“Few people grasp the preacher’s challenge. Where else in life does a person have to stand weekly before a mixed audience and speak to them engagingly on the mightiest topics known to humankind: God, life, death, sin, grace, love, hatred, hope, despair and the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Who is even close to being adequate for this challenge?”
(Albert Mohler, The 2013 Preaching Survey of the Year’s Best Books for Preachers)
I’m currently a full-time seminary student and part-time pastoral intern. About a year ago, prior to landing at my current church, I was looking at church job boards and other similar sites, trying to find a ministry position. My wife and I were stunned by how many pastoral job descriptions required some sort of ‘vision’-related skill or experience and how few required ‘accurately handling of the word of truth’ (2 Timothy 2:15).
From reformation21 comes a cautionary tale of how Evangelicalism has fallen into this trap and exactly why it is so dangerous:
The process is simple. A church has a pastor. The pastor receives from God a specific vision and mission for his church. The church follows the visioneer. …
Combine unbiblical ideas of a pastor who receives visions from God with slick fashion, cutting edge marketing, and shameless self-promotion and you have a cult-leader in the making.
This is an excellent warning for pastors to find the church’s mission in God’s Word rather than an extra-biblical word from God, and for church members to follow the Great Shepherd rather than a cult of personality.
“The whole life of men in ancient times was one of action and contention; ours on the contrary is a life of indolence. They knew that they were brought into the world for this purpose, that they might labor according to the will of Him who brought them into it; but we, as if spiritual things. I speak not only of the Apostles, but of those that followed them. You see them accordingly traversing all places, and pursuing this as their only business, living altogether as in a foreign land, as those who had no city upon earth. Hear therefore what the blessed Apostle saith,
‘For this cause left I thee in Crete.’
As if the whole world had been one house, they divided it among themselves, administering its affairs everywhere, each taking care of his several portion of it.”
(John Chrysostom, Homily on Titus 1:5-6 [emphasis mine])
Barton Gingerich: “The expectation that congregational leaders give off the ‘right vibe’ has become standard in some religious circles. Some churches today assert that a pastor should be an enthusiastic, extroverted purveyor of hilarity, therapy, success, or optimistic activism. These pastors are supposed to be casual, invested with ‘big dreams’ to do ‘big things for God,’ handy at enabling a good time during congregational worship, ‘innovative’ with outreach (i.e. the kids find the pastor sufficiently hip), and—perhaps most important of all—adept in the vocabulary of self-help and therapy. In other words, people want to feel good spiritually, and the pastor is to model that in his own life.”
Jared C. Wilson: “The problem over time is that, going from victory to victory, expecting victory after victory, cultivates a contagious form of spiritual greed.”
Chad Hall: “If you are a pastor, church planter, or key leader, you need a healthy and theologically sound attitude for dealing with church growth, size, and numbers.”
This is absolutely a must-read for anyone in church leadership. #5 is especially key: “The litmus test for truth is not growth.”
desiringGod: “How we approach a situation reveals what we expect to find. … And here’s the question for us this weekend: How will we approach God in corporate worship?”
10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me.
11 “For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me.
12 “For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial.
13 “Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”
A few things stand out at me from this passage: Continue reading The Motivation to Serve
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:13-14)
It’s hard to pick up the immediate context of these events from Matthew, but Mark and Luke clear up the timeline for us. After teaching and training the 12 disciples, Jesus had sent them out to preach repentance, cast out demons, and heal the sick. It was their first time doing ministry on their own, and they had just returned and told Jesus all that they had done and taught (Mark 6:30; Luke 9:10). In the midst of this, Jesus received the news of John the Baptist’s death at the hands of Herod. Remember, John was both Jesus’ relative and his forerunner in ministry. The news of his death probably grieved Jesus greatly, and it may have reminded Jesus of his own impending execution.
As a teacher, Jesus must have wanted to talk more with the disciples about their ministry experience, to debrief them and instruct them further. As a human being, he must have wanted to grieve the death of John in private. Yet so many people were coming to Jesus and the disciples that they didn’t even have time to eat! (Mark 6:31) Continue reading Having Compassion Even when It’s Not Convenient
The Bible recounts numerous stories of God calling a person to service and so we also have many examples of how people respond to God’s call. I have always tended to believe that if you look hard enough, you will find someone whose response mirrors your own. For me, that person is Jeremiah. I came to faith when I was 15 and almost immediately began serving in various ministries. Because I was so young and serving with and to people older, wiser, and more experienced than myself, I often told God something like, “Oh, Lord GOD, I really do not know how to speak well enough for that, for I am too young.” (1:6) I especially felt too young to be able to do anything in the context of the Church, where youth is often reason enough for people to ignore you. Because of this God’s words to Jeremiah have often been a rallying point for me, serving as both a reminder and a comfort when I feel too young or too inadequate to make a difference, and there are a few points in particular that I want to bring out that I think can help people of any stage in life: Continue reading Serving while Young