God's Operating Table
It's a fairly common practice to have students watch experienced surgeons work. They build whole theaters for that type of thing, with theatre seating, bright lights, and more, all designed to help people see just where the surgeon makes his incisions. Just don't bring in Junior Mints to watch.
As a pastor, I feel like I have a closeup view of the operating room too. But the surgery we see performed is even more important than heart surgery or a c-section. We get to watch God, through the scalpel of His word, operate on the lives of people to make them more spiritually healthy. The word cuts and exposes the diseased parts of our hearts, allowing them to be removed. The Great Physician deftly works to bring us to health, to remove unhealthy parts, and to make us into who he wants us to be.
As we preach the word every week, work in counseling, and labor in discipleship, we often have a first hand view of God's working in a person's life. It's a joy and a privilege to watch God work on a person's life. It's through this work that God brings a person into maturity, and begins to make us more like Him. Three things come to mind as we watch God operate.
1. Pastors, you are not the surgeon. It's not your job to save people, Christ has already done all the work needed. It's easy to get a complex when someone says our sermon spoke to their heart, but their is no power in our words. We don't have some sort of special knowledge that we can impart to others. God is the one who works in people's lives, and it's him we should point them to. A student watching a surgery would never interrupt to tell the surgeon what he is doing wrong, or the way he would have done it. Even as a surgeon does something that looks painful to us, we can trust the surgeon to work in people to bring them to health and life.
2. We preach, we teach, we disciple, but the Word is doing the work in people's lives. When someone tells you they are thankful for you sermon, what they really are thankful for is God's word through you. God's word is living and active, after all, sharper than a two edged sword. The word can even judge between the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Our most cleverly turned phrases and alliterations can never do that. Labor over your sermon, work hard at the craft. But trust the scalpel of the Word. The most important thing a church does is get the Word into people's lives, what ever that looks like. From the pulpit, small groups, bible reading plans, and more, a pastor, and a church, must give room to the Word of God for it to work.
3. Sometimes people get up off the table. In the middle of my wife's c-section, she never got up or moved. But some people don't like the painfulness of the word exposing the diseased places in our hearts, so they get up and walk away. It's a hard thing to watch as pastor, seeing someone that you care about get up and walk away from the work of God in their heart. This is one of the hardest things to face as a pastor. It's worse than being marginalized by the world, or bitten by stray sheep. It' s hard to see someone who is drawing close to God decide they don't want that after all. But it's not uncommon. Falling out of regular church attendance, neglecting God's word, and not setting our minds on things above are just a few of the ways that people get up off God's operating table.
The good news, of course, is that no matter how many times we get up off the table, God welcomes us back. There's no one that you see who is beyond the reach of God's Word. So preach it with boldness, and enjoy your first row seat to see God work in the life of His people.