MT. BETHEL, Penn. Pastors must remember God above all else, a "father" of New York Christianity reminded pastors and ministry leaders gathered for a three-day retreat.
"The Lord has become my Light not my friends, not my family, not my church, not myself, but the Lord," said the Rev. Robert Johansson, Senior Pastor of Evangel Church in Long Island, N.Y., and chair of Concerts of Prayer Greater New York.
Johansson spoke at the first general session for the Pastors' Prayer Summit, which has convened nearly 300 pastors and ministry leaders in the New York Tri-State area for a time to deepen their relationships with God, while networking with friends.
"The well is not outside, but it is within you," he said citing John 4. "He who drinks the water that I give him shall have a well of water within him."
Preaching from Psalm 27:1-3, Johansson told those gathered that God has the answers they're looking for if they would only rely on Him and not anything else.
"He wants us to know that we can exchange our weakness for His strength any time over and over and over again, he said.
"It's not out there. It's not in some person, some book, in your church, in a person, in your altar, but the source of life is within me," Johansson exhorted. "The Lord is the Strength of my life."
But many times, pastors do not hear Him or follow Him.
My sheep hear my voice and then they follow, Johansson cited Jesus as saying.
The sheep I know, including me we don't hear His voice, the pastor noted, We talk to Him all the time and we don't follow."
True sheep would listen to Jesus, wouldn't argue, rationalize, or dance around, but instead follow, said Johansson. He noted that the problem is the lack of faith.
"It seems to me so much of our praying lacks faith," he said. "It seems like God doesn't want to do what we want Him to do. We got to twist His arm, we got to beg "
Johansson explained that the problem is God wants to do everything, but sometimes, it's not that God's not answering the prayers, but that we're in His way.
Do not doubt, he said, because "He will do what we have to do."
"The Lord not your friends, not your church, but the Lord is the strength of my life," he added.
In an interview afterwards, Johansson said he wanted pastors to remember that they are not alone, but that the work of building the church is work that "Christ is responsible for."
"Jesus said I will build my Church, so he's building his Church. We're just working together with him," he said. "It's not all on your shoulders... Know that at no time are you on your own, but you will labor together with him and what he has chosen to do."
Johansson also noted that many pastors think, "If the church isn't growing, then I guess I'm no good. I guess I failed. I guess I'm not called."
"You can't look at that, he said in response. If you'll be faithful and follow Him and obey Him, you're gonna win."
"Winning is not in doubt. How could I spend my whole life hoping that the thing I gave my life to (the church) will succeed? This thing is wrapped up in the work and power of Jesus Christ. He is Lord of the church. Get out of the way. Don't try to build your stuff. Let him use you. Let him work through you. He's got a plan. He doesn't need your plan."
The annual Pastors' Prayer Summit, organized by Concerts of Prayer Greater New York, is being held at Tuscarora Inn in Mt. Bethel, Penn., Jan. 23 - Jan. 25.
On Tuesday, a special intergenerational conversation about reaching youth will take place. General Sessions will continue to divulge on Psalm 27.