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This guest post is brought to you by Danny Franks, our Connections Pastor. Danny oversees guest services at the Summit, and his ministry at our church embodies the plumb line, “People are the mission.”

He heard the music as he crested the hill.

It had been an exhausting day in the field, just like every day since the incident. His workload had doubled and the weight of the family’s farm fell squarely on his shoulders. His father was not much help; he spent most days staring at the horizon, more intent on replaying the past than seeing what was right in front of him.

So at the end of this particular day, the faint strains of instruments were more than curious. They were a bit annoying. “There’s a party while I’m working? Who has time to plan parties? What reason do we have to celebrate?”

The firstborn saw a servant exiting the house. “What’s going on?” he snapped. “Why are all of these people here?”

The servant broke into a wide smile. “You haven’t heard? He’s returned! Your father has invited the village to celebrate!”

The firstborn’s face fell as the bile rose in his throat. He could feel his neck burning and he wasn’t sure if he spoke the words or simply thought them:

“You’ve got to be kidding me. He’s back.”

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It was a day everyone in Israel would talk about for centuries to come. Solomon had built God’s temple, and during their very first worship service, God’s presence had come so near that the priests themselves couldn’t even set foot in God’s house.

What do you think you would have done? If you saw God face to face, in all his majesty, how would you respond? I find it pretty informative what Solomon did: he prayed.

Solomon’s prayer (1 Kings 8) is chock full of wisdom, but there’s one point I think most of us tend to overlook. As Solomon says, “They shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm, when he comes and prays toward this house” (1 Kings 8:42). In other words, the foreigner was supposed to hear about this prayer-answering God and come to the temple and experience a prayer-answering God.

That’s the reputation we are supposed to have, in Jesus’ name, in our community. Throughout Scripture, God presents answered prayer as a critical part of his people’s witness. When Moses described to Israel what would distinguish them from every other nation on earth, he said that answered prayer would be the distinguishing mark: “For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7)

Answered prayer. Not great music or great preaching or even great giving, but answered prayer.

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Back in 2007, I sat in a conference filled with ministry leaders, listening to a prominent pastor share some sobering statistics:

  • In the U.S., 1500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
  • 50% of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.
  • 80% of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged in their role.
  • 50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could…but they have no other way of making a living.
  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • Almost 40% of pastors polled said they had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
  • 80% of pastors’ wives feel that their husband is overworked.
  • Over half of pastors’ wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage was the day their husband entered the ministry.

Not long ago, that same pastor—the one who had warned us about pastoral burnout and moral failure—was removed from pastoral leadership. He had abused his pastoral authority, shut out any attempts to hold him accountable, and pursued inappropriate relationships with a couple different women.

I know this man loved Jesus in 2007, and that he loves Jesus today. And I know he sincerely believed what he told us in that conference. But that didn’t prevent him from becoming one of the statistics he dreaded.

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