for them, and I began to think about how each one of them influenced me.

My first pastor, that I can remember, was Pastor Bob Benefield, at Sequoia Baptist Church.  I remember him being a giant.  (Of course I was five and under during those years!)  He preached long services, and I remember waking up in my dad's arms on the way out of the building many times.  I liked it.  I loved the singing at church.  To this day, when I hear the song, "There's a New Name Written Down in Glory", I think of Bro. Benefield. I used to belt that song out.  I wasn't saved, but I was learning to enjoy church.  I wanted to please God.  Missions Conferences and Revival services were something very very special.  Bro. Benefield loved the Bible, and it's a big emphasis at Sequoia Baptist.  I was small, but I remember that very well.  I also knew that if my mom put my hair in a side ponytail, Bro. Benefield would squat down to my level, look me in the eye, and inform me seriously that my mother had put my head on sideways.  I knew he cared about me, as a pastor should care about the little ones in his church.  Every time I see him and his sweet wife I still get that impression.

My next pastor was my father, Pastor Roger Margerison at Oat Valley Baptist Church.  He pointed me to Christ every chance he got.  He led me to a knowledge of my sin, and the saving grace of God.  He baptized me.  When I needed a pastor's counsel he would always drop what he was doing to put on his pastor's hat and give me his best.  I knew I could count on him.  He gave me a love of the study of Creation.  He infected me with his curiosity in  the personalities that populate the Bible, and showed me how to ask questions while I'm reading God's Word.  Most importantly, I saw that he lived his faith, and God rewarded it in real, miraculous working right in front of my eyes.  I wanted that same kind of relationship with God.  It was under my father's pastorage that I learned to walk with God independently from my parents.  That's the job of a pastor!  He's to challenge every member to be right with God, and to seek out His heart on their own.

The next man who pastored me was at college.  Pastor Paul Chappell is the pastor of Lancaster Baptist Church, a church that seemed dauntingly enormous to me, when I first started out my freshman year.  The theme that year was "Serving God From the Heart".  It's something that sank down into my heart and stayed there, and I'm still learning new truths about what it means to serve our Lord from a heart of love.  One of the first things I noticed when I arrived was a joy and excitement about the service of the Lord.  I enjoyed all my ministries there, and learned so much by just observing the spirit.  Love for God really does make a difference!  This ministry  stands for God without compromising, and is full of grace, love, and joy.  I made so many great decisions under Bro. Chappell's preaching.  I learned to bring my heart to the altar before the preaching started, to be ready to make changes in my life, and hold nothing back from God.

After college I got married and we went to serve in the church that reached my husband for Christ.  Pastor Jerry Schiedbach became my pastor.  He was also my employer at first, as I taught in the school while my husband worked in the offices.  He's one of those fellows who just believes every single word in the Bible, and acts on his beliefs. He emphasizes God's Word, knowing it, studying it, and applying it consistently.  He has a gift for study, and for teaching, and he teaches the church to study the Bible for themselves.  Because of this understanding of the Bible, and the heart of God revealed in the Bible, Bro. Scheidbach has a passion for revival, walking under the control of the Holy Spirit, and having a relationship with God that is clear of offense.  He and his wife are also two of the most "real" people you will ever meet, and he is a fearless preacher, pastor, and friend to my husband and I.  The kind of friend who will give you what he believes you need, even if it sometimes hurts!   If you sit under his preaching you will be convicted of the seriousness of a lack of revival, of any sin you might be cherishing in your life.  You will be challenged to get right with God, to start spending time building a relationship with God, and to begin going to battle in prayer and in service, as a Christian ought to.  I made some things right with God as a result of Bro. Schiedbach's preaching, some things I'd been ignoring for a long time, and it still influences me to today to keep my conscience clear before God and man.

I know there are charlatans and wolves out there, fleecing the flock.  God will judge them, but I've been privileged to be pastored by four of God's shepherds, and here is some things I've learned about pastors, from my own experiences.

  • God's shepherds don't do it for the people, or the money, or the fame, they do it for Christ.
  • They are willing to help you if you are hurt, abused, in sin, in jail, or just need a shoulder to cry on, no matter what time of day or night it is.
  • Sometimes when they help you, it smarts.  "Faithful are the wounds of a friend..."*  A man called "pastor" who won't confront your sin doesn't love you with Christ's love, and is not one of God's men.
  • They are courageous.  They are on the front line of attack, and they know they will be hurt by people they love and pray for, but they keep right on keeping on, eyes on Christ, Who did the same thing for us.**
  • They are human, and they make mistakes.  Not one of the men who have pastored me were sinless, neither were their families!  The outrage!  That's it.  The church is full of hypocrites, so I quit.  (Tongue in cheek there.)  Pastors have to deal with the burden of people who expect them and their families to be paragons of righteousness.  It takes guts, and grace to deal with that!
  • They are accountable to God personally for what they teach out of the Bible, and how they comport themselves in God's church.  If I have a bad attitude about my pastor, because of a fault I see in him, or because I'm feeling convicted for a sin in my life, Hebrews 13:7*** says he will give account to God with grief, and if he does, it will be unprofitable for me!  That sounds like I have an account to make too, doesn't it?  I want those men to have joy when they give account, seeing that God used them in my life, and that God did great things.

If you have a real pastor, one of God's men, thank the Lord for him today, and let your pastor and his wife know that you appreciate them!
*Pro 27:6  Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. 
**Heb 12:1-2  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,  (2)  Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.***Heb 13:17  Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Why I love working in the nursery

Ruth is looking forward to helping in the nursery
Many people think of the nursery in church as the least enjoyable ministry; a necessary evil to be endured.  Some believe it's completely unnecessary, because people should make their kids behave and that's that.  I disagree, respectfully, with both of these opinions. I thoroughly enjoy my time in the nursery every Sunday morning, and I think it's a very important supportive ministry.

I'm not under delusions either.  I know it can be tough.  My age group is birth to three.  Yesterday, I had two screamers, a little boy who couldn't handle the noise of the service, and his brother, who wanted to run about and holler and play in the service.  Both of these youngsters are individuals made by God, and He brought their family to church that morning.  God wanted the parents of these boys to hear how they could be saved.  While I know that very young children in Christian families can be taught to sit still and behave in a service, children like these two precious boys keep their parents from hearing anything at all, and their parents just don't know what to do about it.  Without a nursery, frustrated parents of misbehaving children usually walk out the door after church for the first and last time, never to be seen again.  Instead of judging them and shaking our head(you know the attitude, "What is this world coming to?"), why doesn't the church come along side them and try to help?  Why don't we try to comfort the children, let them know that we care about them, give their parents confidence that we love them as a family and wish to be a blessing?

For the one who does nursery work out of duty, thinking that it's not that important, let me say this.  Arron and Hur held up the arms of Moses over the battle.  Remember the story?  Joshua was fighting, and God wanted to bless.  He commanded Moses to raise his arms with the rod of God over the battle and stay that way throughout the whole campaign.  While Moses tried to do this, he got tired in the heat of the day.  Instead of criticizing the weakness of their leader, Arron and Hur ran to him and gave him all the help they could, so God could give the victory, helping him sit and holding up his arms.

 As a worker in the nursery, I believe I'm doing exactly the same as those men did for Moses.  While our pastor holds forth the Word of God, I work in the sidelines,  showing love and tenderness to the children of the families God brought to church that day.  I know it's not easy to preach the Word of God, and crying infants and children make it much harder.  It's also very hard for a parent, or anyone sitting around a parent, to listen while they try to keep their babies and toddlers quiet.  To me, it's a holy thing to protect the atmosphere of the sanctuary while a man of God is preaching.  He is fighting a spiritual battle, wrestling with the souls of men and women, pleading for God's people to give God their all, for the lost to find salvation.  I am holding up his arms, providing a loving place for children to stay, while their parents and devote their attention to the message God has for them.  As a mom myself, who has placed my babies in nurseries all over the Western United States, I know the difference a loving nursery environment makes on a baby and the baby's mom!

Now it's normal for a baby of around a year or more, who has never been separated from mother for a moment to experience uncertainty and fear the first time they are placed in a nursery.  This doesn't mean they are being damaged, but a wise worker is understanding of their very real fear.  Babies learn through experience, and they need to know several things;  1.  Mom is coming back.  I have not been sold to these strangers forever.  This understanding is only gained by seeing it happen a few times, so patience is necessary. 2.  The people here are happy, they love me, and it's fun to play here.  3.  Finally, as they start enjoying every week, these little ones need to know that church is a fun place to learn about the Bible.

For a person serving in this ministry there are a few pitfalls to avoid, things that will increase frustration and hinder patience.  We are here to show God's love, not judge a child's lack of discipline.  Go in expecting children to misbehave at times.  Even kids of parents who discipline them faithfully will try things in the nursery they can't get away with at home, just because mom and dad aren't there.  Remember that we are each one born with that ol' sin nature.  This nature actually delights in wickedness, which might help us to understand why a three year old dimple-cheeked angel snatches a toy he didn't want previously from someone, and when he doesn't get the reaction he's looking for, he smacks his victim with it for good measure.  He isn't the devil incarnate, he's just a sinner like I was before I was saved.If this is your ministry, and you are struggling with having a loving and peaceful attitude, ask God to help you!  Don't settle for doing any ministry with a bad attitude.  You know, you will lose an eternal reward if you do that!

By the way, children of visitors, who often don't behave well, often are more frightened and destructive, often make the whole experience trying for the nursery worker, also often stay longer than anyone else's children because their parents might be receiving Christ as their Savior after the service.  This is exactly what happened to my two little screamers yesterday morning.  For the small part that I was able to play, I pray this whole family will come to know my Savior and walk in His ways.  It's an honor to be in this ministry!