have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." (1 John).
I have been a Pastor for over 25 years. In that time I have had the privilege to have served in four churches. When I think of each of those churches I thank God for the people I was able to impact with the gospel. I also thank the Lord for how I was blessed by them.
Ministry is hard work, whether you are a lay person or a full time Pastor. Just read through the New Testament in one or two settings and you will come to understand two things: 1. Church is hard, and 2. God loves the church. If we keep these two things in mind we will persevere in the church and fall in love with her over and over again.
Facebook, with all its worldly flaws, has been a blessing to me. I keep in touch with people from each of the churches that I have pastored. From time to time I peruse their websites to see how the churches are doing. And with each church I can truly say with the Apostle Paul, "For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ"(Col. 2:5). Of course I didn't start the churches or have the fatherly investment in them like the Apostle. But I did pour my heart and soul into them while I was there, and their outcome matters to me. When I say outcome I am not referring to size, but depth. To see people that I have ministered to passing down their faith to subsequent generations is satisfying. There is no greater joy.
It is Faith EFC's 50th anniversary this year and as one of the former pastors I have been invited to preach (June 26h). The congregation doesn't know what an honor this is for me. There are a lot of people there that I know, and even better a lot of people that I don't know. The latter is the evidence that the church is reaching beyond themselves. The Apostle rejoiced because the Colossians had two things that are necessary for a healthy Church, 1. Good order, and 2. Firmness of faith.
Why is good order important? I believe It is Paul's way of saying, "Good work, you are unified and working together." In each of Paul's letters unity is a theme. Churches cannot grow if there is division. Unity of mind, spirit, and direction are essential. Whenever there is division, backbiting, and conflict the church is distracted and Satan can claim a victory. Unity is imperative.
But unity for the sake of unity means nothing. The Apostle rejoiced because of the firmness of their faith. The word firmness can mean steadfast or consistency. Chart our lives and we can see the ups and downs of our faith. Sometimes we are strong and sometimes we are weak, but most of us have been consistently growing, persistent in our love for Jesus, and steadfast in our calling. This isn't of our doing, but the mighty work of the Holy Spirit. Left to ourselves we would quickly fall away. It is our unity in the Spirit and the firmness of our faith that keeps the church on course.
It is for this reason that I rejoice when I "lurk" my former churches. As a whole the churches are seeking to love God and love others, and for that I rejoice and give God the honor and glory. I'm just saying.