Today's Reading: Ezekiel 13-15
This past weekend and this morning, I have talked with members of churches who are disheartened about their pastors and mourning over conflict in their churches.
A couple with whom I talked, verbalized that their pastor does not care for the sheep, refusing to visit the sick or counsel the ones in need. They also comoplained about his inability to preach.
Another friend from another town verbalized her pastor was saying that the miracles of Jesus were just stories, untrue, and that anyone who believed in them were foolish and simple minded.
In today's passage, we hear of false prophets among the people of Israel who "follow their own spirit," who claim to have seen visions when in truth "they have seen nothing," or claim to have heard from God while God says, "I have not spoken." In other passages from the prophets we have heard that the shepherds called by God were not tending the sheep.
How do the people of God recognize false prophet? And how do the people of God address conflict and division in the church when leadership is questionable?
First of all, one cannot know if a prophet is true or false if one is not close to God. The way we become close to God and know God's will is two fold: studying the word and prayer.
Criticism and judgment are easy and false ways to deal with conflict. Most of us, when we don't like our pastor because of some annoyance or personality quirk that does not resonate with our own immediately put ourselves on the judgment throne, a place reserved only for God. It is obvious from today's passage that God is aware of false prophets and will deal with them. God doesn't need our counsel.
Withdrawal and despondency are easy and false ways to deal with conflict. Most of us, when we don't like our pastor or if there is conflict in the church, respond by withdrawing. We stop going to worship in our church and often do not attend another church. We stay at home, removing ourselves from the fellowship of believers. We talk with everyone else who agrees with us and rarely have the grace to go to the person with whom we disagree and work toward reconciliation.
God has called us to be "ambassadors of reconciliation." Our first call is to grieve and repent for any lack of prayer and any idolatrous pride we might have. God has declared, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, then I will hear from heaven and heal their land." In humility, we need to ask God to show us where we have failed and move toward correcting our own actions and attitudes.
Next, we need to pray for the one with whom we are in conflict. Jesus calls us to pray for our enemies. If it is our pastor, we must discern whether or not the pastor is truly a brother or sister in Christ. Do they love the Lord? Has he or she confessed his or her faith in Jesus? If they have, then we need to especially pray for God to help us to discern what is going on. Has he become despondent? Has she entered into a personal crisis that is overwhelming her? Has he been seduced by knowledge? Has she been tempted to please others instead of pleasing God? Has he been overpowered by the temptation of power? Has she lost hope? Are there apparent areas of weakness that need the power of the Holy Spirit? Is the person demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit? Is the person in their rightful calling? Is the enemy of God, Satan, attacking?
If the LORD tells us that our pastor is not a believer, then we need to ask the LORD to show himself to our pastor. Pray for your pastor's salvation. You might be the loving instrument of grace which woos your pastor into a relationship with your Savior.
Leaders are responsible for the way they lead and for what they teach. This is a huge burden that most leaders forget in the everydayness of spiritual leadership. But leaders are just as vulnerable to temptation and straying from the path as the rest of us, especially if they do not take time or have time for prayer, study in the word or Sabbath.
Someone once said, "There can be no power in the pulpit if there is no prayer in the pew."
Most people who come to church on Sunday do not realize their incredible responsibility for the worship experience. Praying for our pastors is so important! Rarely are they strong enough in the LORD to fight the spiritual battle by themselves.
How can we pray for our pastors?
Pray for your pastor's love, knowledge, and obedience to the LORD and God's will to grow and deepen.
Pray for your pastor to have a heart for God alone and to have God's love for everyone.
Pray for your pastor to hunger for the Word of God and for truth.
Pray for your pastor to be convinced of his or her salvation through Christ, girded in truth, sure of Christ's righteousness and totally aware of his or her own weaknesses, shod with the gospel of peace and an excellent swordsman of the Holy Spirit.
Pray for your pastor's family: for their salvation, for love and compassion in their home, for wisdom, for protection against any disunity.
Pray for your pastor's ability to hear from God. Ask God to unstop the ears so that your pastor can hear where God is leading not only the church but the pastor.
Pray that your pastor might be humble before the LORD, and that he or she might have a confidant with whom they can confess and receive good counsel.
As you pray and are in the word daily, encourage others in this ministry. Listen as you sit before the mercy seat of God. Be an ambassador of reconciliation.
And remember, you are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against angels and principalities of this world.
God will deal with false prophets.
Your job is to be faithful in your post, to pray and feed on God's word daily, to put on the armor of God, to speak the truth in love, to love God and your neighbor with everything you have been given, and to discern where God is calling you to go and to be.
May God bless us all as we diligently discern and rise to the call upon our lives.