Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Reading Broadly

I am well behind in posting with other things that are going on, but I wanted to pass on these two quotes from an amazing book, David Larsen’s The Company of the Creative: A Christian Reader’s Guide to Great Literature and Its Themes. This is a great book which arose from one of Dr. Larsen’s preaching classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He surveys a broad sweep of literature and how each one aids the preacher. The first chapter, which is an argument for reading broadly, is a great read.

“You can learn more about a nation from reading yesterday’s novel than today’s newspaper.” –James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress (11)

God did not intend that we study our Bibles in a mental vacuum. John Nelson Darby and G. Campbell Morgan both decided that for an extended time they would read only the Bible. They soon discovered that this plan was a mistake. The danger of reading only the Bible is that we do not then really read the Bible. The Bible comes out of an ancient cultural setting. We need the bridges to our own culture that reading more broadly can supply. . . . Our thesis in this study is that all Christians –
especially Christian leaders and communicators – need to read broadly, deeply, and copiously. (11-12)

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Joe Thorn tagged me, with the following rules:
1) Grab the book closest to you.
2) Open to page 123; go down to the fourth sentence.
3) Post the text of the following three sentences.
4) Name the author and book title.
5) Tag three people to do the same.

I’ll pass on step 5. Sitting at my desk piled with various books both behind and in front of me (and some in the floor around me!), it’s a toss up on which is closest. So, to connect with the purpose of this blog, I reached for the closest one expressly on pastoral ministry, Charles Bridges’ classic, The Christian Ministry. Sure enough Bridges delivers with a powerful statement on the disastrous effect of the fear of man on pastors.

“Thus a minister under this deteriorating influence [the fear of man] chiefly deals in general truths devoid of particular application- more in what is pleasing than what is direct and useful. Many other subjects may be equally necessary, or indeed more important; but these are more conciliating. There is thus a continual conflict between conscience and the world- ‘I ought to speak for conscience sake; but I dare not speak for fear of the world.’ The offensive truth must be smoothed, disguised,
intermixed, until it is attenuated into an insipid, pointless, and inoperative statement.”

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Pastoral Plagiarism Update

I have been meaning for months now to post an update on this topic. After the WSJ article came out in the Fall, Steve Sjogren responded on his blog. He basically said that those who take issue with his suggestion of using others sermons are not really interested in evangelism. The language in his blog post is now significantly changed from its original. In response to criticism, he softened that statement while keeping his basic position. Tim Ellsworth covered the story very well in this post.

Since that time Dr. Mohler of Southern Seminary devoted his radio show one day to this topic. He and guest, Dr. Hershael York, did a great job covering the topic.

Various newspapers around the country continue to pick up the story- apparently from the WSJ story- and comment on it. Typically the reporters see the problem clearly in spite of the spin given by proponents of the practice. However, The Christian Index, paper of the Georgia Baptist Convention, ran a story which in essence defends the practice of sermon ‘borrowing.’ The story was entitled, “Plagiarism: Whose Message is it?” It seems to have generated some response. This response is particularly well worth reading. Here are some excerpts from this layman’s response:

The College Dictionary defines plagiarism as “to use and pass off as one’s own writing or ideas from another.” Of course we know this meaning, but reading the article in your publication it seems as though this must not apply to pastors. Over a dozen pastors hopped, skipped, and jumped around the facts like a grasshopper on a hot grill. The answer is simple; anyone using another’s writings or ideas is a cheat! It seems simple enough to me

If pastors spent more time in the Greek and Hebrew to exegete the scriptures they wouldn’t need to plagiarize others works.
Just about every pastor I have been under has spoken of Zacchaeus up a sycamore tree at least two or three times a year. Hey, we know that story. How about some meat of the doctrine? We have had an over abundance of milk.

One of the ridiculous statements in your article read something like this: “pastors who document the origin of their sources into fine detail usually deliver cold and impersonal messages.” This is a smokescreen to cover-up the fact that they wish credit for something they did not originate

In closing, just get into the Word and forget about making impressions on the congregation. We have minds of our own and can think without fancy utterances

Well said!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee

I came across this hymn this week (found it here), and it has ministered to me much. It seems to me that I grew up hearing far more “life is getting better & better” songs and not enough “persevering” kind of songs. These honest hymns that point us to rest in the sovereignty and goodness of God are so helpful. I am really blessed by the fact that our church uses many songs like this. The sentiment is similar to the poem, “Do The Next Thing,” which I mentioned previously.

If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee

If thou but suffer God to guide thee,
And hope in him through all thy ways,
He'll give thee strength, whate'er betide thee,
And bear thee through the evil days;
Who trusts in God's unchanging love
Builds on the rock that nought can move.

What can these anxious cares avail thee,
These never-ceasing moans and sighs?
What can it help if thou bewail thee
O'er each dark moment as it flies?
Our cross and trials do but press
The heavier for our bitterness.

Only be still and wait his leisure
In cheerful hope, with heart content
To take whate'er thy Father's pleasure
And all-discerning love have sent;
Nor doubt our inmost wants are known
To him who chose us for his own.

Sing, pray and keep his ways unswerving;
So do thine own part faithfully,
And trust his Word - though undeserving,
Thou yet shalt find it true for thee;
God never yet forsook at need
The soul that trusted him indeed.

Georg Neumark, 1621-1681
(you can hear the tune here)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Persecuted Pastor

Over the holidays I was challenged and encouraged by an account that came from my friend, Phil Eyster, President of EPI, an international church planting mission. I have obtained his permission to post some of his correspondence with a pastor friend from a country in Southeast Asia. Phil had gotten word that this pastor had been imprisoned and sentenced to two years of hard labor. We had begun praying for “Brother Michael”, and then unexpectedly Phil received an email from “Brother Michael”! It basically said that the authorities had decided to allow him to go home each night after the work and then report back each morning. You can imagine what a blessing this was! I have pasted here some of Brother Michael’s comments because his perspective is amazing and challenging to me. May this be a reminder of the freedom we have, the courage and strength of our brothers and sisters around the world, and our need to pray for them.

"Thanks for your emails of encouragement and love. … I don't even feel myself sometime that I am still at the jail and looking at the wall hoping to go out. I feel joy at being able to have fellowship and worship together with my friends in the jail.”

“I preached over five times in the prison and have conducted communion services with the prisoners. I think this is one of the reasons they did not want me in the jail at night anymore. All of this has happened because of your prayers.”

“Life in jail is not easy. The jail workers treat the prisoners like animals. Everyone is very crowded in the cells, but I praise the Lord that I was still able to preach the gospel. As far as I know this is the first time this has happened in a ------- jail. Many of the prisoners have come to know Christ, but they have to keep it a secret or the officials will put them in chains and move them to another building with no windows. Someone dies in jail everyday, through rough treatment or lack of medical care.”

“Thank you for your concern for funds for the orphanage and bible school here. It is true that while I have been in prison the funds have been very low and we are in great need at this time.”

“------ is a holiday in --------, and traditionally they have released prisoners on this day. Please pray that I may be released for good and be able to return to -------- and the work of the ministry there.”

For more you can visit EPI’s blog. (scroll down just a bit for this story)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Miller Challenges “Bigger is Better” Mentality

Here are some more quotes from Calvin Miller’s O Shepherd Where Art Thou, this time related to the question of church growth. Of course we want to see more people saved, but Miller rightly criticizes the idea that amassing more and more believers in one place is the goal. Wit and wisdom are a good combination. I started to coment on them, but they stand alone well, I think.

…it seems to me in the era of megachurch we have opted to tell smaller truths to ever-bigger crowds. (p 26)

Sam knew his church wasn’t growing either, but at least he was doing his part in trying to please God by feeling neurotic about it. (p. 29) :)

Greatness of size may, in the end, prove the smallest of virtues. (p. 30)

“Well, there you go. We’re equal. You see, Ambrose, if every church was like yours, the Christian faith wouldn’t be here in fifty years.’
“And if every church was like yours, it wouldn’t be historically Christian in fifty years. No one would be left to who can even define the word Christian. The faith would die of secular syncretism.” (pg. 35)

“You wanted to know many I had in church, last Sunday, Biff. I’ll tell you how many. All I can take care of.” (pg. 39)

Most often when people do leave the church they are leaving because they feel the church failed to minister to them in a time of need. Yet pastors are often more stimulated to make their church grow than to take care of its members in their needy times. No one ever gets his or her picture in an evangelical magazine simply because they visited the sick. (pg. 42)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Calvin Miller on Pastoral Care

Here’s a great quote from Miller’s O Shepherd Where Art Thou, which I have commended previously:

…the church that only gets big but will not care for the sick and the broken, is no church of Christ…No legitimate pastor can delegate this concern. He may delegate the care of a specific person in need, but the moment he tries to delegate the concern, the church he pastors will be gone. (p. 16)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Leadership Equals Teaching

I have recently been sent the following quote from Great Leader, Great Teacher: Recovering the Biblical Vision for Leadership by Gary Bredfeldt:
"We have been hoodwinked. We have come to accept a standard for leadership that
actually robs the church of great leaders. The standing-status-success standard is not a biblical standard: it is the world's standard. Pastors are not to be CEOs, and our best models are not corporate executives, coaches, generals, and presidents. Far from it ... the biblical leader is, first and foremost, a skilled and godly shepherd-teacher ... Here then is an alternative standard of leadership effectiveness from the standing-status-success model offered by the world. It is a standard that describes leadership in terms of personal relationship, sacrificial care, and secure and abundant provision." (52, 54)

I don’t know anything else about the book, but I resonate deeply with this quote.

Friday, January 05, 2007

“Reinvigorating Baptist Practice of the Ordinances”

The journal containing my article by this name is now out. Mid America’s inaugural issue of Theology for Ministry came out just before Christmas. I have previously commented on some of my thoughts contained in this article.

This issue is varied in perspectives and strengths, I think. Here is a list of the contents other than my article:
Hershael York- Defending the new IMB policies/guidelines

Gerald Cowen- “Congregationalism and It’s Limits”
An argument for congregationalism and against elder rule. Account is not taken of a role for elders within a congregational setting

John Hammett- “Patterns of Leadership in Emerging Churches”

Earl Waggoner- “A Movement Toward a House Church Ecclesiology”

Jimmy Millikin- “The Nature of the Church- Local or Universal”
An argument against an idea of the universal church

Timothy Seal- “Church Discipline: Recovering the Lost Treasure”

J. D. Payne- “Ecclesiology: The Most Critical Issue in Church Planting Today”

Steve Gaines- “Worthy of Worship”

And an excerpt from E. C. Dargan, “Ecclesiology: A Study of the Churches” (1905)

As far as I can tell there is no information on Mid America’s website about the journal. If you wanted a copy you could contact the editor, Dr. Daryl Cornett.