Encouraging your pastor

Pastors are human too. Sometimes they are grumpy, and sometimes they are discouraged and need a little pick-me-up.

So when you notice that your pastor seems a little down, what can/should you do to lift his spirits? I’ve got a couple ideas.

1. Pray for him

As a first resort, hit your knees in prayer for the man! He is a prime target of the enemy. If the pastor can be discouraged and brought low in spirits, it can trickle down to the rest of the organization and affect many Christians’ effectiveness for the kingdom. If you notice that your pastor needs some encouragement, ask God to lift his spirit and infuse him with joy for the work of the Gospel. Don’t neglect to prayer for his wife and children as well.

2. Demonstrate his effectiveness

If a pastor is feeling discouraged in his work, one thing that is sure to lift his spirits is to see those he shepherds, applying his teaching. Outside of prayer, the most encouraging thing you can do for your pastor is to pay attention to his ministry, both in and out of the pulpit, and actually apply it to your life. Believe me, he’ll notice. And he’ll be encouraged. If he preaches consistently about a certain subject, it’s probably because he see this as a real need in your congregation. So if you apply his teaching of the Word and let the Gospel change your heart and life in this area that burdens him, he’ll be greatly encouraged as he sees the Spirit causing growth through his faithfulness to minister.

3. Encourage him with words

Let him know you’re lifting him up in prayer. Express verbally that a particular sermon, or example from his life, has impacted your walk with the Lord. It helps if you’ve already demonstrated this! Write him a note (card, letter, or email) of appreciation. Let him know you appreciate his faithfulness and striving for the Kingdom.

If you have any other ways to encourage a discouraged pastor, please share.

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Why I’m an elder in the PCA

In response to my last post concerning the use of the words “reformed” and “calvinist,” Martin Downes asked a good question of me. After reading my post and, presumably, my About the author page, Martin asks:

I’ll admit to being a little confused. If you are a PCA elder how come you are a credobaptist? And are you saying that you have issues with “a single covenant of grace”? Isn’t that affirmed in the Westminster Confession?

I’ll admit that is probably a bit confusing, so let me attempt to explain.

When asked to be an elder, I expressed to the current elders my differences with the Westminster standards on several points. They chose to overlook those differences and make me an elder anyway. I have never hidden my views on such subjects from the elders, but I refrain from teaching or discussing matters in which my views are at odds with official PCA doctrine, when teaching at the church.

All my teaching is openly posted online, in full manuscript form, so that anyone who so chooses can read it.

I know that is small comfort to many within the PCA who would probably be horrified at having a credobaptist as an elder, and normally I would agree with them (that I shouldn’t be an elder at a PCA church). I wouldn’t have accepted the position under normal circumstances. The circumstances at this church are not normal however.

I felt it was healthier for the church that I accept the position and help lead the church toward a more healthy state, than to stand aside because of doctrinal differences while the church floundered spiritually.

I don’t want to go into details, but at the time there were four elders (including the pastor) and only the pastor and possibly one other could have been said to hold to the Westminster Standards, and that not completely. One of the elders wouldn’t even know what the standards teach, and the fourth wouldn’t agree with them anymore than I do, probably less so. Suffice it to say, it was an unhealthy situation and there was no one else qualified and no progress being made to train up qualified men.

The congregation was in an even sadder state than the elders. Many, if not most, of them would have had no idea what the PCA believed, and many would have been confused or offended had you told them.

My goal in being an elder has been to proclaim the majesty and sovereignty of Christ, and so prepare the people’s hearts for the teaching of sound doctrine (concerning soteriology at least). And to move the church toward training other men for leadership. We’re still not there, but I pray that by year end a training program will have begun and I will be able to step down from eldership.

All of this is made difficult because I am simply a “ruling elder,” which is PCA speak for lay leader. The pastor (“teaching elder”) should be leading this charge, but sadly he has not. If, by being in leadership, I can stir his, and the other elders’, affections for the local church to the point that they are concerned with seeking growth in knowledge of the Word among themselves and the members, I will gladly step aside when they get to the point that they realize my doctrinal beliefs concerning baptism and covenants do not match their own, or the stated doctrine of the PCA.

That only answers Martin’s first question concerning why I’m an elder at a PCA church if I’m a credobaptist. His second question was,

And are you saying that you have issues with “a single covenant of grace”? Isn’t that affirmed in the Westminster Confession?

Yes, to both those questions. I simply disagree with the Confession on this point. I do believe that God deals with his people through covenants and that grace has been the deciding factor in both the old and new covenants, but I do think they are distinct, and separate covenants. The New Covenant shares much in common with the Old, but is not simply a continuation of it, but rather a replacement for it. Believing that they are one and the same leads to such practices as infant baptism. If I believed in one covenant of grace and didn’t believe in paedobaptism, I would be inconsistent in my theology.

This is why I cannot claim the label of Reformed as defined by those who hold to covenant theology and paedobaptism.

I hope that clears up any confusion. I differ from the Westminster Confession on these points (and a few other, more minor ones), but I find unity at the foot of the cross knowing that my PCA brothers believe the Gospel and are faithful to what they believe the Bible teaches. I pray that my efforts as an elder will be Christ honoring, biblically faithful, and respectful of the theological system espoused by the denomination in which I serve, though I disagree with it at certain points. I don’t seek dissension or confusion in the church on these points, but rather unity in the Gospel in Jesus.

Reformed? Calvinist? I guess not

Following the recent Time Magazine article concerning “New Calvinism,” there has been quite a backlash from the “truly reformed” against those of us who don’t embrace their entire system, yet have used the terms “reformed” or “calvinist” to describe ourselves.

The argument is that to be truly reformed, one must embrace all of reformed theology, not simply the soteriology commonly known as The Five Points of Calvinism, or the TULIP. This means one must embrace such beliefs as: a single covenant of grace, paedobaptism, cessationism, such a “high view” of the sacraments that only a “rightly ordained” minister of the Gospel may administer them, etc. To do otherwise, i.e. to embrace the TULIP apart from these other doctrines is a crime.

To break into the Armory (where the Synod met) and to steal the Five Points from the ecclesiastical context in which they were formed and in which they were meant to be applied and to use them alone to define the adjective “Reformed” is just vandalism and identity theft.

OK, if these folks want the term reformed all to themselves, I say let them have it!

They don’t appreciate our use of the term Calvinist or Calvinism either. They seem to despise the term New Calvinism, but feel comfortable with Neo-Calvinism, which is to say “New Calvinism.” hmm…

They want us to say that we have “predestinarian sympathies.” How about just saying that we are Biblical? After all, the TULIP is just a week attempt at encapsulating what the Bible says regarding salvation. The TULIP came about as a reaction to bad theology, and starts with Genesis 3, so it leaves out the first two chapters of the Bible!

As Driscoll’s church planting network, Acts 29, clearly states in their doctrinal statement.

…we are first Christians, second Evangelicals, third Missional, and fourth Reformed. [or should we say “predestinarian sympathetic”?]

These folks who are so agitated by all this seem to have place “Reformed” at the head of their list.

Much of their writing is not only in response to the Time article but also to Collin Hanson’s book, Young, Restless, and Reformed (see my review here), and Mark Driscoll’s post at Resurgence.

It seems to me that the tone and attitude of most of these responses are simply proving Mark’s fourth point.

I’m not defending Driscoll, he’s a big boy and can defend himself if he so chooses. I actually think he spoke before he had thought it through completely.

His definition of “New Calvinism” would suggest that everyone in the movement agrees with his theology on points such as continuationism. While I do agree with him on that point, I know not everyone who would link themselves to the movement of “New Calvinism” would agree with this point of theology.

In the same way, his definition of “Old Calvinism” lumps together and generalizes in a way that is probably unfair to a large number of godly men.

Maybe Driscoll does need some correction on his four points of comparison, but the “truly reformed” who are offended by his points would do well to humbly consider the truth that is present in his analysis.

Rocky Green

An old friend of mine recently went home to be with the Lord. He was a young man at 34. He was a great musician. Here’s a youtube clip of him telling of a record he was releasing and sharing the calling and purpose God had given him in life.

Enjoy your time with the Lord my friend! We’ll meet again one day…

Bible Study Magazine

Bible Study MagazineLogos Bible Software has begun publication of a new magazine dedicated to the discipline of Bible study. The folks there at Logos have teamed up with Mars Hill Church to give away 20 copies of Mark Driscoll’s newest book, Vintage Church, five subscriptions to the Bible Study Magazine, and a copy of the Logos Bible Study Library software.

Visit Biblestudymagazine.com/driscoll to learn how you can enter the giveaway.

The Dangerous Church

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Asked to describe what he thinks a “dangerous church” will look like in 2020, Ed Stetzer offered two cautions at the beginning of his list. The second one was that the church should “be more cynical.”

Too many believe the “next big thing” will fix the church. Instead, we need to be more cynical.

The church will not solve all its problems by emerging, having 5 purposes, moving into a house, or announcing itself missional. And, we tend to just be too ready to believe these things contain all the answers.

I agree. We don’t need to be looking for the “next big thing” that will fix any perceived problems with the church. We need to be looking to the thing we already have, the Gospel! That is the answer to not only our problems, but the problems of the entire world. Let’s get the Gospel right, then get it front and center in our thinking, our preaching, our teaching, our community, and our lives.

May I remember this

1 Corinthians 14:8, “If the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?”

I have never seen a church rise in spiritual power where the preaching was unclear, indistinct, overly cautious, timid. Every church I know of that is making a gospel impact has an unmistakably clear and winsomely courageous preaching ministry.

Ray Orlund Jr.

Being Christian is superior to being American

America’s Young Theologian concludes that it is (or at least was on Jan 18-20) “morally superior to be American than Christian.” That conclusion is based on the observation that Americanism brought together disparate wings of the church in a way that Christianity hasn’t to date.

This unity is claimed because Rick Warren and Gene Robinson both prayed at the inaugural events of President Obama. But this conclusion is based on the assumptions that (1) both Warren and Robinson are, in fact, Christians, and (2) that there are no reasons for Christians should separate themselves from one another.

1) Robinson prayed to “the god of our many understandings.” I don’t think that’s the Christian God. The God of the Bible is very exclusive. He is not the God of our many understandings, but only of his own revelation. Anyone who prays to such a man-made god is committing some serious idolatry and very likely is not a Christian. His understanding of God seems to be seriously flawed.

2) Even if Robinson actually does have saving faith in the God of Scripture, he should be disciplined by the Church (I’m using this word in the sense of the body of true believers present in the world today) for living an ungodly and rebellious lifestyle of homosexuality, and should in no way be allowed to represent the Church to the world. The Church should unite around the person and work of Jesus Christ, but Scripture is clear that we are to put out of fellowship those who live such perverse lives without repentance.

Sometimes division is a good thing for the purity of the whole, and the salvation of the few.

No, being an American is in no way superior to being a Christian. Especially not in a moral sense. Not if your standard of right and wrong is based on biblical truth.

Babying the youth

baby-being-fedAs an elder at the church, the small subset of the flock for which I am directly responsible, consists of the high school and college students. More college students than high school right now.

As I work at shepherding these young people, I’m always looking for ways to stir up their affections for the Lord and His Word. I attempt to teach deep truths in an engaging way and offer practical application. I don’t always accomplish this very well, but it’s the goal I’m striving for. The purpose being to raise them up in maturity, to help them increase their knowledge of God and affection for him, so that they may better serve as fruitful members of the body.

Two things I’m disturbed by in the American church “youth” culture.

1) Treating the “youth” as tomorrow’s church, rather than realizing they are part of the church NOW! They should be actively involved in fellowship with the whole church, acts of service within the church and community, worship with the corporate body, etc.

This goes hand-in-hand with a similar attitude that treats the elderly as yesterday’s church. The age segregation that occurs in our churches disturbs me greatly. I would like to see more intergenerational worship, teaching, fellowship, and service. I would like to see the elderly energized by the youth, and the youth taught by the experience of the elderly.

2) The intellectual and theological babying of young people in our churches. I am greatly disturbed by the shallowness of most of the teaching curriculum I see advertised for use by youth pastors. Are people really using this stuff?!! They must be, or it wouldn’t be produced and marketed in such alarming quantity.

An email I received this morning was advertising a Youth Leader resource.

Every three months we select the newest and best nine albums and one video from all the different Christian music companies and develop a music-based Bible study for each album.

They provided an example Bible study built around a song by the group Building 429. Let me say that I have nothing against this band. I’ve never really listened to them, but I’ve heard good things about them.

The “lesson” contains the following parts.

  1. A guessing game to be played by the youth.
  2. A”transition” time in which the youth leader is to explain that God is everywhere, all the time.
  3. Following this the students are to listen to the song with a worksheet in hand, filling in missing lyrics on the worksheet.
  4. Another “transition” time in which you discuss the song and make sure everyone filled in their sheets correctly.
  5. Reading of Psalm 139:7-12
  6. Four questions

    How did David describe the places where he couldn’t escape God’s presence?
    Why would David use “darkness” as one of his descriptions of where God is? (Because it’s easy to be afraid of the dark.)
    What are some places where you are glad God is present?
    Name some of the places or times when you aren’t so glad God is present everywhere, all the time.

  7.  A “Wrap Up” in which the youth leader explains that God being everywhere all the time is a good thing.
  8. A closing prayer circle.

Does it bother anyone else that the Bible study just barely covers two of the eight parts of this lesson? This might qualify as a Bible study for children’s church, might.

Christians in America wonder why young people are leaving the church in droves, while this is the sort of thing we are feeding them at the high school level? Seriously! They’re not kids. They are young adults. They are learning advanced mathematics, and philosophy in school, while the church plays games with them!

We need to wake up and start discipling these young people. Teach them theology. Prepare them to face the world in a deadly spiritual battle! Demonstrate that we take this seriously!

And finally, what all this says about the maturity level, teaching (in the spiritual gift sense) ability, and seriousness of youth leaders, is very sad.

Many youth leaders need much discipling themselves. They don’t have a firm grasp of (and can’t articulate) good theology themselves, how can we expect them to teach others. Often the youth leader in a given church is a college student, or recently graduated college student, who like video games as much as the youth themselves do. What the youth need is a responsible adult who will model maturity, discipline, responsibility, seriousness, etc., and teach them not to waste their lives in juvenile pursuits.