Friday, November 28, 2008

Thankful For My Pastor

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.
1 Timothy 5:17
There is much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving and every day. So as a way of honoring my pastor in his labors of preaching and teaching (and to try to win him free registration for the Desiring God Pastors Conference this February), here are a few reasons why I am thankful for him (in no particular order):

1) His preaching is marked by urgency. "I preached as never sure to preach again; as a dying man to dying men." These were the words of the Puritan pastor Richard Baxter. He understood the weight of preaching and that eternity hung in the balance every time he took the pulpit to address the people before him, saved and unsaved. I get this sense from my pastor every time he stands in the pulpit. There is a way in which he is a different man inside the pulpit than he is outside of it. Resting on him is a greater measure of authority, gravity, seriousness, and urgency that blow away any trivializing of the things of God. And you begin to feel that eternal life and death really do hang in the balance.

2) He brings us into the presence of God. I can't recall one time he has attempted to preach the Word of God without first bringing the entire congregation before the throne of grace in order that both we and he might find help in our time of need. And our greatest need is to be brought into God's presence. His pulpit prayers are the kind that push aside preoccupations with ourselves and our problems and make us to be preoccupied with God and what He's done for us in Jesus Christ. They give me a greater sense of God and His nearness in preparing me to be addressed by God.

3) His blood is "Bibline." Charles Spurgeon said this about the Puritan John Bunyan: "Prick him anywhere and he bleeds the Bible." I feel this way about my pastor. He is saturated with the word of God. His prayers are filled with biblical truth. His speech overflows with the truth of God's Word. His sermons are laden with biblical references (both Old Testament and New) that support whatever biblical text he is expositing on that particular Sunday, many of which I would bet he didn't even write into his sermon manuscript. You can see by his life that he feeds on the Word of God and only feeds us that which he himself has eaten.

4) He's faithful. It's easy to belittle the meaning of this word. In the Old Testament, God's faithfulness is spoken of interchangeably with His steadfast love. The Hebrew term is hesed. Because of God's hesed, we know that no matter how much we mess up today, He will still be there as our God tomorrow. He's not going anywhere. My pastor has led this same flock in Morgan Hill for over two decades. Our average Sunday attendance hasn't always been what it now is. Even though we last year moved to three services per weekend in order to accommodate for a growing congregation, I've heard my pastor speak of how there were times when he would preach to a sanctuary of many empty seats. Yet in the face of temptation to change his ministry philosophy in order to attract more people or even to leave the church just like many of the staff did when he first took over, he has stayed. He hasn't gone anywhere. And he has resolved to preach the Word of God and trust Jesus to do what He said He would. And Jesus has indeed built this church. I have heard that the average stay of a pastor in any one church today is less than five years before moving on to the next place that God has called him to. If this is true, then faithfulness--or steadfastness--is more difficult to find than we might imagine.

5) He is driven by a passion to rescue the perishing. Though he preaches to several hundred people every Sunday, my pastor knows very well that many who sit before him are under the wrath of God even though many of them may not themselves realize it. He acknowledges this in every prayer before his sermons when he asks God to open the eyes of the blind and raise the dead to life. Through his sermons he pleads with non-believers to be reconciled to God through Christ. And he does the work of an evangelist outside of the pulpit by, as only one example, making Peet's Coffee a second church office so that he can build relationships with the workers and regulars there so as to share the gospel with them. In doing such things, he makes it hard for us who do believe to settle into a mentality that is indifferent to the plight of the people we are daily rubbing shoulders with who are outside of Christ. A pastor, because of the nature of his calling, usually is unable to do as much evangelism as the rest of his congregation. But I would bet that, as much labor as he already does with his flock, my pastor does more evangelism than most of us. He challenges and inspires me by his example.

These are only five reasons (of many more I could give you) why I am thankful for my pastor, Mike Burchfield. I hope that as a result he gets to go to the Desiring God Pastors Conference for free. But even if this post doesn't accomplish that, I couldn't think of a better way to have spent this time. I love you brother.

What about you? Why are you thankful for your pastor?
And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.
Jeremiah 3:15
Thank You, Father, for the man that You have set over this part of Your flock, who we will indeed boast in for Your glory when we stand before Your throne on that great and glorious Day. May it come quickly. In Jesus' name, Amen.


Lee said...

Chris - thanks for posting this! I don't know if comments here will "help Mike's cause" or not, but I'll go ahead and add some of the reasons that I, too, am thankful to God for having Mike Burchfield as my pastor:
1. His heart for his flock. You mentioned Mike's heart for the lost. That is a huge, defining trait of Mike, and explains why he spent 5 years in the Philippines in the 80's working with Muslims. However, as much as I am also thankful for Mike's example in the arena of evangelism, I am also deeply grateful for his shepherd's heart for the spiritual well-being of the flock of believers with which God has entrusted him. His heart so obviously yearns for all of us to experience the width and length and depth and height of the love of Christ; that Christ would reign supreme in our hearts; that we would pursue God with a passion to get to know Him better; that we would spend much time in the Word and in prayer. A.W. Tozer wrote that the "local church soon becomes like its pastor" (from "The Responsibility of Leadership", in God Tells the Man Who Cares). Over the years, I have seen this truth being lived out in the lives of many at West Hills - from the other pastors on staff to school kids. Praise God!

2. He knows Who is in charge. Having had the privilege of sitting under Mike's teaching for a few more years than you (about 16 years now!), we were around when Mike was desperately sick 10 years ago. At that time we found ourselves in the middle of what turned out to be an amazing phenomenon: a church growing stronger in the midst of a crisis in the life of its shepherd. This easily could have caused the church to founder had Mike owned the ministry for himself. Instead, because Mike (then and today) recognized that the ministry to this local expression of the Body of Christ is in fact Christ's and not his, and because he trusted God to build a staff and elder board which held the same view, the church grew in faith through the experience.

pilgriminconflict said...

Thanks for more reasons to thank God for Pastor Mike, Lee. Like I said, I could think of many more than 5 (love for his flock was actually one that I had definitely thought of but didn't write) but figured I would leave it at that. I'm actually glad I didn't so that I could hear from you! And you definitely know better than me!