Greetings from the disciples of Christ at the Red Roof Church of Bulverde, Texas. I’m Lee Harder, the senior pastor, and would very much like to invite you to join us for worship this Sunday. We gather in God’s house at 8:30AM and 10:45AM to hear His Word proclaimed from Scripture and we would like to have you share it with us.
I had the occasion to visit with a former classmate of mine from the seminary days of 40 years ago. He has retired and enjoys the good life out west. As we shared war stories from the seminary and our respective years in the ministry as pastors, we began to realize that I might be the last from our graduating class at Northwestern Theological Seminary still active as a pastor.
When we had our first class reunion 5 years after our graduation, out of a class of 33, 11 had already left the ministry. As of a dozen years ago, there were only a handful still serving congregations. The shortage of pastors serving churches is becoming alarming. Too few pastors for too many churches, especially smaller ones.
I was one of the founders, former president and instructor at the Beyond the River Academy, where pastors train pastors through an online instruction in basics that will equip someone who feels called by God to serve in a congregation as pastor. Those entering the program do so usually after having ended a career and feel a need to serve as a pastor because the Spirit is moving them in that direction. Because they are often financially sound, they are willing to go to smaller congregations that cannot afford the full time, master of divinity pastor. What we provide are the tools that will help to preach a sermon, teach a Bible study, visit with someone sick or dying, and marry, bury or baptize. Still, there are not enough to meet the growing need.
As the baby boomer pastors retire, it’s going to get worse. Added to that is a growing trend among younger clergy. Many younger clergy are “giving it up for Lent,” so to speak after just five years. Some who are leaving the ministry are finding the debt crushing. Church attendance, and therefore giving, is at 1920’s levels. Full-time calls at wages that will put food on the table and pay for seminary debt are disappearing. Health insurance costs keep rising. The business sector promises stability that the church can’t offer anymore. And some are leaving because they’re getting eaten up, and life is just too short to put up with that for too long. We follow a Jesus who said that we’re to give our life away, but not in the way that disregards life itself.
Couple this with the fact that seminary enrollment is at unsustainable lows and it’s not surprising that there are fewer pastors to serve churches. Oh, and don’t forget the non-denominational churches springing up all over that provide exciting, high energy worship programs that light up the auditorium with glitz and glamour to the beat of the latest rock and gospel sound. Plug in the motivational speaker who makes those attending feel good all over in a politically correct way, it’s tough to be content with a traditional pastoral role.
I’m happy where I’m at and doing what I do. Retire, I don’t think so, at least not yet. I may be the last in my class, but that suits me just fine. God has called me to be a pastor, to preach and teach His Word to His people. That’s enough to keep me content to serve Him. Sure, there are days when it gets terribly frustrating. God’s people of every time can be difficult. They always have been and likely always will be. Quit? Not happening! I’m going to do precisely what our Lord has called me to do for as long as I have breath and the people in this congregation (or some other in the future should they tire of me here) are willing to put up with me. I’m having too much fun most of the time and love rising to a challenge the rest of it.
I wish others would see both the need to serve (key word) and the joy of serving (that’s an important one too). The church needs men and women who love Christ and are willing to shoulder His cross in the face of all adversity. Besides, I get paid for being a Christian. How can one beat that? Am I blessed or what?
And those are my thoughts. Have a great week. God bless. Pastor Lee
Greetings from the great folks at the Red Roof Church in Bulverde, Texas. I’m Lee Harder, the senior pastor, inviting you to join us for worship this Sunday at 8:30 or 10:45AM for a celebration of God’s Word. When one considers all the mixed messages out there today, St. Paul is a church Where God’s Word is Heard from Scripture every week and not a social agenda. That is a good thing to count on. Check us out on our web page at redroofchurch.org and then come by for worship, fellowship and the joy of life in Christ.
Paul wrote in his letter to the church in the city of Rome, Romans 12:2 to be exact, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Yet, I am constantly aware how we Christians like to make Christ over into our own image rather than trying to make the world conform to the will of God. In the past, we made Jesus a warrior when we sent the crusaders marching to the Holy Land to take back Jerusalem and crush the Muslims. 500 years later, we made Jesus someone to be scared of so we couldn’t come to Him in prayer but had to go through the saints with a small nominal fee, of course.
Today, many in the Christian church want Jesus to be this great guy who is only about love and niceness where everybody is saved. Mind you, that’s not the Jesus of Scripture and never was. Too many want to replace the unchanging Jesus of the Bible with a do-it-yourself-deity who is made and unmade according to our own specifications.
Here’s the latest attempt and this one is by a whole denomination. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America or ELCA has opted for another socially designed, politically correct, decision at their annual national gathering this year in Milwaukee. With the vote of about 700 people, representing about 3.4 million ELCA Lutherans, they decided that the ELCA would be a “sanctuary church” protecting the rights of migrant children and families. While they use the word “migrants” what they really mean is illegal immigrants coming into this country contrary to all our laws and national sovereignty. They perceive the arrest, detainment and deportation of such persons as unfair and unjust. In their eyes, the laws enforced by immigration agencies seeking to maintain our national sovereignty and security for the purpose of keeping us safe don’t matter. What that all means, I don’t know, and I suspect neither do they understand the ramifications of their vote based on the progressive agenda of a liberal leadership. Yet, these few voted for a whole church body that likely is not all in agreement with their stand.
Remember, this is the same Christian denomination that has considered the Old Testament to be a work of fiction, stories for Sunday school children; quietly but effectively stopped talking about sin or our need for repentance because it makes people feel sad and uncomfortable; and embraced with several other Christian bodies the universal salvation mentality that everybody is going to heaven because a loving God wouldn’t condemn anyone to hell. Besides, there really isn’t a devil anyway.
Look, I don’t want people to suffer who need food, medical attention, and the like. At the same time, I don’t believe we should allow people to flood into our nation illegally, especially when there are so many who seek to do it legally through proper channels.
A church that seeks to help those in need, I applaud. We should because it is what Jesus did and it’s the right thing to do. However, a church that stands in direct opposition to civil law because it doesn’t fit the politically correct image supported by some in a position of power and leadership is wrong. In the process, the condemnation of people who are doing their best in a difficult situation to help in a humane way people in need while maintaining order and safety for a nation is not commendable. It’s wrong and I suspect there will be many within its congregations across the nation that will agree.
In the days of Jesus, Israel’s religious leaders, the Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees, did the same kind of things. They heaped upon the people rules and regulations, made decisions, that they decided were necessary which only satisfied their desires, while they put themselves above the need to be subject to them. Funny how the same problems of the past keep reappearing again and again. We sure are slow learners, failing to learn from our history. Maybe some day.
And those are my thoughts. God bless,
Greetings from the folks at the Red Roof Church in Bulverde, Texas. I’m Lee Harder, the senior pastor at St. Paul inviting you to come for a visit with us this Sunday for worship at 8:30AM or 10:45AM. If you can’t make it, why not visit our web page at redroofchurch.org and watch the broadcast of our worship celebrations there.
I want to share a concern with you that might be nothing more than creating a mountain out of a mole hill. Still, it causes me to worry about where we’re going culturally with regards to our precious independence. Let me explain.
I prepare a Bible study for three classes of people every Thursday. I prepare a sermon based on designated Scripture lessons each week at the very least. While I could go to “boxed” and “prepared” materials for these things, which many do, I choose not to because I need to constantly challenge myself to learn and grow in my knowledge. In the same manner, I actually go to church Sunday morning at about 5:00AM and preach for a couple of hours to an empty church like it was worship. It lets me fine tune my sermon for the live delivery.
At home, Karen and I actually go grocery shopping every week after I have prepared a menu with all the ingredients needed carefully listed for purchase. When it comes time to prepare the meal I either refer to a recipe in a cookbook (I have many with many excellent and challenging culinary skills required that will please any palate) or resort to my own cooking skills. (While I can’t wear the white hat of a chef, I have the skills as testified by those who have feasted on my humble offerings.) Actually, it might be better if I didn’t cook so well from my doctor’s point of view with regards to my weight.
I mention this because I am seeing more and more people unwilling or unable to do for themselves. When we shop, I see multiple racks wheeling throughout the store as employees gather the food for people who can’t (understandable) or won’t (lazy?) for themselves. I see a growing number of ads on TV for services that will mail to consumers complete meals in a box and all the instructions (with pictures) on how to prepare (including cutting) the dish with the recommended serving sizes. Result, a growing number of people who simply can’t cook. I mean, when you have to explain how to boil water to an adult, there’s a problem.
There’s more as I now see a growing trend for cars that drive themselves. I’ve got no problem about warnings from mirrors about drifting in lanes or approaching cars, but I always thought that was the job of a careful, involved driver in driving. No, I’m talking about cars that drive, that park, and that stop because the driver is doing something other than what they should be doing — DRIVING. I fear as this trend continues we will create a whole culture of people who just can’t drive. I suppose that’s okay until the computer crashes or the power goes out. What then?
And let’s not forget the growing dependence on phones that keep track of everything to the point where people can’t seem to function without them. Worse, people are forgetting how to communicate without texting. What happened to people talking to one another — you know, communicating in the flesh.
I want to share my thoughts on this because I see our culture becoming more and more dependent on some one or some thing doing what we should be doing for ourselves. I see it in our culture. I see it in giving, accepting, or what’s really scary wanting “mother” government to run our lives and the lives of our children over the desires and morals of their parents. I see the same attitude expressed in the church. As a pastor, I am only too aware of the embraced ignorance on the part of Christians concerning the Word of God in the Bible and understanding what we believe according to that Word. A growing number would rather someone else do the work that Christ commanded of all of us or have someone (as long as we agree) to tell us what to believe.
What’s going to happen if our technology crashes? What will happen within the church if Christians surrender their responsibility to know God’s Word and fall prey to false teachers who embrace the world’s agenda over Christ’s? I fear we will have become so dependent on technology and letting the other guy do it that we will be incapable of functioning on our own. Don’t get me wrong. I love technology when I can understand it, but I still want to be in control. I have music and books stored in the “cloud.” I also have “hard” copies that I can touch, hold, and use on my terms my way — just in case the clouds suddenly aren’t there. It’s possible we might be losing an essential part of our humanity by surrendering our independence and personal freedom. One good thing though, I’m getting old and won’t have to put up with this trend indefinitely. Thank you Lord!
And those are my thoughts, as antiquated as they might be. God bless until next time.
Pastor Lee R. Harder