Archives For Ordinary Pastor

There are many factors that make evangelism difficult. There is the internal spiritual alienation from God that renders the unbeliever unimpressed by God and therefore unresponsive to him in worship (Col. 1:21; 2 Cor. 4:4-6). Then there is the fog of worldliness that reinforces the heart’s unsubmissiveness to God and his Word (1 Jn. 2:16-17). We see this with the ongoing marketing of personal autonomy, self-discovery, and satisfaction in created things.

But there is another contributor to the fog that is very unhelpful. I am talking about the authority of personal experience. Today our personal experience and personal interpretation of that experience is the unquestionable authority that all must submit to.

Earlier this week I was talking to a number of unbelievers about Jesus. In the midst of the conversation one told me that he can see the future. He said that he has, on a few occasions, been able to see what was going to happen. He pointed to his buddy for confirmation and, as you’d expect, got the requisite head nod. I know that in this conversation I cannot slash the tires of his experience. If I even pull out the knife of reason or testing he will shut me down. Personal experience and our interpretation of it is the authority. We might call it Sola Experiencia. 

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I grew up playing and watching a lot of baseball. It was almost a religion for me and Fenway Park in Boston was my church (so to speak). To further the illustration, the elders and leaders were players on the Red Sox. I think of Roger Clemens, Dwight Evans, Jim Rice, and Carl Yastrzemski. When I would arrive at Fenway I can remember walking out of the tunnel and being overcome by all of the images and sounds. There was the fresh cut grass, the 37′ wall in left field, the Prudential Building, and the sight of the players warming up. I was absolutely invested–I might have even secretly felt like was on the team.

Several years ago one of these players, Roger Clemens, was investigated for cheating. He was found to have used performance enhancing drugs, or banned substances. Clemens, along with a bevy of other players, have received something of an asterisk on their career because they have dishonored the sacred tradition and integrity of the game.

As a baseball fan I can appreciate the way the league, players, and fans have renounced the way these guys tried to take a short-cut. Some players cared more about themselves than the game. This, according to baseball is unacceptable.

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Last week we had Mez McConnell from 20schemes come to Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne to talk about church planting in poor contexts. We did this in order to spur on this type of work in our community as well as raise awareness for this crucial ministry in Scotland.

The goal of 20schemes is:

Our long term desire is to see Scotland’s housing schemes transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ through the revitalisation and planting of gospel-preaching churches, ultimately led by a future generation of indigenous church leaders.

To that end we will initiate a church planting and revitalisation effort by recruiting training supporting and sending church planters,female outreach workers,ministry apprentices and short term interns to work part of church planting teams within Scotland’s housing schemes.

We believe that building healthy, gospel preaching churches in Scotland’s poorest communities will bring true, sustainable and long-term renewal to Scotland’s schemes.

We have all of the talks on our website here. I cannot recommend them highly enough. There is a significant paradigm shift that needs to happen when thinking about mercy ministry. I think Mez nails it.

You should also listen to his sermon on Sunday morning at Emmaus. The text is John 18:1-11. Here is the link.

If you are a church that is looking to partner with an international ministry–that is truly doing work–consider partnering with my friends a 20schemes. I know these guys and love them. Listen to the talks and reach out to them. (link)

Lately I am learning of the indispensability of personally listening to sermons. Let me explain. Over the last several years I have preached, on average, nearly 50 Sundays per year. The times I have not preached I have been on vacation or traveling. As a result, I very rarely sit under preaching. I am making a distinction from listening to sermons and sitting under preaching. I listen to sermons all the time but rarely sit under the preached word live.

I believe that this has not helpful to me. In fact, I need to sit under live preaching.

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Have you ever felt like you were alone in your church? Maybe you look around and think, “There are not a lot of people like me.” In some sense that may be true. There may not be many people who were raised in your hometown, like the same type of food, enjoy the same hobbies, and prefer the same music. So, yes, in this sense you may not be able to chop it up with them about your favorite team or curry or novel.

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Nobody likes to be criticized. Everybody appreciates a compliment. These are the two most non-controversial statements ever written on this blog. But they are true.

Pastors get their fair share of both.

One thing that I am learning as a pastor is that the good friends actually bring both.

There will always be people to criticize you when you preach the Bible, deal with sin and frankly, are a sinner yourself. They will make mistakes and get mad at you. You will make mistakes and they will get mad at you. This is life in a fallen world.

At the same time there are a lot of people who are just kind. They give compliments, affirmation and always say nice things. You rarely hear them speak critically.

At first glance (and with all honesty) we might prefer that our churches be filled with the later and devoid of the former. It seems like this would be a much nicer and more tolerable climate.

But would this be a good gospel climate? Continue Reading…

Along with several thousand other pastors and church leaders, I am here in Louisville for the Together for the Gospel conference. This event and the corresponding movement seems to keep growing without any indication of plateauing. Therefore, it is a real joy to come and take it in, rejoicing in this season of abundant blessing.

There are some personal items that I am excited about. Let me highlight a few.

1) Concentrated Exposure to Preaching. Some health and fitness people go on radical cleanses or others do extreme training spells. These have the effect of a radical impact on the body. Preaching, this much preaching, can be very impactful for me and countless others. I am prayerfully excited about what God will do with his knife that is all blade (Heb. 4:16).

2) Singing. I love to sing even though I am horrible at it. To have several thousand passionately singing together, with the weight of ministry and burden for people anchoring the ballasts of our souls–this is powerful stuff. It is truly a portal into heaven where Christ is supremely treasured opinion the praise of his people.

3) Being Surprised. A friend reminded me last night that we serve the living God. Therefore, he is active and working in our lives. He often surprises us with his word with a familiar passage. He comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. He knows what I need and when I need it. God surprises me like this and I am looking forward to more.

4) Meeting New and Talking with Old Friends. This event welcomes a unique fraternity together. We are able to instantly connect and understand one another. To hear the stories of gospel triumph in faraway lands or pastoral faithfulness in a surprising place—these things bless my soul. We are not alone. In fact, there is a great multitude who have not bowed their knees to Baal.

5) Being Here with my Son. This year I am blessed to be here with my 18 year old son. It is a rich privilege and gift of grace to be able to experience this with him. I look forward to seeing its impact on him as well as I fervently pray for generational faithfulness in my family.

If you are at T4G consider coming over to the 20schemes event with Tim Challies on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. I would love to meet you and be encouraged by your ministry.