Dudley Rutherford: “I don’t buy in for a second that a pastor of a large church deserves some type of special status.”
In our Experience Speaks series, Outreach 100 pastors share what they’ve learned about themselves, the church and the definition of success.
Shepherd Church in Porter Ranch, California
ON THE CHURCH
Over the years, what I’ve learned about the church is that the church is far more important than any of us imagine. We think we know how important the church is, but we are not capable of fully appreciating the greatness and grandness of the church.
First, the church is the bride of Christ. Do we really understand the intricacies of that? One day Jesus is coming back to bring her to himself (Matt. 24:31; Rev. 19:7-9). This will be a glorious union when we finally see him face-to-face. Since our Lord treasures and values the church, we need to protect her, defend her, uplift her and love her (Eph. 5:25). Recently at Shepherd Church, we didn’t just do a sermon series called “I Love My Church,” we spent an entire year with that theme being taught. As modern culture attacks the church more and more, we at Shepherd Church desire to fully honor the church as the Bride of Christ and the respect that is due to her.
Second, is the wondrous truth that the church is an actual extension of Christ. We are not just to be the hands and feet of Jesus; we are to be the heart of Jesus in serving those in our community. We have the privilege of allowing people to see Jesus in us as we serve and offer hope to the hopeless. People should actually confuse us with Jesus. Can you imagine that? Our prayer is that people see Jesus in us with every interaction with every person we meet because we are his compassion and love to those around us.
Lastly, the church is the vessel that has been entrusted with the gospel (Matt. 28:19-20). Wow! God has chosen us to make his name known. Jesus gave the church the mantle of responsibility to reach our city and our nation and the world around us. We have been given the greatest mission and marching orders of any other entity. It is difficult to fully understand and appreciate the magnitude of that calling. Without question, the church is far greater than we can ever imagine.
What I’ve learned about myself is that I’m just a blade of grass in God’s great kingdom. I am nothing but a tiny, tiny (did I mention “tiny”?) part of almighty God’s overall plan to see his will accomplished on Earth. I have but a few days—according to James 4:14, I am but a vapor—to live and to make a difference. And although I live every day to the fullest and I would of course rather have a large impact than a small one, I know that all men come and go. I have a brief life for God to use, and then he will replace me with the next person he chooses to work through.
You see, I don’t buy in for a second that a pastor of a large church deserves some type of special status because God blessed his church. That is nothing but carnal and a bit of craziness. The world should never revolve around the senior pastor or any pastor for that matter. We are nothing without the blessing of God upon our lives, and it’s only for a season. One hundred years from now, no one will know my name or what I did here on this earth. Jesus’ name will still be known. Don’t set yourself up to think that you are anything else but a piece of clay that God is using for a few years to continue his divine plan on this earth in the hearts of mankind (Isa. 64:8).
To me, success is much like how UCLA basketball legend, Coach John Wooden, always encouraged his players: to do one’s best and make every day a masterpiece. Similarly, I think as Christians we should strive to get up every day and make it a masterpiece for God. Success is doing that which God has called you to do. It won’t always be pleasant and at times it may be downright painful. For example, Jesus suffered on the cross immensely. It wasn’t glamorous, and it certainly didn’t feel good. But on that cross, Christ was doing that which God has called and sent him to do.
One of my mottos is, “ … before your feet hit the floor.” In other words, when we awaken every morning, we sit up in bed and stand to our feet and embark on another day. But before your feet hit the floor—before you even get out of bed—you have to decide, “Am I going to live today for myself or am I going to live it for the Lord?” And if every day, you live every moment doing the will of God, that is success in the eyes of the Lord.
BEST ADVICE I EVER RECEIVED
The best advice I’ve ever received came from my father who was also a minister for 60-plus years. He told me early on in ministry that whenever someone compliments or criticizes you, you should only believe about 10 percent of it. For example, I’ve had people come up to me after I preached a sermon and say it was the best message they’ve ever heard. That’s encouraging to hear, and there might be some truth in their words. But if I allow myself to steep too long in flattering remarks, I’ll eventually drown in my own pride. On the other hand, I’ve had people in the church criticize me for a decision I’ve made. It’s great that they care about the well-being of our church, and it would bode well for me to pay attention to the criticism to some degree. But if I dwell on their comments too much, I could begin to second-guess every decision I make. And my leadership would suffer as a result.
This singular piece of advice has given me a level head in ministry. If you measure yourself by another’s opinion, you’ll inevitably become manic—rising and falling to unreasonable extremes. It’s a dangerous roller coaster, and you’ll soon want to get off the ride. But if you listen to another’s words and weigh them with fairness and respect, you’ll not only ensure a healthy ministry, but you’ll also keep a healthy state of mind.
Porter Ranch, California
Senior Pastor: Dudley Rutherford
A 2015 OUTREACH 100 CHURCH