As a pastor, each week means reading. I spend time reading Scripture, books, newspapers, blog sites and everything in between. I’ve been thinking about how I can review and catalogue the ideas, concepts, and stories I come across. I’ve also been thinking that many of my “findings” may be of use and interest to others. To this end, I am launching something called Top 3. This is my list of the top 3 things I’ve read this past week and a bit of commentary around one or more of them. You will find links, when possible, to read for yourself.

#1 – Then where the ministry of listening, active helpfulness, and bearing with others is faithfully performed, the ultimate and highest service can also be rendered, namely, the ministry of the Word of God.

from Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This one is for my pastor friends.  Often we see “ministry of the Word of God”, i.e. preaching, as our primary and leading way to pastor.  Bonhoeffer pushes back on that notion by saying only after listening, active helpfulness, and bearing others burdens are we given the right to proclaim the Word.

I was with our First Church Fellows (seminary students who are doing school part-time and on staff at First Church part-time) this week.  I shared that my ministry philosophy is “park far from the building”.  What I mean by this is that the pastors need to be the first ones to serve (not the only ones of course!) and to set the tone in this way.  One habit I picked up from my banking days is to leave the close spots for others in a way to show I care and want them to come first.

I believe we must earn the right to minister.  Part of this is education.  And an overwhelming part of this is loving people.  Love, to help another person thrive, is our highest calling which serves as the basis for all we do.  When we love others they open themselves to the Word of God in ways that is beyond understanding.

So, park far from the building…

#2 – The Prayer Circle: Texans Rebuild After Harvey as a Practice of Faith

Not sure I have much to add to this article from the New York Times.  So pleased to see this witness in the mainstream media!

#3 – 20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for any one to make others fall by what he eats; 21  it is right not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother stumble.

Romans 14.20-21 (NLT)

I am always convicted by this from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome.  How does my personal freedom and responsibility to others work together?  Where does something that I want to do (and is fine to do) become a stumbling block for others.  Where does my personal freedom to use my time, spend my money, decide what to eat and drink, speak my political opinions, etc, etc, become a stumbling block for others and therefore something I should refrain from doing or at minimum think through carefully?  Please don’t see the above list as exhaustive only a sample of some things that are just fine to do on their own.

Here is an inconvenient truth…everything I do impacts some other person.  Everything. And the really inconvenient truth is that our individual actions impact EVERYONE.   Only when we begin to see our interconnectedness do we begin to see our freedom and responsibility in the correct framework.  I will stop preaching now.  Instead I’ll give you and the Holy Spirit wrestle with this just like I am doing right now!

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