Chuck Swindoll on Pastoral Leadership

Chuck Swindoll, when accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award at Catalyst 09, offered 10 Leadership Lessons Learned in 50 Years of Leadership :

1. It’s lonely to lead.  Leadership involves tough decisions.  The tougher the decision, the lonelier it is.

2. It’s dangerous to succeed.  I’m most concerned for those who aren’t even 30 and are very gifted and successful. Sometimes God uses someone right out of youth, but usually he uses leaders who have been crushed.

3. It’s hardest at home.  No one ever told me this in Seminary.

4. It’s essential to be real.  If there’s one realm where phoniness is common, it’s among leaders.  Stay real.

5. It’s painful to obey.  The Lord will direct you to do some things that won’t be your choice.  Invariably you will give up what you want to do for the cross.

6. Brokenness and failure are necessary.

7. Attitude is more important than actions. Your family may not have told you: some of you are hard to be around. A bad attitude overshadows good actions.

8. Integrity eclipses image. Today we highlight image. But it’s what you’re doing behind the scenes.

9. God’s way is better than my way.

10. Christlikeness begins and ends with humility.

HT: Justin Taylor

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most of these points resonate with me.  one that is challenging me the most is #8 because I am so not about image, I see myself as almost the complete opposite of “the hip pastor.”  more importantly is the heart and its willingness to be made willing and shaped into the image of the Chief Shepherd. 

anyways, I hope a lot of younger / newer pastors see this list by Chuck Swindoll (its on several blogs) and take the lessons to heart – now is the time to receive and learn, not later.  work on “getting it” now, not when it is too late.

John Murray on the Pastoral Ministry

I found the following sermon by John Murray through following various links and ultimately on Jeremy Walker’s blog “The Wanderer.”   Given that I am a pastor and I know other pastors read this blog – I wanted to share it and open it up for dicussion – I think he makes good points but do have some concerns – but that could just be that I am a young pastor still learning how the ministry works.  In addition to his two foci I would probably add leadership, which can come through preaching and pastoral care but I think it can be a separate category pastors need to think about. 

Do let me know what you think. 

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“You have been called as minister in this congregation and you have been ordained in pursuance of that call.  There are many functions which devolve upon you in that particular capacity, but I want to draw your attention particularly to two of these functions because I believe they are the two main functions which devolve upon the minister of the Gospel.  And these two functions are the preaching of the Word and pastoral care.

“Now first of all there is this duty of preaching or teaching the Word. You are to labor in the Word and doctrine. And in connection with that function I want to mention three things.

“First, do not burden yourself and do not allow others to burden you with other business so that you are deprived of the time and energy necessary to prepare adequately for your preaching and teaching administration. The Word of God indeed, in all its richness and in all its sufficiency, is in your hands. It lies before you. But in order that you may discover the richness of that Word and bring forth from its inexhaustible treasure for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for the instruction which is in righteousness, there must be the blood and toil and sweat and tears, the earnest labor, and the searching of that Scripture, and in application to its proper understanding, so that you may be able to bring it forth in a way that is relevant in your particular responsibility.

“The second thing I want to impress upon you is that you realize deeply and increasingly, your complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit for understanding of the Word and for the effectual proclamation of it.

“Now that is not the counsel of sloth. That is not to be an alibi for your earnest labor and the study of the Word of God and your earnest application to effective proclamation, and neither is that a counsel of defeat. Your absolute dependence upon the Spirit of God – this is the counsel of encouragement and confidence. It is the Spirit and the Spirit alone who gives the demonstration and power by which the Word of God will be carried home with effectiveness, with conviction, and with fruitfulness to the hearts and the minds and lives of your hearers. It is He and He alone who produces that full assurance of conviction, and it is your reliance upon the Holy Spirit that in the last analysis is your comfort.

“The Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost. And do not be so God dishonoring as to pray for Pentecost. Pentecost is in the past. Pentecost was a pivotal event in the unfolding of God’s redemptive touch, when the Holy Spirit came. The Holy Spirit abides in the church. He came and He abides in order to perform those functions which Jesus himself foretold: ‘When He, the Spirit of Truth’ is come, He will convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, and that He will also glorify Christ by taking of the things which are Christ’s and showing them unto us.’

“It is necessary, it is indispensable, however, that you earnestly pray for the unction and the power and the blessings of that Holy Spirit. Because it is only if there is that accompanying demonstration of the Holy Spirit and the power that men and women will be arrested and stunned with the conviction of sin. And it is then that they will give expression to the word of another, ‘What shall we do to be saved?’ Likewise, in that particular situation of overruling, overwhelming conviction produced by the demonstration and power of the Holy Spirit, that you will be able, by the understanding given by the Spirit, by the unction imparted by the Spirit, to bring into that conviction of need, that conviction of sin, that conviction of misery, the unsearchable riches of Christ.

“That is my second aspect of this charge. To realize more and more your complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit. It is as you will realize your complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit, that you will be more diligent in the discharge of all the duties that devolve upon you in the understanding of God’s Word and in its effective proclamation.

“Third, I wish to mention, in that precise connection, that you are to think much of the privilege. You are to think indeed of the responsibility, and I have said enough with respect to that responsibility already. I want particularly to impress upon you now the appreciation of your privilege.

“It is yours to be a fellow of the Gospel – of the glorious, the blessed Gospel. It is yours to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ. It is yours to be the ambassador of the King eternal, immortal, invincible. It is yours to be the ambassador of him who is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, of whom you have heard already that He walks among the candlesticks. There is no greater vocation on earth. There is no greater vocation that God has given to any than the vocation of proclaiming the whole counsel of God – proclaiming the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, and proclaiming the unsearchable riches of the Redeemer. Think much of your privilege.

“Now second, you have the pastoral care. That is an all important aspect of a minister’s responsibility and privilege.

“There are likewise three things that I want to mention in connection with that particular function, and the first is this: Shepherd the church of God. I personally cannot understand those men who have been called as pastors of churches who neglect the pastoral care of the people committed to their charge. I cannot understand it. And I’m not expected to understand it, because it is part of the mystery of that iniquity which too frequently has overtaken those who have been called into the ministry.

You do not get your sermons from your people, but you get your sermons with your people. You get your sermons from the Word of God, but you must remember that the sermons which you deliver from the Word of God must be relevant. They must be practical in the particular situation in which you are. It is when you move among your people and become acquainted with their needs, become acquainted with the situation in which they are, become acquainted· with their thoughts, become acquainted with their philosophy, become acquainted with their temptations, that the Word of God which you bring forth from this inexhaustible treasure of wisdom and truth will be relevant and will not be abstract and unrelated.

“Second, in connection with this very same subject of pastoral care I charge you to be ready always to give an audience to your people. I mean an audience to them as individuals, or an audience to them as families. Be in such a relation to them that they will make you their confidant, and take good care that you will be their confidant. And as you will be their confidant, they will pour out to you the bitter experiences of their heart, the bitter experiences of their souls, of their lives. I charge you, my very dear friend, to be the instrument of dispensing, I say the instrument of dispensing the ‘oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness’ to those who are broken in heart and weary in the body.

“Now there is more, of course, involved in that ministration of comfort to the people of God in the temptations and the trials which necessarily overtake them in this life. You must also bring the counsel of God, the whole counsel of God, to bear upon them where they are. And it is just as you bring that whole counsel of God to bear upon them in your pastoral visitation, that you bring it to bear upon them precisely where they are. Remember that there are many who, in accordance with the address which you have heard already tonight, are going astray or are on the verge of going astray, or perhaps have always been astray. And remember the inestimable privilege that is yours, to convert the sinner from the error of his ways, to save a soul from death, and to hide a multitude of sins. ‘Reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine.’

Now thirdly and finally, I charge you to remember that you are the servant of Christ in this pastoral care which you will exercise. Oh, be friendly to your people, and be humble. Be clothed with humility for ‘God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble.’ Be clothed with humility in the pastoral visitations and the pastoral duties that you discharge because, if you are not humble, you will not only be offensive to God, but you will soon become offensive to all discerning people. Be friendly, be humble, realize your own limitations and be always ready to receive from those who are taught in the Word as they communicate unto you who teach. But remember that you are the servant of Christ and do not seek to please men, for if you should seek to please men, you are not the servant of Christ. And again, I repeat in that very same connection: Don’t be afraid to reprove, don’t be afraid to rebuke, just as you may not be afraid to exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.

“I give you these charges, in the humble expectation and the hope that you will become an example, that you will be an undershepherd, realizing at all times, that you will one day give an account to the great Arch-shepherd who himself gave, as the Shepherd of his sheep, His life, ‘that they might have life and have it more abundantly.’

“And I charge you, in constant dependence upon the Holy Spirit to be the minister, the administrator in Christ’s name, of that life which is nothing other than life everlasting.”

- A charge to Wayne F. Brauning, DMin 1993, at his ordination and installation as pastor of the Fifth Reformed Presbyterian Church, Phila., PA on October 13, 1960 by John Murray, prof. of systematic theology at Westminster.

on Eschatology and Preaching

Eugene Peterson, in his book Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness (Eerdmans, 1992), talks about two polarities of the pastoral vocation: geographical and eschatological.   In regards to eschatology (dealing with last things) he writes:

Eschatology is the tool we use to loosen the soil and weed the field.  Eschatology is the pastor’s equivalent to the farmer’s plow and harrow, hoe and spade (but not the developer’s bulldozer and earth mover).  We keep this topsoil loose and moist, open to the rain and sun, planted, weeded, tended, cared for, and under the pull of a harvest, fulfillment, a teleioson.  

Pastoral work is eschatological.  Jonah entered Nineveh, embraced the locale, and immersed himself in the particulars.  But when he opened his mout to preach, he didn’t make appreciative comments on the landscape; he let loose with something arrestingly eschatological: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (3:4).

This is not the kind of message we commonly associate with pastoral work.  We are more apt to see this message as the province of street preachers or hit-and-run evangelists, not someone who cares about a congregation and is committed to its welfare by entering at considerable depth into its life.  But that is caricature; true and authentic pastoral work is eschatological to the core.  “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” is a basic and essential pastoral proclamation (140-141). 

This is giving me some things to think about.  Pertson is right, “this is not the kind of message we commonly associate with pastoral work.”  In all honesty, I’m tired of eschatology, at least the false notions of it.   I don’t really want to preach or teach about it right now.  I grew up with the typical dispensational premillennial/pre-trib futurist view on last things where folks like Hal Lindsey, Tim Lahaye, John Hagee, Grant Jeffries, all had the stage front and center.  This burned me out on last things (I think).  I got tired of the road map approach to the end of the world and got tired of all the debates about the rapture, or the millennium and all the crazy different views.  There was gross misunderstanding and confusion that immediacy meant immediately and that wore me out. 

So, when Peterson tells me “true and authentic pastoral work is eschatological to the core” I want to shrugg or wince.  Don’t get me wrong, I know the end is near, at the door even.   I am just realizing this is an area I need renewal in so that the Lord will give me a new heart for a proper take on eschatology and be able to enter into that in a vocationally holy way.  This is what has been occupying my mind of late

What say you?

(related posts: Bryan, and TC)

on self care for Pastors

I was talking with Mark Stevens yesterday via face book and we were sharing about how ministry is going – here where we are it can be pretty tough from certain points of veiw: we’re barely making it financially as a church (the people don’t tithe and most barely give); our numbers just dropped to over half where we were just a month or two ago (we just lost at least 12 people who have left the canyon (or the church) for various reasons);  we’re pretty isolated (nearest big city is 90 miles out); we ourselves have few people we can call “friends” here in the Canyon Village; I have no one to really “talk theology” with really, blogging is my only real avenue for that (which, understandably has it’s own limitations); the list could go on and on and on. 

Mark thinks the denomination should be doing more to help us out – it could if we communicated it, and we have.  They once gave us a check to help us out.  Well, we ended up getting burned by our own congregation because we had been sharing that the church needs help financially and when we told them about the check to share about the Lord’s provision, some were impressed but later we learned it was mocked (we have a cultural group in our congregation that as a culture is very proud and does not ask for help, so they didn’t really appreciate it too much).  But we would need that support every month, but the district just wouldn’t be able to do that (for reason’s I won’t go into here). 

So the issue came up of networking (which is why we are in process to become nationally appointed US Missionaries) but also that of self care.  Really, the pastor(s) of a church need to know how to take care of themselves.  Self care is a big aspect of the pastoral ministry

So in what aspect do I mean self care?  I mean spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically.  All of it.   Why, because in essence, the pastor(s) needs to be the healthiest person in the congregation (at least among the healthiest).  But this would be important whether or not one is in a big city with lots of resources or in a more rural area with few if any resources. 

Please note as well, that spiritual and or emotional self care is more than just doing “devotions.”  It has more to do with being able to know your own self and know your own needs and to evaluate how you are doing and what your needs are to stay healthy.  It also has to do with knowing oneself from the perspective of one’s family of origin and how and why one acts and or relates to others the way one does and how to fix or improve on that as needed and so on.  If your getting discouraged, how to combat it; if your getting depressed, how to handle that as well, and even how to know if you might be depressed or discouraged and so on.  These are very normal things, but a healthy pastor will know how to mangage all that or know when and how to get help. 

It’s the pastors who burn out or fail in minstry (or even ruin a church) who were not able to do self care or took the time to make such efforts.  This kind of thing is what needs to be minimized or avoided and the key is knowing how to do and why one needs to do self care as pastor.

Eugene Peterson on pastoral work

I am working through Eugene Peterson’s Under the Undpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness (Eerdmans, 1992) as quickly as I can given all the interruptions Pastors can face.   In the section I am in he is addressing issues of geography and eschatology as it relates to pastoral work.  He argues that all theology is rooted in geography, that is, the place where you pastor, and that true and authentic pastoral work is eschatological to the core in that it helps the congregation know and understand the goal and purpose of the Christian life, that it is, well, eschatological!

Sandwiched in this conversation he makes a comment about “religion,” and its connection to pastoral work that I want to share with you all:

I am saying two things here that are often separated and may appear contradictory.  One, that pastor must stand in respectful awe before the congregation, the holy ground.  Two, the pastor must be in discerning opposition to the congregation’s religion, for awed appreciation does not exclude critical discernment.  Without diligent, clear-sighted watchfulness, congregations relapse into golden-calf idolatries, much as cultivated fields without care relapse into weeds and brambles.  Religion is the emeny of the gospelThis is why pastoral work is hard work and never finihsed: religion is always present.   It is the atmosphere in which we work.  There is no use trying to get rid of it, striving after the “religionless Christianity” that Bonhoeffer fantasized (140). 

If you caught on at the end, like me, you thought “ouch.”   But he is right – part of our pastoral vocation is not to stamp out religion and pursue religionless Christianity so much as it is to simply love the people and nuture them the best we can to maturity in Jesus Christ.  I take it, that it is the Lord’s job to work on the religion issue, not ours.  Ours is simply to love and respect our congregations and maintain focus on our vocational holiness and let the Lord do the rest.   This is where the themes of geography and eschatology come in.  Much like a farmer tends the fields to keep it healthy, so to pastors are to tend their congregations to keep them from getting weeded over while also helping them to know and understand the end goal and purpose of our faith: maturity in Jesus Christ. 

This is one reason why pastoral ministry is hard work.

Eugene Peterson on literacy

I am reading through Eugene Peterson’s book Under the Unpredicable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness (Eerdmans, 1992).  Thanks Mark!  It’s actually a good time for me to be reading this book given my limited leadership and pastoral experience  – I have just enough experience in the ministry that I can identify with some of the things Peterson talks about but his is not the only book I am learning from.  I am sensing my heart that I need to be listening to people like Peterson, for if I listen I will learn from them and benefit from it greatly in the years to come.  

Anyways he has a great quote on literacy in America that I want to share:

Something similar took place in the field of education [meaning our question for education hasn’t turned out like we thought it would in similar vein to our failed experience in freedom of religion – we don’t really have freedom of religion but rather a culturally enslaved religion] Our educational priorities and practices have produced a population with a high degree of literacy so that virtually everyone has access to learning.  The reading skills that used to be the privilege of a few people are now available to all.  But with what result?  TV Guide is our highest circulation magazine, with Reader’s Digest a strong second.  Our nation of readers uses its wonderful literacy to read billboards, commercials, watered down pep talks, and humerous anecdotes {probably meaning mainly the comics section of the newsper].  I don’t think I would voluntarily live in a place where education was available only to the wealthy and privileged, but simply providing everyone with the ability to read seems to have lowered rather than raised the intellectual level of the nation (37). 

And you all thought NT Wright’s book on Justification was grumpy?  ;)  I think there is truth to this – we teach people to read because we believe the ability to read empowers people to live.  I had a professor in my education program in college argue that to not teach a person to read was esentially immoral.    He believed teaching kids to read was a moral issue.   But his view is not an uncommon one.   But Peterson raises a good point here: to what end has the increase in literacy accomplished?   Is it so that can read the comics better or the want ads?  People Magazine?  GQ?  Fictional novels like Left Behind?

Is all the reading we do realy making us smarter?  Is the empowering of people by teaching them to read really occuring?

If we make the connection to the church – what good has our making biblical literature available to people?  How about all the Bible software people have on their comupters but don’t use?  All the books we have on our shelves that maybe we have read or haven’t read?   What about all the Bibles we barely read?  Are we just getting information or is the information bringing transformation? 

Peterson wrote this book in 92 but I don’t think things have changed much.  What say you all on this matter?

New Book In the Mail: Giveaway edition

A while back Mark Stevens, Minister of Happy Valley Church of Christ in Adelaide, South Australia started his blog called Scripture, Ministry and the People of God.   As  part of promoting his blog and getting on as many blogrolls as possible (not a bad strategy) he had a book giveaway (here is the post related to the giveaway). 

I was one of the winners!  It came on the 31st of March but I was not able to get to the mail until today.  I’d like to say too I’ve been getting to know Mark a bit and he’s a great guy and is bcoming a good blogging friend, we intereact on Facebook too.  So thanks Mark! 

Here is the publisher review on Peterson’s book Under the Predictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness (Eerdmans, 1992).  Don’t worry about the date, most of Peterson’s stuff is pretty timeless. 

Publisher Review: Like Eugene Peterson’s other books on pastoring,Under the Unpredictable Plant is full of stimulating insights, candid observations, and biblically grounded prescriptions. Yet this book emanates with a special poignancy out of Peterson’s own crisis experience as a pastor.

 

Peterson tells about the “abyss,” the “gaping crevasse,” the “chasm” that he experienced, early in his ministry, between his Christian faith and his pastoral vocation. He was astonished and dismayed to find that his personal spirituality, his piety, was inadequate for his vocation —and he argues that the same is true of pastors in general.

In the book of Jonah—a parable with a prayer at its center —Peterson finds a subversive, captivating story that can help pastors recover their “vocational holiness.” Using the Jonah story as a narrative structure, Peterson probes the spiritual dimensions of the pastoral calling and seeks to reclaim the ground taken over by those who are trying to enlist pastors in religious careers.

This sounds very interesting!  Eugene Peterson is typically cast as the Pastors Pastor.  He is also an amazing scholar and though he may not write speciflically for biblical studies his scholarship still shows through in his writings.   So I quite look forward to getting into and reading this book.  

Also, If you wouldn’t mind, consider clicking on the link for the book, it goes to my WTS Bookstore account to get credits.  Thanks!   Here are a couple of his other books I am thinking about getting too.

Living the Resurrection Life: The Risen Christ in Everyday lifeA Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant SocietyFive Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work.