Archive for the ‘The Pre-Elder in Training’ Category

Training Preachers: A Lesson From William Tennent

February 5, 2009


One of the greatest stories from Church History is the story of William Tennent. William Tennent was an Irish-born, Edinburgh-educated, Presbyterian Minister who came to the American Colonies in 1718. During this time he was known to have planted at least 3 churches in the New England States. After years of great success, his age no longer allowed him to travel the distance required to preach at his churches. William Tennent would no longer be able to plant churches, but he would be able to plant preachers. In the fall of 1726, Tennent started a school. But it wasn’t to be an ordinary school.

This was not to be a school where exams were taken on pieces of paper; instead, it was designed to prepare his students to endure in the work of the ministry. William Tennent had a vision to mentor young preachers in the skill of preaching. The place in which they met was called the “Log College”–a ragged, one-room log cabin located in the hills of Pennsylvania. No heat. No wi-fi. Just a lot of zeal. The Log College was not its original name. The name was actually a derogatory title given to it by the educated elite ministers of England, who chided Tennent for endeavoring to train poor, unfit, uneducated farm boys, who were considered by most unsuitable for the ministry.

But Tennent didn’t think so. Over a period of 20 years, William Tennent took dozens of these young farm boys and spiritually and intellectually poured his life into them, training them in the ancient languages and giving them a zeal for souls. When the time came, these men were ready. At the crest of the Great Awakening—that spiritual revival that swept across the American colonies—these young men were sent out burning with a passion to convert sinners from the power of Satan to the power of God. Every one of them risked their lives and labored faithfully to convince their hearers of their ruined condition, and of the necessity of a thorough conversion from sin. By the time it was over, William would also have sent out four of his own sons. Combined, these young men created such an impact in Great Awakening that George Whitfield, who spearheaded the Revival, commented on the lasting influence these young men had on the Revival.

These young men may be said to have lived fast. They did much for their Lord in a short time. Being burning as well as shining lights, they were themselves consumed while they gave light to others. Oh that a race of ministers – like-minded, burning with a consuming zeal – might be raised up in every generation.

Many of these young men went on to spend the rest of their lives on horseback, riding nearly 100 miles a week and preaching nearly twice a day. They endured malaria, fatigue, hostility and the incurable, looming disease of depression . . . all for the sake of the gospel. As a result of their intense labor in the vineyard, most of them did not live past the age of 40.

Because of the Log College and the vision of William Tennent, their ministries not only endured but prospered throughout their lifetime.

It has been said that it is certain that few, if any, of those young men who were brought forward to the work of the ministry could ever have endured had it not been for the mentoring of William Tennent.

That is the kind of mentality and thriving ministry young men our age had 200 years ago.

Several lessons can be learned from this

  • William Tennent was a church planter; he not only trained his students in the original language, but he himself was a model for his students
  • A partnership between the old and the young–between Tennent and his students–resulted in a powerful weapon for the gospel that spread the wake of revival

We need William Tennents in our day. We need Log Colleges. We need both the seminaries and the training of a seasoned pastor who has endured both the triumphs and the failures of the pulpit. We need pastors who are willing to take a young, passionate preacher and release him towards a Kingdom target.

That’s why we are encouraged to hear of schools like Sovereign Grace’s Pastors College started by C.J. Mahaney, or the long anticipated Bethlehem Institute started by John Piper. These are the present-day Log Colleges. We need more. We need these to start up in our own churches. We need pastors with a vision to train up the warriors in their own church and prepare them to do battle in the pulpit. We need the young men of our day to see the value of rigorous, seminary training with the hands-on experience of a local pastor.

  • Is there a William Tennent in your church?
  • What is the value of having both a theological and practical education?

Erwin Lutzer: What is biblical Eldership?

December 18, 2008

Erwin Lutzer, a member of the gospel coalition, gives a helpful account of biblical eldership in the Church.

One area he seems to emphasizes is plurality.  While there is much debate on whether a church needs to have multiple elders (Titus 1:5) or only one (1 Timothy 3), it certainly seems the wisest course of action to govern a church with multiple, qualified, sword wielding men who can stand shoulder to shoulder and guard the pen from wolves (and from the occasional sheep who believes their calling in life is to be snipers for Christ).

If you want to read more on the issue, an excellent resource we have found helpful in the area of eldership is Alexander Strauch’s book: Biblical Eldership.


Learn How to Be Mentored by Books

December 3, 2008


I believe a means a grace God has given us has been the preservation of the thoughts of His saints in the form of books.  I bless God for books.  I bless God for the printing press.  I bless God for Amazon. Within the pages of books there are many treasures to find and friends to meet—freinds that will tell you how they understood a certain passage or how they dealt with a certain trial, or how they lived a certain life despite the seemingly unbearable hardship.  I love books.  Books are an endless resource to a Timothy in training . . . if he is wise enough to foresee it and use it.  And the more books he stacks on his shelf better he can equip himself for the preparation of becoming an elder—whether he’s in seminary or not.

1. Learn how to become a Reader

I cannot tell you how many grown men say to me, “Well, I’m just not a reader.” You should be rebuked. God has preserved a storehouse of wisdom for you in books, and you should be a good steward of the vast resources that has been made available to you. There simply is no excuse to be ignorant regarding any aspect of theology.  300 years ago, most library’s consisted of 200 books at the most—I have that many if not more.  Here in the West, we’ve become inoculated to the amount of resources that are available to us.  There’s books on-line, books on CD, books on i-pods . . .oh yea, and books on paper.

But my first caution to you would be this: Don’t read just any book. As the author of Ecclesiastes has noted, “Of the writing of books there is no end”. There may be many books that are popular at the moment but they will not stand the test of time.  Why?  Because most are absent of the aroma of Scripture and merely contain random, Bible-less babble—men trying to think thoughts after God without consulting the Book He wrote about Himself.  Sometimes the best books are those which have been around for 300 years! On the other hand, there is a remnant even in our day of men who are pumping out at accelerated rates wonderfull books.  Men like Piper, Mahaney, MacArthur, Sproul, Dever, Keller and a host of others are worth your money and time.

Spend your money on tools, not toys.

You should have all kinds of books in your library:

–books on philosophy: how do we think and how to we know truth and which source of truth should we read.

–books on theology: how do we understand that truth;

–biographies: how has that truth been proclaimed and maintained throughout the centuries;

–and finally, apologetics: how is that truth to be delivered.

Read for pleasure; if you’re not enjoying these books you’re not reading them correctly.

2. Learn How to Be Mentored by Dead Men

Believe it or not, but I have close to over 100 mentors who live in my own house. They live on my bookshelf. I cannot tell you how many authors have walked beside me during many dark valleys in my life, and I have found the best medicine for a storm-tossed soul is old books—especially biographies of old saints. When I am discouraged and downcast of soul, I rarely go to the country to get a spiritual breath of fresh air; I always go to the years prior to the 19th Century.

Luther, Richard Sibbs, Richard Baxter, John Owen, John Bunyan, Jonathon Edwards, David Brainard, Charles Spurgeon,

There are literally thousands of men who are very qualified to shed light on any situation in which you may find yourself in.  You just need to learn how to read and what to read.

C.S. Lewis once said:

“If you don’t read the older books you starve yourself.”

As I have just mentioned there are many authors to choose from . . . and I would recommend reading them all! But if that sounds like a little too much, my advice to you would be to pick someone from the past and read all you can about that person. Read their biography; read their works; begin to think like them; begin to talk like them; imitate their faith, and eventually you may find yourself loving the Word and Cherishing Christ like they did.

We often become like the friends we hang out with. I dress like the friends I hang out with; I talk like the friends I hang out with. When you pick wise, godly friends in books you begin to become like them. Become like your friends.

3. Learn how to Use Church History as a Mentor

Biographies help you to know men of the past; Church History helps you to know events of the past—both of which are able to keep you from error. Many Christians today suffer from historical amnesia. In their minds the gap between Jesus’ ascension to their own day is usually a giant blank. It is my opinion that every believer should have in their hands at least one good, church history book. Church history informs you of the past, encourages you for the present, and gives you hope for the future.

Become a consumer of books and you can give yourself a glorious education even if you’re never been able to attend seminary.  You’ll learn doctrine; you’ll meet new friends.

4. The Importance of Reading Other Material

I used to be a Puritan in the area of reading, meaning this: I have never read anything other than theology books.  But I have come to learn the importance of giving my mind a break, especially since I’m in seminary.  The mind needs a break, not from God, but from the same type of books that require the same type of thinking.  The brain needs to think on many different levels, not just one.  I often find that my mind simply cannot function as well by always reading one type of genre (i.e. theolgoy books/philosophy books).  Don’t get me wrong, I would like it if I only could read theology books, but I’ve learned that if I read other genres than it helps me to think better and think clearer when I pick up my theology book.

Hey, even the Bible contains three different genres, so I think I’m safe in saying we as seminary students need also to have a trilogy, biography, or historical narrative close by to give our minds the mental breaks they need.  But remember to supplement them in moderate proportions.  Read enough of other books in order to read theology books with greater care and thought.

5. The Danger of Stuffing Your Shelf Full of Books You Never Read

Be honest, how many books are on your shelf that have never been read?  I bear the guilt of this myself.  Countless of times I have entered a book sale or attended a conference that provides books for a ridiculously-low-price only to greedily buy several books that are “oh so good” . . . and then they sit on my shelf and condemn me.  I have one shelf simply devoted to “Books to read”.  This can become a problem.  There is nothing worse than having a great book in which you’ve never read.  Oh that we would buy good books; and oh that we would read them!

Set goals for yourself.  If you’ve bought several books, discipline yourself not to buy any more until you’ve finished them . . . unless it’s a really good deal!

6. Don’t Neglect the Word

Finally, while there are many books that are worth our time, we must not fail to read that book in which all others are written.  Let the Scriptures be your true source of joy and study, for there is truly only one book worth reading . . . and reading again . . . and again . . . and again . . .

:: Prepare for Battle ::

Theology Meets Life

November 28, 2008

Steven Marquardt, a “Timothy” and seminary student who just joined the “Timothy” blog roll, has started an excellent new blog that I urge you to read.  Theology Meets Life is the title of the new blog, and for any of you pursuing formal theological studies, I would go as far as saying, this first post is a must read. 

Steven includes a quote from Helmut Thielicke, who was a 20th century German theologian from the Neoorthodox tradition.  While Thielicke is a product of his theological tradition in many respects, Marquardt is not the only grounded evangelical who gives A Little Exercise for Young Theologians  (one of Thielicke’s over fifty books), a stellar review.  The Theilicke quote that Marquardt shares from this book is one that I wish I would have read daily as I first began to press deeper into theological studies.  However, I’m thankful to have it now, and I hope to bring you a full review of this little book after I finish reading it. 

The conclusion to Marquardt’s first post is:

when the truths we are learning about God and His word do not lead to an increased love for God and a greater desire to edify His people and reach the lost, we are running the risk of theological infatuation.

Lord, grant me true repentance for the times I have tried to use your Word for purposes other than you intend.  Forgive me for falling into theological infatuation which causes my learning to be motivated by something other than a genuine love for you.  Restore me to a place in which, every insight I have about you, brings me closer to you, grants me more faith and trust, and serves in being a conduit for sanctifying grace!

Is formal theological education good or bad? PART 2

November 18, 2008

I have always had difficulty when academic institutions acknowledge that they are not a local church (no church polity, no church discipline, etc. ) yet claim to be accomplishing a task that only the church is given the authority to do; namely, the work of preparing the saints for the work of the ministry. As I understand it, the Church is the only institution that is given the authority to prepare the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). However, it is difficult to undergo the necessary theological studies in a local church context. As a result of this, there have been some attempts to integrate rigorous theological study done at a seminary, with practical apprenticeship done at a local church. Almost all of these experiments fail to properly integrate the two. These programs often end up lacking a genuine apprenticeship or fail to offer a theological education that is academically rigorous.  However, there are a few churches/schools/apprenticeships that have made significant contributions to the reform of ministerial training.  Here are three: 

1.  Bethlehem Seminary ( is currently the only Seminary of its kind because both the apprenticeship and the theological study are governed by a local church, in which they can be properly integrated.  The new M.Div. program is a 4 year commitment and involves rigorous theological studies, including extensive Greek and Hebrew studies.  Bethlehem Seminary will only accept 12-14 M.Div “apprentices” every year into their program.  Each of these students is mentored by a Pastor and progressively becomes more involved in ministry at the local Church level throughout the 4 years of the program. 

2.  Sovereign Grace Pastor’s College ( is a one year program, ranges from 15-25 students at a time, and is restricted to those who are commited to ministering within the Sovereign Grace network of churches.  It is only one year, and because of this, it is not academically as rigorous as a typical seminary.  It does include a limited amount of Greek study and there is a special focus on the spiritual life of the potential pastor.  The goal of this Pastor’s college is not only to impart a general theological framework and practical study skills, but to give opportunity for hands on ministry within a local church context and to promote growth in Christ like character.  This is a great opportunity for those who can fit into the ministry ethos of Sovereign Grace, and are in a season of life where a 3 or 4 year seminary commitment is not reasonable. 

3.  Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church has an internship ( is 5 months long, and is for those who sense a call to the pastorate.  It is not intended to be a seminary replacement, but rather to compliment a seminary education with an internship experience.  Throughout the program, an intern writes about 100 papers and reads over 5000 pages of text.  The 6 interns attend elders meetings, are involved in ministry at the local church, and spend weekly time with one of the elders at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.  If you are currently are planning to attend a run-of-the-mill seminary, or have already attended one, I would highly recommend taking a look into this program as a supplement to those studies.

This might be a good time to pitch an interactive web forum we attempted to launch some time ago, and are hoping to resurrect.  It is our desire that it would be an effective tool for those seeking to be trained for the ministry.  Write anything you know about a school, post questions about a school you are considering, add a school to the discussion.  Our goal is that it would be a place where potential students can see what is available for those looking to train for the ministry, and can have an idea of what is really being taught at various institutions.




Pitfalls of a Young Preacher: Things to Keep Out of the Pulpit

November 5, 2008

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Every workman knows the necessity of keeping his tools in a good state of repair, for if the iron be blunt . . . he knows that there will be a greater drought upon his energies and his work will be badly done.”  We shall do our Lord’s work the best when our tools are sharpened, and worse when they are blunt.  Below are common ditches young preachers fall into.

1. Carrying on a Conversations with Our Professors in the Pulpit
A common habit of young preachers (and I myself bare the guilt of this) is to try and fit everything we know about God, salvation, eschatology, hermeneutics, Karl Barth and the heresies of the Emergent Church all into 2 Samuel 8:4 (or whatever text we’re preaching at the time).  The problem is, 2 Samuel 8 only talks about 2 or 3 of these things.

It is important to remember that while you and I are wrestling with Ladd, Brunner, Barth, N.T. Wright and others, the people in the pew need to be encouraged, exhorted, corrected and instructed.

I’m not saying to keep your people dumb.  Not at all.  You should not shrink back from challenging them to use their mind, to wrestle with the complexity and mystery of the gospel and to struggle with tensions like the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man.

What I am saying is don’t bring into the pulpit something you yourself are unsure of.  Countless of times young preachers take into the pulpit what they just learned that week. Preach what you know!  Bring certainty, not confusion.  The Pulpit is not the place to wrestle with an issue you have yet to figured out. Hey, if you’ve figured out how inaugurated eschatology coincides perfectly with Pre-Millennialism in Isaiah, go for it!  Seriously. Stretch the minds of your people and cause them to think deeply about God’s Word.  But, like me, if you’re still a little uncertain about how that works out, leave it in the classroom.  Don’t carry on a conversation with your professor in the pulpit.

2. Preaching Obese Sermons
As I said above, a tendency that I have is to pack everything I know about the text into the text.  This may not be the best approach, but it takes discernment.  Often, what I have found is a shorter, power-packed, point-driven, Word-exalting sermon is the best sermon.  Just remember: it’s better if you end 10 minutes early leaving them wanting more then going the set amount of time while they are wishing you were done.  I have heard many sermons that were incredible, only to bomb at the last 5 minutes—and everyone remembers the last part of your sermon the most. Your sermon should be the silver bullet that pierces the heart, drives home conviction, and sets the heart ablaze for God and His Word.  Aim for clarity.

3. Over-Dependence Upon Personality
If you are of the gregarious personality that can “wing it” in the pulpit and still present a fairly decent sermon . . . don’t.  You could easily fall into the habit of putting off preparation.  And don’t presume upon the Holy Spirit’s assistance when you have neglected preparation. When Friday night roles around and activities of all kinds seek your attention, it will be too easy to think in the back of your mind, “I’ll just wing it; I know I can get away with it,” when you know you should stay in your study and tighten your sermon.  The Holy Spirit works in the preparation as well as the delivery.  Give Him kindling to ignite a blazing torch.

On the other hand, If you’re like me, and you know there’s no way you can afford to approach the pulpit unprepared, prepare, but don’t over-prepare.  Yes, nail your sermon down. Memorize it.  Know it.  But leave room for freshness.  Know it well, make sure you have time to let it sit (a day or two), and then review it once before delivery.  Know your personality.

4. Overstepping the Authority of Our Elders
At times a young preacher can fall into the trap of feeling the need to correct the congregation in an area where the elders have “overlooked”.  This would be overstepping the bounds of authority given to you.  Leave room for elders to “eld”.  They are older for a reason: they can say things you can’t . . . merely because a certain amount of wisdom and authority comes with age.  Of course I’m being general here, and application takes discernment.  But the principle is the same: Let the elders see and address the need for correction of certain matters.

Hopefully, these few ideas will cause us to become much more effective in the pulpit and in the Kingdom.  There will be mistakes . . . many.  But learn from them and press on to sharpen the aim of your presentation of the gospel.

Preach the Word

What Are Some Other Tendencies Young Preachers Have?


Is formal theological education good or bad? PART 1

November 1, 2008

Years ago, I would have never imagined that I would ever be pursuing a formal seminary education.  The Christian community/tradition I was in was pretty anti-institutional in many respects.  We called seminary “cemetery”, and it was only for stuffy, proud, rich young men who had turned Christianity into an intellectual pursuit, much like the other sciences.  Formal theological education was only for the “hireling” who was seeking to make merchandise of the saints by applying for the CEO (pastor) position at a local hymn singing country club (typical church) so he could hear himself give speeches (sermons) to as large crowd a crowd as he could muster (congregation), hoping to make his name great. 

And now, years later, after many paradigm shifts, here I am, with seminary applications in hand.  And I need to ask myself honestly, ‘have I sold out?  What has changed?’

Some things have indeed changed, and some have not.  I would still extend a critique to the way many of us in America (and around the world) ‘do church’, as many of our gatherings reflect the ways of the world rather than the pattern entrusted to us in the Scriptures.  I am still grieved by the way that many are making merchandise of God’s people, and the way we perpetuate this problem by handling church leadership like a corporate office over a business venture.

But now I look at many of these churches, and in them, I see many of God’s beloved people, struggling to see the Kingdom of God while keeping one foot in the world.  People gathering with other believers to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, worship God, and to be exhorted by means of His Word.  They are looking for encouragement, discipleship, and others to walk with on this calvary road, and all too often they come to the church only to hear, see, and be surrounded by the same things they are seeking refuge from.  They hear contradictory messages from different corners of the congregation, and being untrained in the scriptures, many of them choose to follow whoever is speaking the loudest.

I want God’s Word to be what is loudest in those churches.  I want them to hear things, that by the Holy Spirit, will fight back the flesh and encourage the Spirit.  I want them to be encouraged to trust a Holy and Perfect God, even when everything in their life seems amiss.  I want to grow with them in discipleship and discerning the will of God, cherishing the one who rescues us through His own shed blood on the cross.  I feel called to shepherd, and I want to learn, I want to study, I want to be mentored.  Certainly, not all the training (or even most of the training) needed for tomorrows elders takes place within the four walls of a Seminary.  However, I would argue that in our present day, Seminary is one of the best places to:

1. Study the heritage of the faith passed down and entrusted to us, and to learn from  the lives of Godly men and women who have gone before us.  

2.  Acknowledging the mistakes of the past so that we might avoid them as a church in the future.

3.  Consider the struggles of those who are in our churches today and considering how to care for them in light of God’s Word. 

4.  Develop and practice rhetorical skills to be used in defending right doctrine and proclaiming the truth in a winsome manner.

5.  Grow in critical thought as it relates to theology and the church.

6.  Study God’s word on a daily basis in a community that is thinking critically and pastorally.

7.  Learn to read the Bible in the languages it was originally written in.   This may help us grow to understand the underlying misconceptions in many modern day controversies, and walk in the awareness of any assumptions translators may have made while translating the texts into English.

8.  Spend time listening to older people who have spent dozens of years pouring over the Scriptures.

9.  Spend more time reading.  

10.  Spend time learning to communicate well through writing.

These are all important skills that are invaluable to our next generation of church leaders.  There are indeed many dangerous things that Seminary may bring before us.  Many Seminaries are steeped in bad doctrine and are unhelpful all together.  Many things about our current conceptions of Seminary itself are  just plain unbiblical.  However, God is still using many Seminaries as a key component in the training of tomorrow’s church leaders.  

All this to say, we should work towards reform in our Seminaries… more on this to come.  But just as a teaser, here is the way one Church/Seminary is reforming the way Seminary is done: The Bethlehem Institute.

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.