A Testimonial: Don’t Neglect the Hard Books of the Bible in Your Preaching

Recently I preached through book of Job in just four weeks. If you are interested you can listen to those four sermons here. Job is the sort of book that is often neglected in our Bible, and due to its difficulty many preachers skip over it. When I first planned on preaching through Job, I had reservations. It’s a lengthy book with a difficult topic. Yet, convinced with its relevance to the lives of my church, I pressed on in my preparation. Job-Rotator

A few weeks into the series  a woman, who I respect dearly, express her initial timidity about my taking on this particular book in just four weeks, but shared with me the positive feedback she’s heard from many of our members through the Job series. I’ve been pleasantly caught off guard how this little book has impacted so many in our congregation, but I really shouldn’t be surprised. After all, the Spirit of God works the the preaching of the word, even difficult books like Job.

Getting Past Glibness

Now I say all this not to laud my own preaching accomplishments. In fact, I believe the impact of the book of Job had little to do with the preacher at all—neither in the crafting of the sermon nor the delivery. No, I believe the impact of the book of Job on my congregation came from the neglect of teaching on suffering in the church today. People just don't hear message much on how to suffer well. In our consumeristic culture constantly trying to attract seekers, a topic like suffering wouldn't appear to draw much of a crowd.

If we let lost people dictate what is preached in the pulpit we end up with pragmatic, moralistic sermons devoid of the Bible and the Gospel. When we preach to people’s felt needs, our worship become superficial and glib. In order to convince people to be Christian, we plaster on our smiles and talk about how happy Jesus makes us. As a result, many Christians appear robotic and disconnected from the harsh realities in which we live. Sadly, that happiness promoted merely reflects the consumeristic culture, which is how the despicable prosperity gospel teaching infiltrates so many American churches. Lamenting Christians don’t make good billboards for our marketing efforts.

Expository preaching forces congregations to go through tough texts and encounter biblical themes that we might not ordinarily choose. Even still, expository preachers tend to neglect the Old Testament. A pervasive genre in the Old Testament is lament. From Job to Jeremiah to the Psalter, the Old Testament wrestles with depression and sorrow. I believe these sections of Scripture provide an significant comfort to Christians who have grown tired of pretending to be happy all the time.

Proclaim Hope to Sufferers

As an Christian could tell you, following Jesus is difficult. Suffering is a recurring facet of human existence in this fallen, sinful world. Pastors and teachers need to expose our people to these neglected gems, like Job, and teach them to suffer well. As I preached through the book of Job, I knew I was preaching to many who were suffering. Because I know my people, I know that there are suffers present: a man ever-weakening with ALS, women struggling with recurring bouts of depression, the widow who doesn’t know how to move on from her husband’s death, the mother who had to burry her own child, and the fathers laid off and struggling to find work.

If pastors are to be faithful in their task of shepherding they must proclaim the hope of the Gospel even in the difficult afflictions of the present age. We must help our congregation set their hope on Christ, in the midst of the depression and questions.

Worship in Tears of Joy and Sorrow

Thankfully, God has given us a wonderful resource to assist suffers: a savior who suffers with us and for us. Jesus identifies us in the frailty of our flesh and endures the cross of Christ to redeem us and to mend this broken world. Hope is here and is coming. the Bible in not a monolithic book, but is contoured with various writers and genres, styles and themes. This diversity allows us to voice the prayers and concerns of the Biblical writers to God, including those who may be going through the must anguished suffering like Job. We ought not to neglect tough books of the Bible, because they help provide balance to the full range of dynamics within the Christian life. We must learn how to follow Christ when the goodness of God’s providence shines brightly on us, but also when that providence darkens and turns bitter. When our hope is grounded securely in Christ, we can worship God both in tears of joy and of sorrow.

The Advantages and Struggles of the Introverted Pastor

God created us with unique personalities including the often subjective scale of introversion and extroversion. We can understand ourselves and each other better by learning where people place themselves on that scale. Our personality brings certain strengths and weaknesses no matter if your the outgoing extrovert or the reserved introvert. As the Spirit convicts me and helps me to know thyself, I've learned how my personality impacts my work as a pastor. In my experience, the pastoral ministry tends to attract more of the introverted than the extroverted. This is due to the rigorous personal study that comes with that weighty mantle of the ministry of the word which requires solitude. As a self-confessed introvert, I've found that my personality helps and hinders my ministry. Every personality contains facets that are prone to sin and to faithfulness. As I've learned (and am still learning) myself and my own quirkiness, I've identified three advantages and three disadvantages of my introversion when it comes to my pastoral ministry. I pray these personal musings will help fellow introverted pastors assess how their own personality can help or hinder their ministry.

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Advantage 1: Diligent Study Comes Easy

Introverts recharge in the quiet of solitude. Thankfully, the pastoral ministry requires great time alone. Each week the pastor must feed the congregation with the Scripture, therefore the work in the study is paramount. Introverts thrive in this environment. The quiet tasks of reading, writing, prayer fill the introvert's heart and the soul. While our more extroverted friends would go stir crazy digging through the Bible, parsing verbs, studying commentaries, and writing sermon manuscripts, this environment energizes the introverted pastor.

Advantage 2: Listening Comes Easy

Introverts are inclined to listen before speaking. Many times we often speak before we think, and talk before we listen. Though even introverted pastors can hastily take over the conversion (trust me, I've done it several times), in general, the introverted pastor listens before speaking. When it comes to counseling, handling critiques, or observing the spiritual life of the congregation, introverted pastors excel at taking the pulse of those around them. Listening helps you to discern the issues beneath the conversation and draw them out to the forefront.

Advantage 3: Discipleship Comes Easy

People draw the typical caricature of introverts as those who cannot stand to be around people. This just simply isn't true. Introverts love being around people, it is just that people drain rather than recharge. Introverts hate small talk or chewing the cud with the latest weather reports or sports team, but we love conversations that probe deeper issues of significance. This makes introverted pastors able to invest easily in personal disciple making. Introverted pastors though they tend to the many, thrive best when they invest heavily in a few. As a result, sitting over a weekly discipleship breakfast talking about the joys of the Christian life, the implication of the doctrine of justification by faith, or the struggle of temptation, come easily to the introverted pastor. Introverts love conversation, just meaningful conversation. In a world filled with small talk, superficial commentary, and meaningless pleasantries, introverted pastors can drill down the conversation into the recesses of people's hearts.

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Struggle 1: Pastoral Care Can Drain You

Yet, there are not only advantages that come with introversion in the pastoral ministry, there are also struggles. One of them is the fact that people drain you, and as a pastor you are with people a lot: hospital visits, meetings, phone calls, counseling, and more. As a result the sometimes laborious and unrealistic expectations churches have on pastoral care, fatigues the introverted pastor. Out of all the aspects of pastoral ministry, this one is my greatest weakness. It is not that I do not enjoy seeing my people, visiting with them, or checking-in with their needs, it is just that it drains me physically, emotionally, and above all spiritually. I tend to pack most of my pastoral care visits on Monday, and I intentionally plan my sermon prep day on Tuesday. By the end of the day Monday I'm so spent (especially coming off Sunday), it takes a day in the study to recharge for the remainder of the week. While extroverted pastors thrive in pastoral care, introverted pastors often struggle and can sometimes sinfully neglect this vital responsibility.

Struggle 2: Large Groups Fatigue You

Each Sunday I walk into our sanctuary. I "work the room," moving from pew to pew, shaking hands and giving hugs with a smile. After worship, I hang around saying goodbye as people leave and engaging in conversations with questions about the sermon. This wonderful work leaves me dead tired by the end of day. Those large group meetings fatigues introverted pastors due to the taxation they take on the soul. Introverts tend to avoid large group settings and would prefer standing quietly in the corner, avoiding the lime light. Yet, out of love we must step outside of our comfort or preferences, mingling with the people of God—providing encouragement, prayer, and love.

Though I would sometimes prefer not to talk to anyone, I intentionally die to myself and step outside of my comfort zone. I've seen many introverted pastors neglect their people by remaining a reclusive figure, clinging like a fly to the wall, avoiding their people like they have a disease. This is a sinful neglect, and introverts must combat their tendencies to withdrawal by forcing themselves to meet new people, start up conversations, and show love to others.

Struggle 3: Solitude Disruption Annoys You

If you've been a pastor for any length of time, disruptions come. Each day is never the same and at any moment the Lord throws a wrench into your plans for the day. A member drops by unannounced and barges into your office, interrupting a time of prayer or a phone call comes informing you of a members heart attack, so you drop what your doing and head to the hospital to meet them. Introverted pastors can find themselves usually annoyed by such interruptions, yet our ministry to people is not always convenient or time-sensitive. When duty calls, we must drop what we are doing and serve.

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I have my suspicions that Jesus might have leaned introvert. Though he loved the crowds and had compassion on him, we see the demands of his ministry often led him to get away to solitude. He got up early in the morning to spend time with his Father. Again, every personality comes with advantages and disadvantages. As I've assessed my own introversion, I've spotted some strengths and weaknesses. As we pastors shepherd our people, may we exercise our strengths and seek to balance out the aspects of our personalities that are prone to weakness or sin.

If you are a church member, be gracious to your pastor, patient in his short-comings and lift him up in prayer, showing him continual grace. He ministers for your soul and for your good. Whether extroverted or introverted, he loves he and works diligently of your spiritual vitality.

 

The Most Frustrating Thing About Being a Pastor

Shepherding a church can be an incredibly frustrating work. As a pastor you do your best to lead in accordance to God’s word. You seek his wisdom and his direction for his church. You preach your heart out week after week hoping to be catalyst for spiritual growth or even revival. Yet, the road to achieving that vision seems dark, lonely, and filled with bruises. Shepherding God’s church is not for the faint of heart. It takes guts, endurance, patience, and above all the work of the Spirit of God. I guess that is what I find the most frustrating thing about being a pastor. Despite all my efforts and all my labor, all I can do is plant or water the seed of the Gospel into the hearts of my people. I cannot cause the growth. In this since, the Pastor is impotent and unable to cause true revival and awakening in the hearts of his people, no matter how much he may long for it. The hardest part about leading a church is not the teaching, the meetings, the counseling, or the criticisms. The hardest part is waiting on the Lord.

Week after week, month after month, and year after year, the pastor stands before the people proclaiming the whole counsel of God to his people hoping that the seed scattered would take root and grow. Often God doesn’t work in our time table, but God works slowly over time. Revival is great and spiritual awakenings are wonderful but they are an extraordinary working of the Spirit’s work in a condensed amount of time. When it comes to revival in a local church, normally that revival comes slowly over many years of faithful Gospel teaching that exhorts, challenges, and admonishes.

The pastor cannot make spiritual growth happen anymore than he can direct the wind with a baton. The wind blows where it wishes, so it is with the Spirit. Perhaps God will move unexpectedly and profoundly in revival. Perhaps not. Yet, let us pastors not resort to gimmicks, fads, and entertainment in attempt to manufacture it. May we trust in those ordinary means of grace God has ordained to grow his church. Trust the Word to work and let the Spirit move in his time.

God’s sovereignty over the spiritual growth of our people can be so very frustrating, but so very hopeful. God’s work in our churches is not dependent upon our gifting, talents, or abilities, but rather on the omnipotent will of God. This truth brings us to our knees in prayer, trusting in God for growth not in ourselves. It gives us confidence to stand before our congregations each week and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ not knowing that at any moment the glorious light of God might pierce through the darkened veil over our peoples eyes and grant them to see the excellency of Jesus. In our frustration, may we humble ourselves before God in prayer trusting in His Word to pierce the hearts of His people, all the while having confidence in God’s ability to work in us and through us.

6 Tips for Millennial Pastors in Established Churches

I'm a young pastor.  Trust me. You don't have to tell me. I get told that every time I step into a hospital room or a funeral home. Although young pastors are not all that unusual anymore, it is unusual for a pastor in his twenties to be pastoring an established and predominantly older church.  Some how, God willed it for me to become the Pastor at Forest Hills Baptist Church.  I'm not sure if the church was crazy, but they called a young, inexperienced, guy like me to shepherd them.  I've been at my church for almost four years now – 2 years as a Student pastor, 1 year as the interim Senior Pastor, and another year as the permanent Senior Pastor.  Over the course of these past few years I've learned a lot about my self and I have made plenty of mistakes along the way.  My church has been so gracious to me as I learn and grow as a man of God and as a shepherd. I'm observing a generational passing of the baton in most churches right now.  The aging boomers are starting to retire and the millennial pastors are getting their first opportunity to lead established churches. Although many established churches are hesitant or afraid to hire any pastor under 40, more churches are open to having a younger pastor.  Being a younger pastor has its own unique sets of challenges (some of which I might outline in a future post), but for now I want to provide some council to any young pastors in establish churches.  For what it is worth, these are some things I've been learning slowly and sometimes painfully.

1. Lead with the Bible

This is absolutely essential.  As a young pastor there isn't a ton of life experience to pull from and you have little to no relational authority.  Sure you might be the Senior Pastor, but when your younger than everyone in the room, that positional authority doesn't seem to go very far.  Thankfully, the authority of the pastoral position is not tied to age but to Scripture. The authority of the pastor is not his experience but God's word.  As you lead your people, make sure you hold out the word of life through preaching, in meetings, in hospital rooms, at funerals, and any other place you might find yourself among your people.  The pastor (young or old) should always be pointing his people to follow Jesus, not him.  When leading any sort of change or initiative, you should demonstrate thoroughly from the Bible why it is necessary to go that direction. Convince your people that as they follow you, you are following Jesus.  This happens by centering your leadership on the teaching of God's word.

2. Demonstrate Humility

A lot of younger pastors get themselves in trouble because they are about as humble as Kayne West. They think they have church figured out. If only everyone would follow their plan, their ideas, and do what they say, everything would be fine.  Not only is this arrogant, it's idiotic. The painful lesson I learn each day is that just when I think I have ministry figured out, I find out I don't. Listen to criticism. Be teachable.  Demonstrate humility.  No body wants to follow a know-it-all. If you lead your people under compulsion you will not only loose any credibility to do anything meaningful and lasting in that church, but chances are you'll get asked to go elsewhere.

3. Adapt to the Culture

Contextualization is one of those buzz words out there right now.  From church planters to missionaries, everyone is thinking through how we can communicate the unchanging gospel in a constantly changing culture.  When the culture we find ourselves doing ministry is traditional, nobody throws out the importance of contextualization.  Many of the established churches are formal, traditional, and resistant to change.  Many young pastors make the mistake of ignoring the current culture of their church and forcing cultural change on the church before they are ready.  Adapt your methods to the people God has given you to shepherd.  To adapt to the culture, you must know the culture of your church.  This means you must pay attention and learn your people.

I'm not a big fan of the coat and tie. In fact, I can't stand wearing a tie. Every time I put one on it feels like I'm putting on a noose.  Yet I wear one every Sunday morning at my church to preach.  Why? I'm adapting to the culture of my people.  I do not want the fact that I'm not wearing a tie to hinder the preaching of the word of God.  I'm contextualizing to the people God has given me, reaching them where they are to teach them and instruct them. If this means that wearing a coat and tie allows them to hear the Gospel clearly, than it is no sacrifice.  This is a simplistic illustration but the point is made. Meet your people where they are,and slowly implement cultural change.  Then after many years of careful teaching maybe the tie can come off. (I'm hoping!)

4. Be Patient

Patience doesn't come naturally to anyone, especially young men. It is easy to come into an established church as their pastor thinking that the reform and revitalization they need will happen in six months.  It won't.  Leading change in established churches can be a painfully slow process over the course of many years and sometimes even decades.  It is like turning around an ocean liner. It can take a while to get on course.

Young pastors, do not let your eagerness get the best of you.  Do not lead too fast or too far in front of your people that you loose them.  The wise shepherd knows his sheep. He can sense when they are tired or worn out from the journey.  He can tell when he needs to slow down or when he can speed up.

5. Don't Be Afraid to Lead

On the flip side, you must lead. It is easy to go into an established church and get comfortable.  The salary is nice, the routine is predictable, and no one is going to get mad at you if you just keep every thing the same.  I see many pastors who are so afraid to lead that they just sit there and feed off the sheep. Pastor you are not called to feed off the sheep.  Ezekiel 34 has some pretty strong words for shepherds who do that. Rather, we are called to lead them.  Yes, we must be patient, but if you are not moving them to greater health and a deeper love for Jesus and their community than you are failing them as a pastor. Sure leadership can be painful and yes the sheep might bite back, but this is the call of ministry.

6. Love Your People

Your church is not a project to be fixed, but a people to be loved. Spend the first few years of your ministry just loving your people well.  Get to know them. Go out to eat with them. Pray with them.  Love them. It is so easy for young ambitious pastors to loose sight of this.  Not only by loving your people will you serve them well, but you will also gain relational credibility and buy-in to lead in more significant endeavors later down the line.

Great Failures are Covered by a Great Savior

As you lead an established church as a millennial pastor it will be challenging.  It can be painful, frustrating, and heart breaking.  Along the way you will experience some major leadership failures, yet despite our failures we have a great savior.  As we lean in on Jesus, and ask him to help us love our people, he will give us wisdom to shepherd wisely.  Millennial pastors do not need to abandon established churches just because it may be difficult.  As one myself, I'm excited about seeing other millennial pastors begin to take seriously the call to lead established churches, and I'm excited to see what our great Savior is going to do through young pastors.

Are you a young pastor in an established church? If so, share with us some things you have learned in your ministry context on social media or below in the comments!

4 Ways to Shatter the Super Pastor Illusion

People put pastors on a pedestal, and rightly so.  Pastors are called to be examples to their flock.  They are to lead by modeling spiritual maturity and Christ-likeness. Pastors are men who are to be above reproach. Many people look to pastors as super Christians.  Although they might struggle with sin or find it difficult to spend time in prayer, the pastor doesn’t, at least thats what people think. Many people envision that pastors have a special connection with God or even a direct line to him that normal Christians just do not have.  All of this is just hogwash. Pastors are just like every other Christians, sinners saved by grace.  Although a pastor is called to lead by example, the idea of a “super pastor” is a lie.  We struggle with personal sin. We find it difficult to love our wives and families well.  We sometimes struggle to find our joy in God. There are even times in which preaching on Sunday morning is the last thing we want to do.  If you are a pastor reading this, you know this to be true.  Yet, pastors self-inflict themselves with a demand to maintain the image of “Super Pastor”.  We think we must always have the right answers even though we do not know, and we must always seem joyful even though we are in a season of melancholy, and we must always seem righteous even though we struggle with hidden sin. Not only is this the hight of hypocrisy, the pressure to carry the weight of this projected image will one day cause our collapse.

Pastor, the best thing we can do for ourselves and for our people is to shatter the illusion of “super pastor”.  We must invite people into our brokenness and remind them that we too desperately need Jesus each and every day. They need to see that you too are a real person, who sometimes struggle to follow Jesus.  They need to know that Jesus is the only savior, not you.  Here are a few ways you can help shatter the illusion of super pastor not only for yourself, but for your church.

1. Don’t Make Yourself the Hero

Its easy to be the hero in all your own sermons and to spin illustration after illustration of your own illustrious spiritual life.  Don’t do that. You are not the hero, Jesus is.  In your sermons constantly be pointing to Jesus and pastors need him too.  Share stories (where appropriate) of your own failures and struggle to obey the text your preaching from that Sunday.  Talk about your failures as a Christ follower, a husband, or a dad.  Although we want to make sure we are being appropriate and we do not want to be self-effacing to create some guise of profound humlity, we do want to be reall with our people. We want to invite them into our lives and even be vulnerable both publicly and privately.  Again, caution and discernment are important here, but we must not seek to create an image of infallibility.  We are not the hero, Jesus is.

2. Ask Others for Forgiveness

Pastor’s mess up a lot.  We make mistakes. We speak in the flesh.  We hurt other staff members in our actions. When we do sin, we must be quick to confess it and ask for forgiveness.  Own up to your error and ask your brother or sister to forgive you. Every time your confess sin and ask forgiveness you begin to shatter that illusion of super pastor, and people begin to see you too as a sinner in need of grace.  However humility in this way will not hinder your leadership, but help it.  No one wants to follow a man who thinks he’s always right and refuses to admit he’s wrong.  By displaying humility and confession not only do we shatter the illusion of our own perfection, we actually lead our people more faithfully.

3. Ask for Help

You cannot do it all.  I’ve tried, trust me. Pastors must be quick to ask for help for the demands of ministry whether from another pastor, deacon, or another church member.  When you ask others for help it encourages others to join together in the cause of ministry and helps raise future leaders.  When we ask other people in our church for help, it shows that we are not super pastors and we need the body of Christ just like every other Christian.

4. Ask for Prayer

Ask others for prayer when needed.  Again, this must be done when appropriate, but do not think so highly of yourself that you cannot ask others for prayer.  We need other people to be interceding to the father on our behalf, because we need the body of Christ!

These are just four simple ways that pastors can begin to shatter the illusion that we have it all together.  We don’t.  Pastors need the gospel just like every human being needs the gospel.  We are broken sinners whose only hope is Jesus. Pastor, make sure your people know that you are not the epitome of a Christ follower.  Any maturity in your life is by the grace of God, and continually point to Jesus as the hero, and not yourself.  The only super pastor who ever existed was Jesus Christ.  He is the one your people need.  Point them to the true super pastor.

Have you ever felt the pressure of maintaining a perfect pastor image? How are some ways we can shatter this facade?

The 6 Challenges Young Pastors Face

Young pastors face unique obstacles and challenges.  Sure they may be challenges with leading God's people, but most of the problems in my ministry are not external, but internal.  The six challenges are largely a result from my own experience.  Pastoral ministry is gloriously challenging.  If you are a young pastor, may these six challenges be helpful for you as you identify potential obstacles.  If you are a church member with a younger pastor, you can pray especially for him in these areas.  Yet, I'm sure that I will come to find that these six challenges are not unique to young pastors but are challenges all shepherds face.  So here they are, six challenges young pastors face.

1. The Challenge of Experience

When I was being considered as the Senior Pastor at Forest Hills, this is the one great concern that came up time and time again was my experience. As a 25 year old guy at the time, the concerns were not only real but valid. Thankfully my lack of experience was made up by their careful observation of my leadership and ministry the past few years.

Yet young pastors face this very obstacle; we just are not very experienced. Seminary can be a great teacher, but so can the school of hard knocks. Young pastors have to deal with crisis, problems, and obstacles for the first time. This doesn't mean they are unable to faithfully shepherd, it is just that they lack the great practical wisdom that experience can teach.

How can young pastors compensate for their lack of experience? I've discovered two ways. First, read, read, and read some more. Learning from the experience of others can help prepare you. Second, hang out with older, wiser pastors. Spend some time with some men who have been in the trenches of ministry a while and glean from their experiences. I've tried to do both of these things, and it has helped me greatly overcome this challenge.

2. The Challenge of Balance

Young Pastors tend to struggle to balance between church and family. Pastoral ministry is largely unlike any other profession in that your personal and professional life blur into one. It is impossible to separate the two into nice, neat little compartments. As a result it is easy to begin getting out of balance, spending to many hours focused on studying, visits, meetings, and emails at the expense of family. Young Pastors tend to have young families with young children. This makes the balance especially tricky.

This challenge I have yet to truly figure out (I doubt I ever will!), yet all pastors must first prioritize their personal spiritual health and the health of their family. For you young pastors out there, we must guard the church from becoming our second wife. The church is Jesus' bride, not yours.

3. The Challenge of Patience

To be young is to be impatient. Young Pastors want results and want them now. My generation is the fast food, instant gratification generation. We want what we want when we want it. Yet, people are not fast food restaurants. It takes time, patience, and diligent investment to often see spiritual fruit. May young pastors enter into a position in ministry and then give up after a year or two when things do not seem to be progressing or moving at the speed they'd like. Young pastors must be taught patience by the Spirit and seek to be consistent and have the endurance to stay in the same place.

Young Pastors, we must be patient with our people as God has been patient towards us. Sure, our people can be thick headed and hard hearted, but so are we. Be faithful in preaching the Word week in and week out. You might not see immediate fruit and results, but the Spirit is working. Give it time and you will be amazed at God will do.

4. The Challenge of Respect

A challenge young pastors have is to "not be despised for their youth" (1 Tim 4:12). It is a very really challenge, but you are not respected simply because you hold the title "pastor". Titles don't earn respect, but character does.

Young Pastor, don't feel as if you are entitled to respect just because you have the title of pastor. Earn it by watching your life and your teaching. If you are faithful seek to preach the word of Christ and live the life of Christ, you will earn the respect of your people.

5. The Challenge of Humility

Young men tend to be overly self-confident. Humility comes naturally to no human being, but is especially absent in young men. As a young pastor, you can begin to really on your own gifting, education, and ideas more than the Spirit of God.

Young Pastor, you must be teachable and humble. Be open to be corrected. Be quick to repent of your sin. Humble yourself and ask for the forgiveness of others. Pray that the Spirit would humble you and learn to think of yourself as servant to all.

6. The Challenge of Trust

It is easy to begin to doubt and question God's ability. In fact, I find myself sinfully thinking if God will be faithful in my ministry. Yet God is a God who can be trusted. More than that, he is the only one who can do anything with the mess of our ministries. All pastors should be marked by an incredible, daily dependency on God.

In your ministry you will get discouraged. You will want to quit and throw in the towel. You may doubt God's goodness and power. Yet, always trust Him. He is faithful and even though we my suffer for His sake, "rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven" (Matthew 5:12).

You Will Face Challenges

Young pastors do face unique challenges and obstacles. Yet God doesn't call the qualified he qualifies the called. Be dependent on God in all things in your ministry. By his grace you will grow in these areas and may we run the race of pastoral ministry well and be faithful by the chief shepherd Jesus Christ.

What challenges have you experienced as a young pastor? Any you would add to this list?

4 Reasons Why You Should Take a Spiritual Retreat

A few weeks ago I had a spiritual retreat at the Cove in Asheville. It was a time to get away by myself to pray and seek the Lord concerning my own spiritual life and also the future of Forest Hills Baptist Church. The whole experience was profitable as I was able to completely detach and saturate my soul in the presence of God.  I plan to make this spiritual retreat an annual thing in my pastoral ministry. Spiritual retreats are profitable for any Christian, but especially for pastors. For you pastors out there, let me give you some reasons why you should prioritize an annual spiritual retreat.

1. You Need Spiritual Rest

Pastoral ministry is unlike any profession. You simply cannot fake spiritual health for long. As a pastor you are constantly and continually pouring into peoples life through the preaching ministry, counseling, and pastoral care. The pastor is a man who must always give from deep within his own soul and he must also be a man who keeps his own soul filled. A pastor must first shepherd his own soul before he can shepherd others. He cannot give what he does not have. To take a few days to for spiritual rest, restoration, and refilling can be incredibly helpful and provides needed rest.

You might be afraid of leaving your church for a few days and getting out of town on a spiritual retreat. You may not think you can afford the time! “There is much ministry to be done”, you say. Yet you cannot afford not too. Before man can be poured out as a drink offering for his people he must be filled with the great joyous love of Christ. To take time away to refill the cup again is not only the best thing you can do for your own soul, but also for the souls of your flock. A tired shepherd is quick to fall asleep while watching his sheep. Get your rest so that you may be alert and awake as you watch not only your own soul but the souls of those entrusted to you by the chief shepherd.

2. You Need Time to Plan

A key part of my spiritual retreat was to plan out the next year in ministry. Not only did I set out to create goals and plans for Forest Hills Baptist Church, I also set out to plan the preaching calendar for the next year. This sort of concentrated planning takes a great deal of time and uninterrupted focus. So often pastors find themselves moving from one crisis to the next and unable to focus on what is most important–the ministry of the Word and prayer. Many spend all their efforts working for the church they spend little time working on the church. Leaders need concentrated time to focus on the big picture.

Taking the time to prayerfully seek God’s guidance in the future of your church is good not only for you but for the church. Taking the time away is a labor of love as you plot the path you will lead God’s flock. Take the time to travel up the mountain of the Lord so that you may hear his voice so that you may return to your people with the word of God to which to lead them.

3. You Need to Be Filled

Pastors need to be filled.  Often this happens through diligent study and reading.  Although I was by myself on my spiritual retreat I had a myriad of different teachers pouring into me. From sermons from Martyn-Lloyd Jones on the four hour drive, to Bunyan’s classic allegory Pilgrim’s progress, to the quaint honest soul searching of C.S. Lewis, I was in good company. Most importantly though I had the Holy Spirit as my teacher using the Scriptures to convict me of sin, grow me, and lead me. Learning, studying, and growing are life long endeavors for every Christian, even pastors.

4. You Need to Enjoy God

Pastor, be a lover of God. Long for his presence as a deer painting for streams of water. Do not be so focused on your daily ministry that you cease to delight in the one in whose name you are ministering. The labor of pastoral ministry can be fierce, demanding, draining, and exhausting. It is often in that busyness that we forget to enjoy His presence. Spending a few days by yourself will bring you to your knees. It provides focus and clarity on the lover of your soul. For who else do you have to talk to but God? Solitude ushers in a continual conversation with God as you walk with him and talk with him. Pause and enjoy the wondrous truth that the through the blood of Christ you have a relationship with the God of the universe. What a privilege it is to know him! Take the time away and be with Him.

Strength Restored

As a pastor you are limited. Even young men fall exhausted, but it is those who wait on the Lord who will find themselves with the strength of the Eagle (Is 40). As pastor you must be a man daily dependent in every season on God, yet it is appropriate to spend some extra time away reminding yourself that it is in Him that you breath, and move, and find your being.

If you have yet to take a spiritual retreat, let me encourage you to do so. The Cove is a wonderful place to go and I highly recommend it. Yet a spiritual retreat can be at any location where you can disconnect and spend extended time in solitude and worship.

Have you ever taken a spiritual retreat? Would you recommend it to others? Why or Why not? Share with us in the comments below!

Pastor, Be a One Trick Pony

I’m sure you have probably have heard the phrase “one trick pony”. It pretty much describes someone who only has one joke, one skill, or one talent. They are not good at much else, but they have one thing in which they excel. In our world of the super powered CEO, many pastors feel the weight of being a counselor like Dr. Phil, a innovator like Steve Jobs, a shrewd financial business man like Warren Buffet, an intellectual apologist like Ravi Zacarhias, or a mega church pastor like….well take your pick. The pastoral ministry is an incredibly diverse profession in which at any moment you can be managing the church's budget, reading commentaries, leading a staff meeting, brainstorming new ministries, or praying with a mourning family. The pressure to be diverse in our skill sets can often feel overwhelming, because most of us are not prodigies in any one of these areas, let alone all of them.

The Only Hope for the World

If you are a pastor, I’ve got some encouraging news for you. You just need to be a one trick pony. You don’t need to be skilled in every possible area imaginable, you just need be skilled in one thing and one thing only – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What your people need most from you is to be an expert at applying the Gospel of Jesus Christ into how you serve your people. Study the Gospel, treasure the Gospel, and understand its many facets as a diamond in the light. Then bring the truth of the Gospel into your peoples lives. As you preach, as you teach, as you counsel, as you manage, as you pray, as you write, do it all with Gospel intentionality, bringing the truth of what Jesus has done into each of these areas of your ministry.

We have one message and one message only–the risen, crucified Christ. That’s it. We have nothing else to offer our people but Jesus, yet he is more than enough. Pastors do have the most important jobs in the world, because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only hope for the world. You don’t need to be a modern day renaissance man, you just need to know the Gospel and bring its truth into everything you do in your ministry.

Practice Applying the Gospel to Your Own Heart

It is not easy being an expert in any one area. In a sense, to say you are an expert in the Gospel is really foolish, because we will spend eternity still growing in our knowledge of God’s mysterious plan called the Gospel. However it takes practice to learn how to apply the Gospel to your peoples lives, and it is best to start with your own. Probe your heart, study the Scriptures, and learn who to take the Gospel message and apply it to your marriage, your family, your finances, your physical health, your friendships, your diet. If you want to be multifaceted in applying the Gospel, apply it to every little hidden area of your life.

One Remedy, Administered in Many Ways

As pastors we have one remedy and it is Jesus. As we look at the hurting and sick world around us, there is only one treatment and that is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

When we encounter someone who is spiritually dead, we share the remedy of the Gospel praying God would give them faith and thus life.

When we encounter a broken marriage, we share the remedy of the Gospel in which God reconciles us to himself through Christ and thus gives that broken marriage hope for reconciliation.

When we are dealing with mourning families, we share the remedy of the Gospel and point them to the coming return of Jesus and the coming restoration in which Christ’s resurrection was the first fruits.

When we are counseling addicts, we point them to the remedy of the Gospel about Jesus the liberator who through his death breaks the shackles of addiction through his victory on the cross.

When we are managing our churches finances, we share the remedy of the Gospel, knowing that God owns it all and that he has purchased it all through Christ, therefore we are but stewards of this money.

When we a preparing for sermons, we do so knowing that it is through the remedy of the Gospel that our eyes are open through Christ to perceive and understand the Word of God.

When we are preaching the word of God, it is only the remedy of the Gospel through the application of the Holy Spirit that can bring try transformation and revival in our people.

Do Not Be Ashamed of Being a One Trick Pony

Pastor, do not be ashamed if all you have to offer the world is the Gospel. That is more than enough. You may apply it and prescribe it in different ways, but you only have one medicine in the bag. Preach and proclaim Christ. Do not be ashamed that this is all you have, because as the apostle Paul said the Gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). In your pastoral ministry make it your life’s ambition to preach the Gospel and do not get distracted with feelings of inadequacy, ministry comparison, or a manufactured pragmatism. Decide like Paul “to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). You may be a one trick pony, but within your medicine bag remains the one hope of the world, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.