on the pastoral ministry

Mark has a post responding to Brian LePort about academics in the church.  Well, Mark linked to an online interview with Eugene Peterson where he talks alot about his experiences as a pastor.  There is so much important and really good stuff there for small church pastors to be thinking about and that, really, should be an encouragement.

One really strong point about Eugene Peterson’s work is how so much of what he is says applies to pastoral ministry in general  irrespective of denominational affiliation.   If you are a pastor you are a pastor.  It is a vocation, a calling.  I don’t know if it really matters what denomination you associate with in effort to pursue your vocation (though I grant that some groups might make that a little easier than some others and some are a better fit for some than others, and it is even sadder that we’ve come to a place where many can no longer appreciate diversity in the body such as one’s Pentecostal friend or one’s Methodist friend or Presbyterian or Lutheran, Catholic etc.).  Pastors are people whom God has called to feed his sheep, to oversee the spiritual welfare of his people in their respective communities of faith.  They are pastors in their communities as well (towns and cities).  It really is a way of life and not just a job.  It’s a vocation.

Well anyways…

Here are some snippets:

I remain convinced that if you are called to it, being a pastor is the best life there is. But any life can be the best life if you’re called to it.

on how he became a pastor:

I think I was attracted to the intense relational and personal quality of this life. At the time I decided to become a pastor, I was assistant professor at a seminary. I loved the teaching, but when I compared it with what I was doing as an associate pastor, there was no comparison. It was the difference between being a coach in the locker room, working out plays on the chalkboard, and being one of the players on the field. I wanted to be one of the players on the field, playing my part as the life of Christ was becoming incarnate again in my community.

This is a good quote too:

We’re not a market-driven church, and the ministry is not a market-driven vocation. We’re not selling anything, and we’re not providing goods and services. If a pastor is not discerning and discriminating about the claims of his or her vocation and about the claims of a congregation, then the demands or the desires of the congregation can dominate what he or she is doing — and that creates the conditions for nonpastoral work.

Here is a segment that could go towards support for blogging:

I think the primary reason for wanting to leave was boredom. After one episode of boredom, I realized that the boredom was my fault. I wasn’t paying attention to things. It was like I was walking through a field of wildflowers and not seeing any of them because I’d seen them 500 times before. So I learned to start looking. For me, writing helped me see what I was missing. My writing became a partial cure for the boredom, because it made me look more closely.

Well, read on and be blessed!

Quote of the Day: Finding your Purpose

Have you concluded that your desire for purpose is an illusion? Then follow the Easter masters to their various states of detachment. Have you determined that your purpose is something you must figure out yourself and accomplish all on your own? There are many secularist thinkers to cheer you on in the attempt. Or are you open to the possibility that there is one who created you to be who you are and calls you to be who he alone know you can be? Then listen to Jesus of Nazareth and his two words that changed the world – “Follow me.”

Os Guinness, The Call, ix.

Quote of the Day: Smith Wigglesworth

Saw this on a thread on FB.  From his sermon called: “The Ministry of the Flaming Sword”

 “A dear woman was marvelously delivered and saved, but she said I am so addicted to smoking, what shall I do? ” Oh,” I said, ” Smoke night and day,” and she said, ” In our circumstances we take a glass of wine and it has a hold on me.” ” Oh,” I said, ” Drink all you can.” It brought some solace to her, but she was in misery. She said, ” We play cards.” I said, ” Play on! ” But after being saved she called her maid and said, ” Wire to London and stop the shipment of those cigarettes.” The new life does not want it. It has no desire. The old is dethroned. A clergyman came. He said, ” I have a terrible craving for tobacco.” I said, ” Is it the Old Man or the New? ” He broke down. ” I know it’s the Old,” he said. Put off the Old Man with his deeds. One said, ” I have an unlawful affection for another.” I said, ” You want revelation.” Seeing God has given you Jesus. He will give you all things. He will give you power over the thing, and it will be broken, and God broke it. ” Allow God to touch thy flesh.” Now He has quickened thy spirit. Allow Him to reign, for He shall reign until all is subdued. He is pre-eminently King in thy life over thy affection, thy will, thy desire, thy plans. He rules as Lord of Hosts over thee, in thee, through thee, to chasten thee and bring thee to the perfection of thy desired haven.”

“once for all” in Hebrews 10:5-14

I have been reading J.V. Fesko’s Christ and the Desert Tabernacle (EP Books, 2012) courtesy of Shaun Tabatt.  In addressing the Altar and the Courtyard, Fesko puts forward something we all need to think about, especially folks from more conservative fundamentalist type church backgrounds (pgs 64-65):

One of the questions that we should ask is: Do we fully realize the significance of the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ?

So often we give lip service to the idea of the sacrifice of Christ, but our conduct reveals our lack of understanding in our hearts.  Many claim to take refuge in the sacrifice of Christ, but they live in rebellion to the authority of Christ – they claim to love Christ but their lives demonstrate they are indifferent to the costly sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

There are still yet others who claim the name of Christ and look to him for the forgiveness of sins, yet they live as though we still worshipped at the Old Testament tabernacle.  In other words, they believe that their sin is too great for God to forgive, and so, like the Old Testament Israelites, they repeatedly come to God doubting his mercy and seek forgiveness of a sin, offering their prayers and repeatedly pleading with God for forgiveness for the same one sin over and over again.

Oddly enough, both types of sin are manifestations of pride – the former thinks too much of himself, which is arrogance, because he does not believe he needs forgiveness of sins.  The latter thinks too much of his sin and too little of the sacrifice of Christ, because Christ could never forgive him, or so he thinks.  We should occupy neither of these positions of arrogance and pride.

We should recall the costly sacrifice of Christ and rejoice that we can envision the horns of the altar smeared with blood, cling to them in Christ, and know that our sins accuse us no more.  If Christ gave his live so that we might live, then we must not live as though Christ never came, as though he never offered himself up on our behalf.  We must, as Paul says, walk in the newness of life, four our sinful nature has been crucified with Christ: ‘Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal 5:24).

At the same time, when we fall into sin, we even grievous sin, we are not beyond forgiveness.  Do not think that we can somehow atone for our sins if we ask God to forgive us many times.  We should rest assured and rejoice that when we ask for God’s forgiveness we have it because of the sacrifice of Christ.  As the psalmist says, ‘As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us’ (Ps 103:12).  Rejoice, knowing that your heavenly Father forgives you on account of the perfect sacrifice of Christ.

Dave Black’s Paul, Apostle of Weakness

is now up on Amazon.  Here is a snippet from Chapter 5 that he posted on his blog:

In another vein, Paul can also use the words in several instances in the specific sense of bodily weakness, i.e., physical illness, thus approximating the fundamental usage common to all literature in antiquity. He clearly uses the root for sickness with reference to Epaphroditus (Phil 2:26-27), Timothy (1 Tim 5:23), and Trophimus (2 Tim 4:20), his close companions in the gospel ministry. Paul probably uses the root for sickness with reference to himself when he speaks of an “infirmity of the flesh” as the cause for his initial preaching of the gospel among the Galatians (Gal 4:13).

If we are correct in concluding that Paul is referring to a physical infirmity, we can think of this weakness as a particular disease or ailment, the specific diagnosis of which is, however, a mystery. Cases of illness among Christians in NT times indicate that the apostolic commission to heal (cf. Mark 16:18) could not be effected indiscriminately to heal oneself or one’s friends. Normal means of healing were available for Timothy’s gastric problem, for instance; and even in the company of Paul Trophimus became too ill to travel any further.

The classical Pauline passage on illness (2 Cor 12:7-10) is in this respect most striking of all, in that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” remained with the apostle despite even the most intensive prayer for its removal. Paul states three reasons for its existence: to keep him from becoming proud because of his revelations and visions (v. 7); to enable him to experience the power of Christ (v. 9); and to teach him the true purpose of hardships, persecutions, and personal difficulties (v. 10). Indeed, the entire passage is concerned more with the power and grace of the Lord than with the weakness of the apostle. Physical infirmity is evidence that the body “is sown in weakness” (1 Cor 15:43) and is a cogent reminder of the creature’s dependence upon the Creator. In this respect, the case of Paul is remarkably like that of Jacob, who learned to depend totally upon God only after he had been inflicted with a physical injury (Gen 32:24–32).

These instances of illness show that the real issue in the matter of human suffering is our relationship to God rather than our own physical condition, as painful as it may be.

Dave is going through a difficult time right now with his wife Becky being so ill and in the hospital (all this you can read about on his blog)m he doesn’t just write this stuff, he lives it – be lifting them up in prayer and show your support and encouragement to him by buying a book and sharing about it on your own blog!

This is really great stuff about going from the Seminary (or even Bible college) classroom to the pulpit. I most appreciated points 4 & 5 as so many of us as Bible college or Seminary graduates need to take all that we learn and not toss it, but translate it into everyday life-changing transformation language – people need personal and deep level transformation, not just a bunch of information. This does not mean information is not good or useful, it just means you need to sift through the information and then communicate it in a way that promotes life change and transformation! That is effective pastoral ministry, even leadership. Thanks Tim for another great post. 🙂

Faith Improvised

Provoked by some great class discussions, I’ve been thinking about the relationship between seminary training and practical ministry.  How does a person make the most of her/his seminary training and truly bless the church?

A few weeks ago I wrote about the “seminoid” phenomenon.  I stole the term from a former pastor who playfully used it of the seminary interns in need of overcoming the condition.

So, how does one move from seminary training to being useful in ministry?  There may be more to come on this, but for now, a few thoughts:

(1) Put “the ideal church” out of your mind.  It doesn’t exist.  You talked about it in the classroom, but it doesn’t exist in the real world.  Goodness, it didn’t even exist in the New Testament!  The Book of Acts displays a church struggling to figure things out and most of the NT letters are…

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on being a staff pastor

Rod Decker asserts the following:

I suspect that more seminarians these days are expecting and looking for a “staff position” (though it may have “pastor” in the title) rather than a pastoral ministry in which they will be preaching on a regular basis. That may be where some will function best, but I fear that many are underestimating what God could do through them in not aspiring to pastoral pulpit ministry. In most cases I would rather see a seminary graduate take a smaller church as “the pastor” rather than joining the staff of a large church. There is a place for “staff” roles, especially for those who may not have a solid local church background—perhaps having come to Christ during their university days and then come directly to seminary. Some of these staff positions may become life-long ministries (and that is legitimate in some cases); others may be for a few years to gain some experience. I would like to think, however, that these would be the exceptions rather than the usual pattern; unfortunately (I think) they have become the norm. A seminary grad will learn far more about ministry, about preaching, about the Bible and theology in two years of such ministry in the smaller church than they are likely to learn in twice that time as an assistant. Yes, they will make some mistakes—and learn from them. But hopefully their seminary training will have helped them avoid the worst missteps, and remember that seminary can never teach everything an aspiring pastor needs to know; it can never give them all the answers. But a good seminary program can give them the tools and teach them how to think and how to approach ministry. There is an excellent essay on this topic by Kevin Bauder, “It’s the Theology!” posted at <http://seminary.wcts1030.com/publications/Nick/Nick131.html&gt;.

I can say without hesitation, that this is true.  We learned a lot when we pastored at the Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim).  Sure, we made some mistakes but we learned from them and we moved on.  Rod isn’t knocking staff pastor positions, but I think more folk need to think about stepping out and taking thchurhces congregations, or planting them… That can be when can really take on all that is involved in the  pastoral vocation, especially the sacred talks of preaching, which is the topic of the article from which thesis quote is taken.