Four Encouragements and Challenges for Young Pastors

4278335002_3e90e703c3_zI first started serving on staff at a church when I was 18 years old. Forest Hills Baptist Church called me to be their student pastor at the age of 23. Then they called me to be their Senior Pastor at 25. I say that not to draw attention to my age, but to share a continual struggle I’ve experienced the last decade in my ministry—not being despised for my youth. Over the course of my first decade in ministry, 1 Timothy 4:11-16 is well worn in my Bible. I’ve referenced it frequently in the midst of my insecurities for encouragement and guidance.

“Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:11–16, ESV)

I know there are many young pastors like myself out there who struggle to minister to people much older than themselves. But what Paul shows us in these few verses is that over time and by the grace of God, the older saints will grow in their respect for us as they see our maturity in Christ. How do young pastors model godliness as leaders to those around them? Paul gives us four ways.

1. We Model Godliness in our Character.

We are to set “an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” This means that the godliness we cultivate in our life is put on display in our relationships with others. If you hope to garner the respect of the congregation, the grace of God should be evident in your life. If you’re a gossip or if you are a hot-headed, immoral, unreliable person, you are not going to gain the respect of anyone. We are all called to set an example to one another, particularly for those in leadership in the church.

2. We Model Godliness in our teaching.

Paul instructs Timothy to “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” He tells Timothy not to “neglect the gift you have,” that gift being teaching. The authority of the pastoral office is not derived from age or experience, but from the authority of God’s word. The Bible is the rod in the hand of God’s shepherd. If a young pastor hopes to garner the respect of older saints, he must display a mastery of the Scripture but also display that he’s been mastered by it. He must use his gifting of teaching to faithfully build up the church. This for me (as shown in the journal quote earlier) became the great truth I’ve clung to as a young pastor. When anyone seeks to despise me from my youth, not only have a sought to model godly character, but I’ve devoted myself to faithfully teaching the Scriptures. I’ve labored hard to proclaim the word of God in season and out of season, and though I may be young—I pray that I’ve garnered the respect and trust of my congregation.

3. We Model Godliness in our Growth.

Paul tells Timothy to “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see you progress.” As a young pastors, we are far away from arriving to perfection. Yet, if we hope to gain the respect of older saints, we must display a pattern of growth, saturating ourselves in the truth. All should be able to observe our progress, our growth, and our maturity. As I think back over the last decade, I think of so many failures and sins in my life! I thank God I’m not the man I was at 18! I thank God that I’m not the man I was last year! I think of how much I’ve grown as a husband and father, pastor and preacher—and I still have such long ways to go! Again, no body hits perfection in this life, but over the course of our Christian journey those closest to us should be able to observe our steady plodding and growth in godliness.

4. We Model Godliness in our Endurance.

Our faithfulness to Christ must stand the test of time. Paul cautions Timothy to “keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.” Watch your life and your doctrine closely! He goes on to instruct Timothy: “Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” By enduing in the work of ministry over time, persisting in cultivating and modeling godliness, God will work. By continuing to faithfully shepherded the congregation, even as a young pastor, not only will Timothy’s own life be saved, but so too will those entrusted under his care. We must persist and persevere in Christ until the end, and a faithful shepherd who watches his life and teaching well not only has the gracious reward of heaven, but has the joy of knowing he helped his church to cross the finish line of faith.

Two Ways for Christians to Respond to the Orlando Shooting

4045383465_f22759e77d_z As we woke up to the news of massacre and carnage in Orlando, the event shocked the consciences of the American people. The news of another mass shooting in our country has become all to familiar in recent years. Yet, the catastrophe yesterday marks the largest shooting in American history—a record that no one wanted to see broken. As our eyes glued themselves to the news outlets for the latest updates, our inquisitive hearts long for answers. As the law enforcement officials report more information in the days to come, what can we as Christians do in response to this havoc?

Already, the opportunists have jumped to political solutions, using the Orlando slaughter as a chance to propel an agenda. We want to do something to stop the shootings that recur so frequently, so such reactions are understandable. So calls for the regulation of gun control and the ban of radical Islamists have already overtaken the tragedy. Though we should explore political solutions to this persistent problem in our country, I would suggest the church should take a different approach. Before we jump to the politicization of the event, may we first mourn with the hurting and proclaim the hope of Christ.

Mourn with the Hurting

Many are hurting—The friends and family of the victims, the LGBT community, peaceful muslims, the city of Orlando, and more. Before we rush to judgement or vocalize our disagreements with any of those communities, the church must weep with those who weep. We mourn with those who mourn. We must identify ourselves with the brokenhearted, sharing tears with all.

Though our ears still ring with the shell shock of this news, we must offer our compassion and tears for those affected by this abominable attack. God birthed the church out of the afflictions of our savior. In his prophecy, Isaiah called the messiah the suffering servant. Jesus identified with us in his incarnation, becoming human just as we are. The messiah shared in our sufferings and experienced the horrors of sin and evil unleashed upon the world. As Jesus carried his cross to Golgotha, God experienced the terror of bloody murder. God became a victim and aligns himself with the oppressed and marginalized, all for the forgiveness of human sin.

Just as Jesus shared in our sufferings, so too should we share in the sufferings of those around us. We must display compassion, love, and hope for those families of the victims, coming alongside them and sharing in their grief.

Proclaim the Hope of Christ

Not only must we mourn with the hurting, we must also proclaim the hope of Christ. Jesus identifies with the weeping, but he also came to stop all the weeping. The rampage in Orlando unsettles us, serving as a poignant reminder that the world is not as it should be. The evil and hate that can fill the heart of a man to open fire in a crowded room reminds us of that. Something is seriously wrong with the world. The fault line of this world cannot be filled by shuffling political dirt. The tectonic plates of sin continue to quake the earth with unspeakable acts of evil. The restraining grace of God provides the only explanation for why the world is as stable as it is. Human remedies cannot solve the virus that is human sin.

Yet, the cross of Christ not only displays Jesus’ identification with our suffering, but proclaims victory over our suffering. God sent his son to save sinners like us, but also to restore the broken world to its original and perfect design. The Gospel involves individual restoration, but the good news expands to the entire cosmos. Yes, Christ shares in our weeping, but he also stops the weeping. This is the tension we live in as Christians between the times. The kingdom of God is here now, arriving with Christ himself two thousand years ago. Yet, the kingdom has not yet been fully realized, and won’t be until Christ comes again. Jesus’ arrival marks the inauguration of his kingdom, but that kingdom has yet to be fully consummated. As Jesus endures the sufferings of the cross, his resurrection breaks the back of our enemies sin and death, but there final defeat has yet to come. Though the kingdom of darkness continues to squirm, we must proclaim the hope that Christ has won the day on that resurrection morning and that he is coming soon. The day will soon come when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”” (Revelation 21:4, ESV)

As our nation processes the carnage from Sunday, may we mourn with the hurting and proclaim the hope of Christ. Though blood stains the floors of Pulse in Orlando, Jesus is alive and he is coming soon. As we mourn with the brokenhearted, may we proclaim the hope of Christ and in our sorrow may our longing for his return grow evermore in our hearts.

Jump Starting the Blog

If you are a frequent reader here, you will have noticed that there hasn’t been many posts recently. I’ve kept many a plate spinning these past six months and I had to let one drop. That plate happened to be the blog. By the grace of God the other plates remain in rotation. Yet, I hope to jump start this blog this week posting on a more frequent basis. My family and I just came back from a week of vacation and I’m feeling recharged and refreshed. My schedule slows down a bit over the summer, so I have a little more energy to devote to the blogosphere. I hope to have some new posts this week! Stay tuned!

A Review: Church History for Modern Ministry by Dayton Hartman

41EhsS6bkWL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_When you use the word ‘history’, most people think back to the snooze fest that was high school history class as their eyes roll back into their skull. People just don’t dislike history, they disdain it. For them, history is irrelevant, impractical, and a waste of time. In an age where we idolize the new and ignore the old, we kick history to the bucket. Unfortunately, many Christians and ministry leaders are ignorant of the great cloud of witnesses who have come before them. Dr. Dayton Hartman, pastor at Redeemer Church in Rocky Mount, NC, wishes to correct that trend in his new book Church History for Modern Ministry: Why Our Past Matters for Everything We Do. Hartman chronicles his own journey of discovery of the importance of history and shares practical ways a historically informed ministry contributes to vitality in the local church.The first chapter, Back to the Future, examines the danger of ignoring church history and then proposes benefits of how an understanding of the past can inform present ministry methods and concerns. In chapter two, Creed and Creeds, Hartman makes a compelling case for the importance of creeds and encourages ministry leaders to incorporate them into the life of the church. Chapter 3, Imitating Christ, describes how church history can contribute to discipleship, as Hartman casts a vision for personal disciple making among believers and within the home. Chapter 4, Preaching and the Cultural Drift, illustrates how history helps inform apologetics, as church leaders can learn from patristic thinkers like Justin Martyr to more contemporary apologists like Francis Schaeffer. In chapter 5, Christians and Culture, Hartman encourages ministry leaders to engage culture and make culture, as he reflects on men like Abraham Kuyper. In the final chapter, Yesterday, Today was the Future, Hartman makes one final plea to invite ministry leaders to the study history, to learn from the giants, and to be humbled by their legacy.

Hartman writes with clarity and humor as he makes his case, sprinkling his chapters with historical examples. The book serves as an easy introduction to those unfamiliar with church history, as separate boxes help summarize the historical figures or define confusing terms. In addition, Hartman provides excellent recommended reading throughout the book for those who do not know where to begin in the study of history, including a helpful appendix. Church History for Modern Ministry is a very practical book, a great tool for church staffs to read together and discuss.

As I read Hartman’s book, in many ways it was like reading my own journey. Ignorance of our spiritual family history pervades our churches, and ministry leaders must help their people shed their chronological snobbery by informing them of the importance and relevance of our past. If you are a ministry leader who could care less about history, I beg you to pick this book up; may Hartman’s argument change your mind. For those of you who already see the importance of history for the local church, this book is for you too, as it is filled with practical ways to teach and inform your congregation of the giants who came before us. May Church History for Modern Ministry wake ministry leaders from the slumber of their high school history class and awaken them to the practical relevance church history can bring to modern ministry.

Praying the Psalms: Psalm 24

  Psalm 24 is a liturgical psalm used by the people of Israel to assemble together in worship. It is a psalm bursting with excitement and energy, as the people rejoice at the opportunity to gather to worship the Lord. As we study this psalm of David, we will see what it means to truly worship the Lord as we wait in eager expectation for King Jesus.

Praying the Psalms

Commentary

v 1-2 - The Lord owns it all. He creates the cosmos, so the cosmos belongs to him. The focus at the start of this psalm is on the earth. The earth is beautiful and filled with beautiful landscapes, vegetation, and creatures.

God has established all there is by the word of his power. He brought the land out from the waters. He chisels the rivers and their curves with his finger. He is the master craftsman, the prestigious artists, and the detailed designer of the earth. He then, sets man as the crown jewel of his creation. He fills the earth with creatures in the sea, on the land, and in the air. He finishes his work by creating humanity in his image. He places man in a place of honor and creates humanity in his own image. As this psalm of David begins, our attention is drawn back towards Genesis 1. The Lord is the creator God. Because the Lord creates the world he owns the world. Yet, the Lord not only owns the whole earth, but he owns those who dwell in it, manly human beings. All of it is his and all of it belongs to him.

v 3-6 - This psalm was most likely used for liturgical purposes by the people as they go to worship the Lord. The question asked is a reflective one. “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?” (3). If the Lord is the creator God who owns everything, who are we as human beings to approach his holy hill to worship him? The psalm tells us the type of people who are fit to come and worship the Lord and approach him in his holiness. It is he who possess both a love for purity and a love for the truth. In purity, a true worshiper of God possess clean hands, undefiled by sin. The heart of the worshiper is pure, not filled with carnal lusts and passions. A worshiper is not merely outwardly righteous. A person could perhaps fool others in looking outwardly righteous. But a true worshiper of God is pure from within his or her heart. There is a personal holiness that goes deep into the recesses of our hearts. We must not be like the Pharisees whom Jesus called white washed tombs who were rotting on the inside. A true worshiper is pure in heart.

Yet, a worshiper of God not only has a deep love for purity but a love for truth as well. Sound doctrine is essential for proper worshiper. The one who si fit to ascend the hill of the Lord is one who “does not lift up his soul to what is false” (4). She does not believe the lies of the world, but possess a hunger for the truth of God. She studies her Scripture diligently longing for greater knowledge of God. She is on guard against false teaching, errors, and lies. She tests the spirit’s to see whether they come from God.

A true worshiper, one who ascends up the holy hill and who stands in the holy place of God is one who loves purity and truth.

There is great blessing in having the privilege of worshiping the Lord. God gives us his favor and gives us his righteousness. Those who seek the face of God will find him. How we need more men and woman who hunger for more of God! Where are the men and women of this day who possess a deep love for purity and truth? Where are the Christians who trust in the righteousness given them by faith to have such boldness to walk in confidence to the holy place of God and enjoy his presence? Where are those who enjoy and worship the Lord who own’s it all? May we seek God with such intensity and repent of seeking lesser things. Our master beckons us and invites us to worship. Our creator and owner calls his children into his holy assembly.

Yet, as we think about the question of this stanza, “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?”, there is no one who is worthy. As the apostle Paul tells us in Romans there is no one righteous, no not one. All of us are tainted and defiled by sin. Our hands are not clean, nor are our hearts pure. Each of us are fish hooked on the deceptive lies of this world. Knowing ourselves truly, we know that we are not worthy. Yet, this passage anticipates the coming of a king of glory who qualifies us for true and proper worship. We have a God who give salvation to us by giving to us the righteousness of his only son.

v. 7-10 - As this liturgical psalm continues, there is a climactic chant towards the end. It has a call and response rhythm to it. It encapsulates the jubilant demeanor of God’s people as the King of glory comes. There is the panting anticipation that God would come and be with his people.

The question: “Who is this king of glory?.

The answer: “The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord , mighty in battle!”

The King of glory comes. He is strong and ready to win the battle and achieve victory. The King of glory has come. The creator of the universe entered into his world in the person of Jesus Christ. He comes fit for battle as the strong and mighty warrior. Yet, he first came not to overcome political powers, but to overcome our spiritual foe. Jesus comes to defeat the kingdom of darkness and the enslaving condemnation of our sin by his death on the cross. Yet, on the third day the gate was be open. The stone was rolled back and the resurrected King of glory came into his victory.

The resurrected Christ eventually ascended into heaven. The gates were opened and he return to his glorious place at the right hand of the Father. Yet, as we wait for his return, we know that the gates will one day be opened again. They will be lifted and the King of glory will return clothed in power to establish his Kingdom on the earth he owns. The earth is his and its inhabitants. And on that day when Jesus establishes his kingdom, those who are saved and made righteous by faith will ascend the hill of the Lord  and stand in his holy place.  The gates will be opened that the King of glory may come in. “Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory!” (10).

Prayer Guide

  • Thank the Lord for his creation and confess his possession of it all, remembering that all you own does not belong to you, but to him.
  • Ask the Lord with the Spirit’s help through your faith in Christ to have a love for purity and truth. Ask God to help you become a worshiper who lives your life for his glory.
  • Thank the Lord that he saves you and makes you righteous through Jesus Christ.
  • Praise the Lord that the King of glory came and one the victory.
  • Ask the Lord to help you trust  that the gates will one day be opened, and that the King of glory will return.