Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pursuing Manhood

Several months ago I mentioned an address I had given to young men here at Union on manhood. That address has now appeared in essay form in the latest issue of the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood under the title, “Pursuing Manhood.” The essay is available on their website as well.

This issue of JBMW is the first issue under their new editor, Denny Burk. Denny’s editorial is available online and he explains the new format of the journal.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Oversight and Preaching

In my pastoral ministry class we recently discussed John Angell James' book, An Earnest Ministry: The Want of the Times. I have previously commented on this excellent book several times. There is so much good in this book, and I heartily commend it (and, fwiw, I do prefer to edition linked here).

By ‘earnestness’ James means what today- due greatly to the influence of John Piper- would be dubbed ‘passion.’ He calls for a whole-hearted devotion to the labor of saving souls, which he is careful to define as including both seeing people come to faith and laboring for their sanctification so that they persevere (previous comment on this point).

Of such earnestness James also writes:

“Good preaching and good shepherding are quite compatible with each other, and he who is in earnest will combine both.” (149)
This is a needed point. If we are in earnest about the salvation of souls we must labor in the teaching of the Word and in the careful oversight of the souls of our flock. These two activities cannot rightly be divorced. Careful oversight may not make us famous since people cannot download our oversight onto their iPods, but our preaching cannot be what it ought to be without this oversight.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Kauflin on Worship Music

Bob Kauflin’s new book, Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), is gaining a lot of attention and rightly so. Through his work at Sovereign Grace Ministries Kauflin is one of the leading voices on worship today.

I knew I would agree with Kauflin on the core issues of worship. I was also delighted to read the following quote about the type of music we use. This is a lengthy quote, so I will simply cite it and plan to follow up with observations in another post. There is much wisdom in this quote.

“As I understand it, the best music enables people to genuinely and consistently magnify the greatness of the Savior in their hearts, minds, and wills. That’s a standard that will never change from culture to culture, generation to generation, church to church.
To flesh out this standard of excellence in your church, you’ll probably have a
musical center that effectively communicates to most people in the congregation. The songs sung in churches in rural Idaho, downtown Manhattan, Nottingham, England, and Bharuch, India are going to sound different. They should.

When it comes to innovations, remember that Scripture doesn’t mandate that we push the envelope, artistically speaking, on Sunday mornings. Artists will always be searching for new and fresh ways to express their gifts, but congregations must be able to hear the message without being distracted by the medium. When we meet to worship God, we’re not aiming to glorify creativity but the Creator.

And as a practical matter, edifying the church means using songs that everyone
can sing. What’s on my iPod isn’t always the best place to start when I’m picking songs for congregational worship. I need to think through the musical level of the people I’m leading. I generally look for songs with melodies between a low A to a high D that are easy to learn and hard to forget. I also try to avoid complicated rhythms.” (p. 106)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Blessed Mediocrity

Here is a good quote from Kent and Barbara Hughes’ Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome:

We are aware that it is possible to suppose that by refusing to quantify success (as for example, by size of congregation and staff, or numbers of souls won, or books in print, or degrees, or breadth of influence and prestige) we are encouraging mediocrity.

Far from it! Instead, think of what it would mean if we were faithful, living in profound obedience to God’s Word and working long and hard at our tasks; serving with a foot-washing heart; loving God with all our heart, soul, and might; believing what we believe; praying with the dependence and passion of Christ; living pure holy lives in this sensual world; manifesting a positive, supportive attitude in the midst of difficulties! If that is mediocrity, then give us more of this blessed mediocrity – for it is success! (p. 111)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Student Responses to Baxter, 2

I am once more teaching my Pastoral Ministry class and having students read Baxter’s Reformed Pastor. Last time I posted some student responses to reading this book. Here are a few more from this years’ interaction.

“I have never understood, the way I do now, the weight and burden of taking on the responsibility of shepherding the blood bought people of God. This book has caused me to say, ‘Oh, so this is what I am supposed to do.’”

“A pastor is not someone who can just teach, but rather he is someone who has a deep care for his congregation and shows that care in the way he lives and interacts with others.”

“Nearly every sentence is directly applicable to the contemporary pastor.”

“I would have come out of this book with less had I been able to simply dash through it at a page per minute. … I was forced to work things out as I read them, forced to map out trains of thought as I went. It was very worthwhile, and I will relish reading more in the future that was written by dead holy men.”

Eagle Projects International

Let me take the opportunity to let you know about an excellent ministry known as Eagle Projects International. My good friend Phil Eyster is the founder and president, and I have had opportunity to travel with EPI to Ghana and Nepal. This is a thoughtful, intentional ministry which takes the gospel to difficult places seeing people converted, churches planted, pastors trained, and the kingdom advanced.

The latest two blog posts are a good introduction to the places they minister. I especially encourage you to read the entry titled “Because He Knows We Will Go.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


There is a flood of things I want to comment on here, but I have not been able to give much time to it recently. I will begin briefly here by touching on one thing which ties together three recent things that have been on my mind:

· Kent and Barbara Hughes’ book, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome
· D. A. Carson’s book, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor
· And a visit from a pastor friend from Nepal

I have benefitted from each of these in numerous ways, but together they have served as a strong word to me concerning my own ambitions and my view of success. I hope to comment on each of these further, but here I will make some basic points.

The Hugheses and Carson directly challenge the common ideas of what constitutes pastoral success today and call us to faithfulness before God and among His people. Both point out how little God is impressed with our accolades and the difference between the praise of man and the favor of God. These are not new points, but important and helpful ones. I stress these points with my students but can so easily be drawn into pursuing success in worldly terms (praise of man, accumulation of accolades, notoriety and publications). This way of thinking leads us to pursuing our own glory under the guise of pursuing God’s glory- a despicable thing! This way of thinking weighs us down with demands and tasks that may not be God’s calling for us, leading to unnecessary exhaustion and weariness. This way of thinking sets us up to envy other believers when they are blessed rather than rejoicing- precisely because our true interest is the advancement of ourselves rather than the advancement of the Kingdom.

My friend from Nepal then served as an embodied example of this selfless, joyful service as he related quite matter-of-factly accounts of the suffering he and others endure, their deprivation all the while exhibiting a deep and winning thankfulness and contentment. He is not known here in the West. He has no books in the works. But he is pouring out his life in preaching the gospel, leading people to faith, discipling them, mentoring pastors, overseeing the establishment of churches and quite literally seeing the gospel impact his country. He would remind me that we each have our calling and that his work is no greater than mine. I find my self humbled and exposed.

Lord, let me daily live in such a way as to hear you on the last day say, “Well done.” And let that vision free me from the allure of the praise of man and self-glory. Then I will know the pleasure and freedom in walking in the calling you have given me.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

2008 Founders Conference

The 2008 Founders Conference will meet this June in Owasso, OK focusing on church planting and revitalization. The title is Lengthening the Cords and Strengthening the Stakes: Renewing and Planting Local Churches and features Ed Stetzer, Voddie Baucham, Andy Davis, Tom Nettles, Don Whitney, Ted Christman, and Phil Newton.

The conference website talks about how gimmicks can mask the lack of health in a church and that we should instead seek the God-ordained means of church renewal. This echoes a key theme of mine- using God-given means rather than humanly devised gimmicks.

From the conference website:
The 2008 National Founders Conference will explore the place, necessity, and some of the God-ordained means for church renewal and church planting under the theme, “Lengthening the Cords and Strengthening the Stakes: Renewing and Planting Local Churches.” The conference theme has arisen out of the many questions conference organizers have fielded regarding local church reformation and planting new churches. These themes go hand-in-hand, revealing the desire for healthy, vibrant, and reproducing churches. Conference speakers bring a wealth of experience and expertise in both the strengthening and lengthening of the church.
I will not be able to attend myself, but I wanted to pass on word for any that might be able to go.