2019-02-06 / Columns

The Pastor's Pen

Things That Grow

Have you ever read the same letter over and over again? I find myself turning to the same brief letter printed toward the back of my Bible. It’s the letter of a missionary-pastor to a congregation he obviously loved. It only fills one page, front and back, in the Bible sitting on my desk. In an earlier, slightly longer letter, he wrote of himself and other companion ministers to this congregation, “We were ready to share with you not only the gospel (good news) of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” In the second, shorter letter, he follows up, “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers.” One wonders if the people in this church had said, “You shouldn’t make such a big to-do with all this gushy ‘dear-to-us’ business. We’re just ordinary people.” But the minister says emphatically: “We ought”!

There are things you observe while pastoring a congregation that you just ought to – not just could, but should – give thanks for. This letter lists a few: “because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.” What comes to mind when you think of “faith”? How about “love”? Are they both just givens? Things you simply have or you don’t? Or are they things that fluctuate, and sometimes grow and intensify? Trust, faith, or belief are all related words in the Bible. Now, a person who trusts something trustworthy – such as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, or God’s Word, the Bible – that person’s trust grows. The person who loves other people – especially taking part in a caring congregation of others who trust God – that person’s love grows. When you see those things increasing, it is a beautiful thing, like watching spring flowers come up in a garden. Now won’t that be a sight for sore eyes in a few months!

But then this missionary-pastor is called elsewhere. He writes, “Finally, brothers and sisters (spiritually, speaking), pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you.” There are seasons of growth, seasons of struggle, seasons of arrival, and seasons of departing in life and in church life. But the one thing that draws me back to this letter is the one constant in all of it: “the Lord is faithful.” The Lord Jesus Christ is one who if you are willing to believe and do what he has for you to believe and do, beautiful things start to grow.

Steven McCarthy is pastor of Walton Reformed Presbyterian Church; 607-865-6481.

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