Harold Bullock: We recently celebrated our 41st anniversary. Many years ago my wife and I started the church, and this year it seemed like God was saying that this should be the year of transition for me to move out of the senior leadership. I explained about that. This is going to be an exciting year. For that many years, I’ve led Hope church; we started it, my wife and I, long ago, 1978. We’ll be in process of finding a new senior pastor, and we have a process for that. I talked about that at the anniversary, so it’ll be an exciting time. One of the questions that I’d like to answer for you that you may not be asking but I’m going to answer anyway is “Exactly what is a pastor’s role?” I have been the senior pastor at Hope for 41 years, so obviously a pastor’s role is what Pastor Harold does. Right? Whatever that is. As we move into finding a new senior pastor, I want to share some things out of Scripture each week, just a brief vignette, of what the Bible says about pastors. There’s actually a very high standard for them. I think you’ll enjoy finding out.
Today just briefly, what is a pastor’s role? What is their fundamental role? Not what are all the things they do, but what’s the basic role? There’s a verse in the Bible that captures this. It’s 1 Peter 5:1-3. Peter was a leader among the early disciples and a leader in the early church. He writes this letter to a church, and he says, “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder...Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers...not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” Pastoral leaders are required to set the example and lead by example. We don’t bully people; we don’t act like little tin gods. We’re going to talk more about that in the future, future days, but the key thing that I wanted to look at here is key terms. Peter says he is an elder, and he is addressing the elders, appealing to them. Then he tells them to be shepherds of God’s flock and then be overseers. Some translations will translate that as “bishops.” It’s the same word in the Greek language the New Testament was written in. These three in the Bible are on the same level. That’s why he write this; he says this. This appears in other verses, as well.
I’d like to just take a quick look at what they mean. Elder--Top level leadership are called elders in the church. The word literally in the Greek language, first century Greek that the New Testament was written in, it literally means “senior.” It’s talking about a leader with mature spiritual experience. Pastors are to be elders in the sense of they have some mature experience with the Lord. In the society of the time, an elder would probably be 40 years old or older. Timothy--the book was written to Timothy by Paul in the New Testament. Timothy had been sent to help a church get straightened out. They had been having a lot of problems, and Timothy started having a lot of problems because he’s probably about 34 or 35 years old. People are not taking him seriously because he’s not 40 yet, so Paul addresses that in his letter to him. It doesn’t mean you have to be 40; that’s not what the verse says. But, you do need to have a mature experience with the Lord, because you’re going to be leading people into God’s ways and into walking with Him. And you need to have some experience with this. You shouldn’t be a newbie or just immature.
Shepherd--literally, a shepherd leads and feeds and cares for a flock. We tend to have ideas today that shepherds are sort of like the guys who hold the sheep and pet them. We’ve seen pictures of Jesus, maybe like that. If you’ve smelled sheep, you know that would not be a pleasant job. Shepherds actually don’t pet the sheep; shepherds lead them and make sure that they’re fed, taken care of. Then, if they’re hurt, healed up. They care for the flock. The word actually is a synonym for supervisor. In the Bible you find that very often the heads of nations are called shepherds of the nation. They are supervisory leaders just like the shepherd supervised the sheep flock.
Another, overseer, or bishop, is someone who looks over our work. If you make someone the overseer of a project, then they’re responsible for that project. It’s a word of responsibility. An overseer evaluates what’s going on and then makes adjustments in it. They direct things. So a pastor is to be someone who has a mature spiritual experience; that experience is going to have to be brought to bear on situations. It doesn’t have to be old, but their experience with God needs to be mature. Then someone who leads--leads, feeds and cares for--and directs. Someone who makes adjustments, guides things. That’s their fundamental role. We’re going to talk more about more specifics about what they do in the future.
As we’re looking for a pastor, we have team that will be doing that; we’ll be appointing them soon. As we’re looking for a pastor, we’re looking this direction, not just simply for a preacher nor for a great vocalist or a great preacher vocalist but someone who can lead us forward and make sure that the flock is well taken care of. We’re going to be led forward in a certain direction, and the direction really is pictured up here on this frame. We’ve talked about this frame before. God has given us a picture of where we’re heading. It’s where we’ve been going long-term. Now we’ll be talking about that later in this message series.
Around the direction God has for us is a frame of just who we are. He’s led us; we’re a certain group, a certain kind of church, and we have certain things that are important to us. That’s what’s represented by the picture frame here. The picture would be of where we’re headed. We’re not really headed to that destination; we’ll show you where that is, where we’re going, later. On this side, there’s a mission the Lord has given us. Then on this side, values--things that are important to us and guide the way we make decisions. On the bottom, a basic strategy that we use in seeing our work move forward, and then on the top, measures--the indicators of how we’re successful. How do we know we’re successful? We’re going to be talking about these in this message series.
Today we’re going to be talking about mission, but that frame guides us as we move into where we’re going. It’s about who we are. In 1978, this is a picture from a worship service after we started. This will give you some idea. It’s a little bit vague because it’s an older picture. You can’t quite see how handsome I used to be, but you get a good idea of the young congregation as we started out. We began in 1978. Why did we do this? Did we do it for the money? I had been a chemist and made pretty good money. But this paid, whenever we started, paid us a little less than $600 a week in today’s terms, so it’s not exactly the money. Not for fame--we didn’t do it for fame. The gang that gathered didn’t do it for fame. We didn’t do it for convenience. Actually this was very inconvenient because every week we had to pack up stuff and carry it to the place where we met, set it up, and then break it all down and take it back. It was very inconvenient. We didn’t do it because we couldn’t think of anything else. Actually, I can think of a lot of things, but there was something that motivated this.
It has motivated us through the years, and here it is. It was our purpose. This has been Hope’s purpose through the years--to know, love, and glorify God. To know Him as a person--He is a person. Love Him as a person, and then to honor Him by the way that we handle ourselves and be used by Him to help unchurched people become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ and to help start other ministries that do the same. This has guided us through the years; it has been our fundamental mission statement, our basic purpose. As we’re trying to clarify who are and move into the future, this stays in front of us like a guiding star, but there is a mission that we’re going after.
There are some things that characterize us uniquely as a church, and our approach to carrying out that broad purpose is something that’s characteristic of us. Churches--there are a lot of different kinds of churches; they have different backgrounds, different experiences, different strengths. They tend to have different angles on trying to know God and to carry out His will. For us, here’s our mission statement. Exactly, and this is the big thing...what exactly is it you could say we’re trying to do? Here it is; we’re inviting people to discover and experience God’s ways. That has been the way we’ve approached things through the years. Now I’d like to unpack this for us.
If you’d like to get more background on the vision frame, you can check out our podcast of the message last week. It would give you some help. First of all, inviting people; I’m going to walk through the mission phrase by phrase. “Inviting people”--God actually loves people. If you sort of watch the flavor of TV and the movies now, a lot of the media, you don’t draw that conclusion. But He does; He actually cares for people deeply. The Bible says this, “God so loved the world that He gave His only and unique Son…” He so loved the world...this is not talking about the world as the mountains or the oceans. This is talking about the world that is people. He gave His unique Son for these people “...so that everyone who trusts in His name may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed.” That statement’s from The Complete Jewish Bible. God loves people, and love motivated Him to act for us.
People are important to God, and they’re important to us. We care about people, and we want to invite them. The attitude of Scripture...there are commands for sure in the Bible. There are points where God says, “You need to get it straight.” But the attitude of God and the ministry of Jesus Christ is an invitation. He invites again and again and again. He teaches; He invites. He teaches; He invites. At one point He says, “Come to me if you’re tired and just heavily burdened. Come to me, and I’ll give you rest. Take my yoke upon you; start following. My yoke is easy. It’s not something that will wear you out; it’ll actually bring you life.” God cares, and He invites. He doesn’t push you. He invites, so we want to be a people who invite.
By inviting, we create opportunities. If you’re going to have dinner at your house, you’d get food ready. If you’re inviting people over for dinner, you’d not only get food ready; you might make some phone calls, send some emails or texts. You would ask them, “Would you come?” So as a congregation, what we do is we try to create opportunities for people to be a part and then request their participation. We ask them to come. We actually want to make it as easy as possible for you to invite people to things that we are doing, so we’ve prepared a simple invite card. You can’t see this very well, but these will be available for you as you leave. It’s just two-sided, very attractive. It gives where they can look us up online. It gives where we’re located, and it tells what benefits our ministry might have for them. It’s easy for you to use as an invitation. Also, we have some events planned that you could easily invite people to...fun, easy invites.
Things that are coming up; the weekend of September 20-21, we’re hosting a set of parenting seminars, and they’re covering everything from newborn kids all the way through to empty nesters and actually to helping aging parents. There’ll be a seminar on that. It’s not one long seminar. It’s a set of seminars that focus on different groups of kids and different family situations. It’s an easy invite. Dr. Nathan Lewis is going to be leading those. Many of you know Nathan; a lot of you do not. Nathan, many years ago, was a part of Hope; he’s the head of psychology at California Baptist University and the head of training family therapists. He has trained state-certified family therapists in California for about 30 years now. He’s married, a dad himself, has grandkids now. You’ll find him really, really helpful and practical and entertaining, so invite. More details are coming, but you can start inviting people now...September 20-21.
Then on the 21st, we’re also doing the Trash Bash. It’s an event where you can come and help the community serve. Every so often the city puts out an invitation to come and clean the banks of the Trinity River. We’re hosting that, so we will have large bags of trash on the property for just a bit. They will gather here, and then set out to clean. You are welcome to be a part of that and invite people to come with you, people who want to volunteer for the community and then also meet other folks in the community. That’s the 21st.
Then October 5th we’re doing a fall festival at the Dunham Farm. It’s for...you’ll enjoy it. If you’re familiar with the Mainstay Farm further south, they have a lot of activities, and this will be similar and provide a way to invite people to enjoy the day, have a day of fun, and meet other people from Hope. I mentioned at our 41st anniversary that what we’re doing this year is focusing on inviting others and strengthening families, so these events are planned to help you with both of those things. We’d like to help you do both in the coming weeks. Inviting people. You don’t have to hit them over the head with a Bible. You don’t have to preach at them. All you have to do is care and invite. Invite them. Invite them to discover and experience God’s ways.
Discover--when you discover something, you realize the unknown. You didn’t know that was here or you didn’t know that was true or you had no idea that circumstances were like this. You just, you didn’t know. Romans 10:14 asks about Christ, “...how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him?” You can’t believe in what you don’t know. You can’t follow ways that you don’t know about. As our society drifts further and further from its Christian roots...and it did have Christian roots...it knows less and less about just what is true. There actually is Truth. People will say, “Well, I have my truth; you have your truth.” That actually is a statement of truth. People will say, “Well, there is no absolute Truth.” That is the absolute truth that there is no absolute Truth. They’re contradicting themselves. There is Truth. You can argue about what it is, but there is Truth. People have just sort of lost it.
What’s helpful? We’re in a society now where you can sort of do whatever you want to. All ways are open to us, but it turns out not everything is helpful. Some ways that people choose really hurt them; it doesn’t show up immediately, but in two or three years it really will. Medically or emotionally we just are sort of losing what is helpful.
Who God is. There’s all kinds of ideas about God, and it seems like they just all ought to be the same but God thinks He is a certain Person. We’ve just sort of forgotten. Then, how life works. Life actually works certain ways; it works really well a very few ways. All kinds of people have their ideas about how life works, and it seems like we ought to be able to do anything we want to, but if you want to be happy, that’s not necessarily true. We’d love to help people discover good things related to Christ and His ways. Discover, not just hammer them with things, but help them discover it.
Experience--to experience is to participate in something. One of the verses I really like in the Bible is “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Taste--taste is an experience. You don’t just look and see the Lord is good; you taste and see. Actually as you start moving into His ways of doing things, you begin to experience His reality and you begin to experience the kinds of things the Bible says happen for a person. But it’s as you participate; it’s not enough to know good things about God. The good things about God are actually confirmed by experience. The taste...yep, that’s good. The blessing comes only to the ones that implement the ways of God, not just to the ones who know them. So, we’d love to have people discover God’s ways and begin to experience them. We’d love to help with that.
Then, that issue of God’s ways--what exactly are God’s ways? Well, the term is used in the Bible to cover different ideas. One of them is the way God acts, His patterns for acting. Here’s a verse: “The Lord is faithful to all his promises and faithful toward all he has made.” He’s always going to keep His promises; that’s one of the ways He acts. He’s always loving toward what He’s made. He’s always going to act from this angle. Now that doesn’t mean He puts up with everything because there are some other things true about His ways, but this is always His angle. So, His ways, the way He acts...we, ourselves...I don’t know about you, but I have trouble with faithfulness. I have to work on it and loving. It’s easy to have the idea of loving, but boy, you get in traffic. It’s hard to hang onto it, but for God, no.
God’s ways are also His instructions to us. He’s told us how to walk with Him. There’s a way that you walk with Him. And He’s told us how to make life work. There are a lot of things He says about how life should be handled, and as you handle things that way, it works. He’s also told us about things that will damage us, and if you dabble in them, you get the damage. You damage not only yourself but maybe those dear to you. His ways are...choose for His instructions...His ways are also very different from ours. That was a surprise to me. I had a church background, but as a young adult, I began to actually get into the Bible and study it for myself. And I began to find things were different. I didn’t know the Bible said these things, so they were just different from what I thought.
I think you want to be happy? Don’t you? Yeah, I do. I’ve never met anyone who said, “My goal in life is to be sad and miserable.” We all want to be happy; what we do in life we think is going to take us there. That’s why we do it. In this situation we do whatever because we think that’s going to be best for us in handling the situation. We’d like to be happy, and we have ways of handling life we think will get us there. Those ways grow out of our individual personalities, maybe our personal history, our backgrounds; especially they grow out of what our friends think and what the media says. But we come up with our way of handling whatever, and we think it’s going to get us what we want. We have ways of meeting challenges, ways of solving problems that crop up, and we think we’ll get what we want and we’ll deal with things.
We all have internal struggles. You probably had several this week, right? Yeah, that’s just us; we’re human beings. We have internal struggles, but we all have an issue with authority. We don’t mind authority as long as it’s ours. Whenever we have to work under it, that’s something else. We have to deal with it on jobs; we have to deal with the government, in the home, in schools. It’s a struggle, but we come up with a way, our way, of handling it. Dealing with people--it may be dating, maybe dealing with your spouse or your kids or your extended family, your apartment mates, ways of dealing with friends, co-workers, and then of course, ways of dealing with bothersome people. There are several of those. We have our way of just handling life and moving through the week.
We have our way of making decisions...big ones and small ones. I don’t know what yours is, but you have one. You’ve made a lot of decisions. We have a way of managing our mouth; we usually don’t think about it. The thing just sort of runs in the path we’ve established for it. We have our way of speaking and talking and sometimes it gets us in a lot of trouble.
Money--we have our way of handling money. Some of us may one pattern; others have a very different one, but we...the reason why we handle money like we do is because we think...just like the way we say the words we do...we think it’ll get us what we want. Somehow it will move us closer to happiness. Then we all run into sudden problems. They just crop up, and they can blow you away. Maybe you’re used to handling them, have some way of dealing with them whenever suddenly trouble comes out of the ground. Some of us wig out and run; others get mad. Others throw things; others collapse in a heap on the floor. We have our ways. We come up with them, and they seem reasonable to us. So it seems like God would agree with us, just because He’s reasonable like us. What I discovered in the Bible was, when I was a young adult, these verses: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Hmmm…”as the heavens are higher than the earth”...The word thoughts you can actually translate “plans.” That’s the kind of thoughts it is; thoughts about what I’m going to do. Some translations of the Bible will use the word, plans. “My ways” are really God’s methods; the word means God’s methods for moving forward and succeeding. His methods are different; His plans are different. His methods are different from mine. How different? Well, I thought I would just take sort of my highest ideals and sort of push them on up to really high, and that would be what God thought. But what the verse says is I’ve got my ideas; He’s got His ideas, and there’s this huge gap between the two. How high are the heavens above the earth?
Let me show you a picture. This is a mountain/lake scene. You can see the lake. Look up at that sky. How high are the heavens above the earth there? Hmmm...How far do you think? Pretty high, right? Let me show you another picture. We’re going to take the lights way down for this one. My friends, this also is the heavens. How high is this above the earth? More than pretty high. Let’s bring the lights back up. I want you to see this because, you see, you discover God’s ways not by looking inside your head but by checking what He has said. It’s those ways that lead to good. God’s plans are higher than mine. His methods for succeeding are just above me, but He’s willing to share them with me.
God’s ways start with trusting Christ; this is the beginning. Jesus Christ is a real person; He’s alive and well. You decide you’re going to actually trust Him to take care of you while you do what He says. You begin to move forward with Him. It begins with Him, but God’s ways also fit reality. Reality works like God says because He’s still running it. He runs it very subtly, and it’s not immediately obvious what He’s doing, but He’s in charge. His ways always fit into how He manages things. They just fit. A lot of my ways...well, I have been tricked. I don’t know about you, but there have been several times I’ve been tricked. Actually, a lot of people start out on ways that seem like they are going to be great, and they don’t end up like that. It’s one thing to be successful; it is another thing to be happy. It’s one thing to have all kinds of money; it’s another thing to be happy. It’s one thing to have your dreams come true; it’s another thing to be happy.
A couple years ago, we had major celebrities commit suicide. A top chef in his 60’s, brilliant guy, committed suicide. A lady in her mid-50’s developed fabulous clothing lines finally committed suicide. Robin Williams awhile back, brilliant guy, funny, he commits suicide. Why? He sort of had it all in a way, but it’s one thing to have it all; it’s another thing to be happy. The ways of God lead to a kind of whole happiness, and they lead to well-being. Deuteronomy 5:29 says this; this is God talking. Right now His people are obeying Him, but He says, “Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always…” Why? So that I could feel real good about it? No. “...so that it might go well with them and their children forever!” He cares about people, and if you walk in His ways, things go better for you. His ways lead to well-being; they don’t lead to a trouble-free life because this is a broken world and actually we’re a broken people. Trouble’s just going to be a part of life, but they lead to well-being even at the cost of things we really want. They lead to well-being even at the cost of great difficulty. They lead to well-being even amid trouble...hard to believe.
You need to understand what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that if you decide to do what Jesus wants you get all the good stuff because what tends to come out of that is people decide they’re going to use Jesus to get all the good stuff. He refuses to be used. If that’s someone’s approach--they’re going to try to use God to get the good stuff--they usually don’t. God refuses to be used, but if you actually decide God will be first above all in your choices and then learn to do things His ways...how you handle your marriage, how you handle your job, etc...and do the things that are right and pleasing before Him...and they’re actually really how life operates...then you’re going to find that blessing grows. God’s ways lead to good things. They lead over time. Deborah and I have walked with the Lord for many years and are very glad He’s put up with us. There have been a lot of hard things along the way, but God has always been faithful and God has always brought good. This is just how life goes when you walk His way.
Last thing is His ways have to be walked. They can’t just be discovered or experienced one time; you actually have to walk in them. That means you move forward in life in His directions, and as you walk in them, the good comes. But, they do have to be walked. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote one of the books in the New Testament; he said, “Don’t merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves…” You’re just being a fool if you do that. “...Do what it says.” It’s listen, do, not just listen and go “Hmmm…” Listen. Do. When we walk in our ways, we get the results of our ways, and they may be better or worse depending on the way we’ve chosen, but when we walk in His ways, things move toward what is good.
Actually, God calls you to think about the ways that you’re traveling yourself. Here’s this out of the Old Testament; He says this at one point to His people who were really just preoccupied with their own lives and trying to get done what they needed. He says...but they were missing important stuff...He says, “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little...You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home…” He says, “...I blew away. Why?” He asks. Wouldn’t you like to know why? You can read that book in the Bible and find out. What He’s saying is think about how life’s going and make sure you’re on track. So, how about you today? How’s it going? Your mental state? How’s it going in your relationships? Your marriage or friendships? How’s it going? If you’re like me, up and down, this way and that.
The question is: What direction are things moving? Are they really moving His ways, or are you still trying to get Him to bless your ways? If you find an area where things are out of line, make adjustments. FInd out what He says; start doing that. You have to deal with your mentality. You have to deal with how you handle your job. You have to deal with your finances. You have to deal with your relationships, your marriage, and so on. So if you hit a snag, back up, think about it, find out what He says, and then start trying to work on how to do that. If you’re here this morning, you’re precious to the Lord. He actually desires to good for you, but the good comes for those who walk in His ways. If you’ve not decided to submit yourself to Christ yet, that’s where the good begins. Find out how to do that. People at the New to Hope Pavilion would be glad to explain to you. He’s alive and well.
If you submit yourself to Him, a relationship with Him starts, and as you trust Him to take care of your while you move His direction, then life begins to shift toward the blessing He promised us. If you’re already a Christ follower, the question is: Are you moving in His directions, or have you decided you’re going to camp on the side of the road at a certain point and not going to go further? If you’re camping, whatever area it is will start to snarl. Take that as the Lord tapping you on the shoulder and saying, “You know you need to get up and walk in My ways.”
On this matter of learning God’s ways, all you have to learn is one thing, then do it. Then you can learn a second thing and then do it; and a third thing, and then do it. For me, actually, personally this is how I got going. I figured out finally that it was going to take forever to learn the whole Bible, so I just need to start doing one thing. I began to, and then I began to learn a second, and then a third. God is willing to teach you; God is willing to lead you, but learn His ways. So, what are we doing here at Hope? What’s our mission? We’re inviting people to discover and experience God’s ways. Why? Because people actually are loved by God and because we want to see them find real life.