Monday, January 15, 2018

The Manifold Wisdom of God

Next Sunday I start a new job as the part-time, interim pastor of Euroa Baptist Church. It will be my first experience of being a solo pastor. Though I have been a pastor’s wife for 25 years.

This wasn’t the career path I was imagining for myself ten years ago. At that time I was managing a library and loving it. I expected to remain in that type of role for the rest of my working life. But God had other ideas. I was cleaning the house one day when I was struck by a thought. Though ‘struck’ is too mild, smacked, whacked or walloped would be better. It came completely out of the blue with great force, and it was, “You’re going to be a pastor.”

I didn’t initially realize that this was from God and I was about to burst into hysterical laughter, because I thought the idea was so unlikely and so ridiculous. But the next thought that popped into my head was, “Remember Sarah.” I remembered that Sarah laughed when God told her she was going to have a baby and God wasn’t pleased. So I didn’t laugh.

It took a while for me to get my head around the idea of being a pastor. I had started some theological studies 12 months previously to obtain a diploma, now it seemed like a good idea to continue. Four years later I had a degree in Christian ministry. Even then, going into pastoral ministry seemed unlikely. We had lived mostly in rural towns and generally these churches didn’t encourage women to preach.

Then about 18 months ago, my husband and I were asked to be joint interim pastors at Wangaratta. I thought they probably only really wanted my husband and I would just tag along. However, the church gave me lots of opportunities to be involved in pastoral ministry. And so from there, I was asked to take up the role at Euroa by myself.

I was wondering how my writing would fit into this new role. I like to write Christian living material and I have found that I have been able to turn some chapters of my (unpublished) books into sermons. I’m also discovering that I can turn some sermons into chapters of future books, though this is a lot more work. It takes me about 8-10 hours to write a 4,000 word sermon. From a writing perspective, I preach first drafts, because for me to polish a sermon to a publishable standard, would take more time than I can justify, given that I have other responsibilities as a pastor.

It leads me to wonder about all the preachers in small country churches throughout Australia writing sermons every Sunday. Some are producing the equivalent of four books a year for about thirty people. Then I think about all the other unseen Christian writing. People writing Bible studies, children’s material for Kids Church, youth talks, yet they will never be published and may only reach a handful of people.

Why do we do it?

Because God’s plan is to make his manifold wisdom known: “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ephesians 3:10-11).

How do we do that?

We do it, by living by faith. We do things that don’t make sense from a human perspective, like writing book length material for thirty people or less. Living sacrificially, using our resources to help others, devoting our time and energy to our local gathering of believers, worshipping God, learning to adopt godly attitudes.

As we do these things we are announcing to the heavenly realm that we believe these are worthwhile uses of our time and resources. The outworking of our faith makes a powerful statement to the spiritual forces that would oppose us. It’s what the book of Job teaches us, living by faith defeats our spiritual enemies.

It’s a mind-blowing concept.

Mostly we are unaware of what is going on in the heavenly realms. Yet your life and mine are making a statement to rulers and authorities who are watching to see if we live out our calling.

Our goal in life and in writing, is to make known God’s manifold wisdom.

*****

Susan Barnes likes to help people to trust God more deeply, by writing devotional thoughts on Bible passages, book reviews & inspirational articles. She loves to challenge people's thinking and regularly blogs at www.susanbarneswriter.com.

Receive her free ebook, 10 Things My Children Taught Me About God, by signing up for her monthly newsletter via her website.

11 comments:

  1. A great post Susan. Thank you. Love your insight into what we are doing - sharing the manifold wisdom of God. What a wonderful calling to be sure. Writing regular sermons must sure take a huge chunk off your time as you shared. Not easy when you have plenty of other duties as a pastor. Wishing you every blessing on your new vocation and may God use you mightily. Here's hoping you get plenty of books out of those sermons. In the world's scheme of things numbers are everything. In God's scheme it's vastly different I believe. Every person you preach to matters and in heaven you will discover the vast influence you exerted through your faithfulness. Exciting times are ahead for you Susan. May it be your best season yet!

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    1. Thanks Anusha, yes indeed every person matters to God

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  2. Congratulations, Susan. I'm sure you will do a great job. The people of Euroa are lucky to have you!

    I'd never thought of how long it takes to write (prepare?) a sermon. I know it takes me a couple of hours to write a communion message, and those are only a few minutes.

    I often reuse those as blog posts, or repurpose a blog post into a communion message. There are many ways of sharing the Word of God.

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    1. Thanks Iola, I've also become good at repurposing all sorts of material, including different sorts of talks and even bits I've edited out of sermons!

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  3. Wow, Susan--I can relate to your post on so many levels, as I have been a pastor too, as I think you know, both alongside my husband as part of a larger team and then by myself, when he moved on to undertake an intentional interim ministry in another church. In fact, I still consider myself a pastor and I still preach at times. Yes, being a pastor certainly involve lots of writing and those sermons take hours and hours to prepare--or days! But I often think, as I write my personal blog each week now, how similar that is to writing a weekly blurb for the church paper! And there has been so much overlap for me over the years with preparing sermons and writing my non-fiction books, for example. God is amazing the way everything kind of dovetails in our lives, don't you think? But it is all so rewarding, sharing that manifold wisdom you have written about, especially when we are so clearly called to undertake it all, as you obviously have, Susan. So God bless you, as you step out in your own right in this--and I know that clear call from God will keep you going and give you the strength you need. I could write to you for hours about all this, but had better stop!

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    1. Thanks Jo-Anne. I very much enjoyed reading about your experiences as a pastor in your non-fiction books

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  4. You're so right about all the different sorts of writing we do. Imparting the wisdom of God, being a light, inspiring a reader to look further.
    Overall, doing what has been asked of us and giving glory to God. I'm sure God will bless your ministry/writing.

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    1. Thanks Rosanne. It's amazing how God has so many ways to impact people with the written word.

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  5. It never occurred to me about writing a sermon... but boy, when I consider how many times I change something in one of my books, or blogs what you say makes sense.
    All the best :)

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  6. I am so excited that God will be using your gift with words and your ability to understand and share the heart of God, in such a personal, face to face way as pastor of a church. I have sometimes struggled with weighing up whether my time is better used with our small rural congregation in a personal way that reaches few people, or in writing something that can be read by so many more, scattered across the world. But like you (and Jo-Anne) I can see how it all dovetails together and God's answer is that He wants us to do both. Both are equally valuable. I, personally, have been blessed by both your writing and my friendship with you as we relate face to face. May God use you mightily as you make known His manifold wisdom!

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    1. Thanks Jenny I have also been blessed by your friendship and many have been blessed by your face to face ministry, especially those with medical issues. May God continue to use you in this area.

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