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?

Who We Are Before God Seeps Out Constantly

Richard Baxter, the Puritan pastor and theologian, counseled those seeking to serve in pastoral ministry with these words: “When your minds are in a holy, heavenly frame, your people are likely to partake of the fruits of it. Your prayers, and praises, and doctrine will be sweet and heavenly to them. They will most likely feel when you have been much with God: that which is most on your hearts, is like to be most in their ears.”

Baxter is reminding us of something that we often forget but that should be pretty obvious to us: our people can tell when we are close to God—and when we are not. It will come out in our sermons, our prayers, our leadership, and even our conversations. As Moses’ face shone to the Israelites after he had been with God, so our lives will radiate his presence when we have been with him. . . . Who we are before God seeps out of us constantly.

…”If we forbear taking food ourselves, we shall famish them; it will soon be visible in their leanness, and dull discharge of their several duties. If we let our love decline, we are not like to raise up theirs. If we abate our holy care and fear, it will appear in our preaching; if the matter show it not, the manner will. If we feed on unwholesome food, either errors or fruitless controversies, our hearers are like to fare the worse for it.”

Darrin Patrick, Church Planter, p. 61

Preaching Between Two Worlds: Alistair Begg on Ecclesiastes 12

Back in September, Alistair Begg joined us at the Toronto Pastors’ Fellowship and shared the message, Preaching Between Two Worlds, from Ecclesiastes 12:

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.

The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Begg also engaged in an enlightening Q&A with Pastor Paul Martin.

Powerful messages for preachers and wannabe preachers in these videos.

Take some time to chew on them today as you go about your day.

Lessons from Listening to Other Preachers

As I’ve been continuing to accept new preaching opportunities, I’ve been following Don Carson’s advice to young preachers which is listen to other men.

Lots of them.

Thanks to podcasts and the internet, this is easier than it’s ever been.

I’ve got an interesting mix of guys I’m listening to right now. Driscoll, MacArthur, Chandler, my own pastor Norm Millar, Joshua Harris, Josh Howerton, and a few other preachers. And it’s been really interesting to discover the things I’m learning from listening to other preachers. Here are a few:

A man’s arrogance comes through in his tone and grates against the spirit of his hearers. I was listening to one man recently (who is not on the above list) who—I don’t know what it is, but his tone just grated on me. I felt like I was being berated just listening—and I wasn’t even in the room. It truly grieved me. He came across as a man puffed up without reason.

What I am learning from this man is that my words must be heartfelt and honest and my spirit must be broken by the Holy Spirit before I get in the pulpit.

When Scripture is used only to prove a point, it cripples the power of the truth we speak. Listening to the same man, I noticed that he rarely ever used Scripture outside of an allusion or just to back up something that he was saying. It wasn’t that much of what he was saying was bad—in fact, some was quite good and true—but it lacked power because it wasn’t rooted clearly in the Scriptures.

What I am learning is that my ideas and opinions—even if they are true and align with Scripture—do not carry the weight and power of Scripture. Therefore, I must rely on the words that God inspired, rather than my ideas that may have been shaped by them.

A man’s love for his congregation is most apparent when he is speaking hard truth. The last thing I noticed listening to this same man was an appeal to have a personal relationship with Christ… without an explanation of why we need to have a relationship with Christ. The gospel was not present; our hopeless state as sinners, the Father’s appointing of the Son to accomplish our redemption and sending the Holy Spirit to apply it… none of it was there.

What I am learning is that if I love the people to whom I am preaching, I need to speak this hard truth—that we are far worse than we ever feared, but God is far more amazing and gracious than we could ever imagine.

These are some of the lessons I’ve been learning from listening to other preachers.

What lessons are you learning?

Humility and Notoriety: The Danger of Pastor as Rock Star

Mark Driscoll and Dustin Neeley sat down at the recent Acts 29 Boot Camp and discussed the need for humility as a church planter and pastor—and how difficult it is to cultivate when you’re considered a rock star.

Questions to consider:

  1. What level of scrutiny is appropriate when looking at “celebrity” pastors and leaders?
  2. Are you naturally more inclined to be critical or encouraging?
  3. Have you ever found yourself intentionally looking for things to criticize about a pastor or leader?
  4. In your own sphere of influence, are you open to hearing from your critics?

HT: Z

Don't Be Who You're Not

As I’ve been continuing to develop as a preacher (albeit slowly), one of the great temptations I’ve come across has been imitating other men. I mean, seeing these guys who are extraordinarily gifted by God to preach His Word—guys like my  pastor, Norm Millar, and guys like Driscoll, Chandler, Francis Chan, Piper, MacArthur, Platt—and it’s really tempting to want to be like them.

To say things the way they would say it. To act the way they would act.

But isn’t that dishonoring to God?

The other day, I came across this video where Matt Chandler reminds us of the danger of trying to be who you’re not:

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Tim 4:5)

Fulfill the ministry God has intended for you, not for someone else. Don’t be who you’re not.

HT: Zwinglit

Do You Want to Be Hip?

Seems like a funny question to ask, especially since I’m not one who is known for advocating “cool Christianity,” but follow me for a second.

Thursday Alastair Begg preached a challenging and edifying message at the Toronto Pastors’ Fellowship meeting, which I had the privilege of attending. One of the questions that Begg—who is know for referencing classic rock songs in his messages—is frequently asked is, “Do you consider yourself a hip pastor?”

His answer was profound.

Begg responded (and I’m paraphrasing), “Yes—I absolutely want to be the hippest pastor.”

Now here’s the thing; what he means by being “hip” is that he want to be known for three things:

Humility.

Integrity.

Purity.

These are the things all of us should striving for because it’s the pursuit of godliness.

So how are we doing? Are we pursuing humility, integrity and purity daily?

Men, would your wives, friends, coworkers or kids say that you’re increasingly evidencing these characteristics, even incrementally?

Ladies, would your husbands, friends, coworkers or kids say the same about you?

“The greatest need my congregation has is my own personal godliness,” said Begg. The same is true for all of us in our homes, our jobs and our schools. We must keep a close watch on ourselves and on our doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16).

How will you do this today?

The Call by Gabe Posey

Photo by Matthias Wuertemberger

First a word of thanks to Aaron Armstrong for the opportunity to write a guest post here for him. 

And now on to the subject at hand. 

Being called is an interesting concept when it comes to the current church. Having recently spent a considerable amount of time in a fairly traditional Presbyterian church, I’ve found that they have a nearly formal way for determining calling. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a process of their tradition, but it is definitely more exacting than the tradition I was raised in. And I can say I prefer it better. 

Since coming into reform theology (not even knowing that’s what it was until it was far too late), I came to understand that one of the most critical factors is one of proof. Not necessarily dismissing or destroying or denying the power of personal experience, the reformers seek to look harshly at what is within the Bible and decide based upon what information is at hand what is truly there and not add to it based upon such experience for fear of exalting tradition above the scripture and end up in sola ecclesia. 

As I was raised, the primary qualifier for a person going into the ministry was an ability to passionately communicate and enough wit about them to play the political church game so as not to get eviscerated by people more cunning than they. [Read more...]

Around the Interweb (07/18)

The Problem with Pastor as Rock Star

Ed Stetzer recently produced this challenging piece over at Challies dot com:

You can just check the headlines. When a rock star pastor falls, the church rarely recovers. When they do, it is through extricating their identity from that of the pastor’s abilities and personality. No pastor is indispensable. It’s good for pastors to remind themselves, “Others filled the role before you were born and others will fill it after you’re gone.”

But the rock star pastor constantly needs more attendees, Facebook fans, and Twitter followers. In a twisted bit of logic, they work to make the gospel well-known through their own fame.

Some have pointed to the multi-site movement as an illustration of how the church has sold out to make rock star pastors famous. Personally, I am not anti-multi-site. When partnered with church planting, it has great potential. Nevertheless, while I’m not “anti,” I do urge caution. At times, I’ve joked about “rock star celebrity pastors beaming their graven image all over the country.” If you are a rock star pastor, perhaps you believe that the church can simply not go on without you. You would be wrong.

Pride was inherent in the fall of Adam and it rears its head whenever one person deems the church’s future to ride on their shoulders or voice. Multi-site, or any program, as a necessity derived from the attention needed by a rock star pastor, is idolatry.

Read the whole thing here.

In Other News

Jared C. Wilson: Your Church might not be a Church if…

Michael Krahn: How I discovered Chris Tomlin

Don’t Waste Your Life Sentence: A new film from Desiring God. Here’s the trailer:

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

True and False Worship, the sermon I preached at Poplar Hill Christian Church on July 11, 2010

A review of Mike McKinley’s new book Church Planting is for Wimps

People are imitating you; are you worth imitating?

David Platt on the South & Young Pastors

Dustin Neeley sat down with David Platt, Pastor of the Church of Brook Hills in Birmingham, AL and author of Radical, at the Advance the Church 2010 Conference. In this video, he shares his thoughts about the Spiritual Landscape of the South, his counsel for younger leaders, and his “one thing” for pastors.

HT: The Resurgence

Truth and Lies: Mark Driscoll – Pastoral Care and One-ism

Mark Driscoll’s final session focused on how One-ism and idolatry’s effect on pastoral care. In this session, Driscoll offered five steps to pastoral care.

1. Uncover the Enslaving Idol

“Traditional counseling starts and stops at the level of behavior. [It’s] behavior modification instead of transformation,” says Driscoll.

Under all sin is idolatry, according to 2 Pet. 2:19. There is no freedom in sin. “Sin is simply choosing you master, but it’s not freedom.”

Addiction is the secular language for the biblical language of slavery. Those who commit adultery worship and are slaves to sex. Sluggards worship and are enslaved to comfort. Those who are proud worship and are enslaved to themselves. Gamblers worship and are enslaved to luck, which is the name of an ancient Greek god…

“We worship our way into idolatry and must worship our way out,” says Driscoll. “Martin Luther said, ‘If your heart cleaves to anything else… you have another God.’ You can have ‘a state of God’ rather than a real God. And when you face adversity, it’s where you go.”

2. Find the Demonic Lie

Jesus says that Satan is a liar and he is the father of lies. “Idols promise good, but they deceive,” says Driscoll.

[Your job says] ‘If you worship me, I’ll make you successful.’ So you worship your job. [Your hobbies and shopping say] ‘If you worship me I’ll make you happy.’ So you pour yourself into the recreational activity, buy the shoes, buy the car.

The lie says it will bring you closer to God. “If you sing these songs; go to this school; go to this church; read these books…  All these can become false saviors.”

Another is, “You need to be true to yourself.”  Driscoll comments, “While we should be authentic, sometimes we need to repent of being true to ourselves and be true to Jesus.”

You need to love yourself is another lie. But this, says Driscoll, is simply the cult of self-esteem. [Read more...]

The Latest on Matt Chandler

Very exciting news for Matt Chandler after the latest MRI. Watch the video:

Thrilled for the Chandler family and the Village Church.

Keep praying that God would completely eradicate this cancer.

HT: The Village Church

Update: Even as the Chandlers are celebrating this progress, it’s come to my attention that Zac Smith of NewSpring Church died recently. A few months back, he released an inspiring video testimony about his battle with cancer. Please be in prayer for his family.

Christian Faithfulness in the Last Days – Lessons from The Gospel Coalition 2010 Conference

On Saturday, April 24, 2010, I had the privilege of attending The Gospel Coalition’s first ever Canadian conference featuring D.A. Carson and Mike Bullmore as the keynote speakers.

Dr. Carson kicked off the conference with the message Christian Faithfulness in the Last Days – The Need for the Gospel Coalition.

He began with by giving us a bit of background on how the Gospel Coalition came together as he and Tim Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian came together and realized they’d been reflecting on something similar: The centrality of the gospel was being lost in evangelicalism. “Today, people do what is right in their own eyes—with the gospel becom[ing] something assumed rather than central,” lamented Carson. The Gospel Coalition came together out of a desire “to be robust about Scripture [and] to hold up the centrality of the gospel.” And this is of the greatest import for those of us living in “the last days.”

While some have indulged in “a feeding frenzy of speculation over the end times,” Carson reminded us that, “The last days refer to the entire period between Christ’s ascension and second coming. Whether it’s three weeks or three thousand years is irrelevant. . . . All authority has been given to Jesus, and while it’s contested, the kingdom has still come. The old is passing away.”

This led to a study of 2 Timothy 3:1-4:8, first asking, “What does Paul see in the last days?” [Read more...]