In a couple of days, we will turn over a new page on the calendar of life, beginning a new year with new hopes, dreams, goals—and, yet, with some old fears. I hope it will prove to be a good year for all who read these lines.
I want to write this column from the unique vantage point of a pastor’s perspective. Most of my adult life has been spent doing the work of the ministry—specifically, for this servant, that of a pastor (50 years). So, I write with the perspective of a pastor, an under-shepherd who invested a lifetime looking for and tending to the needs of a flock. Part of those duties included the feeding of God’s flock, a high and holy task with awesome responsibilities and singular privileges.
Approaching a New Year, I would always consider the year ahead and the need for the flock of God, over which the Holy Spirit had made me overseer, as to their spiritual diet. What special food for their souls would they need for the next year, in order to weather the onslaught of energy-draining challenges ahead? Of course, there will always be a need for spiritual vim and vigor that only a balanced spiritual diet can afford.
So, the pastor/under-shepherd will try to serve up messages on his spiritual menu which will be full of soul-nourishing vitamins, replete with vegetables and fruits. It will be wise to go easy on the sugar this next year, spiritually speaking (of course), and major on the basic spiritual food groups: doctrines pertaining to salvation, sanctification, submission and service, and, for good measure, some generous portions of Second Coming servings.
Granted, there are those who may react like some children: you’d rather not have any vegetables at all. Books like the Minor Prophets and even some of the Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) just do not appeal to your spiritual appetite that much. And, those history books (Chronicles, Kings)—well, you may not turn your nose up at them, but you don’t seem to want to “dig in” when they are set before you.
But, like a mother carefully plans and prepares a menu of tasty yet enriching foods for her family, so the pastor/under-shepherd feeds the flock of God. He will try to serve up a balanced spiritual diet. Some food from all the groups will have to be included: the milk of the gospels and the meat of the epistles, along with some sweet things from Colossians and Ephesians, and let us not forget Philippians, plus some really chewy stuff from the Revelation.
So, on any given Sunday morning (evening, too, and Wednesday-night Bible study) when the pastor says “please open your Bible to _______,” I trust you will determine that if this man of God is following the direction of his Chief Shepherd, then he has prayed about what spiritual food you (as a body and members in particular) most need for your souls at any given time. His message has been prayed over, prepared carefully, organized, and served up in a somewhat (hopefully) appetizing way so that you will both enjoy the experience (of feeding) and be benefited by the ingestion of that which will enable you to keep maturing as a believer. There will be at the “table,” at any given service, some folk who will need milk, and those who will need meat; some will need meat but not the “heavy” stuff that will be hard to digest. Everyone will need a balanced diet in order to mature spiritually and methodically.
I hope you will enjoy every offering from the under-shepherd’s “kitchen” this year. Try something of everything put before you. And, whatever you do, do not just “skip” a sitting, shrugging it off by saying “I’m not hungry,” or please do not fail to show up at meal time because you forgot to come, or you were too busy doing some other good thing. You know your mother spent lots of time preparing those meals, and she put lots of herself (love) into each one; and for you not to show up at meal time is awfully disappointing to your mom (and, likewise, to your pastor who has put lots of himself into the preparation of each spiritual feast, which he looks forward to setting before you knowing full well that it is good food for you).
So, may the year ahead be a year of growth for all of us. Your pastor shall endeavor to feed you well. He will have a treasure-trove of recipes, tried and proven, to choose from, and, by God’s grace, he will continue to serve spiritual food that will be both satisfying and nourishing. Enjoy every one of them, chew them carefully, digest them wholly, and assimilate them spiritually so that this coming year you will “grow in grace and in the knowledge” of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” (I Peter 2:2, 3)