Archive for the ‘Pastoral Ministry’ Category

Sound Doctrine & the Expository Pulpit (Part 6)

Similarity No. 5:

the Purity of Doctrine

Fifth, Lloyd-Jones and MacArthur have been keenly aware they must exposit doctrinal truths. This focus has yielded a depth lacking in other expositors.  Murray observes there is “a growing difference between the older, [G. Campbell] Morgan tradition of exposition and MacArthur’s. In his case, as with Lloyd-Jones, the devotional thought is grounded on the bringing out of clear doctrinal principles. Exposition needs to lead hearers to doctrinal certainties.”  Lloyd-Jones
and MacArthur have been committed to preaching biblical and systematic theology from each text.

 Theology on Fire

Lloyd-Jones was adamant that true preaching must be doctrinal preaching: “What is preaching? It is theology on fire. And a theology which does not take fire, I maintain, is a defective theology; or at least the man’s understanding of it is defective. Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire.”  Each sermon, he maintained, must set forth doctrinal truths. To this point, Lloyd-Jones reiterates: “Preaching must always be theological, always based on a theological foundation…There is no type of preaching that should be non-theological.” With deep conviction, he states: “You cannot deal properly with repentance without dealing with the doctrine of man, the doctrine of the Fall, the doctrine of sin and the wrath of God against sin.”  In other words, preaching must be aimed at teaching “doctrinal certainties.”

Consequently, Lloyd-Jones believed that strong preaching demands that the preacher have a strategic grasp of systematic theology: “To me there is nothing more important in a preacher than that he should know it and be well grounded in it. This systematic theology, this body of truth which is derived from the Scripture, should always be present as a background and as a controlling influence in his preaching.”  For Lloyd-Jones, sound doctrine was the very backbone of his preaching. Each passage must be tested by the analogy of Scripture and show its perfect consistency with the rest of Scripture.

Murray explains that for Lloyd-Jones, preaching expositionally is “not simply to give the correct grammatical sense of a verse or passage. It is rather to set out the principles or doctrines which the words are intended to convey. True expository preaching is, therefore, doctrinal preaching, it is preaching which addresses specific truths from God to man.”  Without teaching the doctrine of a passage, a sermon is devoid of power. Thus, Lloyd-Jones asserted, “The purpose of studying the Scripture is to arrive at doctrine.”  Setting forth the doctrine of the passage, he believed, is essential to the sermon.

The Faith Once For All Delivered

This same focus upon sound doctrine is found in MacArthur’s preaching. This noted preacher writes: “The pastor’s purpose is not to make Scripture relevant to his people but to enable them to understand doctrine, which becomes the foundation of their spiritual living.”  No matter what people want, MacArthur states, solid theology must be put forth. He writes: “People’s ears may be itching for anything but sound doctrine, but the faithful pastor will defy the spirit of the age, confront his own fear, and boldly preach the truth anyway.”  Accordingly, he states: “In his preaching and teaching, it should be the pastor’s sole objective to enlighten his congregation in doctrine that protects and preserves their spiritual health.”  In other words, right living results from right doctrine.

In MacArthur’s preaching, Murray notes: “The necessity for doctrinal content—the making clear of biblical principles—became an increasingly important part of MacArthur’s preaching.” To this end, MacArthur states: “Authentic Christianity is concerned first and foremost with truth. The Christian faith is not primarily about feelings although deep feelings will surely result from the impact of truth on our hearts. It is not about human relationships, even though relationships are the main focus in many of today’s evangelical pulpits…Biblical Christianity is all about truth.”  Consequently, MacArthur stresses that the absolute nature of truth necessitates that every pastor teach sound doctrine. He writes: “An excellent minister is to disseminate sound teaching to all people at all times through all means. That is the heart and soul of the ministry.”

Regarding current trends, MacArthur notes: “There is much relational preaching today that attempts to make people feel better about themselves and about how God might feel about them, but there is little forceful defense of the full truth. As in most periods of church history, strong and effective defenders of the faith are at a premium.” Expositors of sound doctrine is the dire need in this present hour, he believes, those who uphold the standard of sound words. Such a commitment to preaching “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” galvanizes the pulpit.

 

Article by Dr. Steve Lawson (used with permission)

Jack of all trades, master of none

He’s the “Jack of all trades, master of none.”  I am referring of course to the role of Senior Pastor.  As the ‘leader among leaders’ I am responsible for providing overall oversight to all the ministries that make up the First Baptist Church of Freeport.  That does not mean however that my hand is equally deep in every pot.  I certainly embrace the plural leadership model but now I digress.

I am going on year four as the lead pastor/elder at FBC, Freeport.  My main task is to “feed Jesus’ sheep” (John 21:17).  To “devote myself to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4).  To “preach the Word, in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:2).  I am also responsible to shepherd the flock of God  (1 Peter 5:1-4) with my fellow undershepherds; and to provide pastoral oversight (1 Thessalonians 5:12, Hebrews 13:17, 1 Timothy 5:17).

When I graduated from seminary I sort of thought that I would finally be able to read what I wanted to read rather than simply digest what my professors asked me/us to take in.  That assumption is partially right.  For example I am currently reading Rick Holland’s, Uneclipsing the Son, Earl Blackburn’s, Jesus Loves the Church and So Should You, Douglas Bond’s, The Mighty Weakness of John Knox, and Carl Trueman’s, Reformation; Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow for my soul’s sake.  Those books or authors peaked my interest and so upon purchasing them I evidentially got around to reading them.

This might surprise you but most ordinary pastors are not seminary professors.  Very few of us are subject matter experts on anything.  I love to study church history but I am certainly no Iain Murray or Nate Busenitz.   I love systematic theology but I am no Ph D.  I enjoy studying the original languages but I am most definitely not a Bill Barrick, a Bill Mounce, or an Abner Chou.

Part of this comes back to my opening sentence.  We local church pastors are the “Jack of all trades, master of none.”  For example, over the past few years I have read Singing and Making Music, Worship Matters, Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns, and parts of Christ-Centered Worship.  Why?  If I am going to provide helpful biblical oversight to a local church ministry in need of some TLC then I need to educate myself accordingly.

The same thing is true with my expository pulpit ministry.  I am currently preaching through Colossians 3:17-4:1 (the Lordship of Christ in Relationships).   When I finished my exegesis of verses 18-19 I then turned my attention to commentaries and to helpful books on marriage.  That meant over the past few weeks I’ve read or reread Feminine Appeal, Biblical Womanhood in the Home, and parts of Radical Womanhood and the Exemplary Husband.

I am also involved each year in a leadership training and development ministry at our church.   This particular ministry is exclusively geared towards our men (leaders and future leaders, per 2 Timothy 2:2).  Guess what?  That means that I need to reread the books that Pastor Steve and I are asking our guys to read.  So I am enjoying (again) books like When Good Kids Make Bad Choices, The Master’s Plan for the Church, Stop Dating the Church, Blame it on the Brain, He Is Not Silent, The New Testament Deacon, Grudem’s Systematic Theology etc, etc.

As the Senior Pastor I am also involved in various counseling relationships.  This means my wife and I may be enjoying for the eighth time the wonderful teaching of The Excellent Wife or the Exemplary Husband .  Or I may be reading with a counselee At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry or Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

At the end of the day what I thought six years ago when I graduated from seminary was only partially true.  I not only get to read what I want to read but I also read and study what I need to read and study.  That is one of the reasons why most of us pastors are indeed “the Jack of all trades, masters of none.”

The Two Best Books on Leadership

Just came across Matt Perman’s recommended books on Christian leadership over at The Gospel Coalition and felt compelled to add my two favorites to the list:

Additions?

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).

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.

It’s called “pastor-teacher” for a reason

In his new memoir Outsider Looking In, Gary Wills, leftist intellectual and former conservative journalist, made an interesting observation about politicians who try to become academics after they leave office.

“Politicians live for contact with people. They lose the gift for contemplation, or research, or simple reading. Being alone with a book is a way to die for many of them.”

Real shepherds know the sheep, live with the sheep, and even eat the same sheep food. This sort of life demands both public engagement with real people and meaningful private moments alone with piles of books. In churches we have code language that goes something like this. If the guy is warm and friendly but can’t preach to save his life, it is said of him that “he has a pastor’s heart.” Conversely, many wonderfully skilled expositors are nothing more than full-time conference speakers who drop into their congregations most Sundays and deliver a conference-like message. In short, if our vocation hovers anywhere near the end of Ephesians 4:11 we need to embrace the full weight of what it means to be a pastor and the commitment involved for those who are called to teach the Word. Are you a pastor or a teacher? The answer should be “both.”

Three New Books for Men

Father’s Day is fast approaching so I’m always looking for books that rise above the surface of the typical fare. Here are three that grabbed my attention:

Men of the Word: Insights for Life from Men Who Walked with God edited by Nathan Busenitz. I was really excited to receive this book from the publisher. Many character studies of biblical men are often nothing more than launching pads for all types of moral eisegesis but this is not the case with Men of the Word. Each chapter focuses on a key individual from Scripture with God-centered exhortations focused on the theme of “real men” (e.g., Real Men Find Satisfaction in God: Lessons from the Life of Solomon by Rick Holland). Every chapter is written by a different pastor from the staff of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA with a forward by John MacArthur who is the long-time preaching pastor at GCC. There is also two helpful appendices. The first by Bill Shannon is entitled “Real Men Pursue Purity” which is a succinct and helpful guide to helping men fight the battle of sexual purity. I am already using this appendix as a hand-out for men in my church. The second appendix is an excellent study guide useful for personal study or small groups. It is this resource that makes this book ideal as a discipling tool for men in the local church. There is also a biblical reference guide at the end which could be used as a Scripture memory aid for personal or group studies. I highly recommend this book to any pastor, teacher, or man who wants to be challenged to grow as a man of God and be useful in the Lord’s mission.

A Guide to Biblical Manhood by Randy Stinson and Dan Dumas. This is a short, pithy, yet powerful little book. I received it yesterday but was able to read it in an evening, which may be good news for men in your congregation that are not motivated readers or who struggle with large tomes (109 half-cut pages). A Guide is presented in a style similar to that of the old “survival manuals” (see here) which visually caught my attention with clever illustrations and arrangement of section materials. There are three main categories addressed by Dumas and Stinson: a godly husband, a godly father, and a godly leader. The material is brief yet theologically sound and immensely practical.  This is a great little resource to put into the hands of your church’s men or “future men.” Highly recommended.

Pujols: More Than A Game** by Scott Lamb and Tim Ellsworth. The best player in the game of baseball is not wearing Yankee pinstripes nor, as it pains this life-long Braves fan to admit, is he playing in Atlanta. Albert Pujols is by any objective standard the best player in the game today. It’s also apparent that a case can be made for his being the greatest player ever. He has in some ways quietly achieved things that Ruth, Aaron, and Williams never accomplished (let’s not even mention a certain player recently on trial in the Bay Area). In an age where sports are riddled with cheating, doping, sexual misconduct, and giant egos . . . in walks a man who says, “I don’t play for people. I don’t live for people. I live to represent Jesus Christ” (pg. 228). The authors do an excellent job at getting beneath the surface of this towering figure and the result is that Pujols is the real deal. They ask the hard questions about steroids, scandals, and the demanding home life of a modern baseball player. Baseball fan or not, any sports fan will enjoy this well-researched and insightful biography. Well done and highly recommended.

[**Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”]

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