Though we are not ultimately called to be the solution to other people’s problems, the ones who provide hope for their disappointment in life, we are called to shepherd people along their journey.
The various ministries of a church are designed to help people come closer to God. And whatever is done in a church, be it scheduling or counseling, it needs to be done excellently. While we are not called to be people’s ultimate solutions, we are still called to point people to Jesus in an effective way.
With this in mind, sometimes very legitimate requests will come to you as a leader, and you will want to respond to them in timely and skillful ways. For instance, one of the ministries of the early church was to help widows in need (Acts 6: 1). Note that in this particular case in Scripture, the church leaders wanted to spend more time praying and in the ministry of the Word, so they delegated this responsibility to a separate team of trusted leaders.
Even though the primary leaders of the church could not be directly involved in meeting the need, the widows were being cared for. The ultimate solution in this case was to point the widows to Christ, but the church could play a very practical role as well. The immediate solution was to get food to these needy women. So the spiritual and the practical ministries intersected at this point.
As a twist on this subject, Acts 16: 9 records the story of Paul receiving a vision of people in Macedonia asking him to come and minister to them. This call came from beyond the people; it came from God. If Paul had ignored this call, or had delegated it to a qualified leader, perhaps the needed ministry of planting churches in Macedonia would not have happened.
So whenever people come to us with various requests, it is necessary that we make the distinction between the voice of God and the voice of man. Discerning the voice of God is seldom easy. Pastors are apt to make more mistakes in this area when they are starting out in ministry. I said yes to more things in my earlier days than I do now. Hopefully, as I have grown older I have learned to discern God’s voice better. But even after many years, this is no simple thing.
In 1 Samuel 3, when the Lord calls Samuel as a young boy, even the seasoned priest Eli does not recognize the voice of God at first. God needs to call Samuel three times before Eli grasps that it is God talking. If this happened to Eli, as experienced as he was in serving the Lord, it can surely happen to us. Hearing God’s voice and responding to his calling are never easy things to navigate through. Indeed, this in itself can be an important part of the sifting experience, growing in our dependence on God as he tests and refines us so that he can work through us.
When various calls come your way, my encouragement is to pray, wait on God, and say yes if you do not hear a clear no. If you don’t say yes, then it will be more difficult to know if the answer is no. If you immediately say no without consulting God, then you will never know if a particular request actually came from God. And if you say yes, and it wasn’t from God, then you are wiser in the end. Though it is fairly simple, I’ve found this to be a good, practical method of learning to discern the voice of God. Unless you hear a clear no, move ahead.
This month with Mentoring Leaders, we’re exploring the topic of change – personal, communal, continual. The above excerpt is from Pastor Wayne’s book, Sifted.
Tell us what you think!