As we live in the world, we are well-acquainted with the ways of the world. But how do we lead our churches to walk in God’s ways?
By Marissa Postell Sullivan
We long to see God working. But are we prepared for God to work?
Scripture is clear our ways are not God’s ways. As we live in the world, we are well-acquainted with the ways of the world. But what about the ways of God? How are we expecting Him to work?
As pastors and church leaders, true success can only come as we join God in His mission and work. And sometimes that looks unconventional by the world’s standards. Leading their churches to be a part of God’s work in the world, pastors and church leaders must intentionally lay a foundation of understanding who God is, informing our knowledge of how God works.
In the updated book, The Ways of God: How God Reveals Himself Before a Watching World, Dr. Richard Blackaby, president of Blackaby Ministries International, gives pastors tools for developing a watchful eye for God’s work and for equipping their congregations to do the same. Here’s a look at a recent conversation with Blackaby.
As many across America pray for revival, why is it important for pastors and churches to understand and remember that God’s ways are not our ways?
Blackaby: When we pray to God, asking for revival and seeking it, we want to make sure we’re doing it in a way God is pleased to bless. God does not bless the world’s ways. He blesses His ways. Just because we’re doing it for God doesn’t mean it honors God. It doesn’t mean it’s the way God would do it. I see a lot of people doing their best for God, and God would say, “I don’t want your best. I want my best. And to have my best, you’ve got to do things my way.”“I see a lot of people doing their best for God, and God would say, ‘I don't want your best. I want my best. And to have my best, you've got to do things my way.’” — @richardblackaby Click To Tweet
In Isaiah 55:8-9, God’s clear: Our ways are not His ways; our thoughts are not His thoughts. My dad used to say, “If a plan makes perfect sense to me, it probably didn’t come from God. It probably came from me. And now I want God to bless my plans.”
Fundamentally, the reason it’s so important to know God’s ways is because that’s the way God works. And that’s what God blesses and empowers.
How can pastors walk in confidence that God’s ways for the church are better than our ways for the church?
We’ve spent our whole life marinating in the world’s ways. So, when God asks us to do something that’s not the way the world would do it, it seems counterintuitive. And for Him to tell us to do something a different way is going to take faith.
God’s ways are always loving. But sometimes you look at how God is guiding you and it doesn’t seem loving. We’ve got to trust that every time God relates to us, He does it out of love.
God’s ways are eternal. When He takes a longer view, He’s going to do things differently than people who take a short view. Some of the things God tells us to do may not make sense in the short term. But in the long term, it will be brilliant, just as God always is.
In the book, you talk about 13 truths of God’s ways. Which do you think can be the hardest for pastors to believe?
One is that God’s ways are powerful. We know that in our heads. But living it out like we believe it is another thing. So, if you’re pastoring a church of 30 people and haven’t had anybody making any public decisions and don’t have any visitors, getting up and preaching like God’s ways are powerful—that God is sovereign, that God can do anything He wants—is challenging. If God does things in a powerful way, you need to respond as if He’s going to always relate to you in a powerful way.
Holiness is another one. We know God’s holy. So, the way God relates to us will always be in holiness. He’s never going to compromise sin. And sometimes we could be tempted to think that, in serving God, we may have to stretch the truth, might have to exaggerate, might have to steal a sermon from someone else to preach on Sunday. We feel like we can serve a holy God in unholy ways. But a holy God is not going to bless your unholy efforts—the unholy ways in which you serve Him.“We feel like we can serve a holy God in unholy ways, but a holy God is not going to bless your unholy efforts.” — @richardblackaby Click To Tweet
These are things we believe in our heads but often struggle to practice in the ways we serve Him.
How can pastors lead their churches in learning to live by God’s ways?
Assume your church doesn’t know the ways of God. They probably haven’t been taught them. They may have been going to Sunday School all their lives, but that doesn’t mean they know the ways of God.
A lot of times, we make the mistake of thinking that because this person has been going to church for 40 years, they know the ways of God. But you have to keep teaching and demonstrating them. You’ve got to be holding up examples of the way God does things.
You also have to be willing to live the way God tells you to live and let people watch you lead in God’s way. And you can be “Exhibit A” of what it looks like to do things God’s way.
Remind your congregation the reason we need to live according to the ways of God is to glorify our Creator—we live the same kind of life God lives, and that’s a good life. You’re not going to regret having been like God all your life.
What are some practical ways pastors can teach their churches the ways of God?
As a leader, you have to be a good storyteller. So, find a great story that demonstrates the ways of God, and tell the story. It’s one thing to teach what the Scripture says, but you’ve got to have pictures of what it looks like.
Keep telling stories of people in your congregation who are experiencing the ways of God. Or when someone practices a way of God and God blesses it, put a microphone in front of them. And celebrate every time your people get it right.“You’ve got to tell some of your journey—and not just where you got it right, but also where you got it wrong and God convicted you.” — @richardblackaby Click To Tweet
Also, be authentic with your people. You need to have times when you share what God’s taught you. You model for your people the same journey you want them to go on. And that means you’ve got to tell some of your journey—and not just where you got it right, but also where you got it wrong and God convicted you.
It’s not earth-shattering news for a pastor to admit they don’t know the ways of God as well as they should. We may know it in our heads but not really know it in our lives yet. It’s OK to confess that. We’re on a journey our whole lives to learn the ways of God.
For permission to republish this article, contact Marissa Postell Sullivan.
Marissa Postell Sullivan
Marissa is the managing editor for LifewayResearch.com.