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‘Non-Shepherding’ Pastors: Option or Oxymoron?

This is a very important discussion:

A Theology of Acquiescence

Tim Kimberley:

If you’ve been a Christian for a while you should have several relationships where you have acquiesced. You should have several spiritual workout partners who like to swim. In these relationships you have decided to minister together above a secondary point of doctrine. Here’s an example. Imagine if I told you, “I only associate, go to church with, and minister alongside Christians who hold to the northern theory of Galatians.” Wouldn’t you think that I’m a moron? Now, you might already think I’m a moron without the Galatians stuff but wouldn’t it seem silly for me to divide over the northern/southern Galatians theory debate?

Get Gospel Wakefulness in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the ePub edition of Gospel Wakefulness by Jared C. Wilson for $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon by Steven Lawson (ePub)
  • Eternal Security teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • Handout Apologetics teaching series by John Gerstner (audio & video download)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

Once Confused, Now Complementarian

Brittany Lind:

I sat wide-eyed across the table from my new friend Courtney in our college cafeteria. I had just told her I was interested in a guy who sat near me in my freshman biology class. My plan was to go to him and inform him about my interest in dating. Courtney was convincing me to think otherwise — I was confused and didn’t understand why it mattered.

How Churches Can Care for Their Pastor’s Children

Chap Bettis:

Too many children of pastors are casualties in the spiritual battle. After seeing the inner workings of the church, many do not want anything to do with the Lord or his people. As a teenager, I almost walked away from my faith because of the hypocrisy and disunity I saw in my church.

But in my conversation with this pastor, I was momentarily speechless as I realized how little I had thought about this important question. Why? Because the church that I had shepherded for 25 years had done an excellent job caring for my own children. Today they are 22, 20, 18, and 16, and have fond memories of our relationships there.

What had my own church done that so few churches do well? What can churches learn?

Have the courage to apologize

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

So yesterday news broke about yet more unethical behavior from a celebrity pastor, this time buying his way onto The New York Times bestseller list.

There is so much wrong with this kind of behavior that I don’t even know where to begin. Frankly, I’m not sure I could say it any better than has been said here. But since reading about this latest in a series of life lessons on the dangers of unchecked hubris, there’s been one thing I’ve felt I’ve needed to say:

If you’ve done this, have the courage to apologize. 

Look, I know none of us are perfect. Anyone who says they’re without sin is a liar and a fool, and I am chief among them. But you know what I do expect? I expect that if we’re people who claim the name of Christ, we’re people who apologize and mean it.

What do I mean when I say we “mean it”? Simple: we’re genuinely repentant.

So a true apology is not immediately pleading Jesus, saying how thankful you are that He’s forgiven all your sins, past present and future. That’s spiritual and emotional manipulation, not asking for forgiveness. And it’s not a political non-apology, something akin to “mistakes were made.” That’s acknowledgement, not contrition.

What I mean when I say apologize is simple:

  • specifically name your action or attitude
  • own your personal error
  • explain how you are making restitution
  • ask for forgiveness

But all of this, of course, hinges on a critical truth: you have to actually think what you’ve done is wrong.

My fear for many who engage in shenanigans of this sort is they really don’t care. As much as they want to say they’re trying to boost the name of Jesus, they’re really out for themselves. They’ve traded integrity for influence. So the ends justify the means (even when the means are wrong). Their consciences may be so seared that that they’ve become blind to their own folly. They are like those leaders who sat in Moses’ seat, whom Jesus commanded the Jews to listen to but not imitate, for they do not practice what they preach.

They talk a good game, but it’s all talk.

“What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matt. 16:26)

Your integrity is worth more than your celebrity.

Your ministry is more important than your influence.

Your reward with Christ is better than the riches of this world.

If you are truly in Christ, you know this to be true. Now act like it. Have the courage to apologize.

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The Never-Ending Need of Multiplying Leaders

Ed Stetzer:

Pastors of growing churches know all too well the old adage of there being two sides to every coin. The excitement and energy of a growing congregation comes brings with it new needs and a constant demand of more people to help carry out the ministry.

When the numbers are lacking, the pressure increases on the pastor and staff to solve every problem, run every small group, set-up every service, and clean every toilet. The stress can become so heavy that the growth feels more like a crisis than a blessing.

Having a leadership crisis is not exclusive to the church (take a look at Congress) and neither is it a new issue. In Exodus 18, systematic issues within Moses’ leadership surface and reveal the need for a change.

The Gospel Rescues Cynics

Mike Leake:

Then one day some hopeful Harry decides to tell him that this isn’t the way that things are supposed to be. “You don’t have to be a slave! You can be free! Our God has heard our cry and He is going to rescue us from slavery”.

And he bought it. Just like all of his other countrymen. They bowed their heads and worshipped. And with that a terrible invader came into their hearts.

Hope.

The Joy of Theology Reading Groups

Eric Bancroft:

Pastor, I want to thank you. My marriage has been totally turned around.

These aren’t the words you expect someone to write three months after their spouse began reading a 1,291-page systematic theology book, yet that’s exactly what I was being told in a card. My prayers had been answered. I’d prayed that God would give people such a love for him and his Word that it would begin to affect all areas of their life. I’d also prayed that reading and discussing a systematic theology book with others would be one of those means.

What Pastors Owe Their People

Daniel Darling:

Preaching styles do differ, but it’s hard to argue the unmistakeable responsibility of pastors to take the whole counsel of God and preach it faithfully. To not give our people spiritual food, to not share with them the “all the things I have commanded you” is to commit spiritual malpractice. It’s to intentionally leave our people spiritually malnourished. And yet there is a temptation for pastors–I remember facing this weekly as a pastor–to sort of skip over or nuance the very hard passages. Or, more popularly, to not preach through issues that are at the tip of the cultural spear. Issues like a biblical sexual ethic, the dignity of human life, greed, materialism, and the prosperity gospel. It’s just easier to say things like, “We just want to love on people and be all about grace every Sunday.” But my question is this: if a new convert wants to know what it looks like to live out the gospel, where will he find it if he can’t find it in his church? We live in confused times, where the way of Christ cannot be assumed in popular culture anymore. So churches who tailor their preaching and services exclusively to not offend those they are trying to reach with the gospel will starve God’s people. I find it troubling when pastors sort of nuance or skip over passages that are counter-cultural. – See more at: http://www.danieldarling.com/#sthash.qvUEP7iR.dpuf

Seven Problems with an Activity-Driven Church

Thom Rainer:

Many churches are busy, probably too busy. Church calendars fill quickly with a myriad of programs and activities. While no individual activity may be problematic, the presence of so many options can be.

An activity-driven church is a congregation whose corporate view is that busier equals better. More activities, from this perspective, mean a healthier church. The reality is that churches who base their health on their busyness already have several problems. Allow me to elaborate on seven of those challenges.

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Beware of self-appointed pastors

Denny Burk, commenting on a recent NY Times article:

The pastoral office is reserved for those who are gifted for the ministry and who meet a defined set of character qualifications (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). The men who meet these qualifications are not self-appointed. The church is to recognize and set these men apart for the ministry (1 Tim. 4:14). The issue is not whether one recognizes his own giftedness and qualification. The issue is whether the people of God recognize it as well.

Former Pastor Experiments With Atheism for a Year

Heather Clark:

Ryan Bell, 42, led Hollywood Adventist Church until March of last year, when has was asked to resign over his increasingly liberal views and his disagreements with Adventist theology. Bell says that he expressed support for female ordination and the inclusion of homosexuals, and took issue with the literal six-day creation outlined in Genesis.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Actively engaged in the abortion battle

Matt Chandler:

When I begin to have conversations with some of my aunts and uncles and how they wish they would have marched with King but they were just indifferent, they just thought it would work itself out. How they wish they could get back into time and fight the noble fight. Instead, they were quiet. … I think [abortion] is going to be one of those issues for us.

Antinomianism, Legalism And The Relationship Between Law And Gospel

Tullian Tchividjian:

One of the problems in the current conversation regarding the relationship between law and gospel is that the term “law” is not always used to mean the same thing. This is understandable since in the Bible “law” does not always mean the same thing.…

So, it’s not as simple as you might think. For short hand, I think it’s helpful to say that law is anything in the Bible that says “do”, while gospel is anything in the Bible that says “done”; law equals imperative and gospel equals indicative. However, when you begin to parse things out more precisely, you discover some important nuances that should significantly help the conversation forward so that people who are basically saying the same thing aren’t speaking different languages and talking right past one another.

Encourage your pastor by being fruitful

Hands Holding a Seedling and Soil

How do you encourage your pastor? In some ways, the answer seems obvious. We know we should pray for them (and hopefully we do). We know we should thank them. We know we should find ways to help them (all ideas I’ve discussed here). But there’s another way we can do this—simply, by being fruitful.

I love the way Thomas Watson explains this in his work on the Beatitudes. Watson writes:

Encourage God’s ministers by your fruitfulness under their labors. When ministers are upon the ‘mount’, let them not sow upon the rocks. What cost has God laid out upon this city! Never, I believe, since the apostles’ times, was there a more learned, orthodox, powerful ministry than now. God’s ministers are called stars (Revelation 1:20). In this city every morning a star appears, besides the bright constellation on the Lord’s Day. Oh you that feed in the green pastures of ordinances—be fat and fertile. You who are planted in the courts of God, flourish in the courts of God (Psalm 92:13). How sad will it be with a people, who shall go laden to hell with Gospel blessings! The best way to encourage your ministers is to let them see the travail of their souls in your new birth.

It’s this last line, “let them see the travail”—the difficult labor—”of their souls in your new birth,” that made this click for me. Pastoral ministry, one-on-one discipleship, small group leadership… there’s a great deal of pain that comes along with these things. When a leader sees someone they’ve invested in walk away from the Lord, it’s painful. When they see ongoing patterns of sin unaddressed, it grieves them. There are more tears in these roles than most of us realize.

But what brings much joy is to see a young man or woman “get it”—that lightbulb moment when they understand why an important truth is really important. When a leader gets to rejoice with them over the defeat of a particular sin. When they get to pray together over how to share the gospel with a family member who is far from the Lord.

Growing in grace—being fruitful—whatever language you want to use, if you want to encourage your pastor or lay leader, that’s the way to do it.

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The Calvinist

This is really well done:

Seven Thoughts on Pastors Writing Books

Kevin DeYoung:

Rewind my life six years and I would tell you that one of my biggest dreams in life is to get a book published. I hoped that someday, somehow, somewhere, for somebody I would be able to write a book. I never dreamt I would have that opportunity so soon and so often. It’s much more than I deserve.

Since 2008, when Why We’re Not Emergent came out, I’ve done a lot of writing and a lot thinking about writing. With Stephen Furtick in the news for his mansion-to-be and Mark Driscoll facing accusations (and some evidence within his ministry) of plagiarism, I thought it would be worthwhile to write down a few thoughts on pastors writing books.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few deals for you to check out:

Where Jesus Lived on Mission

Tim Brister:

In recent years, there is a section in the gospel accounts that have impacted me significantly, both as a disciple of Jesus and as a disciple-maker. This portion Scripture has the bookends of His temptation in the wilderness (the beginning) and the commissioning of His disciples (the end). In the book of Matthew, it is Matthew 4:17-9:38. In the book of Luke, it is Luke 4:14-8:56. I believe this passage is worthy of serious and sustained reflection and meditation as a disciple of Jesus because it reveals the life of Jesus on mission from the inauguration of His ministry to the commissioning of His disciples. I am convinced that every step was intentional, every story was purposeful, every aspect providential for the purpose of not only accomplishing His mission but also modeling and training His apprentices to become like Him in every way.

So What Exactly is an Apostle?

Interesting piece by Lyndon Unger:

I have heard it said before that the lack of modern day apostles is a large part of the reason for the struggles of the North American church, and I’ve also heard it said that the presence of modern day apostles are a large part of the reason for the struggles of the North American church. I don’t think both positions can be correct, unless they’re working with different definitions of the word “apostle”.

So what exactly is an apostle? Some suggest that a church planter is an apostle.  Some people suggest that they are an apostle.  Some people suggest that nobody after the first century could possibly be an apostle.  Some people suggest that everyone is, in some way, an apostle.  Before you toss your hands up in the air and reach for a painkiller, let’s take a quick, but thorough look at the Biblical usage of the term “apostle.”

What’s the Role of a Pastor’s Wife?

Is the Pastor’s wife to be the “co-pastor,” the church’s “First Lady,” or just another member?

What role should the wife of a Senior Pastor have in the church? Steven Furtick, Greg Laurie and James MacDonald offer their takes here:

(Can’t see the video? Please click through to the site)

 

James MacDonald’s closing remark in this clip is particularly insightful:

We’re to love our wives. . . . the way we treat our wives in public is a signal not only to our own wives but to our congregation of what that’s supposed to look like . . . and I just don’t think there should be any further expectation beyond that…

This brings up an important question, not just for pastors, but for all Christian men:

How are we treating our wives in public? Do we treat them better in publicly than privately? Do we treat them better privately than publicly? Are we striving to be consistent in how we show honor to our wives wherever we are?

HT: James MacDonald

Everyday Theology: You Need To Feed Yourself

Who is responsible for a Christian’s spiritual health—for his or her growth in the faith, in understanding the Scriptures, and progressive increase in personal holiness?

The answer might seem obvious. It’s you, right? If you’re a Christian, you need to take ownership of your growth in understanding the Scriptures and pursuit of holiness in Christ.

But is it your responsibility alone?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a pastor say something like this:

“It’s not my job to feed you—you need to feed yourself.”

And, if I had to be honest, nearly every time I’ve heard it, it’s made my skin crawl.

Why? Well, consider John 21:15-17 with me:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep…” (John 21:15-17 ESV)

In this passage, the restoration of Peter, Jesus asks him three times:

“Peter, do you love me? Do you love me more than these other men? Do you love me?

Just as Peter denied Jesus three times, so three times Jesus asks this question. And each time, Peter responds “Lord, you know that I love you.”

Now look at the response that this love brings. Three times, Jesus gives Peter this command:

Feed My lambs.

Tend My sheep.

Feed My sheep.

This command is so imperative that Jesus gave it three times in response to Peter’s profession of love—so what does He mean?

At the risk of being obvious, Jesus means exactly what He says: “Feed My sheep.” [Read more...]

Are Multisite Preachers Losing the Value of Being a Shepherd?

Interesting commentary from Perry Noble and Matt Chandler:

(RSS Readers: Can’t see the video? Click through to the site.)

Chandler’s point is particularly interesting: Because preachers can become disconnected regardless of the size of the church where they serve, the question is not so much a multisite one as a pastoral-shepherding one. If so, it leads to a couple of questions to consider (and ones I’d love to get some feedback on from a few of the pastors reading):

  1. Do you agree or disagree with the assessment that it’s not so much an issue of the multisite model as it is the temptation for pastors to disconnect from one-to-one shepherding?
  2. Is the question, even if viewed as a pastoral-shepherding one, even the right question? Does it create a division between shepherding and preaching that doesn’t necessarily need to exist?
  3. How do you structure your time to “balance” one-to-one and congregation-wide shepherding?

The Call Is Not To Be Taken Lightly

The call is not to be taken lightly. For a person to possess knowledge is not enough. He must be sure that he is properly called. Those who operate without a proper call seek no good purpose. God does not bless their labors. They may be good preachers, but they do [not] edify. Many of the fanatics of our day pronounce words of faith, but they bear no good fruit, because their purpose is to turn men to their perverse opinions. On the other hand, those who have a divine call must suffer a good deal of opposition in order that they may become fortified against the running attacks of the devil and the world.

This is our comfort in the ministry, that ours is a divine office to which we have been divinely called. Reversely, what an awful thing it must be for the conscience if one is not properly called. It spoils one’s best work. When I was a young man I thought Paul was making too much of his call. I did not understand his purpose. I did not then realize the importance of the ministry. I knew nothing of the doctrine of faith because we were taught sophistry instead of certainty, and nobody understood spiritual boasting. We exalt our calling, not to gain glory among men, or money, or satisfaction, or favor, but because people need to be assured that the words we speak are the words of God. This is no sinful pride. It is holy pride.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Kindle Edition, location 87)

Orthodox Heads and Unorthodox Hearts

If God will help us in our future duty, he will first humble us for our past sin. He that hath not so much sense of his faults as unfeignedly to lament them, will hardly have so much more as to move him to reform them. The sorrow of repentance may exist without a change of heart and life; because a passion may be more easily wrought, than a true conversion. But the change cannot take place without some good measure of the sorrow. Indeed, we may here justly begin our confessions; it is too common with us to expect that from our people, which we do little or nothing in ourselves. What pains do we take to humble them, while we ourselves are unhumbled!

…I must needs say, though I condemn myself in saying it, that he who readeth but this one exhortation of Paul to the elders of the church at Ephesus, and compareth his life with it, must be stupid and hard-hearted, if he do not melt under a sense of his neglects, and be not laid in the dust before God and forced to bewail his great omissions, and to fly for refuge to the blood of Christ, and to his pardoning grace. I am confident, brethren, that none of you do in judgment approve of the libertine doctrine, that crieth down the necessity of confession, contrition, and humiliation, yea, and in order to the pardon of sin!

Is it not a pity, then, that our hearts are not as orthodox as our heads? But I see we have but half learned our lesson, when we know it, and can say it. When the understanding hath learned it, there is more ado to teach our wills and affections, our eyes, our tongues, and hands. It is a sad thing that so many of us preach our hearers asleep; but it is sadder still, if we have studied and preached ourselves asleep, and have talked so long against hardness of heart, till our own has grown hardened under the noise of our own reproofs.

Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor (Kindle Edition)

Christmas as the End of History

© Gareth Weeks

Creation out of nothing was an awesome event. Imagine what the angelic spirits must have felt when the universe, material reality of which they had never imagined, was brought forth out of nothing by the command of God. The fall was an awful event, shaking the entire creation. The exodus was an amazing display of God’s power and love. The giving of the law, the wilderness provisions, the conquering of Canaan, the prosperity of the monarchy—all these acts of God in redemptive history were very great and wonderful. Each one was a very significant bend in the river of redemptive history, bringing it ever and ever closer to the ocean of God’s final kingdom. But we trivialize Christmas, the incarnation, if we treat it as just another bend on the way to the end. It is the end of redemptive history.

And I think the analogy of the river helps us see how. Picture the river as redemptive history flowing toward the ocean which is the final kingdom of God, full of glory and righteousness and peace. At the end of the river the ocean presses up into the river with its salt water. Therefore, at the mouth of the river there is a mingling of fresh water and salt water. One might say that the kingdom of God has pressed its way back up into the river of time a short way. It has surprised the travelers and taken them off guard. They can smell the salt water. They can taste the salt water. The sea gulls circle the deck. The end has come upon them. Christmas is not another bend in the river. It is the arrival of the salt water of the kingdom of God which has backed up into the river of history. With the coming of Christmas, the ocean of the age to come has reached backward up the stream of history to welcome us, to wake us up to what is coming, to lure us on into the deep. Christmas is not another bend in the river of history. It is the end of the river. Let down your dipper and taste of Jesus Christ, his birth and life and death and resurrection. Taste and see if the age to come has not arrived, if the kingdom has not come upon us. Does it not make your eyes sparkle?

But scoffers will say—they have always said—2,000 years is a long river delta! Too long to believe in. Christmas was just another bend in the river. The salty taste in the water must have been done by some chemical plant nearby. Who can imagine living in the last days for 2,000 years? To such skeptics I say, with the apostle Peter, “Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). As far as God is concerned the incarnation happened last Friday.

I want us to think of Christmas this year not as a great event in the flow of history, but as the arrival of the end of history which happened, as it were, but yesterday, and will be consummated very soon by the second appearing of Christ. Let me make one last effort to help you see it this way. Most of you probably know someone who is 90 years old or older—probably a woman. I want you to imagine 22 of these ladies standing here in front, side by side, facing you, each one still alert and able to remember her childhood and marriage and old age. And then instead of seeing them side by side as contemporaries, have them turn and face sideways so they form a queue, and imagine that each one lived just after the other. If the one on my far left were alive today, do you know when the one on my far right would have been born? At the same time Jesus was. Jesus was born just 22 ladies ago. That is not a very long time. Just 22 people between you and the incarnation. In comparison to the size of the ocean of the age to come, the mouth of the river of redemptive history is small. The delta is not long. It is short.

John Piper, Christmas as the End of History © Desiring God

Seeing the World through a Biblical Lens

Yesterday, my friend Amber asked a great question:

What has led you (or others) to believe that biblical illiteracy is such a widespread problem? What has led you to believe that it’s any worse now compared to other times?

I gave a lengthy answer in response (because I’m a bit long-winded, I suppose); but I as I was writing, I remembered a great point from a recent sermon by Matt Chandler, Lead Pastor of The Village Church in his October 10 message, Ultimate Authority 3: Government and Institutions. I pray you’ll find it helpful as we all continue to pursue a deeper knowledge of Christ.

Audio (excerpt starts around 38:20): : Matt Chandler: Ultimate Authority 3

Here’s the transcript if you’d rather not listen to a six minute rant:

You and I, as believers in Jesus Christ, should be looking at the world through a biblical/gospel lens.

Now this creates two huge frustrations in me. Because of what God has done here, I get invited to speak at pastors’ conferences all over the world. So I’ve been to those pastors’ conferences where the men sitting in the seats are pastors. They are preachers like I am. I will see a guy stand up in front of pastors and they’ll open up the Bible and they’ll teach something contrary to the Bible. And because they can do it in a way that’s entertaining and their church has grown, the pastors will applaud them. So that, like Paul in Athens, provokes me, and so I get up and say they’re not saved, they don’t know their Bibles, they should never preach again and that their churches aren’t actually churches. And then they applaud me.

It’s like they can’t tell the difference.

One guy actually got up and said that the gospel can’t be defined outside of your individual communities in front of twelve thousand pastors. He’s saying that the gospel is for you whatever you want it to be.

This is heresy. And nobody said anything. They took notes. God help us.

How in the world are we supposed to see through a gospel/biblical lens when our pastors can’t do it?

So if you’re a pastor reading this, know your Bible.  What are you shovelling to your people if you don’t know the Bible? What are you talking about? I don’t care if your church is growing. Might does not make right. God simply moving in a place always happens despite men. [Read more...]

Discerning Your Call

From what I understand after speaking to many, many older and younger men over the last few years, it seems that every Christian man, usually around that 3-5 year mark in their faith, starts asking themselves, “Am I called to ministry? Should I be a pastor?”

So how do you know if you’re sensing a legitimate calling—or maybe that taquito you ate last night is coming back to haunt you?

Darrin Patrick, pastor of The Journey in St. Louis, Vice President of the Acts 29 Network and author of the recently released Church Planter answers:

For those trying to discern their calling, are you actively pursuing others who can confirm it?

Are you taking opportunities to test your giftedness?

Do you feel, as Spurgeon said, “an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work”?

For those who have confirmed their calling, what was most helpful for you along the way?

What advice would you give to those still trying to figure it out?