Check Out

Blogs

Teaching as Joyful Rebellion | Carl R. Trueman, First Things
“Teaching—true teaching, not the mere imparting of techniques or earning potential—is perhaps the most delightful calling and privilege in the world. It has its challenges, but it brings incomparable joys. ”

Andy Stanley’s Statements about the Bible are not Cutting Edge, They’re Old Liberalism | Prince on Preaching
“Stanley argues that our faith is based on the resurrection and not the Bible. Severing the Scriptures from the resurrection is the very thing that Jesus said could not be done”

Is It Okay Deliberately Not To Have Children? | Tim Challies
You probably know the answer instinctively. But how would you argue for it?

Marriage Tweets | Jared Olivetti, Gentle Reformation
Some nourishing morsels to chew on here.

Holiness and the deepest levels of evangelical scholarship | Matthew Barrett, Credo Magazine
“What type of scholarship will God honor? It is a scholarship that’s first concern is holiness. Holy scholarship—that is what God cares about most. And that is what should be driving the evangelical vision for scholarship today.”

Five Bad Apologies by Leaders | Thom Rainer
“Leadership credibility will only be restored if leaders are willing to apologize. But too many leaders offer non-apology apologies. Here are five of the really bad ones:”

A Primer on Mortification of Sin | TGC
“Over the years I have written and talked a lot about mortification of sin. In that time I have received occasional questions about the topic. However, in recent months it seems that I have been asked about the subject with a bit more frequency. In fact, I’ve promised a few people that I would write a brief introduction to mortification. Since we are dealing with two older words, let’s call it a primer.”

New Book

Holy Communion in the Piety of the Reformed Church by Hughes Oliphant Old.

Kindle Deals

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.


Forgotten Songs by Ray Van Neste and C. Richard Wells ($2.99)


Holman Commentaries, on sale for $2.99


Here I Stand – A Life Of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton ($5.99)

Video

Don’t Believe the Hype: Keeping it 100 About Abstinence
I never thought I’d like to an Oprah interview, especially not for positive reasons, but it was refreshing to hear this couple’s counter-cultural story (I must admit I have no idea who they are).


Three Ways of Looking at Pastoral Ministry

I began my Christian ministry class yesterday by taking my students through the qualifications of a pastor, focusing on 1 Timothy 3:1-7. Among all the details of the lecture, I tried to emphasize three main ways to look at the qualifications.

The Three C’s

First, there are the three C’s: Character, Conduct, and Competence. The most important qualification for a pastor is Christian character. Without this we are disqualified. Conduct comes second, that is the outward life of godly living that flows out of a godly character. Third is competence, that is the abilities and skills required for ministry (public speaking, administration, time management, leadership, decision-making, etc).

Sadly, in the modern church, the greatest focus is on competence, with little attention paid to conduct and even less to character. In his pastoral theology, R C Anderson commented:

During the course of each school year dozens of inquiries come across my desk regarding men who are being considered by churches and mission boards. I am supposed to rate those individuals according to qualifications that are specified in the reference form. Without exception, each inquires as to the abilities of the person being considered, his personality traits and the talents of his wife. Rarely does a questionnaire deal with character traits.

The Bible insists on character first, conduct second, and competence last

The Lens of Self-Control

Another way of looking at the qualifications is through the lens of self-control, one of the key characteristics of a mature Christian. For example, the requirements of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 could be presented as:

  • The husband of one wife: self controlled in sexual matters.
  • Temperate: self-controlled in behavior.
  • Sober-minded: self-controlled in thinking.
  • Not covetous: self-controlled in use of money.
  • Not given to much wine: self-controlled in use of addictive substances.
  • No striker: self-controlled in conflict.

Of course, this is not really “self-control” but is better defined as “Spirit-control.”

The Lens of Relationships

As a former PRTS student highlighted, we can also frame the qualifications around the various relationships that a pastor must maintain.

  • Relates well to himself: self-disciplined, calm, patient, gentle, not addicted, not thin-skinned
  • Relates well to his family: healthy relationships with his wife, respected by his kids, well-0rdered family
  • Relates well to the people in our church: good reputation, accessible, hospitable, good communicator, peace-maker
  • Relates well to people outside of the church: good reputation outside the Christian community, loves the unsaved
  • Relates well to God: a man of God who serves in faith and our of love, filled with the Spirit, reverent, faithful to the Gospel.

Three ways to look at pastoral qualifications that keep the focus on the most important areas — Character and conduct.


Check Out

Blogs

This Free Course Teaches You Everything You Need to Know About Digital Photography | Thorin Klosowski, Life Hacker
“If you’ve been itching to learn photography but aren’t sure where to start, former Stanford professor and Google teacher Marc Levoy has released his entire course, which includes video lectures, slides, and more online for free.”

Best Books of 2016 (The Contenders) | Tony Reinke
Some tantalizing reading suggestions in Tony’s “Best Books of 2016″ list.

Fifteen Reasons I Believe in Pastoral Visits | Paul Tautges, Counseling One Another
Paul Tautges addresses Thom Rainer’s article that undermined pastoral visitation.

6 Essential Identities of a Ministry Leader | Eric Geiger
“Here are six essential identities of a ministry leader:”

Top Biography Recommendations from 12 Christian Historians | Justin Taylor, TGC
Justin Taylor asked several historians for their top five biographies, representing the genre at its best, with a little explanation for each. Here are their answers.

Five Things Parents Should Ensure For Their College Bound Students | Eric Washington, Reformed African American Network
“It is one thing for African American students to gain admission to Traditionally White Institutions and quite another thing to thrive at them. I would like to offer five pieces of advice to the parents of African American students, from my perspective as a former student and current college professor, that I believe will help African American students thrive at TWIs.”

New Book

A Spiritual Treasury for the Children of God by William Mason

Kindle Deals

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.


Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work by Tom Nelson ($4.99)


The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins ($1.99)


Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy ($2.24)


The Bible’s Answers to 100 of Life’s Biggest Questions by Norman L. Geisler and Jason Jimenez ($1.99)

Video

How Will You Die? | AsapSCIENCE


Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting

Dave Furman, senior pastor of Redeemer Church of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, developed a nerve disease ten years ago which left him with chronic pain and weakness in both arms. Despite numerous surgeries and procedures, the pain continues, worsened by periods of doubt and depression. But out of this darkness, comes a beautiful book in which Dave comforts others with the comfort he has received from God, and teaches others the lessons he’s been learning in the school of affliction. You can buy the book here.

In the videos below, Dave offers some of the wisdom he has accumulated through his trials.


Check out

Blogs

How Writing To-Do Lists Helps Your Brain (Whether Or Not You Finish Them)
Three psychological benefits from the simple act of drawing up a list of top-priority tasks, even if you don’t do them.

Traditional Christians at a Critical Juncture
I the light of increasing and potential further losses of religious freedom, here’s an article that assesses where we’ve been, where we’re going, and how to respond

Students are not hard-wired to learn in different ways – we need to stop using unproven, harmful methods
“If learning styles exist at all, these are not “hard wired” and are at most simply preferences. What we prefer is neither fixed for all time nor always what is best for us.”

10 Ways Not to Help a Hurting Friend
Ten approaches to caring for the hurting that look helpful on the surface, but in the end may only add to the pain.

Ten Reasons Why Many Churches Aren’t Evangelistic
Convicting.

Spiritual Disciplines and the Sinkhole Syndrome
“You know the story. A man has been a believer in Christ for decades. To all outward appearances he’s a man of Christian faithfulness and integrity. He has maintained a reputation as a fine example of public and private faithfulness to the things of God for decades. Then, without warning, it all collapses into a sinkhole of sin. Everyone wonders how it could have happened so quickly. In most cases, it soon becomes known that—like most sinkholes—the problem didn’t develop overnight.”

Thank God For Your Job (Doesn’t Matter What Your Job Is!)
Good return-to-work post.

New Book

Being There: How to Help Those Who Are Hurting by Dave Furman.

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in all of Life by Gene Veith $3.99. Difficult to find a better book on the Christian view of work.

True Friendship by Vaughan Roberts $2.99.

Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies $2.99.

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey $3.99. A life-changer!

Video

Human Tears Under The Microscope
I wonder what the tears of conviction of sin look like? Or the tears of suffering children of God? God not only knows but sees more beauty in them than in any other tears.

“You number my wanderings; put my tears into your bottle; are they not in your book?” (Psalm 56:8)


Pastoral Visitation a “Sign of Sickness” and a “Step Towards Death”?

I was stunned and shocked when I read Thom Rainer’s recent blog post Fifteen Reasons Why Your Pastor Should Not Visit Much. It wasn’t just what was written but who wrote it—Thom Rainer! I’ve never met Thom, but I feel like I know him because of how much I’ve learned from his books and blogs on all things related to leading churches. I’ve linked to his blog often and will continue to do so.

When I read this post, at first I thought he’d been hacked because it seemed so out of character with everything else I’ve read of his. As it’s still up there some days later, I’ve got to assume that he wrote it and meant it.

While Thom is right to highlight the potential danger of too much pastoral visitation eventually damaging a minister’s preaching ministry due to lack of time to properly prepare, I’ve only ever known one minister who over-visited to this extent. By far, the greatest danger today, and the complaints I hear wherever I go, is of pastors who visit way too little. The results are pastors and sermons that are dry and distant from the real lives of real people. It’s impossible to shepherd from one’s armchair.

Historical Mistake
To be sure, Thom does not advocate no pastoral visitation; rather he’s insisting that pastoral visits be reserved for serious and emergency needs and that other church members be trained for “ordinary” pastoral visitation. But, in doing so, he not only overstates his case, he commits a huge historical howler by arguing that “‘Visitation of the members’ became a common job description of pastors about a century ago.”

I haven’t done the research that could confirm or deny whether this duty was only added to pastoral job descriptions in modern time. But even if he’s right (and I seriously doubt it), it’s a huge logical jump from that to conclude that it’s never been a core component of shepherding. It’s much more likely that the formal addition was made because churches were beginning to encounter the strange phenomena of shepherds who did not visit the sheep and felt the need to put the requirement in writing.

One thing’s for sure, as any cursory survey of pastoral theologies prior to the 2oth century will reveal (and every modern one I’ve read too), regular and systematic pastoral visitation of the flock was a given. It was as much a part of pastoring as preaching.

Team with a Chief
Sure, the pastor will want to build a team of visitors and train others to help in this task, but he never stops being a shepherd himself, and always acts as the model and inspiration for others. For Thom to state that “the pervasive mentality in many churches is the pastor is the chief visitor in the church” and that this is “a key sign of sickness” and “a clear step towards death” seems to condemn not just the Apostolic ministry, and the ministry of most pastors through the years, but even of the Good Shepherd himself.

I sincerely hope Thom will re-consider at least some of this article, as I believe such a post by such an influential and usually reliable church leader could unintentionally result in damage to many pastors and their congregations. You can easily make the good points that pastors should not visit so much that it damages their sermon preparation and evangelism, and that other members (especially fellow-elders) should help with pastoral visitation, without going to this extreme overstatement.

Pastoral Workweek
I sometimes want to ask, “If pastors are not visiting their flock—the healthy as well as the sick—what are they actually doing?” Let’s look at an average congregation of 70-100 people.

Let’s say a pastor works 45 hours a week on average. If a pastor is preaching two sermons a week (most American pastors are only preaching one a week), and we allow 10 hours preparation per sermon (the average for experienced pastors). That  leaves 25 hours per week.

Let’s give 5 hours a week to administration, meetings, and leadership development. That still leaves 20 hours per week.

Let’s give 5 hours a week to evangelism (most pastors do very little direct evangelism). That leaves 15 hours a week.

Let’s allow 5 hours per week for personal development/reading, etc. That leaves 10 hours a week.

Let’s say 5 hours a week are spent in visiting the sick and in counseling. That still leaves 5 hours a week for regular pastoral visitation. That means 2-3 households/families a week and over a hundred in a year.

That’s hardly going to lead to burnout. In fact, I think most pastors would be rejuvenated by the regular spiritual encouragement of visiting the healthy and thriving Christians in their congregations.

I’ve also found it one of the best means of personal evangelism to the unconverted in a congregation, as the Gospel can be applied more directly, and questions and objections answered in ways impossible when the shepherd is in the pulpit and the sheep in the pew.

For more on the essential duty of regular pastoral visitation:

Invisible Pastors – Place for Truth

Have You Ever Had a Pastoral Visit? – White Horse Inn Blog

Pastoral Visitation: The God-Given Responsibility to Shepherd – Reformation21

The Lost Work of Pastoral Visitation |Reformation 21

Professor John Murray’s installation charge | Westminster Seminary

Pastor, Why Not Visit Their Workplace? | TGC

A “normal” week of pastoral ministry| HHH

A “normal” pastoral visit | HHH

And if you want to do some further research, have a look at Jeremy Walker’s excellent and extensive list of pastoral theology books, both modern and ancient. If I was a betting man (I’m not), from what I know of the books on this list, I’d be willing to bet that every single book that deals with pastoral visitation would undermine Thom’s claims and arguments from Scripture, history, and common sense.