Category Archives: Pastor

JOSH HARRIS…A WARNING TO ALL OF US

Many things could and should be said about Josh Harris’s announcement that he has left both his wife and Christian faith. I offer here a few things that strike me as underappreciated by many Christians. More seriously, I also think the case can be made that these areas completely pass under the spiritual radar for far too many of us.

Be Sad, but not Surprised

The Bible makes it clear that you can cast out demons and not be a Christian (Mt. 7:21-23). Since that is true, it means that you can be a pastor, missionary, memorize lots of Scripture, lead people to faith in Jesus, and a whole bunch more, yet not be a Christian.

We American Christians are impressed with behavior. Our models for Christian growth tend to focus on what people do, not who they are. Don’t misunderstand. I am a big believer in sharing my faith, memorizing Scripture, and reading the Bible. However, Scripture warns me that these important practices for Christian growth can also be done for less than honorable reasons. Though terribly misguided, it is impressive to see someone who pours gas on his own body and then lights himself ablaze as a human torch. We’ve seen this occur from time to time in various protest movements. Such a stunning sacrifice, yet the Bible makes clear that this incredible act can be done completely devoid of love (I Cor. 13:3, NASB).

I’ve done open-air preaching on the campuses of Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. I’ve also done open-air preaching on the streets of Boulder, Colorado and Dallas, Texas. Impressive, eh? I can tell you, however, that these were much easier to do than gladly serving my family when I am tired physically. People may be wowed by the public preaching, but I can attest that it was much easier to do than serving my family in obscurity.

Biblical Illiteracy is Causing Much Damage

I’m sixty-one years old. I’ve been in various ministries for over forty years. In many places where Christians congregate, I’ve seen a precipitous drop in biblical literacy. A few months ago, I asked a group of ten college students, all from evangelical backgrounds, whether they had heard at least one sermon on the book of Lamentations. Not one of them had. Here you have a book of the Bible that has much to say in our current cultural moment and yet many are unaware of its riches. I should add that the book of Lamentations is not difficult to understand. The message of Lamentations is certainly difficult to accept which maybe offers some reason why so many preachers steer clear from preaching through it. Sadly, many miss this life-giving book of the Bible that offers unvarnished language for grieving when the unthinkable happens in our life.

Taking Every Thought Captive

In II Corinthians 10, we read that we are to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” The battle always begins with our thoughts. All of us marinate on things that are ungodly. More than a few of these would be embarrassing to admit to anyone, but a loyal friend. Even then, it is risky. But what happens when you don’t know anyone who will provide a godly and safe environment to give voice to your darker thoughts? Answer: you are left to your own devices, and Scripture makes clear that going it alone is deadly.

I’ve seen this scenario play out before. A person has certain gifts that many are unwisely enamored with. The gifts cause the person to be elevated far past their maturity in Christ. In too many cases, the “indispensable” person is promoted to a position of Christian leadership when their own faith in Christ is uncertain. This, in most cases, only becomes evident later on when the damage is done.

During my various interviews for pastoral positions at four evangelical churches I was never asked about my own walk with the Lord. Everyone seemed quite happy that my two seminary degrees came from the right schools. One evangelical pastor, also with the right pedigree, only asked me about my ministry strategies for motivating church-attending men who are apathetic. In all the interviews, only one asked me about my relationship with my wife, but rather predictably, he is a professional counselor!

Where to Go from Here?

Instead of offering a grocery list of suggestions, and there are several things to consider, allow me to give one. When you think of your own life and the lives of the Christians in your orbit, focus on one thing: Who/what is loved most and why? If our communities are getting healthier, we should be free to say, “I love ministry more than God. I get more excited about shopping or golf more than anything else. I know I shouldn’t, but I do. Please help me with this.” May this be the kind of Christian communities that we build to His glory and our good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PASTORS LOOKING FOR A CHURCH…

Over the years I have read hundreds of résumés.   Actually, it is probably more than that.  In any case, between interviewing many people on radio and TV, I have also given input to some churches on pastoral searches.  I have evaluated dozens of résumés for a pastoral position.  Here are a few things which you may want to share with a friend who is applying for a pastoral position:

*First impressions are huge.  I was amazed by how poorly several of the résumés looked.  The lack of any attention to aesthetics was shocking.  I am not advocating lots of fancy stuff.  I am saying that using Courier font and inconsistent borders is not quite passing muster.

*The lack of good writing was painful to see.  Poor writing for someone going into a preaching ministry is troubling.

*The word passion is way overused.  When I see someone has a “passion” for this or that, I grow impatient.  I beg pastors to use some other word.

*Family is listed as hobby and many times not even the first one!  Some put family under a category called “interests,” but the same problem remains.  I have seen too many put gardening and golf or reading and travel on the same list as family. 

*No reason is given for leaving a particular church.  One candidate who was candid about the reason for leaving his previous position was put at the top of my pile.

*Stop using trivialities, sloganeering, platitudes, and playing to the crowd.  Since this last church I helped leans toward dispensationalism it was painful to read the pandering descriptions of how committed some candidates are to this particular system of theology.

*No references given from previous church.

*Stop saying the predictable “my wife is the most beautiful and my children are simply amazing.” 

*Dates of experience have gaps and these are not explained.

FRIENDSHIPS: OLD AND NEW

A brief reflection of mine to a friend wondering if pastors could be friends with those in their congregation.  My answer is “yes,” but my advice for all Christians is to choose wisely.  Here is my brief reflection:

You may know that Augustine wrote more about friendship than anyone else in the ancient period so his perspective adds light to our discussion.  Cicero, whose writings Augustine loved, also wrote on friendship.  Cicero’s work is just a little before Christ so the two give nice bookends to the ancient world’s perspective on friendship.  Cicero said you can’t be friends with tyrants or sycophants.  Yes, I know there are loads of those in the churches!  And with the laxity on choosing elders there are plenty of them on elder boards.  But the perversion of a good thing does not eliminate the need for the good thing. 

NO COMMENT

I’ve seen a few magazines have a “NO COMMENT” section for those things that speak for themselves.  In keeping with that tradition, here is the church web site description of Trump enthusiast and Pastor of First Baptist Dallas, Robert Jeffress:

Dr. Robert Jeffress is Senior Pastor of the 12,000-member First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas and a Fox News Contributor. He is also an adjunct professor at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Dr. Jeffress has made more than 2000 guest appearances on various radio and television programs and regularly appears on major mainstream media outlets, such as Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends,” “The O’Reilly Factor,” “The Kelly File,” and “Hannity;” ”ABC’s “Good Morning America;” and HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.”

Dr. Jeffress hosts a daily radio program, Pathway to Victory, that is heard nationwide on over 800 stations in major markets such as Dallas-Fort Worth, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Houston, and Seattle. His weekly television program can be seen in 195 countries and on 11,283 cable and satellite systems throughout the world, including China and on the Trinity Broadcast Network and Daystar.

Dr. Jeffress is the author of 23 books including When Forgiveness Doesn’t Make Sense, Perfect Ending: Why Your Eternal Future Matters Today; Countdown to the Apocalypse: Why ISIS and Ebola Are Only the Beginning; and his newest book was released February 16, 2016, Not All Roads Lead To Heaven: Sharing An Exclusive Jesus In An Inclusive World.

Dr. Jeffress recently led the congregation in the completion of a $135 million re-creation of its downtown campus. The project is the largest in modern church history and serves as a “spiritual oasis” covering six blocks of downtown Dallas.

Dr. Jeffress graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with a D.Min., a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a B.S. degree from Baylor University. In May 2010, he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree from Dallas Baptist University. In June 2011, Dr. Jeffress received the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year award from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Dr. Jeffress and his wife Amy have two daughters, Julia and Dorothy, and a son-in-law, Ryan Sadler

 

 

MY CORRESPONDENCE WITH TIM KELLER

Dear Tim,

I have read several of your books and benefited greatly from each one.  I am also grateful for your willingness to do the Patheos/Jesus Creed interview with me.  Hyperbole and lack of nuance (not two things many associate with you) can be taken literally when the person communicating is well regarded.  I’m afraid that may be the case with the following.  In several places I have seen various iterations of your remarks when it comes to young preachers.  Here is one such example:

I don’t believe you should spend a lot of time preparing your sermon, when you’re a younger minister. I think because we are so desperately want our sermon to be good, that when you’re younger you spend way too much time preparing. And, you know, its scary to say this to the younger ministers… you’re not going to be much better by putting in twenty hours on that sermon–the only way you’re going to be a better preacher is if you preach often. For the first 200 sermons, no matter what you do, your first 200 sermons are going to be terrible. (laughter from the crowd). And, if you put in…fifteen or twenty hours in the sermon you probably won’t preach that many sermons because you won’t last in ministry, because your people will feel neglected.

Similar to Gladwell’s now contested “10,000 hours of practice,” many seem to take the 200 sermons in the most wooden of ways.  I get the point that it may take some five years of preaching to “find one’s voice,” but surely there is a wide variation of gifts and maturity that make the number 200 arbitrary, aren’t there?

Personally, I have heard young preachers whose maturity coupled with a genuine unction of the Spirit made it evident that “they found their voice.”  Conversely, I sadly report hearing some minsters who long ago crossed 200 sermons and still seem in search of their voice.

Sincerely in Christ,
Dave

Hi Dave—

Certainly we can’t take 200 in a wooden way. Of course there are variations. By the way, I doubt I’ve used the number “200″ more than once or twice in off hand remarks.

You are right in drawing out the broader principle. If you preach regularly, say 40-50 times a year, including Sunday preaching and other speaking at weddings, funerals, and conferences, then, yes, I’d say it takes at least three years of full-time preaching before you get even close to being as mature and skillful a preacher as you are capable of becoming.

There are basically three things that go into the “maturing” process: a) the actual preparation of the message, b) life experience—of your own heart, of pastoral work, of prayer, c) practice.

I’d say that younger preachers a) don’t have enough life experience, and b) don’t preach often enough to be growing in preaching as they should. They tend to put all the emphasis on long hours of academic prep.  It would be better if instead of 20 hrs of prep they did 5-6 hrs of prep and spent the rest of the time out involved in people’s lives, and then simply preached and spoke more often.  That is the balance that is needed. And then give it 3-5 years to come up to whatever level God has gifted you.

And, yes, I have heard some young preachers with pretty good spiritual maturity for their age and God’s anointing–be quite good.  Yet compare the sermons of the young Spurgeon (who was a teenage preaching phenom) with the old Spurgeon. The older Spurgeon sermons are far richer, wiser, better.

Tim

TOUGHEST JOBS

According to Peter Drucker, the late leadership guru, the four hardest jobs in America (and not necessarily in order, he added) are the president of the United States, a university president, a CEO of a hospital and … a pastor.

HT: DJ Chuang

DALLAS SEMINARY GRADUATES DON’T PREACH THE BIBLE

First, let me say that I know a number of Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) graduates who are careful students of the Bible.  Among the faithful, I have recently been blessed to know Jon Davies, the teaching pastor at Brenham Bible Church.  Jon handles the Word with reverence and diligently applies himself in the study.  Last, and certainly least, is the fact that I myself am a graduate of DTS.  Though I am “agnostic” on certain, secondary doctrines other DTS graduates hold, I remain grateful to God for the indelible impact of both professors and students.

Back to the subject line of this post…That is what I overheard from a theologian who some would say holds to a less than “conservative” position of the Bible.

I was in the bookstore of the seminary where this particular theologian teaches and could not help but eavesdrop on the conversation.  The theologian said to her friend, “I was just on vacation and so we went to the church my in-laws attend.  A Dallas Seminary guy was preaching.  It is amazing how poorly he handled the Scriptures even though he believes in the inerrancy of the Bible.  I don’t believe in inerrancy, but I treat the text of the Bible much more carefully than him.”

Holding to inerrancy is no safeguard against handling the Word of God in a sloppy manner.  Holding to inerrancy also won’t keep you out of bed with another man’s wife as the evangelical landscape makes painfully clear.

Do you hold to inerrancy?  For a few brave souls out there, you may want to declare that you don’t even know what it is, but you have heard it is important!

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