Horse Tales

Jackson Snyder, May 31, 1996

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The Ministry We Need (Abridgement of The Reformed Pastor) Richard Baxter


Eph 4:1-13


The Work Horse

†† Some church folks see the pastor as the workhorse of the church.Their idea is that they hire a pastor to work for them; it's the pastorís job to "run" the church according to their plan.

†† Listen to this tale about the workhorse pastor:

†† First Church of Sarasota had a groundbreaking service for their new building.Instead of shovels to use in digging, they brought an old one horse plow and yoke. Recalling the words of Jesus, "Take my yoke upon you," they hitched up the old workhorse pastor to the plow.The pastor pulled and grunted and turned red with strain, but try as he might, the old workhorse couldn't break ground. Some of the folks were really disappointed in the old workhorse pastor - he just couldn't pull the whole load anymore.The folks then hitched up two strong laymen with him, but they too were unable to break ground.Then the entire Building Committee was put on a rope, but the plow still didn't move.Other church officers were added, and the Sunday school officers and teachers, but no ground was turned.Finally every member of the congregation each took a hold of a rope.With every member pulling together, the plow finally moved, and the ground was broken.

†† Too many churches expect the workhorse preacher or a few horses with him to pull the entire load and keep the church going.If there is going to be progress, every one in the congregation must decide to "hitch up" and "pull together."

†† What is a pastor supposed to be doing?

A horse rancher out in Texas asked the district superintendent to assign a pastor to his community. "How big a man do you want?" asked the D.S. "Well, Brother," the big, tanned rancher replied, "we're not overly particular, but when he's on his knees he needs to be tall enough to reach heaven."

†† Acts 6:4 affirms that a pastor's job is prayer and attending to the preaching of the Word.In our text today, we find that the pastor is to be "equipping the saints" for ministry.In Matthew 9:35, Jesus shows us that the pastor is to equip the horses of the church through teaching, preaching, and healing.Praying, attending to the word, teaching, preaching, healing, and thus equipping the saints, is the work of the pastor; and in this area, let him be the workhorse.


The Strong Horse

†† Some church folks see the pastor or evangelist as a super Christian who should be better and holier and more righteous than the other people in the congregation, as though the pastor was supposed to have more power than anyone else in the church.These folks see the pastor as the "strong horse" of the church, and they put all their spiritual hopes in this one man.

†† In King David's time, the mighty machine of warfare was the horse.David's armies had few horses, while, in some of the enemy's armies, there were battalions of cavalries. The people cried out to David that they couldn't win against the armies with horses."If we only had some horses," they bewailed, "they we could at least meet our enemies on their own terms.

†† David wrote a song for his people about strong horses in Psalms 33:17-18:

A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. {18} But the eyes of Yahweh are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love...

†† Don't expect the pastor to be any more holy or spiritual than you are yourself.Get the beam out of your own eye before you try to pick the splinter out of your pastor's eye.As long as you look to the pastor as your source instead of God, you will be disappointed.Jesus is your strong horse, learn of him, and allow your pastor to do the same.


The Dark Horse (The Weak Horse)

†† On the other side of the coin is the weak horse, or "dark horse."Some church folks see their pastor as fraught with sins and inadequacies.No matter how hard he tries, he can never come up to their standards.If their pastor was Christ himself, their still would be plenty to criticize.Many pastors find themselves "dark horses" in the eyes of their congregations, and the spiritual pressure to "measure up" to the standards set for them is overwhelming.

†† On my first trip to Haiti in 1973, I wanted to go to the top of the mountain and visit Napoleon's massive fort, which is called "The Citadel."The guide offered me a horse to ride up the mountainside.I looked at the horse and complained to my guide, "But this horse is too small.I should be carrying him up the side of the mountain."But the guide assured me that this tiny horse could take me up.I didn't believe the guide; still, I hoisted up 217 pounds of man on 150 pounds of horse, feeling mighty sorry for this horse.

†† To my surprise, this "dark horse" had little trouble with the steep inclines and treacherous pathways up the mountain to The Citadel.I was incredulous that a horse of such diminutive appearance could be so strong and steadfast.I was so grateful to the little horse, that, when it was time to go, I carried him down. (No!)

†† You can't judge a book by its cover, a turtle by its speed, or a horse by its size.And you can't judge a pastor by superficial indications.

†† A little boy was standing by his horse tied to a post.A passing stranger asked him, "Can that horse run fast?""I don't know," said the boy, "but he can stand fast."

†† Sometimes pastoral ministry is not doing, but simply being.Being steadfast.It means not mountain-moving faith, but faithfulness despite the mountain.Give your pastor credit for being a faithful and steadfast horse, and his works will emanate from his faithfulness; not vice-versa.


The Horse You Rode In On

†† One thing that a pastor should have received from God is a vision for the church.The pastor is the spiritual head, the angel of the church.Because he is a workhorse in the word and prayer, God speaks to him clearly as to the direction the church should go.His wisdom does not come from planning or tradition or the PPRC, but from the throne of God.Consider that the pastor is "God's man" before you try to thwart his plan for the congregation.You might be going against God.

†† There was a man who raised horses. One of his prized horses ran away. His friend came over to console him in his loss.The horseman said to his friend: "What a lousy horse that horse turned out to be!He might be a prize, but he'd never do anything my way!"

†† A couple days later the horse returned with five strays following him.The friend again came to the horseman's house -- this time to celebrate his good fortune. But the horseman was not cheered. "Now I've got five more horses to feed, and they're not my kind of horses.They're neighborhood strays, and don't belong with my prize horses!"

†† That afternoon the pestiferous horse kicked the horseman's son and broke his leg.Upon hearing the news, the horseman exclaimed to his friend, "Yes, what a lousy, no good, and dangerous nag that horse turned out to be!Now he's broken my son's leg!Without my son, how will I take care of all these stray horses?"

†† A few days later, war broke out in the land. But the man's son was exempted from the army because of his broken leg.The horseman's friend came over again to celebrate such good fortune. As the horseman and his friend were waling together toward the stables, they heard a terrible racket in the barn."I've locked that miserable, dangerous nag in the stall, and he's trying to kick his way out," explained the horseman.Suddenly, the side of the barn broke down under the constant kicking, and that lousy horse escaped with several others.The horseman and his friend looked on in horror."When I catch that lousy horse, I'll kill him!" the horseman threatened.

†† The next day, as he was repairing his barn, the horseman found a leather sack full of gold that had been hidden in the barn wall sometime in the past.A few days later, the horseman's friend once again came to celebrate with him, and this time he was surprised to find the horseman in a cheerful, even gleeful mood."I'm so happy to see you so happy, for a change," said his friend."The gold of your good fortune has really turned your heart around, I see.""Oh, no!" replied the glad horseman, "I'm not celebrating my new-found gold, no; I'm not celebrating my good luck, but the end of my bad luck!"His friend then said, "How do you figure?""Well, this morning," explained the horseman, "I knocked that lousy, dangerous, no good horse over the head with a 2 x 4, and killed him!So now today, I know my luck's gonna change!"

†† The moral of this story is "stay with the horse you rode in on."Be faithful to your pastor in all situations, and trust that, even if he makes serious mistakes, God will make the evil count for good.Don't chop off your nose to spite your face; don't bad mouth, gossip, and otherwise demean your pastor who is working hard in the spirit on your behalf.Remember that your pastor is a gift of God to you.Indeed, your pastor is a gift horse.


The Gift Horse

{1} As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

†† We also are prisoners of the Lord: we have been called to the service of the Most High.No higher calling exists.Nothing else can take precedence.

†† When Clinton was running for office in 1992, he played his saxophone on television, publicly visited nightclubs, and lived an extravagant and permissive lifestyle in the public view.Many criticized him for not acting "presidential."We all noticed how presidential he acted when he was running for re-election.

†† We have a duty to live ethically and morally as kings and priests of the Most High God. The pastor must live such a lifestyle - he lives in a "glass house."But so must you, and in the same measure, if you claim to be likewise called of God.As Romans 12 tells us, living in spiritual and physical holiness is the "logical duty" of all of us, not just the pastor.

{2} Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

†† I think of the tiny horses used in amusement park rides for small children.They are not much to look at; they are humble animals, and are gentle enough even to carry the youngest children.They work hard and in unison, bearing the burden of their precious cargos, delivering the children gently and safely back into the arms of their mothers.We should develop such qualities and be humble, gentle, and patient horses when dealing with our pastor and with each other.

{3} Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

†† When a group of thoroughbred horses face attack, they stand in a circle facing each other and, with their back legs, kick out at the enemy.Donkeys do just the opposite; they face the enemy and kick each other!

Don't Be Mules!Keep the peace and work in unity toward one goal.And don't forget as you work, whether you like it or not, God has placed the pastor in the position as spiritual head of the local body, with the mind being Christ's.A member that kicks against her own head causes her own demise.

{8} This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men." {11} It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, {12} to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up...

†† Yes, your pastor is God's gift to you.Use the gift or lose the gift. Your pastor, therefore, is a "gift horse."There is an old saying: "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth."Do you know what the saying means?Then if God gives us a gift, who are we to examine God's gifts for flaws or use them up for purposes and tasks they weren't meant for?

†† A study of 301 clergy revealed -- 66% feel lonely and isolated, 80% experience feelings of futility, and 90% suffer stress because of problems with parishioners, and many are tired after an average 55-hour week.Pastoral ministry is a hard and often thankless job.Make a vow today to support your pastor both in word and works.Consider him a gift horse when he comes riding in here.Come out to wish him well and move him in.Pray for him earnestly every day.Support him financial as very best that you can.And love him for who he is, and you will be a good horse - one on whom God and he may rely when God decides to reign in revival on this church.