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The One Place On Earth No One Should Be Surprised To Find Sinners (via Jared Wilson)

Jared Wilson writes against the niceties that compel Christians (who should no better) to maintain appearances of being okay.
If there’s one place on earth everyone should feel free not to be okay, it’s the church:

I know the reasons we don’t live transparently with each other. We’re afraid. We’re embarrassed. We don’t want to be a burden. We don’t want to be judged!
And I know the reasons others don’t live transparently with us. They’re afraid. They’re embarrassed. We treat them like burdens. We judge them.
And what all of this amounts to is a distrust in God himself. I know people are mean, I know people are judgmental, I know people act weird and get messy and cause problems and are really inefficient for the ways we normally like to do church—but if we believe in the gospel, we don’t have a choice any longer to live in the dark.
How about we stop being shocked to find sinners among the “pious” and start shocking the fearful with grace?

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Worship As An Encouragement To Others (via Jared Wilson)

Gathering together with other Christians in worship is an act of encouragement to them.
And that’s before you even do anything else.
From Jared Wilson:

AS AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO OTHERS
Your church attendance is an encouragement to others. This is especially true in smaller to medium-sized congregations, but it’s even true in very large local churches where you may be tempted to think your absence would go unnoticed. Presence is impressive. When the saints gather, there is something spiritually helpful about the physical proximity of the brethren and even about the relative fullness of the sanctuary.
Even if you make the mistake of not talking to anyone, even if you don’t think you’re getting much out of the church or they’re not getting much out of you, your actual presence communicates to those around you: “This is worth it. You, brothers and sisters, are worth it.” Having pastored a church, I can tell you that while I didn’t get to speak to every attendee every Sunday, I was encouraged when I saw people loyally showing up week after week. I’m willing to bet your presence encourages your pastors as well.
This is to say nothing of the immense help and encouragement you can be when you actually reach out with kind words or a helping hand to the brethren you see week after week.

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The Counter-Cultural Activity Of Going To Church (via Jared Wilson)

Gathering week by week is a work of service to your fellow worshippers and work of witness to those who do not believe.

From Jared Wilson:

One of the most countercultural things you can do is get up early on Sunday morning, put real clothes on, and drive to a church building. … In many regions of the Western world, church attendance is downright abnormal.
And so on the Lord’s Day morning, while all the other yards in your neighborhood are buzzing with lawn mowers, all the other kids are making for the swimming pool, all the other patrons of the coffee shop are lounging in sweatpants, you show your family’s otherworldliness in that moment that you dedicate to the countercultural tradition of going to church.
It’s not that you’re better than everyone else. It’s because you realize you may in fact be worse. When you back the family car out of the driveway on Sunday morning, you are telling your neighbors that you need Jesus and no amount of Sunday leisure can satisfy you like Him, that no rest is better than that which is found in Jesus, and that when the thin veneer of worldly frivolities starts to show a few cracks, you might be the kind of person they could talk to about the “alternative lifestyle” of following Jesus.

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The Gospel Will Empower Its Own Implications (via Jared Wilson)

Jared Wilson writes about the mission response to Gospel preaching and teaching.
Christian ministry can’t be motivated by fear and guilt.

The good news about Jesus doesn’t just tell Christians how to respond, it is the power by which they respond.
Remember that the gospel will empower its own implications. So remind your church that they have all the wind of the Spirit at their backs, that God has always been roaming the earth seeking whom he may revive, that the kingdom is not contingent upon them but upon him, and that they are not responsible for evangelistic success, but evangelistic faithfulness.
The motivation of grace better triggers a church’s impulse for gospel mission.

Read the whole post here.


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Pastors Must Be What They Want To See (via Jared Wilson)

Jared Wilson points out that pastors must model the pattern of life they long to see in the Christians they serve.
A plurality of elders in a congregation helps provide a broader balance of these qualities.
From Wilson’s article:

If we want our churches to be of one mind, to be of one heart, to assassinate their idols and feast on Christ, to be wise and winsome with the world they have forsaken, to be gentle of spirit but full of confidence and boldness, to be blossoming with the fruit of the Spirit, we must lead the way.
A pastor goes first. In groups where transparency is expected, a pastor goes first. In the humility of service, a pastor goes first. In the sharing of the gospel with the lost, a pastor goes first. In the discipleship of new believers, a pastor goes first. In the singing of spiritual songs with joy and exuberance, a pastor goes first. In living generously, a pastor goes first. In the following of Christ by the taking up of one’s cross, a pastor goes first. All I am saying is that one who talks the talk ought to walk the walk. Don’t lead your flock through domineering; lead by example.
The pastor ought to be able to say with integrity to others, as Paul says to Timothy, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:13). It is not arrogant to instruct others to follow you, so long as you are following Christ and showing them Christ and giving them Christ. “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ,” Paul says again (1 Cor. 11:1).

Read the whole post here.


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Only The Gospel Can Power Pastoral Ministry (via Jared Wilson)

Jared Wilson outlines five ways the Gospel shapes and empowers pastoral ministry.
Here’s one of his four points.

In the trenches of day-to-day ministry work, it can become tragically easy to think of the whole thing as a managerial enterprise. We plan and program, we mentor and coach, we write and preach. The relational work of ministry is taxing. Studying takes its toll.
Nearly every pastor I know has been wearied by ministry. For this reason, we need to remember Christianity is not some ordinary religious methodology. It is supernatural.
We pray because we aren’t in control. We preach the Scriptures because only God’s Word can change hearts. We share the gospel because only the grace of Christ can bring the dead to life. We have to remember who we are in Christ or we will go on ministry autopilot, assuming we’re working under our own power.
Knowing the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16, 1 Thessalonians 1:5) means the weakness of the pastor is no hindrance to the Lord at all. In fact, the very idea of Christianity presupposes human inability and weakness. Paul goes so far as to boast in his weakness, knowing that when he is weak, Christ is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
We’re told that a Korean pastor once visited the United States and was asked what he thought of the American church, to which he replied, “It is amazing what the church in America can do without the Holy Spirit.” May this never be said of us!
If we pursue pastoral ministry in our own strength, trusting in our own selves, we will be in big trouble. Our churches will be devastated, and so will we.
No, let us remember all that we are is because of Christ, and apart from him, we can do nothing. This reality will empower our leadership and our preaching and achieve real spiritual impact.

Read the others at the Gospel Coalition.


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What You Win People With Is What You Win Them To (via Jared Wilson)

Invoking the spirit of Monty Python’s Trojan Rabbit, Jared Wilson points out the problem with ‘bait and switch’ forms of evangelistic activity, whether the less mature forms associated with youth ministries or the more sophisticated forms utilised by attractional or seeker focussed churches.
The problem is:

“the gospel of Christ’s finished work became relegated to the end of a service, almost an addendum to the real focal points of the goings-on, and then it frequently became pushed to the end of an entire message series, eventually became saved just for special occasions, and ultimately has been replaced altogether by the shiny legalism of moralistic therapeutic deism.
Eventually the attractional church became all bait, no switch. The approach of today’s attractional church is like the Trojan Rabbit of Monty Python’s Arthurian nincompoops–smuggled inside the castle walls with nobody inside.
As a result so many inside the system, shepherded under this system and joined to it, can’t distinguish between attractive and attractional, practical and pragmatic. When we lose the centrality of the gospel, we lose the ability to think straight.

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Another sign of this is the preaching in these contexts can be biblical, but largely therapeutic or educational (focused on the needs and actions of the hearer), rather than focussed on what Jesus has done for his people.