What is God up to When Pastors Leave the Church Local?

Confident Considerations of our Faithful, Covenant-Keeping God

  • The Eternal Church Entity was born of God apart from man and is built up by the Lord Jesus Christ through His entrusted stewardships and gifts given to men. No one person in particular sustains the pillar and support of Truth, which is the Church, but our Chief Shepherd, High Priest, Prophet, and King alone. This principle within the Church universal is also true of the true church local.
  • The Church is the Body of Christ and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, for He is the Sovereign Head over all affairs of men, as He acts daily as Lord and Savior of the Body by intercession as our Great High Priest who has bought us by blood unblemished, and sustains us by continued efficacy.
  • Jesus Christ has prayed for the unity of His people to be expressed through love and joy one to another even when confronted by difficult, potentially divisive, and unanticipated circumstances.
  • Man can never fully rationalize nor understand the infinite mind of God nor fully discern the hidden purpose of God from the limitations of our finite frame of reference. His ways are not our ways, and neither are His thoughts our thoughts. The secret things belong to God only.

  • God is always able to bring glory to His name through the most dire or painful circumstances. Difficult days are designed to show God strong through human weakness, failure, and fear. Trials ultimately refine Christian character, and when rightly received offer cause to rejoice in hope of glory and joy.
  • Pain and difficulty, challenge and suffering are all often associated with the perfect will of God. Our perseverance by divine preservation through our use of the ordinary, but primary means of prayer and the Word of God are foundational to validate the calling of God by the comfort and aid of the Spirit of God through use of these means.
  • We are members of one another and as such we are called to serve one another in love through the mutual ministry and exercise of spiritual gifts to the building up of one other in full maturity of Christlike behavior for the advancement of the kingdom of God.
  • It is through many tribulations that we enter the kingdom of God, but Jesus said take courage, that He has overcome the world. Should we never suffer tribulations we would have reason to question the legitimacy of the faith once delivered. Historically we know that God’s choice servants have always experienced challenges and hardships for purpose of glory and sanctification, that no man may boast but in the Lord.
  • The loss of a pastor is not the loss of the presence of God, nor does it diminish the purpose of God, nor does it indicate the displeasure of God, but rather it advances aspects of our journey of faith which were heretofore easily neglected, but now affirmed by a fresh sight of Christ alone who will “never leave you or forsake you.” Where all men fail, God comes in assurance of comfort and hope.
  • God is faithful in His universal call to all men, and we shall reap the reward of the inheritance if we do not grow weary in well doing by our responsiveness through faithful implementation of His particular call today to seek God in secret. Those who know the Father’s pleasure in secret are inclined to the place of public and corporate prayer. Few pray today and this accounts for the erratic and weak pulse beat of the Church corporate. “This kind only comes out by prayer.”
  • The Christian is never called to walk by sight but by faith alone, looking unto God with assurance of the covenant promises that He has made to preserve us even unto the end of time. God actively enforces His Covenant as He removes any potential idols which would hinder personal or corporate first-love obedience, which must be experienced primarily through personal and corporate communion with the living God.
  • Sorrow and pain are always calculated to drive us to a nearer dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Rock of ages, the Cornerstone. He learned obedience through the things which He suffered. The servant must be like his Master.
  • Loss is gain when accompanied by contentment of the knowledge that all God takes away in wisdom is restored in His gracious timing over and above our expectations for our growth in grace and faith.
  • The best of men are mere dust at their best and prone to err in discernment of God’s prompted or anticipated will. Despite the inherent weakness of the flesh and the clouded judgments of a heart that is Biblically described as deceitful above all else, the Church may rejoice in the sovereign, secret will of God that does continually prevail in the people of God. He brings good of our errors and wanderings through the weaknesses of our flesh and humanity. His Kingdom continually comes as it methodically advances without pause or fail. (Consider the Joseph narrative in Genesis.)
  • We should have every reason to believe that times of refreshing are upon SGBC as we expectantly wait upon the Lord to see His goodness in the land of the living. Light shines especially bright and with greater assurance of direction where darkness has previously prevailed.
  • As we by faith anticipate the good hand of the Lord to lead us in His triumph in Christ Jesus, so must the application of diligence to heed the voice of the Spirit be discerned by disciplined devotion to the totality of the Word of God in all of life and practice. Man’s wisdom is from below and earthy; God’s wisdom must be sought in faith from above and is pure, peaceable, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruit, unwavering without hypocrisy.
  • The life of the Church is hidden with Christ in God. We must seek Him and not man, nor search for Him or God’s man by the methodology of man.
  • Should all fall away and none go with you, would you still follow… no turning back? No turning back! Keep yourselves in the love of God, praying in the Holy Spirit! Grace can be received in vain; labor more than all the rest. Continue doing that which results in graces cultivated.
  • The unique manifest glory of God to a lost and dying world is the supreme desire and purpose of the Church of God through the calling out of the elect in all ages. Our Father neither slumbers nor sleeps, but is always vigilant for that people whose heart is stayed on Him. Grace prevails where faith remains vigilant.
  • When circumstances change, God and His purpose in Christ Jesus remain the same.

A Plethora of Some Relevant Questions for a Pastor by a Visitor Interested in Bilateral Committed Church Membership

Questions…if I might, & if you please?

 

  1. How did you come to know Christ?
  2. What have you discovered to be essential to maintain your walk with God? Contrarily what trips you up most readily?
  3. What is your besetting sin and do you find grace sufficient to overcome?
  4. Do you distinguish between personal devotion and sermon preparation? What is the difference? How do you practically guard your personal time alone with God so as to not to allow sermon prep or ministry challenges to intrude into your heart preparation of your walk before God?
  5. What role does personal holiness play in your public ministry? What makes a man holy?
  6. When you preach do you preach from your head or your heart? What is the difference?
  7. Do you consider yourself a man of prayer? What role does prayer play in your ministry, and what practical evidence do you point to that demonstrates its essential centrality to your ministry?
  8. How do you show the love of Christ to your wife and your kids? Does she generally validate your calling and affirm your witness? Would you eagerly call her as your first witness to testify of your secret life before God or cringe to think of what she might say?
  9. Do you delight to pray with your wife? How do you overcome hindered prayers?
  10. Who are your favorite authors? What books are you reading now? How many and what types of books do you read every month? What authors have most influenced your life, your marriage, your ministry and your personal walk with God? These are likely different authors.
  11. If you were marooned on an island with your Bible and one other book, which book would it be?
  12. If you picked one book besides the Bible to give to your children which book would it be?
  13. What do you think of the 9 Marks Ministry and their accountable approach to Body life and ministry?
  14. Do you believe church discipline to be a relevant Biblical doctrine for the church today? Have you ever excommunicated or participated in the excommunication of an unrepentant believer? What is at stake when the church tolerates known, public, willful, blatant, unrepentant sin?
  15. What steps would you take today to implement the recovery of a wayward saint? Do you believe Biblical discipline correctly implemented is an act of love and hopeful restoration? 
  16. What do you think of Pink and the Sovereignty of God? Of Martyn Lloyd-Jones? Of John Piper, Of Alistair Begg? Of RC Sproul? Of Walt Chantry? Of Albert N. Martin? Of John MacArthur? Calvin? Edwards? Of Spurgeon? Of Wesley and Whitfield?
  17. Do you read CSLewis, and what is your favorite book of his and why?
  18. Who is your favorite contemporary pastor and why?
  19. Who is your favorite pastor of the past and why?
  20. What are essential components of a successful sermon? What are the essential components of a successful pastor?
  21. What is your view of Confessional Christianity? Do you hold to any particular confession? Why or why not?
  22. Do you see the need or have the desire to move toward Confessional Christianity for both historical and theological stability, and for accuracy and the general safety of the body of truth?
  23. Do you catechize your children and your converts? Do you see this as helpful?
  24. Many believe in the profit of the systematic reading of the Psalms as a fundamental part of the call to worship. Do you have thoughts?
  25. If you see and believe in and value a historical Christianity why do you rarely reference the old writers such as the Puritans, and very rarely have the great hymns of the faith been sung? I speak of Wesley, Cowper, Watts, and others. (I refer primarily but not exclusively to hymns of the 1600’s through the 1800’s, not the modern “hymns” of the 1900s which generally lack depth of theology as they generally became more man-centered and needs-oriented.)
  26. Do you actively and normally participate in the weekly selection of appropriate hymnology material with thematic elements to validate and coincide with your sermon topic? Should you participate for sake of order and decency?
  27. What system do you enact to ensure that you fulfill the divine mandate to “keep watch over the souls of those entrusted to you as one who will give an account”?
  28. Do you envision ever having a loving type of shepherding oversight of members at large so that you and other staff may actually ensure how it goes with the souls of the brethren entrusted to your care? Do you see yourself as being accountable for implementation of this principle of watchful accountability?
  29. How do you define a successful ministry and how is that to be measured practically and biblically?
  30. Are you responsible to establish and maintain relationships with the membership at large or is it permissible to stay aloof from more intimate relationships with the general population? When and how do you intend to implement a closer, more aggressive relational pursuit of others?
  31. Why are you in the ministry and can you satisfy your calling by occupation of the pulpit alone or must you pour out your life into others to fulfill your calling?
  32. Have you ever preached a good sermon that gave you total satisfaction? When have you fully discharged your gospel duty? If the glory of God is the end of preaching, what part does man’s response have in the successful preaching of Christ?
  33. What role does prayer have in your life? In your ministry? In the church? When does this church pray corporately? Are we meeting a minimum or acceptable Biblical standard of prayer today?
  34. What are the central components of corporate worship?
  35. What are the ordinances of the church?
  36. When was the last Communion service at SGBC? Why are they so infrequent and is something lost in their absence? What has taken the place of Communion?
  37. How would you distinguish your calling to the ministry from another’s job? What are the inherent dangers of seeing yourself as an employee on the clock? Why is it important for you and staff to be visible at most services? With the new schedule do you intend to exercise a sort of liberty of absence?
  38. Who do you work for and how do you answer to them? Why should your intended absence be previously announced to the church at large beforehand and not to a select few?
  39. What happens when you don’t get your way or when things don’t go your way? Do you see yourself as a man under authority?
  40. When was the last time you were told “NO!” (I am not referencing a NO by your wife.) Perhaps by staff? How did you respond? What was the last occasion that you publicly confessed sin to your fellow staff members in the ministry? 
  41. What is the process whereby decisions are made in the church and how is the church body involved? Are we elder ruled, deacon ruled, elder/pastor ruled by congregational consent, or does the preaching pastor generally get what he wishes? I really don’t know and I would like to know how the practical functioning of government and decisions are fleshed out.( I have witnessed abuse by an authoritarian style of ministry in the past.)
  42. How can three separate worship services promote unity of one Body with one mind, in one voice and in one accord? Is that wise or even possible and will it not possibly result in the essential formation of three separate churches rather than one Body?
  43. What in your opinion is the greatest need of the church today? What is the greatest threat to the church? What is the greatest danger to your ministry personally? (Please don’t say these questions or one who asks them.)
  44. What steps are you taking to avoid a simplistic event-oriented Christianity that emphasizes an aesthetic or entertainment value over an encounter-participatory worship experience that actually encourages communion with and transformation by the living God? One is spectator-oriented and the other is participatory that sees God.
  45. Which of the calling requirements (Timothy/Titus) to ministry as elder/pastor causes you the most angst and why? How do you, and who honestly assists you in your ongoing evaluation of continued personal fitness for the ministry? How often do you open yourself up to scrutiny by others? The real question here is, who pastors you and your family? Do you believe a pastor needs a pastor?
  46. Statistics indicate many pastors struggle with pornography and we know it is ubiquitous. (They have solitude, access and opportunity.) How do you guard your heart/eyes, and who holds you accountable?
  47. Do you take criticism well? Would you like some constructive criticism? Do these questions anger you? That is not my intent.
  48. What part of man was affected by the Fall and to what extent? What are the implications of this corruption and curse?
  49. What role do we have in salvation by grace? How do you communicate man’s responsibility but hold to God’s sovereignty?
  50. How does a dead man of Ephesians 2 come to Christ? What are the conditions of salvation? Does the new birth precede repentance and faith, or do repentance and faith move God to grant the new birth? (This is really not the proverbial chicken/egg question and is actually very crucial in your practical methodology applied to men in the Gospel call.)
  51. How do you explain Philippians 2:12-13 to a new convert? To yourself? To me?
  52. Why do you believe and why do you preach? What will you do if all you hold dear is taken from you? Would you be content with God alone? “ He who has God and everything has no more than he who has God and nothing.” (GKC) Is this true?
  53. Do you struggle with options or with the temptation to implement an apparent viable Plan B in a secular world to find more temporal happiness or security?
  54. Describe worship in spirit and truth, and what are its signs that we have arrived or are at least that we have begun the journey off the mount or out of Jerusalem back to the Father?
  55. What is the multifaceted goal or ultimate end of your ministry at SGBC in particular?
  56. Finally: Have you read, and if not, would you and your staff purpose to read and interact over…
    Preaching and Preachers by Lloyd Jones
    Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp
    Lectures to My Students by Spurgeon
    Preaching by Keller
    Brothers, We are Not Professionals by Piper
    The Reformed Pastor by Baxter
    Power Through Prayer by EM Bounds

Are You Eating Mush or Real Meat?

“But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”Hebrews 5:14

For some as we physically age certain ailments and afflictions may require solid foods to be puréed so we might safely ingest them. (It’s not Yum Yum, but Yuck Yuck!) This baby food consistency does not aesthetically allure the taste buds nor stir the heart but is required by the body.

I fear the spiritual ignorance of the Today Church age has produced a contemporary loss of appetite “to hunger and thirst” for the richness of heaven-born righteousness,” and has landed our society at an historical place of spiritual darkness and Biblical dysfunction. Consider how culture no longer collectively discerns evil and good; yes, we rather call blatant ungodliness good, and the timeless truth of moral principles emanating from the throne of God evil. Look at the poor quality of pseudo-preaching rampant across the land, and God constrain me not to open up the apostasy of much of the “worshiptainment” in many churches. Theology of hymnology is out. I, the big I, is in as I am needy and must “feel” better.

We witness a daily erosion of the foundational Creational principles of worship, work, and marriage/family. “If the foundations are destroyed what shall the righteous do?” (Psalms)

I know for certain, God is not mocked. He will establish His rule and dominion. We live in an age whereby we must respond, and thus cling to and fully declare the whole counsel of the wisdom of God, without apology: “Christ died for the ungodly” thus the Gospel is relevant and active today, though He stands at the door of judgment for His imminent reentry into our existence to set in order what remains. 

“O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.”

“I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Jesus

Are you distinctive in your discipleship unto the Lord Jesus? Are you committed to the spiritual disciplines? Are you going to die this day that Jesus might be manifest in your life? How shall you “Take Time to be Holy”?

The Rare Virtues of Kindness and Truth

“What is desirable in a man is his kindness,
And it is better to be a poor man than a liar.”

Proverbs 19:22

Reading this morning…

I stopped and considered the opposites of these “delights” and it troubles me how our current Western Culture value system has upended and forcibly cast away these character qualities. We honor the most abrasive abusers by supporting their candidacy for POTUS. This is also most vividly illustrated in the running abusive treatment of the recipients of wrath by authoritarian figures in all social, political and spiritual arenas.

Politicians abuse their positions to advance their personal security and power base by increasing the size of their coffers. The media mocks humility and gentleness and glamorizes the absurd. The church is filled with incompetent, self-seeking frauds in leadership positions whose preparation and labor over the Word consists of opening a sermon outline book a day or two before, and filling in the space between the various suggested points by insertion of interesting anecdotal commentary. A walk with God is unknown to them. I suppose too because I have been the recipient of wrath by pastoral abuse this is especially a salient and painful point with me.

A kind man does not seek his own, but understands the profit of considering others more important. I wonder how are we doing on that? Interesting how the abuser often has the abused Tee as one who has known the sting of rejection… thus the call to mortifying the deeds of the flesh are most relevant in the vigilance of God’s man entrusted with stewardship authority. Notice it is not innate authority, it is granted by the King. How desperately we need recall to put off before putting on as this is the clear, required Biblical principle. 

Where is a kind man? Where is a man of truth? Where is the Psalm 15 man? In my experience when one seeks tenderness to those in need and when one gives to those who lack there can on occasion be a general uprising of the Philistines. People are condemned by acts of kindness afforded the needy in their presence, and hate its overtures for then the Spirit and conscience afflicts the rude, selfish man. If it wasn’t Pastor’s idea then expect it to be torpedoed by the man who has an agenda. 

God help me to put on kindness as Christ was kind. God, may the poverty of the Lord Jesus Christ enrich me with heavenly grace to value and pursue what is esteemed by heaven, not that which is detestable. 

Proverbs 3:3-4 (NASB) 
Do not let kindness and truth leave you; 
Bind them around your neck, 
Write them on the tablet of your heart. 
So you will find favor and good repute 
In the sight of God and man. 

Oh to Cure the Malady of Prayerful Silence

Irony was discovered lurking at the end of Session 6 of the Prayer Conference when the pastor’s request for closing prayer was greeted with resounding silence. Uncomfortable silence. Twitch inducing silence.

Thankfully, yet sadly… the paid professional flinched first.

Why does the church struggle with prayer? Is prayerlessness the auditory evidence indicative of a larger problem hidden beneath the spiritual waters? Do we fail to pray for we are unfamiliar with our God? The guesses could become endless. Some elementary notes:

  • Prayer is work.
  • Prayer is joy.
  • Prayer is essential.
  • The Lord inclines his ear to hear our prayers.
  • Prayer is learned.

The response of silence to a given opportunity to practice what we were just taught is not unique to this church or that church. Not in my experience. Moreover the distinguishing mark of churchmanship we long for is that rare assembly become many where the men trip over themselves to seek God in public for they are much acquainted with Him in private.

“Brethren, do you pray? Do you seek God in secret?”
#AH