[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #149 ---- 11/20/00

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From: lifeunlimited@...
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2000 00:36:18 -0600
Standing Shoulder To Shoulder With You In The Trenches
As We fight The Good Fight

SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #149 ---- 11/20/00

TITLE:  "How To Be The Greatest Minister Possible"

My Dear Friend and Ministry Partner:

I greet you from a late Sunday night rendezvous with my trusty laptop. 
My spirits are high, my mind is awhirl, my body is weary, and my wife
needs me.  We have just concluded a long day of ministry that began
before dawn when I saw five beautiful deer standing in my yard, took us
through my next to last Sunday as interim pastor, and concluded with a
wonderful visit with friends who are preparing to return to England as

It's time for me to get to bed, but I feel the need to share a few
thoughts with you before doing so.  I just can't bear the thought of not
writing something to encourage somebody.  When I think of so many who are
discouraged, weary, or beaten up, my own personal comfort doesn't seem
very important.


Remarks continue coming in about my last couple of letters, some in
disagreement, some with misunderstanding, and some in affirmation.  I
value them all.  Obviously I prefer those who agree, but genuinely do
appreciate the wisdom and insights shared from those who do not.

1.  Here is a remarkable response from a long-time friend, a former
college classmate who has been a great inspiration to me for the past
several years.  "Thanks for  explaining the motive behind what you have
been saying.  I understand how easily we loose contact with what should
be our main motive to Glorify Him.  We easily get sidetracked.  

"I am deeply disturbed about the directions that are being taken by our
churches . . . .  It seems most are carnal to the core and have little
true Godliness in them.  The Gospel is being presented as a people help
rather [than] an imperative demanded by a Holy and Righteous God who
deserves our love and devotion.  

"Thanks dear brother.  Keep on keeping on. In His Grace and Glory, . . ."

2.  Here are some indicting thoughts from another reader.  "This last
newsletter strikes so close to my own heart.  [I was] Not much into
churchiology ... and actually disregarded faith and especially the
"Christian" belief system because of the horrendous things I saw going on
from the outside.

"This weekend as I was ministering . . . I realized again - sometimes the
toughest place to  be a Christian is in the 'Church'.  I can't help but
to believe that part of this is due to the walls we erect to divide
ourselves.  Your analogy  being stuck in your own wall - because you
built it - was most  appropriate.  What protects us, divides us . . . . 
Our petty little definitions are as ridiculous as trying to put God into
a comfortable box.

"In our church some have the habit of easily sizing up people as a
combination of . . . personality types.  [This]has caused people to
question their own actions. . . .  It's damaged people's perceptions of
themselves. . . . 

"Thanks for yet another encouraging and challenging newsletter.  Praying
you will be blessed with the fellowship of the Holy Spirit as you walk in
Grace and Peace this week."

3.  Here's a note from a veteran pastor still content to hear the voice
of God when it called him to a small dying congregation; yet he went.  "
Thanks for your messages in SHOULDER TO SHOULDER.   "The Tragedy of 
Mostar" was exactly right.  This whole thing has sickened me.  I  didn't
want to go the [conference], but I felt that I needed to do so.  

"I heard someone comment that if all of these pastors were forced to
become bi-vocational they wouldn't have time for this and there wouldn't
be this problem.  He's obviously not totally right, but he did have a

"[This place] wasn't my choice of where 'I' wanted to minister, but I
believe that this is where He wanted me, so we came.  I will continue to
serve Him in the way I believe that He wants me to serve, and I want no
part of the politics.  Politics is all around, and I don't know if I will
be able to continue to serve here.  

"People are still desiring the true Gospel, but so few get to 'see' it in
people's lives.  There are always our own 'agendas'."


Yesterday morning I preached to my "interim flock" on the subject of "How
To Have The Greatest Pastor Possible".  It came out of the tension I had
been feeling in my heart over the new pastor coming to the church where I
have been serving for some 20 months as interim pastor.

Because I know something of the church's past, and because I have a deep
"protective instinct" for pastors, I wanted to share some things with the
church that would perhaps help them rediscover the absolute joy of
welcoming and supporting a new shepherd to become their leader.

Throughout the day yesterday I thought about what I had preached, and
concluded I should share some of those thoughts with you, but from a
slightly different angle.

So, if you were going to suggest to a church what they could do to help
you be the greatest minister possible, what would you suggest to them?

Chances are you've never had such an opportunity, so perchance the
thought has never crossed your mind.

Being an interim pastor has given me that chance, and, since I have
nothing to lose, I can go ahead and say what I feel.

And, to be sure, much of what I shared with them comes out of my own
desires I would have for any church I pastored to know about me.

So, here are my recommendations.  Tell me what you think of them.


The average Christian doesn't have a clue about what it means to be
called by God into vocational ministry.  Many think of it as just another
job.  Like Paul described in I Corinthians 2 and 3, they think with
worldly wisdom and with no power.  Therefore, they don't see the
uniqueness of such a call from God.

First the church needs to recognize that while you are fully human, your
call is fully divine.  That reality creates an unbelievable tension which
you must endure.

Next, the church is a divinely created entity living in a demonically
corrupt society.  If the church doesn't see that, they'll never
understand the significance of your call to ministry as a means of
bridging that gap, of overcoming that obstacle.  

They won't understand it when you challenge them as to their lifestyles. 
They'll become easily offended when you confront sin, carnality, and
demonic influences that may be prevalent in their midst.

Then, the members, in varying stages of maturity (or lack thereof) are
each in need of your specific attention.  In other words, each member
thinks you have all the time required to meet their personal needs.  They
all expect you to be at their disposal whenever you are needed.  That
type of ministry requires a unique call indeed.

Next, your message is beyond all human comprehension, but yet must be
communicated in an understandable, applicable, and life-changing way. 
Think about that for a moment ---- you have a divine message from God
that must be articulated in a way that the people grasp it and are
changed by it.

Finally, the ministry you have is in a setting of the temporal world but
speaks to the realm of the eternal.  Therefore, to many people, your
ministry won't make sense.  How do you help them to understand that even
though you are "in the world", neither you nor your message is "of the
world".  You're dealing with the things that are not seen while they may
be preoccupied with the things that are.

Friend, in case you've forgotten ---- your call to ministry is a unique
call indeed.


The next thing I would want my church to recognize is the difference
between a call God places on a minister and the call a church places on
him.  They are not necessarily exclusively the same.

In fact, it is my observation that in most cases they are different.

Too many church members see their ministers as hired holy men or
employees.  Take time to ready Ephesians 4:11-16, Acts 6:2,4; I Tim
3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; and I Pet 5:1-4.  You'll find some stark contrasts
between what you read there and what many people think is their call to
you to become their minister.

Man's call is more often than not based on duties and activities, whereas
God's call is based on character, spiritual giftings, and responsible

There is a clear difference far too many times between God's call on you,
and the church's call on you.

Which brings up a probing question ----

When there's a difference, which one do you go with?


A minister of the Gospel faces unbelievable pressures of various kinds. 
For example,. . . .

   1)  Personal Pressures ---- Any minister worth his salt will never get
over the fact that God called him to the Gospel ministry.  That, frankly,
is mind boggling.  The only explanation I can find is that God chooses
the foolish things to confound the wise.  Paul said it well when he said,
"We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the
power may be of God and not of man."  (II Cor 4:7)

A minister faces personal pressure through several things ---- things
like his own personal expectations, his personal failures, his personal
fears, and his sense of personal responsibility.

If you're a human at all, you have certain personal expectations of
yourself, many of which will never be realized.  That generates
unbelievable pressure.

Then, you have to deal with your own weaknesses and failures ----
feelings of failure as a husband or father, moral failure, undisciplined
life, tragic mistakes, . . . . they all affect you.  First you think you
are unworthy, and second you are afraid you may fail again.

This, of course, generates fears of all types.  Fears of further failure,
fear of being found out, fear of tarnishing the name of Jesus, fear of
disappointing someone you love, etc.

   2)  Priority Pressures ---- One of the hardest struggles I had for
perhaps half of my ministry was to understand my priorities.  Perhaps
better said, I didn't understand God's priorities, even though Paul
spelled them out in Ephesians chapters 5 and 6.

After declaring in 5:17, "Don't be unwise (stupid), but understand what
the will of God is", he goes on to say our first priority is to be filled
with the Spirit.  Then he addresses the priority of our spouse, then our
children, then our work ---- in that order.

I spent too many years of my life with priorities in reverse order to
God's.  My work and ministry came first.  Then my wife or children, and
then my personal spiritual life and walk with God.

Needless to say I also got the reverse results from what God intended.

   3)  Congregational pressures ---- we could write a book here.  No
matter how hard you try to be a good minister, your congregation will,
intentionally or unintentionally, place unbelievable pressure on you
through expectations, demands, job descriptions, and assumptions.

And, you'll feel them.  Worse yet, you'll feel an obligation to meet them
all.  You will often be intimidated into trying to act like you're "Super

And, you're not, my friend.  Nor am I.

   4)  Peer Pressures ---- these hideous pressures come from those in
your own ranks of ministry who, by dramatic "war" stories, tales of great
achievements, and inflated statistical reports, intimidate you into being
and doing things inappropriate for you.  Nothing is more cruel than peer
pressures we place on each other.

   5)  Societal Pressures ---- Society knows you're a minister, and they
expect near perfection from you.  There are moral, social, and spiritual
matters that clamor for your attention.  Society is calling you to be
more than you can be, has promised to castigate you when you're not, and
then, as if speaking out of the other side of the mouth, cry out to you
for help ---- for compassion, for answers.

Societal pressures are beyond comprehension.

   6)  Perfection Pressures ---- that's simply the drive to be a perfect
minister.  You don't want to be less than you can be.  Everything you try
to do, you attempt perfection as your goal.  Others expect you to be
perfect as well.  Satan tells you must, but he lets you know you can't. 
You think, mistakenly, that God has called you to be perfect, but He
didn't ---- He just called you to be mature, and then told you He'd be
the one to enable you to become mature.

   7)  Divine Pressures ---- God's call is always higher than you can
attain.  Yet, those are divine pressures that you feel an obligation to
embrace and accomplish.  These pressures have great benefit, if we'd
simply understand them and know how to respond to them.  

You see, friend, God's Divine Pressures are designed for building
character, and not for great accomplishments.  All along we thought it
was to accomplish something for Him, when in fact it was for Him to make
us into something we can't be ---- like Jesus.


Next, I would want the members of my new church to wholeheartedly commit
themselves to personal active involvement in the life of the church. 
Why?  Because I know I can't do it alone.  And, besides, I know that my
role is to equip the saints for the work of ministry.

A couple of years ago I used the illustration of the average church being
like a football game where 22 men were down on the field desperately in
need of rest while 40,000 fans were in the stands desperately in need of

I'd want my people to know that, if the church was to grow, there would
need to be wholehearted commitment on their part and mine.


Finally, I'd want that new church I was going to pastor to know some
practical things they could do that would help me become the greatest
minister I could possibly be.

   1)  First, I'd tell them to pray, pray, pray!  Pray for me constantly.
 I need it; they need it.  The most important thing they'll ever do for
me as their minister is to pray for me at every occasion.

   2)  Then I'd tell them I need to be lifted up through praise and
encouragement.  If I were honest, I'd tell them that most ministers are
very insecure people and afraid of being rejected.  We need to be
"stroked".  We need to know our efforts are appreciated.

You may think this is carnal, but it's still the truth.  Any good
businessman knows that he gets the best out of his employees when he
praises and affirms them.

A church will get the best out of its minister if they'll let him know
how much they appreciate his ministry.

   3)  I'd also try to show them how important it is that they show
respect to the office of minister, and to the person holding that office,
recognizing that I also am responsible to conduct myself in such a way
that I gain that respect.

   4)  I would want them to know they can and should support my ministry
by giving both financially and physically to the work of the church. 
They should understand that the real testimony of how much they believe
in my ministry will be told through their financial and participatory
involvement in the life of the church.

   5)  I would also suggest that if they really want me to become a great
minister, they should brag on me to other people from time to time.  Let
them know just how fantastic I am.  That way, if they really don't like
me, then that other church will be impressed with all their bragging and
will call me to be their pastor.

   6)  Finally, I'd like my church to remember birthdays and
anniversaries.  Some of my greatest disappointments have come over
churches I've pastored failing to remember the anniversary date of when I
became their pastor.  That sent a message to me that my coming was not
something to be particularly remembered.


Well, I don't know if these things make sense to you, but this is what I
shared yesterday with "my" church.  And the people thanked me for it. 
Literally scores of them thanked me for telling them some things they
needed to know.

I pray the new pastor will be blessed because of that message.

I pray you will be, too.  And your church.

Have a wonderful week.  Pray for us as we continue preparing to move my
Father next week.

In His Bond,

Bob Tolliver ---- (Rom 1:11-12)
Copyright November, 2000.  All rights reserved.
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        Hang in there!   I'm with you!

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We'd love to hear from you.  Drop us a note with reports, observations,
prayer requests, etc.

f this letter has blessed you and you know of someone else who needs to
be encouraged, feel free to forward it in its entirety to all such people
you know.

If you would like a list of past issues which you could receive upon
request, just let us know.

Bob Tolliver -- (Rom 1:11-12)
Life Unlimited Ministries
E-Mail: lifeunlimited@...
Ph: 417-275-4854  Fax: 417-275-4855
Do You Get "Shoulder To Shoulder"?