My Congregation’s Greatest Need…
Updated: Nov 15
As most of you know, I am an avid reader. I read out of my desperate need to grow, my appetite for learning, and as a discipline that helps me to become more of the man of God I am called to be. When I am reading, I often have a goal with any given book, blog post, article, booklet, or letter I read. Sometimes, the Lord will surprise me, and one sentence in the middle of the story will simply break me. I had one of those experiences a couple of months into serving here as the Pastor at Rozetta Baptist, and I’d like to share it with you.
A Scottish Pastor from the early 1800’s was once asked this question: What is the greatest need of your congregation? Now, this is a question that you could chew on for quite a while and get nowhere. What would you say if someone asked you what the greatest need of Rozetta Baptist was? Take a moment and think about it. Some of our most significant moments of growth and development come when we slow down and take a moment to think about something (especially in our fast food/social media paced day and age).
Now, there are plenty of good answers…you could say that our church's greatest need is the gospel, and you would be right! You could say that Rozetta Baptist's greatest need is sacrificial love for each other that brings unity…and in some ways, you would be right! So, 200 years ago, Robert Murray M’Cheyne (the Scottish pastor) was asked the same question. What do you think his response was?
Robert Murray M’Cheyne said, “The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.” Now, let that sink in for a moment. This man of God could have said anything; there are so many “good” answers. How on earth did he get to this answer? Why?
As I considered this short sentence, these ten words from 200 years ago, I began to cry. I looked at my life and found myself broken. If my people’s greatest need was my own personal holiness…from my viewpoint, they were about as well off as a man white water rafting with no paddle, a deflated lifejacket, and a helmet made of putty. As I sat there in my own pitifulness, I was then able to take this thought and expand it to include my family. Now I was really sunk. The greatest need of my family…my dear wife and our precious children, their greatest need was my personal holiness. Do you know how often I fail? Do you know how often I am short, harsh, selfish, and prideful?
At this point, I began to attempt to preach the gospel to myself, but the sanctifying waters of this suffering were not done with me just yet. I began to replay the moments in my mind. The proof that every time I, as the leader of my home, fell short, my entire family was impacted. Sin is a cancerous poison that is more infectious than the common cold, but this effect is exacerbated when it is the sin of leaders. What an awesome responsibility…what a fearful mantle has been placed on men's shoulders. Men are to be the heads of households, the leaders of the home. Men are to be the elders and pastors, the leaders of the church. Knowing how grievously our sin affects the sheep God has placed in our care is an immense weight. God has placed this weight directly on man's shoulders because He was made to carry that Cross (through the power of Christ). The woman has a similar Cross to bear, but we will discuss that in a different blog.
Now, for the good news. My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness. This should motivate me to say no to my sin, flee temptation, resist the devil, and live my life abandoned to Christ. Yet, I am able to rest even amid this crushing weight when I remind myself, like Paul…
10 But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
1 Corinthians 15:10
It is only by God’s grace that I have any holiness that I understand any aspect of His Word that I can ever say anything worthwhile or do anything useful. So when I fail and fall short, I remind myself that I am only as holy as God has graced me to be in this moment. My job is not to beat myself up in self-righteousness or self-pity. Instead, I am to see my failures, accept my failures, and choose to repent and believe the Gospel again. That’s it. From there, I follow Paul’s example and say if God has brought me this far, I will work harder than anyone else to kill the sin in my life, to be a man of integrity, to be the man my children, my wife, my family, and friends need me to be. I will be a man who can say:
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1
May God grace me to be a holy, humble, and wise man for His glory…and as He takes the broken mess of my life and, degree by degree, transforms me into the man I want to be…I promise to bring other men along with me, and I pray that they will bring their families and raise other men to do the same. If you wanted a mission statement for our church, it would be this:
28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this, I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
Grace and Peace,