Archive for the 'Pastorals' Category
This is the fourth post in a series of posts titled “Pastorals”. One of the things that I have begun to realize about myself is that I tend to forget things quickly. My goal in this series is to continually remind myself of the lessons that I have learned in ministry.
One of the great privileges of my life has been to serve the local church. I love the church and with each passing day that I serve the church I grow to love her even more. The church is the bride of Christ and her Husband paid a terrible price to purchase her salvation. As one of His undershepherds you too must love His bride and cherish her.
While I deeply love the church, the sad reality is that the church can be a hard place to serve at times. Emotions seem to run much deeper when something is as personal as ministry and the cost to your own soul will be steep. I remember a conflict many years ago where a parent of one of my High School students was so furious with me over a decision that I had made that he called me on my cell phone and literally yelled at me for 30 minutes, while I was driving around planning a youth retreat. Several weeks later this same man gave me the tongue lashing of my life on the church patio, on a Sunday morning, 5 minutes before I had to get up and lead worship. So, while undershepherds must love the church deeply, we must also be realistic about what it costs to love the church.
What I would like to address this morning is not so much the matter of loving the church even when she hurts you, but more specifically, where is the minister to go with those hurts? The most natural answer to this question is that he should go to his wife and while this is sometimes true, it certainly deserves a little more thought. Far too many shepherds bring home baggage from the ministry that they leave with their wife, or even (sadly) with their kids. The end result of this practice is a wife and children who are bitter at the church for hurting their dad or her husband. So, what do you tell your family about the ministry? In short, all of the good things. Tell them about the joy of studying, the new insight that you received today, the precious moments by someone’s side in the hospital, and the man who gave his life to Christ in your office. The point is to tell your family all of the good things that happen and especially never to speak ill of anyone in the church. You need not fear that this will present them with an unrealistic picture of ministry. Your countenance at times, or the slump in your shoulder will be testimony enough to the battles that you have fought. You need not supplement these silent testimonies with anything else.
The question still remains, “to whom shall you go?” The most tangible answer to this question is to other pastors who can shoulder the burden alongside of you. In addition, it is appropriate at times to speak with your wife about some of the hard things, but you must be especially diligent to guard her heart and to keep her appraised of the situation until its completion (don’t just leave her hanging). Finally, cast your cares upon the Lord (1 Peter 5:7) and trust the Chief Shepherd to care for you.
‘Til Sin is Bitter Christ Will not be Sweet,
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May 04 2009 | Pastorals | No Comments »
This is the third post in a series of posts titled “Pastorals”. One of the things that I have begun to realize about myself is that I tend to forget things quickly. My goal in this series is to continually remind myself of the lessons that I have learned in ministry.
One of the truths that young pastors have to quickly reconcile themselves to is that there is simply no end of ministry to be done. As a pastor your proverbial “inbox” is always full and if for some reason it seems to get low, prepare yourself because an avalanche is coming. The reason for this is very simple, it is because you work outside of the garden and life outside of the garden is full of pain, sorrow, and need. As a good shepherd, you must be attentive to the needs of the flock marrying, burying , counseling, preaching, exhorting, and rebuking them.
Yet with all of the needs of your flock and the never ending stream of ministry opportunities, you must bear this in mind, your family is the foundation for your ministry. Few things will disqualify a man as quickly and as decisively as a poorly cared for family. It is true that the needs of your congregation are great, but I must remind you that the needs of your family are even greater. Paul instructed Timothy that if a man neglects the care of his own family he is worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8). It is not enough for you to provide for their physical needs, you must care for all of their needs. Your qualifications as a shepherd of God’s church are directly tied to your performance as a shepherd of your own family. What this means is that your church desperately needs you to be a good shepherd to your wife and to your children, so that you can continue to be a good shepherd to the church body (1 Timothy 3:1-7).
Here are a few practical insights into what it means to be a good shepherd in your home:
1) Be home more nights than you are away. The practical reality of your ministry at home is that most of it will happen at night, because you will usually be gone during the day. In order for you to be a good shepherd at home, you must be home to shepherd. It is true that there are seasons of extraordinary ministry, which require you to be gone for 4-5 nights out of the week or even to be gone for 1-2 weeks on a mission trip or similar event; however these must be the exception to the rule. Strive to make it your rule to be home more nights than you are away.
2) When you are home, be home. What I mean by this is, turn off your cell phone, leave your books at the office, turn off the TV, and engage in family life. Technology is a powerful tool that can free us to get far more done than we could otherwise, however it can also be a cruel master enslaving us to its every beep and chirp all the while ignoring our children’s cries to play, wrestle and read. When you are home, be at home.
3) In order to do numbers 1 & 2, you must be exceedingly diligent during the time you are at your office. Forsake anything and everything that does not immediately contribute to your goal of shepherding the flock, in order to free yourself to spend the time caring for your family in the hours that you are at home. Your ability to shepherd your family, is directly related to your stewardship of time while you are away from your family, so be diligent in your use of time and violent in your exclusion of actions, activities, and meetings that do not contribute to the care of the flock.
‘Til Sin is Bitter Christ will not be Sweet,
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April 13 2009 | Pastorals | No Comments »
This is the second in a series of posts titled “Pastorals”. One of the things that I have begun to realize about myself is that I tend to forget things quickly. My goal in this series is to continually remind myself of the lessons that I have learned in ministry.
I still remember my first couple of days on the job at PMC Church. I remember sitting down at my desk (conveniently crammed right next to the church secretaries desk), unpacking my office supplies, opening my laptop (the one I bought in college) and staring at a blank screen wondering what I should do. It was an intimidating feeling, because I knew that I was finally doing exactly what I had been trained to do and exactly what I had desired to do since Jr. High, but the big question was what did that look like in the day to day part of my new job.
It seems that one of the common mistakes that young pastors make (and that I’m certainly guilty of making) is to spend their first several months or even their first several years focusing their attention on changing programs, or upgrading systems, or renovating services. One of the primary reasons for this is that these activities yield tangible results. When you get to a new church, if you don’t like the way the bulletin is laid out, you can change it and everyone can see that you’ve changed it. The problem with this approach to the first years of ministry is that, while it yields tangible results, it distracts you from what you are supposed to be doing. JI Packer said, “never let the good be the enemy of the best”. In this case, there are three areas that are far more important than programming, they are 1) People, 2) Preaching, 3) Prayer.
I would propose to you that all of your ministry should be consumed with these 3 things, but especially your first 2 years, because these are the 3 areas that are most needful in your ministry.
People: What I mean by focusing on people is that you must focus on forming lasting relationships with your flock. When you are hired at a church, you are the pastor by position (you were hired to be their pastor), but you are not yet truly the pastor. To become a true pastor requires relationships and that is people work. Your early years of ministry must be consumed with spending time with people. You must devote yourself to hospital ministry, to taking people to coffee and finding out about their lives, to biblical counseling (I know of no greater way to connect with your sheep than counseling), to going to people’s homes for dinner. In short, you must care for the sheep by forming relationships.
Preaching: This should be self-evident, but pastors are preachers. It’s shocking today how many pastors refuse to do the hard work of preaching. Instead, they buy their sermons online, forgetting their Greek and Hebrew and generally being lazy about handling the Word of God. It must not be so with you! Drew, you will stand before the judgment seat of God and give an account for your preaching, so you must devote yourself to the faithful exposition of God’s Word. This is also one of the most powerful tools that you have as a pastor, because your people will inevitably be shaped by your preaching as you accurately bring the Word of God to bear on their hearts.
Prayer: To be honest, this is probably the hardest of these 3 categories because there is so little accountability. People know when you’re a bad preacher, and people know when you don’t really care about them, but only God knows your prayer life. The best quote that I have ever read about prayer comes from the pen of EM Bounds:
We are constantly on a stretch, if not on a strain, to devise new methods, new plans, and new organizations to advance the Church and secure enlargement and efficiency for the gospel. This trend of the day has a tendency to lose sight of the man or sink the man in the plan or organization. God’s plan is to make much of the man, far more of him than of anything else. Men are God’s method. The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.
What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use – men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans but men – men of prayer.
As you devote yourself to being a man of prayer, God will take care of the rest of the details of your ministry. As John MacArthur so often says, “You take great pains with the depth of your ministry and let God take care of the breadth of your ministry.”
‘Til Sin is Bitter Christ will not be Sweet,
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April 06 2009 | Pastorals | No Comments »
A few weeks ago I was able to spend some time with one of the High school students from the first church that I ministered at (PMC Church). We sat down at In-N-Out in sunny Los Angeles and talked about the exciting things that God is doing in her life, what He’s been teaching the both of us and what her family has been up to. After lunch I began thinking about who I was 8 years ago when I first became a pastor and some of the things that I wish I had been able to understand about the ministry.
A lot has changed in 8 years: I live 1,000 miles further north, I have 2 kids, and I finished my M. Div. I hope that I’ve learned a few things along the way and I know that I’ve got a lot more to learn as I continue to be a shepherd. However, looking back is an excellent way to gauge growth, and to remind oneself of lessons that were hard to learn yet somehow easy to forget. In light of this, I’ve decided to start a series called “Pastorals” in order to help me remember and to process some of the things that I’ve learned. I am writing primarily for my own edification, but I do hope that these letters will give you some insight into a pastors heart and some of the things that the Lord has shown me along the way.
One of the greatest lessons that I have learned as a pastor is how important patience is when you’re in the ministry. The following letter is written to a young pastor on the subject of patience.
Graduating from Bible College and Seminary is a tremendous accomplishment. All of the years of study, tests, papers, etc. have finally paid off and you have now been called to the ministry. Your teachers have poured vast amounts of knowledge and spiritual insight into your soul and for that you should be eternally grateful. All of your learning has prepared you to rightly handle the word (2 Timothy 2:15) and yet one of the difficulties that you will encounter in the early days of ministry is the frustration of shepherding a flock that is not necessarily ready to change and this requires patience.
Young pastors can often times become frustrated by two things in the church. 1) They become frustrated with the organization of the church and the snails pace that the church often takes to make decisions. 2) They become frustrated at the lack of sanctification or lack of passion that they see in the lives of the flock and often times of the leaders around them. The antidote to both of these sources of frustration is patience.
You must realize that patience is not the same thing as compromise. A good shepherd accurately assesses the flock and has a good understanding of where they are today, as well as where he wants to see them tomorrow. Patience is the virtue that allows you to look forward to what the future holds for your church, while accepting the reality of where your church is today and the strength to move them forward to a better tomorrow. Isaiah 40:11 says, “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” Our good shepherd knows how to take care of all his sheep including the lambs whom he holds in his arms, and those who are with young whom he leads. You too must know how to lead your flock with patience. You cannot run ahead of them to the place you want them to go and expect them to keep up with you, rather you must lead them by keeping in front, yet always looking back to assess their needs and care for them in their weaknesses (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
Of course, you obviously have somewhere that you are trying to take this flock so you must be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6) as you lead them, yet patient and gentle as you tend the flock exercising oversight among them (1 Peter 5:2).
What I am asking of you is not easy, yet it is certainly the Good Shepherds way of leading his people (Psalm 23:2). Remember that Jesus always walks with us, exercising limitless patience as He shapes us into His image, so we too must exercise patience as we tend His flock.
‘Til Sin is Bitter Christ Will not be Sweet,
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March 23 2009 | Pastorals | No Comments »