Archive for June, 2011

The problem with deaf falcons

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anaarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

(from William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming, 1919)

Evangelicals have lost the “theological center,” and this theological center is the Bible’s center. With no center, of course things fall apart. The problem, however, is not that the gravitational center of the Bible’s theology cannot hold. The problem is more along the lines of what Yeats described as the falcon not hearing the Falconer. That is to say, if we will listen carefully to the Bible, it will proclaim to us the glory of God. If we do not hear this, the problem is with us, not the Bible (James M. Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgement, 40).

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So you’re ready to hang up the ministry?

I know for a fact that some of the pastors who read this blog are going through very difficult seasons of ministry. For some those “seasons” have stretched-on for years. If that’s not you then be thankful and pray for those who are enduring hardship. If you are struggling then I want you to remember a few things.

  1. Difficulty in ministry is Christ-like. Everything about our Savior’s life and ministry was categorized by struggle. He bore the stripes, ridicule, and sneering that is attached to all who bring “good news.” There are ministers who make life hard on themselves and their families because of foolish decisions but there are also men who suffer for no other reason than they are being faithful to the call. Your ministry troubles should carry the fragrant aroma of Christ’s life and ministry which is another way of saying it’s not about us.
  2. The Lord graciously provides grace at the right time. I have what you might call a healthy understanding of the providence of God. The Lord will remind you of His grace and care in unexpected places. A good book, a fellowship of like-minded pastors, a letter from a friend, a night out or away with your wife, playing legos with your kids–I can say that all of these and more have rescued me at times from my own self-importance and tendency to focus on ministry problem areas. In other words, take a breather and remember that the world does not hinge on your every decision.
  3. Some discouragement is nothing more than sinful disappointment for not being “appreciated.” Remember brother, that even after the best performances, the applause eventually dies off. I’ve noticed that for some discouragement comes easily because they place an unhealthy premium on the applause of men. A wise country preacher once said, “a pat on the back is just a few inches from a kick in the butt.” More eloquently, A. B. Simpson wrote that “Often the crowd does not recognize a leader until he has gone, and then they build a monument for him with the stones they threw at him in life.” If fame, a name, and societal value is your primary motivation then you really need to sober up and stop drinking the pride juice. Friend, if you are faithful to the ministry of the Word then I can assure you that there are people who will line-up in eternity to thank you– but for now– it’s really not important that you know who they are.

I know the pains of ministry can feel like a deep bruise on the heals of your feet.  Like vets back from the war, we can all role up our sleeves in the barbershop and compare tattoos commemorating the battles we’ve fought. In the meantime, keep your head down, stay out of politics, dispense the Word with accuracy and faithfulness, and love your people with all you can muster. After all “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Cor 4:7).

Seeker Churches are Alive and ____

….I would not use the adjective “well” but they certainly seem to be very much alive.  I have heard some suggest today that the seeker movement is dead but I have not seen any such signs of numerical decline.  In our small city of 26k the local seeker church is planting satellite campuses all over the area and beyond (see note below). 

How should we 9 Marks, Shepherd’s Fellowship, Bible-centered churches respond to such ‘progress’?  Let’s keep on keeping on (2 Tim 2:15, 2 Tim 4:1-5).  The following two sermons are most encouraging and are highly recommended: http://vimeo.com/10941231 and http://www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/GTY114_A-Biblical-Response-to-the-ChurchGrowth-Movement?

 

E-note from Keith Boyer http://www.crossroadscn.com/

GIANTS … At our iGNITE event this past Sunday evening we announced the upcoming launch of three new  campuses and their campus pastors …

Vancouver, WA…Sept 18th, 2011…

Winnebago, IL…Sept 18th, 2011…

Genoa, IL…January 2011…

We also announced that Josh and Kim Mauney have transitioned and will be planting a church in Lexington, KY early next year.  Jon (and Brittany) Neal was installed as the new Campus Pastor in Morrison.

 In addition to that, as a result of the vote on the purchase of a facility for a Freeport Dream Center passing by 92%, we will be making an offer on an ideal piece of property in the ideal location for this type of ministry within the next week.

 By God’s leading and grace, we’re taking more land … land that God has promised.  Similar to the Israelites, as they went in to take possession of the promised land, there were giants to be faced and defeated.  As part of our calling to take the land, we become “giant killers” along the way.  Giant killers have a different spirit … a spirit of faith.  That’s what sets them apart.   When facing giant challenges and/or opposition, they say, “We can do this!”

 Like David, their confidence is in the Lord, not in their own skill, talent, ability or genius.  Our confidence in the Lord increases as we reflect on who God is and what He has done.  (1 SAM. 17)  This week’s challenge … make two lists.  On one, list new ‘land’ God wants you to be a part of possessing.  Second, make a list of all God has done for you in the past. After all, God’s faithfulness in the past, gives us faith for the future!  Let’s take the land, for we can surely do it!

Praying for the next generation of pastors

I found the following excerpt from a longer prayer of Spurgeon’s called “The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved.” Note: the “College” he refers to was the in-house pastor’s training school which was also the focus of his well-known Lectures to My Students.

“Bless the dear sons of this church, trained at our own side, who go forth to preach the gospel: whether they be in the College, or whether they are preaching outside of it, let the blessing of the Lord be with every one of them.”

C. H. Spurgeon, The Pastor in Prayer (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth), 134-35.

Should we declare bankruptcy on matters of “science”?

I just noticed that the Biologos website has a ringing endorsement from Robert Schuller, you can’t make this stuff up.

We are entering an epoch whereby Science and Faith will only serve to prove that with God ALL THINGS are possible! Bless your work, BioLogos! Keep being smart! Keep being Possibility Thinkers for the glory of God!”– Dr. Robert H. Schuller ( Founder, Crystal Cathedral)

All this has me thinking about bankruptcy but not of the financial kind. We are told by Biologos that evolution is the only intelligent response to understanding origins and biblical cosmology. Don’t worry however, Tim Keller says you can still keep a literal view of Adam and Eve. Thinking out loud here, does this mean that Eve was still created from Adam’s side or did she too evolve from earlier species? More to the point, what I really find interesting is that this proposed understanding is tied to the literal resurrection of Christ (see the title and point of Keller’s article). So why is it acceptable to interpret the text in light of perceived scientific criterion and conclusions  in one place (i.e., Gen 1 & 2) and not in other places like the Gospels and their empty tomb? In other words, what will happen when Biologos eventually gets around to dealing with the resurrection? You don’t have to be a scientist to see their inconsistency or suspect that their methods are bankrupt.

The seminaries are too full

The modern university system is bloated, fat, and generally meaningless from the standpoint of both value and return. Nevertheless, everybody figures out a way to go these days. Louis Menand, in The New Yorker, pretty much says the same. So if enrollment numbers are indicative of success then the American university system should be a shining star but we all know that’s not the case. More are going to college than ever before but

“students are increasingly disengaged from the academic part of the college experience . . . The system appears to be drawing in large numbers of people who have no firm career goals but [the universities are] failing to help them acquire focus” says Menand.

Could it be that seminary, as it has been practiced over the last 150 years, has basically done the same? This week the SBC and the General Assembly of the PCA are having their respective national meetings. I have attended both in the past and there will be reports that their various seminaries are flourishing and growing like well-watered weeds. On a side note, I have yet to hear a seminary president say, “we’re doing terrible, stop sending your money.” Could it be that much of the growth reporting centers around a faulty view of ministerial training or worse, an unbiblical view of the church.

It would appear that the exception has become the norm. Rather than seminaries coming alongside the church it is churches that are expected to come alongside seminaries and go wherever the wind happens to be in that generation. If you don’t believe this then inquire as to which board of elders your favorite seminary is directly accountable to. On the positive side there are some schools that are making great strides to get this right. I’m encouraged by what I see with schools like Master’s, Expositor’s, Shepherd’s and ones that I’m less familiar with but admire like Cornerstone.

I think churches have a responsibility as well. Should anyone go to seminary that is not already manifesting some level of ministry gifting and ability in his local church? Churches can adopt some form of criteria to test men before sending them off. A robust apprenticeship program or internship can be a great ministry for local churches and give men time to mature and grow in ministry. On the other hand, we also need to reexamine whether sending men off is good for the church at all. I think this is a sacred cow for many but one worth slaughtering if need be. In this day and age, the seminary classroom can be localized in such a way that men can serve in their local church and still attend class through virtual means. I’m not talking about on-line degree factories but places like The Expositor’s Seminary where like-minded churches host real-time classes with back and forth interaction at the same time on numerous church campuses. On this, seminaries and churches need to think outside the box and I’m encouraged that many are doing this.

I hope visionary pastors and seminary leadership will listen to screeds like this. I for one will rarely send a man off to seminary if I’m convinced we can have the best of both worlds right here in the local church. I would love to continue this conversation so let me know what you think and what options have worked for your congregation.

A Festschrift in Honor of John MacArthur

The Master’s Seminary Journal Volume 22, No 1 is a great read for all you expository preachers out there.  My favorite articles were Expository Preaching: The Logical Response to a Robust Bibliology by Dr. Rick Holland and Striking Similarities Between Two Extraordinary Expositors by Dr. Steve Lawson.   Lawson’s article compares the pulpit ministries of D.M. Lloyd-Jones and John MacArthur and is a very insightful read.

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