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Poor Laws in an Age of False Beneficence

Whether it is teaching classes on mercy ministry or counseling with others on a case involving someone needy, again and again I find the church struggling to know what to do in helping the poor.  Often I start by telling folks that it is good they are struggling, because every situation will be difficult to discern.  Beware of the one who comes in with the quick, easy answer!

But then I also will ask, “What does the Bible have to say in cases like this one?”  People often fumble around a bit at this question.  Usually a mention of how we have an obligation to care for the needy or a reference to the story of the Good Samaritan is offered by the sensitive, tender-hearted ones on the one hand; and remarks about the poor needing to learn to work or how we cannot be giving handouts to every drunkard comes from the bolder, more stout-hearted folks on the other.  Too infrequently do I hear a reasoned articulation coming from the Scriptures that echoes with the proper Micah 6:8 blend: “to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

The location of this verse just quoted explains why.  Notice Micah 6:8 is in the Old Testament. […]

Pastoral Care Statement to a Congregation

What if you had a brochure, membership class lesson, or church webpage that explained to people the type of pastoral care they could expect to receive when attending your congregation?  Here is my attempt at what such an explanation by a Presbyterian congregation might contain.

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Our congregation wants to provide pastoral care for you, whether this is your first visit with us or you are a longtime member of the church.  What do we mean by “pastoral care?”

Pastoral Care Defined

When one hears the word “pastoral,” they often think of the minister of the church.  Though the idea of pastoral care includes the work of the minister, we mean more by this term than only what the pastor does.  The word pastor comes from French and Latin words for shepherd and shepherding.  In English, we use the word “pasture” similarly.  Just as sheep (a common Biblical metaphor for Christians) are protected and fed by shepherds, so the people of God are to be watched over and nurtured.  The chief Shepherd of the church is the Lord Jesus Christ (Psalm 23; John 10:11; Hebrews 13:20), who calls upon spiritual leaders in each generation to care for His people by teaching them the Word of […]

The RPTJ is Now Available!

Recently the faculty of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary published the first edition of a new journal. The Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal will be an online publication in order to make it more readily available.  The plan is to publish two issues per year, and will be found on the resource page of the seminary’s website.

For a further explanation, read the opening column of the journal entitled “From Rutherford Hall” by our president.

As I write this column, I am sitting in my office in Rutherford Hall, the grand, former Horne Mansion situated on the small campus of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (RPTS) in the East End of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. By God’s grace, the Seminary has a long and noble history like the building itself, dating back to its establishment in 1810. Given Rutherford Hall is the location where so much of the life of RPTS takes place – classes, chapel services, conferences, meals, fellowship – that is the name given to this column. We anticipate this feature being a regular part of this new journal being launched by RPTS. The journal, to no one’s surprise, will be called the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal.

I believe you will find the Reformed Presbyterian Theological […]

A Professional Ministry

A number of years ago John Piper famously wrote, “We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry… The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake” (Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, 2002). The subtitle of the book explains his thesis: “A Plea to Pastors for a Radical Ministry.” A desire to be comfortable and to have a nice career is incompatible with the radical call to follow Christ. While this advice is good as far as it goes, it misses the point that ALL Christians have a radical call to follow Christ and seek His glory instead of our own comfort (1 Corinthians 10:31; Matthew 16:24-25). It also fails to address the fact that, at some level, professionalism in the ministry is a positive good!

Most evangelicals do not go into the ministry to be comfortable.

What We Can Learn From College Students

One of the incredible benefits of being a pastor is the opportunity to be around and learn from so many different types of people. It seems each person and every type of person can be not only a valuable member of a church family, but an important teacher in our lives. In this and future posts, I’d like to consider what we ought to be learning from the people around us. 

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This past weekend was our annual CORPS winter conference (CORPS stands for collegiate organization of reformed presbyterian students…acronym makes it easier, doesn’t it?). As it is every year, it was very blessed by God. GR’s own Rutledge Etheridge came all the way from Geneva College to teach on the subject of doubt. His lectures and sermons were wide-ranging and powerful. But, as often is the case, I left learning as much from the college students around me as from anything else. Here are some of the things they continue to teach me on a regular basis: