Thursday, April 26, 2007

Above Reproach

I am sitting in a restaurant right now working on material for our upcoming conference. Other people here are talking openly about local scandals concerning pastors abusing their wives and their own stories of finding pastors in compromising situations and locations. These are not national stories, just their own local incidences. Eventually one woman said, “It is scary that these are pastors. Supposed to be men of God and up there preaching. I don’t trust them any more. I don’t trust anybody.” A man then said, “Yeah, I used to go to church all the time but I have not been at all in the last 8 months.” He went on to talk about his string of very young girlfriends.

Brothers, this is our setting. Our behavior directly affects the way people see God. We must bear this in mind and live accordingly. And, interestingly, in spite of the secularists, people still do expect pastors to be particularly connected to God. People are looking to us to show them the character of God. That is humbling and scary, but it is also a great opportunity. Let us then cry out to God for grace that we might praise and not slander Him with our lives (Titus 2:8, 10).

T4G Book

Preaching the Cross
(Crossway, 2007), hb., 176 pp.

The book containing the addresses from the conference is now available! I have looked through the book and it looks excellent. After I have time to read it I will comment further, but I wanted to go ahead and draw attention to the book. It looks like a very good one for pastors.

Here is the table of contents:
Introduction 9
1. A Real Minister: 1 Corinthians 4- (available online)
Mark E. Dever 17

2. Preaching Christ from the Old Testament
J. Ligon Duncan III 39

3. Preaching with the Culture in View
R. Albert Mohler Jr. 65

4. The Center of Christian Preaching: Justification by Faith
R. C. Sproul 89

5. Preaching as Expository Exultation for the Glory of God
John Piper 103

6. The Pastor's Priorities: Watch Your Life and Doctrine
C. J. Mahaney 117

7. Why I Still Preach the Bible after Forty Years of Ministry
John MacArthur 137

Appendix: Together for the Gospel Affirmations and Denials (2006) 161

Monday, April 23, 2007

Beeke on True Shepherding

My posts have been infrequent this last week and will probably be so this week as well with the conference coming this weekend. I have a backlog of book reviews which I will hope to get rolling next week.

In the meantime, let me recommend Joel Beeke’s excellent brief article in the most recent Tabletalk. Justin Taylor recently noted that this month’s Tabletalk articles were available online, and I was caught by Beeke’s title, “True Shepherding.” Beeke speaks powerfully on the role of the pastor in shepherding the flock- a topic often discussed here.

Here are a few quotes:

“don’t regard grieving people as an interruption…
Grieving, hurting people are what ministry is all about. We must not think of our churches and our parishioners in terms of numbers or cases; rather, we should think of our churches as hospitals where the wounded and grieving come to us, seeking our biblical guidance and loving care”

“If we do not shepherd them in their sorrows, we are hirelings, not shepherds, and should repent of our indifference.”
This is a great two page piece. I encourage you to read (and print to keep for the future!) the whole thing.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Good Shepherd

I am really enjoying going through the gospel of John with my Johannine Literature class this semester. This week we discussed John 10, where Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd. The main point of the passage is Christological. However, with the rich OT background and subsequent NT application of the title ‘shepherd’ to pastors, I think it is legitimate for us to look to the qualities of the Chief Shepherd as a model for us who serve as undershepherds (1 Peter 5:1-4).

Here are a few collected quotes from pastors of the past applying John 10 to pastoral ministry. I hope the quotes benefit you as they have me. Lastly, I have included a quote from a student paper which shares the same sentiment.

Alexander Maclaren:
“Individualising care and tender knowledge of each are marks of the true shepherd. To call by name implies this and more. To a stranger all sheep are alike; the shepherd knows them apart. It is a beautiful picture of loving intimacy, lowliness, care, and confidence, and one which every teacher should ponder. Contrast this with the Pharisees’ treatment of the blind man.” (106).
John Chrysostom:
“A great thing, beloved, a great thing is the role of leader in the Church. It is one that requires much wisdom, and as great courage as Christ’s words indicate: namely, sufficient to lay down one’s life for the sheep; sufficient never to leave them unprotected and exposed to danger; and sufficient to stand firm against the attack of the wolf.” – Homily 60, 133
John Calvin:
“No plague is more destructive to the Church, than when wolves ravage under the garb of shepherds.” (italics original) - 394

“The Name of “The Church” is highly honourable, and justly so; but the greater the reverence which it deserves, so much the more careful and attentive ought we to be in marking the distinction between true and false doctrine. Christ here declares openly, that we ought not to reckon as shepherds all who boast of being such, and that we ought not to reckon as sheep all who boast of outward marks. He speaks of the Jewish Church, but what he says applies equally well to our own.” (italics original) – 395

“…he alone is a faithful pastor or shepherd of the Church, who conducts and governs his sheep by the direction of Christ.” (italics original) – 396

“Nothing is more desirable than that the Church should be governed by good and diligent shepherds. Christ declares that he is the good shepherd, who keeps his Church safe and sound, first, by himself, and, next, by his agents. Whenever there is good order, and fit men hold the government, then Christ shows that he is actually the shepherd.” (Italics original) – 402-403

“…so it is the universal duty of all pastors or shepherds, to defend the doctrine which they proclaim, even at the expense of their life, and to seal the doctrine of the Gospel with their blood, and to show that it is not in vain that they teach that Christ has
procured salvation for themselves and for others.” (italics original) – 404

“For he who looks to the hire, and not to the flock, though he may deceive others, when the Church is in a state of tranquility, yet when he comes into the contest, will give proof of his treachery.” (italics original) –
“This passage is an encouragement to me as one who feels called to preach the Word of God. If I become a pastor, I must love the sheep like Jesus did. I must be willing to die for my flock and guard my flock from wolves. I must be willing to encourage and rebuke my flock and always do what is for their eternal good. I must set an example for them in everything so that their faith may not be shaken by my poor leadership. What an enormous responsibility awaits me. May I never take it lightly.”

Monday, April 09, 2007

One Bible, One Gospel Conference

The Ryan Center conference on this theme will be held April 27-28. This conference is intended for pastors, Sunday School teachers, Bible study leaders, and anyone who wants to improve their own study of the Bible. One of the most important things we as pastors must do is to train our people to interpret and apply the Bible well. This is the aim of the Ryan Center conference each time it is held.

This year the overall focus is on the importance of viewing the Bible as a whole and seeing how the Old Testament applies today. Dr. Paul House of Beeson Divinity School will be the plenary speaker. In a recent radio interview Dr. House talked about how important it is to see how the gospel unfolds from the overall story of the whole Bible. He stressed that this is not merely an academic issue, but it is crucial as we seek to speak the gospel to a culture which has less and less understanding of key concepts such as “Christ,” “covenant,” etc.

Breakout sessions will also be held on various topics some taking up specific issues on connections between the testaments and some providing guidance in basic steps of Bible study (e.g., word studies, application). The Breakout sessions will be led by UU faculty as well as special guests Grant Osborne of TEDS and Kenneth Mathews of Beeson. There will also be sessions on effective women’s Bible study and worldview introduction led by some ladies from Explorers Bible Study. Lastly, John Falahee of Logos Bible Software will lead a session on computer assisted Bible study.

You can see all the information at the conference webpage. The cost is $45 which includes all sessions, 3 meals, as well as freebies from some publishers including an ESV bible from Crossway and a bible study on James from Explorers. You will notice on the web page that the registration deadline is listed as April 6. However, there is still time to register. You can register online at the webpage or use the contact information listed there.

Monday, April 02, 2007

William Bradford on persevering in spite of danger

I am currently reading to my boys about the Pilgrims. In our current book(review coming soon), the author occasionally provides quotes from William Bradford’s journals. The following quote really struck me. Bradford is talking about the attempt to plant a colony in the New World. I thought of it in connection with pastoral ministry (no doubt it could apply in various areas), particularly the effort of renewal in the church. It will be difficult, there will be costs. Yet, it is worth it. This is good advice. Let us not be paralysed by fear. Rather, let us press on in faith.

“All great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties; and must be both enterprised and overcome with answerable courages. It was granted the dangers were great, but not desperate; the difficulties were many, but not invincible. For though there were many of them likely, yet they were not certain. It might be that sundry of the things feared might never befall; others, by provident care and the use of good means, might in a great measure be prevented; and all of them, through the help of God, by fortitude and patience, might either be borne or overcome.”