I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, 4 always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 Indeed, it is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. Philippians 1:3-7 (CSB)
Paul’s words were not forced. They were not perfunctory words of salutation. They were not cloaked words of admonition. They were not even theological treaties. They were words of sincere gratitude. He loved these believers who partnered with him in the work of the Gospel. He recognized their faithfulness. They were not sporadic in their commitment. They were not distracted in their devotion. They had been with him from the very beginning, and as he was in chains and suffering for their Lord Jesus, they were still with him. And he was sure they would be with him to the end.
The work of a pastor is a good work. It is unique in many ways as Eric Geiger notes in this recent article at LifeWay Pastors. While the nature of pastoral work creates significant personal vulnerability, it also offers an amazing privilege of personal joy.
The apostle Paul felt the pains of spiritual leadership, but it was always the joys of life in ministry that shaped his heart. We would all do well to live like that, so here are a few of the joys of Green Hill Church that are shaping my heart during this season of Thanksgiving.
We hunger for God.
The demographics of our congregation are what I sometimes call “light blue collar.” We are a mix of educators, nurses, engineers, entrepreneurs, and one practicing attorney that I know about. Many of our people are well educated, but many have no degree hanging on their wall at all. What we do have is an appetite for God’s Word and a growing sense of expectation that He is at work in ways that are bigger than our cultural backgrounds, educational achievements, or personal skills.
We care about people.
Green Hill has been good for me for many reasons, but perhaps the biggest personal impact has been watching our faith family show kindness to vulnerable people. When God called me to preach I didn’t know he was calling me to feed the hungry, care for the poor, or stand up for the oppressed. It was always right there in Micah 6, Matthew 25, and a host of other places in the Scripture, but it wasn’t in my heart. Green Hill loves people, all kinds of people; and without compulsion, our church shows compassion.
We invest in kids.
Our children’s ministry recently performed their fall musical. It wasn’t the biggest musical ever, but during the middle of the program two young girls stepped up to the mic and sang a solo to the glory of God. I had never heard them sing before, but someone invested in them, encouraged them, prepared them, and gave them the confidence to do it. Watching kids embrace the Gospel and then watching the Gospel embrace them is one of the great joys of my life.
We protect unity.
No family is without some conflict along the way, but our people care more about winning the world than winning an argument. God has shown favor on our church family in a number of ways to remind us that giving more grace and working together are not only more fun, but also much more effective. The result is a congregation that follows leaders, cooperates with each other, submits to God’s Word, and lovingly guards against troublemakers.
We love the world.
Every church fights against a magnetic force to protect its own interest or to somehow insure its survival. Despite that natural instinct and a history that would encourage that kind of thinking, Green Hill Church demonstrates a love for our unreached, Bible-belt city and for the 2.8 billion people on the planet who have yet to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. We pursue a healthy congregational life not to protect our way of life, but to show and tell others how they can have new life in Christ. Our people continue to give generously, go faithfully, and serve sacrificially in ways that literally take me to school.
So my church has reminded me again that hardship doesn’t have to harden our hearts, that modern facilities, money, and skill are not our greatest assets, and that the Gospel is still the power of God to save the world and to sanctify a people. I’m thankful these joys are still shaping my heart and I’m thankful for the privilege of loving and serving Jesus with Green Hill Church.
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