Thursday, April 30, 2015

..."Take An Interest In Others, Too."

On Sunday, April 19 a busload of caring FBC church members traveled 45 minutes to celebrate the 10th pastoral Anniversary of Dr. Chris Brauns.  It brought my heart great joy to witness so many First Baptist Church members hop on a church bus in effort to show the love of Christ to a like-minded church in Stillman Valley.

As a leadership team you hope and pray that the Lord's people will manifest an "others-orientated" mindset as Paul so commends in Philippians 2:1-4.  Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Best Birthday Present Ever!

One of God's best gifts is the gift of family.  Psalm 127:3 reminds us that, "Children are a blessing and a gift from the LORD."  While verse 5 of this inspired song declares, "How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies at the gate."

One of the greatest joys of parenting young children is that the more you give the more you receive.  In God's abundant grace you always get back more than you give.  As such our children teach us a lot about our relationship with our blessed Godhead!

The Word of God also celebrates the gift of 'covenant companionship.'  "He who finds a wife finds a good thing (a treasure) and obtains favor from the Lord" (Proverbs 18:22).  

I am blessed among men because of the great blessing God has given me in my wife and kids.  Proverbs 31:10, "An excellent wife who can find? For her worth is far above jewels."  

I received many special birthday greetings last week for which I am most grateful!  The most special present I received was this special "book" from my eldest daughter (8). 

Please indulge me as I share this special present with you (my daughter's kindness).

"Meet the World's Best Dad"
By E. M. Kolstad

Friday, April 24, 2015

How Long Should a Sermon Be?

If you were to "Google search" my name a number of ministry pages from 'yesteryear' would come up including a link to a somewhat humorous back and forth I had with Dan Phillips over at Pyromaniacs from four or five years ago.  In the comments sections of a blog post Dan and I were discussing and debating, "How Long Should a Sermon Be?"  Is their a magic number?  How long is too long?  Is 20-28 minutes the perfect length, as the authors of Saving Eutychus suggest? 

This past week a faithful missionary pastor wrote an insightful article on this very subject.  This blog post captures the spirit of what I was trying to say myself many years ago (only Brian says it is so much better).  1 Peter 2:2-3.  Enjoy!

How Long Should a Sermon Be?
By Missionary-Pastor Brian Biedebach
According to at least one recent poll, the most frequent preaching length is 20 to 28 minutes. If that is true, it is a telling indicator about the spiritual shallowness of churches today. Many churches have already done away with their evening services and if the popular trend is to reduce the sermon time on a Sunday morning, our generation is receiving less than half of the biblical teaching our parents received.

How is it that we think we can grow more with less preaching of God’s Word? I don’t buy it, that pastors today can preach with greater depth in 20 minutes compared to the 80 minutes (or more) pastors used to be given (between the morning and evening services).

Not too long ago, someone in my church told me they thought my sermons were too long. I was thankful for their honest desire to help me better shepherd our flock. And as I thought about the reasons they may have come to that conclusion, I considered the following possibilities:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Good Assistant Pastor Is Hard to Find.

A ministry friend posted this article from 9 Marks Ministries that is both insightful and wise.  It is often quite helpful for Senior Pastors to serve somewhere first as a "good" and faithful Assistant Pastor for two reasons:  1) It helps us appreciate what is spoken of below.  In other words, it helps one better understand the unique burdens, blessings, and challenges that Assistant Pastors face.  2) It is also beneficial because the man who is too proud to follow well will never lead others well.  The twelve disciples were first humble learners before the Lord Jesus set them loose to be courageous leaders (apostles).

This article was written by Pastor Jason Helopoulos as part of 9 Marks Ministries

"Good assistant pastors are hard to find. I don’t say this because I am one. I say this merely from observation and as the hearer of too many horror stories."

A good assistant pastor must be marked by the same things as any other pastor. He must possess a love for God, his Word, and his people. He needs to be strong and winsome, a teacher yet teachable, a man of prayer and action. Yet, he also must possess additional qualities. He is not only called to serve the congregation, but also the senior pastor. Whatever his “job description” may be, he must understand that he is assisting. This is essential. Here are some things a good assistant pastor is marked by, traits that, Lord willing, I will strive to acquire more and more of in my life and ministry.
1. A good assistant pastor is unflinchingly loyal, but not enamored.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"Your sermons are really boring!" Where have I heard that before? An Autobiography.

image used from "church for men"

Perhaps this personal testimony may encourage some of you pastors and parents out there.

When my family moved to California in 1991 we started attending THE Grace Community Church (as Dr. Mohler calls it).  Believe it or not, I use to think that John MacArthur was really, really boring.  I seriously believed Pastor John was the problem so I begged my parents to search for another local church.  I wanted shorter, lighter fluff and an activities-driven youth group.  Go figure!  My infinitely wise parents said something like, "Thanks for your opinion and insights son, but no thanks."  So my family remained at Grace for twelve years and our lives have never been the same!

In God's providence I was brought to true repentance and faith in Christ a year or two later.   As I grew in the faith I found myself becoming more and more hungry for the Word (1 Peter 2:2-3).  I began to crave the meat of God's Word (per Hebrews 5:11-14). 

Monday, April 20, 2015

The High Dropout Rate Among Ministers: An Analysis.

Here is a dropout rate churches don’t talk about?
"50% of pastors do not last 5 years & only 10% will retire as pastors.
Maybe we should talk about this?" (per @jaredcwilson)

I can think of three factors that contribute to this very sad statistic:

1) Many men who drop out of the ministry were never truly called to begin with.

Let's not make this first point more complicated than it needs to be.   When the going gets tough, 'hired hands' typically find something easier to do.  For some it means going back to school, working as a postman, or doing landscaping the rest of one's life.  Anything other than the pastorate.

As the Shepherd par excellence, Jesus put it this way in John 10:11-13. "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.  "He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them. "He flees because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How God Defines Success.

This Cripplegate article by Dr. Busenitz harmonizes quite well with a series of articles I wrote a few months ago on the subject of success.  Without a biblical perspective of what it means to be successful in the eyes of God discouragement will likely overcome you and you will be tempted to abandon a biblical philosophy of ministry in favor of church growth theory and pragmatism.

APRIL 7, 2015
How God Defines Success
by Nathan Busenitz

What does it mean to successful?  That is a vital question for anyone to ask – one that determines a person’s priorities and direction in life.

Whether you are a pastor, an accountant, a school teacher, a stay-at-home mom, an office manager, a construction worker, an engineer, or any other occupation – if you are a believer in Jesus Christ – this question pertains to you. What does it mean to be successful?

What does true success look like, not in terms of getting a new promotion or a raise, but in the highest and loftiest sense of that word?

Consider the “heroes of the faith” listed in Hebrews 11. From a worldly perspective, these individuals would hardly be regarded as successful.

- Successful people aren’t mocked and scourged.

- Successful people don’t get chained up in prison.

- Successful people aren’t stoned to death, sawn in two, or beheaded.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Measure of Success (pt 2)

This is the unedited 'director's cut version' of an article I recently wrote for the Master's Seminary

How should we define "success" in pastoral ministry? In Christian parenting?  In missionary work? In the Christian life?

Take a look at the most-celebrated names in broader evangelicalism, and it would be easy to conclude that numerical fruitfulness is what defines ministerial success. But both Scripture and church history remind us that steadfast faithfulness is actually the true measure of success.

Consider the prophet Jeremiah, for example, whose tireless preaching was met with little to no visible fruit. Or William Carey, at the outset of his heroic missionary career, who waited years before there was any response to his evangelistic efforts.

In today’s post, I would like to consider some of the dangers that come from measuring success by the wrong standard.

The Measure of Success (pt. 1)

This is the "unedited director's cut" version of an article I wrote for the Master's Seminary 
Have you noticed?  Have you noticed that the list of plenary speakers at most of the major Christian conferences in America is typically compromised of well known ministers most of whom have also enjoyed abundantly fruitful ministries?  In light of this long-standing pattern it would be really easy to conclude that if a pastor/missionary/Christian parent labors long and hard in faithful service to Christ they too will experience similar blessings this side of eternity.  In other words, those who preach the Word with excellence, shepherd the flock with love, and lead God’s people with courage and integrity often come to expect like results.  If not Christian book deals, VIP status within the Gospel Coalition ranks, tens of thousands of Twitter followers; at least, a flourishing congregation and a growing church staff on the home front.  It’s the American dream and Christian ministry wrapped up in one.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ministry Deja Vu

Deja vu "from the French, literally means 'already seen.'  Deja vu is the phenomenon of having the strong sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced has been experienced in the past, regardless of whether it has actually happened." 

As Bible believing Christians we do not really believe in things such as karma, luck, or deja vu.  Having said that, I want to highlight an important issue this morning using the phraseology "ministry deja vu."

I have learned over the past ten years of pastoral ministry that apart from a significant work of grace in someone's life history has a uncanny way of repeating itself.   This principle has been brought home to me especially in the realm of church membership.  

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Why I Love to Study and Preach the Word of God

I love studying the Bible because as the glory of God is revealed in the pages of sacred Scripture it often sucks the oxygen out of my sanctified lungs leaving me prostrate in wonder, love, and praise. 

Studying through meals is not an uncommon experience for those who get to spend concentrated amounts of time with God in His Word. 

In this vein, it is not surprising then to read that Moses went forty days and nights without food or water while communing with the Bread of Heaven atop Mount Sinai!

In depth, expository study allows a redeemed sinner to experience mountaintop moments of doxology similar to what Handel recounted when writing his musical masterpiece, "Messiah."

It is said that "when Handel completed the 'Hallelujah Chorus' he exclaimed to his servant, 'I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God himself.' Again and again his servants found him in tears as he put to paper an awesome phrase or a devout passage.  And then, after the last monumental Amen had been written, he confided to a physician, 'I think God has visited me.” The exaltation with which Messiah was created is found on every page of the score.'"