5 Tips for Preaching through Tough Passages

Recently I’ve been preaching through the Sermon on the Mount with the people of Forest Hills Baptist Church. So far it has been a wonderful series working through some of Jesus’ most well known teachings. However I knew when the Lord led me to this series that there would be some difficult passages to come up. The two I was least looking forward to was on lust and divorce. As a pastor some times you must teach on some difficult passages of Scripture.

The Bible doesn’t always tell us what we want to hear, nevertheless they are all profitable and useful for the building up of the body. Much like the prophet Ezekiel, as a pastor we eat the sweet scroll of God’s word even though it is often a bitter word of judgement (Ez 3:3). All of God’s word is honey to our lips. Yet, the Scriptures function as a mirror. As we hold up the mirror of God’s word to our own hearts and to the hearts of our own people, sometimes we do not like what it shows us about ourselves. The word of God pierces our hearts and exposes our sin (Heb 4:12). It can be an uncomfortable endeavor but yet it is the task of the pastor to teach the whole counsel of God.

Although I am still a young preacher and have much to learn, having recently taught through both lust and divorce from the sermon on the mount, I offer these five helpful principles for preaching through tough passages of scripture.

1. Practice Expository Preaching

In order to preach difficult passages you must get to difficult passages. With the absence of expository preaching it is tempting for pastors to pick hobby horse passages or passages that will merely tickle the ears of the congregation. As a result, consciously or not, many pastors skip over difficult or controversial passages.

Walking through sections of scripture verse by verse is so helpful because it forces us to encounter and deal with difficult passages. My people know we are walking through the Sermon on the Mount and they would notice if we skipped Jesus’ teaching on divorce. No matter how difficult it may be or though I may not desire to preach it, the accountability of my people force me to deal with difficult texts.

Yet, expository preaching can be a safe guard. When you deal with difficult passages in a expository series, it keeps the difficult sermon from sounding like a personal attack from the pastor. No one in the congregation is saying “I wonder why he picked a passage on lust this Sunday? I wonder who was in the counseling room this week?” The church knows this passage is next, so it removes any perceived hostility people may read into the pastors sermon. Thus the sermon becomes less of the words of a perceived vindictive pastor and more the prophetic, authoritative voice of God.

2. Preach in Humility, as a Man Under the Authority of the Scripture.

When I was preaching the sermon on lust, I tried to set the tone for the sermon at the beginning. I knew I was going to be having to deal with some difficult truths and that it was vital for me to be filled with conviction over sexual sin. I knew that many would perceive as strong word as judgmental self-righteousness, which would be the furthest from the truth. So before I got into the meat of the sermon I said,

This morning I plan to proclaim to you harsh truths that you may perceive are announced in judgement and self-righteousness. Hear me carefully before we begin. I speak as a man who is not above this text but stands condemned underneath it. I am a man who is a condemned sinner redeemed and restored by Jesus Christ. As I read Jesus’ words here what shame and dread come upon me. For which of us can here can read these words and not be condemned?

These words helped remind me and my people, that as a pastor I am a sinner who is saved by grace. The only power that enables me to stand in that pulpit without cowering in holy fear is that I’m clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

3. Speak Clearly and with Conviction

Set God’s word loose on your people. Do not be timid or fearful on difficult truths you know your people might not want to hear. So often our fear of men causes us to be timid lambs in the pulpit when we must be roaring lions. When it comes to the sexual immorality of our culture or the no-fault divorces that happen every day, it is necessary to bring a strong word of judgement against sin. However as you do, highlight the Scripture as your authority and not your own opinions.

4. Share Briefly Multiple Interpretations

The teaching on divorce was exceptionally difficult for me, not just because it is a hot-button issue, but because the text is a hermeneutical gordian knot. Many Christians wrestle on what the Scriptures teach on divorce and many books have been written on the subject. The greatest struggle for me was:

  • How much should I share about the debate?
  • Do I want to only share my position and act like the others do not exist?

Those were the sort of questions that plagued me as I was preparing for that sermon.

If you are preaching on such a text it is wise to briefly mention the debate around this text and briefly highlight some of the other views. But spend the bulk of your time proving your position from the text. The pulpit is not the place for an academic lecture on the precise definition of porneia. In fact most of the congregation doesn’t even care, they just want to know what the Scripture says. They don’t want a seminary dissertation on the subject.

5. Give Grace and Preach the Gospel

My great fear in preaching a sermon on lust or divorce is that I sound like some self-righteous right wing bigot. Although there are sections of those sermons where I must come down hard on what God calls sin, I must always point people to the Gospel. Pastor, if you hold up the mirror of condemnation to your peoples hearts you better point them to calvary before you close in prayer. Sins like lust are so pervasive and are hidden deep within our hearts. When you bring those things up to the surface and expose them to the light, it can get uncomfortable and often guilt begins to take over. Yet, I do not want my people to leave my sermon feeling badly over their sin, but gloriously in awe of a God who would save them despite their sin.

I want to leave them with Jesus. I want to point them to the savior who fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law in their place. I want to point them to the suffering servant who was nailed to that tree for the forgiveness of our sins. I want to point them to the liberator who frees sexual captives and the God who never divorces his adulterous wife. He is the always faithful God who is ready to forgive and restore. When you preach these difficult sermons give your people what they need the most, Jesus.

If you would like to listen to these to sermons you can listen to my sermon on Lust and Divorce. (I'll put up the link to the sermon on divorce as soon as its uploaded)

Pastors, how have you dealt with difficult passages? How do you handle texts that you know will elicit controversy? Share your wisdom in the comments!

6 Ways Pastors Can Lead the Church with the Bible

There is a lot of pressure on Pastors to be leaders. A whole industry of self-help resources and leadership books have risen the past few decades. Pastors are expected (as they should) to be leaders. Despite the wonderful practical wisdom that many of the most popular leadership books teach, a Pastor must always lead the church uniquely from the corporate business types. A Pastor is a shepherd who must lead his people with the rod of God's word.  Paul makes it quite clear what should be the focal point of our leadership in his great charge to Timothy as he writes,

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:1–2, ESV)

The Scriptures are essential in all aspect of a pastor's ministry, especially in his leadership. How do we preach the word in every aspect of our ministry and not just the pulpit? Shepherding with the Scriptures in hand takes discipline and practice. As a young pastor this is something in which I try to be intentional. I still have great room to grow, but here are some practical ways pastors can lead their people with word of God.

1. Practice Expositional Preaching

True preaching is grounded in the Scriptures. The temptation for many pastors is to shift to a topical model of preaching that focuses more on the congregants felt needs than the Word of God. The best way a Pastor can begin to center his flock on the Scriptures is to lead by example through the weekly sermon. Preach through books of the Bible and refer to the Scripture often in the sermon. Don't just take a verse and launch off on your personal soap box. Do as God has commanded and "preach the word".

A steady diet of scripturally rich expositional preaching will begin to transform church culture over many years. Don't underestimate the cumulative effect of a faithful expositional preaching ministry.

2. Carry a Physical Bible

This may seem a little silly, but it is something I think is important. In a day and age where digital bibles are so readily available it is easy to rely only on a smartphone for the Bible. I love technology. I even use my iPad for all my sermon notes while preaching. Yet I always carry around my physical Bible.

Although the accessibility of digital bibles is wonderful, lugging around a physical Bible communicates something about its value and significance. Carrying a physical Bible around with you communicates to your people the source of your authority in ministry. Our authority as pastors is not in our charisma, knowledge, experience, or skill, but in the infallible word of God. Carrying a physical Bible communicates that to my people in a way a digital version does not.

3. Use the Bible in Pastoral Care

Monday afternoons is the time I go out and visit shut-ins and those who need pastoral care and  I always be sure to take my Bible with me. To go minister to members without a Bible is like a plumber who forgets his wrench or a football player who forgets his helmet. So too should pastors always bring their staff when they go to the flock. Bring the Bible with you.

Towards the end of my visit with the person I always try to finish my time with a church member by opening up the Bible and reading a passage of Scripture. Then we will close our time in prayer. I do this because the Scriptures are relevant in every situation and I want to teach my people to look to the Scriptures in moments of crisis and need. God's word provides reassurance, reminding us of the wonderful promises of God. Whether in counseling, visitation, outreach, or funerals be quick to take your people to the Bible. Lead them with the Scriptures.

4. Open Every Meeting with Bible

Every meeting I lead at our church I open with a short devotion from Scripture. I want to model for our people Scripture's relevance and importance in all situations from finance meetings to deacons meetings. Starting with Scripture also puts things into perspective and reminds everyone that it is on the word of God we must build God's church and we make decisions.

5. Go to the Scripture in Conflict

This one must be handled carefully, but it is vitally important. As in most churches there will be fights and disagreements. When those times come, the pastor must lead with the Scriptures. In those high and intense meetings, know your Bible well enough to counsel from the Scriptures.

You must handle this carefully because you don't want to necessarily beat your people with the Bible to justify your opinions. Yet, going to the Bible when there is a disagreement reminds everyone (including the pastor) that our opinions are secondary to the truth of God's word.

6. Ground Change in the Scripture

As a pastor and leader you must lead your people through change. Whenever a ministry needs to be cut, revised, or started always ground your methodology in your theology. Do your best to explain the "why" and the biblical reason for the change. Show your people important texts that show the urgency or reason for why this change is necessary. Although there may still be resistance, if your people are lovers of the word of God they will be encouraged and obedient.

Shepherding with the Scriptures

Pastors are to be men of the word. The Scriptures must impact how we think about every aspect of our ministries. Bring the Scripture into every aspect of your ministry. Get creative and always be pointing them to the Scriptures. It is in the word of God that tells us about the word who became flesh. Point them to the Bible and you will be pointing them to Christ who is the chief shepherd whom you will be accountable for in your leadership.

How Have you led with the Scriptures? Any tips or practices that I missed? Share your wisdom with us in the comments!

6 Lessons I've Learned from Seminary

It is hard to believe that I graduate from Seminary today from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with my Masters of Divinity. It has been a long journey of 3 1/2 years with late night reading and paper writing. Having a family, serving as a full time pastor, and studying full time was not easy. Yet, God was faithful to get me through each day and to make it to this milestone. I’ve learned a lot over the past three years and I want to share with you some of those lessons I’ve learned.

1. The Discipline of Rigorous Study

I’ve always considered myself fairly studious, but Seminary intensified that. A pastor will spend a great deal of time a week in the study of Scripture to prepare sermons and lessons. Seminary helped me cultivate that discipline and deepen my intellectual abilities. With the myriad of diverse responsibilities I've been forced to get organized and efficient with my time, especially my time in study. The discipline developed these past three years to study God’s word even under the pressure of a deadline will be lastingly been helpful.

2. The Joy of Life Long Learning

As I have observed, it is so easy to stop learning after your formal academic education. There are college students who never pick up another book again after they are handed their diploma. One of the things I desire to do is to continue learning for the rest of my life. I want to continue to challenge myself to read challenging books and participate in intellectual endeavors. The exciting thing now is that those endeavors will be of my choosing. Seminary helped me see the joy of learning and studying.

3. The Value of Family

Completing seminary is not something I could have done on my own. Kaitlyn has been by my side the whole way encouraging me and getting me through. There have been many difficult nights where after a long day I have to lock myself away to study or read rather than spend time with my family. During these 3 1/2 years I learned to value my family even more and I love the time I get to spend with them.

4. Theology is for the Church

I learned a ton in seminary. Yet, I’ve learned more about how to care and love God’s people by pastoring in the local church throughout seminary. Although education is vital for pastors to learn how to rightly divide the word of truth, there are certain things that a class room will be unable to teach you. Learning how to communicate with people, counsel them, and pray for them are all learned best when serving a local church. I’m thankful for my church, Forest Hills Baptist Church, for letting me continue to learn how to shepherd as I have served and loved them. It was wonderful to be able to take the intellectual stratospheric jewels in seminary and bring them to messy every day life as I’ve taught them to my church. Theology is for the church and it has been wonderful to do theology within the context of the local church during my seminary education.

5. The Tools I Will Need

I’m convinced that higher education’s purpose is not just to fill you with knowledge, but to give you the tools to succeed. Seminary has done that for me. When I begin a new sermon series or have a deep theological question, I know the resources to take off my shelf. I know which theologians and writers are more beneficial than others. I have learned how to think through for myself and reason when I find myself in a theological quagmire.

6. Love My Savior More Deeply

Many fear that if you go off to seminary, somehow you’ll become all head and no heart. Some think well trained theologians are unable to love Jesus or that formal education can ruin a pastor. I just simply have not found this to be true in the slightest. Over the course of my seminary education I have grown much more deeply in love with Jesus. His wonderful grace and love have grown in sweetness and beauty over the past 3 1/2 years. As my knowledge of Christ has increased so to has my love for him. This above all has been the greatest thing I’ve learned, to richly love my savior and serve him with all my heart.

I’m not sure if my Masters of Divinity is my last stop in the world of academia. Yet, I do know that I am so thankful to have attended such wonderful seminary and to have the privilege and responsibility of a solid theological education.

A Minister's Evils

I have a tradition on Sunday mornings.  As I arrive at the church and go into my study to pray, I begin by picking up The Valley of Vision and reading a prayer.  The book is a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions.  It has been a wonderful tradition that helps to set my heart on Christ and to prepare to proclaim the Gospel. This is a prayer I read a few weeks ago titled A Minister's Evils that continued to stick with me.BLESSED SPIRIT OF GOD, Four evils attend my ministry — The devil treads me down by discouragement and shame arising from coldness in private meditation. Carelessness possesses me from natural dullness and dimness of spirit; because in the past I have met with success and been highly regarded, so that it does not matter if I have now failed. Infirmities and weakness are mine from want of spiritual light, life and power, so that souls have not been helped, and I have not felt thee to be near. Lack of success has followed even when I have done my best. But thou hast shown me that the glory of everything that is sanctified to do good is not seen in itself, but in the source of its sanctification. Thus my end in preaching is to know Christ, and impart his truth; my principle in preaching is Christ himself, whom I trust, for in him is fullness of spirit and strength; my comfort in preaching is to do all for him. Help me in my work to grow more humble, to pick something out of all providences to that end, to joy in thee and loathe myself, to keep my life, being, soul, and body only for thee, to carry my heart to thee in love and delight, to see all my grace in thee, coming from thee, to walk with thee in endearment. Then, whether I succeed or fail, nought matters but thee alone.

From the Valley of Vision Pg. 185

A Pastor's Prayer

As I was in study and prayer this past Sunday morning, I came across this beautiful prayer in "The Valley of Vision". As a pastor and teacher of God's word, I connected with this prayer entitled "A Minister's Preaching".  If you are not a pastor, read this prayer to learn how to better pray for your pastor.

My Master God, I am desired to preach today, but go weak and needy to my task; Yet I long that people might be edified with divine truth, that an honest testimony might be borne for thee; Give me assistance in preaching and prayer, with heart uplifted for grace and unction. Present to my view things pertaining to my subject, with fullness of matter and clarity of thought, proper expressions, fluency, fervency, a feeling sense of the things I preach, and grace to apply them to men’s consciences. Keep me conscious all the while of my defects, and let me not gloat in pride over my performance. Help me to offer a testimony for thyself, and to leave sinners inexcusable in neglecting thy mercy. Give me freedom to open the sorrows of thy people, and set before them comforting considerations. Attend with power the truth preached. and awaken the attention of my slothful audience. May thy people be refreshed, melted, convicted, comforted, and help me to use the strongest arguments drawn from Christ’s incarnation and sufferings, that men might be made holy. I myself need thy support, comfort, strength, holiness, that I might be a pure channel of thy grace, and be able to do something for thee; Give me then refreshment among thy people, and help me not to treat excellent matter in a defective way, or bear a broken testimony to so worthy a redeemer, or be harsh in treating of Christ’s death, its design and end, from lack of warmth and fervency. And keep me in tune with thee as I do this work.

3 Ways to Preach a Bad Funeral

I must admit. I am a newbie to the whole funeral thing. I've done a few gravesides and a few services, but by no means am I an expert. But as a pastor, you will have those time when you will have to comfort and encourage a grieving funeral. Over the course of my time on earth I have seen some powerful encouraging preaching at funerals and some that made me wish I was in the casket. Funeral sermons can be life giving or life draining to those grieving.  Although I am still learning how to preach a good funeral sermon, I do know three ways to preach a bad funeral sermon.

1. Talk Only About How Good the Person Was

In your funeral sermon if you spend the whole time talking about how good the person was and not how good Jesus is, you've got a serious problems. One of the reasons moralism has so powerfully crept into the church is because pastor propagate it in sermons, particularly funeral sermons. I have heard whole sermons (often well received by the congregation) that discuss how many good things the person has done with absolutely nothing about the goodness of Jesus. Pastor, don't distort the gospel by holding up moralism before the family and congregation. Only talk about the goodness of the person to point to the goodness of Christ. Our righteousness is filthy rags. Don't hand out filthy rags of moralism to grieving people, give them the pure white robe given by the righteousness of Christ!

2. Talk About Heaven Without Jesus

The way heaven is talked about in may funerals is nothing more than religious materialism. Great emphasis is given to the streets of gold and your own personal mansion. We even speak about reuniting with loved ones. However the emphasis in our speaking about heaven is in the wrong place. The chief reward isn't stuff, it is Jesus. Yet so often in funerals, Jesus being there is just a footnote on a grand health and wealth caricature of heaven. What makes heaven wonderful is that we will stand, clothed in the righteousness of Christ and be in relationship with the holy sovereign King of the Universe. We will see His face with unveiled faces. That is what makes heaven wonderful.

3. Sentimentalize but Don't Evangelize

At no other point in people's lives are they more aware of their own mortality than at a funeral. There is no better place to share the hope of the Gospel than standing over the hollow of death. Yet, many pastors fail to preach the Gospel. Deep in our souls we know that death should not be, yet death happens because of sin. Yet God, in his great mercy put in place a rescue plan to save sinners through the death of His son Jesus Christ. Through the death of Christ our sins are paid for and victory has been accomplished, even over death. The Gospel rings in power at the last chime of a person's life. Yet, the Gospel is neglected in so many funeral sermons in exchange for empty and vain sentimental anecdotes. If you seek to comfort the people gathered to grieve preach the Gospel. It is the only hope as we stand before death. Warm fuzzys of sentimentality might last for a day, but the lasting comfort that comes from the hope of the Gospel endures for eternity.

Pastor, if you avoid these three things you are well on your way to preaching biblically faithful and eternally helpful funeral sermons. Funerals create unique opportunities for a pastor to minister in people's greatest need. Steward this opportunity well. Honor the deceased, comfort the grieving, and above all else preach the Gospel.

What other things should pastors not do at a funeral? What are some positive things you have seen pastors do at funerals? Share your thoughts with us all in the comments below!

Two Vital Relationships for Leaders

2779598066_647f7ae6d5_o It is often said that it is lonely at the top, especially in leadership. Often times this is very true, but most the times it is lonely because we want it to be that way. Many pastors and leaders intentionally alienate themselves from other leaders who can encourage them and love them. Often times leaders fail to make connection with other leaders outside of their organization for accountability and learning. In addition, most leaders tend to distrust building deep relationships with the leaders in their own organization out of fear of betrayl.

Isolation is a terrible thing for anyone, especially leaders. Many leaders build an emotional wall protecting themselves from the community and felowship that would bring them life and vitality. Isolation is the breading grounds for sin which often manifests itself when we are devoid of community. For a leader's own health and effectivness he must learn to surround himself with community outside the organization and inside the organization.

Developing Community Outside of the Organization

A leader must build relationships outside of his organization. For a pastor, it might mean meeting weekly or bi-weekly with other like-minded pastors for prayer and encouragement. For a business person it might mean networking and learning from people from other industries.

In my own life I've done this by meeting with a group of other student pastors every Tuesday morning for breakfast. These are other men in my city who have a passion for the Gospel of Christ and who are in the trenches of ministry dealing with many of the same issues I am dealing with as a leader. In addition to the plethora of wise counsel I receive from these men, we pray for each other and ecourage each other after a tough week.

People outside of our organization can perceive things that we are unable to see. They can be a neutral third party in dealing with a leadership dilema. They can be a sounding board of your latest idea or even a punching bag to vent about your latest frustrations. Devloping relationships with people outside of your organization is a key component to thriving as a leader.

Developing Community Inside the Organization

As a pastor, this one can often be very difficult to do. As a leader there is a tension between a courageous privacy and a humble openess concerning those in our own organization. We don't want to seem weak as a leader by laying all our junk on the table, but at the same time it is perlous to think of yourself as super man and present yourself that way to the leaders in your organization. No matter how hard you try to convince them you have the emotional callousness of a Vulcan and the Physical Stamina of Super Man, the people you lead know that is not true.

As I've become the Interim Senior Pastor of Forest Hills Baptist Church, there have been a wonderful group of men, our deacons, who have been a constant source of encouragement to me. They take care of me and minister to me in ways I don't even know I need. Even this past Tuesday at our meeting these men gathered around me, layed their hands on me, and prayed for me as I lead our church. Wow! That meant the world to me and it made me aware of this reality: We need leaders in our own organizations who can be our source of community and encouragement.

A Leader is Not an Island

You are unable to do everything on your own.  A leader cannot be effective as an island that is stranded all alone in the chaos of the seas. There is something beautiful about humanity in that we continue to need and depend on one another. A leader is not a solo-dicator robot walking around without needs or cares. No one wants to follow a robot, but they do want to follow a human being. They want to follow a courageous man who is willing to be served by other leaders. If you are a leader, look to build community outside your organization but also within your organization. You may be suprised just how life giving these relationships can be to your own leadership and your persuit of your vision.

How have you developed community outside of your organization? How have you developed it from within your own organization? Love to hear how you do this in the comments so we can learn from each other.

4 Reasons Why it is Advantageous for a Pastor's Wife to Stay Home

Since Jude has come into our lives, Kaitlyn and I made the decision to bring her home from work to invest her life and energy in our home. Over the past five months, I have not yet once regreted that decision. Sure the budget is a little tighter, but the benefits of her staying home far out weigh any economic loss. The past few months have been a tough season for us. Not only have we had a precious little newborn baby in our house, but I've stepped into the roll of interim senior pastor at my church. In addition I had a full load at seminary with 12 hours of classes. With the increase in my pastoral responsibilities, it has been demanding, and I have come to realize there is no way I could have survived this spring if Kaitlyn was not staying home.

The issue of stay at home moms tends to be a contreversial one. It shouldn't be. But in this blog post I want to give you 4 reasons why it is extremly beneficial to pastors to have their wives at home.

1. You Don't Have to Find a Baby Sitter

Kaitlyn and I are hundreds of miles from the closes grandparents. As a result, with the constant changing schedule of a pastor, I never have to worry about who is going to watch Jude. If there is a week night meeting or a saturday emergency hospital visit, I don't have to stress to find a baby sitter. I do not have to ever think "who is going to take care of Jude?" With the hectic 24/7 schedule of a pastor, it is  a huge stress relief not to have to worry about my precious son being taken care of.  Having Kaitlyn at home frees me to handle the constant craziness of a  pastor's schedule.

2. It Allows Us to Practice Generous Hospitality

Kaitlyn's spiritual gift is hospitality. She loves having people over, planning meals, and creating opertunities for ministry in our home. Just this past weekend we had a young couple over for dinner, our youth over on Friday night, and a young family from our church over for lunch. If Kaitlyn was working full time, there is no way she could handle the demands of cleaning, shopping, cooking, and cleaning that it takes to show hospitality to others, let alone three times in one weekend, all the while taking care of a newborn infant. As a pastor, my wife creates ministry opportunities in my home through generous hospitality.

3. I am Able to Channel More of my Energy to the Church

If Kaitlyn was working, much more of my energy would be directed to keeping the home running. There are chores and tasks that are time consuming when having a family. Tasks like laundry and the dishes accumulate quite a bit of time to do. Kaitlyn has so graciously chosen to make the home her place of work. She takes care of a majority of the house work (I help too!), but the great thing is that when I am home in the evenings or on the weekends, I am able to spend quality time with my family. I do not have to worry about making sure things are taken care of at the house. I do not have to worry about wondering what's for dinner. Because of that, more of my mental energy can be channeled to ministry.  Even this morning I am able to get up early, study God's word, plan my day and to do list, and even write this blog while she frees me to prepare and do ministry.

4. I am Ministered To

As a pastor, you are constantly pouring out your lives into other people through preaching, counseling, meetings, etc. Kaitlyn's God-given task is to minister to me. Unfortunatly, many churches place unrealistic and demanding expecations on the pastor's wife. They try to treat her as a bonus employee like a bogo deal at a shoe store. This is simply not the case. Kaitlyn's ministry is first and foremost to me, and she does an outstanding job at it. Her continued sacrifice as a stay at home mom allows me to be minsitered to. She serves me, encourages me, prays for me, challenges me, and loves me. Her primary ministry in life is to serve me as I serve my family and the church. In this way, a good pastor's wife isn't someone who leads the women's ministries at the church, she is someone who loves and ministers to her husband. Her ministry to the husband serves the church far better than anything else she can do in the church. She is the only one in the church who can love and serve the pastor the way she does.

Pastor's, I encourage you to bring your wives home. This has been the best ministry decision I have ever made. Churches, encourage and allow your pastor's wife to stay home. This means paying them enough to live off of one salary, not two. This doesn't mean that your pastor will be driving a BMW, but he should be able to support his family off of one income. The best decision a church can make is to encourage, allow, and praise a pastor's wife for staying home and to prioritize her ministry to her husband and children. As a result of Kaitlyn's ministry, I have been free to serve radically and sacrifically my own church. Kaitlyn's continued sacrifice allows me to do that. My own church should be grateful for this (and they are!) and I am forever indebted to the godly, sacrificial wife who serves me as I serve Christ.  The life of a stay at home pastor's wife is often a thankless job.  Few churches realize the stress and burden these women carry.  They should be praised for their generous love of the church as they generously love their husbands.

The Weight of Preaching

4400217305_2d902129df_b One of the things I've experienced over the past month is the profound weight and responsibility of pastoral ministry. As I've stepped into the roll of Interim Senior Pastor at my church, God has graciously made me aware of the amazing burden of caring for God's people. A Pastor is first and foremost a shepherd, who has been stewarded to precious flock of Jesus Christ.  I know that as a pastor I stand as one who will give account for the sheep in my fold. Every church member I am given the task to shepherd their soul.  I am called to lead them with the rod of the scriptures.  I am called to protect them from wolves and even from themselves.  I'm called to lead them through the war zone of culture helping them to persevere to the end and not fall captive to the empty philosophy of the world.  That's why I love that picture above of a man shepherding his sheep in a tank grave yard. That is the job of a pastor.

I felt this responsibility most clearly as I stood up to preach this past week from 2 Timothy 4.  Paul gives the powerful charge to Timothy to "preach the word". Paul's last cry to Timothy was to shepherd the church with the scriptures. The task of preaching we see in this passage is for the building up of the church so that they may be "competent, equipped for every good work".  However, the task of a pastor through his preaching ministry is also to protect the people from their itching ears.

Everyone, including myself, is tempted to scratch their itching ears by finding teachers, books, and resources that suit our own passions.  Our sinful nature makes us truth repellers not truth seekers. Sheep wander off into danger, and it is the job of the shepherd to rescue them through the preached word of God.

The Pastor is a man who will be held accountable before Christ to faithfully preach the word, in season and out of season.  When it is popular for him to do so, and also when it means preaching truth causes him to lose his job or lose his life.

The weight of this responsibility was so heavy on my heart this past Sunday. The few minutes before I went up to preach this text to my church, I quoted this passage in my mind and by God's spirit he reminded me of the responsibility but also the glory of this task.

As the great 20th century preacher, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said in his great work, Preaching and Preachers:

the work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called. If you want something in addition to that I would say without any hesitation that the most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, it is obviously the greatest need of the world also.

What the church and the world needs now more than ever are men who feel the weight and the glory of their task of shepherding their people through the preached word of God.  May pastors rise to this most glorious challenge!

If you would like to listen to my sermon from 2 Timothy 3-4 you can click here.

Replacing False Foundations in the Church

The Gospel is polarizing. So often we build the unity of our churches on anything other than the Gospel. We build it on a worship style.

We build our unity on our social group.

We build our unity on our skin color.

We build our unity by our age.

We build our unity on entertainment and fun.

We build our unity on politics

We build our unity on anything other than the blood of Christ. The danger is that when we take Christ from being the cornerstone we have lost the church completely. Christ alone is what brings us together as a local body of believers. It is through his life, death, and resurrection that we are able to be forgiven of our sins and grafted into the kingdom, adopted as a child of God. When we put false foundations in instead of Jesus as the source for our unity, we fail to be a church and instead become a social club.

I have found in my ministry that when you begin to remove these false foundations and replace it with Christ it polarizes people. Not everyone will understand making Christ the center and source of unity in their community. They have lived their church lives standing on the instability of false foundation so long that they have forgotten what it is like to stand on the immovable rock.

Our churches are plagued with building their lives on sinking sand rather than Christ. As a result many people have a hard time grabbing a hold of a great vision of Christ and his sufficiency in unifying the church.

For pastors this can be a very difficult and an often painful task. Removing these false foundations can be very painful for the sheep and they will bite back. However a Pastor must operate like a surgeon. A surgeon cuts the patient for the patients health. Although the surgeon inflicts damage, his intentions are not to harm but to heal. Pastors we must operate in the same way. We must have the courage to cut out these false foundations and replace them with the Gospel. However we must make sure we operate in love, with patience and teaching. A pastor must love his sheep, sacrificing his own ego and reputation if necessary for the good of the flock. A Pastor must imitate Christ by walking the way of suffering, laying down his own life for the sake of his people. Pastor you and I must do this. The health of our churches depend on it.

Making Christ the sole foundation for your ministry will not be easy, quick, or painless, but nevertheless it is necessary. For the sake of our churches we must do this and for the sake of our own souls. As pastors we are men who must give account, and at the end of the day we will not be held accountable for our popularity but our faithfulness in proclaiming to our people the whole counsel of God. We must minister in such a way in which we can stand before the Chief Shepherd at the day of judgement knowing we have stewarded our responsibility of shepherding well.