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Funerals That Highlight The Defeat Of Death (via Jason Allen at 9Marks)

This article urges Christians to refrain from allowing funerals to be replaced by celebrations of life.
A celebration of life evades the inescapable fact that there’s been a death.
Instead of an acknowledgement of that they become “post-mortem roasts for non-celebrities.”

Jason Allen isn’t against laughter and a sense of lightness, but any lightness should come from the sustainable source of Jesus’ victory over death.

[Funerals] force us to consider soberly what comes after the finality of death. The preacher of Ecclesiastes tells us, “It will be well with those who fear God” and that “It will not be well with the wicked.” These contrasting truths follow the preacher’s comments on the burial of the wicked. Once praised in the city, presumably praised at their burial, this wicked person is now dead—and what matters now is whether they feared God.
Does this mean all funerals should be dreary and depressing? Of course not. Instead, their emotional tenor should be appropriately attuned to the sad reality of death, even as it’s considered alongside the joyful remembrance of the dead.
After all, death is God’s enemy. Paul tells us as much in 1 Corinthians 15:26. But it’s an enemy that has already been defeated by the resurrection of Jesus. What better venue than a funeral to highlight this glorious truth?

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The Injury Every Pastor Needs (via Ray Ortlund)

Ray Ortlund offers counsel to younger ministers that their ministries will take a lifetime, and they can’t be short-tracked.
I found his observations to be true, but that they are also applicable all through life.
They aren’t just stages you go through, rather they are awarenesses you grow into, awarenesses that then accompany you in ministry.

Here he writes about the breaking of pride and self-reliance that every pastor needs, and which can’t be taught, it can only be experienced.

At some point in your life, God will injure you so extremely that the self-reliance you aren’t even aware of, the self-reliance with which you’ve been navigating so consistently by that it feels natural and innocent, will collapse under the loss and anguish. You will start realizing, “Oh, so this is what it means to trust the Lord. I need him now with an urgency, a desperation, a seriousness of purpose deeper than ever before.”
And then God will come through for you. And you will emerge from that suffering a deeper saint. You will be a better preacher and pastor and leader and counselor and teacher and friend, because you will be a better man — more like the wounded Christ himself.

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When A Clergyman Inadvertently Finds Himself At A Card Party (via Centuries Of Advice)

When I was studying to be a pastor we didn’t get advice as forthright and practical as this.
One should endeavour to ascertain the true character of a party when accepting an invitation.
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Genuine And Lasting Healing Comes From God, Not From Us (via Harold Senkbeil)

Pastors must have compassion and empathy for those they serve, but it is not pastoral compassion and empathy that brings change and healing.
That comes from God working through his gracious means.
This by no means excuses pastors from compassion and empathy, for these adorn the reception of those gracious means.
From The Care Of Souls by Harold Senkbeil:

The word of God effects or performs what it speaks. It does not merely describe things but creates things. So while you and I as pastors can — and should — express our personal care and concern to suffering souls sympathetically and compassionately, there is only a temporary measure of relief in our concern and compassion. Genuine and lasting healing comes from God, not from us.
It took me quite a while to learn that lesson in the ministry. I was under the false impression that my personal empathy was the main help I could bring to sorrowing or hurting people. Not only was I wrong, but I quickly ran out of empathy. I don’t know about you, but I have a limited capacity for compassion. And when I’m running on empty, I’ve got nothing left to give.

The Care Of Souls, Harold Senkbeil, Lexham Press, 2019, pgs 92-93.


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Pastoring Based On Calling, Not Feeling (via Will Willimon)

Will Willimon tells the story of his first Christmas in a new appointment serving a very small church, having received the news that his estranged black-sheep father has died in his memoir Accidental Preacher.
His stories resonate with experiences of pastoral life, not in a self-serving or manipulative way that presents the pastoral role as one deserving pity, but in ways that demonstrate that pastors can only minister grace when we continually experience our personal dependence on it.
I’m only held together by gaffer tape, baling wire and grace. And the gaffer tape and baling wire are purely decorational.
That’s not the story of my past, as if I’m now beyond what I commit to people as being their current need.
It’s still my daily experience.
From Willimon:

That’s church for you. Church forces us to march in and sing even when we’re not in a singing mood, not feeling faithful, and “joyful and triumphant” is not us. Church doesn’t wait for you to have the proper motivation for worship in order to call you to worship. And there are so many times, when you have been called to be a pastor, that you don’t feel like being a pastor but still must act the part. You may be in pain, may be in over your head emotionally and theologically. Though you are supposed to be an expert in helping others to grieve, you may not know how publicly to mark your own loss. As a pastor, your personal problems take a backseat to the needs of others. You’re the only pastor they have, and Christmas comes but once a year. So you pull tight the cincture and pray, “God, who got me into this, give me the hardheaded determination to get through it.” You go out and act like their pastor even when you don’t want to.
When seminarians plead for graciousness for “personal reasons,” when they are late with some class assignment because an aunt whom “I revered as if she were my grandmother” departed or they are suffering a bout of depression, I think, Clergy who are not periodically depressed have either given up too soon or expect too little of Jesus. You can’t stand up on Sunday and say, Nothing would have pleased me more than to have a sermon for you but first it was one thing and then another so we’re going to break up into discussion groups. Then we’ll pool our collective ignorance and call that todays’ sermon.
I’d get fired for saying this to a student, but even the dean can’t keep me from thinking it.
Will Willimon, Accidental Preacher, Eerdmans, 2019, pgs 71-72.


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Fed, Nourished, Guarded, And Protected By The Tools Christ Has Entrusted To Our Hands (via Harold Senkbeil)

In The Care Of Souls, Harold Senkbeil reminds us that God accomplishes the work of growing the saints through the tools that Christ has entrusted to the Church, not through the personal capacities of those who wield them. This is not say that people don’t matter, it’s just important to remember what the channels that God works to bring change and growth really are.

I can guarantee you’ll be strung out, tapped out, and burned out in the ministry very quickly if you don’t grasp this one central truth: By your own power or strength you can do absolutely nothing as a servant of Christ and steward of his mysteries. I’ve seen it over and over again: A bright, gifted young pastor is driven to despair and the brink of emotional and spiritual collapse simply because he set out to do ministry relying on his own ingenuity and internal resources. Please get this straight: It’s not that you do part of the work and God does the rest; it’s not that you do a little bit and God does a Whole lot. Rather, in Christ’s church the Holy Spirit does everything.
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By our Lord’s own mandate, he has so arranged it in his church that we grow, are fed, nourished, guarded, and protected not out of the weakness and ineptitude of our ministers but rather by the tools Christ has entrusted into their hands. The gospel and the sacraments are not static entities—mere object lessons by which we advertise and promote the kingdom of God. Rather, the gospel and sacraments throb with vitality. They are filled to the brim with the energy and life of God’s own Spirit. The actual words that originated from the mouth ofJesus are the instruments and tools of the Holy Spirit to create and sustain faith. And just think: Jesus has given those very words to you. He has entrusted into your all too human and very flawed mouth and hands the gospel and the sacraments by which the Holy Spirit continues to call, gather, enlighten and sanctify his church on earth. You might fail; in fact, from my own bitter experience I have to say you most certainly will fail—repeatedly and spectacularly. But we believe in the forgiveness of sins also for pastors! So let me tell you this: Though you will falter and fail, God’s Spirit will not.

The Care Of Souls, Harold Senkbeil, Lexham Press, 2019, pgs 28 and 30.


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Minister Of The Gospel, Not Salesman For The Gospel (via Harold Senkbeil)

The Care Of Souls by Harold Senkbeil is a book about pastoral ministry that focuses on the pastoral role as ministering grace, rather than managerial or therapeutic.
In writing about being a pastor, Senkbeil describes how the acts of pastoral craft move from being habits to what he terms habitus, and how the pastor moves from being a workman to a craftsman.
What is the core of pastoral habitus?

The core of the pastoral habitus revolves around what I’ve been talking about in the pages above: mystery. If the content and source of ministry is the Jesus Christ, the central mystery of God, then pastors are themselves stewards of the mystery. In contrast, if you and I see ourselves merely as paddlers or purveyors of a spiritual “message,” we rapidly become salesmen for the gospel instead of true ministers of the Gospel. That is, we’re always scrambling to persuade reluctant customers to buy our product, rather than serving as emissaries sent by God to issue his perennial joyous invitation toward genuine freedom and release: “Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15)

The Care Of Souls, Harold Senkbeil, Lexham Press, 2019, pg 23.