Archives For Pastoral Ministry

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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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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“He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.” (Hebrews 5:2)

The word translated “deal gently” has the idea of being balanced on the spectrum between anger and grief. It was the healthy mid point that allowed the person to not be so indifferent that they were unmoved by grief but not so emotional that they could not be firm on sin. What was to result was a spiritual rock, one who could compassionately identify with weak people to bring them help.

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Pastoral ministry is hard and there are a lot of ways that someone can go awry. This is brought to the fore in an article in Christianity Today noting that Mark Driscoll is retracting his best-seller status and “resetting his life.” This due to the fact that controversy seems to be as much a characteristic as blessing in his ministry.

As a pastor you can become inflated with pride and bang your head on the door frame, because you believe the lie that all of the good things that are happening in your ministry are because you are awesome. On the other hand, you can be thrown into the depths of despair because things are not progressing as well as the other guy or whatever your expectations might have been.

The danger on both sides is that our identity, standing, security, approval, etc are based upon us. Attendance is up? I feel good. Attendance down? I feel like a failure. Excitement over ministry? I’m excited. Issues of discontentment or discouragement? Suddenly I’m sullen. You see, pastoral ministry is hard because I am selfish.

I can relate to Driscoll. I don’t agree with everything he says and does but I see how he got where he is right now. And, if you’re a pastor, you should see it too. The idol self-approval is deadly. Whether you have 30 people or 30,000 people in your church, you are prone to this and so am I.

I don’t pretend that all of Driscoll’s issues should be swept under the rug now that he has owned up to some of what has happened. However, I am saying that of all people, pastors should be able to identify with him and be rooting for him to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. This we do while looking to ourselves lest we too be tempted–because we know we already can.

How can you tell that your pastor loves you? This could get tricky. We might be tempted to exegete his facial expressions, evaluate his manners, or consider whether or not he sends you a birthday card. However, the Bible actually gives several ways that demonstrate this love.

One of the ways the pastor shows his love is by feeding the flock (the church) the Word of God.

Where do we get this from? There are many places in the Bible, but a good place to see this is in John chapter 21.

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”” (John 21:15)

Jesus tells Peter to feed his lambs. He says the same thing in verse 17. The word has to do with caring for or looking after the flock. In the Middle Eastern agrarian culture the shepherd would lead his flock to food and the still waters of refreshment. He ensured that they were properly fed.

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Truth and Tone Go Hand-in-Hand

Erik Raymond —  February 10, 2014

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There are many different ways a pastor may be derelict in his duty. The most common and obvious would be his morality. If a man is not reflecting the doctrine that he is teaching then his ministry is a sham. We know that there are moral qualifications for the office of elder (1 Tim. 3:1-8). At the same time the pastor must be biblical in his doctrine; he must have a firm grasp on the truth. If he is in error doctrinally then his congregation will suffer. As a result Paul gives many encouragements to this end in 2 Timothy alone (2 Tim. 1:6-7, 13-14; 2:15; 4:1-4, etc). This culminates with the pastoral inclusio to watch your life and your doctrine closely (1 Tim. 4:16).

There is another aspect where a minister of the gospel may go wrong, and I fear it is becoming increasingly neglected or at least overlooked. He must give attention to his tone. The pastor is to be firmly committed to the truth while maintaining a tone that is consistent with the truth. In other words, truth and tone go hand-in-hand. If I might take some liberty, “what God has joined together, let no man separate.”

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I was greatly impacted by a meeting that I had nearly 15 years ago with my pastor at the time. During the meeting I was talking about my desire for ministry and a great burden for the gospel to be clearly preached and central to all that we do.

In the midst of the conversation the pastor got annoyed. His annoyance seemed to be connected to my burdens and how they communicated a referendum on his ministry.

At one point in the conversation he said something that left a tremendous impact on me. He said baldly:

When you get old you come to see that things don’t work out so neatly. We’ll see if you have the same passion in 10 years.

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