Eugene Peterson has written many books which have greatly blessed me. His combination of insight, honesty, prophetic distance from the culture, and humor make him an author who truly brings the goods.
Here is a wonderful interview which will benefit pastors and all those who love their pastors. I love that he was tired of simply “running the damn church.”
HT: Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed
The Dodo, of course, is well known for two things: being ugly and being extinct. Discipleship where you invest long-term in a few relationships seems to have gone the way of the Dodo.
On Scot McKnight’s blog, he posted a poll on what top ten things pastors like about their calling. I list them here with the comment I posted over at Scot’s Jesus Creed:
- Seeing lives transformed.
- Preaching. Frankly, I expected this response to be number one, but it was a distant second. Preaching is very important to these pastors, but transformed lives are the most important. Of course, some of them noted that preaching transforms lives.
- Personal evangelism. Though distant to number one, sharing the gospel one-on-one was a clear number three. Here is a fascinating facet of this study to me: Over 85 percent of the pastors named one of these first three as their response. The next eight were named by less than 15 percent of the pastors.
- The people/members.
- Developing new relationships.
- Ministering in the community.
- Ministering to members.
- Casting a vision.
- Staff relationships.
- Mentoring or discipling one-on-one. (Study by Thom Rainer)
As a former full-time pastor and now itinerant, I find it disheartening (if this poll is any real indication) that discipleship is tenth and no comment made about that changing lives.
My own interaction with many pastors does reflect what the poll is saying. Few pastors seem interested in the non sexy work of long-term discipleship. Thankfully, I know some notable exceptions to what may be the general rule.
I plan to do some posts on developing confidence in God’s Word, but here is a fine sermon which showcases a preacher who is confident in the Bible. Though this message was given to encourage pastors, it will be a blessing to any Christian.
I have posed the following concern to several pastors and New Testament scholars: If you serve as a pastor, it is taken for granted by the apostle Paul that you are also an elder. Ironically, most “Bible” churches have only one or perhaps a few of their pastors on the elder board. I have asked why this is and the common refrain is that people are worried about all the pastors forming some kind of voting bloc. What kind of message does this send about the trustworthiness of the pastors? Not much, I’m afraid.
Further, I have looked at many evangelical church web sites and the vast majority only list the “staff.” It is common to find the elders not even mentioned! Prominently featured are the pastors, but where are the elders? Some list the elders, but give no background while there is lots of ink spilled on the “senior pastor.”
We don’t need Big Kahunas, but pastors!
J.R. Vasser is the founding pastor of Apostles Church in New York City. God has used J.R.’s leadership to be a blessing to many.
This past Sunday Vasser mentioned he was leaving Apostles. Not because of immorality. Not because of some other ministry. Not because he is discouraged.
So why is Pastor Vasser leaving? He is leaving for his family’s emotional and spiritual well-being. Read his resignation letter and pray for more men like him!
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. Recently, I evaluated dozens of résumés for a preaching pastor 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 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.
Here is the synopsis of a recent Barna Group survey of Protestant pastors:
- There are approximately 315,000 Protestant churches in America. (As compared to 13,000 McDonalds and 4000 Walmarts).
- Pastors buy 3.8 books per month per person
- 92% of pastors buy at least one book per month
- Pastors buy 8-13 million books per year.
- Pastors buy more books than the general population.
- Younger pastors buy more books than older pastors.
- Pastors buy books on topics that interest them or that are recommended to them.
- Half of pastors are reading biographies.
- One-third of pastors are reading business books.
- Pastors buy most of their books at Christian bookstores and online.
- Half of pastors read books on an e-reader of an iPad.
- 90% of pastors recommend books to their congregations from the pulpit.
I have preached many times in different places, and over the years wanted a memorable way to evaluate my own sermon preparation. I developed the acrostic I CARE to remind myself of what is most important. The order is a memory aid, not what is most important to least.
Introduction should be strong and grab the attention of the listeners.
Christ-centered. Christ is the focus of the Bible, so it should be the focus of the sermon.
Authentically touches the preacher. When people ask me what is the most difficult aspect of preaching preparation, I find no difficulty answering: making sure that what I am preaching has genuinely touched me. This is the “preach to yourself before preaching to others” counsel of the Puritans. Finding good illustrations, understanding the flow of the biblical argument, though involving many hours, is a cake walk compared to the exposure of my own sin and subsequent repentance which happens before I ever get to the pulpit.
Redemptive. All sermons need to instill hope and encourage confidence in a God who can redeem any situation no matter how bleak and hopeless it may seem.
Ending should have a “so what?” which lingers through the week. Applications are crucial, yet I find two common errors preachers make with them: giving more than one application (one pastor I heard gave five!), and an emphasis on merely changing behavior rather than appealing to one’s loves, hopes, aspirations, and idols. In other words, the heart or inner motivations must be touched. I have a bias that some specificity of what to do is necessary, but again many preachers err by offering too much. At times, it seems the application is more the preacher’s own takeaway for his own life rather than being sensitive to the myriad of ways different people will actually seek to live out the central truth. So yes, broad principle should be stated, but leave room for the Holy Spirit to press the many ways He will move people to make specific application to their own lives.