How Do Your People See You?

Well, I'm off to Birmingham, AL. Our family is spread out here, there, and everywhere this week. Holly's off visiting her sis in AZ and the girls are with their grandparents in FL taking in Disney World. I'm attending a West Africa Missions Summit in AL with one of our church members. We'll be meeting with the missionary in Abidjan, where we will hopefully be taking a trip to in October.

Just one thought that I came across in the last couple of days that I thought I would share. It's from Ed Stetzer's blog here. At the end of this post on "Rethinking Discipleship" Ed asks the question,

Do your people see you as a great leader or a godly pastor. Hopefully both, but pick godly over great.

I hope that I will one day be a great leader, but I may not be. But what I want to strive to be more than a great leader is a godly pastor. I am not sure I find in Scripture the command of "Be a great leader," but I am certain I see the command throughout the pages of the NT of, "Be a godly pastor." And I think if you concentrate on being a godly pastor, then inevitably what you will begin to see happen is the people's definition of a "great leader" begin to change and hopefully what they will find is that the two, at least biblilcally though maybe not according to the standards of the world, are one and the same.


The Gospel: Good News or Good Advice?

I am currently reading Michael Horton's great book Christless Christianity:The Alternative Gospel of the American Church. It is a spot-on diagnosis of the current state of Christianity and understanding of the Gospel in the American church today.

In Chapter Five--"How We Turn Good News Into Good Advice"--Horton writes,

It is just as easy to lose Christ by destraction as it is by denial. We keep expecting the ball to be fumbled by the liberals, when conservative churches are as often likely to be interested in someone or something other than Christ crucified this week. A woman who was struggling in her marriage told a pastor friend of mine that she decided to visit his church because her home church was going through a series on "How to Have a Better Marriage." "What I need to hear most right now is who God is and what Christ has done for me even though I'm a wreck. My marriage needs a lot of things, but that more than anything else." She was right.

I find this to be the case as well with those I visit with. Just this week I visited with a believing couple who are trying to discern God's will about their church home. The comment that they made to me was, "I am tired of hearing about all that God can do for me to make my life better. I want to hear about who God is and what He has done."

What we as pastors preach, will be what kind of churches result from our preaching. If our preaching is geared around making Christ and the gospel "relevant" to the culture around us and focusing on practical, contemporary application each week--telling people what to do to make their lives better--then we will produce people that are depending on the law and not on the Gospel. They will constantly be asking the question, "What must I do?" and seeking the answer week after week. However if we week in and week out preach what God has already done in Christ for them, which is the Gospel, then the product will be people who are secure in their standing in Christ and who He is and what He has done, rather than who they are and what they must do. Their "doing" will flow from their "being" in Christ.

Horton writes,

I hear someone saying, 'But we have to make Jesus and the gospel relevant to people in our own time and place." But what does it say about Jesus Christ if the relevance of his person and work cannot stand on its own?

I am concerned that when the church's basic message is less about who Christ is and what he has accomplished once and for all for us and more about who we are and what we have to do in order to make his life (and ours) relevant to the culture, the religion that is made "relevant" is no longer Christianity.

And so what is the job or the task of the minister of the Gospel? Horton concludes,

Nevertheless, ministers are not trained to be experts in economics, business, law, and politics. People may get a lot better financial, marital, and child-rearing advice from wise uncles and aunts or even non-Christian neighbors than from their pastor. Rather, ministers are trained to be wise in the Scriptures, which center on the drama of redemption. They are not sent on their own mission but are ambassadors and heralds sent from God to a world of sin and death. They are called to proclaim the most important and relevant announcement, which cannot be heard anywhere else.


Humor In Preaching

Michael McKinley over at 9 Marks recently posted a good word on the use of humor in the pulpit.

Humor in the pulpit can be very dangerous. It's like a narcotic. Your people will love it (how much more entertaining to hear you riff on something than to teach Leviticus or talk about sin). You'll love it (less sleeping, more laughing at how hilarious you are!). And the temptation will be for you to give the people more of what they want and less of what they need. I listen to about 10 sermons a week, and some of the guys I listen to are both funny and really good teachers. But here's what I notice... they have to tell three jokes for every one that really lands. Two out of three just kind of linger there and die. And so the whole sermon feels like it's being interuppted by second rate comedy. Over time, my fear is that the people will come hungry for your humor and not necessarily for the word of God. They will be dependent on you and your charisma and your sense of humor, and you'll never be able to plant churches because you can't find anyone else as funny as you are, and so you'll have to pipe your sermons into other locations.


While we pray and we work to see the Gospel change the hearts of those who advocate abortion, and this great holocaust of our nation come to an end, it may be that our generation never sees that day come. However, with those coming behind us like this 7th grader, there is hope and evidence that God is working in the hearts of the next generation to bring this plague upon our nation to an end.

Watch and be encouraged! (You can read the article here.)


Whitfield On Weariness

When a friend of George Whitfield's commented that he looked tired and worn down, Mr. Whitfield wisely responded,

While I am weary in the Lord’s work, I am not weary of the Lord’s work.


Alvin Reid Has a Problem...And He's Not the Only One

Alvin Reid recently commented on the controversy involving the unfair treatment of Mark Driscoll by Baptist Press in a recent article,

Finally, I have a problem with my convention. I am a Southern Baptist. I have blogged before on why I am a Southern Baptist. But I have a problem with my convention, when we seem more intent on witch hunts than on contextualizing the gospel in our time, when we love to pick at each other’s differences than unite for the sake of the gospel, when we are more concerned about our total receipts than we are the lostness of our nation, when we continually confuse personal preferences with unchanging truth, and when we castigate younger men who love Jesus and His truth for simply doing what we taught them to do: study and honor the Word (when they come to different conclusions than some of us on secondary issues, they scratch their heads at the response they get). I was a supporter of the conservative resurgence before it was cool. But the resurgence I supported did not include a Pharisaical legalism that expects conformity in nonessentials. I supported a resurgence to stand on the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, one that now has led me and many others to see the need for a Great Commission Resurgence to be built on the foundation laid by the conservative resurgence. I am tired of talking good younger men off the ledge from leaving the SBC.

So, I have a problem. I have many heroes. I did not name them all. But none of them are perfect. None of them are Jesus. I can live with that. I can honor people who may be more Landmark on the one hand or Reformed on the other than I am. I can learn from and respect people who love the Word and the Gospel yet who may do things a bit differently from me.

I wonder if I am the only one….

No, Dr. Reid, you are not the only one.

Don't Offend God With Small Expectations

Tullian Tchividjian (Billy Graham's grandson):

This past Sunday I reminded everyone that if we Christians are asked what we want to do with our lives and our answer is anything smaller than, “I want to change the world” than we are offending God with our small expectations because God is changing the world and he has enlisted his fallible people to join him in his work. Small things are used by the Devil to fuel big anxieties–which inevitably become big distractions. Don’t let him get a foothold. Don’t let the “ankle bites” steer you off course (and don’t allow yourself to become an ankle biter). If your vision is smaller than God’s vision, it needs to change. Focus on the Big Things!

If a church's vision or a believer's vision is not as big as God's, then it is not a godly vision.


Making Family Deposits

Ed Stetzer recently wrote an excellent post on balancing the demands of "ministry" and family. He lists three ways he makes relational deposits with his family.

1. Prioritize Your Relationship With Your Wife.

My wife is second only to Jesus in my life.

I know your conference is important to you, but my family is important to me. And, it is my job to advocate for them, even if it is not convenient for a conference. There are plenty of conference speakers, but only one husband to my wife and father to my kids.

2. Work Hard to Make Your Family a Priority In Your Life.

I don't have any hobbies. I used to, but not with a ministry and three small children. A friend of mine once told me that you can't be a church planter and a good golfer-- you don't have time for both. At least for me, I can't be a good husband / father, do what God has called me to do, and play golf, or fish or religiously watch football. But there is one exception - and this is important - if the kids want to do it, it is our hobby and another opportunity for investment.

3. Talk About Your Family All the Time

For those of you who follow on Twitter, you may get tired of hearing about my family. Get over it. It might remind you to spend some more time with your family. I talk about and brag on my family everywhere because I think of them all the time. The truth is we talk about the things we love, the things we value.

All of this investment is important because my family is my first calling and ministry. One day, I am going to leave LifeWay and the church I serve. We are all going to retire or perhaps make a move to another role. And, when you do, the only people that go with you are your family. Remember that.

Shepherds & Unregenerate Sheep

Here are a few challenging and convicting excerpts from Matt Chandlers recent message at the Desiring God National Pastors Conference. Matt is preaching on pastors preaching to unregenerate sheep from 1 Timothy 4. It was needed encouragement to my soul.

Listen. The gospel matters. Getting the gospel right matters. If you get the gospel wrong and you don’t distinguish between what the gospel is and what smorality is, then what you’ve done at best is restrain the hearts of people, but you won’t see their hearts transformed. If you don’t get the gospel right, you will inoculate your people to Jesus.

I preach through books of the Bible. The thing about doing that is that the Scriptures will gently and consistently, lovingly pressure your people’s assurance. It’ll press on it. I don’t think that by default most of us say, “I need to make everyone question whether or not they know this weekend.” But if you are faithful to the Scriptures, it will press on their souls.

You’d better decide very, very early what you believe about the Scriptures, or you will sell out to the idea that numerical success equals godliness. It’s subtle. Like those who are opponents of our faith. They are not going to come out and attack the faith. You just have to ask questions and never answer them. You’ll start to say, “You don’t have to go there.” You’d better decide early where your devotion lies.

No one unpacked for me that being a pastor was going to be a part of my own sanctification. It’s going to be the process of God disciplining me for the rest of my life. In this culture, it’s imperative to know that your calling is God’s calling to him on you for the body. If you don’t get this, then I don’t understand how you’re making it. God is the end. He is who we’re after. We get more of him by being obedient to his call to be pastors.

He’s the goal. Not more people. Not more baptisms. I am at The Village Church as an act of obedience. If anything else is your pursuit I don’t know how you will persevere. Sometimes it’s a long time that the baptismal waters stay still. I don’t know how you’re sustained in those hours if he’s not enough for you.

I also find that one of the things we don’t preach well is that ministry that looks fruitless is constantly happening in the Scriptures. We don’t do conferences on that. There aren’t too many books written about how you can toil away all your life and be unbelievably faithful to God and see little fruit this side of heaven.