The latest book from Paul Tripp entitled Dangerous Calling helps show the unique temptations that go with being involved in Christian Ministry. Tripp is masterful, as usual, in exposing our hearts and their most desperate need: God and the Gospel. This year, we will be taking our leaders through the DVD and taking some time to consider how God might be directing us, exposing our weaknesses, so that He might be supremely glorified.
There are some amazing tools I use to think through goals and priorities for the coming year. Each December I try to think about what different priorities need to characterize my life and ministry. Some tools I use are:
Use these tools to see your heart and make adjustments accordingly.
On 8/14, Lord willing, we plan to look at Hebrews 6:9-12. One verse that stands out is v.10, highlighting the ministry of these people to their fellow believers. Sad to say, but much of the contemporary church creates a great divide between “ministers” and laity. Here’s John Stott weighing in (from his book The Contemporary Christian, p.140):
all Christians without exception are called to ministry, indeed to spend their lives in ministry. Ministry is not the privilege of a small elite, but of all the disciples of Jesus. You will have noticed that I did not say that all Christians are called to the ministry, but to ministry, diakonia, service. We do a great disservice to the Christian cause whenever we refer to the pastorate as “the ministry.” For by our use of the definite article we give the impression that the pastorate is the only ministry there is, much as medieval churchmen regarded the priesthood as the only (or at the least the most “spiritual”) vocation there is.
In this section of Hebrews, the writer has dealt with spiritual immaturity. But because these Christians aren’t just nominal Christians (professing something but not living it) but actually serve others, they can have hope and confidence in their spiritual standing. I wonder if your current service to others would point to you being one who has spiritual fruit? Of if you would just be Christian in name only, not in deed? Come this Sunday and see how we live relates to what we believe.
Enjoyed a full Lord’s Day. The hard, but good, work of ministry included:
Preaching Hebrews 6:1-8 (which some consider to be one of the most difficult texts in the Bible) on Spiritual Immaturity, Part 2. We also enjoyed a visit from Wayne and Dianna Penner, who are transitioning from Brazil to South Africa this Winter.
In the evening, I presented a talk on why we are changing our strategy on ministering to children on Wednesday nights, including presenting our new curriculum God’s Story.
It’s hard to deal with difficult texts and change long standing programs but it is a good work. I trust that God will honor my attempts at faithfulness.
C.J. gives us a quote for men who serve in ministry and how men can support their local pastor. He writes:
Men who pastor small churches have my deepest respect. These guys are my heroes for the way they quietly and faithfully serve and persevere in difficult and challenging contexts, and do so with joy. That is why, during a panel discussion at Together for the Gospel, I was coming out of my chair as John MacArthur made the following remarks in response to a good question by Thabiti:
Thabiti Anyabwile: I am thinking about folks who are traveling with me. I am deeply encouraged with their being here. And I see other pastors traveling with some of the elders and members in the church. I assume they are likewise encouraged. Any words that you would offer to folks here who maybe aren’t in pastoral ministry? Maybe they are here to support their pastor in the kind of faithfulness you are talking about. Any exhortations to them, practical ways that they can hold the pastor’s arms up in this kind of faithfulness and trusting in God?
John MacArthur: What I cherish the most is a true and loving loyalty. This disloyalty, betrayal, undermining, just cuts the heart out of your pastor. When I talk about loving loyalty, I mean when there is an issue that needs to be addressed you go eyeball-to-eyeball, man-to-man, and you confront it. And I love that. I love when guys come to me and say, “John, I think this is a problem. I think you are overlooking this. I think this is a misstep on your part.” Those are the men I cherish. Those are the men I pull to my heart.
But what is just terribly debilitating is to feign that kind of affection to the man and then undermine that among the people. That is the most difficult thing. It is the betrayal that that brings. I could endure any problem in a church. I am challenged to solve any problem. But it is so hard when the men that you trust betray you behind your back. Because he is God’s man in your midst, you give him your love and you give him your loyalty. Be honest with him, face to face, man to man, open hearted. But understand the burden that he bears, and you need to be his true friend. You really do.
It is especially important for pastors who serve alone. At a different point in the discussion, MacArthur addressed the struggles single-staff pastors face:
I find my joy in the church in the men I work with, in their growth and their partnership and their love and their loyalty and their support of me. For me, I think that would be the hardest thing about being a pastor at a small church, being there alone and trying to carry that burden by yourself. That is why some of you are here, because you need this. You don’t even so much need what we say—you need each other. You need to feel like you are a part of something way beyond your own thing, and we embrace you fully.
I have often said the Lord must prefer small churches because he made so many of them. And you guys that are alone in those churches, you are the real soldiers, you are the real warriors. We thank God for you.
Yesterday’s sermon from Colossians 1:25 is now online–entitled Ministry: From, To, For. This sermon greatly affected my heart by allowing me to see afresh how ministry is from God, to us as individuals and for the benefit of others. It also affected me in showing me how arrogant I often function in ministry. As God’s Word called me to humble service, I could find grace.
In small group last night we talked about different kinds of righteousness that we use to inflate our position before God. These performance driven righteousnesses easily get us from centering all that we are on Jesus and His Work for us. One they didn’t mention might be:
MINISTRY RIGHTEOUSNESS — “I’m serving in the church, doing what God has gifted me to do. Surely my obedience in this area and care for others establishes my position before God.” Nope! It doesn’t replace the cross and my need for it daily. I hope you are encouraged, then, to serve in the strength that God supplies, so that HE is glorified.
I know many of you appreciate the ministry of Matt Chandler. His gifts are amazing and he consistently is used by God to bless my soul (and challenge me to holiness). This was true in a recent sermon I finally got around to listening to. Matt preached at Southern Seminary. Here’s the text, audio and video. Take time to consider his application of an amazing text for ministers.
I recently was skimming through an old book on pastoral ministry that alluded to an article by Tim Keller and David Powlison entitled “The Pastor’s Self-Evaluation Questionnaire“. One of my peeves about typical pastors (and a frustrating thing for myself) is that there aren’t too many people who open themselves up for, let’s call it, constructive criticism. Sure we have critics, but often they want to lob a complaint and not help you be a better pastor down the road. The frustrating thing for myself is that people are almost too kind. I need feedback to see my weaknesses clearly. The Bible has pretty tall standards for ministers. Far too many conduct ministry as if they are in a different social strata than the people to whom they have been called. I worked through this tool yesterday and thought it to be a very helpful exercise. We are going to discuss it at next Elder’s Meeting. Also, I plan to work through it again, this time not allowing my mind to wonder about who I know that these things apply to and focus more on myself. Enjoy.
In Elder’s Meeting a few days ago, we discussed Ajith Fernando’s booklet An Authentic Servant (check out the link for it free online). A tension we felt was how we are so prone to selfish convenience and not wanting to bother with people. It can be so easy to move in that direction. But another tension is the fact that we need to rest effectively. The Sabbath in a concept in Scripture. How do we pursue rest, though, without being selfish. It all made for a good discussion. Any thoughts?