A resource for helping pastors nurture God’s beloved.
By Alvaro Palacio, Pastor, Toronto Canada
It’s not an uncommon condition for a pastor nowadays to feel overwhelmed by work. Reaching out for the lost sheep, nurturing the ninety-nine, and leading God’s flock at a steady spiritual pace, undoubtedly requires a great deal of love, energy, patience, wisdom, and all the gifts we can receive from the Spirit.
Sometimes in my journey as a pastor, I sympathize with Moses when, exhausted, he complained to God:
“Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant…?” Numbers 11:11-12
Well, maybe I am exaggerating, but sometimes, like Moses, I’ve been tempted to feel that I’m alone, doing all the work by myself and by my own means. But that is more a feeling than a reality.
Later, we read how God empowered a team of seventy to share Moses’ burden, help him prophesy and lead the people of Israel. God did not expect Moses then, nor us pastors now, to exhaust ourselves beyond the limit of our energy and patience. The work of God, including that of a pastor, is the work of participation. To that end, the Spirit provides and inspires other members of the Body to share their gifts. Therefore, resources and tools are available to us through the church so we can work from a place of spiritual rest and confidence, not from frustration and unnecessary stress.
That is why I am so grateful for the “Resources” section of our gci.org website. I discovered its great value during the lockdowns in 2020. The wealth of material provided in Equipper gave me more than I needed to keep church members engaged and active, despite the limitations of online interaction. It was during this time when we began using the We Believe series for our online Bible studies. Let me comment briefly on this series, which I consider one of GCI’s most essential resources.
First, the course is presented in sixteen carefully organized sections, beginning with the basics, and ending with more advanced topics. Each section is developed through Scripture readings and reflection questions that invite participation. Each section also includes a sidebar with uncomplicated statements of belief titled “GCI Believes.” This simple format also allows us to pace the study according to the group’s progress. To cover all 16 sections, we met 71 times. Since we met on Zoom, I prepared slides based on the manual’s headings, questions, and scripture passages to keep all participants on the same page.
The second aspect I want to mention is that We Believe‘s clarity goes beyond the formatting and into the content. The course is straightforward in presenting the complex truths of our faith; it forgoes complicated definitions or philosophical excursions. For instance, explaining the Trinity as “one in being and three in Persons,” (We Believe, p. 4).
A third point is that, while Christian life does not solely consist of having a sound theology, a firm foundation for our faith allows us to walk together in the same direction. The body follows the mind, and the Spirit must guide the mind. We Believe helps all believers guide their minds and bodies, as we walk together along the same path.
As pastors, we may assume that GCI members already know all the material presented in the series, especially if they are “old timers.” But note what Francoise, a GCI member of many decades, commented after completing the series:
This was a most beneficial We Believe series. I’ve learnt and re-learnt things from it, realizing that it’s all about what God has done (and not about us. Heb. 10). In fact, the entire series made God more real. And the greatest gift is to see who Jesus is, so the Son of God is the gift. I’m also making a point of re-reading the notes I’ve taken down through the We Believe series.
Gord and Linda, also GCI members for many decades, told me:
To use a single phrase to describe how the series impacted us, we would say, it helped solidify our faith and knowledge of God. After so many years in the church, we still find room for more growth and understanding.
I also started a connect group with Esto Creemos, the Spanish translation of We Believe. This is an outreach group that connects online believers from as far as Colombia. A senior Catholic participant, who is our most enthusiastic student, has told me how fascinated he is by the clarity, consistency, and Biblical grounding of the series.
Now that I have used this series, along with other resources like Being the Church, Being a Neighbor, the RCL resources and more, I feel a great weight off my shoulders. I easily find abundant and reliable material on our website with which to teach, preach, and counsel. I don’t have to wear myself out reinventing the wheel, so to speak. GCI keeps producing enough food to nourish the new and the mature believers. It helps us more effectively cultivate and empower our members and leaders to live holy lives and grow spiritually.
Now, back to Moses and his team of seventy. Further in the story, there were two other men who were also prophesying without Moses’ knowledge, and Joshua, alarmed, wanted to stop them. But Moses corrected him and showed him the longing of his own heart, “I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” (Numbers 11:29b).
Moses’ desire is being fulfilled today, and there is no need to stress as he did. We ministers are not alone on this journey, because God has filled his people with the Spirit and through the church, he is giving us the leaders, the means, and the tools to nourish his children, to spread the gospel and to advance the kingdom of God on Earth.