Friday, December 30, 2011

Pastoral Leadership

But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing
mother tenderly cares for her own children.  Having
so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased
to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also
our own lives, because you had become very dear
to us.  For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship,
how working night and day so as not to be a burden to
any of you we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.
You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and
uprightly we behaved toward you believers; just as you
know how we were exhorting and encouraging and  
imploring each one of you as a father would his own children.
...For this reason we also constantly thank God that when
you received the word of God which you heard from us,
you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it
really is, the word of God, which also performs its work
in you who believe.
I Thessalonians 2:7-11, 13
italics and underlining mine

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God
to you; and considering the result of their conduct,
imitate their faith.
Hebrews 13:7
italics and underlining mine

There is much said and written about pastoral leadership and all that is required, even conferences and seminars dealing with this issue.  I think understanding leadership and its principles is good, and even helpful; but when dealing with pastoral leadership there is a paradigm shift from the leadership model that is touted in our corporate and sports world, and unfortunately this model is what is suggested most often in the context of pastoral leadership.

I find it interesting that the Bible does not go into all the areas that the modern seminars do in talking about pastors as leaders, but what is does do is to lay out the basics for a pastor, which assume the pastor will be leading a group of people.  The core requirements in the Scriptures are contained in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and revolve around demonstrated character, demonstrated management of his own home, and an ability to teach that comes with a knowledge of and proficiency with the Scriptures. The reason for these requirements, and how they flesh out in the pastor's leadership is demonstrated in the Scriptures above.  The pastor is to lead with the Word and by example. 

Notice how many times the gospel/word of God is used in the section of I Thessalonians.  Notice the leaders who were to be remembered and imitated in Hebrews....those who spoke the word of God.  These, of course, fit in with the Lord's instruction to Peter to feed his sheep.  The pastor must lead his flock with the word of God.  After all the word of the Lord is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105).  Our first priority must be to lead our people with the word of God.

Then,we must be leading our people by our example.  To do this we must also be leading ourselves with the word of God.  Again, listen to the Psalmist in Psalm 119:9 "How can a young man (or older man for that matter) keep his way pure?  By keeping it according to Your word."  It is the pure way, the Lord's way,that when lived out by the pastor is the example to his people....the example that is to be imitated. 

Why did the people in Thessalonica receive the Word as the word of God, and not the word of men?  Because they saw it lived out in the lives of Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy.  Look at the underlined words above...they proved themselves, they imparted their lives, they behaved in a devout and upright manner.  And this did not happen in a vacuum...the Thessalonians were witnesses, knew personally what Paul and crew had done, and were to recall these very facts.   Also, we see that the Hebrews were to remember the result of the conduct of their leaders, in other words, the fruit born out of their lives, and then to imitate their faith.

The lives of the pastors give weight and credence to the words that they preach and teach.  In essence you should not be able to separate the man from his message, they should be the same.  This is the way that God has designed it, so that His people could be sure about both the message and the man.  So when we think about our pastoral leadership, let's make first things first....let's put first things first....let's emphasize in our ministry what the Lord emphasizes, our handling of the Word and the life that we live.  These should be the foundation of our pastoral leadership, and will provide a firm foundation for all else that goes with it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Gospel and Good Works

What is the relationship between the Gospel and good works/social justice ministries/mercy ministries?  This is one of the current intramural debates among Christians.  Paul actually addresses this issue in his epistle to Titus. The phrase good deed(s) is used six times in this short letter, and after dealing with the issue of establishing order-appointing elders-refuting and silencing false teachers (yes, they all go together), he emphasizes the role of good deeds in the life of the believer and therefore the life of the church.

In 1:16 we see that there are those who profess Christ but whose deeds deny him, and Paul calls them detestable, and worthless for any good deed.

In 2:7-8 Paul exhorts Titus, as the spiritual leader, to be an example of good deeds, which along with purity of doctrine, dignity, and soundness of speech, will put the opponents of the gospel to shame and give them no reason to malign Christians.

In 2:14 we see that Christ redeemed us from every lawless deed so that His people would be zealous for good deeds.

In 3:1 we see that we are to be in a state of readiness/preparedness for every good deed.

In 3:8 we see that we, as Christians, are to exercise thought in engaging in good deeds, and that these deeds are good and profitable for men.

In 3:14 we see that we must be in the habit of/accustomed to engaging in good deeds that meet pressing needs, so that as Christians we will not be unfruitful.

It is obvious that engaging in good deeds is a key theme in this book, something that Paul, speaking on behalf of the Lord, views as important. And if you follow the flow of thought concerning good deeds (from 1:16-3:14) you will see that deeds will either be contrary to and therefore contradict our doctrine and profession, or they (good deeds) will concur with and therefore confirm our doctrine and confession.

In reading this epistle we see that those who are not Christians are worthless for any (truly) good deed. We see that for Christians good deeds adorn the doctrine we preach, put the opponents of the gospel to shame and causes their maligning to fall flat. We see that, as Christians, we are to have a passion for goods deeds, to be always ready and prepared for good deeds, and are to thoughtfully engage in good deeds. These good deeds are beneficial to men, not just Christians but to men in general; and in performing these good deeds pressing needs will be met, and we will not be unfruitful (in other words, God will take them and use them for His with John 15:1-11).  As Martin Luther said, "Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone."

Paul doesn't define what these good deeds are...probably because He knows that Christians who have a heart for good deeds and give careful thought as to when, where, why, and how, will not only be guided by the Holy Spirit in their endeavors; but through the Spirit will also be given the opportunities for them as well, as the Lord always matches God-given desires with God-given opportunities (see Psalm 37:3-6).

I don't think there is a tension between good deeds and Gospel proclamation...they do go together. How can you love someone enough to give them the gospel to meet their spiritual need, and not be moved to provide for their physical needs, or vice-versa?  Doing one without doing the other tears the heart right out of the Gospel.

As is always the case, the Scriptures give us the mind of God concerning these issues.  So instead of debating one another, let's get busy and stay busy doing all that the Scriptures tell us to do.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Faith and Conformity

True faith always produces real conformity to Christ.
R. C. Sproul
The Holiness of God
Page 165

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pressing On and Taking Hold

Not that I have already obtained it
or have already become perfect,
but I press on so that I may lay hold
of that for which also I was laid hold
of by Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12

"It is the Word of Christ, loved, lived in,
abiding in us, becoming through obedience
and action part of our being, that makes us
one with Christ, that fits us spiritually for
touching, for taking hold of God."
Andrew Murray
quoted in
Transforming Prayer
by Daniel Henderson
Page 110

It is also this same abiding in the Word of Christ that is the foundation behind the promise found in Psalm 37:4 "Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart."  A heart that delights itself in the Lord is a heart that delights itself in His Word.  If you do not delight yourself in His written word, you will not delight yourself in His Living Word...the Word that became flesh, the embodiment of the Word.

It is only to the extent that we abide in His written word that we also abide in Him.  Jeremiah 15:16a tells us this, "Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart..."  The Lord tells us in John 15:10 "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." 

We press on and take hold by abiding in His word.  If we are abiding in His word, then we automatically will be living in obedience to that word.  This is the key to the abudant spiritual life, to the close fellowship with the Father and the Son, and is a marker of our love for Him; as we see in John 14:21 "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."  It is those who love and obey to whom Jesus will disclose Himself; and it is when we press on in loving and obeying that we touch and take hold of God.

Monday, December 12, 2011

For His Glory Today

Father, today in Your church, from the rising
of the sun to its setting, make Your praise
glorious.  Give us lips and lives that will
will not only praise You, but will bring praise
to You.  Give us no other desire today than
to bring You praise, than to bring honor
to You in accordance with the greatness of
Your name.  Today, in Your church,
be glorified. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

For His Glory Today

As we go forth this day, O Lord, may the
meditations of our hearts be acceptable in
Your sight.  Cleanse us as we begin this day,
and keep us clean throughout the day.  Guard
our hearts and minds with what is true, right,
honorable, beautiful, pure, lovely, and
praiseworthy; so that what comes out of
us in word and deed manifests the sweet aroma
of Jesus Christ.  Work out through us what You
have worked within us for the display of the
greatness of the glory of Your grace.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

For His Glory Today

As the Psalmist says, "Not to us, O Lord,
not to us, but to Your name give glory."
Use us today to fulfill the purpose for
which You have made us.  And in fulfilling
that purpose may we bring You great glory.
Manifest Your life through us.  Manifest Your
love through us.  Manifest Your righteousness
through us.  Manifest Your mercy and compassion
through us.  Cause the radiance of Your glory to
be seen in us as we live as Christ would live.

Friday, December 09, 2011

For His Glory Today

Father, apart from glorifying You, apart from being
agents of Your glory and for Your glory, we have
no reason to exist.  Keep us mindful today, that
whether we eat or drink, whatever it is we do,
should be done for Your glory. Today, use Your
church, Your living body, to manifest Your glory
throughout this world.  Make Your matchless
worth to be seen through us, so that all the world
around us can truly say, "God has been in this place."
May it be so wherever we are in this world, so that
the world may be keenly aware of Your Divine glory.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

For His Glory Today

Today, O Lord, work in us that which is
pleasing in Your sight, so that we may
bring You glory.  Today, cause our salt
to be salty, our light to burn bright, so that
we might bring You glory in each and every
circumstance of our day.  Shine forth the
beauty of Your holiness in us, so that Your
glory may shine brightly round about us.
Let us, Your servants, be and do, so that
our very lives shout, "Glory to God, glory
to God, glory to God!"

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

For His Glory Today

Father, may all that we say today, every word
that is on our tongue, every word that passes
through our lips, bring glory to You.  Make us
cognizant this day of bringing you glory by what we say. 
 Let no careless word, let no unwholesome word,
 proceed from our mouth, but only that which gives
grace to those who hear; so that whether they are
a believer or an unbeliever You will be glorified 
in their presence by our speech.  This day, make us, 
Your children, a people of purified lips.  Glorify Yourself
through what we say, and how we say it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

For His Glory Today

Today, let Jesus Christ be magnified wherever
a breath is taken, to the glory of God the Father.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Seducing Spirit of Our Age

Following my last post on Francis Schaffer's quotes from The Great Evangelical Disaster, I thought I would repost this with a few updates.  This was originally posted in November 2006.

There is a seduction and deception going on in churchdom in America today. It is reminiscent of the admonition that Paul gave the Corinthians in II Corinthians 11:3-4. This seduction is to be relevant to the culture, to be radical or primal to win people to Christ. While these may sound good on the surface the reality is that the church is being deceived into accepting another gospel. Without going into all the ways this other gospel is being perpetrated on the church I want to give some keys so that people can recognize when their church, pastor, or leadership is succumbing to the seduction of this spirit of our new age.

1. When "evangelism" is touted over theology
2. When confrontation is traded for comfort
3. When results are more important than truth
4. When sin is relabled as poor choices, bad decisions, falling down, failure, shame,
     or having problems
5. When requiring commitment is exchanged for providing convenience
6. When preaching/teaching becomes speaking or conversation
7. When pastorisms are substituted for Scripture
8. When doing it because it is right is replaced by doing it because it works
9. When research and response dictate the church service instead of Scripture
10. When fellowship becomes community
11. When the sacred becomes like the secular
12. When being relevant is more important than being righteous
14. When being distinct gives way to blending in with the culture
14. When books, or movies, or current events are sermon topics instead of the Bible
15. When it becomes all about life change instead of becoming like Christ
16. When worship becomes man-centered entertainment instead of
      God-focused exaltation
17. When offending the saints is okay, but offending the sinner is not
18. When the church corporate is put ahead of the church as a body of believers
19. When individual Christians are deemed expendable for the sake of the
      church corporate
20. When sin is ignored or tolerated among church members by its leadership
21. When more emphasis is put on telling people that God loves and accepts
      them like they are, instead of telling them that Christ died because of their sin
22. When video clips of movies, television shows, or youtube spots are used to
      make a point in the sermon instead of the Scriptures, therefore elevating secular
      entertainment to being equal with Scripture
23. When secular songs are used as worship music
24. When attendance numbers are used to justify what is being done or to bless
      what is being done
25. When there is an attitude of good riddance when people leave, instead of remorse
26. When there is no thought about God liking what is happening, but every care
      given to the seeker/unchurched/community liking what is happening
27. When the staff/leadership substitutes pleasing God with pleasing men

The thing that is disturbing is that all of this is being done in the name of Christ while He is being denied His rightful place of preeminence.