6 Marks of Faithful Ministry

August 9, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

God is good to give us pastors. The very fact that God calls certain men to “care for the church of God” (Acts 20:28) proves that the church is in need of care. God gives us pastors because we need pastoring. But what is this ministry? How does a pastor minister to his people in a way that expresses due care and concern for them? Last week I spent some time studying Paul’s charge to the elders/pastors in Ephesus (see Acts 20) and saw him lay out a series of marks of a faithful ministry

 

The pastor’s ministry is a humble ministry. Paul reminded these church leaders, “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility…” Paul could humbly say he had served them with humility. He had always desired their good and God’s glory rather than his good and his own glory. He had served them as a slave under the rule of God, faithfully carrying out his ministry. He was an example of selflessness, of esteeming others higher than himself. The pastor is to serve humbly, to serve just like Jesus served. An arrogant ministry is the most destructive kind of ministry. Pastors aren’t called to be popular, but to be heralds of the truth. 

 

The pastor’s ministry is a bold ministry. Paul was humble, and his humility allowed him to be bold. “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable.” Paul didn’t just whisper or suggest what was true. He declared it. He declared anything and everything that would be beneficial to his congregation. He held back nothing that would be good for the state of their souls. A few verses later he says “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” This church got all of it. They got the whole Bible, not just the parts that are easy or the parts that play nice with the surrounding culture. His confidence was in God, so he boldly declared the whole counsel of God. Pastors aren’t called to be popular, but to be heralds of the truth.

 

The pastor’s ministry is a teaching ministry. Paul reminds this church that he was “teaching you in public and from house to house.” There were both public and private dimensions to his ministry. There was a preaching component to it as well as a teaching or counseling component. He would preach before the entire congregation and he would meet with an individual or a small group. The pastor is first and foremost a minister of the Word of God and he is called to take the Word to the people by preaching it or by teaching it. Wherever they are is exactly where he will bring the Word.

The pastor’s ministry is a wide ministry. The pastor’s ministry goes out to all kinds of people and does not deliberately exclude any group. Paul reminds the church that he testified to both Jews and Greeks. He preached to anyone and everyone who would listen. He even actively sought out different kinds of people. Whoever was in his neighborhood would hear his gospel. He knew that the gospel is good news for everyone and he wanted everyone to worship together in one church, as one body. The news was too good to hold back from anyone.

 

The pastor’s ministry is a gospel ministry. What was the content of Paul’s message? When he spoke humbly and boldly, when he taught publicly and privately, when he went before Jews and Gentiles, what was it that he taught? “Repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the gospel, the gospel of repenting of sin and putting faith in Jesus Christ. Paul’s gospel was not a social gospel or a prosperity gospel or any other misaligned or flat-out false gospel. It was the true gospel. The whole gospel. The saving gospel. It was the good news that declares “Repent and believe and you will be saved.” The pastor’s ministry is a ministry that is all about the gospel.

The pastor who loves your money hates your soul.

 

The pastor’s ministry is a pure ministry. This one is so important in an age where the prosperity gospel has risen to such prominence. “I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Paul’s ministry was not about personal enrichment. It was not about ego or status. It was about serving God by caring for God’s people. He served as a living, breathing illustration of Jesus’ words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” If his church ever wanted to know what that looked like in real life, they just needed to think about him. Paul was not opposed to paying a pastor for his work, but in this context he wanted to demonstrate to these people the value of hard work and the beauty of a pure and selfless ministry. Paul could look these people in the eye and say, “I only ever gave. I never took.” The pastor’s ministry is a pure ministry that cares about souls, not self. The pastor who loves your money hates your soul.

 

The pastor’s ministry is humble and bold and pure. It is concerned with all kinds of teaching before all kinds of people. Its content is the gospel. This is the kind of ministry that fulfills the pastor’s duty to care for the church of God which he purchased with his own blood.

 

https://www.challies.com/articles/6-marks-of-a-faithful-ministry/


 

Is Formal Education Required?

July 24, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

Is a formal Bible education necessary for a pastor?

Some church traditions include formal requirements regarding Bible education for those who serve as a pastor. Is this biblical?

Many biblical principles are involved in answering this question. First, the person who serves as a pastor-teacher is someone called to ministry. Education is certainly helpful, but a pastor is one who is called and gifted. Ephesians 4:11-12 states, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

Second, there are many forms of Bible education, but not all training is formal training. For example, in many parts of the world, the majority of people in a village may be illiterate. Bible training in this context is still important, but may take a much different form than in a culture with a high level of formal education. Instead of writing papers and reading books, the focus is often on memorizing Scripture, biblical sermons, and interaction with other church leaders.

Third, not every person has the opportunity for formal Bible education. Some very gifted pastors have no formal Bible education, yet are very effective due to a combination of God’s gifting, diligent self-study, and informal education. The renowned British pastor Charles Spurgeon lacked formal Bible education, yet read six books each week in addition to constantly reading the Bible. God used him to lead one of the largest churches of the nineteenth century in London despite his lack of formal Bible education.

While formal Bible education is not possible for every person and does not fit those in every culture or context, there are many reasons Bible education is important.

First, a formal Bible education allows an increased focus on Scripture and its applications for ministry.

Second, formal Bible education allows a student to gain from the learning and experiences of more mature Christian leaders. Professors often provide a wealth of wisdom and ministry experience that are invaluable to younger, growing leaders.

Third, formal Bible education provides a basis of strong Christian relationships. These include friendships with other students as well as mentoring relationships with faculty members.

Again, while formal Bible education is not always possible, growing in biblical wisdom should be a high priority for every church leader and encouraged whenever possible for those who seek to lead in Christian ministry.

Expositional Sermon Preparation

July 11, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

Starting an Expositional Sermon

by Brett Selby  Feb 7, 2017

Presuppositions are starting places. When we begin any task, we assume certain things, and many of them are held unconsciously. Although they are subtle and often undetected, they will guide any endeavor to a particular conclusion even if that object was not the intended one.

 

So, let’s say that I want to be a Bible teacher and preacher. Where do I start? How do I begin my work?

 

Our posture toward Scripture is crucial. First, we must be absolutely committed to, as David Helm says it, “staying on the line of Scripture.” We dare not say less than God says in His Word, neither can overreach and say more. The latter is liberalism, the former is legalism, and both kill the life and vitality of a church. This is how we have to orient ourselves in relation to the Bible.

 

Second, we must believe that Scripture is God speaking to us in the present tense. Hebrews 3:7-8 is intriguing in this regard. “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness.” This is a quote from Psalm 95 but notice in what tense the Holy Spirit is speaking. It isn’t the past tense but the present: “as the Holy Spirit says…” God speaks in the present through ancient words. This is a powerful conviction and the possession of it changes everything in the way an expositor handles the text.

 

Given these presuppositions, how do I begin my work? Our tendency is to begin by asking, “What am I going to say about this text?” And that is the wrong question and the wrong place to begin the work. Instead, we must ask, “How did this text function in its original setting? What did the writer intend when he put it together–under the direction of the Holy Spirit–in this way?”

 

Pastoral Prayer

June 29, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

I am only aware of one recorded failure in the leadership of Joshua. This is found in Joshua 9. This is the record of the Gibeonite deception. Joshua failed to inquire of the Lord and had to live and lead with the consequences of that failure.

 

Joshua 9:14-15 So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD.  And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.

 

Leadership in the church is difficult at best. To endeavor to lead God’s people without engaging in constant and fervent prayer always leads to disaster. Notice the consequences of Joshua’s failure to pray. His failure resulted in the Gibeonites living among the Israelites in spite of the fact that the LORD had commanded that they be annihilated. The presence of the Gibeonites served as a constant reminder of the consequences of leadership that fails to seek the mind of the LORD. It is impossible to do God’s work effectively apart from his constant guidance enabling grace. It is both crucial and available to those who seek it.

 

Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

 

The power required for effective leadership and evangelism is found not in some program, not in some scripted or canned formulaic mantra, but in open-faced dependence on the LORD expressed in humble petition offered at the Throne of Grace.

 

Hebrews 4:14 – 16 since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses . . . Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

The decline of the church and the absence of true conversions is a direct result of the failure on the part of leaders and their people to ‘inquire of the LORD’ for the grace needed in this life transforming work.

 

 

For Every Child A Father

June 9, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

Writing about Mother’s Day is a joy. But writing about Father’s Day is sadder and more difficult. Today more than half of U.S. children spend at least a part of their childhoods living apart from their fathers. How do we do justice to Father’s Day in an increasingly fatherless society?

I had a good father, and even though he was gone a lot because of pastoral duties, I knew he loved me. He also set firm boundaries and taught me to love and respect my mother. He was a leader and a role model. I believed he could do anything he set his mind to.

I’ve been married for 46 years. My eight children are all grown. I know I was not always a good father, even though I wanted to be one. But with 42 grandchildren, as well as the many other children I meet every day, I welcome the chance to make up for lost time!

The Fifth Commandment in the Bible tells us to honor both father and mother, and that when people heed this rule, things will turn out well. But how can a father expect to be honored – that is, to be loved and respected – if he does not live a life worthy of these things?

If a man is lazy, dishonest, impure or indecisive, we can expect no better in his children. On the other hand, a father who loves and respects his wife – and who leads his family with decision and dedication – is the greatest gift a child can have. A child’s emotional stability depends on his or her father’s example. Because the first five years of a child’s life are the most formative, this example should be present from early on.

From earliest times, men have been expected to lead their families, and we men should be proud of bearing this responsibility. Today, however, too many men do not lead, and often they are not even there at all.

We men need to be fathers, not only to our own children, but to all the children whose lives we touch. Even men without children of their own can embody the best attributes of fatherhood. In this sense, fatherhood is a duty that is entrusted to every male, and true men will be like fathers to all children. Over the years I have known many coaches and teachers in high schools and elementary schools who were the only father figures many of their students knew.

In a time when true fathers are so hard to find, we would do well to heed the Cuban writer José Martí, who said that “the greatest aim of our education should be to make true fathers out of the boys, and true mothers out of the girls. Everything else is secondary.”

There is deep wisdom is these words. Boys hunger for masculine role models, and suffer when they do not find them. Conversely, those who do find true fathers can one day become good fathers and leaders themselves, and leave behind a legacy that will change still more lives.

Daring and fearless, these men will enter into the battles of life as good soldiers, ready for challenges and combat. And like soldiers anywhere, they will remain alert and ready for duty 24 hours a day. They will not be afraid to lead, or to learn from their mistakes. In this way they will make a difference for their own children and for the world around them.

Men, let’s encourage one another to become true fathers again. In an age when fear dominates every relationship, we need real fathers more than ever – men who are beacons of light, and who provide companionship, love and hope in a world filled with loneliness, pain and despair.

Do you have such a father? If you do, you are truly fortunate. Take a moment on this Father’s Day to be grateful for him and to thank him.

 

The American Church – Causes of Decline

May 12, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

Identifying ‘Cause’ is always challenging. There is seldom a single causal factor when dealing with an organism as complex as the church. The following are factors that have contributed significantly to the precipitous decline of the American Church.

 

Formal research has provided focus on this matter. The Pew Research Group, Hartford Seminary, and the Francis Schaeffer Leadership Institute have provided some very reliable data on this important question.

 

#1 – Leadership Incompetence. The number one cause of decline is Incompetent Leadership. This includes both pastors and ‘lay leaders’. This is not a popular perspective but it is absolutely true. Consider the following findings from the Schaeffer Institute on Pastoral Leadership. This data is from interviews conducted with over 1,000 pastors.

 

81% of the pastors said there was no regular discipleship program or effective effort of mentoring their people.

75% of the pastors surveyed felt they were unqualified and/or poorly trained by their seminaries to lead and manage the church or to counsel others.

 

Seminary teaches a man to study the Bible. It does not teach a man to lead or to develop other qualified leaders. It also does not teach him to effectively lead Organizational Change which occupies a large component of a pastor’s time and ministry endeavors after he completes his formal education.

 

#2 – Corrupt Doctrine. There are multiple commands in the New Testament concerning the importance of Sound Doctrine. Sound Doctrine is literally ‘healthy doctrine’. Corrupt doctrine results in dysfunctional ministry practices. A large compliment of the American Church has abandoned the Authority of Scripture and the church is impoverished by this loss.

 

#3 – Congregational Apathy – Apathy is knowledge without action. Some church members can answer all your questions, cross all the ‘T’s’ and dot the ‘I’s’. But, they do not engage what I refer to as Applied Theology. Their life style and failure to live in obedience to God’s word denies what they claim to believe. The Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) contains a single command – Make Disciples. Research has shown that a majority of professing believers NEVER share the gospel with anyone in an entire year. The church is not a mere preaching station. The church gathered is for preaching, teaching, equipping, and fellowship. The church scattered is to press the message of redemption from sin in the marketplace on a daily basis by all members. This leads to the next factor.

 

#4 – Biblical Literacy. People who do not know their Bible will not challenge an unbeliever. They know that if they are challenged to defend their faith they will fail so they remain silent. R.C. Sproul recently completed a comprehensive study of what those who claim to be Christians believe (The State of Theology). A review of this instrument reveals just how unorthodox and corrupt the theology of professed believers has become.

 

#5 – Unregenerate Members – A foundational aspect of church membership for centuries has been regenerate members. The validation of regeneration is transformation. When there is no transformation in a person’s life that is exhibit ‘A’ that they have not been truly saved, made alive in Christ. The requirements for church membership have been watered down. This has been exacerbated by the quest for numbers. The proper metric to evaluate ministry effectiveness is transformed lives not mere numbers.

 

#6 – Demographic Age – The average age of our nation is 36-38. The average age of the American Church is 60+. The average age of a healthy church is 38-43. The New Testament requires a robust inter-generational ministry. The elder are to teach the younger. This requires not only formal instruction but also modeling, living the life of an obedient disciple. The stunning loss of young people in the American Church validates this issue as a major cause of the church’s decline.

 

#7 – Absence of Purpose – If you ask 20 people in a given church to write a one paragraph description of the purpose of their church you may well get 25 different statements. The purpose of every church is to make disciples fully formed in the image of Christ in character and conduct. When the church returns to this noble purpose the decline will cease.

Pastoral Tenure

April 11, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

Yesterday we began a review of pastoral tenures. We concluded based on research completed by a number of formal surveys that pastorates of 5-14 years are the most fruitful and beneficial for both the pastor and the church he serves.

The following are the six (6) observations that Thom Rainer made on this topic.

  1. Our research continues to show a strong correlation to pastoral tenure and church health. Of course, correlation is not the same as causation. Nevertheless, the evidence is strong, if not overwhelming, in favor of long tenure.

 

  1. The breakout years of pastoral tenure typically begin after years 5 to 7. In other words, the best years of a pastor’s tenure, both for the pastor and the church, do not begin until at least five years have passed. Unfortunately, the majority of pastors in America do not stay at a church for five or more years.

 

  1. Relationships take time, particularly in church leadership. Keep this perspective in mind. When pastors begin ministry in a church, they are the newest people at their respective churches. Relationships are already established among the members. That is why I’ve heard from many church members that a pastor did not seem like “their pastor” until about five years passed.

 

  1. Nearly nine out of ten churches in America are in need of turnaround leadership. Turnaround leadership is most often methodical and incremental. It can’t be accomplished in just a few years.

 

  1. Community relationships and impact take time as well. In most communities, pastors are not considered a part of the locality until they have been there at least five years. A church, to be effective, must have a positive presence in the community led by an accepted pastor.

 

  1. Pastors and churches will have had time to go through a crisis or conflict. The typical period for significant conflict is in years 2 to 4. The longer the pastorate, the greater the likelihood that the church and the pastor have gotten to the other side of the conflict.

 

There is an important principle associated with local church effectiveness. As the pastor goes, so goes the church. I relate this to the high ratio of Bi-Vocational pastors. Pastors are not ubiquitous. They cannot be engaged in community connection and person to person evangelism when they are occupied with other employment responsibilities.

Justification

March 22, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

The gospel brings justification. We have been focused on what the gospel does. The sin of Adam brought condemnation. The gospel brings justification.

Romans 4:23-25 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

What is justification? Justification is the forensic declaration of God that a sinner by virtue of the finished work of redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ is declared to have right standing in the very presence of God. It does not make the sinner righteous. That is sanctification. But the forgiven sinner is viewed by God the Father as having right standing in his presence. When the father looks upon a forgiven sinner he sees not the persons sin and guilt. HE sees the sinner standing in his presence wearing the robe of total and complete righteousness purchased by the redemptive work of Christ.

Romans 5:1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 10:10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

I believe that Romans 3.21-26 stands as one of the most important passages in the entire Bible. Leon Morris calls this passage “possibly the single most important paragraph ever written.” Its shortness is hardly an indication of its value, any more than the brevity of the resurrection accounts in the Gospels truncate the importance of that truth!

In 1.18 through 3.20, Paul got us lost. He first showed that the gentiles were lost. Then he showed that the Jews were lost. “No one does good, not even one.” “No one seeks God, not even one.” All of us are dead because of sin. That is the devastating reality of our spiritual condition before God. Now Paul tells us the good news!

But before he can, he must wrestle with a dilemma: because we are utterly sinful and because God is utterly holy, how is it possible for us to get saved, for us to ever stand in God’s presence without being condemned? The answer to this question is the heart of Romans and is found in 3.21-26.

Thank God for justification by faith. Apart from this we all stand condemned.

 

Real Time Evaluation

February 26, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

This is an article from my M-F Radio Program. Apply this in your ministry and be blessed.

As we have repeatedly rehearsed on A Different Perspective, everything rises and falls on Leadership. The Pastor is key. He MUST exercise gracious, effective and persistent leadership. That leadership must focus on, and, be shaped by PURPOSE. That purpose is Make Disciples. This means guiding those already redeemed to an ongoing maturity in Christ. It means effectively connecting with the community in which the church is located and reaching lost people via the powerful declaration of the pure Gospel of Grace. If these two factors are not in place, not much else will matter. The church will simply engage in a ‘ministry of maintenance’.

How does the pastor accomplish this monumental task in a culture of indifference?

Jeff Immelt assumed the CEO responsibilities from Jack Welch at GE. He immediately introduced a practice that should be standard practice at every church in every ministry venue. He calls this practice Real Time Evaluation. Let me explain.

Many churches have what they label ‘An Annual Review’. This is typically comprised of people stating whether they ‘like’ what the pastor has been doing all year.

Question? When a married couple has a disagreement, what I like to refer to as a ‘Domestic Altercation, do they wait an entire year to resolve the difference they are facing? Not if they have a single brain cell between them. Eph. 4:32 provides excellent guidance here:

Ephesians 4:26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

The wisdom in this passage is found in resolving conflict BEFORE it erupts into unresolved relational dysfunction. The same applies in ministry in the local church. It is simply foolish and unfruitful to only engage in honest assessment once a year. IN that mode if there is a problem it festers for an entire year. Not good.

Here is the problem. Most nearly all pastors are terrified of honest objective assessment. They resist any attempt to pull back the curtain on reality. The truth is when a dysfunction is identified early on it may be readily resolved with a minimum harm to the overall ministry.

So pastor, do yourself a favor and frequently do what Immelt calls Real Time Evaluation. You will be well served and your pastoral longevity will be greatly improved.

Lydia’s Heart

February 15, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

This is Tuesday February 14th. Happy Valentine’s Day. We love because God first loved us!!

 

This is Session #6 in our Theology of Evangelism. We are considering God’s work of redemption in the life of Lydia.

 

And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshiped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” (Acts 16:14)  The NIV says: “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.

 

First of all we note that Lydia did indeed “attend” or listen to the words of Paul.  She gladly heard and willingly believed his message.  As we have already shown, she had to do this in order to benefit from the gospel and be saved.  Lydia’s attending,” or hearing and believing, illustrates points One, Two, and Three above, and refutes hyper-Calvinism, (which says the elect will be saved regardless of whether they hear and believe the gospel or not).  Lydia did choose to believe, and she herself did it only because she wholeheartedly wanted to.  She did not do it “unwillingly” nor did God hear and believe for her.  It was her own response and it was a most willing response.

 

Next, we notice exactly what God did.  We see here demonstrated what God must do before Lydia can be saved.

 

(1) He provided a salvation of “by grace through faith” that could be preached.  Obviously “the things spoken” by Paul were the gospel facts concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and surely this Lamb is God’s gracious provision.

 

(2) God also brought the message of His provision to Lydia.  He sent a preacher to tell her about this great plan of salvation. God went to a lot of trouble to provide such a gospel-He gave His only begotten Son up to death.  He went to great ends to provide such a preacher as Paul-read about it in Paul’s testimony in Acts 22.  It is at this point that Arminianism departs from the Bible and proceeds to apply human logic. They tragically fail to look at the rest of the Biblical text and see that God must do something else.

 

(3) God must open Lydia’s heart (or give her spiritual life) so she will be able to believe.  Her natural mind is blind, her natural heart is averse to God, and her will is in bondage to sin and spiritual death.

 

 

 

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