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Posts Tagged ‘ministry’

I doubt any person has influenced my understanding of Christianity and preaching more than John MacArthur. A series of MacArthur’s audio cassette tapes loaned to me by a former missionary to Brazil opened my mind and heart and understanding to the concept that the glory of God is central to everything. That must have been about 1980, and I’ve followed Dr. MacArthur’s ministry since and am thankful to God for it.

Tim Chailles recently posted a two-part series entitled “10 Questions with John MacArthur.” I encourage you to read and think carefully through Dr. MacArthur’s responses. The first five questions are here, and the latter five are here.

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More books claiming to contain the secret for helping churches grow and influence their communities are written annually than any pastor has time to scan, much less peruse. I sometimes wonder if we pastors and other church leaders too often look to the latest writing of a church-growth guru than we seek to understand what the Bible itself says about the church.

In the short epistle to Titus, the apostle Paul delineates how the church can successfully fulfill its divine role. He points not to programs and activities but to people and beliefs. He realizes that leaders must be faithful, doctrine must be pure, and living must be godly before methods and projects can be effective.
Paul writes to Titus that it is vital that churches have pastors who meet godly criteria (1:5-9). They must exhibit blamelessness in their family relationships by being morally pure men who lead their homes in a faithful manner. They must demonstrate blamelessness in their relationships toward others by not being self-willed, quick-tempered, given to alcoholic beverages, violent, or greedy for money. Instead, they must be hospitable, promoters of good causes and good people, sober-minded, just, holy, and self-controlled. They must illustrate blamelessness in doctrine by being devoted to God’s Word.

Believers must also recognize the characteristics of false leaders and expose them for what they are (1:10-16). Those who claim to come in the name of Christ and yet are insubordinate, subversive, greedy, disreputable, unsound, defiled, and hypocritical reveal that they are not true men of God.

Christians comprising the local church must behave properly as the people of God in their relationships with each other (2:1-10). Regardless of age, gender, or social status, they must lead godly lives, motivated to do so because of God’s grace, the Lord’s soon return, and his sacrificial death (2:11-15).

They are also to fulfill their role in society as good citizens (3:1-8). They must willingly submit to the laws of the state, unless those laws contradict the laws of God. Christians must treat their fellow citizens with courtesy, honesty, and respect, realizing that at one time they themselves were without Christ, living contrary to God’s will. When believers reflect upon the grace of God in their salvation, they are able to give evidence of that grace in their relationships with their fellow citizens.

The church must be careful, however, to present one voice to the listening world (3:9-11). Those within the church who are guilty of spreading false doctrine and divisive talk must be totally avoided. They are not to be debated; they are to be rejected.

Finally, godly leaders are to recognize some significant principles about their roles within the church (3:12-15). They must realize they are replaceable, must give needed support to faithful ministries, must provide proper leadership by their encouragement and example, and must demonstrate appropriate affection to other believers.

If we endeavor to fulfill God’s role for us as a church, we will follow the lessons learned from Paul’s letter to Titus. These instructions are not to be shunned because they were delivered to another culture during another era. They transcend the centuries of time, the boundaries of geography, the impressions of culture, and the superficiality of yet another method.

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There is really no easy way to say this, but the state of far too many of our Southern Baptist Churches is poor. One has to look no further than the deacons who serve as de facto elders in many churches.

Those coming from other denominations may be unaware of the leadership model commonly found in Baptist churches. In these churches, the deacons function as ruling elders. They are the authority in the church, superseded only by congregational vote. Instead of a plurality of elders having oversight of the church in teaching and administration, most SBC churches (and most other Baptist denominations as well) have deacons functioning in that role. (Even more egregious than this model is the one that has a church council operating as ruling elders, but that is for another discussion.)

Usually these deacons are nominated and voted upon by the congregation. Business sense and popularity are often the criteria for getting elected. Spiritual requirements found in 1 Timothy 3:8-13 are seldom acknowledged. These deacons typically have little awareness of the Scriptures, no knowledge of church history, no understanding of why they are Baptists other than immersion as the mode of baptism, and yet have authority over the church. When someone in the church has a complaint about the pastor, these deacons confront the pastor to change in order to keep peace in the church. Heaven forbid that a disgruntled church member offended because his sin is confronted through the preaching of the Word should leave and take his money with him. At all costs, the budget must be met!

But why do we have this situation? The blame cannot help but be placed upon pastors who have been more concerned with keeping their positions than being faithful to the Scriptures. Pastors have before remarked about some particular doctrine with this: “I believe that, but I can’t preach it in my church. They won’t stand for it.” Didn’t the apostle Paul warn us of this very thing?

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:1-4, ESV)

So now we have church after church led by deacons who possess little understanding of the Scriptures and yet determine whether the church’s pastor stays or goes. Too often they are more concerned about the budget and attendance than with sound doctrine and godly living. Have our churches ever been in a more deplorable condition? I doubt it. May God have mercy on the pastor who seeks to be faithful to the Scriptures in such churches. Unless God intervenes, he will find himself either without employment or with a drastically-reduced congregation (as well as reduced compensation). And often his antagonist will be some curmudgeon retired pastor who has remained as a member of the congregation, the very cause for the congregation’s wretched spiritual condition! (I have in mind a church in which this has recently occurred.)

May God be pleased to change the hearts of our people to be submissive to his Scriptures, to seek to glorify him in all things, and to rejoice in having pastors who preach the whole counsel of God.

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Opinions are like noses—everybody has one and usually they are different! When it comes to what the ministry is to be in the twenty-first century, many are the opinions people give. Most folks in our day, it seems, have a view of the ministry which likens the pastor to being the chief executive officer of a religious corporation. Pastors are judged by how large their congregations are, how many baptisms they produce, and how much their churches’ budgets have grown.

Rick Warren is doubtlessly one of the best-known pastors in America today. His Saddleback Church is viewed as a model of what twenty-first century churches should be, and his Purpose-Driven Church explains how Saddleback was begun and is organized. Numberless churches advertise that they are “purpose-driven” churches, following the model of Saddleback.

Warren’s model provides direct implications for how churches view the min­istry. In “Structuring to grow, not plateau”, Warren writes: “How do you structure a church so it just keeps on growing and doesn’t plateau? I believe there are 10 essentials you must focus on as you structure your church.” Among those ten essentials, one which directly impacts the view of the gospel ministry is particularly enlightening: “You must change the primary role of the pastor from minister to leader.” He explains: “You can grow a church to 300 with pastoral skills or ministry skills, but for it to grow beyond 300 will require leadership skills. As a leader, you must learn to communicate your vision in very personal and practical ways. You must also learn to motivate your church through your messages, and understand that it’s easier to motivate a group than it is to motivate individuals.” He goes on to assert that “a leader also equips others for ministry. Otherwise, you’ll burn out and the church won’t grow. An expanding ministry also demands you learn how to raise money. Those who write the agenda must underwrite the agenda. And you must learn to manage your time. Effective leaders know where their time goes.” For Warren, the pastor who wants his church to grow beyond three hundred in attendance is to see himself no longer as a minister but as a leader. In essence, he becomes the church’s chief executive officer, not its watcher over souls.

The question has to be asked whether Warren’s model for the ministry is the biblical model. Has God called pastors to be CEOs of religious organizations, or has he called men to be spiritual leaders over the churches of Christ? Doubtlessly, Warren does not see the pastor as merely a CEO, and, to be fair, there are aspects of his Purpose-Driven Church, particularly the idea of restoring accountability to membership, which are good. Nevertheless, one of the problems with Warren’s view is that men who would be pastors of larger, growing churches must become visionary leaders, not spiritual guides.

Contrast Warren’s business view of the ministry with the more biblical one provided by eighteenth-century British pastor Samuel Pearce. Encouraging church members not only to submit to the biblical teaching of their pastor but also with gratitude to realize that the pastor’s duty is not to placate his hearers but to propagate truth, Pearce wrote what should be the cry of each member of Christ’s churches: “Give me the preacher who opens the folds of my heart; who accuses me, convicts me, and con­demns me before God; who loves my soul too well to suffer me to go on in sin, unreproved, through fear of giving me offence; who draws the line with accuracy, between the delusions of fancy, and the impressions of grace; who pursues me from one hiding place to another, until I am driven from every refuge of lies; who gives me no rest until he sees me, with unfeigned penitence, trembling at the feet of Jesus; and then, and not till then, sooths my anguish, wipes away my tears, and comforts me with the cordials of grace. Give me the preacher ‘who constantly affirms that they who have believed, be careful to maintain good works;’ who in­sists, that a life of peace and communion with God, is utterly abhorrent to the practice of iniquity; and faith­fully reminds me, that ‘if I sin, that grace may abound, my damnation is just.’ Give me the preacher who pants not for my safety only, but also for my increase in grace; who cautions me, ‘reproves me, rebukes me, exhorts me with all long-suffering and doctrine;’ who charges me ‘to give all diligence to add to my faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to pa­tience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly-kindness; and to brotherly-kindness, charity.’”

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