I met a “celebrity” pastor yesterday

I met a “celebrity” pastor at T4G yesterday.

I can confidently report that he was normal.

In fact, he was more normal than many “normal” pastors I’ve met. He was warm, friendly, engaged in our conversation, didn’t try to get away after the initial pleasantries, and wasn’t continually looking over my shoulder for someone more interesting or important to talk to. And I have to say that most of the well-known pastors and preachers I’ve met have been similar.

The problem is often with those who surround these men. In my experience, it’s often the gatekeepers, the hangers-on, the media, PR & marketing guys, the organizers, the administrators, the “friends,” etc., that create the impression of superiority, aloofness, arrogance, and disinterest in lesser mortals.

I’ve met a good number of them too, and though there are some happy exceptions, I’m afraid that they often give their masters and “friends” a bad name. When no one else is around, they might give you the time of day, but meet them in a crowd and you’re suddenly invisible. Or if you are talking to them in a crowd, you wonder if you have a parrot on your shoulder!

Past too much like the present
Before I was converted, I’m afraid that I was a regular sampler of Glasgow’s nightlife. I used to go to clubs that were attended by the top Scottish soccer players (the equivalent of your ARod, Tom Brady, etc). Because of their large “retinues” you wouldn’t normally get near to talk to them – unless you met in the restroom. I “bumped” into quite a few of them there over the years and usually found them friendly, decent, down-to-earth, etc. Just like the few “celebrity” pastors I’ve met.

But again, it was their retinue, the guys basking in reflected glory, the entourage, the guys that probably could hardly kick a ball, that by their attitudes and actions usually caused the public perception of these “stars” arrogance and superiority.

So, to the celebrity pastors, I would say, you may be the humblest, godliest, and most decent pastor in the world; but if you have bumptious, pretentious, person-respecting staff and (mis)representatives, don’t be surprised if people who don’t know you think that you are just like them. I would prescribe them a daily dose of James 2v1-4 and maybe some regular time at Calvary.

To the entourage, the “friends,” I would say, go pastor a church yourself for a few years (rather than by proxy), and you might then stop to talk to some “ordinary” pastors at the next T4G.

The Word of God reveals the human heart. So do large conferences.

Nine reasons why you may lack assurance

A few weeks ago Dr Joel Beeke preached on assurance and gave five reasons why believers may lack assurance of faith.

Dr Beeke gave five reasons that were specific to our own congregation:

  • False Conceptions of the Character of God
  • Lack of Clarity on Justification by Faith
  • Disobedience and Backsliding 
  • Ignorance of Satisfying Evidences of Grace 
  • Lack of Acknowledging What God has Done

Let me add another four reasons that I’ve come across:

Temperament: Just as people who are confident by nature are much more likely to have spiritual confidence, those who are constitutionally more timid and hesitant than others will usually find it harder to attain to assurance of faith. The confident among us need to be extremely sympathetic to such trembling souls. From what I’ve seen, the little assurance that a naturally fearful person may have can be a greater spiritual triumph than the chest-thumping confidence of the naturally buoyant personality.

Events: When a person passes through a series of difficult providences – loss of health, work, loved ones, etc – it can be devastating to assurance. Again, those of us who are surrounded by multiple evidences of God’s blessing should be very slow to condemn a questioning believer whose providence is screaming from every direction “There is no God!” or at least, “God is not love!”

Father or Pastor: When a person has been brought up by a perfectionist or demanding Father who rarely expressed appreciation or love, their view of God as a loving and assuring Father will be seriously damaged. Similarly, if the preaching we have been exposed to has been angry, impatient, hectoring,  demanding, unsympathetic, frustrated, etc., then we will view God similarly and lack spiritual comfort.

Sovereignty: Sometimes it’s not us or anyone else. It’s simply God. In one of the most pastorally helpful sections of the Westminster Confession of Faith we read:

The most wise, righteous, and gracious God, doth oftentimes leave for a season his own children to manifold temptations and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.

For sundry other just and holy ends! You might want to ask Job about that.

Check out

4 Reasons You Should Visit The Ligonier Booth at Ligonier

The hole in our holiness
That’s the name of Kevin DeYoung’s forthcoming book. If you want a taste, then you can read a synopsis from his excellent address at T4G yesterday in Louisville. Here’s Aaron Armstrong’s notes, and here’s Justin Taylor’s.

Broken Homes in the Bible

Work Backwards
Sometimes it makes counseling easier.

Evangelical predicts Mormon difficulties for Romney

The Biggest Announcement
The Martyn Lloyd-Jones recording trust releases all MLJ’s sermons for free.



Are you like Apple or Google?

Walter Isaacson is frustrated. Reviews of his Steve Jobs biography have focused mainly on what he wrote about Jobs’ weirdness: his faults, flaws, rough edges, idiosyncrasies, extreme emotionalism, etc.

Jobs did not deny his weirdness, and in fact instructed Isaacson to write it into the book. (Maybe he didn’t think Isaacson would take him so literally!)

However, Isaacson wants people to focus on Jobs’ focus; his ability to cut out not only bad things, but even the good things, in order to focus on the great things. Two examples:

When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, it was producing a dozen versions of the Mac and a random array of numerous peripherals:

After a few weeks of product review sessions, he’d finally had enough. “Stop!” he shouted. “This is crazy.” He grabbed a Magic Marker, padded in his bare feet to a whiteboard, and drew a two-by-two grid. “Here’s what we need,” he declared. Atop the two columns, he wrote “Consumer” and “Pro.” He labeled the two rows “Desktop” and “Portable.” Their job, he told his team members, was to focus on four great products, one for each quadrant. All other products should be canceled. There was a stunned silence. But by getting Apple to focus on making just four computers, he saved the company. “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do,” he told me.

Jobs also took his top 100 people on retreat every year. In front of his beloved Whiteboard, he would ask, “What are the 10 things we should be doing next?” When the group came up with their top 10, Jobs would slash the bottom seven and announce, “We can only do three.”

Near the end of his life, Jobs met Google CEO Larry Page, and in a rare display of goodwill towards his great rival, he told him to pick five Google products out of Google’s smorgasbord and focus on these alone.

Focus is one of the hardest things to achieve in ministry and in Christian service. Whether we are pastors, elders, deacons, or church members, there is not only so much to do; there is also so much opportunity to do it. There is such huge need around us, and we could (and often do) attempt to supply each and every need to some extent.

We try to do way too much and end up doing nothing really well. We end up like Google instead of Apple.

When Martyn Lloyd Jones heard the much-loved Scottish Pastor Douglas Macmillan preach, he sought him out afterwards and said, “Douglas you are a fine preacher. Keep off the committees!”

As Steve Jobs said, “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.”