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A Question That Challenges Drift Toward Irrelevance (via Leadership Freak)

This self-diagnostic question from Dan Rockwell interested me: “If we were replaced tomorrow, what would the new team do?”

I read it as: If you can identify what a successor would have to do, then why aren’t you attempting to do it?

There’s nine more questions at this post at Leadership Freak.

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The Nature Of A Local Church (mgpc 7/7/2013)

Younger generations of families have no shortage of willing volunteers prepared to tell them which senior members of the family they most resemble.
As Paul encourages Titus in his task of appointing leaders to local churches, the apostle reveals the essential image of a local church as he describes the character of their elders. The character of church leaders will imprint upon the congregations they serve, and in describing the character of elders, the nature of a local church will emerge.

O LORD, I Will Exalt You (Psalm 30) and Arise, My Soul, Arise are the songs of preparation, with worship commencing with Crown Him With Many Crowns.
Our prayer of adoration and confession will focus on God’s perfect character and the work which His Holy Spirit is doing in growing that character in us individually and corporately. Create In Me A Clean Heart, the Apostles’ Creed and Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow are the affirmations.
Listening to God’s Word, Jeremiah 30:1-24 conveys the promise of restoration after exile. We’ll respond singing My Lord, What Love Is This (Amazing Love)
Titus 1:5-9 reveals the character of those who lead the church. Understanding this helps us to ensure that qualified men are appointed to lead, but also enables us to know what sort of character must develop in a local church. A church will not grow beyond its leaders, but mature leaders will impart a church character that seeks after godliness.
After our prayer of thanksgiving and for the needs of others, we’ll give our tithes and offerings, then conclude worship singing I Serve A Risen Saviour (He Lives).

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The Pastor’s Heavy/Happy Heart (via Thabiti Anyabwile)

Back when I was testing my call to pastoral ministry a phrase I kept encountering was ‘pastor’s heart’.
I don’t hear it so much these days amid discussions about various skill sets which are considered desirable for pastors.
Thabiti Anyabwile expresses the central necessity of a pastor’s heart in this post from his blog, in which he expands on Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 11:28: “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”

The most difficult part of pastoral ministry is keeping a caring heart. The caring heart makes the pastor, and the caring heart nearly kills the pastor. He wouldn’t have it any other way, like Paul. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a thousand deaths, weeping nights, deprivations, and afflictions.
It breaks his heart to see people leave the church. It doesn’t really matter why they leave, and it only helps some if they leave well. The leaving is a breaking and he feels the pressure of it if he is concerned for the church.
It breaks his heart to see saints taken in sin. “Big” sin. “Small” sin. He feels as if he’s watching a grotesque monster devour his babies. And when repentance is not forthcoming he aches all the more.
It breaks his heart to watch spouses tear their covenant in two. Few things can feel so dis-empowering. Few things can make a pastor feel his inadequacy like watching a dear couple do violence to matrimonial promises and affection.
It breaks his heart to hear the people embrace error. He wants them to feed on the pure milk of the word until they can eat the good meat. He knows health comes with truth. So he feels a certain horror at the thought that any of the people in his charge might be given over to soul-piercing and destructive lies.
It breaks his heart to discover dissensions and strife. He’s the leader of a family. He knows the blessing of peace, unity and love. His heart rips even as the people tear apart.
It breaks his heart to receive unfair criticism. Part of him doesn’t mind it at all. He’ll gladly bear the reproach. But the other part, the part that wants to be liked, the part that rightly wants the people’s affection, the part that’s trying to please the Lord, can hardly endure disparagement. His heart is wide open to the people and he wants their hearts to be open in love to him.
It breaks his heart to have his family judged or attacked. He’d rather be drawn and quartered himself than to watch the woman he loves endure harsh judgment, misrepresentation or unrighteous standards. He rather lose his own life than to lose his children from the church because they couldn’t face the daily pressure of living in a congregational fish bowl, unable to be themselves, unable to find grace all the other children receive.
It breaks his heart to miss an appointment or to fail to “be there.” He entered the ministry to care for people. He knows he’s not Jesus. He knows he can’t be everywhere. But that doesn’t stop him from mourning when he experiences that limitation. He should have been in the hospital room. He should have been at the deathbed. He should have responded to the call in the middle of the night. He couldn’t. Might’ve been for a good reason, but he still feels the heaviness of heart.
It breaks his heart to discover himself choosing to care less in order to not hurt.
Pastoral heartbreak is in direct proportion to pastoral heart. The more the pastor cares for the people the more heartbreaking is the daily pressure of concern for the church.
But he doesn’t quit…

Read all of The Pastor’s Heavy Happy Heart at Thabiti Anyabwile’s blog.

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The Responsibility Of Being A Confessing Christian Leader (via Carl Trueman)

Carl Trueman commences a series of posts about being a church leader who has subscribed to a confession.

Take an elder in a confessional church. He has taken public vows before the church to uphold a particular set of theological tenets, for example, the sovereignty of God as articulated in the Westminster Confession of Faith in Chapter 5 (Of Providence). That vow binds his public teaching to the standards outlined in the Confession, and by ‘public teaching,’ I mean anything he might say either from the pulpit or while standing at the coffee machine after the service.
Perhaps this elder wakes up one morning to find that some terrible tragedy has intruded into his life: bereavement, serious illness, loss of material goods or status. Such an event might well have a traumatic effect not just on his emotional psyche but perhaps also on his faith as well. Perhaps there are moments, or even an extended period of time, when he questions whether God really is in control. I pray that I never experience it, but I imagine that standing by the grave of a beloved child must be a very hard moment to believe in God’s loving sovereignty and care for his people.
This is where the discipline of a confession is important. This elder has no right to share his doubts with the world in general. Of course, he can speak confidentially to a ministerial friend for counsel; but he must not teach (in any sense of the word) against the content of the vows he has taken.
Read the rest of the post at Reformation 21.

Remember, this is not a bind on conscience, it is a limit on expression.

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How Pastors End Up Living Privatized Spiritual Lives

Paul Tripp describes how pastors come to live the spiritual lives that pastors tell everyone else they should not live.

…it is my grief to say that individualized, privatized Christianity still lives. Sadly, it lives in the lives and ministries of many pastors who have forged or been allowed to forge a life that is live above or outside of the body of Christ. It happens this way for many pastors. Their spiritual life became immediately more privatized when they left their home church to go to seminary in another city. For many, the seminary became their primary spiritual community, a community that was neither personal nor pastoral in the way it handled Scripture and related to the student. Having graduated from an environment where, for three or more years, they were not pastored and had a rather casual relationship to a local church , they are now called by a church that doesn’t really know them. This is all magnified by the fact that they are not joining the church per se; no, they have been called to lead it. So they are not entering into a situation of naturally expected peer, mutual-ministry relationships. The are not afforded the normal expectations and protections that anyone else is offered when they join the church. It is a potentially unbiblical and unhealthy culture that does not protect the pastor and does not guard his ministry from danger.
Paul Tripp, Dangerous Calling, Crossway 2012, pg 85.

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Personal Spiritual Insight Is The Product Of Community

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
(Hebrews 3:12-13 ESV)

…personal spiritual insight is the product of community. It’s very difficult to get it by yourself. Perhaps every pastor needs to humbly recognise that because the of the blinding power of remaining sin, self-examination is a community project. Every pastor needs people in his life in order to see himself with biblical accuracy.
This means that pastors who convince themselves that they are able to live outside of God’s regular system of help and protection are in danger of becoming increasingly blind and hard of heart.
Paul Tripp, Dangerous Calling, Crossway 2012, pg 73

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Living Out The Same Grace You Preach (via Paul Tripp)

A great temptation in pastoral life is for the pastor to substitute themselves for God’s gracious Gospel power.
At the Gospel Coalition, Paul Tripp writes about the fallacy of a practice of pastoral care which is at odds with pulpit ministry; one in which we functionally end up telling people what to do (problem solver in chief) rather than telling them about what Jesus has done for them (repenter in chief).

I did it for years. I was good at it, but I didn’t know it. It shaped how I preached and how I sought to pastor people. If you would have questioned my theology, I would have been offended. I was an ardent defender of the “doctrines of grace.” I knew them well and could articulate them clearly, but at ground level something else was going on. In the duties, processes, and relationships of pastoral ministry I actively devalued the same grace I theologically defended. My ministry lacked rest in grace. It lacked the fruit of grace: confidence and security. So I attempted to do in people what only God can do, and I consistently asked the law to do what only divine grace will ever accomplish.
How does this happen? The heart of every believer, still being delivered from sin, is tugged away from rest in the nowism of grace to some form of legalism. Even after we’ve been saved by grace, we tend to think, I am righteous and don’t need a Savior. Thinking ourselves to be keeping the law, we bring the law to law breakers, hoping they will see the error of their ways and buck up.
No one preaches the law more than one who thinks he’s keeping it. And no one gives grace more tenderly than one who knows he desperately needs it. The temptation to revert to legalism greets us all.

Resources We Need
But there are two specific places where a pastor is tempted to devalue grace. First, there is a temptation to devalue the grace of the indwelling, illumining, convicting, guiding, and enabling presence of the Holy Spirit. (See Romans 8:1-11.) God knew that our struggle with sin was so profound that it was not enough to forgive us. No, along with forgiveness he unzipped us and got inside of us by his Spirit. In his presence we have the resources we need to be what we’re supposed to be and do what we’re called to do.
When you devalue this grace, you think it is your job as a pastor to manage people’s lives. You simply become too present in their lives and too controlling of their thinking and decisions. Your ministry begins to migrate from being focused on telling people what God has done for them to being dominated by telling people what to do.
Maturity in the body of Christ is never the fruit of such pastoring. No, the fruit is behavioral and cultural uniformity masquerading as maturity. Only when a pastor rests in the grace of the indwelling Holy Spirit is he freed from managing people’s lives, sensitive about when to speak and when to be silent, when to be active and when to withdraw, and when to counsel and when to trust God to guide.
The goal is not a congregation uniformly conformed to the lifestyle of the pastor, but one that is progressively conformed to the likeness of Jesus. This means a congregation growing in Christ even though members of that congregation are making different decisions at ground level.

Rest in Grace
There is a second grace pastors are tempted to devalue. It is the grace of the priesthood of all believers. This grace not only welcomes every believer into God’s holy place by the blood of Jesus, but also calls every believer to be a minister of that grace in the lives of others. (See Colossians 3:12-17.) When you devalue this grace, ministry become dominated and controlled by the paid staff, elders, and deacons. You don’t preach the truth of the essential sanctifying ministry of the body of Christ, you don’t give people ministry vision, you don’t call them to lifestyle-shaping ministry commitment, and you don’t train them for service. You emphasize formal programmatic ministry while neglecting the call to informal member-to-member ministry.
The fruit of this is a passive congregation, who thinks ministry is never official unless a pastor is there, who thinks of ministry as a weekly schedule of meetings led by the pastoral staff, and who have become more consumers than participants. The “joints and ligaments” are not esteemed and trusted to do their part; as a result, the body is weakened.
When a pastor holds a theology of grace but functionally devalues God’s grace in life of the believer, he will be too present and controlling in ministry, and the fruit of his ministry will be uniformity and passivity in the body of Christ. How different from the true maturity produced by a ministry that rests in God’s grace.

Rest in grace for a pastor is a war. Again and again our self-righteous hearts migrate toward ministry legalism and control. It is humbling yet important to confess that we desperately need grace to be able to rest in grace. Isn’t it comforting to know that we have been given the grace we need in ministry so that we will not devalue the grace that we preach?