Posts Tagged With: pastors

The Need for a Holy Disruption in our Churches

The Bible is all about disruption.  The purpose of the preaching of the Word and the mission of the church in general is to disrupt. 

Fellowship is not simply about connection, it’s also about protection from the enemy and about disruption in the heart of God’s people.  As we fellowship in union with Christ and in communion with each other to build up each other in Christ, we connect to protect each other from the enemy

In Titus 1:9, we read about  giving instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it?  This is the point of 10-16.  In our fellowship, our protection radar is out.  Then in verse 10:  “For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers an deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party.”  Circumcision party are those called Judaizers, who insisted that in order to follow Christ, you must still keep the law of Moses.

In connecting with a body of believers, elders are not only to inspect those wanting to connect, but also do detect false doctrine and false living among God’s people in a three-fold process:  identify, silence, and rebuke.  We inspect to detect because others will be affected.

We identify them by their insubordination.  Paul commanded Titus to place elders in each town to keep the church in order.  The order is that of a doctrinal, purity order.  These folks were adding much to the pure gospel of Christ and telling them, “You are to stay true with sound ‘words’ (doctrine), but you’re coming in denying the sound words the elders preach (subordinate) with ‘useless words’ and lies.”  Our heavenly status is not secured by human accomplishments.

First Corinthians 11 contains a passage I read most every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper. In outlining some of the sinful issues, Paul noted, “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized” (1 Corinthians 11:18-19).  God brings necessary divisions to identify fractious people.

We silence them for the flock’s protection (11-12).  Paul warned them that they upset whole families for personal gain.  Our teachings and thinkings, if you will, have consequences, both good and bad.  Trustworthy teaching from sound doctrine provides a protective and helpful consequence.  Empty talking and Christ-plus teaching does not.

Paul includes a curious statement by a Cretan ‘prophet’ who noted, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”  This is a difficult assessment of the culture in which Paul is in—his agreement (tongue in cheek, possibly)—but

Kent Hughes tells of the time when a faithful pastor went on vacation, and in his place a nationally known speaker filled his pulpit.  At first, the man talked plainly about the gospel and faith in Jesus Christ, but then went on to suggest that anyone whose faith was genuine also had a particular view about American history and a certain political party.  The damage done was significant, and this caring pastor let him know.  Why?  The pastor responded,

“You may think that courtesy would restrain me from speaking strongly to you about what was said in my absence, but when it comes to protecting my people from a gospel polluted by human conditions, I am like a she-bear protecting her cubs.”1

The same could be said of heresy, preaching one end times view over another as a test of faith, church attendance, denominational affiliation, the type of Bible you must read—these matters must be identified and silenced!  This is adding to the requirements of being a believer in Christ.

We rebuke for the believer’s salvation (13-14).  Why would we rebuke?  Shouldn’t we simply leave them laying in the dust?  No, we rebuke so “that they may be sound in the faith.”

What’s sad is how many churches run away from these principals!   For many, the worst thing that can happen to a church is for disruption to take place.  The avoidance of leaders inspecting the belief’s of members before connecting is not Christ’s idea of protecting His church or His flock.  When Mark Twain observed the church, he noted that the church is about nice people hearing a nice sermon about how to be nice.

In 2 Timothy 4:3-4:

3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

The tonic?  Preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2).  Listen to the commands of God, not of people.  Listen to truth, not to myths.  Listen to the message of Christ, not Christ-plus.  Yes, the Word disrupts.

And that’s a good thing!  The message of the cross is scandalous, an offence!  It disrupts.  But a disruption will take place one way or the other.  Either the truth will disrupt the sin and falsehood, or (if we ignore the truth), sin and falsehood will disrupt the body.

May God bring us those much-needed holy disruptions.

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Am I a Liar to My People? Pastors and Being Vulnerable

I am so grateful for the ministry of The Gospel Coalition, if for no other reason than for articles such as this.  Some backstory.

  1. As many of you know, one of my brothers in the Lord and in ministry Tommy Rucker ended his life last week.  He found himself in a very dark place, but no one was aware of this until it was too late. 
  2. I preached from Romans 13:8-14 and 15:1-7 on how we are to love one another, encouraging one another in the Scriptures, especially in our weakness.  We have to take care of one another.
  3. I’m reading through Alexander Strauch’s Love or Die: Christ’s Wake-Up Call to the Church, a study of Revelation 2:1-7 on how we must not lose our first love.  A lack of love inside the church is more devastating to that church than a lack of truth from outside the church.  God is using this book mightily in my own heart.
  4. Art Azurdia, one of my favorite preachers (who has lost a lot of weight—good for him), spoke to The Master’s Seminary about “Loving God First” from the text – you guessed it – Revelation 2:1-7. 

And now, this article from TGC of “Pastor, Stop Lying.”  Here’s an excerpt regarding how one reacted to a fellow pastor for a reason you might not expect:

When asked how he was doing, he always replied, “Great!” When asked what he needed prayer for, he always offered some generic request.

He kept things guarded, impersonal, and close to the vest, even when others around him shared the depths of their heart. I don’t think I ever heard him apologize to anyone for anything, ever.

Yet he smiled a lot. He laughed heartily and kept things as “positive” as possible. But I saw how the people closest to him were positively crushed by his lack of vulnerability. I was one of them.

I shared with a deacon of mine who asked me how things were going, and I was able to share with him some issues that were arising personally (with my friend Tommy’s suicide), and otherwise.  I then shared with him that, as a pastor, I am more comfortable providing comfort to those who are hurting, than I am sharing my hurt in order to receive comfort. 

I need to get over that and fight that. 

I am a Christian on a journey to the Celestial City as every other pilgrim.  I also get mired in the Slough of Despond.  I am tempted to listen to and dine with Worldly Wiseman.  As are we all.  And we need each other.  And by me loving my Lord, loving His Word, loving my family, and loving His church, I have a significant incentive to keep my relationship with Christ primary.  And I have incentive to bring others into my life to make sure I’m not just giving help, but receiving it when necessary.

Am I lying to my church?  I’m sure I have.

May God continue to give me the desire not to do so anymore.

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Paul Tripp on a Preacher’s Heart in the Pulpit

I believe this video will help us all understand more of a pastor’s heart in and out of the pulpit.  I’m so thankful for Paul Tripp’s work and ministry.  It’s borne marvelous fruit in my life.

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How to Make Your Pastor’s Visits More Spiritually Profitable

Joseph Pipa, Jr., writes an excellent article at Reformation 21on pastoral visits from the perspective of the one whom your pastor visits. This served as such a breath of fresh air, because I so much want the visits to be more than social calls where we catch up on family, last night’s game, the weather, and so forth.

Now, please understand: this is my church family, and I do want to talk to them about mutual interests, and especially their interests. But as you see from the excerpt below, I have a responsibility to the flock as their undershepherd to help them grow in the grace and knowledge of the Good Shepherd (2 Peter 3:18; John 10:10; 1 Peter 5:1-4).

God has given to the elders of His Church the responsibility to shepherd His flock. Paul says in Acts 20:28, “Pay attention to yourselves and to all of the flock among which the Holy Spirit has set you to be overseers to shepherd God’s church, that He acquired with His own blood.” Similarly, Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:1-3, “Therefore, I urge the elders among you, as a fellow elder and witness of Christ’s sufferings and as a sharer of the glory that is going to be revealed, to shepherd God’s flock among you, exercising shepherdly care over it, not out of obligation but willingly, as God would have you do it; not out of eagerness to make a personal profit, but out of eagerness to serve; not lording it over those allotted to your charge, but by becoming models for the flock.”

This is no small task. Church officers will give an answer to God for the discharge of their office. In fact, Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them. They are keeping watch over your lives as men who will have to give an account.” One of the principle ways this oversight is exercised is in pastoral visitation.

Yet, sad to say, pastoral visits are not always used in a manner that allows the parties involved to reap the greatest spiritual benefits. One thing you may do to increase the profit of a pastoral visit is to prepare for it. If families prepared for pastoral visits, then the time spent would be extremely more profitable. How then does one prepare?

Read the rest here.

What other ways do you believe you can make visits with your pastors and elders more fruitful?

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A Colorado Pastor’s Office View—Hope-filled and Heartbreaking

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The picture to my right is a view from my office looking toward Arapahoe Road.  How appropriate since the church I pastor bears the name (Arapahoe Road Baptist Church).  As I look out this window, I see a number of things:

  1. A parking lot:  On Sunday these spaces will be mostly filled.  Christians, seekers, skeptics from all backgrounds, ethnicities, and spiritual journeys will come.  This fuels my prayer and fires up my study in the Word—they are hungry for the Word (whether they know it or not) and need to be nourished on the Bread of Life.  Some will come out of hunger, some out of habit, some out of heartbreak, all out of hope!  May the Spirit show up and bring all of us who are far from God near through Christ.
  2. Arapahoe Road:  Many travellers drive on this major thoroughfare of Centennial.  Where have they been?  Where are they going?  From work to home?  From store 1 to store 2?  Are they going to pick up their children?  Whatever their earthly journey, without Christ, they are destined for judgment and hell because their sin is still held against them.  Christ came to put His righteousness to their account by taking their sin.  We do not know where they are going in an earthly sense—but pray that God would put someone in their path to send them on the right path for eternity’s sake.
  3. Residences:  Within a mile radius of our church is 13,000 people—85-90% of whom do not know Christ nor go to a church.  As John Knox aptly replied:  “Give us this or we die!”  We are at 780 E. Arapahoe Road in Centennial, CO for a reason.  God, help us to pour into their lives the love and hope of Christ in a dark and dying world.
  4. The sky:  This is not the end and this is not all.  Past the atmosphere (the first heaven) and outer space (the second heaven) is the abode of God—HEAVEN (the third heaven—see 2 Corinthians 12).  Christ will return for His church.  Are we ready?  Are we getting others ready—desperately telling them the Good News of Christ?  As we see this clear sky, may we also see the clear mandate to GO (Matthew 28:18-20).

Look out your window!

 

What do you see?

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Shepherd the Flock of God, Part 3: Be Examples, Not Emperors

Part I:  Willingly, Not Begrudgingly |  Part II:  Eagerly, Not Greedily

“… not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock …” (1 Peter 5:3).

The world’s system says to be first and to use people to build your kingdom, your empire. People don’t have souls, they say, but are merely tools to help you get what you want. If people can’t help you get what you want, toss them aside as yesterday’s garbage and surround yourself with people who will help you! This was the system in the Roman world, and it’s the system that is here now!

Even James and John, two of Jesus’ disciples (along with their mother) were caught up in this, asking to have her sons sit beside Jesus in his kingdom! They wanted the positions of authority and power! Jesus set them straight:

You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you! But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:42-45).

Christ’s system is to serve, not to be served! It’s to use the power of God to build up people for God into a Kingdom of God!

Remember the man who took money so he could pray for someone? He is wanting to have an empire—not set an example! A man by the name of Sumner Wemp said, “As a Christian should be, a pastor must be!” Because whatever empire we are building will go up in smoke for certain one day. One glorious, terrifying, majestic, horrific day when why? Look at 1 Peter 5:4-5: “When the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4).

“When” means that this is as certain as anything you may find yourself certain about, and even more! Pastors may believe they ultimately lead their flock, but that’s not true! Pastors are undershepherds, not chief shepherds!!! Christ will look favourably on those who have taken care of His church, His flock! To those who use His people for their own means—the day of the Lord’s return will not be welcomed!

As a final charge to everyone, I read to you verse 5:

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Hudson Taylor was scheduled to speak at a Large Presbyterian church in Melbourne, Australia. The moderator of the service introduced the missionary in eloquent and glowing terms. He told the large congregation all that Taylor had accomplished in China, and then presented him as “our illustrious guest.” Taylor stood quietly for a moment, and then opened his message by saying, “Dear friends, I am the little servant of an illustrious Master.”

The older one gets, the wiser one should get. Notice how the Apostle Paul “progressed.”

  • I am the least of the apostles. 1 Corinthians 15:9
  • I am the very least of all the saints. Ephesians 3:8
  • I am the foremost of sinners. 1 Timothy 1:15

Yet we would all do well to hear Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:1-12:

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

May we who are ministers here not be ones where people only hear what we preach in the pulpit, but avoid what we do outside of it!

  • We must not add extra burdens and rules and traditions to the backs of our weary people—but show them the yoke of Christ whose yoke is easy and burden light!
  • We must not be willing to be seen by others, and that being our only motive—our motive must be to be seen faithful to Christ and Him alone, regardless of what others may think of us.
  • We must not work simply to have the seat of honor. The only seat that matters is the throne of God and His kingly rule—not ours!
  • We must not love our titles (Father, Rabbi, Rev., Pastor, Dr., or even bishop). We already have a Father! We already have a teacher and instructor! We already have a Great Shepherd over the church. Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice!” Are you His sheep, dear church? Do you recognize Christ’s voice?

In the summer of 1986, two ships collided in the Black Sea off the coast of Russia. Hundreds of passengers died as they were hurled into the icy waters below. News of the disaster was further darkened when an investigation revealed the cause of the accident. It wasn’t a technology problem like radar malfunction–or even thick fog. The cause was human stubbornness. Each captain was aware of the other ship’s presence nearby. Both could have steered clear, but according to news reports, neither captain wanted to give way to the other. Each was too proud to yield first. By the time they came to their senses, it was too late.

Beware of allowing personal prejudices and pride to subvert your spiritual sensibilities. The Great Shepherd calls, and soon the Great Shepherd will come. This Shepherd called the shepherd to shepherd, and to be shepherded.

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Politicking in the Pulpit—a Caution to Pastors

Brian Lee writes a cautionary piece to preachers who are encouraged this election season to be openly political in regards to particular candidates. 

That’s what Jim Garlow and the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) are urging preachers to deliver. ADF is promoting October 7th as “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” and is asking ministers to dedicate their sermons to explicit politicking. According to an online pledge, sermons should evaluate the presidential candidates according to “biblical truths and church doctrine,” and make a specific endorsement. Launched in 2008, over 500 pastors signed last years pledge, though promotion of the event seems to peak in election years.

Mixing politics with religion is a slippery slope.  A line should be drawn.  If a candidate makes a remark or a political party has a platform that the Bible addresses as true or false, this should be acknowledged.  Many have said that abortion is a ‘political issue,’ and thus should not be preached from the pulpit.  I disagree—this is an issue that the Scriptures directly address and should not be hijacked by political figures and , thus, make it off-limits to preachers.  God has spoken, and thus we should speak.

But for those who stand up and say that God supports a particular party’s platform and all that it addresses is treading on thin ice and, in my opinion, is squandering his biblical authority. 

But Lee closes this article with a spot-on message for us as ministers, and for all believers who walk into church and might be subject to another political advertisement behind the pulpit.  Read and heed!

 

Furthermore, the New Testament offers no encouragement for direct political action. When Jesus was asked a trick question about the propriety of paying taxes — is there any other kind? — he asked whose name was on the coin, and told his followers to “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” Later, when on trial for his life, he did not deny his royal authority, but instead claimed “My kingdom is not of this world.”

At a time when the major issue in Jewish politics was the overthrow of the oppressive regime, neither Christ nor his Apostles had a word to say about it. The Apostles surely could not conceive of a democracy, or shaping imperial Roman policy, yet they urged submission for the Lord’s sake “to every human institution.” In his letter to the Romans, Paul twice called the deeply flawed governing authority of his day — that of Nero, persecutor of Christians — a “minister of God” for good and evil. With Jesus, he urged for this reason the paying of taxes that were owed, along with honor and respect. Clearly, loss of tax-exempt status may be an injustice as well as a threat to our constitutional liberties, but it poses no threat to the well being of the church.

The primary message the New Testament commends to preachers — “Christ, and him crucified!” — is scarcely a political one. But this doesn’t mean preachers should be constrained from speaking politically. One care barely open one’s mouth on a moral question of the day without giving political offense, and no one would suggest God’s word has nothing to say on these matters.

But the further the minister of the word ventures from the claim of “thus sayeth the Lord,” there is a spiritual and political price to be paid. We risk squandering moral authority and offending the politically disaffected. The Gospel we are commanded to preach to all reaches a precious few, and the heavenly respite of worship becomes a good bit more earthly. Almost a century ago, J. Gresham Machen voiced a similar concern with the rise of politically progressive pulpits:

The preacher comes forward…not with the authority of God’s Word permeating his message, not with human wisdom pushed far into the background by the glory of the Cross, but with human opinions about the social problems of the hour or easy solutions of the vast problem of sin. Such is the sermon. Thus the warfare of the world has entered even into the house of God, and sad indeed is the heart of the man who has come seeking peace.

The minister doesn’t speak for himself; the title means “servant.” Perhaps preachers should ask themselves, before they step up to the pulpit this Sunday, whether they’d feel comfortable reading on behalf of their boss the standard campaign disclosure when they’re finished:

“I’m Jesus Christ, and I approve this message.”

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The New 9Marks Journal for May-June 2012 is Out!

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The new 9Marks Journal for May-June 2012 is now out.  Here is the note from the Assistant Editor, Bobby Jamieson:

9Marks is on the lookout for apostolic pastors. Know any?

Here’s what we have in mind: pastors who care deeply about the progress of the gospel beyond their local churches. Pastors who encourage, disciple, and partner with other pastors. Pastors who lead their congregations to link arms with other likeminded local churches for evangelism, church planting, and more. By “apostolic,” we don’t mean someone who is personally commissioned by Jesus to bear witness to the resurrection (Acts 1:21-22). Instead, we mean someone who shares some of the apostles’ priorities and concerns, even though he doesn’t share their office.

We love pastors like this, and we want to see many more of them raised up. So in this issue of the 9Marks Journal we want to help pastors catch a vision of the good that can come when they begin to feel an apostle-like concern for other pastors and churches (2 Cor. 11:28).

Apostolic pastor Mark Dever starts us off by exhorting pastors to dream beyond the four walls of their churches. My piece attempts to provide a broad biblical basis for the pastoral priorities we’re advocating in this issue. And Andy Johnson’s article asks how you’d feel if revival came—to somebody else’s church.

The articles by Matthias Lohmann, Daniel Montgomery, and Brian Croft provide glimpses of apostolic pastoring in action. I hope you’ll be encouraged and challenged by their examples.

Next we sample some of the fruits of apostolic pastoring. Baptists used to have a powerful tool for this called an “association.” You might be surprised by the good that’s come from this tool in the past, which Michael Haykin’s piece on Andrew Fuller and friends illustrates. And according to Matthew Spandler-Davison, this rusted old tool can be cleaned up and made useful again. Or, if need be, start a new one. If you do, you just might rescue a young pastor like Justin Runyan from what he calls miserable, self-imposed isolation. Finally, Robert Greene tells about the sustaining brotherhood he found in the network of pastors he belongs to, even before he joined.

Here’s the bottom line: Jesus hasn’t called our churches to fulfill the great commission alone. So look up, look out, and see what encouragement and unexpected fruit God may have in store for you as you work to bless other pastors and churches.

Read it Online or via PDF.  It’s available in eBook form:

Download ePub | Download Mobi

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Needed: Tough and Tender Pastors

Justin Taylor passed along a quote from John Piper on a vision for tough and tender pastors in controversy.  Here’s an excerpt:

It seems to me that we are always falling off the horse on one side or the other in this matter of being tough and tender—wimping out on truth when we ought to be lion-hearted, or wrangling with anger when we ought to be weeping. . . .

Oh how rare are the pastors who speak with a tender heart and have a theological backbone of steel.

I dream of such pastors. I would like to be one someday.

A pastor whose might in the truth is matched by his meekness.

Whose theological acumen is matched by his manifest contrition.

Whose heights of intellect are matched by his depths of humility.

Yes, and the other way around!

Click here to read more. 

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The Need for Pastors to Rest

Thabiti Anyabwile writes a helpful article about the pastor’s need for rest.

Ministry veterans like Piper and John Stott among others have come to see the value of regular periods of rest.  I’m freshly grateful to God for a church family that supports my pastoral labors as well as rest from those labors.  I’m deeply thankful for a church family that understands that the church belongs to the Lord and His reign is not threatened when His under-shepherds rest.  When I’m not rested, it’s usually my fault.  I’m either over-extending myself or I’m not being effective with my time.  There are periods where the load is really heavy, but with the encouragement and support I receive I should be rested and fresh most days.

Read the rest here.

(HT: Challies)  

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