It's Congregation Appreciation month!


Yes, I know there is no such thing as "Congregation Appreciation Month."  In fact, it is apparently pastor Appreciation Month.  Why?  

I couldn't find who started it, so I suspect it may have been Hallmark or some other greeting card company to promote their revenue or by some pastor needing to be validated.

Personally, I see no need for a month or a day to be designated for me to be appreciated.  My reason is simple and will let the words of Paul the apostle explain it.  He wrote to the Thessalonians:

But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness--God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.  1Thes. 2:4-6

I'm with Paul. I have been approved by God in my ministry as well, therefore I speak and serve to please Him, for He will be the one that I will have to stand before and give account.  Therefore, the glory of men (being praised and exhalted by men), or by my congregation is not needed or expected, nor demanded.

Paul also has taught me that my joy in ministry is not found by being recognized and applauded by my congregation but by their lives lived for the Lord consistently until His return.

For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.  1Thes 2:19-20

I can sincerely say, for me to watch my congregation, those God has given to me to serve and teach, take hold of God's truth, to apply it and grow in their relationship with the Lord Jesus, is of great joy to me.  The apostle John made similar statements in his 3rd letter.

For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.  3John 3-4

My congregation is a source of "great Joy" to me for they continually demonstrate a walk in God's truth and so demonstrate their appreciation of me as they glorify the Lord in their lives.  Lord bless them and keep them.




My tribute to pastor Chuck Smith

Pastor Chuck Smith 1927 to 2013

Pastor Chuck and pastor Bob Ybarra at pastors conference in Murrieta, CA

Pastor Chuck and pastor Bob Ybarra at pastors conference in Murrieta, CA

As my first blog post on my new website I thought it appropriate to share my thoughts and give tribute to pastor Chuck Smith.  

After accepting Christ at a home Bible study I began listening to pastor Chuck's teaching.  I never attended Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, but for occational visits, yet his teaching impacted me as a young Christian.  As pastor Churck would always say, "Simply teach the Word simply."  

Later as I served the Lord and became a teacher of God's word I followed pastor Chuck's example of teaching the Word verse-by-verse.  Then as a pastor, his words of wisdom would regularly come to mind. "Where God guides, God provides."  Always were they so simple yet profound, "Bob, just trust the Lord."  The most important influcence was how he loved the sheep.  He would stand for some time greeting and praying with everyone who would line up to meet or speak to him after a service at Costa Mesa. 

I personally got to know pastor Chuck while I and my family served in Japan as Missionaries.  It was the summer of 1991 when pastor Chuck was there for a three day conference on his way to teach in China (How that came about is an incredable story).  I and my family were called by the Japanese ministry sponsoring the event and invited us to attend a luncheon.  Unexpectedly, I, my wife and my two small gitrls were sat at his table with others.  I was stoked!  Who would ever think that I would be sitting with pastor Chruch for lunch in Japan, of all places.  The conversation was simple at first but when he asked what I was doing in Japan the conversation became more detailed.  The conversation is to much info to speak of here and not really needed for this post.  However, I will share two momentous things that happened that blessed and ministered to me.  

One was how he so patiently stood for more than an hour after the last meeting of the Japan conference, late at night, speaking to each person who stood in line waiting to meet him.  They were all Japanese and with translator (This makes a conversation twice as long) listened and shared and prayed and shook their hands.  I sat watching and remember praying, "Lord, may I be as patient and kind as this man, if not more." Even when his translator told him it was time to go, Chuck  continued to smile and greet each person, never budging.  At one point he looked over and saw me, called me over to speak to me, then asked me to join him in praying.  "How cool is this," I thought, "I'm praying for people along side pastor Chuck."

The second blessing was later that evening.  As I was sitting with pastor Chuck on a garden wall in front of the conference center, my 6 year old daughter came running and leaped onto pastor Chuck's lap as if he was her grandpa.  I appologized and attempted to remove my daughter.  He immediately waved me off and shared how he missed his grandchildren and welcomed my daughter's attention.  So like our Lord Jesus.  

There is so much more I could share of my encounters with pastor Chuck that are memorable blessings and learnings, but another time.  I will miss writing to him with updates of how our church was going and getting his simple but encouraging replies.  I will miss his presence and teaching at our pastor conferences,  as will all other pastors.  However, God deserves the Glory.  As the apostle Paul said,

"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." 1Co 15:10 

It was simply God using a man that yeilded his life and by God's Grace God used pastor Chuck.  

I pray that the God of all comfort will touch the family and dear friends of pastor Chuck until we all join him in Glory.


p Bob