Why do so many pastors end up in the Wrecker’s Yard? How do I avoid it? How do I get out of it?
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Most pastoral problems like burnouts, backslidings, depressions, etc., begin with a neglect of the body.
Let me say that again in a different way. From what I’ve seen and experienced, most pastoral soul-care problems begin with a neglect of the body.
Soul care problems do not usually begin with channel-surfing or a click of the mouse, nor with wandering eyes or hands, nor with shortening or missing private devotions. They begin by neglecting the body, by denying or ignoring its many varied needs…and these other problems inevitably and inexorably follow.
But this is not merely a practical problem or a physical issue. This is a theological problem. Its root is a wrong view of God. And it’s not just a slightly wrong view. Its error is fundamental and foundational because its error concerns the fundamental and foundational truth that God is our Creator.
That’s the very first truth that’s revealed to us in Scripture. And it’s first for a reason. It’s because if we go wrong there, we run a great risk of going wrong everywhere else.
Now some of you are thinking, “Don’t insult me, man. I believe in God as Creator. I defend God as Creator. I fight those who deny God as Creator. I can even prove God is Creator. How can you say that my soul-care problems arise from denying God as Creator?”
Living like evolutionists?
Well, maybe we are not denying God as Creator with our lips, but some of us are with our lives.
There are lots of people who call God “Lord” but don’t live as His servants. And there are lots of people, yes even pastors, who call God Creator and preach God as Creator, but who live like evolutionists. Some pastors give the impression that the ministry is about the survival of the fittest! (OR THE FATTEST!)
God’s Creatorhood has massive implications for the way we live and the way we do ministry. Although we usually skip over that chapter in our Systematic Theologies and rush on to more “Gospel-centered” material, I’ve become increasingly convinced that we cannot be Gospel-centered unless we are Creator-centered. We cannot live as saints unless we first of all live as creatures. The soul and body are so intertwined and inter-connected that we will make no progress in soul-care unless we start with, and go on with body-care.
I’ll be speaking about Soul-care to the Plantr Network on May 10. If you are in the Austin (Texas) area, I hope you’ll come along and we’ll get a chance to fellowship with one another and learn from one another. My addresses will be on (1) Care & Maintenance and (2) Repairing the Damage. I’ll also be leading a breakout session on Modeling Soul Care.
Thanks again to my son Angus for filming and editing.
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“Will I need an umbrella in Grand Rapids tomorrow?”
Siri: “There’s no rain in the forecast for tomorrow.”
“When was Gettysburg?”
Siri: “I found this for you.”
“What’s the speed of light?”
Siri: “Let me check that for you. This might answer your question.”
“What is God?”
Siri: “I would ask that you address your spiritual questions to someone more qualified to comment, ideally a human.
Siri: “My policy is the separation of church and silicon.”
“WHAT IS GOD!?”
Siri: “It’s all a mystery to me.”
Actually it’s all a mystery to just about everybody. Libraries have been filled by people trying to answer the question, and most of the books have left us none the wiser.
“What is God?” This is the question no one can answer, isn’t it!
Well, actually, the Westminster Shorter Catechism had a stab at it and while acknowledging it’s not a complete answer, it’s probably the best brief answer anyone has ever given. Question 4 asks “What is God?” and the catechism answers:
God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
We’re taught three truths about God here. First, God is Unfathomable. The first words bring us face to face with the immeasurable mystery of God’s being. He is a spirit – he can’t be seen or touched. He is infinite – He can’t be measured. He is eternal – He has no beginning or end. He is unchangeable – no ups, no downs, no developing, no weakening.
Want to blow your mind? Just pick one of these words and think on them for a few minutes. God is Unfathomable – we will never reach the end of knowledge about God. We will never say, “O, I get it now!”
Second, God is Understandable. Some people have heard “God is unfathomable,” and said, “O well, there’s no point in even trying to understand God. But the wonderful thing is that God has made Himself known using words, ideas, and concepts that we can actually grasp. The catechism speaks of God as wise, powerful, holy, just, good, and truthful. We can get that, can’t we. That takes some of the mystery out of it. We’ll never get to the end of God, but these words get us to the beginning.
Third, and this is huge relief, our God is Unique. Catechism 5 asks, “Are there more gods than one?” Answer: “There is but only, the living and true God.” We don’t need to get to know any other god! Because there is only one. Oh, there are many called gods, but they are neither living nor true. They are dead and false. There’s only one true and living God, and that’s the one we’re focusing on.
So, our God is Unfathomable, Understandable, and Unique.
If you know that, like the men who wrote the catechism over 400 years ago, you know more than Siri!
Thanks to my son Angus who is filming and editing this series. To view the previous films click here.
Here are eight guidelines for helping depressed Christians. In the video I cover the following points:
Click here to view the video on Vimeo, and if you sign up for Vimeo (it’s free) you can also access the video file for downloading.
Any other advice you would give?
A couple of weeks ago a friend asked me to do some Puritan Pods on how to preach Christ from Old Testament passages that were not obviously Christ-centered. So, bravely rising to the challenge, here are a few minutes of my thoughts on how to preach Christ from 2 Chronicles 7v14 :
If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
I don’t usually write out a full manuscript, but here’s what you might call a 75% manuscript (the main substance of my sermon) and here is my summary note, that I re-read a few times just before preaching.
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What does art tell us about our culture’s hopes, values, and fears?
That’s the question this week’s Puritan Pod tries to answer following a visit to the Grand Rapids Artprize Festival, which awards the winner $250,000, making it the world’s largest art prize.
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