A Call for Tough and Tender Pastors in Controversy

John Piper: It seems to me that we are always falling off the horse on one side or the other in this matter of being tough and tender— wimping out on truth when we ought to be lion-hearted, or wrangling with anger when we ought to be weeping. . . . Oh how rare are the pastors who speak with a tender heart and have a theological backbone of steel. I dream of such pastors. I would like to be one someday. A pastor whose might in the truth is matched by his meekness. Whose theological acumen is matched by his manifest contrition. Whose heights of intellect are matched by his depths of humility. Yes, and the other way around! A pastor whose relational warmth is matched by his rigor of study, whose bent toward mercy is matched by the vigilance of his biblical discernment, and whose sense of humor is exceeded by the seriousness of his calling. I dream

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Alexander Strauch on Biblical Eldership

“Most important, biblical eldership guards and promotes the preeminence and position of Christ over the local Church. Jesus left His disciples with the precious promise that “‘where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst’” (Matt. 18:20). Because the apostles knew that Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, was uniquely present with them as Ruler, Head, Lord, Pastor, Master, Overseer, High Priest, and King, they chose a form of government that reflected this distinctive, fundamental, Christian truth. This concept was no theoretical idea to the early Christians–it was reality. The first churches were truly Christ-centered, Christ dependent churches. Christ alone provided all they needed to be in full fellowship with God and one another. Christ’s person and work was so infinitely great, final, and complete that nothing–even in appearance–was to diminish the centrality of His presence among and sufficiency for His people. So in the first century, no Christian would dare take the

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5 Leadership Signs Your Movement is Dying

. For ‘movement’ read ‘church.’  This is insightful stuff from Jared Wilson: One or two of these in isolated instances are likely handle-able. A pattern of any one or any combination of these signs in a pastor or the leadership culture of a church likely indicate a stalled or dying movement. 1. Insulation from criticism and/or interpretation of any criticism as attacks or insubordination. Of course there is such a thing as malicious attacks, divisiveness, and nitpicking busybodies. But too many leaders treat all criticism as on par with those sins in an attempt to deflect or retaliate against any challenge to their sense of authority or rightness. In some cases it gets really bad when affected leaders treat any question, no matter how innocently or sincerely asked, as an affront to their authority, or when leaders cultivate a system that prevents questions, criticisms, challenges even reaching their eyes or ears. The minute leaders start insulating themselves from valid criticism

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Local Church Governance

It has come to my notice recently that many churches suffer from an inadequate understanding of local church governance. Typically this results in insecure leaders that ‘lord it over’ the flock – no doubt seeing themselves as heirs of the prophets – in unilateral authoritarianism without any functional accountability. This does not lead to healthy local church life. This piece comes from Bridgeway Church, Oklahoma, where my friend Sam Storms is in leadership. Here is their biblical rationale for ‘How We Are Governed,’ taken from their web site: ____________________________________________________________________________________ At Bridgeway, we believe the Bible teaches that each local church should be governed by a plurality of male Elders. Numerous texts support this conclusion, such as Acts 11:29-30; 14:23; 17:17, 28; Phil. 1:1; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 5:17-20; Titus 1:5-9; Hebrews 13:17; James 5:13-14; and 1 Peter 5:1-5. There is no indication in Scripture that a local church was to be governed by a single elder or pastor. The consistent NT witness is that

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Asking deeper questions…

Todd Pruitt writes: Kevin DeYoung has posted a helpful article on how churches ought to evaluate themselves. He draws on a conversation he had with the pastor of a declining church. The pastor attributed his church’s decline on the fact that their music and liturgy were historic rather than contemporary. But DeYoung, knowing that the church was theologically liberal pressed the pastor to consider that the reason for their decline was probably not due simply to the style of music. DeYoung suggests a series of deeper questions that churches ought to be regularly asking: Is the gospel faithful preached? Is the Bible taught with clarity and passion? Are the sermons manifestly rooted in a text of Scripture? Do the elders/pastors and deacons meet the qualifications for church office laid out in the New Testament? Are the sacraments faithfully administered and protected? Is church discipline practiced? Do the elders exercise personal care over the flock? Are there good relationships among the staff

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God wants content discontent leaders

From Justin Buzzard: God wants content discontent leaders. God wants content leaders, leaders who are deeply happy in God. It’s hard to follow someone who is perpetually unhappy and pessimistic. And, God wants discontent leaders, leaders who are deeply unhappy with the status quo and whose veins course with a passion to make things different. Don’t overplay contentment. Every great leader is a content discontent leader.

Life in the Spirit – 2011

For my UK readers a quick reminder about the forthcoming Life in the Spirit leaders conference. There are still a few places left. If you are interested in the faithful and inspiring exposition of Scripture, and value the powerful dynamic of the Holy Spirit, plus the rich fellowship of others in Church leadership, then this is a conference not to be missed. Click here for details and booking information.

What are some of the most important things for a pastor-in-training to learn?

From 9Marks: The Bible. A pastor’s first priority is to preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:2). A pastor-in-training’s first priority should be to study the Word. Holiness. The primary qualifications for an elder are moral and spiritual (1 Tim. 3:2-7). A pastor is to shepherd his people by his own example (1 Pet. 5:3). Therefore a man pursuing the ministry must diligently seek after consistent, hard-fought holiness. Humility. To shepherd God’s flock you must follow Jesus’ example in serving, rather than being served (Mk. 10:45). Humility must be a distinguishing mark of an under-shepherd of God’s sheep. How to preach. Since preaching is the main work of a pastor, a pastor-in-training should seek every possible opportunity to preach. He should also solicit the criticism and advice of experienced pastors. How to disciple. In order to be a pastor, a man should know how to personally instruct, encourage, counsel, comfort, and rebuke his fellow Christians. Not only that, but in order to

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Pastoral Ministry is a Life, Not a Technology

From Jared Wilson: Evangelicalism suffers under the leadership of those who treat ministry like a technology and church like a business. The Church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and the brethren . . . Pastoral authority can be attained only by the servant of Jesus who seeks no power of his own, who himself is a brother among brothers to the authority of the Word. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer I discovered the spending a day reading thrity pages of Karl Barth’sDogmatics helped me more in my pastoral work than a hundred of pages of how-to literature. In my church history reading I ran into a biography of a pastor, The Life of Alexander Whyte; a personal narrative of a pastor, The Letters of Samuel Rutherford; and a fictional account of a pastor, Father Zossima in Feodor Dostyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov . . . These books helped me a lot. But I didn’t know why stories about pastors who lived centuries

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Moses – a model for pastoral authority?

Jeramie Rinne on “The Moses Model” of Pastoral Authority: I call it the “Moses Model.” It’s a view of church governance that grants complete authority to a church’s pastor. A Christian brother explained it to me this way: “The pastor is supposed to be like Moses. He goes into the tent to hear from God. He then comes out and proclaims what God told him. The elders say ‘Amen’ and the people follow.” Though they might not appeal to Moses directly, many pastors follow a similar model of pastoral authority. They sometimes point out the efficiencies of the pastor as singular, decision-making executive, or the horror stories of churches where radical congregationalism and a rebellious spirit against any leadership has produced numerous divisions and years of unfruitfulness. Despite such pragmatic considerations and tragic anecdotes, the Moses model faces several major biblical obstacles. Most glaringly, the New Testament (NT) simply does not portray Moses and his relationship to Israel as the paradigm for pastors

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Seminary should be like boot camp

Richard Pratt in explaining how seminary should change: The agenda of evangelical seminaries is set primarily by scholars. Professors decide how students will spend their time; they determine students’ priorities; they set the pace. And guess what. Scholars’ agenda seldom match the needs of the church. Can you imagine what kind of soldiers our nation would have if basic training amounted to reading books, listening to lectures, writing papers, and taking exams? We’d have dead soldiers. The first time a bullet wizzed past their heads on the battlefield, they’d panic. The first explosion they saw would send them running. So, what is basic training for the military? Recruits learn the information they need to know, but this is a relatively small part of their preparation. Most of basic training is devoted to supervised battle simulation. Recruits are put through harrowing emotional and physical stress. They crawl under live bullet fire. They practice hand to hand combat. If I could wave a

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Packer on Spiritual Authority

Spiritual authority is hard to pin down in words, but we recognize it when we meet it. It is a product compounded of conscientious faithfulness to the Bible; vivid perception of God’s reality and greatness; inflexible desire to honour and please him; deep self-searching and radical self-denial; adoring intimacy with Christ; generous compassion manward; and forthright simplicity, God-taught and God-wrought, adult in its knowing-ness while child-like in its directness. The man of God has authority as he bows to divine authority. –J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life(Crossway 2010), 77 (HT: Dane Ortlund)

Chuck Swindoll: 10 Leadership Lessons Learned in 50 Years of Leadership

Chuck Swindoll, accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award at Catalyst 09, offered the following lessons he has learned: It’s lonely to lead. Leadership involves tough decisions. The tougher the decision, the lonelier it is. It’s dangerous to succeed. I’m most concerned for those who aren’t even 30 and are very gifted and successful. Sometimes God uses someone right out of youth, but usually he uses leaders who have been crushed. It’s hardest at home. No one ever told me this in Seminary. It’s essential to be real. If there’s one realm where phoniness is common, it’s among leaders. Stay real. It’s painful to obey. The Lord will direct you to do some things that won’t be your choice. Invariably you will give up what you want to do for the cross. Brokenness and failure are necessary. Attitude is more important than actions. Your family may not have told you: some of you are hard to be around. A bad attitude overshadows good

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Carson, Keller & Piper – Glory!

The following hour-long conversation among Tim Keller, John, Piper, and D.A. Carson was filmed at the 2008 leadership meeting of The Gospel Coalition and recently posted on Facebook: A Conversation: Tim Keller, John Piper, and D.A. Carson (1 of 6) A Conversation: Tim Keller, John Piper, and D.A. Carson (2 of 6) A Conversation: Tim Keller, John Piper, and D.A. Carson (3 of 6) A Conversation: Tim Keller, John Piper, and D.A. Carson (4 of 6) A Conversation: Tim Keller, John Piper, and D.A. Carson (5 of 6) A Conversation: Tim Keller, John Piper, and D.A. Carson (6 of 6) My thanks to Justin Taylor for this.

Strive to be a Kind of Person, Not Preacher

(Photo by Vermin87 ; Creative Commons License) “First, strive for practical, earnest, glad-hearted holiness in every area of your life. One of the reasons is that you can’t be something in the pulpit that you aren’t during the week – at least not for long. You can’t be blood earnest in the pulpit and habitually flippant at the deacon’s meeting and the church dinner. Nor can you display the glory of God in the gladness of your preaching if you are surly and dismal and unfriendly during the week. Don’t strive to be a kind of preacher. Strive to be a kind of person!” (John Piper, the Supremacy of God in Preaching, p 60) (HT: Unashamed Workman)

Shallow preaching and cultural adaptability behind baptist decline

ChristianPost.com-”[T]he shallow state of preaching has exacerbated the lethargy of the church and left the lost with no real Word from God,” said Paige Patterson, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, in a column in Baptist Press. “The pastor ought to be the major source of theological understanding and the most able teacher of the Bible,” he added. “Anemic pulpits create anemic churches and denominations.” Since the release last month of the latest data on Southern Baptist membership and baptisms, both of which declined, Southern Baptists have speculated why the largest Protestant denomination in the country has been seeing lower numbers. “Well, the time has come to identify the real problems,” said Patterson. Read the entire article here (HT: The Expositor)

Willow Creek: “We’ve Really Upset the Christ-Centered People”

From the Our of Ur: Today, Greg Hawkins, executive pastor at Willow, recapped the study and then shared some changes that the church is now making in response to the research. He said they’re making the biggest changes to the church in over 30 years. For three decades Willow has been focused on making the church appealing to seekers. But the research shows that it’s the mature believers that drive everything in the church—including evangelism. Hawkins says, “We used to think you can’t upset a seeker. But while focusing on that we’ve really upset the Christ-centered people.” He spoke about the high levels of dissatisfaction mature believer have with churches. Drawing from the 200 churches and the 57,000 people that have taken the survey, he said that most people are leaving the church because they’re not being challenged enough. Because it’s the mature Christians who drive evangelism in the church Hawkins says, “Our strategy to reach seekers is now about

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Satan v. Church Leaders

From 9Marks blog: Southern Seminary professor Chuck Lawless imagines what he would do if he were Satan, trying to ensnare pastors and church leaders. The whole article is here, but his seven basic points are First, I would attack those who are most gifted . . . by reminding them that they are gifted. Second, I would encourage leaders to talk about accountability . . . but not be personally accountable to anyone. Third, I would challenge leaders to emphasize spiritual disciplines . . . but only for others. Fourth, I would focus the leader’s attention on tomorrow . . . rather than today. Fifth, I would encourage ministry by e-mail . . . especially with those of the opposite gender. Sixth, I would not hinder ministry success . . . as long as “success” results in few changed lives. Seventh, I would stress failure . . . and then lead the church to do the same.