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We Are Equally Sinful. We Are Not All Equally Broken or Toxic. (via Brad Hambrick)

Brad Hambrick makes a necessary distinction that is vital if pastoral care and personal support is to be appropriate for people whose problems have different causative conditions:
From the article:

The concern I want to discuss is the tendency to assume that biblical principles like those found in I Corinthians 10:13 mean that all our struggles carry the same weight. The unintended consequence can be that abusive relationships receive the same counsel as garden-variety arguments and instances of low impulse control receive the same guidance as manic episodes.
We’re All the Same
Let me begin with the first sentence of the title: “We are all equally sinful.” Whatever distinctions we make later in this post in no way imply that anyone needs Jesus-on-steroids or a double dose of atonement. There are no varsity and no junior varsity sinners. We are all in the same league (i.e., sinful) and in need of the same Savior (i.e., Jesus) by the same means (i.e., repentance and faith). I fear that, because we want to make sure people understand this paragraph that Christians can neglect to make the kind of assessments discussed below.
There Are Differences
Now let’s move to the second sentence of the title: “We are not all equally broken or toxic.” As I am using these terms, “broken” would refer to things for which we do not bear moral responsibility but create unique challenges for us, and “toxic” would refer to persistent patterns of sin that not only harm others but we punish others if/when they bring them to our attention. From the opening paragraph, the person whose body involuntarily cycles between the extreme highs of energy-grandiosity and lows of depression would be experiencing the “brokenness” of bipolar (not just garden-variety moodiness), and the person who verbally and physically intimidates his-her family and punishes them if it is brought up is exhibiting the “toxicity” of being abusive (not just garden-variety rudeness).

Read the rest of the post here.


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Ten Signs You’ve Stopped Growing As A Leader (via Chuck Lawless)

Chuck Lawless offers ten signs leaders have stopped growing.
The head points of his list:

  1. You can talk about nothing new about God and His grace.
  2. You’ve read no new books in the last six months.
  3. You are preaching and teaching “re-runs.”
  4. You haven’t recently tackled any “God-sized” challenges.
  5. You haven’t shared the gospel with anyone in months.
  6. All of your stories of God’s work in your life are past tense stories.
  7. You tend to avoid people who differ from you.
  8. You’ve lost your energy and passion for the work.
  9. You no longer seek mentors. Mentors challenge us, stretch us, push us, mold us. And lastly, but most simply…
  10. You just know you’re not growing.

Read his explanations here.


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Why Tradition Is Good And Why Traditionalism Is Not Good (via Chuck Swindoll)

Chuck Lawless quotes Chuck Swindoll:

Why tradition is good:

  1. It honors God for what He has done. Tradition, by definition, is tied to the past. Ideally, though, it focuses on God and what He has done, not on what we used to do in the church. Healthy tradition is concerned about glorifying God only.
  2. It celebrates the past while pressing toward the future. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating yesterday as long as that rejoicing encourages us to move into the future. My first church had an annual homecoming service that retold God’s work to encourage us to capture God’s vision for tomorrow—and that’s a good kind of tradition.
  3. It grounds next generations in the work of God. Tradition is good when it helps next generations appreciate what God has done through His people in the past. For example, the Hebrews marked places where God worked so their children and grandchildren could know His care and guidance (e.g., Joshua 4).
  4. It offers wisdom when making change. Sometimes, the traditions of a church cause leaders to carefully and prayerfully consider options before making a change. That’s not a bad thing.
  5. It evokes gratitude and unity. Because it celebrates God’s work in the past as a means of faith for the future, our response ought to be thanksgiving as the family of God.

Why traditionalism is not good:

  1. It emphasizes what we (or others) have done more than what God has done. Traditionalism fights to save traditions, but the traditions are what we’ve done . . . what our forefathers did . . . what our denomination has “always” done. It assumes that our preferences are God’s commands.
  2. It elevates the past over the future. Traditionalism is protective and reactive. It guards yesterday’s turf at the expense of making a difference today and tomorrow. It fears the future more than it influences it.
  3. It hinders reaching the next generations. Traditionalism assumes that almost anything new is a threat to the gospel, even if the gospel itself is never compromised. It requires young generations to become us if they want to follow God.
  4. It blocks making necessary change. Traditionalism fights change, often without honest consideration of the options. It doesn’t inform change like tradition does; it obstructs it.
  5. It leads to division. Traditionalism is elevating tradition to the level of commandment as if it equals the gospel. The emotion behind such a position usually creates conflict and disunity.

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Build Capital – Spend Capital (via Jamie Brown)

Jamie Brown writes from the perspective of leading musical praise in a local church, but the principle is true for all leaders, including pastors.
There is always a danger of building trust, but never calling on that trust to be expressed; just as expecting trust continually without ever earning it does not build relationships.
Pastors should also be conscious that a reserve of trust should not take the place of faith in God’s power and presence.
Which is to say I think the balance is best kept where the relationship operates from a basis of both parties acting out of trust in God. Don’t try to build up so much capital that trust in God doesn’t seem essential.
From Brown:

Worship leaders must learn the capital equation. Which is: Build capital. Spend capital. Build back capital. Repeat as needed.
When all you do is spend, spend, spend capital, you’re operating out of a deficit. People don’t trust you, they’re worn out, and you’re not going to find them all that adventurous. Too many new songs. Too loud. Too much liturgy. Too many hymns. Too many electric guitars. Whatever it is. You’re spending too much, too soon, too often, and maybe too recklessly. Be smarter.
Likewise, when all you do is build, build, build capital and never take any risks or push people anywhere, then you’re wasting opportunities. Safe choices, same songs, no creativity, no one is upset with you, bored musicians, ho-hum services, and no lost sleep over a risky idea.
Do both. Spend capital! But once you’ve spent it, then ease off the gas and build it back. Feel it out. You’ll almost certainly lean too much in one direction before you realize it and then make a correction.

Read the whole post at Worthily Magnify.


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Seven Rules for Keeping Pastoral Sanity (via Chris Hefner)

All seven of these are helpful.

Here’s a couple:

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Ministry is serious business—the gospel, life and death ministry situations, leadership expectations, and all the rest. But the seriousness of our ministry should not lead to become coldly sober or overtly austere. Pastors should be accessible and authentic. Laughing at yourself and even sharing your faults with your congregation gives a healthy dose of reality and even levity to your ministry.
+++
Don’t think you’re indispensable. Your church existed before you and will exist after you. You are important, but not irreplaceable. Accept your leadership responsibility with humility and prayer. Remember, it’s not about you.

Read the rest at Lifeway | Pastors


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Three Snares For Leaders (via Eric Geiger)

Eric Geiger aims these points at younger leaders who have tasted affirmation or success early in life or ministry.
They are applicable in every season of life, I think.

1. Skills can outpace sanctification.
When a leader has been continually affirmed for his or her skills, the leader can obsess over development of those skills more than the development of integrity. If the leader starts to believe that what really put him or her in the current position is skill, and not the Lord’s choosing, then the leader can easily care more intensely about perfecting those skills while caring very little about integrity and character. When skills outpace sanctification, a leader is headed toward a downfall. When the pressures of the position outweigh one’s character, self-destruction is inevitable.

2. Focus can be on work for Christ instead of the work of Christ.
All of us, because we are prone to drift from God’s grace and focus on ourselves, experience the temptation to look at what we do rather than what He has done. Perhaps driven and achievement-oriented people feel the temptation even stronger…

3. Identity can be found in the role instead of in the Lord.
Everyone struggles with finding worth and identity in something less than the Lord, and leaders who are given accolades for their work are easily susceptible to finding their worth in their performance instead of in His.

Read the whole post here.


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Breaking The Growth Barrier That Matters (via Steve McAlpine)

Why as a church would we be expressing an aim for two worship services on a Sunday morning instead of one?
It’s a question we’re working through at MGPC.
Steve McAlpine writes about the struggle of the church (his and others) to break through a growth barrier that does more than simply keep pace with population growth.
But there’s a less noticed, but more foundational growth barrier that needs to be broken first, and then the other growth barrier may give way:

…the real growth barrier that I want to see broken is actually being broken, as we showcase Christ from the front, and encourage our people to find their joy in him. We’re finding that this is breaking growth barrier of personal maturity among our people.
That’s the growth barrier that really matters – the growth and maturity of our people individually and as a body of believers. We’re trusting them to feed on the Word together and grow up as a Christians. We’re trusting that our ministry to them is helping them take responsibility both to serve and to learn and to share the gospel in word and deed for themselves. We’re trusting our sermons and teaching not to be about “do more”, “get involved in…”, “turn up at..”, “do more evangelism”, but to be about the wonder of Jesus and how he fulfils all of God’s promises that humans yearn for, even if they don’t realise it.

Read his whole post here.