The finest test of the consecration of a minister of Christ is not in his public performances, but in what he does when the world is not looking. It is hard for a man to tell when he is preaching whether he is preaching for himself or for God. To open up glorious ideas, to clothe them with language which glows and speak them in tones which burn-all this is so delightful that it is not easy for the preacher to say just why he likes to do it. But in the obscurity of pastoral service, he has an opportunity to ascertain whether he really loves god, and how much he is willing to do for people simply for Jesus’ sake. – Charles Jefferson, The Minister as ShepherdShare on Facebook
A few things are certain. We live in a universe created by a shepherd God. The Lord is our Shepherd. Our world is redeemed by a Shepherd Savior. Our elder Brother is a Shepherd. The Man whom humanity most needs is a shepherd. Every messenger of Christ is sent to do a shepherd’s work. We are to stand at last before a shepherd Judge. God is going to separate the good shepherds from the shepherds who are bad. The questions which every pastor must meet and are three: “Did you feed my lambs? Did you tend my sheep? Did you feed my sheep?” – Charles Jefferson, The Minister as ShepherdShare on Facebook
The other day I was at my friend Jon’s house helping chop up some trees with my chain saw. Even though the season is coming to an end it’s never too soon to start collecting firewood. After about an hour I realized that my chain saw blade had gotten quite dull making it a chore to cut through anything thicker than my wrist. So I changed gears and worked more on clearing off the small branches while Jon came behind me and chopped up the big stuff. Just yesterday I dropped the chain off at another friends so that he could sharpen the blade for the next time I’m out cutting wood.
Now I suppose that I could leave the chain as it is and simply muscle my way through the task of cutting wood, but I’ll be able to move a lot faster and get a lot more done if I simply take the time to sharpen things up. For the last few months I’ve become increasingly convicted of my need to sharpen things up in my work life, so I’ve identified three major areas in my life that need sharpening: 1) Tools (computers, phones, etc.), 2) Digital Resources (facebook contacts, computer files, e-mail, etc., 3) Physical Resources (books, paper filing, etc.). I’m happy to report that I’ve already managed to sharpen the first of these areas to a fine point but the second two still have a ways to go.
The first area that I wanted to focus on was Tools, specifically my computer. I got a new phone (iPhone 5) several months ago and it has definitely improved my productivity significantly but the computer I was using was getting to be a problem, so it was time to sharpen the axe.
Now not everyone can build their own computer, because it does take a certain degree of patience and know how, but for me it really is the only way to go. I ended up spending around $1,100 (way less than a Mac and much more powerful) and built the computer of my dreams (I call it “Beast”). In case you’re interested here is the parts list for “Beast”, keep in mind that I spent a lot of time watching neweggs sales, which helped keep the costs down significantly.
HDD – 1TB Seagate
Case – NZXT Phantom 410
PowerSupply – Corsair CX750
DVD Drive – ASUS
Mouse – Microsoft Sculpt Touch Mouse
Video Card – MSI N660
RAM – 32 GB Corsair
SSD – 128GB Kingston
Chip – i5-3570k
Motherboard – ASUS P8Z77-V
The only thing that I feel like I compromised on with “Beast” was her SSD, but given how expensive those things are right now I’m still very satisfied with how she ended up. I’m already noticing a boost in my productivity and to be honest I just love using this machine . Hopefully the next two sharpening projects (Digital Resources & Physical Resources) go as well as this one did.Share on Facebook
Pastoral Ministry is a daunting task. There seems to be no end of needs, no end of sorrows, no end of suffering. To be honest the whole thing can be quite overwhelming at times, because while there is no end to the needs of the flock there is only so much of me. That’s why I found the following quote from John MacArthur (a pastor with a much greater responsibility than mine) to be so encouraging:
I wouldn’t be able to maintain my sanity if I felt I were ultimately responsible for each of Christ’s sheep in our church. My whole heart is in what I’m doing for His sheep, but not because I think it all depends on me. At Grace Church the pastors and elders serve the Lord wholeheartedly. But when we run out of resources and don’t know what to do to meet people’s needs, we can lean back and say, “The Lord is the Great Shepherd.”
I think all of us in ministry need a regular reminder that ultimately “the Lord is the Great Shepherd” and it is His responsibility to care for His flock, not ours (in the ultimate sense). It is our responsibility to be faithful and to serve and obey Him.Share on Facebook
Out here in the country I have a wood burning stove, which is my pride and joy. I love to get up in the morning, stir the coals, drop a fresh piece of pine into the stove and watch it heat the house back up.
I didn’t always have such a love affair with my wood burning stove, in fact I used to dread making fires because I didn’t really know how to get a good one started. I would crumple up some paper, sit down on the floor with a book of matches and work for about an hour to get the kindling going, then I would drop a very small log onto the kindling (hoping not to extinguish all of my hard work) and eventually I would have a fire.
All of that changed this past year when I discovered the wonder of the propane blow torch. These little devices are easy to come by, you can pick one up for $20 from your local ACE Hardware store, and they make the work of building a fire exponentially easier. Now, I just put my kindling together, start up my blow torch, ignite everything in the fireplace and I’ve got a raging fire within minutes. It is AWESOME!!!
So, what does this have to do with theological education? I’ve been out of seminary for almost seven years and looking back what I’ve come to realize is that my education has given me the equivalent of a theological blow torch . It’s certainly possible to prepare sermons, do counseling, administration, etc. without a seminary degree. The thing is that having gone through the rigor of formal training, you’re able to do these kinds of tasks much faster and with a much higher degree of precision than you would otherwise.
I realize that not everyone is able to go to seminary, which is one reason why those of us who have had the privilege of formal theological education should be all the more thankful for the tools that God has given us as we light the world on fire with the gospel.Share on Facebook
If you’ve been in ministry for any length of time, you’ve probably had the experience of attending a pastor’s gathering/conference and listening to some of the horror stories that are shared about getting fired, budget shortfalls, leadership failures, etc. To be honest, these kinds of gatherings can be one of the most depressing parts of ministry. The first question that usually comes to my mind when I hear these kinds of stories is, “How can I make sure that this never happens to me?” On the drive home I usually begin thinking of new policies, new training programs, new…anything to avoid one of these stories becoming my own.
But the truth is that while there are some things that a wise pastor can do to minimize conflict (i.e. work through personality issues, train up godly leaders, etc.) there are simply no guarantees in ministry. The truth is that sometimes, despite our best efforts, ministry is heartbreaking. So, perhaps a better question to ask than “How can I make sure this never happens to me?” is “How can I prepare my heart to trust greatly in Christ, to rest securely in the gospel and to rejoice in the midst of suffering?”
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. – 1 Peter 4:13Share on Facebook
The private nurture of your own heart as a pastor is not only a humble confession of need and a confession of your love for your Savior; it is also a statement of your love for the people that God has placed in your care…
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You see, there are very important moments in local-church ministry when the church is blessed and protected not because the person leading knows all the right things but because that person brings the right heart to the moment. So he is able to deal wisely with accusation, or patiently with those who want to control, or humbly with those who idolize him more than they should. He is not just prepared to teach but also to navigate the land mines of temptation that are at the feet of everyone who ministers to fallen people in this flawed world. If you daily work to guard your heart, you are at the same time making a daily commitment to pastor and protect your people. The two simply cannot be separated. [emphasis mine] – Paul Tripp, Dangerous Calling
Just before I moved to Cool the church decided to move the pastor’s office downstairs next to the main office. The idea was that it would make the pastor more accessible and give him a better feel for what was happening in the day to day operations of the church.
Now for a lot of guys, this would drive them nuts but I’ve found it to be a significant blessing. I try to maintain an open door policy (as much as possible), so if someone needs to stop by and talk I want to be available to them. The only drawback that I’ve noticed is that a lot of the things that I do require a certain level of silence. It’s hard to dig into a technical commentary when the phone is ringing, the copy machine is running and lots of people are chatting just one paper-thin wall away from you.
That’s why I am so thankful for my Bose Quiet Comfort Headphones. Whenever I need silence to read, to pray or just to think I pull out these amazing headphones turn them on and the whole world just seems to disappear. On the rare occasions when I can still hear the noise in the office, I simply turn on some background audio with the Naturespace app on my phone and all of a sudden I’m sitting at the beach with a copy of the New International Greek Testament Commentary in front of me .
If you’re ever in need of silence and find it hard to come by, these noise-canceling headphones are definitely worth a look.Share on Facebook
I am increasingly convinced that the greatest danger any and every pastor faces, in their day to day spiritual life, is pride. It is simply far too easy to think too highly of oneself and the results can be absolutely devastating. Paul Tripp writes about this danger in his new book Dangerous Calling:
Pastoral ministry is always shaped, formed, directed, and driven by worship. your ministry will be shaped by worship of God or worship of you or, for most of us, a troubling mix of both. Perhaps there is no more powerful, seductive, and deceitful temptation in ministry than self-glory. Perhaps in ministry there is no more potent intoxicant than the praise of men, and there is no more dangerous form of drunkenness than to be drunk with your own glory. It has the power to reduce you to shocking self-righteousness and inapproachability. It will make you someone who is hard to work with, and it will make it nearly impossible for those around you to help you see that you’ve become hard to work with. It will make you look down on people who are more like than unlike you…When confronted, you will remind yourself of your glory. When questioned, you will defend your glory. You will deny your complicity in problems and your participating in failure. You’ll be better at controlling than you are at serving.. You’ll constantly confuse being an ambassador with being a king.
God help me to forsake any form of self-glory (pride) and to walk in gospel paths of increasing humility.Share on Facebook
The whole of our ministry must be carried on in tender love to our people. We must let them see that nothing pleases us but what profits them; and that what does them good does us good; and that nothing troubles us more than their hurt. We must feel toward our people, as a father toward his children: yea, the tenderest love of a mother must not surpass ours. We must even travail in birth, till Christ be formed in them (Gal. 4:19). They should see that we care for no outward thing, neither wealth, nor liberty, nor honor, nor life, in comparison of their salvation; but could even be content, with Moses, to have our names blotted out of the book of life, i.e. to be removed from the number of the living, rather than they should not be found in the Lamb’s book of life. – Richard Baxter, The Reformed PastorShare on Facebook