LeaderLines - from Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin, Texas 
Contact Tom Goodman, Pastor
Manage Your Subscription -- Subscribe/Unsubscribe
Contact Us About Your Subscription

by Tom Goodman
March 2, 2012

All God's people serve -- or we're supposed to.

Some of God's people serve by leading -- and that includes most of you who read LeaderLines.

And some of God's leaders serve by pastoring -- and that's what's on my mind as I write LeaderLines today.

You'll have to indulge me in this edition of LeaderLines, because this has been a nostalgic week for me.  Tuesday was the 30th anniversary of my ordination, and I spent the end of the week at a conference in my birthplace, Montgomery, Alabama.  (And that's pronounced "mon-GUM-ry" if you ever visit.)  After the conference I stopped by the house of my first 11 years of life, and even dropped by the church my family attended.  I sat in the pew where God called me to himself, and thanked God for my salvation and for my parents who were committed to making disciples of their kids.

My mind has been on Isaiah 40:6-8 this week (NIV84):

A voice says, "Cry out."
And I said, "What shall I cry?"
"All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever."

God gives both the call to preach and the content of the preaching.

First, the call:  "A voice says, 'Cry out.'"

No man can survive the ministry without this call.  When the going gets tough, he has to be able to reach back into his own history with God and say, "But I was called to this!"  And when the problem is not what's around him but what's within him -- in other words, when he's tempted to immorality, or laziness, or despair, or fear, he needs to be able to say, "I will be held accountable for how I followed God's call!"

I was called to preach at the age of 12.  In February 1974, my family was coming to the end of my father's 2-year assignment at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines.  The English-speaking church we belonged to was holding an attendance challenge for a special event, and I brought 8 or 9 seventh-graders with me and won the contest.  A few days later I received a letter from the pastor -- and from God.

Okay, that requires some explanation.

The pastor wrote to thank me for my inviting so many people to the event.  I appreciated the note, but what jumped off the page was the printed footer on the pastor's stationary.  It was a quote from Paul:  "For Christ Sent Me to Preach the Gospel."

In an instant, I had the strongest impression that the "me" in that phrase meant me:  "For Christ sent me to preach the gospel."  It was thrilling and scary at the same time to suddenly know what I would do with the rest of my life.

Some pastors have vivid and dramatic calls while others recount quieter experiences.  Some will say they knew in an instant while others will say that the conviction gradually grew on them.  But every preacher can testify to the same thing the prophet heard in Isaiah 40:  "A voice says, 'Cry out.'"

When God calls, though, he commands not only that you must preach but what you must preach.  In Isaiah 40, God said, "Cry out!"  And the rest of the passage tells him what he should cry out.

I remember when I first began preaching at 19.  Diane and I were newlyweds, college sophomores, and every Sunday we drove the 45 minutes from our Waco apartment to the little farming community of Travis.

When I was 12, God had said, "Cry out!" but it was when I was responsible for a weekly sermon that, like Isaiah, I asked, "What shall I cry?"

I started with the book of Ephesians, and it was in the weekly pressure of pouring over the text that I began to understand what J.B. Phillips meant:  While working on his famous Bible translation he said he felt like an electrician working with wiring while the power was still on!  The Book really was living and active and sharp.

When God said, "Cry out!" and I responded, "What shall I cry?" God said, "Proclaim my permanent, abiding, ever-relevant word to your generation."

It's the same thing God told the prophet in Isaiah 40:  "All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field....  The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever."

The preacher is to bring a permanent word to an impermanent world, and Simon Peter said life will come from that exchange!  The Big Fisherman quoted Isaiah 40 about his own ministry.  He said in 1 Peter 1:23-25 (NIV84) --

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.  For,

"All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
 the word of the Lord stands forever."

And this is the word that was preached to you.

What seed does, God's word does.

I love stories about new life from old seeds.  A couple of decades ago I read about some seeds found in a treasure chest of a sunken boat.  Scientists found the seeds sealed and protected from the seawater, so they planted them just to find out what would happen.  And though the seeds were 300 years old, life sprang up from them.  A couple of years ago, a horticulturalist was given date palm seeds from an archaeological dig in Masada.  Again, though two thousand years old, once they were planted they yielded date palms.  But the most recent discovery in Russia takes the cake.  Scientists found seeds preserved for 35,000 years in the frozen tundra, and once planted, yes, ancient blooms broke through the soil and opened to the sun.

I'm grateful God has made me one of his horticulturalists, planting good seed in open hearts!


LeaderLines is a weekly "e-briefing" providing valuable information and inspiration to those who serve at Hillcrest Baptist Church.

Do you know friends who would appreciate LeaderLines?  Just forward this e-mail to them!

Have you subscribed to LeaderLines?  You can subscribe by clicking here and following the instructions.  Your e-mail address will not be sold or given away to anyone, and you can automatically change your subscription or drop it by following the easy steps provided with each e-mail.