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 Singing is outdated and the thought of someone hearing me slightly off key or out of tune is unbearable.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 […]
As a young seminarian I was told: “You would be crazy to try and preach through the book of Romans without twenty years of pastoral experience.” I trust there is probably wisdom in that. I don’t think it’s mere coincidence that many of those men I regard as great preachers have not preached through Romans without such requisite experience. So, I admit, it may have been a bit of youthful indiscretion combined with hastiness that drove me to the pulpit to preach Romans as the first series of my first pastorate. But, as my two and a half year endeavor comes to an end in the next couple of weeks, I wouldn’t change it if I could.
Romans is an intimidating letter. In it Paul plunges us to the depths of human depravity and then ascends to gospel heights where it’s hard to breath. I have sensed that every step of the way. Indeed, and I don’t mean this as a false show of humility, I’ve been acutely aware that my ignorance far outweighs my understanding, my weaknesses are far more than my strengths, and whatever zeal I have is often no match for my dullness. But even in my bungling […]
I am a pastor of a relatively small church. Well, if statistics are correct it would be more accurate to say our congregation is just under the median size of churches in the United States. Nevertheless, we aren’t big. We have no marketing budget. We’re not on the cutting edge of anything. We don’t have an endless list of programs. We’re not into flashy or snazzy youth groups. We’ll never have a large administrative staff. Also to be quite honest, we’ll probably never see our membership skyrocket. But we do concentrate on those things that matter most–preaching, sacraments, prayer, and fellowship.
I love my church! My wife and I have frequently commented to each other how grateful we are that this is the church our children will always call home. They know everyone and are known by everyone. They have adults of all ages who love them fiercely, invest in them deeply, pray for them often, guard them carefully, and encourage them sincerely. I can honestly say I wouldn’t want it any other way.
That’s why I was, at least in part, so shocked (even offended) when I heard mega-church pastor Andy Stanley denounce those who prefer or choose smaller churches without […]
I grew up surrounded by the cornfields of Minnesota and now I live encompassed by the ones in Kansas. Truth be told, they’re my favorite landscape. I know some people prefer the mountains of Colorado or the seacoast beaches. I’ve even met some people whose preference lies in cityscapes—I still can’t figure that out. As for me, I love the rolling green hills blanketed by a sea of golden tassels trembling on stalks of corn. And as summer slowly yields to autumn the silks, shucks, and stalks begin to turn varying degrees of brown as the dry out. To the unknowing eye it may seem the corn is simply dying. But to those who have harvest eyes it’s a good indication that the corn is ripe for the picking.
It’s remarkable to me that this is the way the greatest evangelist who ever lived saw people. I’m not writing about Wesley or Whitefield, Moody or Graham, but of Jesus. Everywhere Jesus went he saw a field that was ripe for the harvest. It didn’t matter where he was. Jesus evangelized in the high-population urban centers of government, commerce, education, and religion. He also spent time in those tiny out-of-the-way villages—a great […]
If you’ve been following this blog, you know by now that one of our dearest friends and mentors, Dave Long, recently died. Like Barry, I’ve been trying to not only grieve but to think and consider, to remember lessons Dave taught me by precept or example. In family worship over the past week, I tried to teach my kids some of the biggest lessons God taught me through my friend Dave.
I’d like to tell you one of those, too.
In Acts 9:26-30, the church in Jerusalem is, wisely, worried about the sincerity of the Saul’s conversion, who until recently had been “breathing threats” against the church. Were it not for Barnabas – who had seen the fruit of Saul’s conversion firsthand and put his own reputation on the line to speak up for Saul – the whole situation might have turned out very differently. Although Barnabas wasn’t at the heart of the story, he was instrumental in the success of Saul’s ministry.
Here’s the lesson Dave showed me: Work for the success of others, not your own.