I was the proverbial hot water. That should have come as no surprise. Had I been alert, I would have known I was in trouble even before arriving home two hours later than promised. Worse, the difficulty was not my wife's intolerance of the unpredictability of a pastor's schedule. Her frustration was caused by my own failure to fulfill our agreement to telephone if either of us would be unexpectedly detained.
At 10:30 p.m. when one of my church leaders stopped me in the church parking lot and began what I thought would be a brief conversation, I initially reasoned that circumstances overruled the agreement with my wife. After all, I thought, I would soon be on my way. So rather than returning to the office and phoning my wife about the delay, I agreed to listen to a story that grew longer than I could have ever dreamed.
By the time I arrived home, my wife's fear that some late-night tragedy had befallen me had grown to the temptation to inflict that tragedy herself. No plea of circumstances could persuade her that I shouldn't have kept my bargain and called her so she wouldn't worry.
With more thought of self-preservation than repentance, I renewed my vow to call her when I would be detained. After all, that is what phones are for. So whether it is to alert your spouse, make amends with an estranged colleague, or express care and concern for a member in crisis—Pastor, make that call!
Leaders make judgment calls
Pastors often have to make judgment calls as well. Often you must choose between the greater of two benefits. Competing good ideas or strong advocates of contrasting worthy opinions will press you to take a stand. And you must. It's a leader's job.
The Bible speaks of those who know the times and understand what God's people should do. A leader must establish priorities, focus vision, and lead in making decisions. Your task is to facilitate clear thinking, seek for God's will, hope to arrive at consensus and ultimately to move forward. After all, that's what leaders are for. So whether it is to establish a school, plan an evangelistic outreach, prioritize funding for competing worthy projects or move forward into wider horizons with your members—Pastor, make that call!
Calling sinners and servants
There is yet another call that you have the responsibility and privilege to make the call to discipleship and to service. In fact, it is unfortunate that we have too often seen these as separate calls. The biblical understanding views them as phases of the same call that comes to all believers acceptance of Jesus Christ anticipates long service for the Saviour.
The call to sinners for repentance and acceptance of Jesus should be your goal in every public presentation. Preach for decisions. Expect people to respond to your message, and make sure you give them the opportunity. Why are you preaching if you expect nothing to be done about your message? So whether it is your weekly morning sermon, a devotional message to your elementary students, or a fireside conclusion with your youth group—Pastor, make that call!
You also have the responsibility and privilege to call believers into service and leadership. Discovering talented members and enlisting their service are your duty. To paraphrase inspired counsel: "The work of the minister is to work the members!" If you know of unused or underutilized capabilities lying fallow in the lives of your members, you must call them to do more for the Lord than they may have believed possible. Dream with them and for them as to what they can become under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit. Seek out the best and bright est of your young people and ask them to consider prayerfully a life of ministry and service both in occupation and avocation.
Search for the worth in even the most unlikely candidates. Make it your prayer that you will view people, not through the limits of their present capacities, but through the eyes of God who sees the potential for everyone who will heed His invitation to service. So whether they are capable and talented members who under-employ their potential, elderly saints who think there is nothing they can contribute, or youth who simply need a vision of future service brought to their minds—Pastor, make that call!
The overwhelming surprise of Jesus' second coming to unbelievers should not catch those unawares who are "waiting and watching." The apostle Paul declares that we are not the children of darkness but of understanding. Jesus Himself questioned how we could be so adept at understanding nature's signs of changing seasons and fail to read the signs of the present age. So whether it is to unconverted sinners or slumbering saints, read and preach Matthew 24 again. Now, more than ever before—Pastor, make that call!