The current culture of the devaluing of church automatically comes with the devaluing of her ministers. These words are for these ones - the ministers in His house.
God takes it upon Himself to be the “lifter of our heads”, and His means are often through others. I hope to mirror the heart of God, my minister friend, and speak words that will lift your chin. A minister of the Gospel, (a pastor, or any of the other 5-fold ministries) should never be degraded by the world’s value system - not when he is faithfully, wildly imperfectly, carrying out his (or her) assignment.
There is a whole theology woven around the distinctive importance of the 5 fold minister, part-and-parcel of which is the distinctive importance of the church - the church as “living stones”, as an army, as a family, and as the very salt of the earth. When God Himself likens His people to buildings, armies, and family - is it any wonder that the people who are part of the life of the church get confused as to their role and the role of their pastor? Are we living stones built together, or are we invading, or are we at war, or are we all supposed to hug and have a well-seasoned dinner?
Because of this heavily nuanced nature of church, there is a keen and multi talented art to church leadership. Church leadership is to be deeply valued and respected because, with the possible exception of some mega-church expressions, in 98% of churches, the leader has to both inspire and administrate an all volunteer task force. Name another line of work where the “boss” is expected to stay by their post while the necessity of their even receiving an income is routinely scrutinized, its amount rarely raised, yet the results expected to be remarkable, all while advancing the agenda with mostly unpaid volunteers.
A workman is worthy of his hire. Don’t muzzle the ox that treads the corn. This letter is not about money, it is about value. Yet - it is a well established fact that money is an exchange of value. That exchange of value is designed to be equal. You are very valuable.
As an absurd aside, no one here is talking about salaries of a million dollars, or mansions, or lavish living. 98% of the church worldwide is under 200 members. I am speaking to the leadership of this beautiful 98% who work hard and live modestly. I honestly believe that in some cases the results of your ministry will be directly connected to the value you place upon the work of your hands - which is directly connected to the value you place upon the church herself. She is the very bride of Christ.
God wants you showing up in the world on her behalf in a certain way. Obviously, that way is not full of hubris and inflated ego.
At the same time, we are not well equipped, especially as leaders of the 98%, to see our service as valuable. We aren’t taught how to do that in seminary or the training our network or denomination offered us. But we can draw straight out of Scripture the deep, intrinsic value God has placed on both the church and its ministers.
Beneath the subtle, negative innuendos towards “full time pastors”, and the applause for the de-church movement is the idea that a man shouldn’t earn his whole living serving the church. Beneath the idea that a man shouldn’t earn his whole living serving the church is the falsity that 98% of God’s people can somehow thrive and grow without the job of oversight. Scriptures plainly teach the necessity of devoted oversight, and Scripture plainly states “Workers deserve their pay.”
Because gone is a high view of church, gone is a high view of her ministers. The Levitical priesthood was only as well cared for as the people valued their status as a set apart people and to the degree they deeply loved the law of God. Today, the new covenant 5 fold minister is only as well cared for as the people love God with all their heart, and then love what He loves. A minister is only as valuable to the church as the church values their status as a corporate expression of Christ in the earth, as the bride of Christ, and as the army of God. What army has little to no dedicated leadership?
Ironically, almost conversely, the church will only value its position in the earth to the degree its leaders both teach and preach the value. And its leaders will only teach and preach the worth of the church to the degree they understand their worth AS leaders, and feel a strong sense of joy and heritage and deep, nourishing pride in their calling to attend to the health of something so glorious, so fierce and full of wonder as the very bride of Jesus.
Your work brings value to the world. The world will only value the work of your hands to the extent that you value it. What you do impacts the eternity of people. When you are esteemed for your work and when you are paid for your work, there is deep blessing released into every household that willingly shares in your support. (That willing heart is THE prerequisite - but that is another book for another day.) You are pouring yourself into the pursuit of bringing the body of Christ into full maturity. This is incredibly valuable. You are actively bettering the entire world, every single day, even when “all you do” are the administrative tasks that your position demands. You have the power to inspire many to follow in your footsteps and seek to serve the church of the living God.
It has become urgent that you draw near to God and hear from Him what His great heart is towards the bride of His son. She is special. In hearing of His heart towards the bride, you will begin to grasp His heart towards you, as under-shepherd. Oh, how He loves you! Oh, how He has your back! Oh, how you have an ability to release favor and blessing into whole regions, families, and individuals!
And you bring things to the work of your hands that no one else can. You have been assigned to teach and serve a local expression of the mystical universal - and your assignment is fitted to you and you are fitted to your assignment. The people in your care need you to show up AS you, and as an ambassador of the glory of God, and as a visual aid of their own corporate pricelessness. You teach them, as only you can, that they are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation that should show forth His praises.
Yours is no small job. Yours is no easy task. Therefore, like all the people of God of old, like the priests of old, you are not to “eat anything dead of itself”. God wants to provide for you specifically and directly. He has a heart of abundance towards you, because you tend to what is so near and dear to Him.
The way the people in your local church treat you, is a reflection of each person’s direct and vital connection to the heartbeat of God. Let that soak in. No one is advising that you become a “Snicker’s Diva” (have you seen the commercial?) - that is absurd. At the same time, you do no one a service if you allow them to treat you at a level below love and respect. The Bible clearly says that it is not good for the health of the soul of the people in your church, when your job is made a burden and not a blessing to you. Each one is advised to make your job a joy. You aren’t loving them well when you do not demonstrate what that means.
The church is God’s plan A. She is the body through which clear answers and hope and creative love and solutions are birthed into the earth. She is bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh, because the Spirit of God dwells in her corporate expression. You continually offer her the story of her heritage. You continually offer her the building up of herself in the faith. You continually remind her who she is, you daily beautify her with your God-given tools and skillset. Without your tender care, she would flounder, not flourish, because God has set it in place that she be brought to health and maturity through those 5 callings of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. She will grow into her greatest glory only by your blood, sweat, tears, and words. Yours is a high and holy calling.
I write through my tears. How the Lord loves His people and those who carefully (and care - fully…it is a job that is full of difficulties and cares) tend them.
I’m so excited to share that I am currently hard at work on my third online class - a class dedicated to the idea of combining poetry (both the reading and the writing) with painting.
This has long been a subject near and dear to my heart. (On my Instagram, check out the hashtag #poetryandpaintinggotogether ).
Why have I felt so full of this topic, combining poetry with painting, for so long? Mostly, because a full 1/3 of the Bible was written as poetry. This tells me that not only is God the original artist…He is also the original poet. In fact, He may have been a poet before He was artist - at least where it concerns you and me. Because before there was anything - there was His word.
Then, there is the fact that the largest, longest book in Scripture, the book of Psalms, was written by a man who many politely call a “warrior-poet”. King David, the man after God’s own heart. Well. Pardon me please, but I can’t think of a better description of David, other than “the man after God’s own heart”, than “badass poet”.
Last but not least, I have been overjoyed to discover that…y’all….poets walk among us! They look like your daughter or your pastor or your neighbor - but, deep inside, many are also “Bad Ass Poets”. They pick up poetry as a weapon to force big emotions to surrender. They bring those big emotions, with their words, into a space where those otherwise overwhelming feelings are made subservient to the poet’s passion for God.
I will be sure to come back and let you know both how things are progressing and when the class launches. I will be launching it inside the creative network of my one of my dearest friends Jeanne Oliver’s creative network. In the meantime, I covet your prayers, because this is hard work. I write, film, do all the art, and then edit and upload everything for each and every class. I have no help at this time. The workflow is enormous. (I’ve been in preliminary discussions with a video production company. I dream of using Sherwood Media someday, when I am ready to launch classes on this website. Check them out!)
This is the largest abstract painting I’ve completed to date. It was inspired by the poem by Robert Frost called “Nothing Gold Can Stay”.
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day,
Nothing gold can stay.
My interpretation of the poem is different from most. Here in East Tennessee, spring is days away. March 1st marks the first day of meteorological spring, and March 21st is the official start of the season.
The color of the earliest leaves of spring! It’s a delicate, incandescent green, and when the sun hits it just right, it can even take on a golden yellow hue.
That very, very first spring green is unlike any other! It is as rare as gold - as hard to come by as earth’s most valuable metal. Truly, gold is nature’s - and people’s - hardest “hue” to hold, literally and figuratively. Riches do sprout wings and fly away. Spring golden-green grows deeper and different by the day. It disappears.
As bittersweet as they are, I see in these words a celebration of sorts. There is no celebration without appreciation, and there is no appreciation without a clear sense that the most beautiful things are also the most rare and transient.
Here is where my interpretation of the poem differs from most: “Eden sank to grief”, that’s true. Yet I know for sure that Eden will be restored. Eternity stretches forward far more than an hour. Today at age 52, and then at 62 and 82, I will have no less days ahead of me than when I first began.
All that matters most to you and I will, because of the grace of God, always be ours to have and to hold.
Nothing gold can stay. But it also can’t stay gone forever.
This piece is available here
In my 22-year-long home education career, I utilized “the box” many times to teach grammar.
Who remembers parts of speech, prepositions, and “the box”? Prepositions are easily taught, when you think of them in relation to “the box”.
in the box
beside the box
above the box
In a nutshell, if a word could theoretically be in relation to a box, that word is almost certainly a preposition. Now, let me shift gears a little bit. (Okay, okay…I just lied. Let me give you a mental “hard right, with pedal-to-the-floor acceleration, Tom Cruise style. Hold on to your butt:)
“Bad theology is like pornography - the imagination of a real relationship without the risk of one. It tends to be transactional and propositional rather than relational and mysterious.” ~Paul Young
Wasn’t that exhilarating?! Or are you scared? No matter, you are along for this ride!
If bad theology is transactional and propositional, I wonder if good theology is relational and prepositional?
/ˌpräpəˈziSH(ə)nl/ (adjective): of or relating to an idea, suggestion or plan.
Propositional is cerebral. To be “propositional” is to think lofty thoughts with no direct experience. It is to be up in your head about God - whether that be your thoughts on His majesty, His holiness, His grace, His Fatherhood. (Hint: I can call Him “Papa” and still be every bit cerebral. For all the relational connotation, it can still be propositional. How do I know this? Because I call Him Papa…yet I am still often insecure.)
Prepositional is my own made-up word. Prepositional involves a box…getting outside the box of limitation, getting beyond the realm of our logic and understanding (not leaving it behind, but going deeper) and embracing the adventure that is an untamed, all-five-senses-engaged experiential relationship to Very God. Here are the top 5 prepositions in English Grammar:
OF: “expressing the relationship between a part and a whole”.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation…” ~2 Cor. 5:18
2. IN: “within an area”
For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. ~Colossians 3:3
3. TO: “in the direction of”
Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are! ~ 1 John 3:1
4. FOR: “what is intended”
For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. ~Romans 11:36
5. WITH: “having or possessing or accompanied by”
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. ~Word of Jesus, Matthew 28:20
Here’s a few more prepositions that preach:
God above me.
God beneath me. “Underneath are the everlasting arms…”
God before me.
God behind me.
God upon me. “As I began to speak," Peter continued, "the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as he fell on us at the beginning!”
Prepositional theology is mind-blowing, and the un-boxing experience is unlike any other. Un-boxing God is the stuff of big, big stories. Prepositions are good theology, when we allow our heart to come into first-hand experience of the person of God.
There is only one preposition that will never, ever apply:
God against me.
*as of this writing, the art featured in this post is still available here