It’s not the first time for us. I came into the office the other day to find a desk where my brother has faithfully worked, now cleared.
Empty desk. Empty chair.
For years we have worked with, watched, and tried to train our brother for the work of ministry. We’ve learned together, laughed together, laboured together in prayer and in the day-to-day tasks of leading a church.
But now he’s gone. Gone to the work to which God has called him.
Looking at the empty desk, I can’t but wonder if we’ve done enough. There are so many things that remain untaught, unsaid. So many things I wish we could have talked about. So many ways I wish I could have been a better example. So many things I wish we could have better prepared him for.
Looking at the empty desk, I’m touched by sadness. This brother and his family have been so faithful, and grown so close to our hearts as individuals, and as a church family. Now they’re moving far away and who knows when we’ll be able to see them again?
Many of you earnestly desire to hear your pastors preach better sermons. While you can tell that he labours away, you long for more passion, more earnestness, more deliberateness, or more clarity. That’s understandable. Most preachers would like to grow in these ways as well. (And the ones who don’t really need prayer.)
One of the best ways you can help your pastor’s preaching is by praying for him. But did you know you can do even more than that? And it’s not that difficult, either.
Recovering a Pauline Practice
One of the things we try to build into the rhythm of church life at Grace Fellowship Church is something called ‘Identifying Evidences of Grace.’ By that we mean the practice of deliberately seeking proof of God’s grace at work in those around us and then speaking it to each other.
A practice like this is helpful for so many reasons. But like all things, a practice like this can quickly become rote. It’s easy to forget why we do it, or think we do it just because it’s a good habit, or tradition or something. Some people have even objected at times that this discipline might be forced and unnatural, or drawing too much attention to the person, or even mere flattery, which is never healthy.
Recently, however, I’ve been reading through Paul’s epistles and I’ve been reminded again and again that this practice of identifying evidences of grace is actually something that is biblical. It is something worth defining by the word itself.
Here are a few things I’ve noticed about evidences of grace in Paul’s letters so far:
1. Gifts and Character, Not Personality
Biblical evidences of grace are not, ‘Your smile is so pretty!’ or ‘I love the décor of your home!’ Rather, it is clearly pointing out how believing the gospel has changed someone’s speech, or deepened their knowledge, or enabled them to receive powerful spiritual gifts (1 Cor 1.4-8).
2. Grounded in Truth, Not Flattery
In 1 Thessalonians 2.5, Paul writes, ‘We never came to you with words of flattery.’ What’s so significant about that is that he had just identified evidences of God’s grace in their church (1 Thess 1.2-10). This means that when we’re speaking about God’s grace acting upon and in another person, we’re doing it to build up God, not butter up people.