Author Archive

Guarding the Wall

December 31, 2008

Recently one of our pastors found himself engaged in a theological discussion in a public forum. It all started after he had written a letter to local pastors encouraging them to attend an event that our church was hosting. The letter soon appeared in a local online publication with a response from another pastor. What came next was a heated online discussion of the fundamentals of the faith.

It has caused me to think about the importance of actively defending the faith. One of the qualifications for an elder is that he is able to recognize and refute false doctrine, “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,” (Titus 1:9).

The teaching of false doctrine is deserving of being cast into hell: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed,” (Galatians 1:8) Let him be accursed (eternally condemned NIV) (condemned to hell NET). The gravity of teaching what is false can be sensed on this passage. It is not something that can be dealt with lightly. It is cause to stand on the wall and warn the teacher of the danger he is putting himself in. It is cause to also warn those who are under his care and teaching.

A false teacher should not be welcomed into your home: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works,” (2 John 10-11). They are teachers of myths and factions. To invite them into your home to have tea and cookies is endorsing what they are doing.

We need pastors to be willing to stand in the face of adversity and defend the faith. We need good men that aren’t afraid of being called a fundamentalist, or intolerant, or arrogant. Seems to me it is better than being called a backslider, or a heretic, or a wolf.

Some have raised the question of whether or not our pastor was justified in engaging others in the arena that he did. But we can’t always choose the arena. Sometimes we can hold forums and public discussions and address theological error. But sometimes the fight comes right to us and we have to decide whether we are going to flee or fight. I would argue that it is the place of the elder to fight, to call false teaching what it is and to protect the sanctity of the faith.

I am thankful for my pastor who is willing be on the wall guarding the flock.

Every second counts…

November 7, 2008

Good is the enemy of best. There are tons of good things that come along. We could fill our day with things that are good and never end up doing what is best.

As the older we get and the more influence we have, more opportunities will present themselves. It’s a responsibility to learn to manage our time and influences well.

This is a struggle that I deal will constantly. I have a pregnant wife, two babies, I am a small business owner, an operations manager for non-profit ministry, on the preaching rotation at church, and a student taking 16 units (3 of which are Greek)…oh yeah, and I do this Paul and Timothy stuff. I say all this to illustrate the potential over-busyness of my life.

My wife has asked me before if I think we will ever be less busy. I am always trying to gently let her down with my answer. But the truth is, being entrusted with more is a blessing and a gift. After the two servants were faithful with their talents, their master said to them, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much,” (Matthew 25:21, 23). They were given more to steward. God is using our season of life to prepare us for the next one. The household is an incubator for church leadership. Managing a local church well comes from managing a household well (being faithful with a household leads to the opportunity to be faithful as an elder).

So what do we do? Many successful, honorable, godly, older man have told me about the value of planning. Gregg Harris calls it the Noble Planner (an MP3 of his teaching on planning can be found here). Gregg spends every Sunday afternoon planning his week. He sits down with his family after church and they plan what is best for them to do in a given week. Gregg plans on spending alone time with every member of his family every week.

CJ Mahaney talks about it in the Sovereign Grace leadership series. Mahaney is very protective over his time. He says that he will not flex his schedule, save an emergency. Mahaney plans time into his schedule to free up his wife to study, and then he creates reading lists for her.

John Piper has said that he purposely only goes to the church office once a week. He knows that his home office study is the “safest” place to get the most work done with his time.

As pastors, the nature of their job requires that they be flexible to deal with crisis in the lives of the Saints. When those crisis’ arise, they become the best thing they can do with their time.

Begin to view time as something that you have to invest. Invest your time in the place that is going to yield the greatest return. Or to use another analogy, plant your time where it will bring forth the most fruit.

Here are some practical suggestions:

      1. Begin planning out your week. Sit down on Sunday afternoon and in light of worship, fellowship, and the ministry of the Word, plan out what is best to do with your time the coming week.

      2. Start using a calendar. Whether it’s a physical paper planner or something on your computer, use something to help manage your time. I use Google calendar, because it is internet based (I can access it anywhere), I can share it with owther Google users, my wife can easily add items to it, and I can receive email or text message alerts.

      3. Help your wife to find time to read and study. Free her up and make her reading lists.

       4. Learn to say no while still being sensitive to the leading of the Spirit to “walk in the good works that have been prepared beforehand.”

       5. View the importance of the different areas that you have been given stewardship over. Your children and wife are way more important than Greek paradigms.

Focusing Bible College and Seminaries

October 29, 2008


ReLit, a ministry of Mars Hill church, has recently pumped out some great resources. Their series of books, books you’ll actually read, are great for newer Christians seeking to get an overview of some specific doctrinal issues.

One of ReLit’s books is by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis called Total Church. In it, they address the issue of theological education with the following excerpt:

“We are not against theological colleges, but we need a big switch of focus from the isolation of residential theological colleges to apprenticeships in the context of ministry. This is how Jesus trained people. This is how Paul trained people. In residential colleges the academy sets the agenda. With on-the-job training, ministry and mission set the agenda.”

Theological education, outside the context of the local church, can become very “heady” and not practical. Studying theology becomes an academic affair rather than light unto our paths.

I feel for Bible College and Seminaries, many are caught in this “middle ground.” In Systematic Theology Wayne Grudem points out that the church has three main purposes (Grudem 867-868):

1. Ministry to God: Worship (Schools have weekly chapel)

2. Ministry to Believers: Nurture (Schools are building up the body for the work of the ministry)

3. Ministry to the World: Evangelism and Mercy (Schools have days of outreach and evangelism campaigns)

They aren’t a local church, yet they are often doing many things that the local church has been commissioned to do. Anytime a school engages in an activity of the church, they must follow the Scriptural mandate for such activity, i.e. communion, teaching the Bible. Schools even practice a form of discipline by means of expulsion. I guess the only thing I haven’t seen a Bible College or Seminary do is baptize someone.

The point is the lines are way too blurry. Bible Colleges and Seminaries shouldn’t be acting like rogue institutions, they should be arms of the local church. Leave the roles of the church in the church. Stop doing communion, stop counseling, stop requiring ministry, and other tasks they have been commissioned for the local church. If the church is missing the mark somewhere (lacking in counseling or ministry), we need to fix the problem not commission a whole new group of people to do it.

Bible Colleges and Seminaries should keep their role in view: they are teaching Bible and theology. That’s all that the local church needs for assistance. Bible Colleges and Seminaries should be filled with elder qualified men, preparing young pastors to do the work of the ministry. Bible Colleges and Seminaries should have professors doing what the local church doesn’t seem to have time to do, which is devoting their time to teaching new pastors intensive Bible and theology. Bible Colleges and Seminaries are a great gift, their lives have been freed up to devote themselves to studying the Bible and theology and teaching new pastors.

We need a sharper and more focused view of Bible Colleges and Seminaries. Denominational schools are a lot closer to where I am advocating (schools like Southern Seminary and Westminster Theological Seminary are a great example). At Westminster all of the professors are teaching elders in their local churches.

Christian liberal arts colleges are great, training Christian school teachers is a wonderful pursuit, but men are coming to Bible Colleges and Seminaries for something different.

Another concern is that men feel that just because they have an MDiv., they are now qualified to be a pastor. Seminaries are poppin’ out thousands of 25 year old “pastors” every year. These men become ordained office holding pastors because of their degrees. Theological education is vital, but we need life experience to go along with it. We need time “walking with the wise.” We need to be ordained, or elected, or asked into church leadership because of the evidence of God’s grace in our lives, not because of our master’s degrees.

There are two skills to become an overseer–many characters qualities–but two skills. A man must be able to teach and he must be able to manage his household well. God help us to not raise one above the other. Too many pastors are chosen from resumes.

I encourage young Timothy’s to pursue theological training and seek out your training with some of these things in mind.

You’ll Take Heat for “Putting Your Feet in The Sand”

October 11, 2008

Recently Lifeway bookstores, an affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention, pulled a magazine GospelToday from the shelves.  The reason?  The cover of the magazine featured female SBC pastors. The SBC pulled the magazine because the women featured on the magazine go against the SBC 2000 decree that only men can serve in the role of reverend or pastor.

 

CNN correspondent, Roland Martin, wrote about the story in a recent online article. In the article, Martin has a tone of chastisement towards the SBC and the bookstores. About halfway through the article it becomes clear where Martin’s motives are stemming from: Martin’s wife had a similar experience with the SBC:

Her crime? Calling herself the Rev. Jacquie Hood Martin…It wasn’t that she did so for the heck of it. She graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; was the first female staff pastor at Houston’s Brookhollow Baptist Church/the Church Without Walls, a Southern Baptist Convention church; and has been leading folks to the Lord all over the country for 20 years.

The SBC has put their feet in the sand and will not be pulled by the influences of a pluralistic society. And for that, we honor them. The SBC is unwilling to waiver from what they see revealed in the Scriptures. Gregg Harris has said before, “often times you don’t realize that you are in a current until you try to put your feet down.” Meaning, you will never feel resistance until you stand for something. We should be fearful if we never do anything or say anything that offends someone in the secular culture.

 

Martin isn’t judging the decision of Lifeway bookstores with biblical-theological principles. Rather, he is making his comments and his judgments from an emotional standpoint.

 

We cannot evaluate the commands of the Bible based on how it makes us feel. We are the ones that are fallen. We are the ones that have evil deceptive hearts. The Bible is the only place where we can see God’s perspective most clearly. That is, the biblical authors see the world with the keenest biblical-theological perspective. We need to learn to love the offense of the truth.

 

It’s a phenomenon discussed in relation to preaching. Too many pastors are afraid to preach the substance of the gospel. But whatever you use to bring non-believers in must be continued or they will leave. If you enticed people to attend your church on Sunday morning through great entertainment, promises of meeting felt-needs, or material prosperity, you will have a very difficult time “switching horses” on them. They did not come in the front door to learn from the Scriptures and worship God.  They were drawn by a good show, promises of success, personal fulfillment, and happiness.  If you expect to keep them coming, they expect you to keep giving them much of the same. 

 

This is the dilemma that many churches now face. So why do these preachers and pastors put themselves in this position?  Because these preachers and pastors do not believe that people will respond to the gospel unless it is presented in a winsome package that connects positively with their felt needs. 

 

D. A. Carson says it like this in The Gagging of God:

 

Evangelical preachers who increasingly reconstruct the “gospel” along the lines of felt needs, knowing that such a presentation will be far better appreciated than one that articulates truth with hard edges (i.e., that insists that certain contrary things are false), or that warns of the wrath to come.  How far can such reconstruction go before what is preached is no longer the gospel in any historical or biblical sense?

 

That means, preachers are afraid of what the gospel says so they attach things to it. They don’t warn of the wrath to come. We must preach the substance of the gospel. We need to love the offense of the truth. The truth hurts.

 

Example: When I am being selfish, I need my wife to tell me. I don’t like it, but I need to hear it. She can’t butter up what I really need to hear.

 

The gospel is not a message about how to get ahead in life, or how to find the key to happiness and success.  Paul stayed focused on what was true and essential and he would not be moved by the pressures around him. Preaching a crucified savior hurts. Telling someone that Jesus was killed because of them hurts.  The good news is grounded in the cross. The good news is that God crushed His Son because of your disbelief and your sin.

 

None of these things pander to our ego.  None of these things are something that we ever would want to hear. None of these things tell us how great we are. They tell us how great God is. They draw us to glorify and love Jesus.

 

We need to come to the text to see what God demands of His people. And then we need the obedience of faith to live out those commands.

 

Put your feet in the sand Timothys. Don’t be tossed to and fro by every wave of doctrine. Learn to defend and articulate the orthodox faith.

Mentoring is a Biblical Mandate

September 24, 2008

A morning favorite for me to read is Tim Challies “A La Carte.” This morning Tim put this blurb up:

“On Monday my pastor spoke to a local pastors fellowship on the importance of mentoring young men. I’m sure any pastor could benefit from listening to or reading his paper.”

This is exactly what we are all about. The number one answer, short answer, that I have been giving to the question, “What is the conference about?” is this: It is about the importance of pastors, seasoned ministers, elders, preachers to mentor young men. So when I read Tim’s blog this morning I was glad to see others are ministering towards the same goal we are.

Paul W. Martin, founding pastor of Grace Fellowship Church (Tim’s church) in Toronto encouraged pastors to seek out young men whom they can mentor. The nature of the command to be training men to carry on faithful gospel ministry–as well as some practical advice on how to develop mentoring relationships–are explored.

Paul Martin has written a wonderful article. I have read through it once and I already consider it a valuable resource. I have forwarded the article to Gregg and the other brothers involved in the conference.

Mr. Martin says that mentoring is a biblical mandate. Mr. Martin says:

“…every pastor must, in some capacity, be involved in training the next generation of pastors.”

 

Gregg Harris has said that everyone should be training their replacement. That is exactly what Paul is telling Timothy to do in 2Timothy 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”

 

Paul is saying, “You have seen how I do what I do. Now, go do what I do. And, while you do it, show someone else how to do it.” Paul was ministering with Timothy by his side. Now Paul is telling Timothy to minister with someone by his side.

 

Mentoring is the biblical pattern:

 

  • Moses/Joshua
  • Elijah/Elisha
  • Jehoiada/Joash
  • Jesus/the Twelve
  • Paul/Timothy

 

Mentoring is for our good fellow Timothys. Many of us are being stuffed full and doctrine and theology and don’t know what to do with it all.

 

Martin says:

 

I can confidently say that 99.997% of men in seminary will experience significant failure apart from a mentoring…How much heartache in our churches could be avoided if our pastors were actively mentoring their replacements?!”

 

We could not agree more with these statements. We need seasoned minister of the word in our life. We need to be in the local church. Theology and doctrine hit the pavement in the local church. There is no substitute for it.

 

We commend Paul Martin, and we highly recommend the article that he wrote. The full article, as well as the audio of Mr. Martin’s address can be found here.

Babies!

September 22, 2008

Our close friends (Trevor and Paige) just found out they are having a baby. God is knitting together a baby in Paige’s womb that is being fearfully and wonderfully made.

What a joy babies are. They remind us of how great and mighty God is that He can create life out of nothing.

The whole concept of parenthood blows my mind: we are able to feel how God feels about us by the way we feel about our children.

One of the aspects of human relationships is that they show us how God relates to us. Husbands get to see what it is like to love someone so much that you would lay down your life for them, as our King laid down His life for us.

The world gets to see how Jesus relates to His church when we see how a husband and a wife relate to each other.

As dads, we get a glimpse of what it’s like to have a little fragile creature in our care. We see a little baby that can’t take care of itself; a little baby that needs to be taught how to live; a little baby that needs us to protect it from the evils of the world; a little baby that doesn’t know it’s right hand from the left.

Sometimes there is a propensity for us to move on to the next stage of life. This isn’t the first time I have said this, but: embrace your season of life. Love your families. Enjoy God’s goodness and blessing. Our King is good to us and enjoying Him is sweet.

Thank you, God, for the joy of babies. Thank God for letting us experience joy and happiness. How we long to enter into Your fullness of joy!

Missions part 2: Be A Church Planter

September 10, 2008

This post is continuing the short series on the role of the Timothy’s in frontier missions. If you even catch part of our vision, you know that we advocate for young men to wait to enter eldership until they reach the qualifications the Bible sets forth. So the next question is, “Then what am I supposed to do with my life if all I really want to do, and feel called to do, is minister the Word?” The reason for the missions series is to, hopefully, stir a passion in your heart to consider giving your life on the mission field.  Here’s why…

We are in a unique season of life. There is a tendency for people in one season to desire to be in a different season…and it is generally a desire to be older. When we are 8 we want to be 12, so we can stay up later with our parents. When we are 12 we want to be 16, so we can drive. When we are 16 we want to be in our 20’s so we can move out, get married, and start our lives. So that’s where I am. I am in my 20’s. I moved out, I got married, and I have 2 (1 in the hopper) kids. I want to be effective in ministry for the glory of God in Christ. My problem can be, that I think I have to be older to be effective in ministry, when in reality it is that I have to be older to be an effective elder.  Not every full-time ministry in the Church has the same age/experience requirements as eldership.  While elders can have very effective and influential ministries, God has a role for us younger guys to fulfill in this stage of life. We are made to be in a partnership with older men in the gospel.

At a recent board meeting, To Every Tribe Missions discussed the value of sending “Timothy’s” into the field. Timothy’s offer something that older man cannot: endurance, vigor, strength. TETM wants us because God has given us something unique and useful to His kingdom.

Look at what Timothy’s relationship was with Paul. Timothy was Paul’s delegate. He was a co-worker with Paul in the gospel. William Mounce says in Pastoral Epistles that Timothy and Titus were, “itinerate, apostolic delegates sent with Paul’s authority to deal with local problems, just as they do in Acts.” So Timothy doesn’t rely on any authority of his own but he relies on the authority given to him by Paul and foremost on the authority of the gospel. He travels around the Mediterranean sometimes with Paul and sometimes without. His is Paul’s son in the faith and everyone knows him to be this. People listen to what Timothy says because of his relationship with an older man in the gospel, Paul.

The point is this: we may not have the authority to rule over a local church, but we can have the authority, granted by God through the local church, to plant local churches. I am convinced that being a local church planter is the primary purpose of missionaries. Planting a local church is the best thing we can do for a local group of people. By planting a local church and teaching them how to live, we have established a local manifestation of the kingdom of God. From there, this new church and these new Christians are fully capable of being the body of Christ and ministering to their local community. They can deal with social injustices, care for those in need (widows and orphans), continue evangelizing to build the church, and they can disciple new converts. Then . . .  we can leave! We aren’t necessarily intended to stay.  We can help to appoint local elders to rule, as Timothy did, though we may not be in that season ourselves.

I challenge you to do the work of Timothy. Plant local churches where there are none. A local church is the best thing you can do for any people group. Don’t primarily send people to dig wells, or plant rice, or to build buildings. Send people to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Then teach new converts how they ought to live and look for aged men who love Jesus, to oversee in a way which young men cannot.

Joshua Harris’ Preaching Notes Series (compiled)

August 29, 2008

I wanna thank Joshua Harris for all of his hard work compiling various preaching notes from some of the great pastors and teachers of our day. So far he’s shown us what Mark Dever, Mike Bullmore, CJ Mahaney, & Ray Ortlund Jr. , and Tim Keller all bring to the pulpit on Sunday mornings.

(pictures by Drew Blom)

One thing that’s really encouraged me in this series is to see that all of these great preachers manuscript their sermons (save Keller who has some completely foreign method). I know that manuscripting has helped me tremendously in not only my prep, but also keeping my cool on Sunday mornings, and not getting off topic with interjections.

What about all you young preachers out there? How do you prepare? How has seeing these notes convinced you to change what you do for your sermon prep?