I’m in my easy chair, where I’ve spent most of the past five days with a run of vertigo, likely due to a bug. Because this dizziness is mostly what’s on my mind, I’ve been seeking God’s grace to find ways to sanctify this slight suffering. Here are some lessons He’s teaching me.
If you visit Heinz Chapel on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh, you will pass through enormous, oak doors that are fifteen feet high and weigh 800 pounds each. The amazing thing about the doors is that they actually work. In many historic buildings there are massive doors but people enter through smaller openings – a normal-sized door within the larger door. At Heinz Chapel the 800 pound doors swing open so smoothly that a child weighing 75 pounds can open them. How is this possible?
For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more…
My wife and I sat down to dinner at my professor’s home in the last couple months of our seminary training. Glad to receive this invitation, we enjoyed their warm hospitality and genuine care for us. Thinking ahead to being ordained in a few weeks, I decided to seize the opportunity and asked rather abruptly, “What advice would you give to a new pastor?”
For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you–that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
There are real costs to ministry. If you decide to give yourself in ministering to others (which seems more like a Biblical command than an option), it will cost your time, energy, money, sometimes even your reputation. Because it’s often fighting an uphill battle, ministry tends to wear us down, and we end up hearing statistics about pastors leaving the pastorate and how hard it is to get people involved in real, spiritual ministry to each other.
Maybe a little selfishness is in order. Maybe we’ve spoken too much about the costs of ministry but not the blessings.
Put bluntly, through trial and error — mostly error — God has taught us a lot about practical administration in the church. Like many pastors, I’ve often believed this was beneath me or at least some type of distraction. But here in our local congregation as well as in other places I’ve been involved, I’ve come to learn the importance and the effectiveness of a well-run church.
Here’s a proposition for the new year. I propose that if church isn’t necessary, we quit. I mean it. If it’s not necessary let’s cancel all of our services, board up the windows, lock the doors, and send everyone on their merry way. Sure, Christians have been gathering together to hear the Word read and preached, to sing with grace in their hearts, and observe the sacraments for over two thousand years. But if it’s not necessary let’s be the first generation to finally end the practice. Let’s silence the pulpit, close up the song books, dry up the baptismal waters, and put away the bread and wine. If church isn’t necessary, let’s quit.
Why? Because I’m convinced if it’s not necessary it’s too difficult and not worth my time. Listening to sermons is hard and it’s not really my learning style. So, let’s quit. Singing is outdated and the thought of someone hearing me slightly off key or out of tune is unbearable. Let’s quit. Praying together is boring and I’m too easily distracted. Let’s quit. I have my own friends and family and people at church can be hard to get along with. Let’s quit. It’s also too time […]
I used to keep a copy of the Letters of Samuel Rutherford on my nightstand to read each evening before going to bed. The grand theme of his letter writing was the loveliness of Jesus Christ–though even Rutherford knew that his pen could never express it fully. To read these pastoral epistles is to read the heart of one who was well acquainted with his Savior. For that reason alone I have often retreated to them when my own affections seem dull and faint and have found, again and again, a kindling spark for my cold heart. But the value of these letters does not end there. Rather, as a pastor writing to many members of his congregation, Rutherford displays the soul of a shepherd that is worth imitation.
Born around 1600 Samuel Rutherford was a man of remarkable talent both in learning and in preaching. At the age of 27 he became the pastor of the insignificant parish of Anwoth. It was the very ideal of a country church though far removed from influence and a place of little consequence. According to his biographer, Andrew Bonar, that was never a concern for Rutherford: “[Anwoth] had no large village near the […]
As I was browsing my book shelves the other day I discovered that I have just over thirty books whose primary subject is the study of preaching. Aside, perhaps, from Charles Spurgeon, that is more books than I have on any other single subject. Of course, that’s probably to be expected. You wouldn’t be surprised to find a lawyer’s shelves full of law books, or a doctor’s with medical books, or even an auto mechanic with mechanical books. Preaching isn’t something I dabble in or fill my spare time with as some hobby. As a pastor, preaching is what I have been primarily called to. John Jennings once wrote: “To preach Christ, therefore, is our charge, our business, and our glory.” That’s why I study preaching and will continue to do so throughout the whole course of my ministry.
But, of course, you don’t have to be a lawyer to study law, a doctor to study medicine, or a mechanic to study mechanics. Neither do you have to be a preacher to study preaching. In fact, as a pastor I don’t simply want my congregation to hear preaching, I want them to know something of what preaching is. I want them […]
I hope you won’t mind if I indulge for a moment in some shameless self-promotion. Recently, the denomination I belong to and the one most affiliated with Gentle Reformation, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, held its quadrennial international conference in Marion, IN. As a father of five children, a pastor with some teaching responsibilities, and one who is a fairly energetic socialite, the week was exhausting but filling. One of my personal highlights was being able to speak at a workshop on the topic of rural and small town ministry. See! I told you it would be a moment of shameless self-promotion.
For the last three years I have been pastor of Winchester RPCNA in Winchester, KS. Our small community boasts of a whopping estimated population of 535 people. Even before becoming a pastor there was a soft spot in my heart for rural and small towns. Having grown up in southern Minnesota both my wife and I have been aware that in these areas it can be difficult to find Christ-centered and gospel believing churches. Where they do exist their continuance is often threatened for lack of people and resources. We should do what we can to maintain […]
When I was in seminary there were two sins—all too common among pastors—that frightened me so much I nearly gave up my pursuit of the ministry. One of those was the sin of spiritual abuse. After all: “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, ‘Feed by lambs.’” Twice more he brought Peter’s love to the test, and each time bid him to have a careful regard for his sheep. Our love to Jesus is, to a certain extent, shown by the way in which we treat the sheep. If he is a liar who says he loves God but hates his brother, I suspect it cannot be good for that one who says he loves the Great Shepherd but hates the Shepherd’s sheep.
Yesterday Christianity Today reported that celebrity pastor Darrin Patrick, had been fired from the mega-church he pastored in St. Louis. They reported: “[The church] cited a range of ongoing sinful behaviors over the past few years including manipulation, domineering, lack of biblical community, and a history of building his identity through ministry and […]