pastor

Needed: Tough and Tender Pastors

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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. 

The Need for Pastors to Rest

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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.

(HT: Challies)  

Preaching a Funeral For An Unbeliever

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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:

Scriptures I Use For Funeral Services

Practical Tips For Preaching a Funeral

Any other thoughts on this matter?

Pray For Me — Leading a Pastor’s Conference in Trinidad

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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!

The Razor’s Edge of Pastoring, Part II

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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.)

The Razor’s Edge Balance of a Pastor, Part I

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Summary: Have the emergent church folks got it right in saying that pastors shouldn’t not exert any type of ecclesiastical authority in the church, or have the more formal churches got it right when they try to separate themselves from their flock? This is the razor’s edge balance that pastors must find.

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First of all, let me say how glad I am to be back. Cindy and I went to Florida to celebrate our 10th anniversary. My sister let us use one of her timeshares at the Ron Jon Cape Caribe Resort in Port Canaveral. Then we went to St. Augustine about two hours north, then we went south to see some old friends in Clewiston. I had the privilege and the honor of preaching at the First Baptist Church of Clewiston where I served as Minister of Music and Youth from 1998-2001.

While down there, I really had an opportunity to revisit the place where God called me into the preaching ministry. I obtained my B.S. in Church Music from Palm Beach Atlantic University in 1994, then went to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to obtain my Master of Church Music, which I received in 1997. I went to FBC-Clewiston right after in March of 1998. I planned on having a long and wonderful ministry among those wonderful people.

God had other plans. A call to preach. Back to seminary. Serving in small churches. Children on the way. Times of joy and times of strain. While in Clewiston, we were financially set and were saving money like crazy. Since, with children and school, finances have been ultra-tight. Yet, being in God’s will has been a tremendous blessing and joy.

As I was pondering this, along with a sermon series I’ll be doing on Church Membership, along with my DMin project which seeks to make the case for the local church to take up the mantle of training preachers, I came across again for the first time (you know what I mean, right?) 1 Peter 5:1-4:

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: [2] shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; [3] not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. [4] And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory (ESV).

I asked the flock at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church here in Lexington, KY, to read this passage and craft it into a prayer for me that I would be able to navigate the razor’s edge of pastoring and preaching.

Pray That I Would Shepherd Diligently

Churches and the people of God are often referred to in the Word of God as a flock of sheep. Wiersbe helped me realize that sheep are clean and tend to flock together (a good thing) but have a tendency to stray, desiring to go their own way. Sheep are defenseless and in need of protection.

As so Jesus as our Great Shepherd has placed undershepherds to serve in shepherding the flock of God.Jesus, as he is in heaven working among the churches (Revelation 1:9-20), initiated his church in such a way that he places pastors (undershepherds) to oversee the people of God. Paul tells young Timothy in 1 Tim. 3:1-2

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. [2] Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.

I would read over this passage and think, “God, no way! Keep me as a music and youth minister, but do not call me as a fellow sinner — and a young fellow sinner at that — to oversee a people.” So for 18 months I wrestled. Yet the Hound of Heaven would not leave me alone! Finally, he brought me to a point where I finally submitted and left Clewiston to return to seminary training and a new area of minister.

Shepherds are not always called on to maintain the peace — sometimes that rod of staff is not just for comfort but for correction! Shepherds of God have a tough balance — pastors are among the sheep as the people of God, but also “over” the flock.

Yet, some pastors swing one way or the other. Some reject having authority, as the emergent church folks tend to do, and say, “It’s not about us having authority, but merely facilitating.” Yet, we are overseers. Hebrews 13:17 addresses this:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

As you can see, it takes prayerful study of God’s Word and a high degree of character to find the God-ordained balance he seeks.

(Tomorrow: Part II — Pray That I Would Shepherd Willingly)

To The Young Pastor (Tabletalk)

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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.

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.
  5. Visit the flock. “It is a time of personal accountability, equipping, and teaching that is so often missing in today’s churches.”