A pastor friend of mine told me that you should never pastor a church until you have shed tears for that community. I wept for my church and prayed that it would make a difference. God saw my intentions, and increased my capacity to love and serve my church. However, I felt that something was not quite right. There was something more to pastoring.
I began a quest to find out what else God wanted for me and for the church I serve. I found myself reading Jer. 29:11 because that verse has always fixed all my problems. The context of that verse is the captivity of God’s people, who had been taken from Jerusalem (city of peace) to Babylon (confusion and chaos). Their plan was to be separate and safe while they waited for God’s deliverance. Jeremiah gave them a new plan: They were to build houses, plant gardens and marry off their children. They were to seek the peace of the city. The peace they carried wasn’t meant for isolation, but for influence.
We long to be an influential people and to lead influential ministries, but we need to be willing to take the peace that God has planted in us and demonstrate it in the middle of chaos. Now when we read Jer. 29:11-13, we see that these words were addressed to God’s people living in confusion and the chaos of the city: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (ESV). As we confront our chaotic world, we get to usher in the peace that only God gives.
Don’t just pastor your church, but love your city. As you love your city, you are representing the proactive and persistent heart of God for lost people. Engage brokenness on other people’s terms, not yours. Be the peaceful presence that our world is longing for.
Are you looking for ways to love your city? Consider the following:
- Move some appointments from your office to the “chaos” of the coffee shop—and be attuned to the needs of those you encounter there.
- Connect with your community leaders and ask them to share their hearts for the city.
- Create room on Sunday for members to share stories of community impact.
- Think of a way to use your facility so that you can bless your city.
- Think of a way honor and bless your community servants and leaders.
As we become committed to loving and serving the communities and cities where God has placed us, I know that we will begin to see God’s kingdom advanced.
By: Matt Kladnik, senior pastor of Vintage Faith (Los Angeles Westside Metro Foursquare Church) in Culver City, Calif.