How to tell a wolf or hireling from a shepherd of the sheep

By Mike Ratliff 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Matthew 7:15-18 (NASB)  Since God put me into this ministry back in 2006 the tragedy of the growing apostasy in the visible church seems to have only gotten worse. In discussions with friends about this some have lamented that at times it seems that there is no one who can be trusted anymore. My own perspective is that, yes, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to trust the fruit of those who minister for money or whose livelihood depended upon popularity. This is really nothing new. Our Lord, in

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What Constitutes a Pastoral Approach?

Kevin DeYoung: What does it mean to be “pastoral”? I’m a pastor. Have been for almost 15 years. I love my job. I get to serve the God I love and work with the things our God loves most deeply: his word and his church. As a local church pastor, I am 100% in favor of being “pastoral.” So long as the word means what the Bible means for it to mean. When I see the adjective “pastoral” placed in front of a noun it seems to me the word is almost always meant to convey, in contemporary parlance, a truncated set of virtues. A “pastoral approach” implies gentleness, patience, and a lot of listening. If someone is “pastoral” he is good with people, sensitive, and a calming influence. “Pastoral care” means comforting the sick, visiting widows, and lending a shoulder to cry on. These are all good examples of being a good pastor. Seriously. I am all for all

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3 Ways Pastors Fail to Be Jesus-Full

Jared Wilson: I’ve been and always will be doggedly suspicious of pastors who rarely (or never) mention Jesus. John Piper says, “What we desperately need is help to enlarge our capacities to be moved by the immeasurable glories of Christ.” We ministers of the gospel—and Christians at large—can fumble this commission in three main ways. 1. We speak in vague spiritual generalities.  Love. Hope. Peace. Joy. Harmony. Blessings. All disembodied from the specific atoning work of the incarnate Jesus and exalted Lord. It all sounds nice. It’s all very inspirational. And it’s rubbish. He himself is our peace. He himself is love. He himself is life. He does not make life better. He is life. Any pastor who talks about the virtues of faith, hope, and love, with Jesus as some implied tangential source, is not feeding his flock well. 2. We present Christ mainly as moral exemplar.  We tell people to be nice because Jesus was nice. We tell them

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Only One Perfect Pastor

Taelor Gray: The more I walk with Jesus, the more I’m intrigued with the apostle Paul. Beyond the great demonstrations of the Holy Spirit’s power and the vast territories influenced by his evangelistic voice, I find myself drawn to his humanity. He is one of the most revolutionary people noted in Scripture, yet he is also one of the most accessibly transparent. His conversion displays one of the most fascinating contrasts of a before/after transformation, but many of his character traits remain intact. In his letters, Paul does not mince words in sharing his insecurities, his frustrations, and his sufferings. He virtually shames the church in Corinth regarding his right to receive financial support from the churches although he doesn’t ask for it (1 Corinthians 9). He later points to his own deficiencies while also doubling down in a classic tirade about his rightful place as an apostle, making a robust argument full of shallow comparisons and thick sarcasm (1

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Kevin Vanhoozer’s 55 Theses on Pastors as Public Theologians

Kevin Vanhoozer: Why does the church need pastor-theologians? What are pastor-theologians for? Our answer, in brief, is that pastor-theologians are gifts from the risen Christ, helps in building Christ’s church, especially by leading people to confess, comprehend, celebrate, communicate, commend to others, and conform themselves to what is in Christ. As suits a vision statement, in particular a book about reclaiming a vision, we conclude by summarizing our main theses, chapter by chapter. We believe these theses have implications for what ought to be happening today in churches and seminaries alike. The church is in danger of exchanging its birthright for a mess of secular pottage in the place where one might least expect it: the pastorate (from the introduction). Pastors, together with the churches they serve, are too often held captive by pictures of leadership (e.g., managers, therapists) drawn from contemporary culture rather than Scripture. The location of theology in the academy, together with the disciplinary separation between biblical

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5 Ugly Qualities of the Anti-Elder

  Tim Challies: It is tragic but undeniable: There are many, many people in positions of church leadership who should not be in positions of church leadership. There are many pastors who should not be pastors, many elders who have no business being elders. This is not a new problem. In the pages of the New Testament both Paul and Peter labor to describe the man who is qualified to the office of elder. It is noteworthy that almost all of these qualifications are related to character. Where we are drawn to outward skill, God cares far more for inward character. There are millions of men who are great teachers and great leaders and great C.E.O.’s, but still completely unsuited to leadership in the church. God’s standards are very, very different. In the book of Titus, Paul writes to a young man and charges him to appoint elders in every church in Crete. He tells him what kind of man to look

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What a Pastor Does

  It is to feed sheep on the truth that men are called to churches and congregations, whatever they may think they are called to do. If you think that you are called to keep a largely worldly organisation, miscalled a church, going, with infinitesimal doses of innocuous sub-Christian drugs or stimulants, then the only help I can give you is to advise you to give up the hope of the ministry and go and be a street scavenger; a far healthier and more godly job, keeping the streets tidy, than cluttering the church with a lot of worldly claptrap in the delusion that you are doing a job for God. The pastor is called to feed the sheep, even if the sheep do not want to be fed. He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats. Let goats entertain goats, and let them do it out in goatland. William Still, The Work of the Pastor (rev. ed.;

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Instead of Building Your Platform, Build Your Character

  Derwin Gray: Pastor, words like “platform” and “influence” are important. But if we aren’t careful, in our desire to build our platform and influence, we can end up building our EGO. As leadership gurus Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges say, “EGO stands for ‘Edging God Out’.” BUILD YOUR CHARACTER Instead of building your platform, focus more on building your character. According to the Apostle Paul, the qualifications to be an elder-pastor are about character, not gifting. The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?

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4 Ways to Find God’s Grace in Our Failures

Joe Thorn: If you haven’t figured it out yet let me encourage you to see something that will greatly help you. Not all of your ideas are good. Some of them are bad. And God will often let you flail and fail out there for very good purposes. And when you fail do not lose the opportunity to find grace in the midst of it. I believe this is especially important for pastors to understand. It’s one of the most important lessons I have learned in 16 years of pastoral ministry: failure is to be expected and learned from. I have misspoke, misstepped, and missed the mark in more ways than I can explain here. And failing hurts. Most of us of are afraid of it. Leaders in particular are afraid of failure since it’s always a bit more of a public spectacle. I’m not talking about moral failure that disqualifies someone from the ministry, but ministerial failure. It may

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10 Pastors I’m Concerned About

Scott Postma:  It’s not a secret the church has been in decline for a number of years and for a variety of reasons. You can read some statistics and views on why, here and here and here. Everyone has their opinions. Abuse, apostasy, and irrelevance are just a few of the words that keep coming up in the search for reasons for the decline. There are a variety of compelling opinions and I even have a few of my own. But I suggest there is another area of decline more significant and perhaps much less obvious—and one that certainly contributes to the church’s decline in numbers. And I think its likely a careful analysis would implicate the church’s leadership for this more significant issue. In other words, I’m concerned about pastors and the role they play in the church’s decline. By saying so, I’m not suggesting this pastor has it all together. Nor am I trying to cultivate (or ratify) some dishonest skeptics’ hate for the

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How to Handle Discouragement in Ministry

Matt Smethurst: If you’ve never experienced discouragement in ministry, I have an inkling you’ve never been in ministry. In a new roundtable video, Darrin Patrick, Paul Tripp, and Voddie Baucham explore reasons and remedies for pastoral discouragement. “I get most discouraged when I’ve had unmet, unrealistic expectations of myself or others,” Baucham observes. The hard-to-swallow truth in such moments is he’s typically thinking too much of himself. “If you’re looking to ministry to give you identity, you’re going down,” notes Tripp, author of Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. Though glorious, ministry is “a messy war.” Patrick adds, “Even though we know in general that ministry is hard and warfare is real, we don’t always know why it’s hard.” It’s crucial, then, to ask, What’s the discouragement beneath the discouragement here? Receiving ministry as a pastor is just as important as giving it, Baucham contends. Or, as one of my favorite preachers, Tommy Nelson, puts it: “If your output exceeds your input, your

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What I Wish I’d Known: Sam Storms Reflects on Nearly 40 Years of Pastoral Ministry

Sam Storms: What follows has been adapted from a brief talk I delivered to the Oklahoma chapter of The Gospel Coalition on October 2. Here are 10 things I wish I’d known when I first started out as a pastor. 1. I wish I’d known that people who disagree with me on doctrines I hold dearly can often love God and pursue his glory with as much, and in some cases more, fervency than I do. The sort of intellectual pride that fuels such delusions can be devastating to ministry and will invariably undermine any efforts at broader Christian unity across denominational lines. 2. I wish I’d known about the inevitable frustration that comes when you put your trust in what you think are good reasons why people should remain loyal to your ministry and present in your church. I wish I’d been prepared for the feelings of betrayal and disillusionment that came when people in whom I’d personally invested so much

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9 Ways to Pray for Churches and Pastors

From the 9Marks 2013 report: 1. Expositional Preaching: pray that more pastors will commit to preaching the whole counsel of God, making the point of the passage the point of their sermons. 2. Biblical Theology: pray that more pastors will preach about the big God from the big Story of the Bible, protecting the church from false teaching. 3. The Gospel: pray that pastors will faithfully proclaim the gospel every chance they have. Pray their churches will ask for nothing more than the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. 4. Conversion: pray that more churches would grasp the doctrine of conversion rightly, and shape their practices to promote born-again believers, not nominal believers. 5. Evangelism: pray that churches will be bold and faithful in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus. 6. Church Membership: pray that churches will take the biblical call to church membership seriously, and encourage the whole body of Christ toward holiness and active participation. 7. Church Discipline: pray that churches will grow in purity

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US-centred or GOD-centred?

Darryl Dash: A radical shift has taken place within the church. Pressure is put on pastors and church leaders to make church about us. The focus is no longer God and how we fit into HIs story. The focus is us, and how God meets our needs. One author puts it this way: Throughout Western societies, and most especially in North America, there has occurred a fundamental shift in the understanding and practice of the Christian story. It is no longer about God and what God is about in the world; it is about how God serves and meets human needs and desires. It is about how the individual self can find its own purposes and fulfilment. More specifically, our churches have become spiritual food courts for the personal, private, inner needs of expressive individuals. (Al Roxburgh, The Sky is Falling) This shows up in a number of ways within the church: Worship — “Contemporary worship is far more egocentric than theocentric. The

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Pastoral Bullies

This is why biblical eldership in the local church is so important. Sam Storms: In his instructions to Elders/Pastors, Peter insists that they must not lead for love of power, which is to say they must not “domineer” those in their charge but rather be “examples” to them (v. 3b). How might a pastor or elder “domineer” his flock? In other words, what makes a man a pastoral bully? Here are some ways: A man can “domineer” or “lord it over” his flock by intimidating them into doing what he wants done by holding over their heads the prospect of loss of stature and position in the church. A pastor domineers whenever he threatens them with stern warnings of the discipline and judgment of God, even though there is no biblical basis for doing so. A pastor domineers whenever he threatens them with public exposure of their sin should they not conform to his will and knuckle under to his

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7 Deadly Diseases of Pastoral Ministry

  By Nick McDonald: Full time ministry is dangerous. The temptation toward spiritual pride is deadly, and it infects the body like nothing else. Pastors suffer uniquely with this temptation. Because people cast their gaze on us, we’re tempted to believe we’re more important, more righteous, or wiser than we are. Spiritual pride is constantly creeping into my heart, and I need to be forced to face my idols squarely on to demolish them. With that in mind, here are 7 dangerous diseases particular to full-time ministers of the gospel: 1. The Island Syndrome. For whatever reason, pastors tend to isolate themselves from accountable community. This is beyond dangerous – it’s stupid. Maybe it’s the fear of losing respect when we reveal our sin; maybe it feels like one too many items on the task list. Whatever the reason, it’s not acceptable. Pastors need a community within which they can confess sin safely. Simon and Garfunkel said, “No man is an island”,

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Little Jumps in Studios

This is a good piece from Tim Challies: I am too young to remember much about Margaret Thatcher and to know a lot about her role in world history. I will definitely read a biography of her at some point in the future and learn more about her life and times. (Writer’s note: I am trying to establish that I’m not interested in bickering about the legacy of her policies since I know too little about them.) When she died last month there were the inevitable outpourings of both spite and affection. In the midst of all of this, I saw several people draw attention to one mostly unremarkable interview. As the interview drew to a close, the host asked Thatcher if she would do just one small thing—stand in front of the camera and jump in the air. Jumping in the air was a gimmick the host asked of all her guests and apparently all of them complied. But Thatcher

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Where Is Your Identity?

Stop looking at yourself in carnival mirrors. This is one plea from Paul Tripp’s new book, Dangerous Calling. Carnival mirrors give us a distortion of who we really are, and they’re everywhere we look. This is especially true of the pastor or ministry leader who is tempted to stay locked in on the horizontal level. The danger is to mistake our work to be what defines us — to be so fixed on the “carnival mirror of ministry” that we buy as our true identity the twisted depiction it reflects. Paul Tripp explains: (HT: Desiring God)

The Secret to Ministry

Every pastor should read this book! Paul Tripp: “I am more and more convinced that what gives a ministry its motivations, perseverance, humility, joy, tenderness, passion, and grace is the devotional life of the one doing ministry. When I daily admit how needy I am, daily meditate on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and daily feed on the restorative wisdom of his Word, I am propelled to share with others the grace that I am daily receiving at the hands of my Saviour  There simply is no set of exegetical, homiletical, or leadership skills that can compensate for the absence of this in the life of a pastor. It is my worship that enables me to lead others to worship. It is my sense of need that leads me to tenderly pastor those in need of grace. It is my joy in my identity in Christ that leads me to want to help others live in the middle of

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