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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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The Local Church – Movement, Monument, Or Mausoleum? (via Ray Ortlund)

Ray Ortlund passes on an observation about three stages in a local church’s growth and decline. It’s vital to humbly self-examine because what can be observed as strength can be the rigidity that is precursor to decline.

Movement
A healthy church is born as a burst of positive gospel energy. It’s a Pentecost-like explosion of joy, a vital gospel movement. Such a church has a sense of mission, even a sense of destiny. It’s exciting to be in this church. Think of a steep upward trajectory.

Monument
Given human weakness, after a time, this movement becomes a monument. The spirit of the church changes from hunger to self-satisfaction, from eagerness to routine, from daring new steps of faith to maintaining the status quo, from outward to ingrown. It’s easy not to notice this shift. The self-image of the church might still be that of a vital movement. But deep within, everything has changed. Think of leveling off.

Mausoleum
If the trend toward mediocrity is not arrested, the church will decline and become a mausoleum, a place of death. The church as an institution may have enough social momentum and financial resources to keep churning on. But as a force for newness of life, it no longer counts. Think of steep decline – indeed, a death spiral.

The responsibility of a church’s leaders is to discern when their movement is starting to level off as a monument. It is at this crucial point that they must face themselves honestly and discover why they have lost their edge, go into repentance and return to the costly commitments that made them great to begin with. They may need to deconstruct much of what they have become, which is painful and embarrassing. But if the leaders will have the humility, clarity and courage to do this, their church will go into renewal and re-launch as a movement once more. Jesus will become real again, people will be helped again, and those bold, humble leaders will never regret the price they paid.

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Four Categories Of Speech That Church Leaders Should Keep In Mind At All Times (via Ray Ortlund)

To nurture a gospel culture in a local church Ray Ortlund writes about four categories of speech church leaders should keep in mind at all times:

1. Wisdom
Saying only Christ-honoring, life-giving things. Always asking oneself, “Do the words I feel like saying rise to the level of wisdom? If not, they have no place in my mouth. Good intentions are not enough; leaders must show good judgment. I will hold myself to a strict standard, because Christ’s honor and people’s safety are at stake.”
All the words of my mouth are righteous. Proverbs 8:8

2. Indiscretion
Well-intentioned, good-hearted, “loving” but unguarded words. A sincere desire to be helpful and consoling, but violating a personal boundary of information ownership. Indiscretion erodes people’s willingness to “walk in the light” with honesty about their problems (1 John 1:7). As a result, indiscretion is a spiritually dampening power.
When words are many, transgression is not lacking; but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. Proverbs 10:19

3. Gossip
This might include factually true information. But still, it should not be shared, for legitimate reasons–for example, it might embarrass someone. Since gossip might not involve actual falsehood, gossips often don’t realize how harmful they really are.
… gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 1 Timothy 5:13

4. Slander
Deliberate falsehood, intended to harm and undermine and diminish someone’s reputation, bearing false witness, cutting someone down to size, abusive transference.
Whoever utters slander is a fool. Proverbs 10:18

If a church’s leaders will hold themselves to the high standard of #1, their influence will be conducive to a gospel culture. Not that we leaders will always live up to this standard. But defining it clearly and winsomely will help make a church into a safety zone where sinners can get real with Jesus and one another and start growing.

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Real Church Is More Than A Human Support Group (via Ray Ortlund)

Ray Ortlund writes about the messiness of real church.

And the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin
Real church is more than a human support group, more than empathy. The sacred blood of Jesus is here. And we bring no sin out into the light which his blood cannot cleanse away: “. . . all sin.” This is not sinless perfection, but it is substantial healing in every area of life. That particular sin weighing most heavily on your conscience, that sin that shames you and damns you and haunts you—that is the sin Jesus bled for, and that is the point in your existence where he loves you the most tenderly. Take a step out into the light, as the Holy Spirit nudges you. Confess that particular sin to God and to your fellowship, in some meaningful, appropriate way. Then take the next step after that, as God leads you, and then the next—a new person walking in the light day by day, continually cleansed, constantly reinvigorated, daily included in the circle of grace, not shamed, not forced back into hiding, but trusting in the ongoing power of justification by faith alone, welcomed into the fellowship of the forgiven, and you’re free as never before.
Here is the price we pay: putting our pride away and admitting the truth, moment by moment, as we walk together in the light of the Lord.

Read the whole post here.


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Dodge Reconciliation, Deny the Gospel (via Ray Ortlund)

Ray Ortlund explores the practical outworking of being reconciled to God on our personal relationships:
An excerpt:

Let’s ask ourselves some hard questions: Who are we keeping our distance from? Who are we avoiding? Who are we hoping we won’t run into around town? Whose presence makes us feel awkward because of some painful history? To whom might we owe an apology? If we say we love the gospel of reconciliation, can we let any relational breakdown go on and on without at least trying to reconcile? And if we are unwilling to try, then let’s admit it: we are trifling with God. We are, in practice, denying the gospel.
We prove our sincerity about the vertical gospel of reconciliation through our willingness to move toward horizontal relationships that need reconciliation. Maybe that person or that church or that group won’t listen to us. But still, we must try. And we might be surprised at how God blesses our imperfect but prayerful effort.

Read the whole post here.


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Gospel + Safety + Time – A New Year’s Resolution For Every Church (via Ray Ortlund)

Ray Ortlund titled this “My All Time Favourite Post” when he posted this on his blog, and I understand why.
With thanks to Ray, this sums up MGPC’s new year (and every year) resolution.

Gospel + safety + time. It’s what everyone needs. A lot of gospel + a lot of safety + a lot of time.

Gospel: good news for bad people through the finished work of Christ on the cross and the endless power of the Holy Spirit. Multiple exposures. Constant immersion. Wave upon wave of grace and truth, according to the Bible.

Safety: a non-accusing environment. No finger-pointing. No embarrassing anyone. No manipulation. No oppression. No condescension. But respect and sympathy and understanding, where sinners can confess and unburden their souls.

Time: no pressure. Not even self-imposed pressure. No deadlines on growth. Urgency, but not hurry, because no one changes quickly. A lot of space for complicated people to rethink their lives at a deep level. God is patient.

This is what our churches must be: gentle environments of gospel + safety + time. It’s where we’re finally free to grow.

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