Prepared to provide
by Bishop Daryl Clark
Imagine yourself in a medical trauma situation. You are in the emergency room, in a bed, in desperate need of medical attention, and your healthcare providers have neither the training, expertise, skills, nor the education needed to help you. It’s a life or death situation and the persons you depend upon to bring life to your critical condition are not prepared to provide it for you. In an act of desperation, the physician in charge breaks open the defibrillator, charges up the paddles, yells the word “clear”, and send volts of electricity through your body. He nor she not having properly diagnosed your situation, nor being qualified to operate the machinery, but in a desperate act to evoke some kind of reaction from you that would indicate your situation has made a turn, they do the only thing they know to do. Think about this for a moment: people come to our churches every Sunday in spiritual critical conditions, and what do we do as pastors and providers of spiritual care? How much training and expertise do we have to apply to their situations? Are we using the Bible only as spiritual defibrillators hoping to evoke a reaction from our patients that would indicate they have been touched, but the issues still remain? No, we are not God, and we do not posses the power to heal or change people. While Christ is the great physician and healer, we are medical staff, nurses, nutritionists, cooks, and servers. Heeding the instruction from the great physician, our skills and training (with the help of the Holy Spirit) allows us to properly diagnose/discern spiritual conditions, administer the proper medications, and put congregants on the right path to good spiritual health. I do believe that God has entrusted us to be spiritual care providers in His kingdom.
As pastors/providers we should avoid trying to always give an emotional jolt to our churches on Sunday mornings and concentrate on feeding our people with sustainable foods that will help them mature in Christ. I believe that God has called us to help our churches to move beyond resuscitation to full recovery, and in so doing, we are charged to properly feed our people. We need to remember that people are what people eat, and spiritually healthy foods lead to a spiritually healthy lifestyle. Proper diet is key to good health, maturity, and growth in the body. If the pastor/provider is not well-equipped and educated in properly selecting and preparing food to serve to his or her congregation, then what are they feeding them?
Pastors are long-term caregivers who painstakingly see to their patient’s needs, and are always ready to administer the proper care, comfort, foods, medicines, companionship; any and every thing that leads congregants to a path of spiritual independence, maturity and good health. The health of the local church depends heavily on the preparedness and skillset of the pastor. Continuing education is paramount to the pastor’s ongoing growth, maturation, and success.
As pastors/providers, we have to prepare ourselves to be excellent providers of the word of God - skillful surgeons and samurais with the sword of the spirit. We must strive to be thorough expositors, articulate orators, and skillful students of God’s word. Yet we are charged to be humble servants, model kingdom citizens, and living examples of the word we preach and teach. Paul tells Timothy that he must remain instant (ready and prepared), in season and out of season (whether it is convenient or not), reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction. How do we do this? Prayer, preparation, and practice.
Paul also tells Timothy that he is to study. “Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately. (2 Timothy 2:15, NET). In order to accurately teach the message of truth, we have to study. We have to be tenacious in our pursuit of uncovering truth, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us, but also doing our part in seeking out what that truth is with a spirit of excellence. Before we stand in front of our congregations to preach and teach the word of God, we must stand before the giver of the word. From consecration to preparation, and then presentation. Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord.
The continuing education of the spiritual care provider is vital to every context of our ministries. Even on our secular jobs we are required to do trainings, take refresher courses, and learn new skills in an effort to upgrade and enlarge our contexts or fields. This same approach is so desperately needed in our churches today. Trust me, our churches will be stronger, healthier, and better because you, the provider, are stronger, healthier, and better. This should not be viewed as a burden or a mandate, but a wonderful opportunity to serve our people better, and help our churches develop, mature, and grow. I know that as pastors we are perhaps some of the busiest and committed people in the world. We are stretched and pressed on every side, and none of us “need” another thing to do. But we have to see our ministries as callings and not careers. We are disciples; life-long learners in pursuit of a Holy God. We have families, we have jobs, we have issues, but we also recognize that there are lives hanging in the balance and souls entrusted to our care. I want to be a better spiritual care provider, and I want to be in a better position to help others. I want my patients in tip-top shape so they can bless others to do the same. Acts 6:4. says, “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." Our people deserve this, we need this, and God wants this.