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.