A perusal of news stories will quickly tell us that our clergy and laity live in challenging days. We need to be aware of the very real angst that Americans and Canadians are experiencing in these days.
In the U.S. last year, there was a decline in average life expectancy for the first time in decades. There was an increase in suicide and drug overdoses. The statistic of 2.8 million deaths reported was an increase of almost 70,000 over the previous year. Dr. William Dietz, a disease prevention expert at George Washington University, said, “I really do believe that people are increasingly hopeless, and that leads to drug use and potentially to suicide.” The suicide rate is the highest it has been in 50 years.
Even popular song lyrics reflect this hopelessness. USA Today (December 27, 2018 edition) reported that, according to a study done by Lawrence Technical in Michigan, popular song lyrics have gotten “angrier and sadder” over the last 60 years.
If Jesus were serving as a pastor in the USA and Canada today, how would He deal with this? I believe He would do exactly what He did when He walked the earth two millennia ago: He would weep and pray over His people, and He would invite them into relationship.
We see Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. We also see Him weeping over the loss of His dear friend Lazarus. The pain of both the city and of individuals broke His heart. Pastor, have you found yourself at the altar recently interceding for your people and your city? Effecting ministry in this culture begins at the altar, representing them to the Father.
We see Jesus tenderly inviting people to walk with Him in relationship: “Come . . . Follow me,” He said. The way Jesus dealt with people was to live closely with them, so that over time they could discover that He truly was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Pastor, have you found yourself being more isolated from people lately? Perhaps your own pain and disappointment have caused you to back away. Please, pastor, rush back to the altar and ask the Father to heal your own heart, so that you can share your heart with the people in the pews and the people outside your church doors.
In response to this issue of Grace & Peace about relationships, an important question might be: How are your relationships?