Monday, June 12, 2017

Lake Country Bible Church 2017

Our new church family and ministry home.

"The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
she is his new creation by water and the Word.
From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride;
with his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died"

"We believe in one true God
Father, Spirit, Son
One Church, one faith, one Lord of all
His kingdom come

Friday, June 2, 2017

A Passionless Message is a Lecture (Not a Sermon)

All preaching involves teaching, but not all teaching is preaching.  "Without passion there is no preaching.  Without passion you are simply a lecturer."

Paul commanded Timothy to "PREACH the Word, in season and out!"  Therefore, let us implore men, as if God were entreating through us, "Be reconciled to God!"

Thursday, June 1, 2017

"In-Depth Preaching Requires Full-Length Exposition."

photo credit:
"True expository preaching always involves a lengthy, full treatment of the biblical text.  When Ezra stood before the people of Israel in Nehemiah 8, he read 'from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law" (Neh. 8:3b).'

The service went from sunrise to high noon, from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.  It was a six-hour period of time.  Obviously, this was a unique setting and situation.  Every sermon is not to be six hours long; But our delivery should be long enough to be deep.   Nehemiah did not cut it short; his treatment of the Word was lengthy.   This is not the scene we see at many churches in the U.S. a twenty minute sermon and a twenty-minute invitation.  This is not the spiritual fare at the average "seeker" church- one hour of syrupy choruses and a twenty minute pep talk from someone sitting on a stool.  No, this was a full treatment of the Word.  Ezra presented the Word without watering it down.

Careful Bible exposition requires considerable time in the pulpit.  It takes time for there to be introduction, transition, homiletical points, explanation, word studies, cross references, historical background, thematic context, authorial intent, application, illustration, exhortation, persuasion, and conclusion.  It always takes longer to get a 747 off the runway than it does a crop duster.  So it is with preaching.  An in-depth sermon requires a full-length exposition.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Pastoral Search Committees and Spiritual Purple Hearts

Question: The primary badge of apostleship for the mighty apostle Paul was _______

A) His ability to triple local church attendance in 24 months or less 

B) Paul's experience pastoring a large church with multiple full time staff.

C) His impressive academic credentials and communication ability.

D) His larger than life personality and his Christian celebrity status.  Paul would have been a keynote speaker at all the major conferences.  He also was the author of 13 best-selling "books."

E) His ministry scars and his spiritual purple hearts.

The answer Paul gives in 2 Corinthians 11:16-12:10 is E).   If we are being honest we'll admit that 2 Corinthians 11:16-12:10 is a counter cultural text to modern day evangelicalism.  Many search committees judge success and ministry potential using a much different criteria than what Paul sets forth in his Corinthian epistles.  I have heard of more than a few search committees of "Bible-driven" churches ask questions and eliminate potential candidates because they could not check boxes A, B, and/or C.  This seems to be especially true of local churches that are larger than 500 people.

Many years ago A. W. Tozer put it this way, "It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has wounded him deeply." Few servants of Christ suffered more for the truth and for the Lord's church than Paul.

On rare occasions you will talk with a mature lay leader like Tom Gibson from Christ Fellowship Baptist Church.   Some years ago this particular elder team had the daunting task of hiring Dr. Steve Lawson's ministry successor.  One of the traits this leadership board said they were looking for as they went about the pastoral search process was to find potential candidates who had been "tested by fire" (as Dr. Lawson had been previously).  Rather than viewing Corinthian-esq battle wounds as a liability they viewed battle scars in the line of duty as a mark of maturity (James 1:2-4).

In his classic book on Spiritual Leadership J. Oswald Chambers noted,

When God wants to drill a man
And thrill a man
And skill a man,

Friday, May 19, 2017

Lessons Learned from a Long Line of Godly Men- Embrace Suffering!

As you make your way through my series of articles on church revitalization articles please consider the Scripture passages and other ministry resources that I have linked in every journal entry.  Suffice it to say, the trials that God took us through during my first four years of ministry in Freeport are really not that unique.   Which Christian parishioner or faithful pastor ever lived a care free life?  Job himself noted that "Man is born into trouble as the sparks fly upward."

As you listen to the following leadership interviews you will hear some faithful Christian leaders share a collection of honest reflections about some of the trials and tribulations of gospel ministry.  The snippet of John MacArthur (1 minute-8 1/2 minutes) and Paige Patterson (46 minutes-52 minutes) are the clips most applicable to this series of articles on reformation ministry.  I continue to learn so much from the testimony and example of godly men such as those interviewed in this audio recording (see below).

Here is one very powerful quote from the 9 Marks interview sampler.  "I have learned to embrace the suffering and to embrace the criticism and the failure and the pain as probably the most productive work of God in my life.... Their is a sense in which the best things that have ever happened to me are the mutinies that have occurred in my church, the disappointments, the criticisms, and the misrepresentations."

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Pastoral Lessons from Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Many years ago I read Iain H. Murray's signature biography on the late great D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  The second volume of this epic two part biography is aptly titled "the Fight of Faith."  If you want to know what makes MLJ's ministry so enduring check out this series of exceptional articles written by Dr. Steve Lawson.

Over the past ten years Christian biographies have been some of the best ministry mentors a young pastor could ask for. Many pastoral lessons can been gleaned from reading great biographies. For example, I was somewhat shocked to read about the internal opposition MLJ faced when transitioning into the Lead Pastor position at the historic Westminster Chapel. MLJ left his very successful ministry in Wales to serve as a Co-Pastor with the famed G. Campbell Morgan. Campbell had pastored his London congregation for thirty-nine years (1904-1943). A church member could not have asked for a better succession than this. To go from the pulpit ministry of G. Campbell Morgan to the preaching ministry of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is sort of like going from Joe Montana to Steve Young at quarterback. 

Despite his ministry pedigree MLJ was not without internal critics. Iain Murray writes, "There were influential members of the congregation from pre-War years, including men in the leadership of the diaconate, who were by no means enamored with the prospect of hearing nothing but Dr. Lloyd-Jones. Hitherto they had tended to suffer the new preaching while expressing their undisguised preference for Dr. Morgan. Some members even choose to attend only when the older man was preaching, and one of these, mistaking the arrangements for a particular Sunday, was overheard at Sunday lunch to say with indignation, 'I went to Westminster to hear Dr. Morgan but it was that Calvinist.'" The same attitude was strongly represented in the diaconate itself. Murray went on to explain how upon receiving Dr. Morgan's resignation letter the deacons met alone.  After this secret meeting the board asked MLJ what his intentions were knowing all along that MLJ was to transition into the Lead Pastor position once Dr. Morgan retired.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Approved Workman

2 Timothy 2:15, Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Ezra 7:10, For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.

Isaiah 66:2b, But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

"Sunday Morning Begins Saturday Night"

Charles Spurgeon: "We are told men ought not to preach without preparation. Granted. But we add, men ought not to hear without preparation. Which do you think needs the most preparation, the sower or the ground? I would have the sower come with clean hands, but I would have the ground well-plowed & harrowed, well-turned over, and the clods broken before the seed comes in."

Friday, April 21, 2017

Fight the Good Fight of Faith as a Faithful Christian Soldier; (Heeding the Call of Christ Our Captain)

One should never engage in a theological controversy simply for the sake of a good fight.  However, the holy Scriptures does call true pastors "to fight the good fight of faith as faithful Christian soldiers" (see 2 Timothy 2). In addition to passages like this that are addressed specifically to church leaders every believer is commanded to "contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3-4).  Failure to comply to the clear instructions of Scripture is to disobey the one true Head of the Church (see Col. 1-2).  The Captain of the Lord's (spiritual) army is none other than Jesus Christ!  Where He sends we must go. What He commands we must do.  We are after all bond-servants (not independent contractors or self-serving mercenaries).  In short, we are not at liberty to pick and choose which parts of the New Testament we will follow and defend and which parts we will skip or disregard.  If and when the gospel itself is in question silence is not an option (see Galatians 1-2).

Tragically, the contemporary church seems to think nothing of it when passages (such as the ones listed above) are routinely ignored; often under the so called banner of "love," "unity," and "tolerance." As one who has grown up in the American evangelical church I have witnessed time and time again the accuracy of the following quote.  "The doctrinal ignorance of the Evangelical church is shocking (think Eph. 4:11-15; Heb. 5:12-14), matched only by its cowardice I fear."

Consider the inspired testimony of the New Testament Scriptures beloved.  The following three biblical examples come to mind:  1) When the Apostle Peter began to act in manner contrary to sound doctrine the Apostle Paul was moved by the Holy Spirit to confront Peter to his face.  Go back and re-read Galatians 2:11-21.  If Peter himself was not above biblical confrontation neither is the Pope, a Pastor, a church member.  This is not to say we should act hastily in this process as Galatians 6, 1 Timothy 5:19 so remind us...but now I digress.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Monday, April 17, 2017

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Lake Country Bible Church (Candidation Sunday 2017)

Lake Country Bible Church

Candidation Sermon at LCBC 2017

LCBC Worship Service

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Word-Driven Ministry of a God-Centered Pastor

"All Word and no Spirit, and the Church dries up; all Spirit and no Word, and we blow up; both Word and Spirit, and the people of God grow up."

Understanding the proper relationship of the Spirit of truth and the wholly sufficient Word of truth (that the Holy Spirit inspired) is an essential aspect of God-honoring worship and of Christian ministry (John 4:23-24; Colossians 1:29).

(The following is a series of articles written by a friend, Pastor Don Green about our former shepherd John MacArthur)... "I was first introduced to the ministry of John MacArthur in 1984. I had been a Christian for less than six months and was wrestling with the issues of the charismatic movement.

A friend recommended his book The Charismatics (1978) to me. It was the precursor to the better-known Charismatic Chaos (1992).

It was among the first ten Christian books I ever purchased.

It was by far the most strategic.

At that formative crossroads in my spiritual life, I read words that changed my spiritual trajectory: “Experience is not the test of biblical truth; biblical truth stands in final judgment on experience” (p. 14).

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Who You Are When No One Is Watching: Godly Character

The Wizard of Westwood, John Wooden, was known to say that, "The true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching."   Pastor Don Green makes this very point in his opening series of articles on the life and ministry of John MacArthur; (his former boss and pastor).  This is the kind of compassion that endears people to their church leaders; it's also the measure of kindness that should characterize all of God's people.  Without further ado here is part one:

"When I first started at Grace to You in 1996, my supervisor in the counseling department was Doug McMasters, a very fine pastor and theologian in his own right. Doug is now serving as the pastor of New Hyde Park Baptist Church.

Early in our friendship, Doug told me a story. He was a young and somewhat isolated missionary in England when John MacArthur came to that country for a time of ministry.

Doug’s time was not without difficulty there. Men around him in ministry did not live up to the faithfulness that their position should have required.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Leadership Styles and Following Those Who Are Wired Differently Than You

"What is your style of leadership?"  This is a common question pastoral search teams often ask potential Senior Pastor candidates.  Regardless of the man, biblical leadership has many common ingredients.  Having said that, each leader is wired differently, processes things differently, and inspires his people differently.  I was reminded of this while reading a post by an older pastor/friend of mine (Don Green).

Over the past few weeks Pastor Green has posted various stories about his time at Grace To You and GCC related to his former boss/mentor, Pastor John MacArthur. I thought this was an informative and helpful blog post about different kinds of leadership “styles.”  The following article provides some helpful insights that we can all no doubt benefit from.

"John MacArthur taught me a lot about leadership.

His track record at Grace Community Church, Grace to You, The Master’s University, The Master’s Seminary, his writings, and other things too numerous to mention establishes conclusively that the man knows how to lead people and organizations effectively.

To sit under his teaching is one thing, and is obviously the way most people “know” him.

To work under him is something different. He has a unique style of leadership that takes time and patience to grasp.  So.  Phil Johnson promoted me into the administration of Grace to You in 1999. In time, I became the managing director and held that position until I left Grace to You in April 2012.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Pastoral Transitions 101: Starting Strong and Ending Well

Pastoral Transitions 101
Long before I knew that the Lord had plans to transition our family to a new ministry context I came across an article that made a huge impression on me.  The blog was titled, "How Pastors Accidentally Ruin Their Church."  Flowers opened with these haunting words: Most pastors really love their church. They understand their calling as under-shepherds tasked with guarding the bride of Christ. Caring for the thing that Jesus died for is a heavy responsibility. Pastors will endure stress and criticism, they will work long hours, and they will sacrifice to protect the church.

Yet, I’ve seen these same men inadvertently bring their church to the brink of ruin. They are good preachers, caring counselors, and men of prayer, yet their church suffered. These pastors followed the play book, but their church nearly closed the doors. It wasn’t on purpose. They never meant any harm to come. But they sat and watched as the church they loved crumbled.  The weakness was not in how they served the church, but how they left the church.

Having witnessed the negative impact of a very selfish pastoral transition before I resolved to do everything I could to never "ruin a congregation" by leaving in a less than exemplary manner; (On a more positive and happy note, having recently experienced the benefits of another Senior Pastor's graciousness to me I am striving to follow "the golden rule.")

Here are a few things I have done in effort to try and help maintain the spiritual momentum here.  Our desire should be to do everything we can to help set up the next guy to succeed (whoever that may be):

1) Write a personal letter to each member and regular attendee.  In this note identify evidences of grace and thank them for their commitment.  Share your heart, highlight the path forward, and encourage them to fix their eyes on Christ.  Remind them that God is faithful and can always be trusted.  Keep reminding them and yourself that Jesus cares about His Church more than every believer combined.

2) Continue to shepherd the flock faithfully and to preach the Word diligently all the way until your very last day.  If you are getting paid for what you do and love the people in your flock, how could you do any less?  This isn't rocket science: 1) start strong- 2) run the race with endurance- 3) and finish well (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lake Country Bible Church (10 Factors that Led to this Transition)

Lake Country Bible Church
The invisible hand of providence is always at work even when our human eyes (Gen. 50:20; Rom. 8:28-29) fail to see it.  Jesus is not only the Creator of all things He is also the cosmos' Sustainer (Col. 1:16f)!

Some time ago a ministry friend from Florida told me about a like-minded church outside of Milwaukee that was searching for a new Senior Pastor.  This pastor colleague of mine was friends with Lake Country's Youth Pastor via his finance who was a member of this shepherd's church in West Palm Beach, Florida.  He recommended I connect with the P.S.C there.  Are you confused yet?  In God's good Providence this human connection was God's initial means to eventually transition us from Illinois to Wisconsin.  What things led Andrea and I to accept the pastoral call to a ministry setting outside of suburban Milwaukee?

Here is a list of 10 Factors:

10) I immediately connected with the initial contact person from LCBC.  Long time member and PSC chair (Jason Valentine) quickly became a friend.  The more he expressed leadership's heart for gospel ministry the more compatible we appeared to be.  The fact his family was the same age as mine was also a blessing.

9) Lake Country Bible Church clearly knew what kind of shepherd-expositor and lead pastor they were looking for.    One of the things that discourages me the most about the American church today is how so many Word-dominated and biblically qualified pastors have such a difficult time finding full-time ministries.  I have many friends (that are much better men than me) who have been unable to find ministry work.  I was impressed that the founding pastor and elders at LCBC had a good grasp on what the priorities of a local church are (Col. 1:28-29; Eph. 4:11-16) and therefore they also knew what kind of lead pastor they were looking for.

17 Things First Baptist (Freeport) Has Going For It

This morning I had another encouraging meeting with our lay leader chairman.  This dear man has become very special to me.  Over the past nine years I have found that those who fight on the front lines of ministry together often develop a close bond of brotherhood.

Tonight the lay leadership and I will be meeting to talk specifically about the way forward for First Baptist Church as I prepare to transition into a new ministry setting and as I help this special band of brothers find their next Sr. Pastor candidate.  I will continue to be one FBC's biggest cheerleaders as I pass the ministry baton on to another faithful shepherd-leader.  I am confident that God will continue to bless the faithfulness of this special congregation.

Here is a short list of 17 Spiritual Blessings and/or things FBC, Freeport has going for it.

1) The lay leadership and pastor are united in their philosophy of ministry and in our doctrinal and theological commitments.  Over the past 9 years who have grown together in the knowledge and grace of Christ.  Faithful lay leaders are the backbone of the local church and we have a great group of servant-leaders now.

2) The current Sr. Pastor is leaving on great terms and is committed to helping the next Lead Pastor succeed.  I have presented our lay leaders with a binder with twelve articles on the pastoral search process.  I also gave them a short list of potential Sr. Pastor candidates for them to interview, research, and pray over.  If it works out for FBC to host Keith and Kristyn Getty in September I will continue to serve as the event coordinator.

3) The congregation has developed an appetite for meaty, Text-driven, expository preaching.  Hebrews 5:12-14 infant Christian living has become the norm in the professing evangelical church so serving a flock with 1 Peter 2:2 members is a real blessing.  It's the people that make up the Body of Christ and FBC has many special people.

4) For the past 4 years our congregational meetings are harmonious and peaceful. By the grace of God, long gone are the days of “Jerry Springer-esq” infighting. The mutinous minority that wrecked havoc on my first four years of ministry have all moved on.  The present flock is united in love and in truth.

5) Our Awana ministries averages over 50 children each Wednesday night. 18 of these children are FBC’ers and the rest are unchurched kids from the community.

7 Things We Will Miss Most About Freeport

7. The close proximity of everything.  Though Freeport is the smallest city my wife and I have ever lived in we have come to appreciate how nothing in town is more than an eight minute drive away. Traveling 45 minutes to get Starbucks or a Chipotle burrito in Rockford was an adjustment for we 'suburbanites' but we do enjoy the close proximity of everything that comes with living in a smaller town.
1020 S. Benson Blvd.

6. The affordable housing market.  It is a blessing to own a nice 3 BR home on a quiet street with friendly neighbors and a beautiful, fenced in yard and to pay less than a thousand dollars in monthly mortgage payments.  Benson Blvd. has been a wonderful place to raise a young family.  If you know of anyone looking to buy we are looking to sell. :)

5. Union Dairy. With over 50 varieties of ice cream in a historical ice cream parlor Union Dairy is a family favorite.  It is also a great place to bring out of town guests.

Union Dairy 

4.  Read Park Pool and Aquatic Center.  Every summer Read Pool has been Andrea and the kids home away from home.  The friendly pool staff and spacious swimming area has brought many smiles over the years.
Read Park Pool

3. Krape Park.  "Awarded 'Outstanding Multi-use Facility' award by Illinois Parks and Recreation Association.  Since our first summer Krape Park has been a family favorite.

Monday, March 27, 2017

How Pastoral Transitions Can Cripple or Bless the Lord's Church

A few years ago I came across a thought provoking article titled, "How Pastors Accidentally Ruin Their Church."  In this post Pastor Andy Flowers made the following statements:  Most pastors really love their church. They understand their calling as under-shepherds tasked with guarding the bride of Christ. Caring for the thing that Jesus died for is a heavy responsibility. Pastors will endure stress and criticism, they will work long hours, and they will sacrifice to protect the church.

Yet, I’ve seen these same men inadvertently bring their church to the brink of ruin. They are good preachers, caring counselors, and men of prayer, yet their church suffered. These pastors followed the play book, but their church nearly closed the doors. It wasn’t on purpose. They never meant any harm to come. But they sat and watched as the church they loved crumbled.  The weakness was not in how they served the church, but how they left the church.

I believe that in many contexts when a pastor comes to a new ministry that is either 'spiritually unhealthy' and/or one that is in need of 'revitalization' that poor pastoral transitions is probably one of the leading factors that contributed to the current unrest.  Many pastors hurt the Lord's people as they transition from one ministry to another (sometimes even unintentionally).  Every situation is certainly unique but too many times pastors make very little effort to serve the congregations that they are leaving.  Midnight exits, hurtful comments to remaining members about how the current congregation or current leadership team failed them, and a thousand other vices can greatly harm the Lord's Church. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Two Essentials Components of a God-honoring Pulpit Ministry

As a pastor’s kid growing up in a Christian home I have listened to more expository sermons than many believers twice my age. In addition to this stewardship I spent close to thirteen years at the Grace Community Church. Besides sitting under the regular preaching ministries of John MacArthur, Rick Holland, Ken Ramey, Phil Johnson, Carey Hardy, and Jerry Wragg I was also exposed to the likes of James Montgomery Boice, W.A. Criswell, Alistair Begg, Al Mohler, John Piper, Steve Lawson, and R.C. Sproul. All that to say, I have listened to far more sermons in my life than I have preached. As I have matured in the faith I realize that if the Word of God is faithfully taught, regardless of the human mouth piece, the Spirit of God will use His Word to transform the lives of all Spirit-filled believers (Colossians 1:28-29, 1 Thessalonians 2:13). For those of us “Joe the plumber” preachers this is an encouraging thought!

In biblical preaching God is most interested in two things: faithfulness and humility. Allow me to make a case for this assertion.

God does not give every saint, or preacher for that matter, the same measure of talent and/or spiritual giftedness. If I can borrow a principle or two from the Parable of the Talents I may be able to make this point more clearly. In Matthew 25 the text says, For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves, and entrusted his possessions to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. When I was in seminary it was obvious to me that all of us “pastors in training” had a lot in common. It was also clear that we were not all given the same measure of giftedness. Some of the men had photographic memories and world class IQ’s, while others had golden tongues. One of the lessons God was trying to teach me during this time of ministry preparation was how much I needed to grow in humility. Instead of being envious of the way God gifted a few of these exceptionally bright students I needed to be grateful. If biblical ministry is all about the glories of Christ then how God chooses to bless a man is His sovereign prerogative.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Band of Brothers

This is the first D. Min class under the leadership of Dr. Steve Lawson at The Master's Seminary.  We are a band of brother (expositors) who want to glorify Christ and build up His precious Church.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

How Did We Get Here? Desensitize, Normalize, Demonize, Idolize, Legalize, (Victimize)!

Michael S. Williamson—The Washington Post/Getty Images 
For many decades the LGBT movement has worked tirelessly in effort to fundamentally transform America’s conscience with regards to sexuality and gender.  This has been achieved, in large part, with direct assistance from public education, the music industry, and Hollywood.  In a Hollywood Reporter article from 9/25/14 Natalie Jarvey wrote, "Gay couples? Gay kisses? Yawn. New sexual boundaries are being broken as Amazon’s 'Transparent' is the latest to tackle a once-taboo topic."  Long before Bruce Jenner decided to go public with his transgender decision the path had already been paved for him by Hollywood and friends.  A team effort strategy during a sweeping "moral revolution" is what helped advance the LGBT cause so rapidly.

Our LGBT friends need to remember that now beloved Liberal politicians, Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barrick Obama, once campaigned in favor of traditional marriage.  The night before his election victory in 2008, then candidate Obama said, "Marriage is between and a woman." I do not support same sex same weddings though I do oppose California Proposition 8.  Much has changed in seven short years.

If I were to summarize the LGBT strategy I would use five simple words: Desensitize, Normalize, Demonize, Legalize, Idolize, (and for some,Victimize)!

Now before you dismiss this article outright as coming from one of those "angry Baptist preachers" I would encourage you to at least consider the real life examples that are listed below.  The goal of this post is not to call on Christians everywhere to boycott Hollywood.  Every Spirit-filled believer has to make their own Biblically informed decisions as to what they are going to watch, listen to, and read.  Unlike some pastors, I do not believe that Christian liberty should not be taken away from believers just because it is regularly abused (for more on what the Bible teaches concerning grey area decisions consider this, this, and this).

Monday, March 20, 2017

Classical Conversations, Freeport (2017)

It has been a joy for the generous people of First Baptist to share our wonderful facility with the ever growing Classical Conversations group here in Freeport, IL.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Feasting on the Word

"Oh, that you and I might get into the very heart of the Word of God, and get that Word into ourselves! As I have seen the silkworm eat into the leaf, and consume it, so ought we to do with the Word of the Lord; not crawl over its surface, but eat right into it till we have taken it into our inmost parts. It is idle merely to let the eye glance over the words...but it is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until, at last, you come to talk in Scriptural language, and your very style is fashioned with the words of the Lord."  C.H. Spurgeon.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Standard of Success

This article originally appeared at
How should we define success in ministry?

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 seven long 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.

Unintended Consequences

When “numerical fruitfulness” is equated with “ministry success” a number of unintended consequences may surface. Here are a few:

1. When ministry labors (Col. 1:29) fail to yield noticeable numerical fruitfulness, pastors can be tempted to abandon a biblical philosophy of ministry in favor of church growth theory.

One of the strange phenomena of this “New Calvinism” is the proliferation of churches that have tried to merge Reformed theology with a market-driven methodology. Far too many in the “young, restless, reformed movement” promote Calvinistic soteriology while at the same time maintaining an unbiblical ecclesiology. This is problematic, in large measure, because biblical oil and pragmatic vinegar simply do not mix!

John MacArthur, David Wells, and Gary Gilley have addressed this issue quite well here, here and here. As I’ve noted elsewhere, not everything that glitters is gold.

2. When the faithful proclamation of Scripture does not result in visible numerical fruitfulness, pastors can be tempted to abandon genuine expository preaching.

When numbers are made the standard of success, sound biblical exposition is often thrown overboard. In its place, ‘evangelical fluff’ is served up for the sake of popular appeal, in hopes of establishing a broader audience. It is a sad reality but many today seem to wear Hebrews 5:12–14 as a badge of honor; (they glory in their shame).

Shallow sermons, in turn, propagate the doctrinal ignorance, biblical illiteracy, and theological compromise that dominates the American evangelical landscape today. To make matters worse, gifted orators who mishandle the Scriptures are often elevated as exemplary leaders. The numerical success of their ministries is used to justify their lack of faithfulness to the Word of God.

3. When numbers, nickels, and noses are equated with “ministry success” many church planters, missionaries, and pastors, can be tempted to leave their current “unsuccessful” ministries prematurely.

Surely one of the reasons behind the proliferation of two to three-year ministry tenures comes back to this. When numeric success, rather than ministry faithfulness, is paraded (even unintentionally), it has the potential to dishearten and discourage those who do not see that visible fruit.

Why Expository Preaching?

Matt Waymeyer teaches Greek and Systematic Theology at TES and serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Immanuel Bible Church in Jupiter, FL. Below is a brief conversation TES had with Matt about local church ministry.

"Why are you committed to expository preaching?

Let me begin with a definition. Expository preaching is the authoritative proclamation of God’s Word in which the preacher clearly sets forth the divinely intended meaning of the biblical text and brings the contemporary implications of its timeless truth to bear on the lives of the people. My commitment to this kind of proclamation flows out of my conviction that Scripture is the Word of God. Because the Bible is God’s Word, it possesses a trustworthiness, an authority, and a transforming power that no other source possesses. Therefore, to the degree that we faithfully preach the divinely intending meaning of the biblical text, our preaching carries that same trustworthiness, authority, and transforming power. But conversely, to the degree that we depart from the divinely intended meaning of a given passage, our message has forfeited its trustworthiness, authority, and transforming power, and we make ourselves not worth listening to.

What do you believe are the benefits for a pastor if he has a thorough understanding of Hebrew and Greek? What do you think are the potential limitations without a grasp of the original languages?

The primary benefit of knowing the original languages is that it enables the pastor to be more accurate and precise in his understanding of the biblical text. This is foundational to everything he does as a shepherd, from preaching to counseling to formulating his systematic theology. The original languages are especially critical to his preaching ministry. Every semester I tell my Greek students that precision in the study leads to clarity in the pulpit. In other words, if you want to be a preacher who clearly presents the divinely intended meaning of Scripture from the pulpit, you must be precise in your own understanding of Scripture in the study, and so much of that precision comes from the original languages.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

8 Things I Love about My Present Ministry

Pulpit view from inside FBC Freeport's sanctuary
As I reflect on the past I have much to thank God for today.

1) The leadership team and I share the same doctrinal commitments, the same core values, and the same philosophy of ministry. In many ways our biblical convictions have been forged in/through fire.

 As you labor together in ministry, especially in the trenches during difficult seasons, you see each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and quirks. You also grow to love and to appreciate one another all the more (Eccl. 4:12; Prov. 18:24).

It has been said that you do not really know what you believe (or at least how deeply your convictions are) until you have to suffer for it (2 Tim. 2-3). Over the years I have been blessed to be surrounded by faithful lay leaders who have been willing to endure hardships for the sake of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). Church revitalization is definitely not easy but it is nonetheless biblically prescribed (see Titus 1:5).

2) The men and I are able to agree to disagree on wisdom matters without growing apart (Eph. 4:1-3). By God’s grace we also know when we need to agree not to disagree on something. For a lengthier explanation read this article on Maintaining Doctrinal Standards and Revising Church Constitutions.

3) The church and leadership team have always given me ample time to study and to preach the Word (per 1 Tim. 5:17-18; 2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Pet. 4:10-11).

Friday, March 10, 2017

Sick Churches

Dr. Thom Rainer has been writing some helpful articles on church revitalization lately.  I do not agree with every assessment or statistic Thom shares but one should never throw the baby out with the bathwater. Thom, like every shepherd, wants the Lord's Church to be spiritually healthy and to radiate the glory of Jesus Christ!  If you want to really grow from Thom's articles you must read his blog posts/books with all humility.  Dr. Rainer calls it just like he sees it as he communicates the truth in love.

"I like to be a bearer of good news. I like to be able to be positive about situations, especially when those situations involve churches. At the same time, I refuse to deny reality. Such denial can only lead to a worsened condition.

For the past several months, I have been researching and writing my upcoming book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church. The book actually began with a post on this blog. The responses to that post were overwhelming, so much so that I decided to expand it to a short book that will be released by B&H Publishing in May 2014.

Churches typically do not move from good health to dying overnight. It is usually a more subtle deterioration. I have identified five simple stages:
  • Health
  • Symptoms of sickness
  • Very sick
  • Dying
  • Deceased
I estimate that about 40%, or around 150,000 churches in America, are in the very sick stage. They are one stage away from being terminal.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Revitalize: Why We Must Reclaim Dying Churches—and How

Photo Credit: 
"There’s more here than you might expect. That was true for me. I’ve been hearing the argument for church revitalization for years, and it has always sounded like a conversation about practical matters. There are practical reasons to sometimes plant a new church. And there are practical reasons to sometimes revitalize an old church.

But reading through the articles for this edition of the 9Marks Journal, I discovered something larger, something older, something more basic. Church revitalization, it occurred to me, goes to the very heart of what it means to pastor. And the desire to see churches revitalized, I dare say, should be a constituent part of a Christian’s heart. Could it be that we’ve been missing something as basic as evangelism and discipleship, even if it’s rarer?

Church planting is a great thing, and there’s no need to take anything away from it. But there should also be a default setting in a Christian’s heart that always longs to see dying churches revitalized. It’s not like the debate in your head about whether to fork over $2000 to the mechanic to fix your clunker of a car or to just buy a new one. It’s more like a decision about whether to walk away from a dear but difficult relationship. Our hearts should never want to do that, even if once in a great while we must.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Why Revitalize?


9 Marks Journal Article
By Matt Schmucker

"I asked the young man sitting across from me at lunch, “Why did you decide to go to seminary?” He said, “I want to do great things for God!

His answer made me shudder slightly. I wondered if he had ever read any biographies of men who had “done great things for God.” Did he know the sacrifice that comes with “greatness?”  Many of the great ones were reformers. They saw something broken, directionless, or distorted, and set about to change course—to re-make. Those great ones were actually pastors: they were students of the Word who took on the burden to proclaim. They worked like prophets, not through foretelling, but through forth-telling: being forthright about the present in light of what was written in the past. That’s what a pastor does. He holds up God’s Word and calls men and women to renew their minds and reform their ways. If you don’t want to be a reformer, you don’t want to be a pastor.


When you look at a small, broken, unhealthy, body of believers, what could drive you to begin the reforming work that’s necessary? Let me suggest six motivations:

1. For the Christian’s Sake 

In John 21, we hear Jesus ask Simon Peter (three times), “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Three times Simon Peter says, “Yes.” And three times Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.” In Luke 15, we read of Jesus valuing his own people so highly that if they were sheep he would “leave the ninety nine in the open country” to rescue the one lost. God loves his people. He wants them gathered, and he wants them fed.

In every church revitalization I’ve seen, there have been at least a few sheep present (often amidst wolves). They have been malnourished and even mistreated. But they have been adopted by Christ and are therefore deserving of care. Consider revitalizing a church for the benefit of the true believers who are there.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

For this reason God sent us to Freeport (Titus 1:5)

Picture of Church Building of First Baptist, Freeport

How God Revitalized a Local Church to the Praise of His Glorious Grace!

Titus 1:5, For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you. 

The year was 63 AD.   "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair."  In many ways, the young churches in Crete were already spiritually broken.  In response, Paul left one of his young protégés behind in order that "Doctor" Titus might help put "humpty dumpty" back together again.

Titus was to "set straight" this broken ministry.  Note the inspired purpose statement mentioned in Titus 1:5.  For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you.  This young pastor was to put on his reformation cap and with God's help he was to try and right anything that was defective in a God-honoring way.  He was to reform these churches according to the precepts of Holy Scripture. 

As important as Titus was to this revitalization effort he was not to try and carry out this mammoth sized task alone.   Titus 1:5b, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you.   Titus was to find, select, train, and set apart qualified leaders (note Titus 1:6-9) who would help him shepherd the flock of God (see 1 Peter 5:1-4; Acts 14:23). I believe this has always been God's plan for His Church (note Acts 14:23, Phil. 1:2, Hebrews 13:17).

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Shack; A Microcosm of Evangelicalisms' Immaturity: A Brief Analysis of Where This Problem Stems From.

American evangelicals today often flock to churches that offer "relevant, creative, and practical" Bible teaching. On the surface this sounds like a good thing, right? Many of these same "church growth" gurus promote "seeker-friendly" series such as "Finding God in the movies" and other topical messages in hopes of attracting large crowds and holding the interest of the audiences entertainment orientated minds. When books of the Bible are actually "exposited" in worship services it is generally done in a very surfacy manner. I often refer to this as "shallow, evangelical principlizing."  What's wrong with any of this Mr. blogger dude?  To which I say this...if the primary goal of a local church is to fill auditoriums and establish multi-site campuses under the banner of ministry success then this consumer-driven, market-savvy approach makes complete sense.  However, if the goal of Christian ministry is to make "mature disciples" of all the nations, as Jesus' states in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), then the American church is in serious crisis.

One of the problems with "church growth" methodology is that it often promotes a kind of topical (surfacey) preaching, which by definition, lacks theological depth and precision (see 2 Timothy 4:1-5). It is "evangelical lite" (see Heb. 5:12-14; 2 Tim. 4:3-4). Over time congregations that are regularly fed milk fail to truly grow up; which is no small problem (see Colossians 1:28-29). Without a solid understanding of the orthodox faith (i.e. doctrine and theology) the flock of God will not learn how to discern.  Paul put it this way in Ephesians 4:11-16; And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Given enough time this unbiblical approach to preaching and ministry always come back to haunt the Christian church.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Man in the Arena

The Man in the Arena

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” (Theodore Roosevelt, Excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic” delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Evaluating John MacArthur's Preaching Ministry (Phil Johnson)

While growing up the first expositor Phil Johnson was exposed to on a personal level was Warren Wiersbe.  Phil believes that Wiersbe is one of the great sermon outliners in contemporary preaching.  While Wiersbe focused much of his exposition on application he also made efforts to deal honestly with the Scriptural text.  Wiersbe's sermons lacked depth but they certainly did not lack clarity.

The next expositor Phil came to know and love was John MacArthur.  In 1977 Phil Johnson first met John MacArthur Jr., while MacArthur was on campus speaking at Moody Bible Institute.  Prior to John's message on Found God's Will Phil had never even heard of MacArthur "Jr."   If it had not been for a girl he liked (his now wife) he would not have gone to hear MacArthur preach at chapel.  Phil was immediately impressed with the way in which John handled the Word of God.  Johnson also remembers that John's "natural" preaching style was very easy to listen to. In God's good providence Phil Johnson arrived at Grace Community Church in 1983; at that time MacArthur was preaching through Matthew 19 in AM and Romans at night.  Since arriving at Grace Phil has edited many of John MacArthur's books including his New Testament commentary series.

Hughes Oliphant Old (a liberal professor) summarizes John's pulpit ministry quite well:
1) "MacArthur is first of all an expositor and after that a polemicist.
2) MacArthur fills his sermons with a wealth of factual material.
3) MacArthur has complete confidence in the Text.
4) MacArthur has an amazing ability to explain Scripture by Scripture.
5) MacArthur uses a variety of rhythms in his preaching with great effectiveness (pace, vocal variety, etc)."  

Olds concludes his article on MacArthur with this helpful insight, "Why do so many people listen to MacArthur, this product of all the wrong schools?  How can he pack out a church on Sunday morning in an age in which church attendance has seriously lagged?  Here is a preacher who has nothing in the way of winning personality, good looks, or charm.  Here is a preacher who offers us nothing in the way of sophisticated homiletical packaging.  No one would suggest that he is a master of oratory.  What he seems to have when he preaches, it is Scripture that one hears.  It is not that the words of John MacArthur are so interesting as it is that the Word of God is of surpassing interest.  That is why one listens.

Practical tips for expositors:

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Polemical Ministry of Charles Spurgeon

Phil Johnson's D. Min lecture on the Polemical Preaching of Charles Spurgeon.

Spurgeon was a topical expositor and often took a short text or phrase from a verse and expounded it in a doctrinal manner.  In his sermons he sometimes departed rather quickly from the context of his stated text.  His sermon content was sound and was well supported with a slew of cross references.  Having said that, it is a homiletic model that preachers today should not try to duplicate.  For one, Spurgeon had a photographic memory and he enjoyed an exceptionally powerful voice.  Concerning his sermon preparation Spurgeon studied all week long.  He filled his mind every week of his Christian life with biblical truth and sound doctrine.  You might say Spurgeon had deep theological wells to draw upon.  Concerning his work ethic, "Spurgeon often labored 18 hours a day. Famous explorer and missionary David Livingstone once asked him, “How do you manage to do two men’s work in a single day?” Spurgeon replied, “You have forgotten that there are two of us.” On Saturday evening at 6pm Charles began to develop his sermon outline that he would then take with him into the pulpit.  Before Spurgeon's sermons were distributed throughout the world (up to 25,000 copies a week) he would edit his transcript.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Preaching with the Culture in View- Dr. Ligon Duncan

"I think the time in which we are preaching in the United States is as toxic of time for the faith as have ever existed in my lifetime."  The follow notes are excerpts from a Ligon Duncan Q and A session that I have edited and expanded.

The surrounding culture, by in large, is hostile towards the orthodox Christian faith.  Preachers need to remember this every time they preach the timeless Word of God.  We are living in days similar to Jude.  Apostasy is ever present.  The secular culture is very cynical and snarky.

Over the last 70 years Liberal Protestantism lost the "church" but won in the larger culture.  Having said that, atheism has more in common with Liberal Christianity than Liberal Christianity has with the historic Christian faith.  Suffice it to say, pastors need to be wise and authentic as they seek to minister the Word in season and life.  The truth must have an impact on us before we have an effect on others.  Our deep and true conviction must show every time we ascend the sanctuary steps!  As we preach we should try and present a biblical argument.

Their is a deep suspension in our culture concerning absolute truth claims.  We must never back down on this but we must also connect the importance of truth and love (1 Tim. 1:1-5).  "The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a sincere faith."  We need to be known as the people of truth and as a loving Christians.  Dr. MacArthur puts it this way, "Hard preaching creates soft hearts while soft preaching often creates hard hearts."  Like Loyd-Jones we need to lions while in the pulpit and lambs outside it.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Current Trinitarian Civil War: Where Are We Now and Lessons Learned Along the Way

Photo Credit: Reformed Theological Seminary
In 2016 a theological firestorm erupted when Dr. Carl Trueman and friends posted an article by Dr. Liam Goligher titled, "Is it ok to teach complementarianism based on eternal subordination?   In this "Mortification of Spin" piece Goligher poured gas on a fire in hopes of lighting up Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware's position concerning EFS (and by extension any other theologian who does not teach eternal generation and eternal procession).  This particular article included loaded charges with claims that Dr. Grudem and Dr. Ware are actually "reinventing the doctrine of God."  Liam went onto to say, "What we have is in fact a departure from biblical Christianity as expressed in our creeds and confessions. Out of that redefinition of God their teaching is being used to promote a new way of looking at human relationships which is more like Islam than Christianity; more concerned with control and governance than with understanding the nuances of the relationship of the Son with His Father in eternity on the one hand and how that differs from the roles they adopt in the economy of redemption on the other. They make this move by failing to distinguish between God as He is in Himself (ontology) and God as He is in Christ in outworking of the plan of redemption (economy). They are in turn doing great dishonor to Christ. They collapse the intra-Trinitarian life of God into the roles adopted by the persons to accomplish our redemption."  Now whether you are Baptist, Presbyterian, or Independent" them by fighting words."  In my judgement the shot heard round the (blogosphere) world started the Trinitarian Civil War of 2016. 

For many months a slew of blog articles, podcasts, and 'vlogs' weighed in on this hotly contested intramural debate.  As a non-celebrity, pastor-theologian I shared some initial thoughts and concerns with my congregation and friends (note here and here).  Personally, I sympathized with the theological formation that Dr. Trueman subscribes to as it seems consistent with the intent of the Nicene Creed.  In my understanding of church history the Nicene Creed's statement, "God from God and Light from Light" is a non technical way of highlighting eternal generation and eternal procession.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Theology of Preaching: Reformation History

A theology of preaching can help one to preach better.  During the Protestant Reformation the emphasis moved from the sacraments to the Word preached.  If you go into a medieval cathedral the architect placed the alter front and central in order to emphasize the mass.  During the Reformation the eye was drawn to the pulpit; (which is the throne of God's Word).  The design of a church sanctuary (past and present) reflects our theological convictions (good and bad).

The priority of preaching is not first and foremost a technical issue.  We preach because it is the God-ordained way of communicating the gospel and building up the saints (2 Timothy 4:1-5; 1 Cor. 1:18-31; Col. 1:26-28).  God is pleased to use the foolishness of preaching in order to accomplish His purposes on earth.

Martin Luther helped establish the centrality of the Word preached.  In part, because Luther was committed to "nominalism" (as opposed to realism).  This philosophical matter answers the following question, "Do words reflect reality or do they create reality?"   Luther came to understand that justification is the declaration of God that a sinner is righteous having received the imputed righteousness of Christ (see 2 Cor. 5:21).  The Latin expression of this is, “Simul Justus et Peccator” (simultaneously righteous and sinner).

Monday, January 9, 2017

Today's Trojan Horse: Professing Evangelicals who "Affirm" Inerrancy (have Redefined It)!

"You are the ones who are holding the inerrancy line like those 300 soldiers in battle of Thermopylae."  In a lecture presented on 1/12/17 at the Master's Seminary Dr. David Farnell asked the following follow up question: What is the impact of holding to (or denying) inerrancy in the Lord's Church (see James 3:1, 11-12)?

Farnell reminded this room full of pastors that the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) claims that they subscribe to Biblical inerrancy but many have redefined what this important term means.  In other words, not everyone who says the affirm the inerrant Test really does.  This is no insignificant thing.

The responsibility of a pastor is not to be thought of as a great "scholar" but to be faithful to the Word of God.  The Lordship of Jesus Christ must consistently reign over scholarship.  The evangelical use of historical-critical ideologies is like a pig with lipstick.  The grammatico-historical hermeneutic on the other hand lets the text say what it is meant to say. "The weight of any theologians underlying hermeneutical presuppositions is monumental (House)."  Many evangelicals have bought into "scientism" which forces them to deny the historical account of creation as detailed by prophet Moses in Genesis 1-2.  Others say that two or three guys besides Isaiah wrote the book.  Others deny the historicity of the first man (Adam); which greatly impacts the salvation theology of Romans 5.  Still others deny that Jonah spent three literal days in the belly of a literal great fish.  Others deny the historicity of the Resurrection of the saints post crucifixion (Matt. 27:45-54; eg. Michael Licona); and/or that the Magi actually visited Jesus (Matt. 2:1-12); and/or that King Herod actually killed babies in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus' birth; and/or that Paul actual wrote Ephesians, Colossians, and the Pastoral Epistles (Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:1; TItus 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1).

Now here is where the rubber meets the road:  Most critical scholars today profess that they are  inerrantists.  Further most substitute or promote inerrancy with a perverted definition.  This is often done in effort to keep up with the theological Jones'.  The fear of man and an unhealthy desire to be respected by the academic elite is a recipe for theological compromise.

Dr. Farnell provide many examples of scholars who have been impacted by the Historical-Critical methodology (Karl Barth, etc):

Including but not limited to: Dan Wallace, "Whose Afraid of the Holy Spirit?  The uneasy conscience of a Non-Charismatic Evangelical," p. 8.

Baruch Spinoza (a Theological Political Treatise).