Echo Article: Pastor Appreciation

Daniel Lawson, Pastor of Faith Baptist Church

     October is pastor appreciation month. Over the last four weeks I have either seen or heard acts of appreciation expressed to a number of pastors. Many of my pastor-friends have received cards, books, meals, free childcare, tickets to an event, or other meaningful gestures of appreciation. I was extremely blessed, and also humbled, to receive a gift from my wife this year. Being honored by someone who is a constant source of support and love is extraordinary.  

     During this month of pastor appreciation I have reflected on the book of Third John. This Epistle is extremely short. The greek text is only 219 words in length. I often describe the Epistle as an inspired email. John’s correspondence to the beloved Gaius is brief. The Apostle seeks to honor Gaius, humble Diotrephes, affirm Demetrius, and express his desire to visit Gauis’ church family soon. At the very beginning of the book, John writes in verse three: “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” This “no greater joy” John speaks of is truly the greatest gift a church can grant their pastor. 

     So what is the ultimate joy a church can afford her pastor? I believe we see three things mentioned by John. The first is a good testimony. John has heard from other churches, missionaries, and ministry leaders a good word concerning Gaius and his church family. The testimony of John’s spiritual children greet him like a song. The word does not joggle him as a gong, nor pierce him like an awful screech. The words used to describe the congregation’s conduct are soothing. 

     The second gift these saints bless John with is their walking. They are not idle. They rightly understand believers are followers of Christ. Elsewhere John tells us, “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” ( 1 John 2:6). John commends the saints in his third Epistle because of their conduct. They practice what is preached. They live out their faith with affection and conviction. 

     The unsurpassable joy John has received from these children of faith, stems from the third attribute mentioned: truth. There is a divide among commentators if this truth is a reference to Christ or truth itself. I believe an inclusion of both communicates John’s meaning faithfully. These Christians have followed the Christ and trusted in the ultimate truth. Those who receive Christ place their faith in him, walk in obedience, and build a testimony among others which honors the True and Living God. When this is seen in the life of Believers, know there is a supreme joy that is granted to the one who pastors such a people. 

     Faith Baptist, it is with true tears of love that I thank God for the great joy you place in my life. Allow me to encourage you to continue in clinging to Christ, walk beside him in obedience, and share His love with those around us. As you seek to honor Christ, know your pastor is blessed beyond measure…. And thank you for the cards, eggs, button-up shirts, car tires, vehicle loans, childcare, and pet sitting! Your pastor feels more than appreciation from you!

In Christ by His Grace,

Pastor Daniel Lawson

     

Echo Article: Handling Differences of Conscience

How are the people of God to handle differences of opinion and conviction among one another? Often times the church can become disgruntled over matters of conscience. Two or more people hold a difference of opinion, and where there was once unity, now division. I believe it is safe to say all pastors will wrestle with encouraging the members of Christ’s church to love one another amid diversity. I also believe many Christians desire to keep unity, but they cannot compromise their convictions.

In moments like these, may I encourage a pursuit of wisdom and humility? The Bible teaches that “All the ways of man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives” (Prov 16:2). People stand behind convictions they deem most true. Indeed, It is not natural for us to take a position we believe is wrong. When confronted with a difference of opinion, we should allow others to be heard. Often brothers and sisters are labeled and judged too quickly. Listen and evaluate if the differences of opinion are heretical, hypocritical, cultural, uninformed, experiential, a simple difference, partly true, or correct. You might be supervised what you hear from someone else. I have changed my opinion before because someone had the opportunity to speak.

Further, respect one another. We are to understand that God is Lord of the conscience (Jas 4:12; Rom 14:4; Gal 5:1). Though there are some beliefs and practices that are considered clean, if one’s conscience is convicted by such a practice it is considered a sin for them to engage (Rom 14:22-23). Because of this I do not hastily persuade someone to take my position on a variety of issues! Below are other principles that I seek to establish when dealing with differences of Christian liberty:

1. Desire to know God’s Word. By knowing the Bible we can ask, “Is God’s Law being transgressed? Does Scripture clearly speak on the matter?” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 teaches, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” A knowledge of what the Bible says is paramount. It shines light on decisions like these.

2. Understand that man must obey his conscience (Rom 14:1-4, 13, 22; 1 Cor 15:5; 1 John 3:19-24). Though brothers and sisters in Christ may differ on an issue, understand that rebelling against personal conscience is done outside of faith.

3. Keep all words and deeds edifying so God may receive glory(1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:17).

4. Remember Christian liberty must be built on a foundation of spiritual freedom. Liberty is not a license to do whatever one pleases. Liberty is the right to do as God pleases without fear. Likewise, liberty must not surrender in a way that misrepresents the faith (Gal 2:3; Col 2:16-23). There are circumstances where it is appropriate to hold to liberty tightly.

I pray as we wrestle with matters of the conscience and liberty, our Lord sees His people loving and patient towards each other. May our conduct display His love and wisdom!

In Christ by His Grace,

Pastor Daniel