This is the reality: when you’re planting or replanting a church the biggest battle you’ll face is not wrestling a new structure into place, laying out clear values, or prepping sermons. It’s not even leading your family, loving your wife, and making sure you have good friendships where you can be real. I was prepared for some of these things.
But the biggest battle I’ve faced in the last four years as a pastor has been in my own heart. I’m talking about my relationship to the Lord–whether it’s tentative, or hurried, whether it’s inclined quickly to the Lord or must be bent back to him by circumstance, whether it’s warm or cold.
This one thing changes how I respond to conflict or uncertainty in the church.
This one thing changes how I respond to temptation.
This one thing changes my mindset as I step into the pulpit.
This. The state of my heart in relationship to the Lord.
David charges his son Solomon this way: “Know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought.” (1 Chron 28:9).
In the books of Chronicles the Chronicler applies one judgment over and over to the kings of Israel & Judah. In these chaotic reigns where kingship is quickly gained and quickly lost, where foreign powers bat the kingdoms around, where apostasy is rampant, there is still one standard of judgment: the heart of the king toward the Lord.
Solomon knows the importance of his heart but it’s stolen away by foreign women and gods. For some kings, even among other failures it is their saving grace (2 Chron 15:17). For other kings, among other successes, it is their damning epitaph (2 Chron 12:14). The writer evaluates the reign of each king this way–whether their heart is inclined toward the Lord or away from him. Essentially, sometimes this serves as the extent of the Chronicler’s comments in a king. “Because,” he seems to say, “It’s all you need to know.”
It seems so clear, doesn’t it? Yes, of course, the heart. When I’m replanting or pastoring I’ll make sure I have a day retreat every week week! I’ll take long walks in the early dawn hours. I’ll climb a mountain and write my whole sermon from there.
But life looks different away from the mountaintop. You run over budget numbers in your mind on your way to the next meeting. You meet with ministry leaders trying to resolve issues. You groan when the air conditioner breaks again.
I’ve learned this matters. The state of my heart matters far more than my next appointment or next message. Making time for this isn’t just a good thing to do, it changes everything.
The Bottom Line
Do you know, without thinking about it too much, whether your heart is inclined toward the Lord this week? This year?
If it is, remind yourself that this matters. Immensely. God rejoices.
If it is not, don’t fix your small groups before you fix this.
If you’re not sure, take some time to pray and consider.
Then consider talking a walk through the books of Chronicles and seeing why it matters so very much.