Dear New Pastor, I have to tell you something. Your church is not healthy. I know, I know, the districts have worked with these congregations to get them ready for a new pastor. Some have even endured interim pastors to try to help them get healthy after a previous pastor hurt them, or inner turmoil overcame them, or whatever was needed to justify a title like ‘interim’ pastor.
Praise God, may the Good News of forgiveness and eternal life be given generously with words, blood and water! Some of that blood, Pastor, will be your own. Yet, the blood that saves is Christ’s!
But, my friend, no matter how much work was done, that group of believers you’ve been called to serve has some rotten sinners lurking among them. Your church is not healthy. It has sharks swimming in circles, looking for blood. It has people who won’t give a dime to an orphan let alone to the building project. It has members who come every Sunday, give more than 10% in the plate, and volunteer for every event that’s offered, but they don’t really believe that they are completely right with God by the work of Christ. Hopefully, you will even meet people who have done some really publicly shameful things, who sit nervously in the back row so they can skidaddle without shaking your hand.
Brother, your future congregation will reveal an ugly side from time to time. Your district did not fail you. So don’t be surprised! Your church is not healthy. If they were healthy, they wouldn’t need someone to heal them! They wouldn’t need Jesus every second of every day of their lives!
I was going to stop this letter here. Mic drop. (Shock and awe!)
Your church is not healthy, and yet your church is completely healthy.
But, I would have failed to mention the true condition of Christ’s flock. Fellow servant of the Lord, your church is completely healthy as long as the pure Word of God is proclaimed in the pulpit and the homes! That is, as long as Jesus is there, it’s as healthy as it going to get! Just as we are all made completely healthy by Christ’s declaration of forgiveness, we are completely righteous by His gift of righteousness! We don’t look like it all the time, and your church doesn’t and won’t look like it all the time!
But do not fear. God’s Word works! Keep going forward calling people to repentance and pronouncing forgiveness! Preach it in the face of the devil. Preach it in the face of the most monstrous sin and stubborn sinner. God’s Word might not form perfect looking Christians until the resurrection, but it gives life to all who believe; plain and simple! Complete life. Complete salvation. Complete health.
Until the resurrection, you will see your congregation with the eyes of faith! As the Apostles’ creed confesses, “I believe in the holy Christian church.” It’s an article of faith; not sight. So put on your goggles and storm that beach.