Pastoral Series #5 (Sampler)

When we returned from the mission field, our church was between pastors.  My brother-in-law was on the search committee and was very excited about the young man that they had found.  At the time, I was barely keeping my head above water.  My sixth child had just been born, the career with which I had intended to spend my life had ended, and I was trying to restart my career in agriculture from zero... during the worst drought in our recorded history.  To say that the inner workings of our local church were back burner issues to me would be an understatement.  However, at the same time that Justin Sampler arrived as pastor, God began changing things up for me.  We transitioned from two kids in school to four.  We started turning a profit on the farm and making ends meet.  Also, my church asked me to chair our personnel committee, and God strongly confirmed that He wanted me there.  This held the door open for Justin and me to develop a strong friendship.

There are many things that I could write about Justin Sampler, but the one thing that stands the strongest before him is his conviction of Biblical authority.  Let me say up front that while a majority of churches list this as a praise--if not a full expectation--of a pastor, it is one of those qualities that people like best on paper.  When someone believes "let God be true, though every one were a liar" (Romans 3:4), it does not take long to find the world offended by Scripture and, unfortunately, even some church people wishing to secularize the details.  It doesn't matter if you are in the street or in the church; when people begin living and teaching that "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16), nerves will be struck, beliefs will be challenged, and disagreements will arise.  However, week after week, Justin would preach a full picture of Scripture.  Day after day, he held the Bible up as an unshakable expectation for himself and for his church--I never saw him ask the church to do anything he himself was not willing to do.  Some would disagree on interpretation, and he believed "in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity."  And, yes, there were occasions where people would want their sin white-washed, and I never saw him budge.  When you don't give excuses for the Bible, some people's hearts will be broken by the work of the Holy Spirit, and other people's hearts will be hardened by their unrepentance.  This may be the hardest part of the pastoral ministry.

I can remember Justin telling the church that we are all under authority.  This is a Biblical teaching that is very unpopular.  Of course, God has put us first under his authority, but after that we are under the authority of government, parents, social leaders, and church leaders.  He never said this as one demanding submission, but, instead, included himself as one in submission to many.  This is how God designed creation and culture.  When you look at problems in our society, they almost always have roots in a rebellion against personal submission.  Even authoritarian people expose their defiance against God and Scripture, against serving those below them, against accountability.  Their pride and fear drive them to manipulate and force submission rather than trust God with their position and honor those they are working with.

Justin believed that the Bible alone provides the words of life.  He entrenched himself in it and did not fear what Satan would lob at him.  He taught his church to do the same.  We are strongest when we do this--fully submitting to God's Word, which drives back the devil, welcomes the work of the Holy Spirit, and serves those around us.