Thursday, December 14, 2006

Praying to be Christ-like?

The Ministries of Francis Frangipane - Message of the Week

The Christ-Pattern
Francis Frangipane

We have often taught that the ultimate test of any church is if, over the months and years, the likeness of Christ is being replicated in the people. Such is the goal of God, and such must be the goal of the church.

Yet, how exactly is a congregation transformed? What stimulates a church to move from merely being outwardly religious to actually becoming inwardly Christlike? In many cases, the exodus from religion to Christlikeness begins as the vision of becoming Christlike grips the heart of a pastor.

Let me explain. In our competitive world, a pastor must excel in many areas. He or she must be a good speaker, rightly educated, and also be sensitive to the needs of the lost. He must be a person of vision, yet realistically practical. He will often be required to sacrifice time spent with the family for time given to people in the church. And, he must not complain about working conditions or modest pay.

Of course, most of these pastoral job descriptions are not requirements from God, but they do represent the expectations of man. The reality is, no individual can satisfy the great variety of preferences that church people typically require of their pastor. Indeed, the minister who seeks to increase growth in his or her church by striving to please people will soon exhaust himself of energy.

It has been my experience that, for every pastor who develops a church growth plan, there are scores of ministers who are struggling to stay alive spiritually. To compound this problem, if a leader is repeatedly the object of people's disapproval, his soul grows increasingly demoralized. Discouragement will cause vision to fade. His sense of destiny will quietly degrade from a high calling to showing up at a mostly joyless job.

Personal Revival
Remember, as pastors, God defines our success by how genuinely Christ is revealed in the lives of our congregations. This is Christ's stated goal to all who serve as leaders (see Matt. 28:19-20). Indeed, each leader shall one day give an account to God for how he carried out the Great Commission (Heb. 13:17).

Therefore, pastors, let us proceed with the fear of the Lord. Yet also let us walk with wisdom: If our pursuit is to lead our congregation into Christ's likeness, let us take care to start with ourselves. Let us walk in meekness, yet without being ensnared by the fear of man. For the fear of man manifests like a curse upon our efforts. There is only one path that unfolds into true blessedness, and that is to set one's heart toward attaining the likeness of Christ.

When a leader positions himself to lay hold of Christ, it is without question that conflicts will rise against him. For how shall one become Christlike without the Lord testing the genuineness of one's character. Yet, as the pastor becomes a person of prayer, as love of God grows pure and humility deepens into peace, those who love Jesus will behold Him in their pastor. The conflicts, as hard as they may have been, will be but staging for the glory of Christ within him. People since ancient times have desired "to see Jesus" (John 12:21). When they behold Him in the character of their pastor, they are beholding God's vision for their church.

A Christlike Church
I am not saying individuals in the church must have fully transformed pastors before they can pursue Christlikeness. No. The path to Christlikeness can be walked at any time or in any church. But for a congregation to genuinely move toward its highest destiny, at some point the pastor must become a Christ-pattern for the sheep to follow.

If you are an intercessor, pray for your pastor. Lift up the church leadership and pray that the vision of Christlikeness becomes the fire which compels your leaders. Pray with grace, not judgment; stand in mercy, not fear. Be visionary, yet patient. God will answer your prayers.

The truth is, pastoring is simply a call to become like Jesus, to set an example for the sheep to follow. Without this quest, a pastorate can actually become a prison of un fulfillment, a job without life.

Yet, if we continue in our pursuit of Christ's likeness, even persevering through trials, a time will come when the presence of the Son of God will increasingly be revealed in our lives. If Christ is lifted up in our lives, the living presence of the Lord will draw men to Himself. And the pastor's quest will become the Christ-pattern that others follow.

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