May 10, 2011
I’m sure you’ve heard the news about the pastor who claimed to have served as a navy seal. Apparently the pastor got the details of his fabricated story from a Steven Segal movie, told about being tortured, and occasionally wore a seals uniform around town. This pastor’s story was busted when some genuine Seals read an interview in The Patriot-News recording the pastor’s feats. Apparently, the Seals sniffed out the fraud because they too had seen the Segal movie and thought the pastor’s details were curiously similar.
I have one simple thought in response to this story: not a single person in the pastor’s town must have known the pastor when he was hired at this church. Think about it, if I walked into a town where people knew me, perhaps my home town, and claimed some fantastic military career, people would look at me square in the eyes and say, “Andy, What are you talking about?” The only way I could claim such a history is if I walked into a place where I knew not a single individual, and where absolutely no one knew me.
Now, I’m sure that there was a pastoral search committee, interviews, background checks, and the typical procedures done at the church that hired this “navy seal.” But this raises the question: does a church really know an individual when they hear one or two sermons, when they look at your resume, and take you out for a meal?
Perhaps this is why some of the Scriptural qualifications for elders include things like “being above reproach” and “having a good reputation” (1 Tim 3). Of course, the only way you can know if someone is above reproach and has a good reputation is if you have known them for a while.
May 9, 2011
I highly recommend you read THIS POST by Jeff, he writes:
I’m a part of this generation that grew up dreaming about accomplishing awesome things for the Lord. And I’ve also snubbed my nose at the “dead” spirituality of my parents’ generation. What made their spirituality “dead”? Well, it just wasn’t successful! I mean, look at the numbers, they don’t lie! Look at all the pastors who were simply content to stay at that little podunk church going nowhere. They’re not attracting new people, they’re outreach events are lame, and their current attempts at becoming more contemporary are embarrassing. No, I want to be a part of a great work of God! I want to be a part of church where the masses are swarming in and being touched with our message. I want to be able to brag…er, I mean share…well, no…I guess I do want to be able to brag about what God is doing in and through me and my church. I want to know that God is using me mightily and that we are successful!
But what if God doesn’t use me like that?
What if I’m a part of a church that’s not bringing them in by the hundreds and rocking the house and seeing dozens come to Christ each week? What if my week is spent mowing an old lady’s yard, and that lady is certainly not going to be someone influential in the community? What if our church’s worship service is attended by the same few each week? What if our old-school door-to-door methods of outreach don’t turn out any converts or baptisms? What if we keep spinning our wheels and end up stuck in the same place as a church for the next 20 years without seeing any noticeable growth other than a few of the kids growing up to replace the elderly?
February 20, 2011
John Piper has written a book entitled Brothers, We are Not Professionals. I’ve never read it, but the title got me thinking that another book could be written, Brothers, We are Not Apostles. You see, I often find scriptural passages that describe the apostles applied today towards pastors. For instance, if you read the book of Acts and the appointing of servants to wait on tables, you will often hear that that means pastors should not neglect the word and prayer. But Acts said that the apostles, not pastors, did that. Or, if you read commentaries on 2 Cor 5 where Paul writes, “We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were making his appeal through us . . . ” you will find that many, many commentators conclude the “we” refered only to Paul and the apostles. So in discussing that passage, commentators often find its application only for pastors and professional ministers.
So where do we get the notion that pastors fill the role of apostles? Tidball writes that apostles “are not shown to be congregational leaders except in the sense of leading first congregations in Jerusalem for a brief time. . . . The apostles often appear to be ‘after the event’ people rather than the sorts of proactive strategic leaders so prized today. Furthermore, they are not shown as holders of an office that has to be transmitted to succeeding generations” (Tidball, Ministry by the Book, 91). Similarly, Bartlett writes, “They represent the circle of unique, irreplaceable witnesses to the ministry and resurrection of Jesus. With their death, apostleship ceases in the church” (Bartlett, Ministry, 115).
Perhaps, then, we are wrong in assuming Apostolic functions are transferred to pastors and elders. What would happen if, when reading of the appointing of servants to wait on tables in Acts 6, we assumed that role was passed to pastor/elders. Bartlett writes, “It may also be that the responsibilities assigned to the seven in Acts 6 here have passed on to the elders as well” (Bartlett, Ministry, 133). And Tidball concludes, “There seems great wisdom in the growing consensus that rather than occupying an office, elders were simply those older men [hence the word "elder"] in the congregation who were respected and recognized for their experience and wisdom” (Tidball, 94).
So brothers, we are not apostles. Never have been, never will be.
February 10, 2011
“The single most important lesson for the leader to learn is that he/she is first a sheep and not a shepherd; first a child and not a father or mother; first an imitator, not a model. Rather than thinking only about those biblical images that set him/her apart, the leader should reflect on the many more images that apply to him/her as fully as to any other believer” (Bennett, Biblical Images, from Tidball, Ministry by the Book, 36).
January 18, 2010
***There are several pastors in my life whom I love dearly. Please know that this is by no means written with you in mind. Rather, I’m interacting cultural norms on the whole.***
I want to follow up my last post with one further comment. As mentioned previously, Paul’s list of gifts includes, among others, prophecy, serving, teaching, and leadership. Why is this important? This fact is critically important because of common assumptions in many churches. Who generally does the teaching in todays church? The pastor. Who generally provides the leadership? The pastor. Who generally does the prophesying? Well, that depends on how you define prophesy. If by prophecy you mean the forthtelling of the word, then the pastor, of course. But why do we assume that the pastor must be the one to function in all these different speaking gifts? Paul nowhere says these belong to the pastor, and in fact the word pastor does not occur in Romans 12 (But, of course, pastors are by all means biblical and important). So then, might it be possible for one person in a church to possess the gift of teaching, another the gift of prophecy, and another the gift of leadership?
But let us not forget the gift of service. In most churches, who is generally considered to have the gift of service? Usually the nursery workers, the offering collectors, the grounds keepers, and the kitchen cooks. In other words, the ones that seem the least important in the body are generally labelled “gifted servants.” Jesus, however, taught that those who were the greatest would be the servants, and the one who leads like the one who washes feet. What would happen if pastors claimed service as their primary gift, or is that taboo?
December 19, 2009
(This conclusion will be a very loose paraphrase/analagy of 1 Cor 12-14).
But the solution to their musical inklings was not to be found in becoming a guild of fiddlers. The solution was found in the Grand Musician’s original instructions for the band. And here’s what He said:
Now, about the band, I don’t want you to be ignorant…
To each one an instrument is given for the common good,
To one the banjo,
To one the organ,
To one the piano,
To one the guitar,
To one the flute,
and to one the fiddle.
All of these originate from the one Grand Musician, who gives to each the instrument according to His own plan.
So you are a band, made up of many instruments, and though the instruments are many, they form one band.
Now, the band is not made up of one instrument, but many. If everyone were a fiddler, where would the music be? The piano can’t say to the oboe, “I don’t need you.” The guitar can’t say to the harmonica, “You don’t belong!” And if the clarinet should say, “Because I’m not a fiddle, I don’t belong to the band,” it would not for that reason cease to be a part.
But in fact, the Grand Musician has arranged the members of the band, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the music be? As it is, there are many instruments, but one band. Those instruments that seem to be weaker are indespensible. The Grand Musician has combined the instruments of the band and given greater honor to them that lacked it, so that there should be no division and so that each musician should have equal concern for each other (not only the fiddler). If one instrumentalist is out of pitch, every part suffers. If one musician dominates the band, every part suffers.
Now, you are the Musician’s very own band, and each of you is a part of it! If you really want to excell as musicians, play in a way that is loving. Therefore, play in a way that is loving, play in a way that is encouraging, play in a way that is participatory, and by all means, include the fiddle (1 Cor. 14:40)!
November 10, 2009
Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:2, “Commit (these things) to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Commenting on this verse, Brand and Hankins write,
“Paul’s injunction… was probably his admonition to create something like the first Bible college. This ‘college’ would affect more than just the future pastors of the church in which Timothy was currently serving; it would offer training to elders from other churches as well” (Brand and Hankins, One Sacred Effort, 70).
I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read these words. Talk about reading our understanding back into Paul’s words! When it comes to entrusting God’s word to faithful men, why assume that is the job of the Bible colleges? Why are pastors exempt from Paul’s command, a command given to a local pastor?
What Paul seems to have in mind is not a Bible college, but a pastor who gladly mentors, disciples, and trains young men in the local congregation. Opportunities are given for these young men to minister. Who says pastors can’t be equippers; that the job must be left for Seminaries?
For pastors to follow this command, however, they must be willing to let go of the notion that they alone do ‘the ministry.’ They must be willing to let others get chances to serve, to stand in ‘the spotlight.’ This might actually mean that pastors must decrease if biblical disciplship will occur, which will call for great selflessness and confidence from pastors.