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Russell Moore: Good News for Bad Preachers

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Russell Moore gives some great insight and encouragement for young ministers who, when starting out, will preach terrible sermons. He encourages you in how to proceed. Good stuff!

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2011 New Year’s Resolutions for Pastors

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  1. Be a man of prayer! 

“It is impossible for the preacher to keep his spirit in harmony with the divine nature of his high calling without much prayer.  That the preacher by dint of duty and laborious fidelity to the work and routine of the ministry can keep himself in trim and fitness is a serious mistake.  Even sermon-making, incessant and taxing as an art, as a duty, as a work, or as a pleasure, will engross and harden, will estrange the heart, by neglect of prayer, from God.  The scientist loses God in nature.  The preacher may lose God in his sermon” (E.M. Bounds, Preacher and Prayer).

“It will be in vain for me to stock my library, or organize societies, or project schemes, if I neglect the culture of myself; for books, and agencies, and systems, are only remotely the instruments of my holy calling; my own spirit, soul, and body, are my nearest machinery for sacred service; my spiritual faculties, and my inner life, are my battle ax and weapons of war” (Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students). 

2.  Stay anchored to the Scriptures!  The Scriptures are not a springboard for whatever topic you wish to discuss—but the anchor for that which God has already revealed.

Sometimes we hear it said that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books.  “What!” is the appropriate response, “than ten hours over your books, on your knees?”  (Benjamin Warfield, quoted in John Piper’s Brothers, We Are Not Professionals.)

3.   Be clear regarding the gospel—both to Christians and non-believers.  Both believers and non-believers need to be saved from the law.  Unbelievers risk believing they are saved by what they do—and believers risk believing they are kept by what they do.  It’s all based on what Christ has done!

An emaciated gospel leads to emaciated worship.  It lowers our eyes from God to self and cheapens what God has accomplished for us in Christ.  The biblical gospel, by contrast, is like fuel in the furnace of worship.  The more you understand about it, believe it, and rely on it, the more you adore God both for who he is and for what he has done for us in Christ (Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel?)

4.  Tolle lege (Take up and read):

When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments (The Apostle Paul, 2 Timothy 4:13)

Read, but not to remember everything. Read because that 1% that you remember has to potential to change your life (C.J. Mahaney). 

5.  Train others up in the ministry (whether full-time or lay ministry):

“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority” (Kenneth Blanchard).

“Be careful with whom you spend the bulk of your time.  A leader influences many by investing in a few and letting those few influence the rest. . . . You will want to make sure that these key people are shepherded, developed, equipped, and empowered so that they are excited and believe deeply in the vision.  They in turn will influence others” (Dave Kraft, Leaders Who Last). 

6.  Determine to stay the course and protect your calling.  Remember the promises of God, his steadfast love, and the power of the resurrection!

Sadly, toughness and determination are often lacking in church planters and pastors.  It is staggering to see the number of pastors who end up divorced and the number of seminary graduates who leave the ministry within the first five years.  The average tenure for a pastor at a church is about three years (and less than two years for a youth pastor).  While there are, of course, wonderful exceptions, the sad truth is that pastors do not make it for the long haul (Darrin Patrick, Church Planter).