Posts Tagged With: pastor

The Sanctifying Work of Marriage and Parenting

I was a great husband before I married my wife of now almost 16 years.  I was a great father until I became a 4-time dad.  And so it happened, and God’s marvelous sanctifying work in my heart and mind kicked it up a number of notches. 

At a marriage conference I attended in 2001, Dr. Danny Akin, now president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, noted that getting married is like going to college, and having children is like going to grad school.  I’d add that when you start having teenagers, you’re working on your Parental PhD–with PhD meaning pretty hard days.

Your pastors are strange by the culture’s standards (I heard that Amen from you out there).  Between your pastors, we have 13 children–with #13 coming into the world late August (and frankly, we can’t have enough Morters in the world, can we?).  The culture says, “Marriage shouldn’t be until later–you need to live your life to the full measure before settling down.”  The terms ‘ball-and-chain’ are often used to describe your spouse–not very flattering.  When it comes to children, a Chicago writer named Linda Hirschman felt that college-educated stay-at-home moms were a detriment to society because they were wasting their time staying home and depriving the marketplace of their skill-set. 

Thus, the culture in which we live. And thus, an opportunity to convey something far, far better.

What does the Bible say about marriage and family?

1. God designed it (Genesis 1:26-31; Ephesians 5:22-24).  God designed marriage to be the way that children come into the world, by the love of a husband and wife into a home of commitment, fidelity, and accountability.  Couples are commanded by God to be fruitful and multiply. If in this fallen world that is not possible, God provides opportunities for couples to help others along in bearing fruit for Christ’s kingdom.

2. God defined it (Matthew 19:2-6). God tells us that He created marriage as that of male-and female, exclusively.  One husband, one wife, for life.  Every section of Scripture defines it thus (see especially Matthew 19:2-6).  Anything outside of God’s stated definition of marriage is sin. On this, the church must not budge.

3. God refined it (Ephesians 5:25-33):  Marriage serves as a picture of Christ wedded to the church, where Christ love His wife and gave Himself for her, and the wife submits to the headship of her Husband, Jesus Christ.  This brings a fine point to what God aims for church and for marriage.

4. God consigns it (1 Corinthians 7:2-5; 2 Corinthians 6:14-17).  God entrusted marriage to us, under his mandate that the couple not be “unequally yoked.”  Believers must marry believers–for if you do not have Christ in common, and Christ is not Lord, then the ‘yoke’ that leads you will be a different size and take you on a different row to hoe.

5. God assigns it (Ephesians 6:1-4):  My assignment as a Dad? Train my children in the way of the Lord.  But now I see that the main ‘small group’ that I must disciple is not my congregation, not my Sunday School class, not my pastors or staff–they are a priority, but not the main driving priority.  I must not pass on the responsibility, nor pass it off to my kiddos’ teachers at church.  They help, but it’s my assignment from the Lord.  The main discipling group God has provided me is my family.  I’m the only husband my wife has–I’m the only Dad my kids have.  And this applies to you as well.   

I didn’t marry until I was almost 27. God knew what He was doing when He brought Cindy may way.  And never did I imagine having four children–but God knew what He was doing in giving me the children He did. 

Our hope and joy is in Christ, who not only helps us take the next steps in our family life.  What steps do you need to take?

___________________________

Matthew Perry (D.Min, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as Lead Pastor at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church in Centennial, CO. This was originally published in our church newsletter, The Challenger for July 2014.

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The Joys of Pastoring a Multigenerational Church

Hi.  My name is Matthew Perry, and I pastor a semi-traditional, multigenerational Baptist church.

Before you say, “This sounds like an AA meeting—are you lamenting your situation?”  Far from it. 

When I interviewed at my current church back in October 2011, one of the questions that was asked me in various ways was basically this:  “What do you think of pastoring a church with a good amount of senior adults in it?”  My response surprised them:  “Senior adults need pastors, too!”  And what a tremendous blessing they’ve been to this pastor and this church. 

You see, I have a number of colleagues who look at my semi-traditional (translate: you still sing hymns with a piano and organ?), multigenerational (translate: you have a good number of senior adults at your church), Baptist (translate: they are so rigid in what they believe—ew) church and want to avoid this scenario. 

But this scenario is a blessing if that church seeks to follow what Scripture says and seeks to disciple the saved and witness to the lost about the glories of salvation through the cross and empty tomb of Christ.

I have a number of church planter friends who have planted churches of various sizes.  Some have maintained a modest size, while others have churches which have exploded—so good to see! 

Yet, when I go to these churches, I notice something distinctly missing.  No, I’m not talking about an organ.  I’m not talking about pews.  I’m not talking about a traditional choir. 

What I distinctly miss seeing is the gray haired people!  And I believe that, without realizing it, many of these younger churches will miss that as well.

Titus 2 speaks of the beauty of a multigenerational church:

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.9 Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior (Titus 2:1-10, ESV).

Titus pastored a multigenerational church where the older members would teach the younger members how to put their sound doctrine into sound living in all facets of their lives.  A church simply wishing to reach the 20s-30s demographic of their particular culture should read and heed this—we need all generations represented in our churches for the sake of putting the gospel on the frontburner as we live and move in our jobs, our homes, and yes, our churches as well.

Some pastors may have been burned by older people who may be hanging on to the tradition and the former ‘feel’ of the church of days gone by.  As a result, many pastors believe that the senior generation is the problem—so the fewer we have in our churches, the smoother the ride.

While I know this is often the case, especially in more established churches, if the pastor is honest, every generation has their particular ‘druthers’ of what they believe a church should be and wish to see that vision imposed executed to their desires.  That older generation may have lived during a time in the church when the church was flourishing, and associate the flourishing with the methods with growth. 

This is where the younger generation may teach the older generation about their times.  When the various generations listen to one another, they may each glean a bit of wisdom from the other.  The older generation has raised their children, worked at a job all their life, know a bit more about how to handle finances, and even better, know how to grow and sustain their Christian faith through all the seasons of life.

But the older generation, if they have a Bible-based, Spirit-driven motive, want to leave a legacy.  They know that the times in the culture have changed.  They know that church is not on the radar of the average person.  So deep down, they want to see the legacy and gospel-witness of their church continue on.  So they learn from the ‘young folks’ to see where they are and where the culture stands so that the church as a whole can look for more effective ways to connect with the surrounding neighbors, all the while staying firm and true to what the truth of Scripture speaks. 

Hi.  My name is Matthew Perry, and I pastor a semi-traditional, multigenerational Baptist church.

And I thank God for it daily!

 

 

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Links to Help Your Gospel Grip (May 12, 2012)

Mothers Day and the Infertile (Russ Moore):  “Regardless of how you do it, remember the infertile as the world around us celebrates motherhood. The Proverbs 31 woman needs our attention, but the 1 Samuel 1 woman does too.”

6 Bullet Points on Preaching (Tim Challies): “The Apostle Paul had a lot to say about preaching, but I think the majority of it can be grouped under six main headings or ideas.”

Five Reasons Christians Should Continue to Oppose Gay Marriage (Kevin DeYoung): The temptation, then, is for Christians go silent and give up the marriage fight: ‘It’s no use staying in this battle,’ we think to ourselves. ‘We don’t have to change our personal position. We’ll keep speaking the truth and upholding the Bible in our churches, but getting worked up over gay marriage in the public square is counter productive. It’s a waste of time. It makes us look bad. It ruins our witness. And we’ve already lost. Time to throw in the towel.’ I understand that temptation. It is an easier way. But I do not think it is the right way, the God glorifying way, or the way of love.”

The Subtle Art of Sabotaging Your Pastor (Jared Wilson):  “Following in the footsteps of The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis, Jared Wilson writes from the perspective of a senior demon to his apprentice on how to oppose and confound Christians. This imaginative piece offers powerful insight into the subtle ways leaders might be led astray” (A note from the Editor).

What is the Purpose of Small Groups and Sunday School? (Trevin Wax):  “If the main goal of the group is to invite outsiders to meet the Christians in their neighborhood, then Sunday school and small groups are clearly deficient. Meanwhile, if the primary purpose is Bible study and application, then community groups are off-base. The way we analyze these models depends on what we think is most important to accomplish.  I’m convinced that the purpose for breaking into smaller groups is one of the most neglected areas of discipleship. And when we don’t know what our purpose is, we’re certain not to fulfill it.”

6 Steps to Turning Your Sermons Into Books (Jared Wilson, again!):  “Over the last 6-7 years, I have worked on numerous book projects for pastors, some you’re familiar with and some you aren’t. I’m not new to the work. . . . I have worked on bad books and good books — which is to say, I’ve worked with bad sermons and good sermons. So the level of work it takes sometimes to turn a sermon transcript (the word-for-word script of what a preacher said from the pulpit) into a book chapter (a polished work of composition suitable for submission to a publisher) changes from project to project, but the process itself is fairly standard. Here’s sort of how it breaks down.”

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Helpful Understanding of What Makes Southern Baptists, Southern Baptists

Southern Baptists.  Depending on your vantage point, this denominational designation can bring about some strong feelings. Our history began with a commitment to missions and a commitment to the clear teachings of Scripture (a good thing)—but it also began as a split from Northern Baptists in 1845 because Southern Baptists did not see a problem with slaveowners being missionaries (a very bad thing, in my opinion).

Sometimes Southern Baptists are known more for what we are against than what we are for.  In this post, I want to focus exclusively on what we are for.  By virtue of explaining what we are for, we will also by implication state what we are not for.  Even so, given the wide umbrella that is the Southern Baptist Convention, I aim to use the acronym ‘Baptist’ to help clarify who we are and what we by and large believe.

Below is an excerpt that we send to our new members at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church

Biblical Authority: We hold to the Holy Bible (also known as the Scriptures or the Word of God) for everything we do in faith and practice. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Apostle Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” God breathes out every word of Scripture so that we may grow to full maturity and be given all we need for all He desires of us.

Autonomy of the Church. What this means is that this church, though one Southern Baptist church of many, is a group of baptized believers who have made a commitment to each other around the Scriptures. We operate as God directs our specific church, directing each person who has joined this church. Only Christ through the Scriptures and none other directs what we do. To read up further on this, go to Matthew 16:15-19; Acts 2:42-47; Acts 6:3-6; Acts 13:1-3.)

Priesthood of the Believer. This means that each believer in Christ can go directly to God the Father through Jesus Christ on His own. While we are certainly accountable under the leadership of the church to whom we belong (Hebrews 13:7-19), we may go to God in adoration, confession of sin, thanksgiving, and making requests to Him without anyone else’s permission.

Two Ordinances: An ordinance is an act that was ordained and practiced by Jesus himself during His earthly ministry. Those two ordinances are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper serves as a divine object lesson to help us remember the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins: the breaking of His body (the bread) and the shedding of His blood (the cup) for the forgiveness of our sins. Baptism comes from the word meaning ‘to immerse.’ Only those who have said they would surrender their all to Jesus were baptized. It is not the last step of salvation, but the first step of obedience—testifying to the believer’s faith in Jesus Christ.

International, North American, and Local Missions. ARBC is like all Southern Baptists in that we long to reach Centennial and Colorado and the corners of the earth. Southern Baptists have over 5,000 full-time missionaries worldwide and numerous other missionaries here in North America working to bring those who are far from God near to Christ. ARBC has been involved in missions to Alaska, Canada, Hungary—along with other missions fronts coming up. Missions work is a defining distinction among Southern Baptists.

Salvation by grace alone to faith alone to the glory of God alone. We are not saved by what we do to gain points with God—we are saved by surrendering and trusting in what Christ has already done through his work on the cross for our sins. Faith plus works does not save (Ephesians 2:8-9), but we see that as Christians our faith will work itself in our lives. We live out whom we love (Ephesians 2:10).

Two Offices. Scripture speaks of two ministry offices in the church: pastor (also called elder, bishop, or overseer in Scripture) and deacon. Their leadership only comes in service to the church in ministering to the physical and spiritual needs therein, but comes ultimately from God.

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What Should a Pastor Look Like? Part IV: Training and Equipping Leaders

 

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, 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. 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, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Did you realize that leaders are God’s gift to the church?  No, this does not give license for leaders to stroke their own egos.  Earlier in Ephesians 4, Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 in how when, upon his ascension into heaven, he gave gifts to men—these gives were the leaders of the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers.  The implication is that these men called into these offices and tasks did not pursue this of their own accord—it was a calling outside of them, a calling from God Himself through Christ. 

When Christ called the disciples, we see that Christ chose them: 

13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons.

Why did God call these men and give these “gifts” to the church?  “To equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).  God gives leaders to help the saints get to work for the Kingdom, be unified in Christ, and to build them up for maturity!

How do we respond to this call to be trained in the faith? 

  • We can see it as a glorious opportunity to be of use to God and His work, equipped as “as you go,” Great Commission disciples;
  • We can settle into the notion that we know enough already to get by, so let the professionals handle the ministry stuff. 

When ministry is multiplied, much can be accomplished for the Kingdom. 

Questions for you:

  1. What opportunities are provided for you to grow and be equipped in the faith?  (Yes, Sunday morning sermons do indeed count more than you realize!)
  2. When opportunities are announced, what is your initial response?  (You’d be surprised at how many say, “I can’t do that!”  or worse, “Why should I do that?”  Oh for more who would say, “I will do that!”)

Pray for your pastors and be grateful at how they work to equip, unify, and mature the church.  They love their sheep (It’s all part of shepherding) and love their Savior!  How wonderful to have men of God wanting to see the church be all that God would have them to be.

 

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Pastors Must Kill Their Flock—And Be There to Do It!

I’m reading through a very challenging book by William Still entitled, “The Work of the Pastor.”  Still was pastor for fifty years in Aberdeen, Scotland and geared his ministry around the clear exposition of Holy Scripture.  This book is a series of talks he gave to a pastors association, and he pulls no punches.  Here is one clear example:

Remember that ‘pastoring,’ meaning ‘pasturing,’ essentially has to do with feeding the flock.  Let me go on to say most reverently that the task of the Christian shepherd is to fatten the sheep for the kill.  In Israel that meant for sacrifice in the Temple.  By ‘the kill’ I mean, of course, consecration.  Our trouble in my own congregation is that the Lord so speedily pounces upon people whom He has sent along to be built up in the faith, that we sometimes have a hard time keeping together a working nucleus. 

But to the field of pastoral ministry.  It would seem that many Christian ministers accept pastorates or charges as a mean of basic security … and they use this as a jumping off place for the pursuit of their pet interests in one or other of a hundred associated fields.  The interest may be the application of the Gospel (or what they know, or understand, or even misunderstand of it) to politics, social service, the ecumenical movement, evangelistic work in a general inter- or non-denominational sort of way.  Or it may be the running of a complex of organizations in their own church, etc.  Many men make names for themselves in these pursuits as speakers, organizers, writers, good committee members, even as entertainers.  They sustain a calling almost independent of, or that has very little to do with, the task of pastoral ministry of feeding their sheep, from which they derive their daily bread.

… Too many ministers find other things to do, either because they do not like the pastoral ministry, and find it too hard, or because it creates too many problems working with people, or because they have gone cold and dead on it and it doesn’t cut much ice, and they are discouraged.  Ministers must do something to justify themselves, to boost their ego and express and fulfill themselves.  If they devote themselves to running large organizations, or spend their time forever a round of vain visiting, they feel that they are doing something.  Whereas if they devote themselves to the study and ministry of the Word of God, they create all sorts of problems for themselves and jangle many of their people, until their fellowships are soon a dither of change and challenge (p. 85-86).

I found this challenging.  Do we as ministers justify getting into other activities because we, deep down, don’t like being in the trenches of Great Commission gospel ministry?  Is this why we do Facebook and Twitter because we need an escape? 

This challenged me to see that my first priority is my calling as a pastor and minister of the Gospel at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church.  What are your thoughts?

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Three Types of Pastoral Authority in the Church

 authority2 Some bristle at the notion that elders/overseers/pastors have authority in the church. Yet, this authority has not been bestowed by his own personal ambition, by the desire of a pastor search committee or a church body. This authority has been bestowed by Christ. As preachers preach from the Scriptures, led by the Spirit of God, they become the voicebox of God. To reject the preaching of the minister is to reject the preaching of God’s Word. Therefore, pray that your pastor and all pastors of all churches will be so surrendered to the word of the Lord as well as the Lord of the Word so they may rightly lead the people of God in the way he has ordained.

How so? First, God has called pastors to oversee the gospel-direction of the church. While every person who is a member of God’s church has a part in the church, it is the elder/overseer/pastor who has been given to this task full-time. The church is the heartbeat of every pastor—and seeing the church follow in the path of Christ who redeemed His church through His glorious work on the cross.

Paul reminded Titus that “an overseer [is] God’s steward.” Without saying it, Paul reminded Titus to whom the Cretan churches belonged: the Lord Jesus Christ, who purchased the church with His own blood. Joshua Harris reminded us of this:

Do you love the church? Romans 12:10 tells Christians to "Love one another with brotherly affection." The affection and love we’re to have for fellow-Christians is to be based on the work of Jesus Christ for us. It’s not about elitism, it’s not because Christians are better than anyone else, it certainly isn’t because Christians are necessarily more lovable. We love the church because we love the Savior who redeemed the church.

Acts 20:28 tells us that Jesus obtained the church with his own blood. Is this what your love for the church is based on? If it’s anything less, it won’t last long.

  • Don’t love the church because of what it does for you. Because sooner or later it won’t do enough.
  • Don’t love the church because of a leader. Because human leaders are fallible and will let you down.
  • Don’t love the church because of a program or a building or activities because all those things get old.
  • Don’t love the church because of a certain group of friends because friendships change and people move.

Love the church because of who shed his blood to obtain the church. Love the church because of who the church belongs to. Love the church because of who the church worships. Love the church because you love Jesus Christ and his glory. Love the church because Jesus is worthy and faithful and true. Love the church because Jesus loves the church.[i]

The word steward comes from the Greek (oikonomos) which means being the manager of a household. One considers Joseph in the book of Genesis, whom Potiphar made “overseer in his house and over all that he had the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had, in house and field. 6So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate” (Gen 39:5-6).

Pastors and leaders of our churches need to recognize that we are simply managers of what God has given to them. As Joseph was in charge of what Potiphar entrusted to him, so too are the overseers/elders/pastors of the churches in charge of what God has left them. Pastors are overseers. Of what? The main issue is that we are stewards and overseers both of the gospel and the souls to which the gospel is applied. Look at Hebrews 13:17:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:17).

Pure leaders driven by Christ and His Word are praying for and preaching toward your souls. They are to exhibit a spiritual wisdom and maturity in this oversight, with a great understanding that they will have to give an account for every soul under their care. Calvin observes:

The heavier the burden [pastors] bear, the more honor they deserve; for the more labor anyone undertakes for our sake, and the more difficulty and danger he incurs for us, the greater are our obligations to him. And such is the office of bishops, that it involves the greatest labor and the greatest danger; if, then, we wish to be grateful, we can hardly render to them that which is due; and especially, as they are to give an account of us to God, it would be disgraceful for us to make no account of them.[ii]

Another type of leadership is that of how God has called pastors to shepherd the church. Peter charged the elders to whom he was writing:

2Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Pet 5:2-4)

Notice that pastors (a derivative of the word ‘shepherd’) are not to rule with an iron fist, but a shepherd’s stick. You see the rod of the shepherd served a number of uses. One use was to guide the sheep along the path that the shepherd knows oh so well. Another was to use in warding off those who would seek to devour the sheep. The third use served to actually count the number of sheep as they would pass “under the rod” (Ezek 20:37). They are to clear the way that they know so well, because they know their shepherd’s way so well.

This understanding must be clear, especially when one broaches the subject of elders. Do we have one, or do we have a number? There are various examples of having a plurality of elders who have different ministries in the church (Acts 14:23; 1 Tim 5:17; Eph 20:17, and yes Titus 1:5-6). But even with those who have the single elder (a main pastoral minister), there is still that bucking of authority (as we have already covered) because of a fear of all the ‘power’ in a church being consolidated to just the “ministry staff.”

Churches need leaders to pave the way, and shepherds to guide them in that direction. Even if churches did have a plurality of elders, Scripture clearly states that the final say in major decisions in the church comes before the congregation. When they chose those Christ-loving, Spirit-led men who are considered to be the first deacons, where did the apostles take the concern from which this arose? The congregation. When someone is brought up to be disciplined in the church, where does this go? Just to the two or three witnesses? No, Matthew 18:17 says, “It should be taken to the church—the assembly.”

Lastly, God has called pastors to having teaching authority in the church. Look at Titus 1:9: “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Elders and deacons have similar qualifications, but what distinguishes elders from deacons is that elders must have an ability to teach. Elders take care of the spiritual aspect of the congregation, the deacons deal with the physical issues of the members and even the building.

There is a two-fold rationale: instruct the faithful in sound doctrine, and to rebuke those who contradict that same sound doctrine. 

Richard Baxter was a pastor in the 1600s. What makes Baxter so special is his desire not simply to preach in the house of God, but to teach in the homes. 

[There] have been my hearers eight or ten years, who know not whether Christ be God or man, and wonder when I tell them the history of his birth and life and death as if they have never heard it before . . . I have found that some ignorant persons, who have been so long unprofitable hearers, have got more knowledge and remorse in half and hour’s close discourse, than they did from ten years of public preaching. I know that preaching the gospel publicly is the most excellent means, because we speak to many at once. But it is usually far more effectual to preach it privately to a particular sinner.[iii]

Baxter’s passion did not simply come in delivering a sermon, but shepherding his people by teaching them the Word of God on numerous, more personal occasions! 

Does this information cause you to pray for your pastor all the more? 

In a letter to a friend, who was in the ministry but sought to go abroad to learn the German tongue, Robert Murray McCheyne gave this great advice that all of us would do well to heed, minister or not:

I know you will apply hard to German, but do not forget the culture of the inner man—I mean of the heart. How diligently the cavalry officer keeps his saber clean and sharp; every stain he rubs off with the greatest care. Remember you are God’s sword, his instrument—I trust, a chosen vessel unto him to bear his name. In great measure, according to the purity and perfection of the instrument, will be the success. It is not great talents God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.[i]


[i]Quoted in C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), 2.


[i]Joshua Harris, Wrong Reasons to Love the Church. Accessed 23 January 2010, available http://joshharris.com/2010/01/wrong_reasons_to_love_the_chur.php [on-line]; Internet.

[ii]John Calvin, The Commentary on Hebrews, accessed 23 January 2010; available at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom44.xix.iv.html [on-line]; Internet.

[iii]Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor, 5th ed. (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1974), 112.

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My Priorities As a Smaller Church Pastor

I understand that the term “small church” is entirely relative. According to smallchurch.com, “75% of America’s churches have an average weekly attendance of 150 or less.” Our church averages around 150-160, so I would say we qualify. Some look at their small church with pride that they have maintained a close-knit fellowship and its a place where everyone knows everyone else’s name. Others look at small churches with disdain because they do not have the resources or the man-power to offer what some of the bigger churches offer. Sadly, many who feel this way leave the small churches who need their gifts for bigger, greener pastures.

As pastor of this church, I run the temptation of looking to bigger churches as models for ministry. Yet, I find this is just not helpful because my situation is not theirs. Are there some non-negotiables? Yes, because they are found in the New Testament rather than Saddleback or Willow Creek or Grace Community Church (where John MacArthur pastors) or Mars Hill (where Mark Driscoll pastors). I am at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church in southeast Fayette County. So what are my priorities!

Love Jesus. The Great Commandment is great for a reason. He must remain first. The rigors of the ministry can make the minister focus more on the ministry than on the Savior who called him into the ministry.

Stay true to the Word and avoid quick-fix gimmicks. When small church pastors look at other churches in the area and see how they are growing, the temptation is to simply do what they do. Others believe, “Well, if we build this, they will come.” The deeper temptation is to believe that centering the ministries of the church around the Word of God will not be enough. Isaiah 55:10-12

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
[11]
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

[12] “For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Love the people. The church is people.  The church is the bride of Christ (Eph 5:25-28).  The church is the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19-20, 1 Peter 2:4-10).  The local body of believers is the expression of Christ’s redemptive work in the community, and are the witnesses of Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).  Each of the members of this church are fallen sinners saved by grace, dealing with issues here and now in the flesh.

The best way I can love my people is to make sure I rightly preach the Word and pray for them (Acts 6:4), and train my deacons in the day-to-day  involvement and investment in their families.  I spend time calling them, writing them, visiting them, and getting to understand their situation so I can directly minister.   Philippians 1:3-6 says:

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, [4] always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, [5] because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. [6] And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Build up leaders.  The pastoral letters (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus) demonstrates how the Apostle Paul trained and mentored Timothy and Titus to be preachers and stewards of the gospel personally and corporately.  And as 2 Timothy 2 tells us, we are to be trained so we may train other faithful men who will also train other faithful men, and so forth.

Train in evangelism.  We need to be trained in the faith so we may be strengthened, but also so we may share the gospel with those outside the faith.  Share Jesus Without Fear and Two Ways to Live are excellent in helping your people easily understand and engage in sharing their faith with those who don’t know Christ.

If you’re a small to medium-sized church pastor, what are your priorities?

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The Razor’s Edge of Pastoring, Part II

Another razor’s edge of pastoring is that I would shepherd the flock of God willingly!  In other words, pray that I would not see my calling as a pastor simply as a job, as something I do to pay the bills.  Pray that God would grant me and guard in me a hart that is one who desires to love, serve, preach to and shepherd this church.  Pray that nothing would take away the joy found in Jesus!  Pray that I would work willingly, not just being self-motivated but God-motivated, Christ-motivated, Word-motivated.   Pray that computers, phone calls, worry, lack of rest, and a myriad of other issues would not divert me from the crux of my calling: preaching and teaching the Word of God.

(If you would like to read Part I of this series, click here.)

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Preaching Plans for 2008

With Christmas over and the New Year approaching, many pastors and ministers begin to both examine the year almost done as well as the year that is to come!  I find myself doing just that — going over the past year’s bulletins, Scripture readings, sermons, and the various ministry activities to see what we did well in representing the Kingdom and on what areas need great improvement.

My goal for 2008, preaching-wise, is to continue through Luke.  I started Luke at the beginning of November 2007 to try and time hitting Luke 2:1-20 during the Christmas service on December 23.  I have actually schemed out the 52 weeks of the year to see where we would end up landing by the end of November (yes, November— for I customarily preach a four-part sermon series on the Incarnation of Christ to help prepare hearts for Christmas).  While I fully expect to deviate from this series, such planning does help me in knowing what to study for in my reading time, as well as what to look for in life to help strengthen the sermon with relevant illustrations.

Plus, I look forward to hitting more than ‘just’ Luke (although Luke would be plenty sufficient).  As I go through Luke, I notice that Luke includes a small portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Here, I could detour from Luke and do a short sermon series on the Matthew account of the Sermon on the Mount.  This serves two purposes: one, to flesh out more of what Jesus said, and two, to give the people a bit of a respite from Luke in hopes that Luke will remain fresh to them and not tedious.

In examining Luke, I see that there are times when Jesus addresses Abraham, Jonah, and other prophets.  I could use this time to then delve into another side series on these men or, as the case may be, on the book of Jonah.  If Jesus begins to address an doctrinal area, such as the Holy Spirit in Luke 11, or the cause of suffering as in Luke 13, etc., this would afford another break, but also giving substance and teeth to Luke as well. 

What plans do you have for the coming year, if any?  Do you see value in planning out sermons for the entire year?  Is this too long?  Does planning at all quench the Holy Spirit in your eyes?  I’d be very interested in your thoughts.

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