pastor

Five Ways to Encourage the Pastor (Your Pastor) of that Small Little Church

Five Ways to Encourage the Pastor (Your Pastor) of that Small Little Church

They are unavoidable. We all have heroes and we always will.  You tend to admire people in your own profession. Celebrity pastors will always be with us. While smaller churches seem to provide the type of community life we desire, megachurches will always be here with all their attractions. Whether the great cathedral or the former theatre, these churches and their grandiose budgets and their next new building will be a part of the evangelical ethos for a long time.

But instead of criticizing mega-ness and celebrity pastors, we should build instead a positive theology of the local pastor down the road. The fellow who spent his years in seminary longing for his first pastorate, eager to serve God’s people. The guy who loves Jesus, but may not have all the rhetorical gifts nor the wardrobe of the other guy down the road who on his first week in his new church plant had 500 in attendance. What about that little guy who is simply happy in providing for his family and caring for his flock, but whose church may never peak beyond 100?

What then should we do about them? It seems like we spend much time criticizing the big pastor and we spend little time encouraging the pastors who most need encouragement.

Here then are five ways to encourage the pastor of that small church, perhaps your own pastor:

First, thank God for that pastor. Thank God that He placed a man who loves Jesus more than anything else to minister to you week after week. He spends his mornings engaging the text seeking for wisdom to provide for his little flock. He prays to God that he would use every word to speak truth into the heart of sinful man and renew the heart of the afflicted.

Secondly, engage his sermons on Sunday morning. Tell him how thankful you are for the connection he made or for that fresh insight he offered, or for his faithfulness to the text. Be specific. Generic praises are much too common. Engage with his text. It will make his 15-20 hours he pours each week into the sermon that more desirable the next week.

Thirdly, find ways to show him appreciation. I am sure that at times he is highly discouraged because the church has not grown, or because they may have lost two families in the last three weeks, or because of the pressures put on him to perform in a way that is not congruent with his own abilities, the pressures for him to do just one more thing on top of the dozens of demands he has on a regular basis. Show him appreciation. Send him a note of gratitude.

Fourthly, avoid as a parishioner the celebrity trap. You return from a conference where the lights were just right, the speakers were engaging, their quotes were just perfect, their suits fit just right, their jokes were hilarious, and their persuasive gifts were so evident while at the same time the AC barely works in your little buildng, the microphone offers its normal hiccup and your little church pastor is doing his best to communicate to you the first verse of Jeremiah 21. Love your pastor’s exposition of Jeremiah 21. Make Jeremiah your priority throughout the week. Meditate. Talk about Jeremiah. Follow your pastor’s lectionary rather than the latest celebrity series. Tell your children how grateful you are to sit under the preaching of a pastor who cares enough about the Bible to preach on obscure texts.

Finally, I am aware that small churches would grow with a little more enthusiasm, a little more charisma, a little more of this and that, and perhaps it should. But your pastor may simply be that guy who is not very engaging, but longs to be. He may not have the greatest rhetorical gifts, but you know without a shadow of the doubt that when he opens his Bible each week he is there prepared for the task ahead. That guy is worth gold. Treasure him. Let him know how your family has been renewed by his weekly labor of love.

Do you want the celebrity culture to stop affecting the way you think church ought to be? Then begin by doing the obvious. Begin by loving your little community and the shepherd who guides it each week.

 

Lenten Devotional

Pastor Steve Hemmeke has done a fine job in putting this together and I commend it to you as you begin this Lenten journey.

Lent CREC Devotions 2015

I have a contribution for Palm Sunday.

Pronouncement and Process in the Pastoral Call

The pastoral task requires a prophetic and priestly vision. The prophetic dimension comes through proclamation in word. This proclamation fills the ministry of word with grace. Grace is riches in the Bible. So the pastoral proclamation is a form of gifting the body with riches. These riches serve as tools for dominion. They equip God’s people to perform their task in the world with wisdom and discernment.

But the prophetic word needs to be followed by the priestly work. Every priest knows that he cannot skip steps in his duties. Rituals and rites demand preparation and a process. A priest is aware that a pronouncement is not enough. He needs a process. This requires patience and care as he leads, cares, and shepherds his own.

The prophetic task is not an alone role. In order for any pastoral work to be successful, whether in the pulpit or in counseling, a minister needs to exercise patience as his congregants take each step. At times they may take a step back, and at times it seems that they are willing to walk towards their goal. The minister needs to re-direct their attention to the original goal.

The prophetic and priestly role bring people into their kingly status. We are all kings and queens in God’s new world, but this kingship does not come by virtue of adoption alone, but by virtue of maturation. Maturation is an exercise in faith and perseverance in truth.

Parishioners who do not grow in their faith become weak kings unable to defend themselves against the assaults that will surely bombard their kingdom. But when the prophetic pronouncement is heard and the priest steps are carefully exercised, God’s people can grow into grace and knowledge knowing that they have heeded the word of the Lord.

Book Review: Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for your Heart by Kyle Idleman

These days I rarely finish a book. I am currently reading through so many books I can barely keep track of which ones. I usually peruse a book, find what I want, and leave it buried in my increasing treasury of books on Kindle. This changed recently. In preparation for a sermon on idolatry I came across Kyle Idleman’s book entitled Gods at War. The book title caught my attention and so I downloaded it into my kindle and two seconds later there it was. I confess I had never heard of Pastor Idleman, and my first impressions of a mega pastor (which he is; pastor of the fourth largest church in the country) have not changed. The writing style filled with little stories and illustrations hurt my intellectual feelings from the start. But then I just kept reading it. The side bars with research and even the funny footnotes kept me reading it.

The reading is meant for a lay audience, but I confess this pastor needed it just as much. Idleman argues that “until that god is dethroned, and the Lord God takes his rightful place, you will not have victory” (22). I am not even sure where to start. I have had so many idols over the years.

As I read the book I realized that the premise was not much different than the biblical theological work of G.K. Beale who wrote that we are what we worship, whether for our ruin or for our good. Beale wrote his work in an academically driven style. Idleman is Beale for Dummies.

The time I waste. The things I treasure. Everything had become a god. “Never in the history of humanity has there been so much entertainment and so little satisfaction” (121). I am so easily entertained, and yet that entertainment fails to find the satisfaction that it intends to give. Why? because it is not meant to give it.

Who is your god? That question kept coming back again and again to haunt me. I have read Keller and I am quite aware that the second commandment is more thorough than simply constructing a physical icon, it also deals with the heart of the matter; really, the heart is the matter.

What a simple, at times silly, but overall profoundly revealing book. Don’t read this book. If you do, you will start hunting more effectively for those gods that tempt you in every direction. Come to think of it, read it. Be a hunter. Choose this day whom you will serve. “You shall have no other gods before me,” says Yahweh.

*See also, We Become What We Worship by G.K. Beale

Husbands and Headship: The Art of Dying

We live in a culture that views headship as abusive. In the Bible, however, headship is central to the stability of the home. Protestant and evangelical men need to see this headship in the context of the great covenant responsibilities that come with that role. The man who views his headship cavalierly views his role in the home with un-biblical eyes.

I have met many men who come to see the need for headship in the home, and have made the necessary changes to their husbandry. Some of these men came to these convictions late in life, and therefore, the changes occurred too quickly; especially for their families. They went from rarely reading the Bible themselves to requiring family devotions with a 45 minute sermon. Dad went from barely feeding his family spiritually to stuffing his family. Children grow up dreading the evening “services”, and the wife, on the one hand, gives thanks to God for the change in her husband, while on the other, wondering if God misunderstood her prayers.

God knew all things, of course. The problem is sinners have made an art of over-reacting. Pastors need to watch out for these types and bring their enthusiasm to a proper balance.

But the Church is not suffering because of over-zealous husbands/ fathers; she is suffering for the lack of any zeal in husbands/fathers.

In particular, husbands are called to meet the needs of their wives. He is the provider, sustainer, and the one called by God to make his wife lovely. The wife is lovely when the husband beautifies her. Jesus is the head of the Church and part of his ascension task is to make his bride beautiful (Eph. 5). He comforts her with words of affirmation. He protects her for physical and spiritual abuse. He is her Boaz and David; a redeemer and king. The home serves as the castle. Pastors usually know when he enters a home whether it is being beautified or whether it has lost its beauty. I am not referring to neatness and tidiness; I am referring to the grace of a home. When that pastor leaves, he may have just left a pretty tomb with dead man’s bones. Grace makes a home, and the husband is the grace-giver. How he speaks, how he communicates, how he rebukes, how he seeks forgiveness; all these things demonstrate and encapsulate the type of headship he is embodying.

The husband is a resident theologian. He may not be a vocational theologian, but his actions and speech are the word and deed that his family will hear most often. When the husband lives a life of constant hypocrisy, his lectures will become dull and lose meaning. When his life demonstrates humility and the virtue of repentance, then his lectures, even the boring ones, will sink deeply into the fabric of the home.

The evangelical husband is a lover of truth. Truth keeps him from abusing his headship; truth keeps him from prioritizing his friends over his own family; truth keeps him from isolating himself from the Christian body; truth keeps him from turning headship into abuse. He must be, as Douglas Wilson once observed, “a small pebble that somehow by the grace of God pictures the Rock that is Christ.”[1]

The responsibility of being the head of the home is the responsibility of many, but the practice of some. Headship implies dying for your wife, and many prefer to see their spouse die than themselves. So men, let’s die together for our wives, and let’s show the world that death brings life.


[1] Wilson, Douglas. Reforming Marriage, 39.

 

Brothers, We Should Stink!

Thabiti Anyabwile is at it again. According to Thabiti:

These days pastoral ministry has become more glamorous, fabulous, fashionable than ever. We hear nowadays of pastors driving expensive cars or being chauffeured, owning private jets, and living in opulent mansions. Once only the “prosperity preachers” and bona fide hucksters touted such lives; now your neighborhood “orthodox” super-pastor does the same. It’s all so pretty, perfumed with the world’s “best” of everything.

Pastoral ministry has lost its wilderness motif. She is no longer invested and involved in that labor of caring, shepherding, and defending the sheep. Pastors no longer live among the sheep for their sake, rather, they prefer the green pastures of the golf course, or spending time with the elite membership. Baxter would be shocked! How much time do we spend with your people? Do we smell like them? Do we stink because of their problems? Do our clerical clothes smell like their cigarettes? Thabiiti writes:

The apostle understands that shepherds should smell like sheep. The sheep’s wool should be lint on our clothes. Our boots should be caked with their mud and their mess. Our skin ought to bear teeth marks and the weather-beaten look of exposure to wind, sun, and rain in the fields. We belong among the people to such an extent that they can be called on to honestly testify that our lives as messengers commend the message. We should be so frequently among them that we smell like them, that we smell like their real lives, sometimes fragrant but more often sweaty, musty, offensive, begrimed from battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil.

What used to be a foundational feature of the pastoral ministry has now become a forgotten tradition. Perhaps we ought to smell ourselves at the end of our weeks, and ask whether our clothes have the scent of our people, whether they are messy from those long pastoral trips, whether they are stained from coffee, and whether they reflect the shepherd’s calling.

There are profound dangers in the “pastor as academician” phenomenon. All pastors are scholars, but all pastors must use their scholarship to comfort, encourage, rebuke, exhort, and love their people. Scholarship apart from the stinkiness of pastoral ministry is an unused scholarship.

So have we identified ourselves with our people? Do they know us? Do they know we care for them? What is our boast? Is it in the well-delivered homily? In our power and giftedness? If so, we need to change our clothes and put on those well-worn garments of a shepherd and truly cherish the aroma of pastoral ministry. As Thabiti concludes:

Brothers, we are shepherds down in the fields of life — and we should stink.