Posts Tagged With: ministry

Six Traits of a Healthy Christian and a Healthy Church

Humility:  The desire of the believer to build someone else up rather than themselves.  That ‘someone’ is Christ.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:1-2).

Unity:  This unity is not based upon mere fellowship, but is based upon truth.  If we lean toward fellowship, we will compromise the truth in order to keep the peace.  If we lean toward truth, then if fellowship is ultimately based upon making sure falsehood does not infiltrate the church worse than any cancer than attacks a human body.  We are not a social club, but a Kingdom outpost of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Never forget that!

3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:3-6).

Ministry:  God grants followers of His Son spiritual gifts, in varying proportions, in order to accomplish His work and will in the world.  And He gives spiritual leaders (v. 11) in order to be equipped so they may equip others for the work of the ministry (v. 12).  The leaders of the church are, in a way, God’s gifts to the church—for they work to teach and equip others to do what God has ordained them to do (Ephesians 2:10). The church is built up and strengthened.  

7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:7-12).

Maturity:  In the midst of the attainment of unity in the faith, the more we come to know Christ, then more we mature to be like Christ.  Jesus is our anchor, keep us strong.  Jesus is the One who provides discernment, so we are aware of the schemes of self and Satan.  No church or Christian is healthy that does not grow—and when a Christian does not wish to grow?  Well, 2 Corinthians 13:5 comes into play. 

13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Ephesians 4:13-14).

Fidelity:  Faithfulness to the truth of God’s revelation is a non-negotiable.  This connects strongly to the maturity aspect, because in the truth we grow up into Christ who is the head of the church.  This hearkens back to John 8:31-36 where both the truth sets free and the Son sets free.  The Son is the point of the entirety of God’s revelation, and thus is inherently connected to His Word!  He is the head—we are but the body.  But by God’s grace, we are members of that body with work to do!  What a blessing to be a part of the truth!  Truth that matters!  For eternity!

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped (Ephesians 4:15-16a).

Charity:  Here, we bring out the King James English in speaking of love.  We are built up in the truth, in the knowledge of the Son of God, and in love.  Notice this is also how we are to speak:  speak the truth in love.  Speak all truth and no love, you have Pharisaism.  Speak all love and no truth, you have liberalism.  The most loving thing you can do is to be truthful, recognizing that all have souls and a story—not just labels. 

when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16b). 

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ARBC Visioneering: Burden-Bearing Ministry, Part I

On Saturday, January 12, 2013, we will have a Leadership Retreat for all of the leaders in our church (staff, team leaders, team members, Sunday School teachers—anyone in a leadership position or serving on any team). My desire is to go through a book by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester called Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community.

At the beginning of one of the chapters, they bring up a case study of a young lady who brings a significant issue to their attention. She told them she was a perpetual self-harmer and even in her 20s it was an established pattern—she even showed them the scars on her arm. How does one deal with this issue as a follower of Christ? One man who listened to this ended up taking some time trying to process why someone would do such a thing? In this, he felt repulsed and protective of her all at the same time. The wife went over to put her arm around her, while he began to pray quietly.

The point of this scenario was to present to us as believers and belongers to a local church, and to explore what the next steps should be.

One scenario is to say that he was not equipped to deal with the problem, since they had no training in the matter. Finding a professional psychologist would be the best—they would even go to the appointment and support as much as possible.

Another scenario would be the following: to admit to being overwhelmed by her story and to admit as well the inadequacy felt. Yet, he is convinced that the best place for this to be worked out is in the church! She could be surrounded by people who love her, who are going through their own struggles, but who could sit under and submit to the power and sufficiency of God’s Word. Then (I love how this is put), “He knows it is not going to be easy. There is no magic wand to wave. But there seems to be no better place to start than with the Word of God skillfully applied by the Spirit of God among the people of God.”[1]

This morning, during our third part of our Visioneering series, we once again revisit our mission statement:

Arapahoe Road Baptist Church exists to worship God; evangelize our family, city, state, nation and world; disciple God’s people, minister to the physical and spiritual needs of others; and fellowship with one another.

And so we explore this aspect. In looking to how to put feet to this, we need to understand that the word ‘minister’ is the word from which we get deacon (diakonia). In Acts 6, there were those who served the people spiritually (the apostles and pastors) and others who served the physical needs (deacons). But in this area, we are all as believers called to minister the gospel in spiritual and physical ways.

It is here that I wish for us to turn to Galatians 6:1-4.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load (Galatians 6:1-4, ESV).

Don Whitney rightly says that there is a hurt in every heart. And those who occupy the pews and the roles of our churches are no different! The key verse is found in Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” What burdens? Verse 1 refers to “transgressions,” and that spiritual believers should aim to gently and carefully restore them. The burden of one’s sin is a terrible burden. In Psalm 38:1-4, we read:

O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,

Nor discipline me in your wrath!

For your arrows have sunk into me,

And your hand has come down on me.

There is no soundness in my flesh

Because of your indignation;

There is no health in my bones

Because of my sin.

For my iniquities have gone over my head;

Like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

Our sin affects us more than we recognize—and this is why we sit under the Word, so we would recognize our Savior and thus our sin. We may wonder why our hearts are so heavy, why we struggle. Could there be lingering sin that has yet to be dealt with? We are called to bear one another’s burdens “to fulfill the law of Christ.” What is the law of Christ? “They will know you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:34). Loving our brothers and sisters in Christ does not simply entail a sentimental love—it is about rolling up our sleeves and investing and getting involved in their journey!

At this point, let’s take a look at the types of burdens we are to help bear. These burdens found in us are not comprehensive—but they are the type of burdens and sins with which many Christians struggle. Maybe this is a burden with which you struggle.

Bear one another’s burdens. What types of burdens are we talking about?

Before we talk about others, let’s talk about ourselves as believers for a moment! We know from Scripture that God has supplied each of us with gifts. Ephesians 4:11-12 says that he has given the church the gifted leaders to “equip us to do the work of the ministry” so we will all grow toward maturity and unity!

In Romans 12:3-8, we see another truth come to the fore:

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

These gifts we are given are intended to build up the body of Christ, and can all be boiled down into either speaking gifts or serving gifts. And the body needs everyone functioning as God created it so that the rest of the body can move forward!

After the men’s conference yesterday, I went in the backyard of the youth house and started throwing football with Steven and Mark Horton! Had a great time—until I went to get a thrown ball in my tractionless dress shoes. That little slip affected things just enough to where the ball jammed my thumb. I was done! Put some ice on it, wrapped it up. But you don’t realize how much you need your thumb until it’s injured. Buttons, opening a bottle, tying shoes, writing—it doesn’t go smoothly. Other parts of the body have to compensate until the injured part is healed.

This, friend, is ministry! Equipping and encouraging the saints to unity and maturity! We rejoice in the victories and as they grow in maturity, but we also come along to bear one another’s burdens! And do we ever have sinful burdens that we deal with! Ever We rejoice in the victories and as they grow in maturity, but we also come along to bear one another’s burdens! And do we ever have sinful burdens that we deal with! Every burden we have is an issue of worship—do we worship ourselves and our desires, or will we worship Christ who rescued us from the penalty of those desires?


[1]Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 127-28.

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Great Commandment Education Strategy, Part I: The Biblical

Yesterday, I posted the main outline of “A Great Commandment Education: A Fourfold Strategy” which outline the biblical, spiritual, doctrinal, and missional aim of my desired education ministry at ARBC.  It’s based on Matthew 22:37-39:

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart  and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

So to begin with the biblical:  everything in the church must derive either explicitly or implicitly from the Scriptures.  Thus, the education ministry of the church, in this Colorado pastor’s mind, must entirely and completely been rooted and grounded in the Scriptures.  In Christ is “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).  We are to “walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught.”

So walking in Christ, understanding our relationship with Him and (more importantly) his nature, work, and teachings must be taught.  Recently books have come out saying that our theology is more often caught than taught, but where does it start.  How can we discern what we are catching?  And how will we know what to throw so they are catching what they should? 

It must be taught.  Truth is taught!  Christ’s nature, work, and teaching are taught!  Why?

In Colossians 2:8, we read:

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

We will come across philosophies and empty deceits and human traditions.  But the key is “that no one takes you captive” to it.  And Christians are susceptible to this if they fail to stay strong in their walk, if they fail to be rooted, if they fail to be built up in him.  Christians must be grounded in the content of the faith.  Jude 3 says we are to “contend for the faith, once and for all delivered to the saints.”  We cannot contend for the faith if we do not know the content of our faith! 

Beware of Reproducing Pharisees

In a recent interview on the White Horse Inn, Michael Horton interviewed Brian Cosby (5/4/2012), author of the book Giving Up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry from an Entertainment Culture.  The interview opens with Cosby’s insight:

The sad reality is that most parents want their children to be Pharisees—they want them to behave right.  And many times it’s because of the parents’ own idolatry of their children in their children-driven homes in many cases, instead of being centered around the gospel in leading a life of repentance and faith before their children.  Instead of this, they want their children to behave and be nice.

The gospel and biblical theology is not merely about producing nice little Pharisees.  It’s about exalting the Christ of the Scriptures who rescues us from our self and our idols (or our idol of self) by atoning for our sins, bringing us to a place of self-denial and surrender to Christ. 

We must beware of not only producing ‘nice’ people, but of simply branding the gospel as a mode of therapy.  “Jesus will make everything better if you just give your heart to Him.”  What is ‘everything’?  It’s this type of evangelism that brings more distress than anything.  "But my life got worse through persecution and the devil coming after me—this is better?”  Though they may not phrase it like this, the Christian life is about Christ and His Kingdom in the midst of a worldly kingdom that hates him.  We need to teach on the front end of our Christian life as well as all through the Christian walk that Christianity is about persevering to the end for the reward of Christ—not simply having your ‘best life now.’ 

What Does This Aspect Look Like?

In church history, having a church geared around the Scriptures has fallen into two camps:  the regulative principle and the normative principle

The regulative principle is summed up in a section in the London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689):

The light of nature shews that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is just, good and doth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart and all the soul, and with all the might.  But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures (Ch. 21, para. 1).

This view, as you see from when it was articulated (the year of our Lord 1689), states that only what is prescribed in Scripture is permitted.   If it’s not commanded, it’s forbidden.  This is usually seen in styles/types of music.  Some do not advocate the use of instruments in worship because they are not mentioned in the NT, and in OT use they are simply used for ceremonial worship.  Therefore, instruments, hymns of human composition, and other things along this line, are forbidden.  This is a hard, strict line.

The normative principle is outlined by Sam Waldron as this:  true worship is what God commands, plus anything not expressly forbidden.  Some would say this allows for creativity within the bounds of Scripture in faith and practice, but can also allow for abuses and excesses to creep into the church.  The simplest reference to a Scripture that may possibly allow a practice in the church provides the permission needed to move forward. 

Yet, these Reformers did bring a caveat—the ‘good and necessary consequence’ clause, if you will.  Singing is permitted, and therefore I believe instruments are permitted insofar as they aid the congregational singing and not overwhelm it.  Hymns are permitted, insofar as they exalt Christ and the gospel (or at least some significant portion of Scripture).  I could go on, but you get my general drift.

The ultimate point is that the Bible should not simply be there to give prooftexts to our agenda.  The Bible directs the agenda.  The Scriptures point to the rescue mission of God, coming to consummation in Christ—so should the church in general and our education ministry in particular.  

So we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart!  Yes—and may the Scripture be that which transforms by the “renewing of our mind” (Romans 12:2). 

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Where Should the Pastoral Training Take Place?

When a passion for the church is added to a grounding in the gospel, a proper understanding of ministry calling begins to form. If you believe you’re called to pastoral ministry, you must see your potential calling in the context of the local church, where ministry is shaped and defined according to Scripture.

This makes sense. But think about it for a second. You might be in a church right now but considering hitting the road to get training somewhere else—seminary, Bible college, parachurch ministry. Funny thing about us evangelicals: we take men who are in the church out of the church in order to send them back into the church to do ministry for the church. Is anybody else confused?

Suppose you had a guy whose greatest dream was to make doughnuts. He couldn’t imagine a life where he wasn’t covered with flour and sugar, helping out in the little shop where he grew up. A dream stirs in his heart—he wants to make doughnuts for these folks the rest of his life. So what do we do with Doughnut Joe?

If we follow the common model for training pastors, we tell him he’s got to leave the doughnut shop and go to doughnut school—study the history of doughnut making, parse the intricacies of recipe texts, be able to cogently argue the merits of traditional doughnut design versus the modern fat-free varieties. You get the idea. Joe becomes a “professional” now. But that path takes him far away from the neighborhood shop where he’s always dreamed of carrying out his vision. Somehow we reached the point where the most commonly accepted approach to training pastors is to draw gifted men away from the local church and educate them largely outside it.

Don’t get me wrong—this isn’t about seminary bashing. I went to a great seminary while serving my local church. It gave me a deep appreciation for the key role that Christian educational institutions play in helping the church protect sound doctrine and train teachers and scholars for the advance of the gospel. But there are other important aspects to training men for ministry, areas where the Bible school or seminary can often bump up against limitations. I’m thinking specifically of identifying called men, evaluating their call, assessing their character, and positioning to be fruitful in their call. That’s the responsibility of the local church.

Dave Harvey (2012-03-07). Am I Called?: A Summons to Pastoral Ministry (pp. 52-54). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

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Christian Ministry in the Shadow of the Mosque: Panel Discussion at Southern Seminary

Albert Mohler, David Sills, Daniel Montgomery, Zane Pratt and Russell Moore come together in a panel discussion at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY on the topic, “Christian Ministry in the Shadow of the Mosque.”  This is very beneficial to those Christians who seek to know and minister to Muslims in an effective and Christ-honoring way. 

 

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A Divided, Disjointed, Dysfunctional Church—And How to Avoid It.

In our REACH groups at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church , we are covering Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians.  Having only covered the first three chapters, we were amazed to find so many helpful truths for the church today.  The Corinthian church was a divided, disjointed, dysfunction church—with many of the same problems many of our churches have today.  The reason for this is comes down to arrogance and jealousy regarding varying rallying points many members of our churches come around.  If we aren’t careful, disunity will come forth very subtly, but will soon fracture a church right in two. 

Rally Around a Preacher (Past or Present) 

The Corinthian church had their members who had their preference of ministers.  Paul, Apollos, Cephas—each had their styles, giftings, and emphases.  Paul was a church planter and foundation lay-er.  Apollos was a gifted teacher (Acts 18).  Cephas (the apostle Peter) had a Type-A, action-oriented personality!

Every member of every church struggles with this.  We identify with a preferred preacher that suits our personalities and desires.  I find myself leaning toward preachers and teachers who go into great depth and background of the biblical passage.  Other friends of mine prefer preachers who are more motivational in nature, stirring hearts and souls and readying them for action. 

What struck me from 1 Corinthians 3 was this passage: 

“So let no one boast in men.  For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death of the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).

This means that all these preachers (and the world, our lifespan, and time itself) are for our benefit.  Even if one preacher is a church planter, teacher, motivational speaker—if they all are preaching the Good News of the person and work of Christ, it’s all for our edification and encouragement.  They are all on the same team!  Relish in the diversity of God’s unifying Word!

Rally Around a False View of Christianity

In 1 Corinthians 3:1, Paul says, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.”  This is from the ESV, but in the KJV, Paul uses “carnal” instead of “people of the flesh.”  Thanks to the Scofield Bible and Charles Ryrie, a theory about the ‘carnal Christian’ has become quite prevalent.  Warren W. Wiersbe outlines this as follows:

[Paul] explained that there are two kinds of saved people: mature and immature (carnal).  A Christian matures by allowing the Spirit to teach him and direct him by feeding on the Word.  The immature Christian lives for the things of the flesh (carnal means “flesh”) and has little interest in the things of the Spirit. . . . The immature believer knows little about the present ministry of Christ in heaven.  He knows the facts about our Lord’s life and ministry on earth, but not the truths about His present ministry in heaven.  He lives on “Bible stories” and not on Bible doctrines. . . .  A mature Christian uses his gifts as tools to build with, while an immature believer uses gifts as toys to play with or trophies to boast about (Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, pp. 577-78). 

While I profit greatly from Wiersbe’s ministry, this explanation of what a carnal Christian is and saying they are believer’s is a slippery slope.  Romans 8 repeatedly says you are either in the flesh or in the Spirit—and if you’re in the flesh, you’re an unbeliever (1-17).  Even Satan knows facts (James 2:19) but that does not mean he is saved, yet the carnal Christian is according to this viewpoint. 

This mindset serves as a detriment to our churches.  How many have been caught in the snare of living “for the things of the flesh and [having] little interest in the Spirit” but still believe they are Christians—while not demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) which itself demonstrates they are branches connected to the Vine (John 15:5-8)?  How often do those who name the name of Christ spend their lives living for self, yet failing to recognize that following Christ entails a denial of self (Mark 10:45; Luke 9:23)?  This theory has brought in a lot of confusion to the church and taken the narrow road of following Jesus (Matthew 7:24-29) and turned it into an eight-lane superhighway. 

Paul’s intention in this passage is to warn the Corinthians that their divisive behavior is too much “of the flesh,” and they need to repent in this area.  We are not saved by our works, but we show we are saved by what we do and where our affections lay (James 2:13-25).  We must not take the ‘lordship’ out of following our Lord Jesus. 

Rally Around a Ministry in the Church

Children’s Ministry.  Youth Ministry.  Sunday School.  Senior Adult Ministry.  Small Group Ministry.  Evangelism.  Building Expansion.  Music Ministry. These and many others are used by the church to fulfill Christ’s intended purpose for the church:  making disciples (Matthew 28:19). 

God gives each of us gifts and desires for each of us to use in His church to fulfill His purpose.  Yet, Satan tempts our flesh to believe that our preferred ministry should be everyone’s preferred ministry—especially if/when funds are low.  Each ministry makes a great case for strengthening the church in the present and reaching others for the future. 

But hearken back to 1 Corinthians 3:22:  “All are yours.”  Each of these ministries work in lockstep with one another for one unifying purpose:  making disciples and being witnesses everywhere at all times (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8 ).  God gives those of “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:4) a variety of gifts and desires to plug into to help His church flourish and grow.  But when we begin to focus on the ministry area rather than the one for whom we minister, we add to the division, disjointedness and dysfunction. 

Rally Around a Time Period

Face it, everyone hearkens back to the time of their youth as an idyllic time.  Most music we enjoy listening to is music from our childhood or teenage years.  Most of the TV shows we enjoy are from that same time in our lives.  Even now, when I watch M*A*S*H or The Cosby Show, it takes me back to a wonderful, simpler time in my life.

I have a preference of worship from a very poignant time in my spiritual walk.  It took place later in high school and in college.  I enjoy worship with various instruments with solid words and lively music (guitars, light drum, keyboards—we must have a piano/keyboard in there—etc.).  I grew up with piano and organ, but that’s not my preference.  That’s not the era in which I grew up.

Southern Baptists (of which I am proudly and unashamedly a part) had a heyday in the 1950s.  Most in the South believed in Christian principles and morality, and even went to church for the most part.  Attendance and baptism and offerings were up.  But those numbers are dipping convention-wide.  Why?  Some say it’s because we’ve abandoned the way we did church in the 1950’s.  The fact is, many churches have not abandoned the 1950s, but the culture has.  It’s changed—big time.  It’s also changed from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s as well (my ‘era’). 

Yet, look at 1 Corinthians 3:22 again:  “all are yours … present or the future.”  We learn from the past, but from our heritage in the Word and from mistakes.  We live in the present, because that’s where God has placed us and we can only minister to those who are here right now.  We look to the future, because God has called us to pass along the precious deposit of the gospel (1 Timothy 2:2; Acts 2:38-39).  But we must embrace each of these timeframes for our benefit! 

Rally around Relevance

This last rallying point is the other side of the coin of what was mentioned previously.  ‘Being relevant’ stands as a huge rallying point with many churches in our day.  By this, we mean to look at what is trending popular in the culture, then work to use that as a common point to bring folks in in order to hear the gospel of Jesus. 

Whereas those who rally around a past time period live in the past, those who rally around relevance risk rejecting and ejecting the past all together.  From changes in architecture, music styles, and technology—what is new and what is ‘in’ is what must be used.  The slippery slope?  What’s in style now will be out of style soon.  Efficiency was the watchword in the 1950s, now it’s relationships and informal worship.  Fire and brimstone preaching or oratory preaching (depending on what part of the country) was ‘in,’ now it’s more conversational in tone. 

My point is, we cannot eject the present for the past, nor can we eject the past for the present

Who Do We Rally Around?  Christ!

Paul exclaimed in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”  This is how Paul stayed so focused

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Which Type of Tolerance Marks Your Ministry?

Beware of replacing real truth-based tolerance with spurious professional tolerance. Once upon a time tolerance was the power that kept lovers of competing faiths from killing each other. It was the principle that put freedom above forced conversion. It was rooted in the truth that coerced conviction is no conviction. That is true tolerance. But now the new professional tolerance denies that there are any competing faiths; they only complement each other. It denounces not only the effort to force conversions but also the idea that any conversion may be necessary. It holds the conviction that no religious conviction should claim superiority over another. In this way, peaceful parity among professionals can remain intact, and none need be persecuted for the stumbling block of the cross (Gal. 5:11).3 The aim of this book is to spread a radical, pastoral passion for the supremacy and centrality of the crucified and risen God-Man, Jesus Christ, in every sphere of life and ministry and culture. Increasingly, a ministry under the banner of Christ’s supremacy will be offensive to the impulses of professional clergy who like to be quoted respectably by the local newspaper (John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, Kindle location 95). 

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Does Old Age Lend One to Compromise?

This past Sunday, we looked at 1 Kings 11 and the compromise of King Solomon, who through treaties and other longings of the flesh, married 700 wives and also had 300 concubines.  The issue came about “when Solomon was old” (1 Kings 11:4). 

Sam Tullock provides supplemental notes to the LifeWay Explore! Adult Sunday School materials through Founders Ministries that are very helpful!  Below, I give an excerpt to last week’s notes which relay a conversation he had several years ago with his then mentor, the late Ernest Reisinger, which is followed up by his own insights now that he is a senior adult.  Very insightful!  I’d appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

During my early years in the ministry, I had the opportunity to spend a considerable amount of time conversing with Pastor Ernest Reisinger. Among the many bits of wisdom I received from Ernie, I most remember his concerns about growing old. Though my senor by thirty-six years, I marveled at his ability to communicate with an inexperienced, immature, youthful pastor. On more than one occasion I heard Ernie pray that he would not live, in his senior years, in a manner that would undo the work of his youth. My mentor was right about the unique temptations of later life. Many years have passed, and, no doubt, I stand nearer the end of my journey than the beginning. Ernie’s prayers and Solomon’s example provide ample warning for those of us who no longer relish the promise of youth. I note several dynamics at play as I grow older.

Inertia: Older saints often do not possess the energy that once characterized their service to Christ. The natural processes of aging, coupled with some health problems, may contribute to spiritual lethargy. How easy to leave the Lord’s work to those who are young and energetic.

Disillusionment: The accumulated disappointments of life may rob older saints a sense of hope and usefulness in God’s kingdom. Seniors have lived long enough to have seen the dark side of church life. Human failings, among God’s people, may break the spirit of older Christians, and they may become disheartened. Furthermore, I wonder if other Christians, as they age, see the world differently than in younger years. In my youthful enthusiasm, I saw the world in very “black and white” terms, but, as I grow older, the “gray areas” seem more prominent. This trend, as I observe it, may cause the older saint to doubt the certainties that characterized younger years.

Pride: High-achieving persons may waste their senior years with unseemly smugness. Solomon may have fallen into this trap. His impressive achievements may have contributed to a failure in watchfulness over the condition of his soul. Moreover, his great wealth seems to have promoted a sense of pride, and, perhaps, he did not rest in the Lord as his portion and inheritance. Affluence carries a dangerous price tag.

“Youthful” passions: Clearly, Solomon’s sexual desires remained high—he surrounded himself with a teeming harem of beautiful women. Many men succumb to the passions of youth, when they reach their senior years.

 

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A Different Man in the Pulpit (A.W. Tozer)

You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe…. 
–1 Thessalonians 2:10

I am afraid of the pastor that is another man when he enters the pulpit from what he was before. Reverend, you should never think a thought or do a deed or be caught in any situation that you couldn’t carry into the pulpit with you without embarrassment.

You should never have to be a different man or get a new voice and a new sense of solemnity when you enter the pulpit. You should be able to enter the pulpit with the same spirit and the same sense of reverence that you had just before when you were talking to someone about the common affairs of life. (A.W. Tozer)  Worship: The Missing Jewel of the Evangelical Church, 29.

"Lord, help me to be a man of impeccable integrity. Give me the grace to be the same man, whether in the pulpit, in a board meeting, caught in rush hour traffic, or at dinner with my wife.
Amen."

(From Literature Ministries International)

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The Fallibility of Ministers (J.C. Ryle)

The example of the Apostle Peter at Antioch is one that does not stand alone. It is only a parallel of many a case that we find written for our learning, in Holy Scripture. Do we not remember Abraham, the father of the faithful, following the advice of Sarah, and taking Hagar for a wife? Do we not remember Aaron, the first high priest, listening to the children of Israel, and making a golden calf? Do we not remember Solomon, the wisest of men, allowing his wives to build their high places of false worship? Do we not remember Jehosaphat, the good king, going down to help wicked Ahab? Do we not remember Hezekiah, the good king, receiving the ambassadors of Babylon? Do we not remember Josiah, the last of Judah’s good kings, going forth to fight with Pharaoh? Do we not remember James and John, wanting fire to come down from heaven? These things deserve to be remembered. They were not written without cause. They cry aloud, "No infallibility!"

And who does not see, when he reads the history of the Church of Christ, repeated proofs that the best of men can err? The early fathers were zealous according to their knowledge, and ready to die for Christ. But many of them advocated ritualism, and nearly all sowed the seeds of many superstitions. The Reformers were honored instruments in the hand of God for reviving the cause of truth on earth. Yet hardly one of them can be named who did not make some great mistake. Luther held tightly to the doctrine of consubstantiation. Melancthon was often timid and undecided. Calvin permitted Servetus to be burned. Cranmer recanted and fell away for a time from his first faith. Jewell subscribed to Roman Catholic Church doctrines for fear of death. Hooper disturbed the Church of England by demanding the need to wear ceremonial vestments when ministering. The Puritans, in later times, denounced Christian liberty and freedoms as doctrines from the pit of Hell. Wesley and Toplady, last century, abused each other in most shameful language. Irving, in our own day, gave way to the delusion of speaking in unknown tongues.

All these things speak with a loud voice. They all lift up a beacon to the Church of Christ. They all say, "Do not trust man; call no man master; call no man father on earth; let no man glory in man. "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord." They all cry—"No infallibility!" The lesson is one that we all need. We are all naturally inclined to lean upon man whom we can see, rather than upon God whom we cannot see. We naturally love to lean upon the ministers of the visible Church, rather than upon the Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd and High Priest, who is invisible. We need to be continually warned and set on our guard.

(J.C. Ryle, The Fallibility of Ministers)

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