Tag Archives: Scripture and pastor

The Call of a Godly Leader

A godly leader must have a proper motivation for leadership. Leadership is a role, as much as it is a quality of character and an endowment of gifts. Biblical leadership is faithful service of a faith-filled servant.

God has given His people a calling. The first, and most important calling is to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  God calls all people through the means of the proclamation of the Good News about Jesus Christ (His sacrificial work of life and death for the sins of His people was accepted by God, so God raised Him from the dead and placed Jesus at the Father’s right hand in the heavenlies). This general calling is a universal one presented all to whom the Gospel is preached,  to receive and believe upon Jesus Christ and His work of salvation. This is an external calling (Matthew 22:14; Matthew 28:19; Luke 14:16-24; Acts 13:46; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 John 5:10). It is a sincere presentation of the Good News in Christ to sinners, exhorting them to turn from their sins and turn to God for the forgiveness of their sins in belief. This is a universal calling in that the Gospel is freely offered to any and all who would only believe. God does not consider one’s gender, nationality, race, or status in life when giving this call (Isaiah 55:1ff; Joel 2:32; Matt. 11:28; 22:14; John 3:16; Acts 18:9,10; 2 Cor. 5:20; Rev. 22:17)

Yet there is also a special calling from God. This calling is internal. The Holy Spirit brings the Gospel message to the very heart of the person, and that person is able to receive and believe the Good News of salvation. This is also called an effectual calling. It is effectual because the external call is made effective by the work of the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:48; Romans 1:6; 8:29,30; 11:29; 1 Corinthians 1:23-26; Hebrews 9:15; 2 Peter 1:10 Revelation 17:14).

What we mean is that a person has the inward call from God, so he is responsive to the gifting and the call of the Holy Spirit in his life (Acts 20:28), and hence he desires the office he has as a believer in Christ (a son of God, a co-heir, etc.).

Every believer has another calling in life. That would be to fulfill the God-given mandate to live life before the face of God by applying his gifts and talents God has given to him to all of life. This calling is a person’s vocation. The vocation is more than a job. It is living out and doing what God has placed within him to be and do in life. It might be as a plumber, or musician, a teacher or an artist. God is honored and glorified by this, as much as He is glorified and pleased by those whom He has called to particular kingdom office (deacon, elder or pastor).

The godly leader also has a more specific call for his role as leader. All Christian men are called to fulfill their leadership responsibilities in the various areas to which they were called (husband, father, son, etc.) This means the man is exercising his “kingship” as vicegerent to the Lord in all areas of his life.

Still others receive a more particular call to church office (1 Tim. 3:1). His motives are to be biblical and Christ-like (1 Peter 5:1ff).  Not only does one have the inward call of God, but also that call must be recognized as a qualified and legitimate call by the community of God’s people (Acts 6). He cannot merely assume that because he may be gifted and has that inner motive that he can assume the office in God’s church. . He must also be properly called of God through the means of God’s church (Jer. 23:32; Rom. 10:15; Heb. 5:4). This is what is called ordination.

 

-DTO

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Filed under Call to Ministry, Pastoring

What is My Pastor’s Job?

(an excerpt from Chapter 8 in The Perfect Pastor?)
Winter was exhausting itself in futile attempts to suppress the emerging spring. This March witnessed a rigorous battle of the seasons, but the brilliant hues of the newborn spring won out like a persistent hatchling.  It was Mona’s favorite time of year.

One Sunday afternoon a month the Lee family hosted a luncheon for the new visitors and members. The night before, Melissa, a naturally talented decorator, charmed the usually plain living room with a full bloom of spring.  Mona was elated, but had to work hard to keep her little brood from spreading spring color and cheer all over the place.  Sunday school could not come soon enough.

Warming temperatures and cheerful buds most likely contributed to an especially pleasurable morning.  It seemed everything went well and overall things at church were upbeat.  Two new members were formally received.  By now the grumpy bunch made it a habit of leaving almost immediately after the service, sometimes before.  A couple of the elderly ladies set their watches to ring right at noon.  “Since good preaching should take no more than fifteen minutes,” they expected Dan to be finished by noon.  If he wasn’t then too bad – they would just stand up, shuffle to the aisle and leave.  Thankfully they sat in the back row.  They missed the after church reception for the new members and a special cake afterward to celebrate the new union.

Because the new members brought their friends, and Matt brought a few of his new college mates, the Lees’ living room was filled.  After prayer everyone circled their way around the dining room buffet.  Mona’s expertise was cooking so she was used to hearing admonitions to open a catering business or restaurant.  With brightly colored plastic plates balanced precariously on laps, people sat on the couch, dining room chairs and even on the floor. In the background one could watch Melissa helping Mona feed the children and ready them for their naps.

The format was simple: enjoy the food, get to know each other, and ask the tough questions.  Dan enjoyed the tough or theological questions, but nine out of ten times questions were of a more mundane nature.  Crystal washed the bite of hoagie down with punch before she spoke up.  “I have a question,” she declared almost apologetically and kept her hand raised until Dan acknowledged her.  The stylish twenty-something was a regular visitor and friend of one of the new members.

“Go ahead, ask away.”

“Like, don’t get upset or anything.  I’m not sure I should even ask this.”

“Don’t apologize; just ask the question,” Dan kindly pressed.

“Uhm, what do you do?  Like, I know you are busy on Sunday but what do you do the rest of the week?”

With a very serious face Dan teased, “Sunday is the day I work.  It’s a great job.”

Most laughed, but Crystal wasn’t sure how to take him.

“He’s just giving you a hard time with his bad humor,” Mona apologized, coming down the stairs.  “Dan, shame on you!”

“That really is a good question and I’m glad you asked.  I get that quite often. Sometimes people actually believe the pastor only works on Sundays.  Maybe there are pastors who only work that day.  After all, one could be extremely lazy or a workaholic and get away with it.  In some ways it is like being self-employed.  You have to be fairly self-motivated and organized to get things done unless you are in a church that dictates what will be done.”

“My old pastor, and I mean he was really old — older than you, Pastor Lee — used to say that his job was to study all morning, eat lunch and then knock on neighborhood doors in the afternoons, teach classes and preach on Sunday,” proclaimed a serious college kid.

“I didn’t know thirty-eight was old, Brian.  Yeah, what you are talking about was one popular school of thought.  A few even hold to that today.  So, what do you think I do?”

“I know for a fact that you disciple people one-on-one,” Matt defended.

“Do you do counseling?” asked another.

“Sometimes I offer counsel. Yes.”

“Obviously you have to prepare for sermons and class lessons,” said Matt.

“He teaches then,” surmised Crystal’s other friend looking at Matt.

“Yep.  Keep going…” Dan encouraged.

Melissa spoke up.  “I know he reads a lot.  You should see that library of his!  And he visits people in the hospital.”

Scott volunteered, “He also visits people in their home for a spiritual checkup.  That’s what my cousin told me.”

“True.  Anything else?”

No one offered anything more than the clatter of forks on plates.  In the pause three of the young men went back to reload their plates.

“All these things would take up at least two days. Now, what else do I do with the rest of my time?” Dan questioned with a leer.

Mona jumped in right away. “Well, whatever it is, it keeps you busy day and night practically the entire week.”  Turning to Crystal she added, “I know he’s consumed by the work twenty-four-seven.  It’s even hard for him to take one day off!”  She was a little defensive since she had on too many occasions been the recipient of people’s complaints that her husband did not do enough.

“I really appreciated that page you had in the membership class that showed your average weekly schedule.  It was revealing. You really do work ten hours a day?” asked one of the new members.

“Thanks.  Yes, ten hours is normal, but sometimes it is eight and sometimes it is sixteen.  Depends on the day’s demands.  Jane Rubietta says that ‘Most pastors work in excess of 70 hours a week.  Seventy percent don’t take a week of vacation during the year, and sixty percent don’t get a full day off during the week’ (2002, p. 90). I’m glad I have vacation time that is somewhat mandated by our denomination’s tradition.  All right, I have a question for you,” Dan proposed, scanning the circle of guests.  “What do you think a pastor should do?   And I want you to be honest.”

Again, for a while the only sound was the symphony of the feast.  Matt broke the silence with a dribble of mustard on his chin, “Weddings!”  Everyone broke out laughing. “What?  What’s so funny about that?”

“Got someone in mind, Matt?” one chided.  He threw a pillow at his challenger.

“Funerals!” spoke another which provoked more laughter as they all looked at Matt’s target.

“I know you run meetings.  What’s that called?” Tom queried.

“Moderating,” Dan taught.

“Do you do the finances too?” Rose asked in her Argentinean accent.

“I suppose some pastors do the finances, but it’s not a practice in our church.  Our churches normally have treasurers.  In some churches the treasurer is a deacon.  The only part I have with finances is when the elders review the budget at the end of the year and prepare a new one for the next year.”

“Are you the janitor for the building?” Maria asked seriously.

“No.  Okay, it’s time to let you in on a secret: pastors do many, many different things and wear many different hats.  Because of the varieties of churches and philosophies of ministry you could not formulate one job description for all churches based upon the wide range of views out there.  People expect the pastor to do everything from being the church’s CEO to working as its maintenance engineer.  Some expect him to be the great communicator, a building architect, the master problem solver, and all around jack of all trades.  Excuse me, I’m going to get something,” he said while whisking off to his home office.

Mona and Melissa were just returning from the kitchen with trays of sliced pies and a large ice cream container.  They took count of who wanted dessert or dessert a la mode. Rose and Maria offered to serve the plates around.  Dan returned with some papers in hand.

“A friend of mine once said that many think the Bible says a pastor must be all things for all people, but the Bible says that Paul worked to be all things to all people.  My friend said that because of the unspoken expectations by a host of self-appointed bosses.  Those of us who are people of God’s Book must look to what God says he wants his pastor to do, and downplay the rest,” Dan intoned.

He added, “I remember the time one unhappy man came up to me after I gave a sermon on the roles of a pastor.  He said, ‘Two things: pastors are supposed to be everything we’re supposed to be but aren’t, and pastors are here to serve us.  That means you serve me!’   Writers London and Wiseman said, ‘Churchgoers expect their pastor to juggle an average of sixteen major tasks’ (1993, p. 62).  On a lighter side, let me read you an email that circulated years ago; the author is unknown:

Results of a computerized survey show that the perfect pastor…

  • Preaches exactly 15 minutes, condemns sin, but never upsets anyone.
  • He works from 8:00 AM until midnight and is also the janitor.
  • He makes $60 per week, wears good clothes, buys good books, drives a good car…and gives about $50 per week to the poor.
  • He is twenty-eight years old and has been preaching for thirty years.
  • He is wonderfully gentle and handsome.
  • He has a burning desire to work with teenagers and spends all his spare time with senior citizens.
  • The perfect pastor smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work.
  • He makes fifteen calls a day on church families, shut-ins and hospitalized;
  • Spends all his time evangelizing the “unchurched” and is always in his office when needed.

If your pastor does not measure up, simply send this letter to six other churches that are tired of their pastor, too.  Then bundle up your pastor and send him to the church at the top of the list.  In one year, you will receive 1,643 pastors and one of them should be perfect.  WARNING!! Keep this letter going! One church broke the chain and got its old pastor back in less than three months!

The small group roared.  Matt’s laughing knocked over Scott’s coffee.

“You asked a very good question, dear one.  Jane Rubietta wrote that  ‘Expectations

are the reason 33 percent of clergy leave their pastorate.  Pastors are ‘one of the most frustrated occupational groups in our country…the reason may have much to do with their inability to live up to the expectations placed upon them’ (2002,  p. 57).  I would add that it’s not the expectations so much as the wrong expectations people have, and the undue pressure they place on pastors to fulfill those wrong expectations.  Another author wrote:

The pastoral role now includes an unfocused and expanded range of duties.   The congregation expects the pastor to be in charge of nearly everything (except activities that the powerbrokers want to control).  Being ‘in charge’ here means not only seeing that the activities get done, but also that everyone interested in them is happy with them.  From doing the bulletin, to repairing the furnace, to increasing the pledges and enhancing the congregation’s image in the community, the pastor must see that everything is taken care of (Rediger, 1997, p. 23).

This is some heavy stuff, but it is something we cover in the membership classes.

Just what is a good job description for a pastor?” Dan asked rhetorically.  “The pastor’s job description is derived from his priority to serve Jesus Christ as he serves God’s people in the ways God sets forth.  What people often do is set up their own job description of a pastor, usually unspoken, based on one of three models: a slave, a genie or a junior messiah.  That is what London and Wiseman are referring to when they say:

Most ministers have too many bosses and wear too many hats.  In many cases,             congregations expect their pastors to do whatever task anyone dreams up; after all, no      one knows exactly what a pastor’s real job is.  This may be the primary reason many    churches stand still and stagnant – the pastors are overwhelmed with trivia and have no time left for what matters most (1993, p. 63).

A goodly percentage of denominations outline in a general way what pastors are expected to do.  Ours does.  But it is difficult to put down everything a pastor does because it varies according to the God-ordained roles he fulfills and the needs he addresses.”

Dan read another excerpt from The Cross and the Christian Ministry:

Those who follow Christian leaders must recognize that leaders are called to please the Lord Christ – and therefore they must refrain from standing in judgment over them. In other words, if it is important for the leaders to see themselves as servants of Christ entrusted with a magnificent commission, it is also important for the rest of the church to see them as ultimately accountable to the Lord Christ, and therefore to avoid judging them as if the church itself were the ultimate arbiter of ministerial success (Carson, 1993, p. 98).

“What does this church’s denomination have as your job description?” asked one of the college kids.

“I don’t have our Book of Church Order with me, but I can get you a copy later.  Let me see if I can recall: watch over the lives of God’s people in his care with regard to their doctrinal beliefs and morals.  Exercise church discipline, visit people in their homes, especially the sick.  Teach, comfort, nourish and guard the children.  Be a model of Christ.  Evangelize and disciple.  Our book says that these things are done in concert with the other elders.  The pastor also ministers the Word of God through preaching, baptizing, and serving the Lord’s Supper.”

“What roles are you talking about?” Matt asked, still sponging clean his spill.

“What does the word pastor mean?” Dan asked.

“Shepherd?” Scott replied hesitantly.

“Exactly! Think of all the things attached to the role of a pastor. What are they?”

“Feed sheep,” remarked Michael.

“Guide,” added Scott.

“Protect,” said Maria.

“See, you’ve got it.  Now, can we write up an exact job description that details how the pastor shepherds God’s sheep?”

“No,” came a chorus.

“Another very important role, perhaps even more important than the role of the pastor, is that of a servant.  Again, he serves the Lord first and foremost, and then serves people according to God’s directives.  Just like Jesus did.  Like other believers he is a priest who intercedes, and like other believers he is a peacemaker or reconciler.  Paul says he is like a father and a mother, an athlete, soldier and farmer.  He is also a professor or teacher, a preacher, a mentor or disciple maker, a model and an evangelist.”

“Wow!  That’s a huge list,” exclaimed Melissa.  “No wonder you were going all of the time.”

“Still is!” Mona added.

“I’m really glad you asked this question.   It is so important for God’s people to understand and encourage their pastor in the duties and roles God has for him and not to add superfluous extra-biblical requirements.  It is most important that God’s people not expect their pastor to be their personal slave, genie or junior messiah.  It is also very helpful to your pastor to correct false assumptions, views and expectations by fellow members.”

Melissa started clearing away the table.  Others got up to lend a hand. Some of the young men went back to finish off the dessert or refill their mugs.  After thirty minutes, the living and dining rooms were cleaned.  Crystal and Rose washed the serving platters, while Matt took out the garbage.  He was still embarrassed for spilling coffee on the braided rug.

Dan invited people to stay and relax.  He pointed to the cabinet of games.  Jake, awake from his nap, was six steps from the landing when he yelled for Scott to play a game with him.  Some expressed heart-felt gratitude for the time and left, but a few people took up the offer to stay while Dan excused himself to take his short Sunday nap.

 

Later that evening Dan and Mona related to each other how encouraging the day had been.  “Wish the Dumpletons and some of the others were here this afternoon,” begrudged Mona.

“Wouldn’t have changed a thing.  Might have angered them.  They want what they want and they want control.  John Maxwell is right when he says that people with big problems often cause problems.  In some ways they are to be pitied.”

Hearing the baby crying, Mona hiked the stairs to check on her.  Meanwhile, Dan went into his office to journal the day’s events and reflect on the matter of his duties.  He had a file folder on the subject of a pastor’s job description.  In his heart of hearts he knew he was fulfilling the vocation to which he had been called.  He identified with London and Wiseman’s comment as pastors that “Our legitimate discontent centers around playing church, coddling emotional infants, worrying about personal security, preaching arid doctrinal scholasticism, baby-sitting trivia, being controlled by spiritual pygmies and living by savage schedules that leave no time for prayer, study or outreach” (1994, p. 201).

It was a hard challenge for one who hated conflict and hated confronting others even more.  Dan kept a plaque by his desk that read,

“Five Reasons to Glory:

1.            God has entrusted you with the pastorate.

2.            You have the high privilege of being identified as an undershepherd of

the Chief Shepherd.

3.            Sheep respond to a shepherd.

4.            You are privileged to watch God’s sheep be born, grow, and mature.

5.            You experience unspeakable joy unknown to anyone else” (Wagner, 1999, pp. 176-183).

In his more sour moments he would add, “and experience unspeakable pain and discouragement unknown to most.”  “Whether real or assumed, expectations choke the vitality out of a pastor’s spirit.  Then what others think or what they want tortures him with worst-case scenarios of what might happen.  As a result, disquieting fears nag every expression of ministry, and pastors become so spooked that they can’t see the difference between a pesky mosquito and a ferocious lion” (London and Wiseman, 1993, p. 72).  For Dan those fears came true in his previous pastorate.  Those were pesky lions buzzing around after all!  The question Dan could not get a handle on now was, “What do I do with people like Irma and Mr. Strenk, and especially with Bernie and the elders?”

Dan knew he often feared and treated the antagonists like idols in his life.  He was constantly repenting of that.  He also recognized that he tended toward an over-inflated sense of his importance, caught up from time to time in the self-expectant role of junior messiah, much like what Leighton Ford wrote: “Sometimes we think that God’s work depends so much on us that we become feverish, compulsive and overly involved – workaholics of the kingdom rather than disciples of the King.  This kind of hyperactivism does not come from the obedience of faith but from the anxiety of unbelief,” (1991, p. 92).

London and Wiseman again nailed it with their diagnosis:

Pastors are facing a juggling act as they deal with mushrooming expectations the congregation, denomination, community, spouse, children or even self. In the Church, for example, members sometimes say straightforwardly, ‘Pastor, you are paid to do the church work, so you unravel the problems and care for the details.’  Even emotionally robust pastors find it takes energy and patience to cope with whining traditionalists, demanding visionaries and lethargic church members all at the same time.

To confuse the issues even more, the expectations often conflict with each  other at church, at home and in the greater community.  As a result, dehumanizing fatigue becomes a way of life for pastors, so even the strongest  feel their stamina wearing thin…As a solution, he suggests, ‘Expectations, like cataracts, must be removed because there is no way around them,’ (1993, p. 44).

The authors also provided a prescription:

        A miraculous cure for unrealistic expectations is to provide distinguished  ministry especially in highly visible areas such as preaching, worship or pastoral   care.  Word then gets around that you do your work as well as or better than any  previous pastor.  Excellence means doing the work God has given His Church well and in an exciting, interesting manner.

Such an excellent expression of ministry can give you a line of credibility that you might need to weather tougher times.  Many congregations overlook a pastor’s faults when they know he serves competently in other important phases of ministry (p. 78).

            Dan’s lust for approbation tended to ooze a self-destructive poison in his soul.  He learned he too easily catered to others’ wants and wishes.  Jesus never did that because he was always about his Father’s business (Luke 22:29; John 5:17-47; 9:4; 10:35-38).  Neither his father, mother (Luke 2:48-49) nor brothers could dictate the agenda God set for him (John 2; John 7:1-10).  The pressure of the great crowds always calling him to do what they wanted was not enough for him to cater to their desires.  Even in their excitement when Christ miraculously supplied a meal of bread and fish for thousands and they wanted to make him a king, he did not give in (John 6:1-15).  His disciples pressured him to rescue his dying friend Lazarus, but he only went when the time was right (John 11).  They were constantly trying to persuade him to do their bidding.  Then there is the time when Peter was harshly rebuked as being Satan when he tried to pressure Jesus to circumvent God’s redemptive plan through the cross (Matt. 16:20-28).  And of course the Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees were persistently trying to impose their Spirit-less, legalistic program on Jesus.  His rebuffs and righteous rebukes contributed to their growing hostility toward Him.  The man who would never bend or conform to their image of a good teacher paid for it with his life.  Dan knew he had not suffered like that.

He was just as London and Wiseman described.

One pastor opens windows of grace for others while criticizing himself: ‘To a great

extent, I’m a victim of expectations, my own and others.  Many of us who preach

grace as a way of life do not practice it in a relationship to our ministerial tasks.

We’re more eager to please the people than we are to rest in the fact that God wants

to use us the way we are.  We preach grace, but we practice a theology of works (pp. 73-74).

            Pastor Dan’s conundrum was placed before his pastor-friends, as well as his mentor, Kent.  He emailed with a very explicit question: How do I handle the pressure of unrealistic or unbiblical expectations from people in this church, especially the elders?

 

Dan deliberately avoided his email on Monday, so he was not aware that some solutions were waiting for him.  He spent the morning on honey-do chores, including cleaning up winter’s mess in their backyard.  When Jake got home from school, Dan decided to take the boys to a matinee while Mona and Hannah attended a baby shower.  After the movie the boys played freeze tag in the park across from the theatre.  The playground equipment got a good workout too.  The park was located in a large roundabout.  The theatre anchored the north side, an old fashioned drugstore complete with a soda fountain was posted on the eastern entrance, the Dumpleton hardware store secured the south, and a row of small shops, including Ben’s favorite reptile store, gated the western side of the street.

It was while swinging the boys on the swing set that Dan noticed Irma glaring at him through her sign littered window.  Dan’s first reaction was to feel a knot in his stomach, but then he stopped and asked God’s forgiveness for fearing man (Prov. 29:25; Matt. 10:22ff), well, in this case a woman.  What can she do to me? he applied Hebrews 13:6.  After much study and meditation, Dan came to believe that fearing others was due to a lack of a proper fear-revere of God, and such a wrongful fear caused him to abdicate his responsibilities as an authentic, loving pastor.  It contributed to his discouragement, defeats, depression and unwillingness to take calculated, Scripture-inspired risks.  He had to think long and hard on what John wrote in 1 John 4:18 that perfect love casts away fear. Doing the righteous thing before a fearsome God out of love for others is the power and antidote to fearing others.

Now, Dan wondered, how am I going to do the righteous and loving thing for this miserable woman?  His first proactive step was to stop, face her and wave with a smile. Even though she quickly turned away, he showed an undeserved kindness.  The second thing he did after the boys were clearly tired of the park, was to walk over to the store and track down the woman.  Directed to her office upstairs, holding his boys hands, he walked into the open office.  “Good afternoon, Ms. Dumpleton.  Business going well for you today?”  She was obviously startled and tried to brush off her unexpected guests.

“Who’s dat?” Ben asked of the woman smartly dressed in a grey suit.

“That is Ms. Dumpleton and she owns this place.  She’s made this business very successful, you know.  Practically every contractor in this county comes to her for supplies and tools.” Dan could literally see the winter thawing from her.  “Do you have time to give the boys a tour of your place?” Dan asked.

“I’m too busy.  I can have Max help you.”

Not to be put off, Dan decided to press his good fortune, as it were, and insist she show the trio around.  She tried to protest.  “Aren’t you supposed to be at your office, Mr. Lee?”

“This is my singular day to recharge so I can go hard at it the rest of the week.  I like to spend it with my family.  Surely you know that, don’t you?”

She scowled.  A hard, self-driven perfectionist herself, she rivaled Mr. Scrooge’s work ethic.  Surprisingly she relented.  “Oh, all right.  I only have a couple minutes, but I can show you what we have here.”

The tour lasted twenty-five minutes as she provided the history of the store, especially from the moment she inherited it.  She explained the various departments, ways she made her clients happy, and the challenge of keeping just the right inventory.  When she began to digress on the minutia of invoicing the big contractors, Dan had to excuse himself and his boys.  They were getting pretty restless, and Dan’s warning that the little one was having a hard time keeping his hands to himself was enough for Irma to grant them leave.  She had Max show them to the door, and dismissed them with no more than a proper “Good day.”

Dan pitied her all the more and determined to pray daily for her, especially as an enemy (Luke 6:28).  He also determined to find ways to bless her and thereby “heap hot fiery coals on her head” (Rom. 12:19-20).  It was a commitment to do the loving thing, a very difficult commitment.

At home, the boys told their mother about their afternoon venture.  Mona was very surprised to hear about the escapade at the Dumpleton store.  Dan had to explain his change of heart and tact.  He told her that he wasn’t going to hold his breath for change, but still prayed for change to come.  Instead he was going to do what God called him to do.  That was in his job description.

 

Dan had already outlined a pastor’s job description in the class materials for new members (see Appendix J).  However, what would he do to communicate that description to long term members with personal and preconceived notions about what he should do?  They were not about to go through another membership class.  And what of the elders who should know better but also had their own ideas?  It was time to seek the wisdom of his mentor and other pastoral friends.  But Dan would force himself to wait until Tuesday.  That night he and Mona decided to go out for a movie.  Dan was in the mood for a comedy.   Melissa volunteered to baby-sit.

 

Early the next morning, he switched on morning pot of coffee, and then checked his email.  Dan had twenty-three messages.  First, he deleted the spam and junk, quickly checked the five humorous ones his cousin sent, read through emails by the elders about church issues, and finally got to the posts he sought.  He went back to the kitchen for his first cup of coffee.  Back in front of the computer he opened and read the relatively short emails.  None of them offered anything surprisingly insightful or gave advice he had not already considered.  Still, it was good for Dan to receive confirmations that he was on the right track.

 

The energized father coached his boys to finish the oatmeal and toast Mona had prepared.  Ben wouldn’t eat it without lots of syrup.  Hannah had no trouble with the porridge at all; in fact she had lifted the pink plastic bowl and buried her face in it, licking as much of the sweet cereal as she could.  It was an uproarious scene of grunts and slurps followed by the display of an oatmeal-framed head.  This was one of those Kodak moments, so Dan snapped a picture.  Mona was not as amused since it meant a morning bath and shampoo.  Perhaps Hannah conspired for the bath, an event she relished?

Jake left for school, Ben played in his room, and Hannah headed for the bath tub.  Dan took his time getting ready, but was in his office by 9:00 A.M.  Usually, Tuesdays were a little more difficult because he had to assume the secretarial duties Melissa once did.  That meant sixteen additional hours a week of clerical work that robbed him of essential tasks.  Dan’s protests and pleadings to the elders went unheeded since they argued that for more than forty years the church went without a secretary and previous pastors did all the clerical work.  It wasn’t an issue of finances, for the little church was now in a position to hire a full time office worker.  Dan argued that while tradition might explain why some things are done, tradition alone does not mean some things should be done.  Dan also pointed out that he would have to cut back on other things or just let the administrative things suffer.  “Giving me more non-essential things to do robs me of the time I need for studying, counseling, and discipling.”  They countered with a charge that he would be derelict in his duties and that he had more than enough time to fulfill their demands.  Dan seriously wondered if this was a ploy to pressure him into leaving or if they were that ignorant of his tasks.

Because Dan was unable to put together the monthly newsletter, that only provoked Bernie and another of the elders.  Here was the occasion Dan was looking for to discuss his job description.  This would be one part in his overall strategy to broadcast the job description he had formulated from Scripture and from a mound of books and articles.  Along with presenting the study on the responsibilities and duties of a pastor to the elders, he would teach the subject at both the leadership class and the officers’ training.  When the time was right he would also interject a topical sermon series on the various Scriptural roles for a pastor, which incidentally applied to elders too.  At that time, sermon notes or supplemental materials could be inserted into the bulletins as he worked through each of the main themes, and the outline would be posted on the church bulletin board.  Time or not, Dan determined to work hard to have a series of newsletters speak to the subject.  At least now the newsletter would have a more focused purpose than merely fulfilling tradition.

“This paper is well and good, but you are not limited to doing only these things,” announced elder Frank at the elders’ session.  Dan usually placed a study or hot topic for discussion at the bottom of the agenda in order to accomplish normal business items first.  Often times the discussions were unfinished because Dan believed 10:00 P.M. was a bewitching hour, a time when tired minds and bodies were ill-suited for a wise discussion and ripe for irritability.  Therefore, he would stop the meetings at 10:00 P.M. and put the unfinished discussion as old business on the next agenda.

Quite surprisingly, Bernie agreed with Dan’s job description.  “I have no problem with this paper.  But, these are the basic things a pastor does.”

“I might underscore again that these are also biblical responsibilities and duties for all elders, not merely for the one dubbed pastor,” Dan challenged.  “Obviously the Bible doesn’t spell out in specific detail how we are supposed to accomplish these things, but it gives us God’s mandate and priorities for service.”

“I don’t agree.  This is your opinion.  These are things you are being paid to do,” Bernie fired back.

“So you are going to argue with the clear teaching of the Bible on this subject?  And argue with dozens of pastors, biblical theologians and scholars too?”

“You can make the Bible say anything you want it to!” Bernie snapped back.

“Then you also disagree with our Confession of Faith and our denomination’s Book of Church Order?”

“No.  I think all they do is give a skeleton for what a pastor’s duties are.  There is nothing that says the elders can’t formulate their own job description for a pastor, and nothing that says we can’t add to other lists.  Besides, so much of that is outdated and doesn’t even touch on things the pastor should do in this day.” Bernie pronounced.  This was a surprising contradiction to Bernie’s previously stated position.

“Bernie, are you arguing against the Bible, our Confession, and Book of Church Order on the grounds that they are out of date?  But you are the one who advocates for the traditions established in our church.  What – a tradition that dates back only forty years?  Come on!”

“What is your point in all of this?” Joe interjected.

“To bring clarity and some objective standard to my work as elder-pastor in this church,” Dan replied.

“Are you confused about what you should be doing?  Because if you are, we can draft a job description for you,” commented another elder.

“That’s a good idea!” declared Bernie.

“I agree,” added Frank.

“No.  The point is that the very priorities for ministry found in Scripture should determine what I do and what all the elders should do.  Other things such as planning youth activities or doing clerical work or mowing the lawn are secondary, even tertiary, to the very essential ministries I am called to do.  My recommendation is that you adopt this outline as this church’s job description.  In fact, I so move,” Dan said.  Though nobody seconded the motion, Dan explained that it was very problematic for any pastor to try to fulfill all of the spoken and unspoken demands and expectations of members, including the elders.  “On many occasions, you men have made it clear that what I do around here is either not enough or not good enough!  What is also clear is that I am not doing much of what God says I should do because our priorities are wrong.”

“Whose fault is that?” Bernie snapped.

After a ten-minute debate, the vote was cast against adopting Dan’s outline.  It supposedly limited elders from asking or requiring other tasks of the pastor.  Dan told them that he planned on teaching this material and preaching on the Biblical roles of pastors and elders.  The elders told him he could not preach on the subject, but if he wanted to he could teach it in classes, and warned him that if he did preach on the subject he would be charged with insubordination, refusing to submit to the will of the elder board.

They also decided to put together a committee of three elders to draft a job description for the pastor.  Obviously the meeting did not go as well as Dan had hoped.

 

“So what do I do now?” he asked Kent the next morning.

“Look, here’s the thing: you are not what they want in a pastor.  No matter what you do, unless you conform to their paradigm for a preacher and pastor, they will never accept you.”

“But Pastor Rick said that I should put up a good fight; take the men to the presbytery.”

“That’s one way to approach it, but let me ask you a few questions:  Do you believe you are ever going to change their minds?”

“Doesn’t look like it. They haven’t changed so far.”

“Do you believe you can push this issue and gain support from the vast majority of the church?  Or would it cause a split?”

“There would definitely be some sort of a split.”

“So what are your options?”

“Stay and deal with it or leave.”

“If you stay, you should know that it would likely take a long time to see the kind of changes necessary to bring your church into a greater conformity to Scripture.  The other option is to conform to their paradigm for ministry.  To see change you will not only have to outlast the antagonists, but you will also need to build up a new and strong base of people who agree with a biblical vision and mission for the church.  It could happen, but you’ll need to commit yourself for the long haul, ten to fifteen years perhaps,” Kent advised.  “Two books that might be helpful to you…”

“Okay, I’m always ready to read more.”

“The first is Red Light Green Light by John Cionca (1994).  It’s basically a book to help you decide with some objectivity whether to stay where you are or to leave.  The other is Craig Larson’s Staying Power (1998), which argues for staying and making a difference.  If you can get them in time you could read them during your trip to Oregon.”

 

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Filed under Pastor & Church Relationship, Pastoring, The Perfect Pastor? (book excerpts)

A Pastor’s Secret Heart

 “… will give those who are not pastors a deeper understanding of what the ministry means.”

“… many pastors today are having to endure spiritual hardship and much inward conflict and the testimony of this article is a soul-strengthening reminder that God’s ways are not our ways.”

Our experience of the pastoral ministry stretches back to an ordination in the late fifties, and during the ensuing years we have fed and shepherded three congregations. While, in the complexities of individuality, our experiences have been our own exclusively, we believe that others may share with us in some measure; we may express what other pastors feel. This we believe to be the case. We trust that our candour will not be misunderstood.

___________

In the sweep of these years since ordination, that is, from youth to our middle years, we can see two categories of experience, the bad and the good. Perhaps most of us, in our more public thoughts, are accustomed to concentrate upon the good and we give much emphasis to the privilege of our calling (of which none should be in doubt). But it is possible that, by taking stock of the bad, by facing it honestly, we may arrive at a deeper appreciation of the good. Certainly, for candid expression of what is bad, hurtful, searing, even desolating, we may take prophets and apostles for our example. We believe that the hold which these men had upon the sovereignty of God was the stronger because of their dark experiences, and by their plain revelations to us of their secret hearts, they afford us an opportunity of comprehending less imperfectly such a truth as Paul writes of, ‘the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings…’ [Phil 3.10]. We will adopt the pattern, therefore, of stating some of our bad experiences before the good, hoping thereby to magnify the name of the Lord who called us in our immaturity, and who has been our refuge, our strong tower.

Jeremiah’s speech is alarming: ‘O Lord, you deceived me, and I was deceived..;’ [Jer 20.7]. The prophet here expresses a cry from the furnace of his afflictions, daring to suggest that the Lord had not forewarned him of all the details of those sufferings which his ministry entailed. Ordained in his youth, the prophet sank under the hostility and venom of his contemporaries, not to mention the burden of apparent ineffectiveness, which seemed to characterize his ministry. It is true that God graciously decreed that Jeremiah should know the broad outline of the work which he was to fulfil from the commencement of his ministry [Jer 1.7-10], but of the daily details which would ensue — woven as they must be around and through his experience with people, and wrought within the tensions of his particular age, of these the Lord had said nothing.

Just so, we recall our ordination in youth. Perhaps our little flock had their expectations and we had great expectations within our heart. We thought that we knew ourself and others. In both respects we have had much to learn. We came to that day of days crying, ‘Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart’ [Ps 119. 111]. From the first, we set about the holy task of unfolding the meanings of the Scriptures. Moreover, in our three charges we have seen that the Scriptures, preached Christ-centredly, and in the conviction that they are God’s authoritative Word, do feed and nourish the believers. Yet such a ministry stirs wrath in the worldly and the unregenerate. As Jehoiakim tore and burned each page of God’s word through the prophet, after it was read to him in his room [Jer 36.21-23], so have we also seen the commandments of God demolished insolently in the fire. And this response is more obvious now than when we began our work. For us, at least, these are more difficult days than were those of the late fifties. Partly this derives from our youth being gone, because many will make allowances for a young man where none is made for the pastor with grey at his temples, and with heavy eyes. The most obdurate listener will entertain some hope that the youthful preacher will ‘change’, whereas no such hope will shield the same preacher in his later years from the barbs of those hard hearers. (We would here thank God for the love and understanding of those many Christian people, who, with courtesy and encouragement, have warmed even to our most immature utterances!)

But these are also more difficult days than former ones because of developments in society itself. Respect for authority generally, and respect for the ministerial office in particular, is much reduced. Individualism and self-assertiveness now rage without control. The very concept of the declarative communication of truth is demeaned: participation in the quest for ‘consensus’ has much diminished the preaching office. Together with this, we have seen a growing passion for excitement among professing believers. This poor, crude generation appears to know nothing, and to care nothing, for the testimony of the church’s experience through the ages. The strange, sad fact of the Montanists of the second century; the poignant waywardness of Andreas Carlstadt in the sixteenth century; the extraordinary novelties of Edward Irving’s ministry in the nineteenth century; and the diversions of those mystics of every age who set experience above God’s written testimonies, are all as if they had never been. In 1832 Daniel Dana wrote: ‘A special cause of doctrinal error and corruption is found in that excitement which frequently attends revivals of religion; and particularly, lengthened religious meetings. In these cases, the imaginations and feelings of men, being powerfully roused, the plain truths of the gospel pall upon their ears, and they demand something more novel, more startling, more overwhelming’. We fear that the present passion derives not so much from any revival of true religion, but rather from a religion which has already departed from allegiance to the Word. We fear that this passion is essentially man-centred, and that it will crash, within the coming decades, in a most dreadful disillusionment wherein the preacher’s work may have many more difficulties added to it.

The cult of youth enters upon our present experience with desolating power. We recall from our childhood an awe of those who were old in the faith. ‘The glory of young men is their strength, grey hair the splendour of the old’ [Prov 20.29]. Today, however, our western world has gone far to rob old men of their splendour. Even the middle-aged must often give way to youth as we have witnessed when serving as moderator in vacancy committees. We have sat in despair as believers have stipulated that they shall look only for a man under thirty years of age, or certainly no where beyond his early thirties. Indeed, we must frankly confess to a spirit of outrage at the assumption that men in their forties, with both vigour of mind and body enriched by years of pastoral care, are now dismissed as vessels no longer fit for noble use. It has seemed to us, in our most dolorous frame of mind, that this is a human sacrifice not totally dissimilar from those which desecrated the kingdom of Judah — to feed upon a man’s youthful strength and vision, and thereafter to forget him. We recall those many overtures made to us in former years, by churches which sought to procure for themselves a pastor. Now we turn into our manse with the narrowing years at times oppressing our heart. The world seems to have passed us by: ‘I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel’ [Ps 31.12].

We believe that these three ingredients of the present times, namely, diminished respect for authority, increased passion for excitement, and the cult of youth, have given rise to the existence and employment of wrong criteria among the churches in their search for pastoral care. The danger may be described, in general terms, as looking for ‘instant’ personality — ‘cooked and tinned’ and needing but to be opened and served — for glamour, for youth. The whole emphasis is upon immediate things: ‘with-it’ is an imperious prerequisite. With… what? we ask. We have not departed from our first conviction, that to be much with God, and much with his Word, and much with the flock, is to have one’s life joined where it matters most, irrespective of one’s age.

We may speak from sore experience, and say that a confrontation with moral problems will prove to be rocks upon which many ministries break. We know what it is to weep with and for the fallen, while seeking to counsel them in the way of life, and with nothing but compassion and love for them in one’s heart. But we also know how wrathful a flock can be, if their pastor should dare to enter upon such matters. We know what it is to be seemingly alone, in seeking to safeguard the church’s purity before a lax, indulgent and promiscuous world. We believe that moral problems call for the utmost love and wisdom: both graces are taught by the Spirit through the actual experience of bearing one’s responsibility in such times. But we would counsel the utmost caution. We would urge upon our brethren a forethought of the cost which the duty before them may incur.

The pilgrim went from his Valley of Humiliation into the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Our path has gone in much the same way. We believe that, as greed rends the world, so vanity too often rends the church. Congregation upon congregation is dominated by a few powerful personalities who love their prominence, and who brook no interference. We do not depreciate powerful personalities, per se. Nor do we forget that the church has been greatly blessed, in every age, by those whom God gifted with leadership qualities. Such men are needed today in every congregation. It seems to us, however, that the church is blighted by the influence of those who love their power more than they love the Lord. To such people there is an impossibility about the apostolic command, ‘Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ’ [Eph 5.21]. In such situations, collision with pastoral authority is inevitable. We have been hated for this very cause. We know what it is to be slandered, to have some affront set before us every week for years on end, to bear the company of those, in the services of worship, who will not shake our hand, nor allow us over their door-step. We know what it is to be quiet when others revile us, misrepresenting and distorting and fabricating all that animosity can invent. Moreover, weknow what it is to believe that we have deserved no such treatment — that those who treat us worst of all are just those who have received kindness from our hand.

We cannot deny the weight of this suffering. Our resolve at times grows weary. We break-down and cry in our study where no one sees. We learn a certain slowness in our trusting of others: some prove false, and their evangelical statements are exceedingly hollow. But of others we may suggest that their hold upon the truth is so slight, their sympathy with the Biblical emphasis is so superficial, their openness to the poor values of this crazed world is so wide, that, while they declare themselves to be profited under our ministry today, we dread lest some turn of events shall quickly disrupt their loyalty. The night-watches do tend to close our mind upon these sorry things; sleeplessness is our frequent portion during the darkness, and weariness is our frequent portion through the day. Loneliness is the salient feature of our path. We do not refer to isolationism, for we have always sought the company of our colleagues, and have contributed fully to the wider work of the church. But we and our colleagues are so busy, so engrossed, that when the heart is desolate at the ‘Fraternal’, none has sufficient quietness of spirit to discern it. We plough our lonely furrow. With none in our congregation could we share these matters. Leadership where the church is weak has this loneliness to it, as has leadership in many walks of life. We must confess, however, that we feel a certain impatience with much triumphalist talk about the ‘fellowship’ which believers have with one another. For the most part, the structures by which the church’s fellowship is expressed are not adequate to meet our need.

On one matter we see a constancy from our ordination to this present hour. We refer to the response which people make to the saving truth of the Gospel. As then, so now, we see that a saving faith is the imparted work of the Holy Spirit. We have known what it is, times beyond number, to press the claims of Christ upon our flocks. Our best efforts, our most judicious exposition of the Word, our most fervent and impassioned appeals and applications, all fail until it pleases the Lord to bestow his blessing upon our labours. We confess that, at times, we feel that the dullness and beast-like passivity in the people, as if they were so many cows placidly gazing at one from the other side of the hedge, derives from too much television-viewing. In fact, we suspect that our people do sometimes ‘switch’ to another ‘channel’ as they sit before us. Certainly at the heart of our human need is the inability to stir anyone until Christ’s loud voice says, ‘Lazarus, come forth’ [John 11.43]. We have seen this throughout our work. It has dominated our thinking, until, night and day, we cry to the Lord that he will graciously bless our hearers.

Now that we have written of the bad, we shall turn to the good portions of our work. They are the better, and are apprised as being so, because of our bad experiences. Supremely, we have learned that we did not choose Christ, but that he has chosen us [John 15.16]. A little imagination set in motion upon some of the facts here seated, will soon persuade any reader that we have often wished that we were in any other work but this. The Lord alone has kept us pressing-on at our duty. The conviction which brought us to our ordination, namely, belief of the divine call, is now finer for having come through the furnace. We believe that our present ministry is in direct response to that providence which see us here. We are, therefore, convinced about God’s will. Our peace is deepened, however much our will may have been crossed.

Our awareness is sharpened upon the face that God has a purpose for us. Our consciousness of obedience is much increased, so that we tend to fear, most of all, any act of disobedience which we may foolishly perform. We are encouraged to expect that, as God has been pleased to take such personal dealings with us, it will please him at any time to break forth in the normal routine of our life, with his extraordinary and reviving power. We now believe that our communion with the Lord is deeper than it was, so that we feel the assurance of his presence with us, even in the valley of the shadow. And we confess that we entertain some hope of our offering to God obedience, not only in the general matter of our continuing in a work which has brought us so much anguish, as he dictates that we should, but also in every detail, so that our whole life shall be couched by his glorious power.

Again, we have increased in our understanding of the Scriptures as the years have passed over our head. We have had this Book with us in times when our spirit was daunted and devastated. It has been our constant study. By it the Lord has spoken to us. It has moulded and chastened our thoughts. With all our heart we love this glorious document. Moreover, we cannot but testify to the face that our study of its pages is now, almost invariably, rich and wonderful to our own spiritual life. We feel a continual pleasure in the edifying of the Word. We rarely go before our people without a sense of the gravity, and the graciousness, and the wisdom of his Word. Our complaint is not that our message is poor: rather, we feel the paucity of our own words to express truths unutterable.

Again, we have increased in our compassion for our fellow men. Our eyes are sometimes filled with sorrow. Formerly they might have flashed with indignation — and this emotion we still feel. But now our hearts go out in pity to chose who are so small, so petty, so distorted in their vain ways. We see more clearly than we did ‘the judgment seat of Christ’ [2 Cor 5.10]. We look upon our flock with all that experience of their weaknesses and our own. We are poor muddled creatures. God is infinite in his condescension to make use of us. We go among our people now in a less opinionated way than may have been before. Nor do we go among our people only. It has pleased God to grant us the chaplaincy of a local hospital. Here we spend one afternoon every week, at the least. Gradually we feel that this extension to our ministry — which our own flock fully supports — is bearing fruit. It is our undying sense of privilege to have these opportunities set before us. ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ [Mat 4.4].

Again we have increased in our admiration for the work of the Spirit in the lives of his people. The faith which our office-bearers display, the perceptive understanding of the Word which some of the least in our flock are given, the loveliness of Christ which lights up the faces of young and old believers until neither is old nor young, but conjoined in one excellence in him — these and many other works excite our ardent praise. We admire the catholicity of the faith. We have seen the same admirable work in many people, and in many flocks. We hail all believers, all who are regenerate by the Spirit and who love God’s Word, as one holy people. And if, among our friends, we have such as do not share our points of emphasis in subordinate matters, or who are unknowing in matters of great importance, we make it our task to dwell upon the uniting truths, both for their good and our own. We also remember our callowness, our immaturity, remembering also that it pleased God to use us even then; we do heartily admire the Spirit’s work.

Again, we have increased in our appreciation of the richness and the diversity of life. Perhaps we are deeper within ourself than we were before. Perhaps we are more cautious than we were; less credulous in our relationships. Perhaps we live in a larger patience with men even because of a certain scepticism, or slowness of judgment. We do not rush with exaggerated applause. These years have brought us so many heartaches, disappointments, and frustrations, that the boyish enthusiasm of the beginning is now quite gone. Yet the pathos of life and its glory are before us. We live now in a much greater awareness of God’s thoughts to us-ward, whether or not the world heeds our work. We live in keener anticipation of the Lord’s presence than we did. We move steadily into the second half of our expected ministry with some foreboding, some regret that our ambitions have been so signally unfulfilled, some sigh in our heart that these will never be our portion.

Yet there is deeper tranquillity. We confess to a delight in such musical works as those of Franz Joseph Haydn: works which come to us across the centuries from an age of violence and quite awful disruption, with serenity and the soaring aspiration of the human spirit. But such we interpret with the ‘tools’ of our knowledge of the Word, and chiefly in its disclosure of the glory of the Lord. We realize how brief is life, and how speedily we have come from our ordination to this point in our pilgrimage. The beauties of the world are all about us now; now we have eyes to see them. But increasingly our heart cries, ‘Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus’ [Rev 22.20]. We now have less expectation from men, or from the world. But there is a greater ingenuousness in our evangelistic yearning, for that very reason. For the Lord’s sake we desire their eternal good. Meanwhile our heart is nourished in hope: ‘God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away’ [Rev 21.4].

 

Reprinted from The Banner of Truth Magazine, no. 235, April 1983

 

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Filed under Pastoring

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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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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Filed under Book Review and Excerpts on the Church, Church Leadership, Elders, Leadership, Pastor & Church Relationship, Pastoring, The Church

Rebuking Harold Camping

Because of the erroneous, unbiblical teachings Harold Camping continued to invent which caused many to leave their churches in order to follow cult leader Camping, the Northern California Presbytery of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church drafted and sent a no-nonsense, straightforward rebuke to Camping.

Camping, an engineer and contractor, who had built several church buildings, including the one for the congregation in which I served while in the San Jose/San Francisco area, was a friend to many Reformed churches.  For many years he broadcast sermons and radio devotionals by local pastors and big-named radio Bible preachers. However, something happened, and he became more and more convinced that he alone was privy to true interpretations of the Bible.

As a consequence, many of the regional pastors began to confront him. Solid seminary professors, pastors of large churches, friends, relatives were among the throng who called him, wrote to him or spoke with him directly to address his aberrant teachings.  Rather than listening to any, he either ignored them or rejected them out of hand. None of his responses were logical, let alone biblical.  Nevertheless, he did find a way to counter the waves of admonishment:  he declared that God made clear through the Bible that all churches were apostate and evil, and all pastors demonic.

It was then that avid followers of Camping, chose to follow a self-taught, over-confident man than to believe their own schooled pastors and learned elders. I recall talking to one of our members who declared that Harold Camping, the man of God, knew what he was talking about, while I, his pastor who had trained in exegesis and the original languages, did not know anything.  The week after he made that angry declaration, he left the church; as did a number of other families.

Camping’s followers caused many churches to split or to lose many former members. Like Camping himself, these families were solid in their belief that Camping was absolute right and everyone else in the world was wrong.  Further, like Camping, they also said the only ministry that was truly preaching the gospel message was Camping and his Family Radio.  The sad thing has been, there was and is no gospel (which means “good news”) message. It has been a message of judgment and fear with absolutely no hope other than to believe that there will be judgment, and a rapture for the select few (the number is now 200 million) who apparently listen to Camping.

It was at this point that the Northern California presbytery (pastors and elders of the regional Orthodox Presbyterian Church) issued a public call for Camping to repent and to return to the essentials of the historic, Biblical, Christian faith.  From what I recall, he received the notice, but rejected it as nonsense.   Here is a copy of the call for Harold Camping to repent:

RESOLUTION AGAINST MR. HAROLD CAMPING’S

UNSCRIPTURAL DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH

Whereas, we, Presbyters of the Church of Jesus Christ – ministers and ruling elders of the Presbytery of Northern California of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church – are to protect and guard that which has been committed to our charge;

Whereas, we, ministers of the Word, are duty bound to warn the uninstructed and erring not to receive or to teach that which is unscriptural especially in regard to the biblical existence of Christ’s holy Bride, the Church, and ought to give authoritative direction to those members tempted to follow such erroneous teaching;

Whereas, we, ministers of the Word, are commanded to propagate the truth of the doctrine of the Church;

Whereas, Mr. Harold Camping proclaims publicly on Family Radio stations (a worldwide Christian radio network) his doctrine of the denial of the God-ordained institution of the church visible;

Whereas, Mr. Camping arbitrarily decides which scriptural texts refer to the so-called eternal church and which refer to the so-called temporally “cursed” local church;

Whereas, Mr. Camping argues that the Spirit of God has abandoned the local church and is no longer working in it at all;

Whereas, Mr. Camping argues against the continued validity of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, even exhorting members of the Church to cease from partaking of the sacraments and new converts from experiencing the sign and seal of the covenant;

Whereas, Mr. Camping denies the legitimate authority of the ordained offices of the church: pastor (teaching elder), ruling elder, and deacon;

Whereas, Mr. Camping’s doctrine has never been submitted to any ecclesiastical authority for review and correction, in effect, denying all ecclesiastical authority; thus making himself the sole defining authority and communicator of this so-called new insight;

Whereas, Mr. Camping teaches that those members who continue in the church visible are disobeying God’s Word and thus sinning by remaining faithful to the local church;

Whereas, Mr. Camping counsels that even if one’s own particular church is teaching the “true gospel”, short of this particular doctrine, he still must forsake even this assembly of saints;

Whereas, some of our churches have lost members because they have received and believed such false doctrine, repudiating their vows of membership;

Whereas, Mr. Camping cuts himself off from the visible and local church of Jesus Christ, thus committing a form of excommunication;

Therefore we, the Presbytery of Northern California of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, do condemn this teaching against the church and exhort the members of the church visible to refuse to heed his teaching to forsake the visible church;

And we, the Presbytery of Northern California, call Mr. Harold Camping to repent of this heresy and turn back to the Church of Jesus Christ visible, and to stop teaching such on the public airwaves and in his published literature (1 Tim. 1:3-7);

And that this Resolution be circulated to the Presbyteries of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and to the 71st General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and to anyone else we believe ought to know of our church’s stand on this issue and need to be encouraged and reassured of the true doctrine of the Church visible and invisible.

May God have mercy,

The Presbytery of Northern California of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

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How does an elder or pastor rule in the church?

The elders in the local church (those who rule and those who teach) have an authority from Jesus Christ to oversee the church. The elders are to govern God’s people well by governing God’s way.  This means they have jurisdiction in three ways:

First, they are  to have a “charge over” God’s people (1 Thess. 5:12f), which also means that they lead (Rom. 12:8), manage (1 Tim.3:4, 5, 12), and rule (1 Tim. 5:17).

Second, they are also to guide God’s sheep (Heb. 13:17). The Greek term for guiding was used for a political ruler or a chief speaker (Acts 14:12 cp. Heb. 13:7, 17, 24) in an ancient town or city.

Finally, they are to have authority over (Tit. 3:1-2), which means the right to govern and to make policy that determines the direction and emphases of the church according to the Word of God, in order to build up the people of God (2 Cor. 13:10).

However, while it is true that the elders (pastor and others) have authoritative rule in the local church, it is not the kind of rule that is common in the world (in business, politics, the military, etc.). And not the kind that is often taken by men who seek power and control in the church. The Bible makes it manifestly clear it is a unique kind of authority, and therefore defines for us the manner in which this authority is to be exercised. The pastor and others in the office of church leadership are to rule:

  • From a motivation of love (John 21:16)
  • By making appeals to the people from love for Christ’s sake (Philemon 8-9)
  • With compassion for distressed sheep (Matt. 9:36; Mk. 6:34; Jas. 5:14)
  • Sacrificially, willing to lay down their lives for the sheep (John 10:11,15)
  • With a humble servant’s heart and through service (Matt. 20:25; Lk 22:26)
  • With a watchful care for God’s flock (1 Tim. 3:5; Heb. 13:17)
  • Voluntarily as shepherds under Christ’s sovereign command (1 Pet. 5:2)
  • As models and examples of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 5:3)
  • By guarding themselves and the church in true doctrine and holy living (Acts 20:28)

What is also clear that elders with such jurisdiction must not be characterized by:

  • Uncontrolled homes (1 Tim. 3:4-5, 12)
  • Lording it over God’s flock (Lk. 22:25-26; 2 Cor. 1:24; 1 Pet. 5:3; Matt. 20:25; Mk. 10:42) (see notes on Lording Over the Flock in a previous blog post)
  • Deserting the church in times of church distress (Jn. 10:12)
  • Serving under external pressure or compulsion (1 Pet. 5:2)
  • Serving for greed (1 Peter 5:2ff)

You should also note that this delegated authority is not invested in any man, but in the office. Church members submit to the godly and biblically informed decisions of the elders which are determined when the elders convene for an official administrative and/or judicial meeting.  They come together in a session as an official “court”.  This means that no singular pastor or elder can dictate policy or rule singularly. It is a corporate rule based upon the guiding principles of God’s Word.

The elders in the local church do have an authority from Jesus Christ to oversee the church, but they are to govern God’s people well by governing God’s way.

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