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Ten Things Not to Do to Your Pastor

1. Don’t love your pastor more than you love the Lord God.

2. Don’t idolize or worship your pastor. He is neither God nor Messiah.

3. Don’t be a living contradiction to the name and person of Jesus Christ in you. Don’t be a hypocrite, trying to convince your pastor that you are “good” and wonderful believer when you are thinking and behaving like the devil.

4. Don’t overwork your pastor.
Don’t rely too heavily upon him either.

5. Don’t neglect the honor and respect, duty and obedience you owe the pastor in Christ that is concordant with God’s Word.

6. Don’t kill your pastor.
I could write a book, “1001 Easy Ways to Kill Off Your Pastor!” Of course, I don’t mean physically murdering the minister; though that has happened. I mean to say, don’t murder him by mouth through gossip or slander. Don’t beat him into the ground with the innumerable ways people can verbally assault the minister. It is also possible to over work the pastor or place too much stress upon him.

7. Don’t allow your pastor or put your pastor in a situation that could tempt him or provoke him to immoral, unchaste thoughts, words, or deeds.

8. Don’t steal from your pastor.
Don’t rob him of his devotional time, study time, down time, family time, or vacation time. Don’t rob him of the double honor he is due. Pay him well so that he may be free from material concerns. Don’t forbid him to exercise his God-given talents and gifts. Too often ministers are pressured or commanded not to do the things they are talented, equipped or find pleasure in doing.

9. Don’t injure the pastor’s good name, and don’t lie to him.

10. Don’t covet another pastor when you have God’s minister in your midst; and do not compare or contrast him with other pastors, especially high profile, popular ones.

Here is a quick way to discourage or defeat your pastor: compare him with another minister or leader. It doesn’t matter who. It could be a previous pastor, a celebrity, or even a famous dead one. Just don’t compare! It’s demeaning and demoralizing when you communicate that your pastor isn’t like Pastor X in preaching, or Pastor Y in serving, or Pastor Z in personality. If you love that other minister so much that you have little room for the pastor the Lord has provided you and your church, then pack your bags and go where your hero is serving.

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Honor Your Pastor

Tucked somewhere in the deep and tight recesses of my files are a couple of articles about how the general population views pastors. Twenty different occupations was on one survey list, and a random sample of people were asked to rate each occupation according to things like respectability, trustworthiness, likeability, etc. Sadly, the occupation of pastor was rated eighteenth in most of the areas. Used car salesmen, or as we say now, pre-owned automobile representatives, were listed at the very bottom.

One of those surveys was taken some time in the 1980s and the other in the 1990s. I wonder if things have changed much since then? As a pastor I’ve noticed the same kind of response from the majority of unchurched people. I try to avoid telling people who I work as a pastor. It’s a turnoff, at least where we live. If they ask and I tell, then this invisible barrier pops up. Usually it means the end of the conversation and sometimes even the end of the relationship. So I often hope they won’t ask so I don’t have to tell. Guess that makes me a closet pastor? At least I’m not a closet Christian.

I’ve never found a similar survey of attitudes about pastors in the church at large. My crazy guess is that Christians (and I use that term very broadly) probably give pastors a rating of fifteen, maybe even thirteen out of twenty (1 being the best). Unless they are scoring their own pastor; there you might find very high ratings on the one hand or very low ratings on the other. I suspect that most church people view their own pastors more favorably than they view pastors in general.
It used to be in those “good ol’ days” that pastors were highly respected. In the “good older ol’ days” they were so respected that they were quite revered. Hence the title “reverend.” However, those “good ol’ days” have never impressed me. Not because I’m against history, but because I don’t believe such days really existed, except in our selective memories or selective historical accounts.

No doubt pastors were highly respected and honored in days gone by; at least in Western societies. Such high regard is still found today in other cultures (mostly non-Western). For example, we have dear friends from India who recently returned to their home country. It is very much a cultural thing to show a high honor for people in positions they value. Teachers there are highly respected. Pastors are too, within the Christian sub-culture. When our friends were here, they were always so respectful and seemingly always surprised at the things I would do that appeared to them to be inappropriate. Like doing manual labor or serving others food or drink. I in turn, was always surprised at their amazement and at this unusual respect. As a crude “we’re all on the same level” American, their behavior could be quite unnerving. But then I began to understand the culture of biblical times, and what Scripture says about honoring your pastor (elder) and your brother (and sister) in Christ. My friends’ culture is not too far removed from the Biblical one.

There are several places in the New Testament where Christians are called to honor their church elders, just as believers are to honor civil authorities, bosses, parents and one another. No question that believers in Christ show some level of honor to fellow brothers and sisters. We’re called to honor our pastors (elders) as well as fellow believers in Christ. However, this is something that’s hard for us to do. We tend to honor pastors conditionally – if we like them or if they do what we like then we honor them. If not, well then we don’t.

What does God say? First, there are different ways to honor someone. To honor someone is to give them glory deserving respect, attention and obedience. One aspect of honor is a reverent fear (this is true of God). Another aspect is submission, which involves humility and obedience (such as with God and parents). A third aspect of showing honor is providing time and/or financial support (such as with parents and pastors).

Honor is a major theme in 1 Timothy. Some have described 1 Timothy as a manual on the life and practice of a local church and its government. Believers in Jesus Christ are to honor one another in Christ because of the honor we have for Jesus Christ. Other verses touch upon it, such as Romans 2:10; 12:10 and 1 Peter 2:17. More so is the honor we are to have for our Christian elders and pastors.

Elders/pastors are deserving of honor (except under certain conditions). Godly, Christian elders/pastors should be treated with honor (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1:5-7) because of their God-ordained position and character in Christ. We show them honor because they serve in Christ (e.g.: Acts 20:17,18). Godly elders who serve in Christ by directing, managing and leading the affairs of the local church deserve honor; especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching (1 Tim. 5:17, 18). This passage (1 Tim. 5:17,18) assumes that the godly elder/pastor is busy laboring in the good news of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:10; 16:16; 1 Thess. 5:12).

His is an honorable service that comes from and flows through the Word of God (Eph. 4:11ff).
Since God’s people are called to honor their godly elders, then just what does that mean? How so and in what way? Again, the New Testament plainly tells us. First, we honor our elder(s) or pastor by having a high estimation of their role and work (Phil. 2:29). We also honor them by imitating their faith in Christ (Heb. 13:7). Like a child mimics her or his parent, so too are we to actively mimic pastors who model the life of Jesus Christ. A third way we honor them is by obeying them in Christ (Heb. 13:17). This does not mean that we are to obey anything or everything the elder or pastor tells us. Rather we obey anything and everything the elder or pastor tells us to do that is a clear directive from Scripture. For example, if the pastor tells us not to steal, then we obey because God’s Word is more than clear that stealing is sinful. On the other hand, if the pastor commands someone to do something merely based on his personal preferences, then we don’t have to obey.

A fourth way is to show a two-fold honor. This is what Paul is talking about in 1 Timothy 5:17. Those who exercise pastoral oversight in God’s church and minister the Word of God should be financially supported by the local Christian community (1 Cor. 9:7-14; 1 Thess. 2:7; 2 Cor. 11:8-9). We are to count them worthy of such financial or material honor when they work well and as unto the Lord (Deut. 25:4; Luke 10:7). This is not saying the elder or pastor is to be well-endowed with money and material possessions. That would violate what God tells us in other places, such as in James. Instead, it means that the elder/pastor who dedicates his time, talents, gifts, etc., in serving God by serving God’s church is worthy of enough remuneration to support his (and his family’s) basic needs.

Honoring the pastor isn’t conditioned upon whether we like who he is or what he does. It isn’t based upon his personality, his vision for the church, his charisma, his charm, his philosophy of ministry, and so forth. Rather it is based upon his life in Christ, his godly character, and his work and position as one who is called and ordained to the office. Now, at this point I must say that not all who are called elders or pastors are indeed so, or are even worthy of honor. But I’ll save that for another time.

Don’t just honor your pastor when you feel like it or during a special season. Honor your pastor all the time. Honor him in the clear ways God says to honor him. This is God’s will for your life. Honor him so that he might do his work with joy, which will be to your benefit (Heb. 13:17). Honor him so that you honor God.

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Pastors Lead

This article is taken from Grace Theological Journal, Volume 6 #2, Fall 1985; pages 329-335

by Jerry R. Young

The hidden agendas for pastoral duties found in many churches are a result of a misunderstanding of the pastoral function in the local church. The pastor may function as an elder and/or a bishop, but his primary responsibilities in the local church are to provide leadership and to teach (as did Timothy and Titus). God especially equips the pastor to fulfill these duties. If the hidden agendas are renounced in favor of the NT directives, the twentieth century church will receive the benefit.

* * *

Introduction

In my second year as a pastor, I became aware of a hidden agenda used in the examination and selection of pastors. The Senior Pastor and I had resigned, both of us intending to assume home mission responsibilities. A pulpit committee, composed of the foremost men in the church, was elected to search for and recommend a pastoral candidate to the congregation. It was a scene common among self-governing churches in America. For its initial meeting, the committee chose to meet in the large Christian Education office where my desk was located. Surprised by the committee’s entrance, I rose to my feet and proceeded to gather the project on which I was working. Although the men quickly assured me that my presence did not concern them, remaining in the room did not seem proper to me. Before I could gather my things and depart, however, the men sat down and the meeting began. A prominent name was mentioned. “Oh, we couldn’t ask him,” replied another voice. “He would want to do things his own way.” Other names were mentioned. One man was too fat. Another was too old. The hidden agenda was out on the table.

Twenty years have passed since my introduction to the hidden agenda. New forms of local church government have been encouraged. Strong, visionary leadership from the pastor has become a desirable trait. But hidden agendas remain.

It is my opinion that such agendas abound because pastors are not sure of their own identities and responsibilities. They try to function like deacons by visiting the sick and helping the poor. They try to function like bishops by meeting with committees and supervising church programs. They try to function like pastors by preaching and teaching. In their efforts to be everything and do everything, they end up as office managers and program technicians.

I know full well that there are pressures on pastors to be all things to all people. There are occasions when it is impossible to avoid the mixing of roles. However, role confusion over a long period of time results in frustration for both pastor and congregation. Hidden agendas and expectations, if left uncorrected, will diminish the pastoral ministry and thus impoverish the local church. It is important for pastors to clearly identify their roles on the basis of Scripture.

 

Three Crucial Words

There are three words in the Greek NT that dominate any discussion of the pastoral role: presbuvtero”/’elder’, ejpivskopo”/’bishop’, and poimhvn/’pastor’. The first word seems to describe a person who is characterized by maturity and dignity.1 The second word refers to a person who is charged with the duty or function of supervision.2 The third word refers to a person who leads and cares for sheep.3 All three words may be found in combination with one another. In Acts 20 Paul reminds the elders (v 17 {Acts 20:17}) from Ephesus that the Holy Spirit has appointed them as bishops (v 28 {Acts 20:28}), and that they are to shepherd (v 28 {Acts 20:28} from the verb poimaivnw) the flock of God. In 1 Peter 5, Peter admonishes elders (v 1 {1 Pet 5:1}) to shepherd (v 2 {1 Pet 5:2}) the flock of God, exercising oversight (v 2 {1 Pet 5:2} from the verb ejpiskopevw)4 in a spirit of willing sacrifice. The complex working relationship between the duties implied in these three words has occasioned a variety of views on the nature of church leadership.

 

One segment of Christendom, in an effort to focus attention on the supervisory role of its top leadership, has chosen the word “Episcopalian” to describe its form of church government. Others prefer the term “Presbyterian,” choosing to organize and govern their churches through the election of mature men and women. Still others prefer the strong, local leadership of a pastor, and might call themselves “Poimenian.” However churches organize themselves and whatever aspect of government they choose to emphasize, the roles and functions embodied in these three words are not to be denied.5 But imprecise language, role confusion, and deliberate abridgment of one function or the other can only result in the development of hidden agendas and the eventual weakening of the local church.

It is a common practice among some churches to merge all three roles and functions into one administrative office. Familiarity with that practice encourages imprecise choice of terms and subsequent role confusion. For example, one competent writer, when commenting on the opening verses of 1 Timothy 3, makes the claim that “A local church has two administrative offices: the pastor and the deacon.”6 Yet the word used in 1 Tim 3:1 is ejpiskoph'”. Evidently the writer’s choice of words was inexact because of familiarity with a particular form of church government—a pastor accompanied by a board of deacons.

The roles of elders and bishops do not necessarily cease to exist in the local church just because they are ignored in favor of the role of the pastor. Often their function is carried on by people with different titles who sometimes do not have the qualifications listed in Paul’s epistles to Timothy and Titus. The effect of this can be harmful to the whole church.

While it is easy to argue that the terms “elder” and “bishop” generally refer to the same office on the basis of Titus 1:5–7, it is not easy to argue that the term “pastor” refers to the same office as well. That particular gift, office, or function is not even named in the pastoral epistles. However, Timothy and Titus might be called pastors. Their influence and authority were highly visible, and Paul repeatedly commanded them to exercise the pastoral gift of teaching.

In his letter to the Ephesians Paul clearly identified those offices that were given by God to build the Church:

And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ [Eph 4:11–13].7

The permanence of these offices is often debated, some viewing one, two, or even three of the offices as temporary.8 But no one denies the present existence of the pastoral gift. The combination of pastor and teacher into one office is argued, but no one denies that the pastor must be a teacher.9 The partial listing of gifts in 1 Cor 12:28 lends further support: “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” The teaching gift is listed without reference to the separate gifts of evangelism and pastoring found in Eph 4:11. This could well represent a combination of three distinct gifts, with the leading component serving as an umbrella. The gifts of evangelism, pastoring and teaching often reside simultaneously in one person.

The pastor is a special kind of teacher. He is a teacher who should stand out among other teachers because of a gift from God. In his clear exposition of the Bible he should emulate the Chief Shepherd, who taught “as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). He will probably be a bishop if he supervises the work of others. If he is in the middle years of life, experienced and mature, he will probably be an elder as well. Whether his forum is a seminary classroom, a conference platform, a mission headquarters, or a church auditorium, his gift is to lead a flock of sheep. Whatever Christians today might call him, he functions as a pastor or shepherd of God’s flock. Recognition of this basic truth is a necessary first step in removing the hidden agendas hindering many churches today.

 

Command and Teach

One of the most fascinating verbal exchanges between Jesus and his disciples may be found in John 21:15–17. It is the story of Peter’s recovery from failure as a disciple, and his return to leadership:

So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, you know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

Many people are aware of the subtle shift in the Lord’s use of the words for “love.” But very few realize that Jesus also used two different words in his command that Peter “shepherd” and “tend” the Master’s sheep. The Lord first used the word bovskw, then changed to poimaivnw, and finally returned to bovskw for the third repetition of his command. The combination is significant.

The word bovskw simply means “to provide food,” while the word poimaivnw more broadly refers to “the guiding, guarding, folding of the flock, as well as finding of nourishment for it.”10 Peter was to feed the lambs and the sheep of the flock of God. But he also had a wider responsibility to lead the flock in every aspect of its existence. Providing nourishment, though paramount in all the pastor’s work, is simply not enough.

Many fine young men have done poorly as pastors of local churches because they were unable to bring a commanding presence to the work. They may have been excellent supervisors, or warm-hearted teachers, or compelling evangelists, but they lacked the authoritative leadership required of a shepherd. Even the addition of experience and maturity cannot fully compensate for the absence of the ability to lead effectively.

The apostolic directives to Timothy and Titus presuppose such a pastoral gift, a gift to which Paul refers in 1 Tim 1:18; 4:14 {1 Tim 4:14}; and 2 Tim 1:6. The written support of an apostle certainly provided instant credibility for these younger teachers in Ephesus and Crete. But the capacity to lead strongly in matters of doctrine and conduct was an absolute necessity, without which the apostolic directives were useless. In his general introduction to 1 Timothy, Gromacki calls attention to this:

The concept of charge is dominant in this epistle. The verb (paraggellw) is used five times (1:3 {1 Tim 1:3}; 4:11 {1 Tim 4:11}; 5:7 {1 Tim 5:7}; 6:13,17 {1 Tim 6}) and its noun form is found twice (1:5,18 {1 Tim 1}). The term suggests the transfer of commands from a superior officer to a subordinate. Paul expected that Timothy, as a “good soldier of Jesus Christ” (II Tim 2:3 {2 Tim 2:3}), would carry out the apostolic charge.11

It is instructive to note that in all but one of the above named cases, Paul called upon Timothy to command the Ephesians. Only in 1 Tim 6:13–14 did Paul use paraggevllw in direct reference to Timothy:

I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment  without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In all other cases, Timothy was the one expected to give the “charges” and “commands.” When Timothy appeared to falter under the pressures that most certainly come to leaders in command, Paul wrote again to Timothy, reminding him to “kindle afresh the gift of God” which was in him and urging him to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 1:6; 2:1 {2 Tim 2:1}).

 

Strong and commanding leadership in matters of doctrine and conduct does not necessitate tyrannical behavior. Adolf Hitler called himself the Leader, but at a point in time he ceased being a genuine leader and became a tyrant. The power to control others is not real leadership. As James MacGregor Burns observes, “A leader and a tyrant are polar opposites.”12 Perhaps Timothy allowed his gift to smolder, without bright flames, because he feared the possible alienation of his hearers. It is a fear not uncommon to pastors. Paul was careful to delineate between tyrannical behavior and pastoral leadership:

And the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will [2 Tim 2:24–26].

 

Gentle correction does not imply weakness or lack of leadership. Neither does kindness legitimize holding back truth. Patience is not timid hesitation. Style, not content, is the subject of Paul’s admonition.

Simply put, shepherds feed and lead. They lead in such a way that no individual member of the flock is able to disregard the shepherd. This requires a delicate balance between kindness and patience, on the one hand, and authority on the other. This agenda for pastoral responsibility should be foremost when local churches seek pastors.

 

Conclusion

Field Marshall William Slim, in an address at the United States Military Academy, opened his heart to young cadets on the subject of command:

When things are bad…there will come a sudden pause when your men will stop and look at you. No one will speak. They will just look at you and ask for leadership. Their courage is ebbing; you must make it flow back, and it is not easy. You will never have felt more alone in your life.13

 

There is loneliness in command. When things are bad, the leader wishes he could return to being a follower. The shepherd may long for the status of a sheep. But the Chief Shepherd has called him forward, and placed in his hands the tools of a shepherd. The sheep look expectantly for leadership. This study has argued that the sheep must abandon their hidden agendas and adopt a scriptural agenda if true pastoral leadership is their goal.

What are the tools for such leadership? The qualities required of bishops, listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, are qualities which ideally should be developed in all believers. Accuracy of doctrine and purity of conduct are mandated in Scripture for every member of the flock of God. But what are the special tools of a shepherd, which belong to him alone?

 

Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus reveal some answers to that question:

1.            The ability to teach accurately and authoritatively even when alone, yet without striving (1 Tim 1:3; 4:6 {1 Tim 4:6}; 5:20–21 {1 Tim 5}; 6:17 {1 Tim 6:17}; 2 Tim 2:1–2,14–15 {2 Tim 2}; 4:2–5 {2 Tim 4}; Tit 2:1,15; 3:8 {Titus 3:8}).

2.            The ability to relate doctrine to practical conduct (1 Tim 1:5; 4:7–8,12,15–16 {1 Tim 4}; 2 Tim 2:22; Tit 2:7–8).

3.            The willingness to select faithful men to oversee the work of God (1 Tim 3:1–7; Tit 1:5–9).

4.            The willingness to select faithful men and women who can perform works of service (1 Tim 2:8–10; 3:8–13 {1 Tim 3}; 5:9–10,16 {1 Tim 5}; 2 Tim 2:1–2).

5.            The courage to show oneself, and the discipline to make the show worth seeing (1 Tim 4:12,15–16; 2 Tim 3:10; Tit 2:7–8).

6.            The courage to accept hardship and personal sacrifice in the spirit of the Chief Shepherd (1 Tim 6:11–16; 2 Tim 1:6–9; 2:1–3 {2 Tim 2}; 4:2–5{2 Tim 4}).

 

An unfading crown of glory awaits shepherds who lead. Let us choose them well.

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Why Do They Love/Hate Me?

Attitudes toward a pastor emerge from deep, dark sources.
by Kevin A. Miller

People respect leaders. People resist leaders. They love pastors; they hate pastors.

Why this alternating current?

It’s fairly easy to understand why people love pastors: the comforting word, help in time of need, biblical instruction. What perplexes and frustrates us are the many reasons people resist pastors, for these objections generally lie hidden in dark subterranean chambers of the soul.

I’ve gone spelunking of late and brought specimens to the surface. See how many of these reasons for resistance you recognize:

“I know you can bring the changes we need—growth, vision, structure. But I don’t like the discomfort you cause when those things produce disruption and tension.”

“I had hoped you would be a special friend to me, but you don’t have enough time for me, and I don’t have enough objectivity to realize my expectation was unrealistic.”

“I used to have more power before you came” or “I have power, and you don’t, and I want to keep it that way.”

“You remind me of (pick one) a former pastor, my spouse, an abusive father, or someone else who hurt and disappointed me.”

“You’re gone too much” or “You don’t pick up the phone when I call.”

“I’m really passionate about Issue X, and you’re not as passionate about that as I am.”

“I’m mad at God, and you’re the nearest representative of God I know.”

“I desperately needed you when I went through that traumatic, embarrassing time in my life. And I opened up to you. But now you know the slime in my life, and knowing that you know, I feel uncomfortable around you.”

As spiritual leaders, we’re often not prepared for the resistance, the anger. Sometimes it’s justified, but sometimes it’s unjustified, undeserved, and unspoken.

Few members possess the self-awareness to say something like, “I’m moving into a different place in my spiritual journey, and I don’t think you can take me there.”

So instead, people distance themselves, drop out of ministries, vote no. Sometimes their inchoate longings take shape in toxic phrases either psychological (“The pastor’s into building his own kingdom”) or spiritual (“God’s not anointing this ministry like he used to”).

What to do?

I take comfort in an analogy. The 1980s told ministers to be CEOs, but the CEO analogy misleads; the more apt comparison for pastoring is parenting (see 1 Thess. 2:7, 11).

Almost every parent has heard “I hate you!” punctuated with the slam of a bedroom door. As a parent, you can’t take the anger personally: it’s an occasional and probably necessary part of the relationship. Psychologist Anthony Wolf even titled his parent’s guide to teenagers, Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall.

Similarly, as a pastor, you can’t take all the resistance personally. Some of it will be specific and fair, calling on you to ask for forgiveness. But much resistance that parishioners give pastors is the same kind of resistance children give parents, a push-pull, a resistance combined with a greater respect, a little hate temporarily obscuring a lot of love.

You have to stay calm, focused on the bigger picture. The victory comes in remaining a pastor/parent at the very moment you want to scream back, child-to-child. Keep leading, keep loving, and usually, resisters return to respecters.

This is a trustworthy saying and worthy of all acceptance: People respect leaders, people resist leaders.

—Kevin A. Miller is editor at large of Leadership.

2003 Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.
Fall 2003, Vol. XXIV, No. 4, Page 10

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Preacher in the Hands of an Angry Church

by Chris Armstrong
Jonathan Edwards’s church kicked him out after 23 years of ministry, but the crisis proved his greatness was not merely intellectual.
________________________________

As messy dismissals of ministers go, the 1750 ejection of Jonathan Edwards by his Northampton congregation was among the messiest. The fact that it involved the greatest theologian in American history—the central figure of the Great Awakening—is almost beside the point. The fact that it took place in a New England fast moving from theocratic “city on a hill” to democratic home of liberty is more relevant.

But another aspect is worth a closer look: Friends and enemies alike agreed that in the long, degenerating discontent, Edwards continued to love and pray for—or at least tolerate and refrain from attacking—his people, even when they bared their fangs.

Salary controversies and power struggles marked his ministry during the 1740s. In the infamous “bad book” episode of 1744, some teen boys in the church distributed a midwife’s manual, using it to taunt and make suggestive comments in front of girls. When the culprits were summoned before the church, their response, according to documents of the proceedings, was “contemptuous … toward the authority of this Church.”

Edwards chose to read before the church a list containing, indiscriminately, the names of both the young distributors as well as the purported witnesses. Some parents were outraged at Edwards.

Another issue was Edwards’s personality and style as a minister. At the outset of his ministry at Northampton, for example, he decided that he would not pay the customary regular visits to his congregants, but would rather come to their side only when called in cases of sickness or other emergency. This made him seem, to some in the church, cold and distant.

An Edwards “disciple,” Samuel Hopkins, later wrote that this practice was not due to lack of affection and concern for his people: “For their good he was always writing, contriving, labouring; for them he had poured out ten thousand fervent prayers; and they were dear to him above any other people under heaven.”

Rather, Edwards had made a clear-eyed assessment of his own gifts and decided that he was unable to match the graceful gregariousness of those ministers who had a “knack at introducing profitable, religious discourse in a free, natural, and … undesigned way.”

Thus he would “do the greatest good to souls … by preaching and writing, and conversing with persons under religious impressions in his study, where he encouraged all such to repair.”

Edwards’s ministry might yet have endured, however, were it not for the death of his uncle, Colonel John Stoddard, in 1748. Born in 1682, 21 years before Edwards, the colonel had built a friendship with his nephew. A sharp thinker, a county judge, and a savvy politician, John was a militia colonel who had become commander-in-chief of the Massachusetts western frontier by 1744. Stoddard wore—at least in the secular sphere—the mantle of his father and Edwards’s grandfather, “pope” of the Connecticut Valley, Solomon Stoddard.

Edwards found himself often leaning on his uncle’s influence to navigate the affairs of the church. Thus when Stoddard died, Edwards lost not only an uncle but a powerful ally and confidante.

As Iain Murray put it in his biography of Edwards: “There would be no open criticism of Edwards as long as Stoddard sat appreciatively in his pew beneath the pulpit in the meeting-house Sunday by Sunday.” Once the colonel was gone, however, that changed dramatically.

Stoddard’s heir-apparent as Hampshire County’s leading figure was Edwards’s cousin Israel Williams, a Harvard graduate, imperious in manner and implacably set against Edwards. In his early nineteenth-century biography, descendant S. E. Dwight named Israel and several others of the Williams clan as having “religious sentiments [that] differed widely from” those of Edwards. Their opposition soon became “a settled and personal hostility.” Williams served as counselor and ringleader to Edwards’s opponents. Joining this opposition were another cousin, Joseph Hawley Jr., 21 years Edwards’s junior.

Visible saints, hidden agendas
The same year John Stoddard died, an event finally pushed the hostile faction into open revolt.

For years, Edwards had been uncomfortable with the lenient policy on membership and communion set by his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, Edwards’s predecessor at Northampton. Stoddard had allowed almost anyone to join and to partake, hoping that membership and communion might encourage true conversion. In 1748, Edwards changed the policy and told an applicant for church membership that he must first make a public “profession of godliness.”

Thus Edwards rejected the “Halfway Covenant”—the longstanding compromise of the Puritans who had, generations after planting their religious colonies, found their church membership dwindling. That compromise had reversed the traditional Puritan requirement that new church members be “visible saints,” godly in word and deed.

When the congregation saw that Edwards intended to return to the earlier, stricter Puritan position, demanding not only a profession of faith, but also evidence of repentance and holiness, a firestorm arose. Many of the church’s leading members felt Edwards’s innovation was a direct threat.

Two revivals had produced many converts, but, as biographer Patricia Tracy put it, “Men and women who had been recognized as visible saints in Northampton still wallowed in clandestine immorality and flagrant pride.”

Though Edwards knew, as he notes in his letters, that he was likely to lose his pastorate as a result, he stuck to his principles.

A council of the congregation put a moratorium on new memberships until the issue of criteria could be resolved. Edwards told them he planned to preach on his reasons for changing the policy. They forbade him to do so. Edwards began to write a book on the matter. Few read it, and too late to do much good.

In 1750, a council was called to consider whether the congregation would dismiss its minister. No one doubted what the conclusion would be.

Edwards’s friend David Hall noted in his diary the minister’s reaction when on June 22, 1750, the council handed down its decision:

“That faithful witness received the shock, unshaken. I never saw the least symptoms of displeasure in his countenance the whole week but he appeared like a man of God, whose happiness was out of the reach of his enemies and whose treasure was not only a future but a present good … even to the astonishment of many who could not be at rest without his dismission.”

46 and unemployed
Edwards wrote that he now found himself a 46-year-old ex-minister “fitted for no other business but study,” with a large family to provide for. Although he knew “we are in the hands of God, and I bless him, I am not anxious concerning his disposal of us,” he fretted over his situation in letters to friends. Yet neither the distressing conditions nor the continuing antagonism of his opponents drew him out to open attack.

Remarkably (and partly because of financial need), Edwards agreed to continue preaching at the church while they searched for a replacement. But his Farewell Sermon also indicates he acted out of continued concern for the flock. He continued through mid-November, despite the Town maliciously barring him, a month after his dismissal, from using its common grazing land.

Finally in December 1750, after an anxious autumn during which he had even considered removing his entire family to Scotland to accept an invitation there, Edwards accepted a charge in Massachusetts’s “wild west,” the Indian town of Stockbridge. There he would labor the rest of his life, pursue his theological thinking to its most brilliant heights, and create one of the most enduring missionary biographies of all time, the life story of his young friend David Brainerd.

Belated praise
In 1760, his former enemy, cousin Joseph Hawley, wrote to Edwards’s friend David Hall, confessing that “vast pride, self-sufficiency, ambition, and vanity” had animated his leadership in the “melancholy contention” with Edwards. He repented of his earlier failure to render the respect due Edwards as a “most able, diligent and faithful pastor.”

Hawley concluded, “I am most sorely sensible that nothing but that infinite grace and mercy which saved some of the betrayers and murderers of our blessed Lord, and the persecutors of his martyrs, can pardon me; in which alone I hope for pardon, for the sake of Christ, whose blood, blessed by God, cleanseth from all sin.”

On June 22, 1900, exactly 150 years after Edwards’s dismissal, a group gathered at the First Church in Northampton to unveil a bronze memorial.

H. Norman Gardiner, a professor of philosophy at Smith College and chairman of the memorial committee, characterized Edwards’s ejection as “a public rejection and banishment” that remained “a source of reproach to his church and people.” He noted the “hatred, malice, and uncharitableness which characterized the opposition to him,” for which, to Gardiner, no apology either contemporary or modern could atone.

Edwards would have disagreed, arguing instead that even such deeply wounding actions as the aggravated and wrongful dismissal of a pastor from his pulpit of 23 years are not unforgivable. In that understanding, as in so much else, Edwards was far ahead both of his enemies and of many of us today.

2003 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.
Winter 2003, Vol. XXV, No. 1, Page 52

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My Expectations of Church Members

It is rare that a week goes by where, as a pastor, I have not failed, disappointed or offended someone within the church. I know because people feel the freedom and apparent need to tell me.  That can be discouraging. In fact, I’ve observed that there is a corresponding corollary between the frequency of failing, disappointing and offending, and the level of discouragement on my part.

In those more sobering and clear-headed moments, I am able to evaluate what was said to me about those failures, disappointments and offenses against what Scripture says. On the one hand, it is a constant reminder of my sinfulness, weakness and inadequacy. On the other hand, it is a commentary on the nature of people’s expectations of me as a pastor. Merely evaluating the comments or criticisms over the past several weeks, it has been quite obvious that most of those failures, disappointments or offenses were not against God but against members’ expectations.

That got me thinking. What if I, as a pastor, took the liberty to assess church members based upon my personal expectations of what I want from them?  Granted, all pastors do that to some degree; but I am not talking about all pastors.  I‘m talking about what I want! I am talking about taking the same liberty that so many church members (and deacons and elders) do:  judge others within the local church according to their own personal standards.

So, allow me to expose my selfish desires for what I want, expect, demand(?) of all church members within any church in which I serve. Here’s the shortlist:

1. For every member and regular attendee to be at every event I am at.

2. To be faithful to every Bible study or class I teach.

3. To be early to Bible study, Sunday school and worship.

4. To be attentive to everything I say and teach.

5. To learn more from me than from any other teacher or pastor.

6.To give undivided attention to every sermon I preach (never be bored, never fall asleep, never miss a sermon).

7. To never compare me with any other pastor or preacher, unless it’s in a positive way.

8. To idolize me more than all of their current idols and superpreachers.

9. To have each person or family invite me and my family for supper at least once a month.

10. To do what I ask them to do and go where I ask them to go.

11. To anticipate in advance when I will get sick or enter the hospital, and attend to me accordingly.

12. To always pray for me.

13. To adore my wife.

14. To think my children are perfect and wonderful.

15. To never correct me, scold me, rebuke me or say anything negative to me.

16. To read every article, blog or book I write, and like them.

17. To speak glowingly to everyone they know about how wonderful I am.

18. To bring people to my church every week in order to make the church grow in a way that will break all records (so that I too can be featured in Christian magazines and go on speaking tours).

19. To not expect me to live up to what the Bible says a Christian should be.

20. And certainly not expect me to live up to what the Bible says a pastor should be and do (that’s just too unreasonable).

21. To always be available when I call.

22. To always be home when I come to your house.

23. To like the same personal tastes and preferences I like.

24. To enjoy the same games and sports as I.

25. To like the same music that I do, especially in church services and events.

26. To dress according to my preferences and standards.

27. To always be pleasant and kind to me.

28. To tell me how much you like what I do or say (I would be angry at you if you don’t).

29. To never have any expectations of me (such as having to be at every class, Bible study, church activities, or worship service because I do have other things I want to do, you know?)

30. To visit with me when I feel like you need to (and you should have the foresight and intuition to know when that is).

31. To always send me birthday cards (gifts would be awesome).

32. To read the same books, magazines and journals that I do so we can discuss them at my pleasure.

33. To make sure everyone else in the church is doing what they need to do in order to make me happy. If they don’t, then I will threaten to leave.

34. To fulfill this list and anything else I can think of.

35. And never to think I‘m ever being selfish expecting these things!

Because, as we know, church is about my kingdom coming and my will being done; for mine is the kingdom and the power, and I want the glory, forever and ever…

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Reforming Pastoral Ministry: Challenges for Ministry in Postmodern Times

Below are selected quotes from a book, edited by John Armstrong, that I would recommend to fellow pastors and church leaders.

Here are the excerpts:
To put it briefly, this book is written to help us return to those truths that made the church great.
“For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition” (1 Cor.16:18).

While affirming the Bible’s authority, large numbers of pastors now use it ever so lightly (inconsequentially) in preaching popular sermons aimed at restoring the emotional and spiritual health of their flocks. They counsel with profound dependence upon the newest fads and popular psychological books while they lead with the sharpest managerial techniques of the most successful corporations of our age.
The focus of the Bible is not upon plans for successful living. It is not upon the family. It is not on growing large and successful churches. It is not about dealing with codependency or self-esteem. And it is certainly not about political concerns the church must address prior to every national election. From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is about Christ.
The revival of Christian experience (if it really is Christian at all) without the recovery of Christian truth would be an unmitigated disaster.
These attacks are rarely waged over real doctrinal subjects since most church members know very little real doctrine in the first place! They are usually aimed at the pastor’s inability to keep the entire flock happy and positive toward his overall ministry.
We may still confess the same creeds and statements of faith, but we do not confess them in a way that makes a real differenceeason ministers have lost their way is not hard to find. There is no vivid sense of otherworldliness among us. God as absolutely holy no longer matters. We live for the now! We actually think the Gospel is a message that is primarily about putting lives back together. We have no sense of the eternal. As a result we have a Mr. Fix-it mentality about the Christian ministry. The church wants a pastor who can fix the problems of the congregation-social, emotional, marital, financial, and spiritual. Kindle location 258.
In previous generations the minister was understood to be the “man of God.” He handled the Word and cared for the souls of his people. Today if he is truly successful, he is more likely to be the manager of a local corporation. Kindle location 262.
Pastors are weak human instruments who must be filled with divine authority. There is no other way to accomplish the true work of pastoral ministry. True authority never comes from within our human persona or from the office (or gifting) itself, but from a divinely given mandate and from a scripturally based message.
[This quotation comes from a longer statement called The Preacher’s Mandate and is used by permission of The Cornerstone Trust, Box 1906, Cave Creek, Arizona 85327]: The Preacher’s Mandate Pray as though nothing of eternal value is going to happen unless God does it. Prepare as giving “my utmost for his highest.” Seek not to “get a message” from the scripture, but seek “the message” of the scripture. Be satisfied not with producing good content, but with producing good people. Attend carefully to a private and public walk with God, knowing the congregation never rises to a standard higher than that being lived by the preacher. Be “persuaded that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.” “Preach the word”-not about the word, not from the word, not with the word-affirming it is only proclamations of God’s word that carry God’s authority and his promise to bless. Exalt Christ preeminently, trusting he will then draw people to himself. Balance declarations of “salvation by faith alone” with declarations describing the life Christ produces when he sees saving faith; transformed heart, desire to serve the Lord not self, growing affection for his word, increasing obedience, fruit of the Spirit, saltiness in society, maturing Christlikeness. Depend solely upon God for translation of spiritual truth into life. Preach Christ’s word in Christ-like demeanor. Agree it is impossible at one and the same time to impress people with Christ and with oneself. Allow the preaching to exude the fruit of the Spirit, lest the preaching fail to produce Christ-like lives. Preach with humble gratitude, as one privileged to be an oracle of God. Trust God to produce in the hearers his chosen purposes-irrespective of whether the results are readily visible. Kindle 341
Discouragements and obstacles abound. In our ministries many of us confront much that is disheartening and rubs against our efforts to walk the King’s highway of holiness. We often feel frustrated, disappointed, near despair, and often quite unholy. So much of what we are makes us unprofitable and so much of what we do appears to be fruitless. As John Stott says, “Discouragement is an occupational hazard of the Christian ministry.”  Kindle 636 

Note that godly living involves both discipline and the continued grace of the Holy Spirit. This dual emphasis upon duty and grace is fundamental to Puritan thinking on godly living.’ As John Havel wrote, “The duty is ours, though the power be God’s. A natural man has no power, a gracious man hath some, though not sufficient; and that power he hath, depends upon the assisting strength of Christ. 116
Likewise, Jean Massillon (16631742), a famous French preacher, said to a group of ministers: A pastor who does not pray, who does not love prayer, does not belong to that Church, which “prays without ceasing.” He is a dry and barren tree, which cumbers the Lord’s ground. He is the enemy, and not the father of his people. He is a stranger, who has usurped the pastor’s place, and to whom the salvation of the flock is indifferent. Wherefore, my brethren, be faithful in prayer, and your functions will be more useful, your people more holy; your labors will prove much sweeter, and the Church’s evils will diminish. Kindle 702
If you long to be drawn closer to Christ, read Thomas Goodwin’s Christ Our Mediator, Alexander Gross’s Happiness of Enjoying and Making a Speedy Use of Christ, Isaac Ambrose’s Looking Unto Jesus, John Brown’s Christ: The Way, the Truth, and the Life, or Friedrich Krummacher’s The Suffering Savior. If you are sorely afflicted, read Samuel Rutherford’s Letters, J. W. Alexander’s Consolation to the Suffering People of God, James Buchanan’s Comfort in Affliction, or Murdoch Campbell’s In All Their Affliction. If you are buffeted with temptation, read John Owen’s Temptation and Sin. If you want to grow in holiness, read John Flavel’s Keeping the Heart or Octavius Winslow’s Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul. Kindle 744
In the early 1900s Methodist Bishop William Quail carried the idea further by asking and answering a rhetorical question: “`Preaching is the art of making a sermon and delivering it?’ he asked. `Why no, that is not preaching. Preaching is the art of making a preacher and delivering that!” Kindle 898
One of these lessons came in the form of the offertory prayer. Almost infallibly when called upon to pray before “taking up” the offering, some wizened older man with sunburned face turning suddenly white at the juncture of his head where his cowboy hat was worn 365 days out of the year would implore the Lord to “bless this young man You have sent to us today. Give him Your message, and be pleased to hide him behind the cross.” Kindle 1015 

What a text says and what it means are the concerns of the teacher. But the preacher, while being committed to the accuracy of the biblical text, goes beyond the work of the teacher, for preaching has as its ultimate goal redemptive penetration. In describing the nature of God’s Word, Hebrews 4:12 provides a working vision of preaching: “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Kindle 1226
This deep penetration of the Word by the Spirit reflects the apostles’ priority: “We will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). It is prayer that drives the Word into the preacher’s imagination, conscience, and passion and creates the preparation for the ministry of the Word.
John MacArthur has aptly put it this way: “Worship is all that we are, reacting to all that God is.”
When God’s people are being scripturally fed and led and are part of a growing church climate and culture that is increasingly Word-centered and thereby more God-centered, they want more of what God wants.
We must teach God’s people that it is vanity to come to God’s house with a flippant and unprepared heart (Eccl. 5:1-7). They must understand that God is to be treated as holy by all who come near to him (Lev. 10:3).
Because we are to “be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our `God is a consuming fire”‘ (Heb. 12:28-29).
In addition, we must teach God’s people to discipline their minds in worship (2 Cor. 10:5), so that wandering thoughts will not disrupt them during their worship.
the tacit implication is that a pastor will be hired to serve as the moral errand-boy of the congregation, performing those good deeds the parishioners deem appropriate but have little time to undertake. Kindle 1902 .
Eugene Peterson has rightly captured this inconsistency: We are, most of us, Augustinians in our pulpits. We preach the sovereignty of our Lord, the primacy of grace, the glory of God: “By grace are ye saved … Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV). But the minute we leave our pulpits we are Pelagians. In our committee meetings and our planning sessions, in our obsessive attempts to meet the expectations of people, in our anxiety to please, in our hurry to cover all the bases, we practice a theology that puts our good will at the foundation of life and urges moral effort as the primary element in pleasing God. The dogma produces the behavior characteristic of the North American pastor: if things aren’t good enough, they will improve if I work a little harder and get others to work harder. Add a committee here, recruit some more volunteers there, squeeze a couple of hours more into the workday. Pelagius was an unlikely heretic; Augustine an unlikely saint. By all accounts Pelagius was urbane, courteous, convincing. Everyone seems to have liked him immensely. Augustine squandered away his youth in immorality, had some kind of Freudian thing with his mother, and made a lot of enemies. But all our theological and pastoral masters agree that Augustine started from God’s grace and therefore had it right, and Pelagius started from human effort and therefore got it wrong…. How did it happen that Pelagius became our master? Our closet Pelagianism will not get us excommunicated or burned at the stake, but it cripples our pastoral work severely … it is catastrophic to the church’s wholeness and health.’ Kindle 1908
What the New Testament describes as fellowship-souls knit together in love, having all things in common, considering others as more important than oneself, trusting one another’s protection enough to allow for mutual, personal confession of sin, preferring one another as forgiven brothers and sisters, and working diligently to enhance the perfecting work of the Holy Spirit in one another unto love and good deeds-is today described in terms of social events, friendly greeters, punch and cookies, name tags, meals-on-wheels, and creatively named affinity groups. Kindle 2121 .
Simply put, true fellowship cannot be programmed, packaged, or produced through even the most creative energies focused on people. Healthy fruit comes from healthy roots, and in the case of true fellowship, the root is Christ.
Fellowship among believers is the fruit of fellowship with Christ.
Of all the challenges we face in ministry today, three stand out as those that present the greatest opposition to true fellowship. Consumerism. One of the most daunting realities I face as a pastor is the challenge of turning religious consumers into humble servants. The consumer mentality, where the customer is king, has set the church back on its heels. What pastor does not feel the pressure to give religious consumers what they are shopping for so they will become steady customers? In many churches everything from preaching and music to child-care and parking is reexamined almost monthly to ensure that the church meets the ever-changing needs of the religious consumer. Kindle 2139. 


Unfortunately, sooner or later we have to tell them that, actually, Christianity is not man-centered but God-centered. The customer isn’t the king-God is. The church exists for Him and is called to exalt Him above all else, in humility and fear. We have to take those whom we have attracted and assimilated by meeting their needs and tell them that Christian maturity demands that they now subordinate their needs to the needs of others, their wants to the wants of Christ. Kindle 2147.
Independence may allow for cordiality, but it usually resists intimacy. Kindle 2169
In a networking context, people are ranked according to how their resources, position, knowledge, or influence can help you reach your goals. Kindle 2180
The networking mind-set presents great challenges in the church. First, it makes the purpose of the gathered community the promotion of the individual rather than the exaltation of God. And second, it undermines true fellowship. Unfortunately, many in the church today have honed their networking skills and insights so well that they have largely lost the ability to appreciate people as people. We have become programmed to pursue those who can help us, who are like us, or who offer us some advantage. We only value those we consider valuable. But this is quite the opposite of true church fellowship. Kindle 2184.
If it is the fruit of fellowship in the church that you want, fertilize the root of union with Christ. The first grows from the second. The only effective energy for a fellowship among believers that truly shares a common life is a recognition that that common life is the life of Christ. Show me a group of redeemed laborers who find daily delight in their union with Christ, whose one goal is the glory of Christ, whose only boast is in the cross of Christ, and I will show you a group of people whose love and preference for one another is radiant and inviting. That love is the fruit of their deep understanding that they have been joined to Christ through faith and thus share a unity that transcends the natural and previews heaven. They love because they first were loved. The fruit of their fellowship is rooted in Christ Himself. Kindle 2238.
The idea that our life for Christ ought to be a reflection of our life in Christ is one of the great themes of the New Testament. Jesus Himself exhorted those on the hillside that the light of their lives ought to reflect their Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16). Later he told the Twelve that their love for each other was to reflect His love for them (John 13:35). Elsewhere we see that our lives are to reflect the life of Christ, including His holiness (1 Pet. 1:15), His faithful endurance (Heb. 12:1- 3), His humility (Phil. 2:5-8), and His submission (1 Pet. 2:21-25). Kindle 2243.
TAKE FULL ADVANTAGE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
Promote the Christ-centeredness of the Communal Meal
Promote the Equality of Those Partaking

Promote the Unity of Christ in His Church
George Whitefield, the great evangelist of the eighteenth century, once remarked to Mr. Betterton, a famous actor, “Why is it that the clergy, who speak of real things, affect people so little, and the players, who speak of imaginary things, affect them so much?” Betterton responded, “My lord, I can assign but one reason-we players speak of things imaginary as though they were real, and too many of the clergy speak of things real as though they were imaginary.”Kindle 2832  
So if that’s all the stuff we’re not doing, what are we doing? I have concentrated on praying, modeling, teaching, and working to create in the church a culture of faithfulness and prayerfulness in relationships, and friendliness and spiritual conversation among members of the church. Kindle 2915

We’ve used various courses-for example, Living Proof 1 & 2, Speaking of Jesus, Tell the Truth, Two Ways to Live, and Christianity Explained (an evangelistic Bible study on Mark’s Gospel). Kindle 2921
The motto of the Reformed churches, on the other hand, was Ecclesia Reformata, semper reformanda secundum verbum dei. That is, “the church reformed, always to be reformed according to the Word of God.” Kindle 3021
“They don’t convert-they choose.” He added, “The marketplace is now the most widely used system of evaluation by younger churchgoers,” and “by this standard, the most successful churches are those that most resemble a suburban shopping mall.”‘ Kindle 3051 

“Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself” (6:15).10 Was the multitude satisfied with the teaching of Christ? No. Their desire was to shape Jesus into an earthly king rather than being shaped through Jesus’ spiritual reign over their lives. The crowd was more interested in Jesus adapting to them than in submitting to Him as Lord. So Jesus left the multitude and sent His disciples across the Sea of Galilee by boat while he withdrew to the mountain. Kindle 3106.
Bill Hull squarely explains the nature of the gospel message: The gospel is confrontational in its very nature. Any presentation of the gospel that does not present a challenge to the unbeliever to radically change his or her thinking and attitudes toward God and his saving work in Christ is not the same gospel preached in the pages of the New Testament! Today, people can be happy, healthy members of evangelical churches without ever having to face a God who is anything more than a “buddy,” a Savior who is anything more than an example, and a Holy Spirit who is anything more than a power source. And that can happen without faith, without repentance, indeed, without conversion.”Kindle 3129  

What would happen if we returned to doctrinal preaching rather than bending to marketing techniques? Instead of allowing the whims of the crowd to dictate the content of a sermon, which is precisely what happens in seeker-friendly preaching, the preacher would boldly expound the Word of God. Christ would be magnified in His churches rather than attention being given to skilled preachers, big buildings, and clever techniques (2 Cor. 4:1-6; Gal. 6:14). The glory of God would be evident against the backdrop of human inability (Rom. 11:33-36; 1 Cor. 1:26-31). The righteousness of the law would be raised as the holy standard that holds men accountable before God (Rom. 3:19-20; Gal. 3:19-22). The sufficiency of Jesus Christ would be elevated as the only means for saving sinners (Gal. 2:15-21; Col. 1:15-20). The adequacy of the Holy Spirit would be depended upon to bring revelation, conviction, and regeneration to unbelievers (John 16:7-11; 1 Cor. 2:6-16; Titus 3:5). The church would be known as the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-31; Eph. 4:7-16), a dwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16-17; Eph. 2:19-22), a proclaimer of the excellencies of the One who called unbelievers out of darkness into His light (1 Pet. 2:9), and the pillar and support of the truth (1 Tim. 3:14-16).

“Moreover, to be ashamed of the Gospel is a fault of cowardice in pastors,” rang out Martin Luther. “But to contradict it and not to listen to it is a fault of stupidity in church members. Kindle 1118

So much attention is given to creating growth in our churches that we may very well be forcing what should be a more natural process by the grace of God. Paul spoke of the local church functioning rightly, with the pastors and teachers equipping the flock, the members doing the works of Christian service, the whole body growing together in doctrinal unity, and each member making his or her own contribution to the body’s needs. Out of this process, growth naturally occurs. It is not forced or programmed. It is not a plan to carefully follow. Rather, it is the Body of Christ living like the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-16).

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