10 Marks of What Pastors Do

Posted by on Aug 23, 2014 in The Gospel and the Ministry

IMG 2312 10 Marks of What Pastors DoYou might be wondering if you are called to ministry. You might be wondering if the pastor at your church is called to ministry. You might be wondering how do I find a church that has a qualified pastor. Regardless of where you lie on the spectrum, you’ll find this article helpful.

As I drafted this article, I couldn’t help but think of the Sr. Pastor at Redeemer Fellowship St. Charles, Joe Thorn. He fits this criteria really well. I have the pleasure of calling him my friend, mentor for pastoral ministry, and coach for church planting. But above all those things, he’s my pastor. I say this keeping in mind that Joe is also an elder among elders; these marks are all found in the other elders of Redeemer Fellowship as well: Pat, Brian, Jeff, and our elder candidate, Rob.

Now as you look over these 10 marks, I don’t want you to think, “Well, he didn’t put holiness, humility, or integrity down.” You’re right, I didn’t put those characteristics down and there are still others unsaid that should be conveyed. There will be a post to come where I talk about those things. These marks are not about who a pastor is but what a pastor does. In other words, these are the actions that mark a pastor. This is how a shepherd acts as he cares for the flock God has given him.

If you read and enjoy this article, then I encourage you to share it. If your pastor fits the bill for this description, then tell him. Share this article with him. Say, “Hey pastor, this is you! Thank you for how you do what you do.”

And if you’re a pastor, you might see these marks as daunting. More than anyone, you will feel unworthy of these marks. I’ve pastored for 5 years now, and I know that is the case for me. I feel like I have a ways to go. Yet, day by day, I see the Lord faithfully shaping me into the pastor I am to be.

1. He loves.

1 Timothy 1:5 “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

2. He prays.

Acts 6:4 “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

3. He learns.

2 Timothy 3:14 “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

4. He preaches.

Acts 6:4 “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

2 Timothy 4:1 “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:  2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

5. He counsels.

1 Peter 5:2 “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly.”

6. He disciples.

2 Timothy 2:2 “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

7. He leads.

1 Peter 5:2 “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly.”

8. He cares for the suffering.

James 5:14 “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”

9. He confronts sin.

1 Timothy 5:20 “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.”

10. He confronts false doctrine.

Titus 1:9 “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

This post first appeared at Joey’s blog and is posted here with his permission.

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Be Spent For The Gospel

Posted by on Aug 1, 2014 in The Gospel and the Ministry

Be Spent For The Gospel

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7

With these words the great Apostle Paul gives his last instructions to his beloved disciple Timothy. Paul had experienced an immense amount of persecution (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul summarizes his life as a Christian by calling it a “grand fight,” the underlying symbolism likely being a wrestling-match, boxing-bout, or some other similar contest (1 Tim. 4:7b, 8; 6:12).

The Apostle Paul’s life was a fight, indeed. He fought against Satan, against the principalities and powers, against the world-rulers of this present darkness in the heavenlies, against Jewish and pagan vice and violence,  against Judaizing among the Galatians, against fanaticism among the Thessalonians, against contention, fornication, and litigation among the Corinthians, against incipient Gnosticism among the Ephesians and Colossians, against fighting without and fears within, and last but not least, against the law of sin and death operating within his own heart. But Paul was still able to triumphantly profess, “I have fought the good fight.” And when the Apostle adds, “I have finished the race”— an obstacle race, indeed! — he stressed the fact that in his life as a believer he had fully accomplished that ministry to which the Lord had called him (Acts 20:24). His eye, like that of a skilled runner, was riveted at all times upon the finishing post for the glory of God by means of the salvation of sinners (Gal. 2:2; 5:7;Phil. 2:16; Heb. 12:1-2).

In summarizing the past, Paul finally drops every metaphor and writes, “I have kept the faith.”  Here, as in 1 Timothy 6:12, the meaning is not “I have kept the pledge” nor “I have maintained the true doctrine,” but in harmony with the present context it should be taken to mean, “I have retained my personal trust in God, my confidence in all his Christ-centered promises. In the spiritual arena of life I have not only fought hard and run well but I have also been sustained to the end by the deeply rooted conviction that I shall receive the prize the glorious reward.”

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS A LIFE OF WAR. PAUL’S LIFE DEMONSTRATES THIS FOR US.

As we have noted, he experienced a great deal of persecution and yet stood fast in the Gospel. Paul’s life modeled in both word and deed the Gospel he proclaimed. This Gospel had pierced his heart and transformed his life through and through. Paul’s life was spent for the Gospel. And here at the end of his life Paul, in 2 Timothy 4:7 is telling young Timothy, “Look. I’ve fought the good fight, I’ve finished the race, I have kept the faith and now you do the same by the grace of God.” Paul had given his life for the Gospel. He had experienced a tremendous amount of difficulty and opposition in preaching the Word of God so that churches could be planted, people might be saved, and individuals like Timothy would be equipped to proclaim the glories of the Gospel to the people of God.

HOW ARE YOU BEING SPENT FOR THE GOSPEL?

Do you think that all of this sounds great but isn’t applicable to your own life? The Christian walk is a worldview based on the Word and grounded in the Gospel of Jesus. The Word of God propelled Paul’s heart and life, and the Gospel provided the fuel for his fire. The twin tandem of the Word of God and the Gospel transformed Paul’s life and the Mediterranean world. It is the same today.

Only by having a proper view of God, one that fears Him, that trembles at His Word, that speaks only what He has spoken in His Word, that bathes heart, mind and soul in the ocean of God’s grace in the Gospel will we make a difference. Christianity is a life-view from beginning to end with Christ at the center and the Holy Spirit convicting, empowering, and making much of Jesus.  It involves ordinary people that make much of the sufficiency of Jesus from the Word of God to non-Christians and to the people of God.

ARE YOU READY TO BE SPENT FOR THE GOSPEL?

Then prepare yourself by grounding your life in the world of the Bible. Saturate your heart, mind and life in the Gospel. Get involved in your local church, taking care to not idolize your ministry but rather use it as means for your sanctification. Ministry is all about knowing and making Jesus known. Be spent for the Gospel because your heart and mind have been gripped by a vision of the majesty of God who sent forth His Son to bleed, die, and rise again to serve as our Mediator, Intercessor, and High Priest. Be spent for that vision and not for any other vision.

Paul was spent for the Gospel because he knew that Jesus was coming back. The vision of Jesus’ soon return gave him impetus for why was spent for the Gospel, and it will give us the same drive. Paul notes in 2 Timothy 4:8, “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” Be spent for the Gospel.  Give your whole life to the cause of the Gospel and watch as God uses ordinary you in powerful ways to expand His kingdom to the glory of God.

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Richard Baxter: A Model for Pastoral Discipleship

Posted by on Jul 21, 2014 in The Gospel and the Ministry

Richard Baxter: A Model for Pastoral Discipleship
When Richard Baxter arrived on the scene in the town of Kidderminster, England, in 1641, he found a congregation in spiritual and numerical decay, but he eventually turned the entire community into a vibrant spiritual force.

What was Baxter’s secret? His philosophy was three-fold: Preaching, prayer and discipleship. He was a long-winded preacher who preached with passion and conviction and who called people to follow God in holiness. He also understood the power of prayer, commenting once that preaching with passion is useless if the pastor “prayeth not earnestly for them [the congregation]” (The Reformed Pastor, p.123.).

Most students of church history understand this part of Baxter’s ministry, but few recognize his emphasis on discipleship. Baxter was convinced that the decline in the church was the result of poor leadership—men who lacked zeal for truly shepherding God’s people.

So, Baxter made it a point to shepherd/disciple the people under his care. He did this primarily by spending time each week in the homes of families under his care until he had visited with every family in a year. He did this every year with the purpose of making disciples.

Baxter was a pastor who loved his people and cared deeply about them to the point that he invested in their lives. He also understood the importance of faith-filled families. He worked tirelessly to promote healthy discipleship in the home, believing that faith begins in the home—specifically with the man of the house. Of the importance of discipleship in the home, Baxter said, “I beseech you, therefore, if you desire the reformation and welfare of your people, do all you can to promote family religion” (The Reformed Pastor, p.91).

By the end of his tenure in Kidderminster, almost the entire adult population of the town had believed in the saving work of Christ. Baxter is a prime example of a disciple who made disciples who in turn made disciples. That is the essence of discipleship.

If Baxter were to arrive on the scene of modern American evangelicalism, he would find that most of our churches are in a similar decline to what he encountered in Kidderminster. Our churches are in decline spiritually and numerically, and worse yet, children raised in the church are leaving the church in droves as they reach adulthood.

Like Baxter, I must conclude that one contributing factor is a lack of pastoral leadership in today’s churches. Somewhere along the way we have lost the art of servant-shepherding that focuses on discipleship. Rather, we invest much of our time attracting people to come to our churches to see our wonderful ministries and learn what it means to follow Christ in a weekly worship service.

There’s nothing wrong that necessarily, but we must ask ourselves some important diagnostic questions: Are we truly making disciples who in turn make disciples? As we focus on inviting people to come to us, have we forgotten the importance of going to them?

I believe that many pastors have forsaken their role as shepherd-leader and, as a result, we are missing opportunities to make vibrant disciples of Christ.

Many people in our churches hunger and thirst for a deeper, more meaningful walk with God. People want to know what it means to truly follow Christ. The truth is, no one can learn that in one hour at church every week, even if that hour is supplemented with one hour of small group time.

Someone needs to stand up and say “I know the way, follow me.”

Pastors need to reclaim the art of shepherding their people through discipleship. We need to be in their homes, or inviting them to our homes, for times of intentional discipleship. We must show people how to honor Christ at home, at work and with their children. We must empower the men in the church to shepherd their families. We must do whatever it takes to invest in the lives of those under our care.

When the Lord calls me to be his undershepherd, I will make relational discipleship a priority among my people. Who knows, maybe at the end of my tenure I too will see an entire community come to faith in Christ.

“He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:17

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3 Reasons Why a Church Wants a Good Preacher and Not a Good Pastor

Posted by on Jun 28, 2014 in The Gospel and the Ministry

I thought it would be informing to help identify what the differences are between preachers and pastors. This is not exhaustive, just a basic look at how and why some churches choose to pick the person who fills the pulpit. Also, this will provide a reason why so many churches have revolving doors, regarding pastors. So, let’s take a look at three reasons why a church wants a good preacher and not a good pastor.

#1 A Preacher Brings an Audience

The good preacher presents a message each week which is vibrant and sounds great—he will eventually bring in a crowd. This person tells the people what they want to hear and is a great orator. However, this is not the main function of a pastor—even though it is a major aspect of the position, there are differences between preachers and pastors. While pastors should be trained in preaching and know how to deliver a message, the bottom line is not people in seats, but the Word of God in hearts. Most churches seek a person who can preach the paint off of walls, while neglecting the importance of the pastoral role—to guide, direct, and lead the people; this includes from false doctrine, theology, and also in the roles of the Church as a whole and within culture and society.

#2 A Pastor is a Shepherd

The Shepherd has a rod and a staff. Many evangelicals do not like discipline, or being told they are wrong. Let’s face it, with so many mega churches, denominations, and church plants today, believers can basically survive under the radar. So, some churches do not want to offend those visiting with a message of sin or the Gospel. If this occurs, it is time to get rid of the shepherd and find another preacher. It is even noticeable that some churches subconsciously will drive out good pastors because they adhere to either biblical teaching, traditions, or are leading the church into an area that is uncomfortable. Shepherds do that sometimes—they lead their flocks into unfamiliar territory or un-comfortability.  A good shepherd knows that he is teaching the flock and helping them to grow, spiritually and emotionally. A good preacher may know how to speak the truth, but a good pastor sees the truth and exposes false teaching.

#3 No Trust in the Shepherd

For the pastor to lead, he must be able to lead with trust. If the church does not follow the vision, teaching, or leading of the shepherd then the shepherd is no longer a shepherd, but a preacher and a goat herder. The church that does not trust the leadership of the pastor, never intended to be lead, but to lead—this happens far too often. When there is a lack of trust for the pastor, he cannot lead anywhere except where the sheep are familiar with going. This leads to complacency, lethargy, and spiritual purgatory. However, there are a few church congregations that are more than happy to lead. I’ve heard of one pastor who was told by a prominent member, “I was here before you got here and I will be here when you leave.” There is absolutely no place for that comment or person in the Church of Christ—a complete lack of trust and respect for leadership.

So, before you choose the next person to fill the pulpit, ask yourself the question, “Do you want a good preacher or a good pastor?”

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Why Christians Should be in Small Groups

Posted by on Jun 20, 2014 in The Gospel and the church, The Gospel and the Ministry

Every fall at my local church, we talk about the importance of being in a small group and we invite people to participate in them. This type of thing is happening all across the country, maybe even the world: the call for Christians to participate in small groups. But why is it important for every Christian should be in a small group? Here are three reasons:

Firstly, we should be in a small group is because we need to grow in our faith. Small groups are the place where we take what we learn on Sundays and put our Christianity to practice. In my small group, we share openly and ask questions of the text we’re studying along with the prepared questions. We discuss—often intensely—what the passage means or what issues it raises that we deal with in everyday life. This leads us to discuss the intersection of the Bible and daily life. Our discussions are often passionate and opinions are made known on a wide variety of issues. We bring the mess of our lives in and deal with it together (even with people who we might not know all that well at first). We do all of this because we love one another and want to spur one another onto love and good deeds.

Second, we need to be in a small group because we need accountability and prayer. Once during small group, I got a text from my mom regarding my dad who has dementia. I was close to tears and we stopped our study so I could explain what was going on. I read, word for word, what my mom said and my response to her text message. While this hasn’t happened frequently, I have to say it meant a lot to me that the group stopped and prayed for me. This is what small groups are about, a place where we take seriously what the Bible teaches and apply it in practical ways by caring for one another.

Finally, we need to be in a small group because we need one another’s insights and perspectives. Everyone benefits in a small group when all the members participate. The amount of education we have is not important, we can all learn from one another (I’m a seminary-educated Christian, and I’ve been a believer since I was a little kid, and I greatly benefit from the insights and perspectives of the other people in my small group). We might think we’ve made up our minds on a particular issue, but healthy small group discussion can help us realize we haven’t understood it from all sides (I’ve had that happen many times). We can open up and share what we really think about issues from the Bible, and then discover what the Word of God teaches. We can take what we learn and share it with others. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

This is what small group is about: they help us grow together, the give us accountability, and they open us up to new perspectives. We desperately need this—we desperately need one another. So when your church invites you to participate, don’t wait—join a small group as soon as you can!

This post first appeared at Blogging Theologically.

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What Pastors Owe Their People

Posted by on Feb 26, 2014 in The Gospel and the Ministry

What Pastors Owe Their People

If you are a pastor, you cannot escape the unmistakeable call of spiritual leaders, in the New Testament to “feed the flock of God”:

  • Jesus commissioned Peter to do “feed my sheep”, no less than three times, in that famous scene on the shores of Galilee (John 21:15-19)
  • Jesus commissioned the disciples, in the Great Commission passage to “teach them all things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:16)
  • Paul commissioned the Ephesian elders to “tend to the whole flock” pointing this example of his unwillingness to shrink from “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:17-28)
  • Peter urges church leaders to “feed the flock of God among you.”
  • Paul instructed Timothy, in his last letter, “these things you have learned from me, commit to faithful men” (2 Timothy 2:2). He also urged him to “guard the deposit entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:14LibronixLink dark  What Pastors Owe Their People ; 6:20LibronixLink dark  What Pastors Owe Their People ). He also  reminded Timothy of the usefulness of “all Scripture” as profitable for the spiritual well-being of God’s people (1 Timothy 3:16)
  • Paul, in a rebuke to the Corinthians, discusses the need for people to have both “milk” and “meat” in their spiritual diets (1 Corinthians 3:2)
  • The writer of Hebrews reminds us that a good teacher is able to both handle the deep things of God, but also teach them (Hebrews 5:11-12)

Preaching styles do differ, but it’s hard to argue the unmistakeable responsibility of pastors to take the whole counsel of God and preach it faithfully. To not give our people spiritual food, to not share with them the “all the things I have commanded you” is to commit spiritual malpractice. It’s to intentionally leave our people spiritually malnourished. And yet there is a temptation for pastors–I remember facing this weekly as a pastor–to sort of skip over or nuance the very hard passages. Or, more popularly, to not preach through issues that are at the tip of the cultural spear. Issues like a biblical sexual ethic, the dignity of human life, greed, materialism, and the prosperity gospel. It’s just easier to say things like, “We just want to love on people and be all about grace every Sunday.” But my question is this: if a new convert wants to know what it looks like to live out the gospel, where will he find it if he can’t find it in his church? We live in confused times, where the way of Christ cannot be assumed in popular culture anymore. So churches who tailor their preaching and services exclusively to not offend those they are trying to reach with the gospel will starve God’s people. I find it troubling when pastors sort of nuance or skip over passages that are counter-cultural.

We should talk about grace. A lot. Over and over and over again. But unless people see their need for grace. Unless they are confronted with the good law of God, they won’t see the bigness of the mercy God offers. They’ll assume that God loves them because that’s what God should do. That’s the Jesus they’ve been sold by much of the evangelical church, a sort of hipster, friendly, easy to digest Jesus who really isn’t all that concerned with morality and righteousness.

And those who have been restored and forgiven, made new by the blood of the cross, will never find the freedom of a life with Christ–if we never have the courage to tell them what that life looks like. Real love, Paul tells the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 6, is the courage tell them they are disobeying the call of the gospel. It’s to set a brother or sister aright.

Much of this can be done in community, in one-on-one gatherings, small group studies, phone conversations, reading of good books, car rides, late night talks, etc. But if God’s people never hear their pastor discuss these difficult things, things alien to a permissive moral culture, they won’t rise in importance. Pastors must feed their sheep the good spiritual food God intends for them.

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