J. C. Ryle’s Word to Ministry Workaholics

I came across this quote from J. C. Ryle while working on a sermon from Mark 6:30-34. His application is needed for those who work obsessively in Christ’s church.

Let us note the words of our Lord to the apostles when they returned from their first public ministry. “He said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”

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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.

Passing the Baton at Forest Hills

At the conclusion of our centennial celebration, I couldn't help but be filled with joy. Seeing so many faithful saints return produced great thanksgiving in my heart. In many ways, I'm still humbled that God has called me to shepherd a church like Forest Hills. I've developed a profound appreciation for the legacy and heritage of Forest Hills over the years. As I thought about this weekend, I knew it would be special. In some ways this weekend symbolized a passing of the torch, the handing off of the baton to me and my generation of believers. IMG_0901

As I stood on stage and introduced James Herron, our oldest living senior pastor, I couldn't help but be thankful for men like him whom God used mightily for his Kingdom. Yet, in his sermon this Sunday, he cautioned about making too much of the past, but charged us as a congregation to move forward into a new century. Nostalgia is a wonderful, powerful sensation, but too much of it will drug you as you become gloomy about the present and pessimistic about the future. Ironically, we never realize we were living in the good ol' days, until those days are gone. By the grace of God, we tend to forget about the dark days, as our memory preserves the bright spots.

Yet, nostalgia cannot hinder God's work in the present and his vision for the future. The work is not yet over. The Great Commission lies before us, and lost souls need to hear the Gospel of Jesus. In our nostalgia, we cannot run our race backwards. This is the tension of churches with such great history like Forest Hills. We must simultaneously give thanks and honor those who have come before, and at the same time run with our eyes on the finish line, not on the starting line. Indeed, that's what those who came before us desire. Who runs a relay race, takes the baton from his teammate, then turns around and backtracks towards the starting point? Our teammates want us to move forward, not backward. We must sprint towards Christ, not to an idolized vision of the past.

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Over the weekend, I've felt that tension within my own soul. My gratitude for my forebears, the faithful shepherds of this church who've come before me, cannot adequately be expressed in words. They have preserved the apostolic Gospel, preaching Christ now in our church for a century. In an overwhelming and monumental way, that mantle has now fallen on my shoulders. By the calling of God, I now stand with the baton of the Gospel in my hand, charged to lead these wonderful people into the next century.

As I think about my own shortcomings as a leader and inadequacies as a pastor, the responsibility can be overwhelming. Yet, press on in the race we must. We must preserve the integrity of the Gospel and innovate new methods of reaching a new generation in a drastically new American culture. As a result, change is afoot in Forest Hills Baptist Church. Ministry strategy and programs have been and will continue to shift over the next several years around our vision to treasure Christ, equip believers, and send disciples for the glory of God.

As we run our race, may we not falter in our steps, but press on towards Christ, prepared and ready to pass off the baton to the next generation. May we not break the chain of faithful saints who came before, and may the great relay race of the saints, that has continued at Forest Hills now for 100 years, continue in our church till Christ returns for us.

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.

 

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!