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Thick Skins – Soft Hearts (via David Prince at For The Church)

Working together in partnership to develop and further the ministry and mission of a local church is best served by an open-ness and humility in conversation that allows conviction.
David Prince writes about life

We must not settle for any idea offered in a staff meeting planning time simply because it might hurt someone’s feelings to push back against it, including ideas offered by the one who leads the meeting. Good is often the enemy of the strategic in planning and in church staff meeting superficial niceness is often the enemy of the strategic. This fact is odd, since, in the church, we are uniquely having family conversations about the most important mission in the world.
Those who sit at the staff meeting and planning table need to possess thick skin and a soft gospel heart. An effective meeting leader regularly reminds those attending of the purpose of the meeting, what is to be accomplished, and what is at stake. If the staff team possesses this thick skin / soft gospel heart makeup, they will proceed with understanding that gospel advance and faithfulness is more important than their temporal feelings. If any group of people in the cosmos should understand that we must not settle for pleasing people in our labor it should be a church staff team.

source.


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Being Free From Fixing (via Christopher Asmus at the Gospel Coalition)

A list of eight areas (characterised as “shackles every pastor should shatter“).
This one is a very besetting aspect of pastoral ministry:

3. Be Free from Fixing
Some pastors are never happier than their saddest congregant, and they often feel personally responsible for every person and problem in the church.
Pastor, you can’t pull everyone from the clamps of depression, or salvage splitting marriages, or liberate addicts from their sin-shackles, or bring peace into wartime homes. But you can passionately, powerfully, and persistently point them to the One who can (2 Cor. 4:5; Acts 5:42).

Read the rest at Gospel Coalition.


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Pastor, Keep Preaching The Gospel (via David Prince)

An encouraging story for preachers and sharers of the Gospel at Reformation 21.
From David Prince.

As I was busy rushing from one place to another, I noticed a man looking at me with a big smile on his face. He had just stepped out of a work van and was doing some sort job nearby. To be honest, I had a lot on my plate to get done that day, and was determined not to be slowed down. The next thing I knew, the man who had been grinning at me was now standing right in front of me.
I do not remember what I was thinking at that moment but, sadly, it was probably something like, “Oh great.”
He said, “You don’t remember me. I went to your church 14 years ago when you first arrived in Lexington. You preached the gospel every week, and so did the small group leaders. To be honest, I did not want to hear it and stop attending. I thought I wanted something more practical that would help with my daily life. I found what I was looking for, I was getting my ears tickled, but I could never shake the gospel you preached and 4-years-ago I trusted Christ, and I am now in a great gospel-preaching church where I now live. I just wanted you to know. Thank you! Don’t ever stop!”
I am not usually one to cry, but as he walked off, I teared up thinking about the sheer goodness of God and the incredible power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Read the rest at Reformation 21.


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Living With Pastoral Anxiety (via Religious Affections Ministries)

This was an interesting article in which the writer describes the concern that pastors live with regarding the well-being of those they serve in ministry.
The concern is not a sign something is wrong, rather it is a mark of calling.
And it is part of our lives, to some degree or another, every minute of every day.
It may not be the only thing on our minds, but it is never completely absent from our minds.
And it is never completely resolved.
What can go wrong is the way pastors deal with the concern.
Sometimes we allow it to take us to dark places.
It should drive us to God.

From David Huffstutler:

It is a care for others and can tend toward worry and even despair if we do not cast these anxieties to God in prayer. It is the pressure of anxiety for others that moves us to act on behalf of the ones whose needs we perceive. It usually involves being anxious over people’s sin—we hope that they will forsake sin, grow in Christ, and persevere. In fact, 2 Corinthians 11:29Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) describes Paul as burning within (puroō) for those who are weak and fall. It also involves being anxious over people’s suffering—we hope that they will carry on in the face of difficulty and trial. Moreover, we hope that everyone will do these things together as they carry out the mission of the church and make disciples for the sake of the Name.

Read the whole post at Religious Affections Ministries.


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The Joy Of Staying Where You’ve Been Sent (via Karl Vaters)

Karl Vaters makes some observations arising from the deep and satisfying relationship between a congregation and a pastor.

If you are where God called you to be, that should be enough to keep you there.
You don’t have to prove your worth.
You don’t have to justify your calling.
You don’t have to see constant numerical increase.
You don’t have to be someone you’re not.
You have value. To God and his church.
Right here, right now. No matter what the numbers do or don’t look like.
Go where you’re called.
Love the people you pastor.
Reach out to others with Jesus’ love.
And stay until you’re moved.
They say the joy is in the journey.
Sometimes, the joy is in staying where you’ve been sent.

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They’re Not Growth Barriers, They’re A New Way Of Growing (via Ed Stetzer)

Something that I’ve become conscious of over the last couple of years is the link between growth in congregational size and change in leadership style.
Increasing beyond certain numbers of people in a congregation is sometimes portrayed as a ‘barrier’.
What is being identified in that is that at certain sizes a group of people necessarily relate to one another differently, and they relate to leadership differently.
It is a change from one form of group dynamic to another form of group dynamic.
That’s not a good thing or a bad thing. It is just the way things are.
Most education for pastoral ministry is aimed at the most basic (smaller) grouping of people. The principles behind what changes a pastor needs to make in order to effectively care for mid to larger groups of people are not specifically identified.
There is a grieving process, though.
Particularly when the calling and practice of pastoral life has been framed in one expression, and that needs to be modified and changed to serve the needs of a larger group.
I really don’t want to be an inhibiting factor on the life of the church I serve.
So change is the only option.

Ed Stetzer puts in helpfully when he writes that pastoral leadership that wants to support a church that is growing from one size of group dynamic to another size of group dynamic needs to know “that it’s not just more growth of the same kind — it’s a different way of leading and a new way of growing.”

He writes more about leadership change in situations where churches are growing in size here.


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On The Difference Between Ministry Training And Pastoral Ministry (via Rory Shiner)

Rory Shiner writes a perceptive article about an aspect of ministry that I hadn’t considered, but which makes sense.
He poses the idea that the types of activity and attitudes which are great preparation for pastoral ministry differ from the activity and attitudes that usually constitute pastoral ministry.
The experience of that difference is not because something is wrong, but because both are distinct, yet beneficial, aspects of activity.
From Shiner:

Let me explain. In a program like the (fabulous) Ministry Training Strategy (MTS) you spend two years working in a live ministry context, learning the ropes of gospel work. If it’s done right, this will involve huge amounts of time reading the Bible with both Christians and non-Christians. It will mean organising talks. And camps. And conferences. It will mean running teams; overseeing evangelistic events; fielding ministry-related administration; preparing talk, Bible studies and seminars. By the end you’ll have read through Colossians with more people that you can remember. You’ll have talked to umpteen guys about their struggle with internet porn. You’ll have experienced the joys and frustrations of working with volunteer teams. You’ll have talked patiently through the problem of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility so many times you could do it in your sleep.
Then you become a ministry leader.
Now, your timetable looks very different. You start to have more governance meetings. You are involved in less acute and more chronic pastoral situations. Less “I’ve just broken up with my boyfriend and it hurts like mad”, and more “we’ve been working on our marriage for ten years and it just won’t fix” kind of stuff. You need more time to prepare teaching. You need to read deeply and widely. Many of your meetings are with senior leaders. Indeed, you find yourself at either end of the bell-curve, meeting either with very gifted and strong leaders, or with people facing complex and intractable problems on the other side. You don’t get much time in the middle. You feel like you are “away from the coal-face” of ministry.
That’s the observation. Here’s the application: I think that shape is basically right in both cases. We should embrace it, not fight it.

Read the rest at Gospel Coalition Australia.