Christianity 201

July 15, 2014

You and Your Pastor

Twice before we’ve featured the writing of Scott McCown here, but sadly, it’s been awhile.  I visited his blog, The Morning Drive recently and ended up wishing I could post a whole handful of articles. I ended up going back this one which talks about the relationship you (individually and corporately) have with your minister/pastor/preacher.  Please click through and read this at source; click the title below.

Your Preacher

preacherA while ago, Adam Faughn asked me to write and article about preaching for his blog: Faughn Family of Four. As I was looking through some files I came across the article and updated it for today’s blog post.

About three years ago I posted a question on a Social Networking Q&A site. The question was, “What do you expect from your minister (preacher)? One answer stood out as the answerer simply described the preacher where she worships. I thought I would begin by sharing that answer with you:

First and foremost, he is someone who is dedicated to following Christ. He cares more about people than image, he is a servant rather than a celebrity. He is not power-hungry, but is willing to delegate tasks and trust people, even when they do things differently than he would have them done. He is willing at times to say “no” and make sacrifices so that he is able to meet the emotional needs of his family.

  • He is willing to admit when he’s made a mistake. And he is also quick to forgive those around him. As a member, it is easier for me to grow in Christ because I know that I am deeply, genuinely loved. That I am accepted as is, but encouraged to grow.
  • He has close, open friendships where he is able to be honest about anything in his life. He honors and respects his wife.
  • He is willing to laugh at himself, and by his example I have learned a little about how to laugh at myself too. In his sermons he passes on stories that lift people up–nice things his wife, children, and folks in the congregation have done…
  • He sees people for who they are. He is not a big talker, but he is an encourager and a good listener.
  • He tries to model his ministry after the image of Jesus washing His disciples feet. He makes it his goal to always be the lowest person in the room, to always be serving those around him, just as Christ served us and gave himself for us.
  • He prays. He prays a lot. And he devours the scripture.
  • He isn’t trying to share some sort of theoretical faith he’s learned about in his head. Rather, it’s a faith he is living–”join me in following Christ.”
  • He sees himself as equipping all members for ministry. He is not there to entertain us or to make us happy; he is there to help, teach, and encourage us, so that we can be the best ministers we can be to those around us in whatever role we find ourselves in.

The Apostle Paul was in many ways a “pulpit preacher.” He spent three years located and serving with the Church in Ephesus. He describes his time there to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. By looking at his words, we can get an idea of what the pulpit is about: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:18-21, 27b – ESV).

Paul instructs a younger minister, his son in faith, Timothy, encouraging him in the following ways:

“ . . . For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth – 1 Tim 2:5-7.

. . . But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness – 1 Tim 6:11.

. . . Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth – 2 Tim 2:15.

. . . Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will – 2 Tim 2:23-36.

. . . preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 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, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry – 2 Tim 4:2-5.”

Here is what we learn from the Scriptures:

The Pulpit is not:

  • A venue for your soap box or personal point of view.
  • An avenue to vent anger or to speak to one individual’s struggle.
  • A place to push your political standings. There are times to take moral stands, but preach the morality issue and do not make it a political speech. Do not tell people how to vote, tell them what God says and let them decided what to do.
  • A way to make a living. You can make a living while filling a pulpit, but do not enter ministry just to make a living. My Bible College instructors were quick to tell us if we could make a living doing something else, then do it.

What the local congregation can (should) expect:

  1. Sound teaching: Make sure you are expounding the text and not reading into the text what you already believe.
  2. Studied material: A good sermon takes time to study, write, review, edit, and reflect before presentation.
  3. Significance: Sermons should have an impact on people lives. Messages need to have significance to the listener. This requires knowledge of peoples lives by being available to them.
  4. Simplicity: Theological babble sounds good and impresses other preachers at lectureships, but keep weekly sermons simple. The educational level in most congregation varies from children to well educated adults. Try to reach each group where they are.
  5. Servant mentality: A preacher is not the controlling officer of the congregation. He is a servant of the congregation where he worships and works. Look for opportunities and be ready to serve when called upon.

What the local congregation should return (pulpit can expect)

  1. Time to study: Those that fill the pulpit full-time receive support so that they can spend extra time in study. A number of years ago I stopped referring to the room I use at the building or the area of my home as my office, but as my study. When someone asks me if I have “office hours” I reply, “I am usually in my study at the building” during certain hours. Using the word study lets them know what I am doing while there, and keeps me from becoming a manager of church affairs.
  2. Taking lessons to heart and action: I love the story about a preacher who presented a lesson on Going the Second Mile in Love. One lady who always complained about others not treating her well, shook his hand saying, “that was a great lesson.” “Thank you,” he replied, “How are you going to put love in action this week?”
  3. Toleration: One person cannot be in more than one place at a time. “I called the building, but no one answered” and “That preacher never visits” are expectations that should not co-exist, but do.
  4. Togetherness in service: Every member is a servant “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another . . .” 1 Pet 4:10.

November 11, 2011

Having the Call of God

Pastor Kevin Rogers blogs at The Orphan Age, where this piece appeared recently under the title,  Tedious Boredom and Sheer Terror.

I spoke with a man whose job was to drive locomotive through Northern Ontario. When asked what his job was like he said, “It is days of tedious boredom combined with moments of sheer terror.”  

So why had he devoted his adult life to the rails?

Why do truckers endure the long haul and why do daycare workers put up with demanding parents and low pay?

Some work because it is a means to an end. They endure their job in order to pay the bills and put their kids through college. Still, others are engaged in their work (paid and unpaid) because they are compelled to. They have an inner sense of being in the right place. They see higher value than the task at hand.

Pastors, chaplains and community builders often have that inner sense. We name it ‘the call of God’. It may involve a ‘job’ that we do to pay the bills, but something deeper calls us to live each moment purposefully.

The call of God is a bit like the call of the sea. It may not be very specific. It may not be a call to this ocean or that ocean, or to this particular port or that one; it is more like a restless, yearning, which can only be satisfied by going to sea. *

A look at the men and women God called in Scripture reveals seasons of restless yearning and times of faith to take great risk. You find yourself somewhere in that continuum. Can you look at your current community and say that you are there by God’s choosing? It might be good to know that.

The qualifier that separates picking a career from responding to God’s Call is the sense that you must do this. It is your love response to the God who beckoned you to Himself.

‘It is God Who saved us and called us with a holy calling. Not according to our works, but to further His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began’ (2 Timothy 1:9).

When we struggle with contentment, challenge and uncertainty in our place of service we need to recall the First Call. The calling to be a disciple of Jesus is the highest calling that sustains you when your position becomes redundant, someone else is elected or you are unemployed.

God chooses to further His own purpose and grace through your life, in season and out.

Kevin Rogers

* A sermon preached by John Hull on February 4th 2007 in the Chapel of the Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education, Birmingham, to mark the end of a residential course on the Mission of the Church in Britain. www.johnmhull.biz/SermonTheCallOfGod.doc

September 21, 2011

Pastoral Relations

One of the ways we can demonstrate spiritual maturity is in the way we respond to the host of conflicts which come up in the life of a typical church.  It’s been awhile since we linked to Keith Brenton at Blog in My Own Eye, but I appreciated the practicality of this piece which he called, Pastoral Care.

HOWEVER, for those of you who want to dig a little deeper — maybe something a little more Christianity 301 —  you might enjoy his balanced approach to the Calvinist versus Arminian positions on the depravity of man, which he deals with in two parts, here and here

I begin with my standard disclaimer: I am not a minister or pastor, nor do I play one on TV.

I work in a church office, but I am not employed specifically to share the gospel of Jesus Christ or tend the flock of the Great Shepherd. But I work with a good number of priceless ministers who are, and priceless colleagues who support them, and I just want to offer a few words of advice on the care and feeding of church leaders, whatever their titles: ministers, preachers, pastors, elders, shepherds, deacons, interns, and staffers.

  1. If your pastor says something you disagree with, keep it to yourself. Seriously. If it’s a difference of opinion over something which scripture doesn’t dare to touch (and scripture dares to touch a lot), then the guidance I’d suggest is ” … So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God.” (Romans 14:22a) And consider the possibility that you heard something you needed to hear; needed to be convicted by … in order for you to turn around and draw closer to God again.
  2. If your pastor says or does something that conflicts with scripture, go to your pastor. Not to someone over them or under them or beside(s) them. Go to them. Follow the steps: “… just the two of you … if they will not listen, take one or two others along … if they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church.” (Matthew 18:15-17) No shortcuts. No keeping it to yourself. No withholding of love or fellowship or willingness to discuss, listen, correct, reprove. You can do this kindly, lovingly, privately — in a way that does not affect your pastor’s influence — just the way Aquila and Priscilla did for Apollos, in their own home (Acts 18:26).
  3. If your pastor has something against you, go to your pastor. Now. Today. Don’t wait until Sunday when you bring a gift to God. Don’t expect Him to accept it when He knows you have something unresolved with your minister. “First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:24b)
  4. If you have something encouraging to say to your pastor, say it. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5) Do it often. Daily if you think they need it. And, again, don’t put it off until tomorrow. “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3)Your church leaders and staffers find out thing about people … things they don’t want to know about. They don’t want to know because they love the flock and want to think the best of them. Sometimes they don’t feel comfortable even sharing this information with a spouse who also loves and cares for the flock. The wise ones share it with God and turn it over to Him and do what they can to comfort, admonish, and encourage the strays and the injured and the sick and the dying among the flock. They are not the hired hands Jesus talks about in John 10:12. They don’t run away; they stay with the flock at risk to their own safety and security.Their hearts break on an irregular but frequent basis — sometimes several times a week. Don’t overlook the ones who oversee you. Don’t fail to serve the ones who serve you. Don’t miss administering care to the ones who minister to others.
  5. If you have a pastor who imitates the Great Shepherd (who laid down His life for the sheep), thank God for your pastor. You have a treasure in your church family worth more than all you could ever afford to pay. So give what is due. “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17)

This is by no means an exhaustive list of admonitions from scripture — but it’s a great start. They’ll nourish any believer who does them or receives through them, church leader or not.

What we headstrong and occasionally brainless sheep fail to see, too often, is how famished and weary our pastors can become doing what they love for those they love to the glory of the One they love.

Feed the ones who feed the flock.

They’re trying to help Him look after your soul.

~Keith Brenton

March 27, 2011

A Letter to Pastors from The Congregation

I’ve often believed that the most interesting part of any church sermon is not found in the text the pastor takes with him to the pulpit, but rather, the parts that end up, to use a film analogy, on the cutting room floor.  Author and speaker Rachel Held Evans posted this in February, and it seems an appropriate Sunday post here.  It appeared on her blog under the title, Dear Pastors — Tell us the Truth.

Dear Pastors,

Tell us the truth.

Tell us the truth when you don’t know the answers to our questions, and your humility will set the example as we seek them out together.

Tell us the truth about your doubts, and we will feel safe sharing our own.

Tell us the truth when you get tired, when the yoke grows too heavy and the hill too steep to climb, and we will learn to carry one another’s burdens because we started with yours.

Tell us the truth when you are sad, and we too will stop pretending.

Tell us the truth when your studies lead you to new ideas that might stretch our faith and make us uncomfortable, and those of us who stick around will never forget that you trusted us with a challenge.

Tell us the truth when your position is controversial, and we will grow braver along with you.

Tell us the truth when you need to spend time on your marriage, and we will remember to prioritize ours.

Tell us the truth when you fail, and we will stop expecting perfection.

Tell us the truth when you think that our old ways of doing things need to change, and though we may push back, the conversation will force us to examine why we do what we do and perhaps inspire something even greater.

Tell us the truth when you fall short, and we will drop our measuring sticks.

Tell us the truth when all that’s left is hope, and we start digging for it.

Tell us the truth when the world requires radical grace, and we will generate it.

Tell us the truth even if it’s surprising, disappointing, painful, joyous, unexpected, unplanned, and unresolved, and we will learn that this is what it means to be people of faith.

Tell us the truth and you won’t be the only one set free.

Love,


The Congregation

 

 

HT: Chris Hyde, who also has a response to the letter from author Adam McHugh.

November 28, 2010

Words That Divide

So often in the Christian blogosphere we’re only interested in what someone wrote in the previous 24 hours.   This post however, is actually from June 2008.   (There’s a lot of good stuff online if you use limited search criteria; I was interested to see if anyone on WordPress had quoted Paul Billheimer, author of Destined for the Throne.)   It’s by BJ Rutledge at BJ’s Weblog where it appeared under the title, If You’re Gonna Walk the Walk, Then Talk The Talk.

Two months ago,  Janet and I attended a conference at North Point Community Church.  While there, we were reminded that a broken heart is usually what fuels your vision.  I think that’s why Sunday’s message on unity is so important to me.  I have a heart to reach people who do not know Jesus Christ and when anything hinders that, it breaks my heart.

I’ve never been in a church with a sweeter spirit than Grace Fellowship, and I want us to protect this spirit at all costs.  I also want us to protect the unity of the universal Body of Christ (the Church) in the same way.  One of the things that breaks my heart is when people – who claim to be followers of Christ – choose to do something totally contrary to His will by tearing down another church or church leader.  I hope you and I will never be guilty of that.  Jesus prayed for us to be “one” so that those who do not know Him could be “won” to faith in Him  (John 17).

When I was serving at another church in another state, I had a youth worker who asked us to pray for her husband who was not a believer and who never attended church.  As a first step, we began to pray for him to at least be open to coming to church and he did.  The Pastor had made some needed changes in the church and we were seeing many people make commitments of their lives to Jesus Christ.  This man began to come and was open to hearing the truth about Jesus.  About this time, two men in the church who were upset with the changes the Pastor had made talked to this man.  In that conversation, they began to rip the pastor apart.  When his wife got home that evening, he told her: “Don’t ever ask me to go to church again.”   His wife and daughter cried.  Those two men probably didn’t think anything about their “unsanctified” words.  That man remained lost without Christ.  I imagine that Satan laughed.

Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, wrote the Christ-followers in Rome these words: May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Romans 15:5-6)

A paraphrase of Eph. 4:29-32 says:   29Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. 30Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.  31-32Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

The next time you’re tempted to be critical of a church, a pastor, or its members, remember Ephesians 4 and Romans 15.   If you have a legitimate issue or problem, Jesus said go to the person(s) involved privately (Matthew 18:15-17).  In Matthew 18,  Jesus wasn’t talking about matters of opinion, He was talking about sin.  In matters of opinion, you may have to agree to disagree, but be careful that your opinions are not used in some way to hinder the cause of Christ.   All of us have opinions, but a principle Paul outlined in 1 Cor 10:23-24 reminds us that even though we may have a right to something – it may not be profitable or help our neighbor.  {23 All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.  (1 Cor. 10:23-24)}

In Paul Billheimer’s classic book, Love Covers, he states that most problems in churches are not over essentials, but rather happen because of unsanctified ambitions, jealousies or personality clashes.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen this happen in churches and communities.  Whenever you’re around someone who is always trying to stir things up, be cautious of that person and their words.   Proverbs 16:28a says “A perverse man stirs up dissension.”

Billheimer also states he believes more souls have been lost through the sin of disunity than all other sins combined.  That’s a very sobering thought.   When we talk about other believers in a negative way instead of about Jesus in a positive way – those who are not yet believers tend to balk at the offer of putting their faith in Jesus Christ.  You never know who’s listening, so make sure your comments are used to build up others and to draw people toward Christ – not push them away.  None of us are perfect – we all make mistakes – especially with our words!  We don’t walk in perfection, but we can walk with direction.  So, If you’re gonna walk the walk, then talk the talk.

B.J. Rutledge is pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Paradise, Texas.

May 10, 2010

The Difference Between a Teacher and an Exhorter

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:42 am
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Some classic Ben Arment from July, 2009:

A TEACHER

  • Values the study process more than the communication of it.
  • Knows exactly what’s going to be said
  • Would have loved to pastor the Bereans
  • Starts with Scripture and tests the wisdom of the world against it. Of course, Scripture wins each and every time.
  • Sees effectiveness as building a “wall” of biblical precepts sermon-by-sermon
  • Invests in conventional study tools
  • If anyone complains, it’s about boredom

AN EXHORTER

  • Values communicating over studying for it
  • Knows the general outline, but fills in holes along the way. Counts on it, in fact
  • Would have hated to pastor the Bereans
  • Brings up the wisdom of the world and tests it against Scripture. Of course, Scripture wins each and every time.
  • Sees effectiveness as moving people to action with the Bible
  • Invests in unconventional study tools
  • If anyone complains, it’s about not getting fed