Justin Taylor passed along a quote from John Piper on a vision for tough and tender pastors in controversy. Here’s an excerpt:
It seems to me that we are always falling off the horse on one side or the other in this matter of being tough and tender—wimping out on truth when we ought to be lion-hearted, or wrangling with anger when we ought to be weeping. . . .
Oh how rare are the pastors who speak with a tender heart and have a theological backbone of steel.
I dream of such pastors. I would like to be one someday.
A pastor whose might in the truth is matched by his meekness.
Whose theological acumen is matched by his manifest contrition.
Whose heights of intellect are matched by his depths of humility.
Yes, and the other way around!
Click here to read more.
Thabiti Anyabwile writes a helpful article about the pastor’s need for rest.
Ministry veterans like Piper and John Stott among others have come to see the value of regular periods of rest. I’m freshly grateful to God for a church family that supports my pastoral labors as well as rest from those labors. I’m deeply thankful for a church family that understands that the church belongs to the Lord and His reign is not threatened when His under-shepherds rest. When I’m not rested, it’s usually my fault. I’m either over-extending myself or I’m not being effective with my time. There are periods where the load is really heavy, but with the encouragement and support I receive I should be rested and fresh most days.
Read the rest here.
Yes, I am actually posting. It’s been a long while since I’ve posted–good to be back.
On occasion, I am asked to preach a funeral for one who has died without Christ. The first time I encountered this difficulty was actually before I became a pastor. My uncle died as an avowed atheist who had rejected Christ up until the end. He died unexpectedly. I remember my parents telling me how sad and hollow the service was, because he had rejected any notion of the afterlife.
For the pastor, a great tension exists. On the one hand, you have grieving family members and friends who want the funeral to be about the deceased’s earthly life. On the other hand, the Scriptures are clear about the reality of their eternal life (or death, as the case may be). How does the minister of the gospel of Christ handle this?
Always acknowledge and validate the deceased’s life. This person is someone’s grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, son, daughter, etc. In other words, this person was greatly loved and will be missed. A lifetime of memories are stored on the bookshelves on their minds. A myriad of pictures may be displayed by the casket representing a lifetime of events and experiences. These cannot and should not be denied, even in light of their refusal to receive Christ in this life.
Develop a close relationship/friendship with the family of the deceased. Whatever the reason they asked you to do the funeral (such as: you were the only one to visit them at their home or in the hospital; they looked you up in the phone book; you are the pastor of a relative, etc.), you must take time to get to know the family personally. Visit them in their home, call them, go to the viewing at the funeral home or church. Your presence speaks volumes. You are not to simply arrive and preach your message. You come alongside them and help share their grief and bear their burdens. And you will be amazed at how they appreciate your presence and will lean on you for support. At that point, you are as Christ to them by virtue of your calling into the Gospel ministry. Which leads me to the next point… .
Remember your ultimate calling as a minister of the gospel of Christ, even in this situation. In the course of your visits and conversations with the family, you will find yourself tempted to lessen the blow of the deceased’s eternal reality — something which can happen easier that it initially appears. The family is so grieved and despondent that, even in light of the deceased’s apathy or even outright rejection of Christ, may comfort themselves in thinking that the deceased is in “a better place.” The alternative of believing someone they loved so dearly is suffering eternal judgment in hell may be too much to bear.
But even so, we have a higher calling. The funeral is for those in attendance, not just the one in the casket. Remind those in attendance of this fact, then show them the comfort that may be found. How? “Preach Christ crucified!” The reality of Christ must break through the muddle of thoughts that are settling in their grief-stricken minds. While they may comfort themselves that many other issues and thoughts, family and friends, and fill in the blank — in reality, the only comfort that may be found in any circumstance or situation is in Christ. We must not turn away or be ashamed of Christ, even if it means breaking through their sensibilities of what the ‘afterlife.’
I have put out some other posts on preaching a funeral:
Any other thoughts on this matter?
On January 16-17, 2009, I will be leading a pastor’s conference in Trinidad. The theme will be “Stewards of the Gospel” and will march through 1 and 2 Timothy. I am excited about this, but also excited about a possible book that may come from this. Roddie Taylor, pastor of the Mt. Beulah Evangelical Baptist Church in Point Fortin, and I are working on writing a book for Trinidadian/Caribbean pastors in the area of preaching and pastoring biblically. Many pastors are being greatly and harmfully influenced by the TBN model which spreads the heresy that faithfulness means that God will bring material blessing. So we will be talking to a number of pastors and ministers, doing research and leg work for this book.
We would appreciate your prayers!
Another razor’s edge of pastoring is that I would shepherd the flock of God willingly! In other words, pray that I would not see my calling as a pastor simply as a job, as something I do to pay the bills. Pray that God would grant me and guard in me a hart that is one who desires to love, serve, preach to and shepherd this church. Pray that nothing would take away the joy found in Jesus! Pray that I would work willingly, not just being self-motivated but God-motivated, Christ-motivated, Word-motivated. Pray that computers, phone calls, worry, lack of rest, and a myriad of other issues would not divert me from the crux of my calling: preaching and teaching the Word of God.
(If you would like to read Part I of this series, click here.)
In the May 2008 edition of Tabletalk magazine from Ligonier Ministries, Ron Gleason (senior minister of Grace Presbyterian Church in Yorba Linda, CA, and founder of Renewed Life Ministries) contributes an excellent article aptly titled, “To the Young Pastor.” He gives five pieces of advice that are just spot on.
- Preach expository sermons from both the Old and New Testaments. An excerpt: “The pastor is primarily called to proclaim the riches of Christ through the preaching of the Word and the clear exposition of Scripture. In this manner, he both equips the saints and prepares them to present the true, pure Gospel to the lost.”
- A faithful pastor takes worship seriously. “To worship God rightly means to worship Him scripturally. The pastor and his congregation must pay careful attention to what God requires in His Word.”
- Manage your time to the glory of God. “Far too many pastors waste precious time performing ever-nebulous “networking.” Time, once spent, cannot be regained.”
- Maintain office hours and be approachable. “Make good use of your study and be available by phone, for personal visits, or a spontaneous ‘hello.’ My study door is almost always open and I enjoy people sticking their head in and saying hello.
- Visit the flock. “It is a time of personal accountability, equipping, and teaching that is so often missing in today’s churches.”