A number of years ago I was sitting around a dinner table enjoying a wonderful meal with a number of pastors. One of the topics of conversation that came up that night centered around the question, “Why do you do what you do?” It’s a great question, and one I gave some consideration to. Over the next few weeks I wrote down 10 things that answer that question for me. Here’s my list:
1. God has called and gifted me to be a pastor
I have no doubt about God’s call on my life. It stems from a passion ever since I gave my life to Jesus in my late teens and early twenties. I’d always wanted to go to Bible college, but an experience I had one Saturday evening in 1984 was the real clincher. I was at home reading my Bible (I read the Bible every year in those days) and I was up to Ezekiel 34 in which God speaks of true and false shepherds. I was so moved by what I read that I started to intercede and weep before the Lord asking Him to raise up more ‘true shepherds’ in His church. Shortly after this we had a wonderful old Welshman visit our church. He was 83 and had been saved during the Welsh revival. He’d been a pastor all his life and was now travelling and teaching the Word. He prophesied over me that God was calling me to be a shepherd to His people and encouraged me to train in a Bible college (which I did from 1985 to 1987). I have no doubt that God has called and gifted me to be a pastor. I know that’s why I’m on the planet. I was born for this!
2. A number of prophecies over the years have confirmed this direction for my life
Edwin Thomas hasn’t been the only person to confirm God’s call through the gift of prophecy. I’ve been encouraged by this gift on many occasions – and often when I’ve faced tough times and wanted to quit. Before we pioneered Bayside Church in 1992 we received five prophecies from independent sources confirming that this was the right thing to do and the right time to do it. In 1 Tim 1:18 the apostle Paul writes, “Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight …”
3. My spiritual mentors and peers confirm the calling of God on my life
That is, the significant people in my world say, “yes” to God’s call on my life. They recognise that my destiny as a Christian is to serve as a pastor and teacher in the Body of Christ. People don’t ask me “why are you doing this!”
4. The members of Bayside Church are relying on me and have placed their trust in me. I would never want to let them down
I am gripped by the responsibility and sacred duty God has given me to lead our church as well as to be a voice for the Gospel on radio, television, online and in the broader community. The apostle Paul reflected this charge to the leaders of the Ephesian church, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). The apostle James speaks of a “stricter judgment” awaiting those who teach God’s Word. Not only will we have to give an account of our own lives we will also give God an account of what and how we’ve taught others (James 3:1). This is serious and sobering.
5. The future members of our church are on the other side of my obedience
Christie and I have been leading Bayside Church for almost 24 years. During this time many people have come to faith in Jesus and had their lives changed and transformed. The world is a better place because of our church community; but what about all the people who will experience these things in the future? They are on the other side of my obedience. Part of the vision of our church is that the community would miss us if we weren’t here. I hope that’s increasingly true!
6. I really love what I do (most of the time J)
Like anyone I have my moments – tough times when I’m tempted to quit and walk away. But I’m not quitter and I’ve proven that over many years. For the vast majority of the time I really love what I do. I love people, I love seeing the power of the Gospel change lives, I love teaching God’s amazing Word, I love the impact of the power of God to transform people, I love being a sane, rational and hopefully different voice for the Christian faith in the media and online, I love seeing people helped out of poverty and addiction, I love changing people’s preconceived ideas of what a Minister is like, and I love helping people see that church has changed. The apostle Peter put it this way, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing …” (1 Peter 5:2).
7. My partner in marriage and in life is equally called to this ministry
I am so thankful for Christie. She and I have been married for 21 years and, during this time, we’ve served God together by leading Bayside Church. The Psalmist wrote, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity … For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore” (Psalm 133). This truth can be applied in many ways but it works particularly well in a marriage relationship. Unity between a husband and wife is powerful and God commands His blessing. I’ve heard it said that real love is not just looking into the eyes of another person, it’s when both of you are looking in the same direction. We’ve certainly found that to be true.
8. The people God has given us on our leadership team and in our church community make my work enjoyable (most of the time)
While we’ve certainly had our fair share of difficult, abrasive and gossipy people over the years, all up we continue to blessed with an amazing community who love God, love each other, love their neighbor AND love us. They are putting into practice what the writer to the Hebrew Christians said, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you” (13:17). I am very grateful for the people who make our work a joy, not a burden!
9. Fruitfulness and success follows what I am doing
2015 marks the 30th year I’ve been in pastoral ministry. I’ve certainly made my fair share of mistakes over the years, but all in all I sense the smile of God on my life and on my labours. Jesus continues to grow Bayside Church and the influence of the gospel throughout Bayside Melbourne and beyond.
10. I am forever grateful for what God has done for me
Jesus taught those who have been forgiven much; love much (Luke 7:47). With my background in drug and alcohol abuse, new age religion, occult and so much more, I am deeply aware of being abundantly forgiven by Jesus. I am forever grateful and one of the results of my gratitude is a desire to dedicate my life to Him and to His people.
It’s important to know why we do what we do – especially when we feel like giving up or going astray. I’d encourage you to spend some time thinking through why you do what you do, make a list and read it regularly. It’ll keep you on track.