On When to Resign as a Pastor

Article: On Knowing When to Resign by D. A. Carson, research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and general editor of Themelios. (original source here)

Certain kinds of questions come my way by email fairly regularly—every few weeks, every couple of months. One of these regulars runs something like this: “How do I know when it is time to resign?” If this is being asked by a pastor who is still young, it is usually prompted by a difficult situation that he longs to flee.

Circumstances of that sort are so diverse that I won’t attempt to address them here. What I have in mind is the pastor who poses this question at the age of 55, or 60, or 65, or 70. This pastor is wondering when it is time to lay down the burden of local church ministry, and consider something else—itinerant ministry, perhaps, or teaching overseas for a while, or working with a mission agency, or half-time pastoral work, perhaps as someone else’s associate. Are there any biblical and theological principles that should shape our reflection on these matters?

(1) In one sense, this is the right question to ask. Here is not someone who has reached some long-awaited ideal retirement age and is looking for an excuse to withdraw from ministry in favor of buying an RV to spend the next couple of decades alternating between fishing lakes and visiting grandchildren. After all, there is no well-articulated theology of retirement in Scripture. Rather, this is a serious question from someone who has borne the heat of the day, and who, for various reasons, wonders if it is not only permitted but right to ask if it is time to move on.

(2) In recent years, I’ve been passing on what I’ve picked up from a few senior saints who have thought these things through. The most important lesson is this: Provided one does not succumb to cancer, Alzheimer’s, or any other seriously debilitating disease, the first thing we have to confront as we get older is declining energy levels. Moreover, by “declining energy levels” I am referring not only to the kind of declining physical reserves that demand more rest and fewer hours of labor each week, but also to declining emotional energy without which it is difficult to cope with a full panoply of pastoral pressures. When those energy levels begin to fall is hugely variable (at age 45? 65? 75?), as is also how fast they fall. But fall they will!

It follows that if one attempts at age 85 to do what one managed to accomplish at age 45, a lot of it will be done badly. Frustrations commonly follow: old-man crankiness, rising resentments against the younger generation, a tendency to look backward and become defensive, even an unwitting destruction of what one has spent a lifetime building up.

Three things follow:

As long as God provides stable energy levels, one should resist the glitter of common secular assumptions about retirement—e.g., that there is (or should be) a universal retirement age, that somehow your work entitles you to a retirement free from all service, that the end of life should be dominated by pleasurable pastimes emptied of self-sacrifice and service. This is not to argue there is no place for, say, time devoted to creative tasks of one sort or another; it is to argue that it is sub-Christian to imagine that our service across the decades entitles us to a carefree retirement.

Once energy levels start to decline (whenever that might be), then, assuming that neither senility nor some other chronic disease is taking its toll, the part of wisdom is to stop doing some things so that with one’s remaining energy one can tackle the remaining things with enthusiasm and gusto. I can think of two or three senior saints who have become wholly admirable models in this regard. In their late 60s, they slowly started to put aside one task after another, with the result that, now in their early 90s, they can still do the one or two remaining things exceptionally well. One of them, for instance, will still preach, but never more than once a day. And he won’t fly anywhere: travel to the place he is to preach is either by car (with someone driving him), or by train. But when he does preach, you can close your eyes and listen to a man thirty or forty years younger.

There is another element in such decisions that is partly subjective, partly temperamental, partly a reflection of one’s sense of call—and of the ways these various factors interact with one another. John Calvin died on May 27, 1564, at the age of 54. All his life he held himself to the most rigorous, punishing schedule. That stunning self-discipline, a reflection of his passion for the glory of God and for the promotion of the gospel, was used by God to make the man astonishingly productive.

On the other hand, all the biographies I have read of him speculate that if in his latter years he had slowed down a little, he might have lived a good deal longer—and had he lived another decade or two, still with stable health, he may well have produced a great deal more.

But who are we to tell John Calvin what he should have done? Human motives are usually mixed. On the one hand, there is something hauntingly exemplary about a person who wants to burn out for Christ, to waste no time, to serve others, “… fill the unforgiving minute / With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run” (Kipling); on the other hand, there may be a wee touch of workaholism in such a stance, in which our very self-identity is tied to the number of hours we put in or the number of things we produce.

On the one hand, it might be a careful and thoughtful stewarding of our declining energies that makes a wise calculation about dropping certain responsibilities so as to maintain more important priorities; on the other hand, who is to deny that there may also be a touch of entitlement, or a cooling of youthful ardor, a dangerous love of mere ease? Each of us will have to give an answer to our own beloved Master, who knows us better than we do. It is probably not too much to suggest that if we are temperamentally drawn to one or the other of these extremes, we should be especially diligent to explore our motives most carefully.

(3) All things being equal (and of course, they never are), one should not leave one’s ministry until one or more of the following conditions is met:

One has to leave for moral reasons. Sadly, such failures are not restricted to young pastors. The older one gets, the more one should pray for grace to finish well.

Serious health issues mean that one can no longer discharge one’s pastoral duties fruitfully, with no realistic hope of returning to full strength (e.g., What is the prognosis after a serious stroke?).

One is clearly called by God to some other ministry. All of the usual complex factors have to be borne in mind. Continue reading

3 Ways Ministry Can Make You Conceited

I don’t always find myself in agreement with Tim Keller, but this article is very insightful (original source here).

“Ministry will lead to conceit unless God intervenes.” — Tim Keller

I’ve been in ordained vocational ministry for 42 years. Many who started with me didn’t get to the finish line. It’s a grievous percentage. One of the main reasons so many didn’t last, I think, is because no one warned them about the ways ministry can tempt you with pride.

This is where Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:7–10 have been so helpful to me as a pastor. Paul—the very apostle trained in theology and for ministry by the actual risen Christ—warns us that theological training and life in ministry can lead to conceit if you fail to cooperate with Christ’s gracious intervention.

Here are three ways ministry can make you conceited unless God intervenes. Pastors, be warned.

1. Theological Knowledge Can Puff You Up

First, there’s the conceit of theological knowledge. Now, you might think, It’s a stretch to say Paul is arguing theological knowledge leads to conceit. But elsewhere he says, “We all possess knowledge, but knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know” (1 Cor. 8:1–2).

Here he’s explicitly talking about theological knowledge. Some in Corinth had the right theological knowledge about meat offered to idols, but what did it lead to? Being puffed up. He’s saying something simple here. Knowing the truth has a tendency to inflate you. You become self-involved, proud of your knowledge and insight. Love, on the other hand, is self-emptying.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it this way:

Whenever you allow your relationship to the truth to become purely theoretical and academic, you’re falling into the grip of Satan. . . . The moment in your study you cease to come under the power of the truth, you have become a victim of the Devil. If you can study the Bible without being searched and examined and humbled, without being lifted up and made to praise God, or moved with sorrow over what God has endured in you, or amazed that the beauty and wisdom of what Christ has done for you, if you do not feel as much of a desire to sing when you’re alone in your study as when you’re standing in the pulpit, you are in bad shape. And you should always feel something in this power.

Lloyd-Jones proceeds to identify the marks of someone who’s learned to master the Bible as a set of mere information, not extraordinary power. One mark is you become a spiritual crank. A spiritual crank is someone always complaining about relatively fine shades of doctrinal distinctions, always denouncing in arguments over Bible translations or denouncing people on the wrong side of the latest theological controversy. A spiritual crank treats the Word of God as something you use, not something that uses you. He’s puffed up on intellectual pride and his theological tribe.

2. Ministry Can Become a False Identity

The second conceit comes from a false identity created by ministry. You will tend to identify personally with your ministry so much so that its success (or lack thereof) becomes your success (or lack thereof). Once you begin to identify in this way, you’ll create a false identity based on your performance as a minister.

This kind of false identity can manifest itself in at least four ways:

1. Success

Any of us can build a false identity based on circumstances and performance. You go to church every Sunday. You say you’re a Christian. You have three homes. You appear to be successful, and that’s your identity. But it now suddenly looks like you’re going to lose your career or your wealth. You think, I can’t let that happen! And even though you’re a Christian, you embezzle. You cheat. You exploit. You trample somebody else and destroy his career in order to stay where you are.

Every single Christian struggles with a false identity. Every non-Christian has a false identity. Those of us in full-time ministry will face the sting of success one way or another. When people come to your church, you’re going to feel like they are affirming you, and when people leave your church, you’re going to feel like it’s a personal attack.

2. Criticism

If your ministry becomes your false identity, you won’t be able to handle criticism. Criticism will come and be so traumatic because it questions how good a pastor you are. Criticism says, “You know, your preaching really isn’t very good . . . I want my preacher to be better.” It feels like a personal attack. The criticism either devastates you or you dismiss it and don’t grow from it.

3. Cowardice

If your ministry becomes your false identity, you will succumb to cowardice. There are two kinds of cowardice. There’s true cowardice—being afraid to rock the boat or to offend the people who give the most money to the church or to preach a word that turns young people off. That’s true cowardice.

But there’s another kind of cowardice that I call “counterfeit” cowardice. This is the cowardice of being too abrasive, of being too harsh, of running people off and then saying, “See, I’m valiant for truth.” This also comes from identifying with your ministry. It’s not who you are in Christ; it’s who you are in your ministry.

4. Comparisons

One last sign you’ve fallen into a false identity is you cannot stand comparisons. You get envious when you see others succeeding who you don’t think work as hard as you do or are not as theologically astute as you are.

3. Ministry Can Make You More Outward Focused

When you speak to people about God, you have two options: commune with God or act like you commune with God. Since the minister’s job is to tell people how great God is and how wonderful the Christian life can be, his life needs to reflect it. So you either have to be close to God as you minister or you have to act close to God. Either you truly learn how to commune with God or you learn how to fake it. You talk as if you’re a lot closer to God than you actually are. And not only do people start to think that, but you start to think it, too. This can be devastating for your heart.

On Jesus’s last night with the disciples, he said one of them would betray him (John 13:21). It’s interesting to consider how the disciples responded. They all look around and ask who this person is. In fact, after Jesus tells them that it’s the one he gives bread to, they still don’t get it. You know why? Because Judas didn’t look any different than they did. Outwardly, he was an effective minister; but inwardly, there was nothing there. He took care of his outward life more than his inward life. Jonathan Edwards, in his great book Charity and Its Fruits, talks about the fact that God used Judas even though he wasn’t saved. We don’t want that to be our legacy in ministry.

But here’s where hypocrisy starts. Ministry is either going to make you a far better Christian or a far worse Christian than you would have been otherwise. It’s going to make you a hard pharisaical hypocrite or it’s going to turn you into a softer, more tender person because it forces you to go to the throne of grace and to beg the Lord for help in your weakness. The ministry will either drive you to him or drive you away from him. Like Judas, you choose what life you care for.

Overcome Your Conceits

So how do we overcome these conceits?

Remember Paul’s situation in 2 Corinthians. He’s facing false apostles and teachers who are saying he doesn’t have the credentials to be a true apostle. Paul counters that he does have the credentials—but not the kind we would expect. He inverts all the categories. Instead of boasting about his theological knowledge, great success, or picture-perfect outward life, he boasts in insults, hardships, and being run out of town on a rail. This is how he contends that God is truly with him. He tells us to look at all the things God has done to bring him to his knees.

Pastor, consider all the things God has done to break your pride. Look at all the ways he’s brought you to the end of yourself so that you would cling to him more tightly. Let all your failures and disappointments and weaknesses drive you like a nail into the love of God. Only by embracing them will you ever become a true minister and make it to the finish line.

Do the Work of an Evangelist

Article by Dr. Steve Lawson:

In his final letter, Paul charges Timothy, his son in the faith, to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). By these words, the aged Apostle establishes the timeless standard for pastoral ministry, not only for young Timothy but for all pastors in every generation and in every place.

With Apostolic authority, this imperative command comes with binding force. All pastors must do the work of an evangelist. They must earnestly proclaim the gospel message, urging people to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. So, where should this pastoral evangelism begin?

First, every pastor must preach the gospel to himself. Before any pastor can call others to repent, he must believe in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy, saying, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:16). That is, every preacher must examine his own soul first. The success of one’s evangelism is, first and foremost, dependent upon his right standing in grace. Continue reading

How to Pray for Your Pastor

Article by Melton Duncan, a ruling elder at Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, S.C. (original source here)

When Roman legions invaded Caledonia (modern-day Scotland) in the late first century AD, it was said by the historian Tacitus that the powerful Celtic chieftain Calgacus emerged and rallied his tribes against the might of Rome, famously declaring, “They make a desert, and they call it peace.”

Today’s Christian pastor is likewise making similar stands for biblical Christianity in the midst of a secular desert created by an anti-Christian culture. The Bible describes a faithful pastor as an elder who oversees the flock and the household of God. According to Paul, pastor/elders rule the church (Titus 1:5) and guard the treasures of Christ (v. 9). Additionally, they minister to the people by teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).

If ever there was an era in Christian history that believers should be committed to praying for their pastors, it is now. James rebukes our prayerlessness when he says, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2). And what prayers are we offering up to God on behalf of our pastors? Let me suggest several.

THAT HE WOULD DELIGHT IN PREACHING

If your minister is not being blessed and instructed by the Word, it is highly unlikely that you will be. Your spiritual well-being is directly linked to your pastor’s seeking the Lord in his preparation for the sacred desk. If he is not diligently seeking the Lord, you won’t find Him in his preaching either.

A godly pastor is a joyful, dutiful herald of the most high King. His enthusiasm for proclaiming God’s Word will be infectious and unstoppable, and it will be readily apparent to all who hear him that this is a man who knows his God. Second Timothy 4:1–2 reads:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

THAT HE WOULD ENJOY THE LORD’S WAY

I suspect that many people who sit week after week in the pews of their particular church have no idea how difficult a Sunday is for a minister and his family. Pray for your pastor’s Sundays. Robert Murray M’Cheyne says: “A well-spent sabbath we feel to be a day of heaven upon earth. … We love to rise early on that morning, and to sit up late, that we may have a long day with God.”

THAT HE WOULD LEAD HIS FAMILY WELL

Pray that God would help your pastor in the midst of busyness to taste and see that the Lord is good. Pray that his children would grow up loved and cherished in the household of faith. Joel Beeke says: “Family worship is the foundation of child rearing. As family worship goes, so will go the family. The Puritans thought family worship was the whole backbone of society.” We read in Deuteronomy 6:4–7:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

THAT HE WOULD HAVE A HEART FOR THE LOST

May your pastor have a Christlike love for the lost and a joy in telling others about the Shepherd-King. If a man loves the Lord, he will love telling others the old story of the gospel. He also will teach and model for others a renewed sense of evangelism and mission. He is worthy to receive the glory and honor due Him (Rev. 4:11). Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, is worthy to receive the reward. We need our pastors to have a zeal for the lost.

THAT THE LORD WOULD PROTECT HIM

A growing personal relationship with Christ will supply the motivation and zeal needed for a pastor’s duty to God. It will be tiring. It will require an all-in, total commitment. Pray that God would provide every physical and emotional need for the call to serve. Pastors are often subject spiritual temptation, so pray for God to protect these men from the evil one. Pray that they would guard themselves and be granted personal holiness. Pray that they would apply the means of grace to their own hearts, by God’s help.

THAT HE WOULD PREACH THE GOSPEL

Thomas Smyth of the antebellum historic Second Presbyterian Church in Charleston, S.C., once charged a young pastor by saying:

Preaching is your pre-eminent employment, so the Gospel is the sum and substance of your preaching—the power of God and the wisdom of God unto salvation.

Necessity is laid upon you, yea, woe is unto you if you preach not the Gospel. … Preach Christ as set forth in the Gospel—the sum and substance of God’s testimony, and the author of eternal salvation to all who believe upon him.

Preach—this glorious Gospel of good news—first and last, every way, and everywhere, in public and in private; in the pulpit and by the press; to the living and to the dying; to the lost and the saved.

Pray for your pastor, pray as if your very life and those you love depended upon it.

How to Make an Effective Preacher

How to Make an Effective Preacher – Author Unknown by Clint Archer (original source here)

John MacArthur, as the President of our seminary, read this out at my graduation ceremony. It has haunted me and inspired me since I became a pastor eleven years ago. When I am tempted to rethink and retool the focus of my ministry, I read and reread this lyrical piece of sage advice, and I am reassured that the priority of my calling is preaching God’s word in God’s way to God’s people.

As much as I love spending time with my flock, socializing and fellowshipping, counseling and discipling, I frequently remind myself that those tasks are essential, but not primary, and must happen only if/when the sermon preparation is complete for Sunday.

My goal is to deliver a well-crafted, thoroughly researched, biblically faithful, theologically sound, and practically applicable world class sermon every week. I will never enter the pulpit unprepared or even underprepared. In times of illness or urgent pastoral duties I have asked others at the last minute (who had been tasked with having “one in the chamber” at all times) to cover for me. But I have never once tried to wing it while standing before the sacred desk.

So, I’d like to share these hardcore marching orders to you, the congregation, to help your pastor be an effective preacher…

Fling him into his office. Tear the “Office” sign from the door and nail on the sign, “Study.”

Take him off the mailing list. Lock him up with his books and his Bible. Slam him down on his knees before a holy God and a holy text and broken hearts and a superficial flock.

Force him to be the one man in our surfeited communities who knows about God.

Throw him into the ring to box with God until he learns how short his arms are. Engage him to wrestle with God all the night through. And let him come out only when he’s bruised and beaten into being a blessing. Shut his mouth forever from spouting remarks, and stop his tongue forever from tripping lightly over every nonessential. Require him to have something to say before he dares break the silence. Bend his knees in the lonesome valley.

Burn his eyes with weary study. Wreck his emotional poise with worry for God. And make him spend and be spent for the glory of God. Rip out his telephone. Burn up his ecclesiastical success sheets. Give him a Bible and tie him to the pulpit. And make him preach the Word of the living God!

Test him. Quiz him. Examine him. Humiliate him for his ignorance of things divine. Shame him for his good comprehension of finances, batting averages, and political in-fighting. Laugh at his frustrated effort to play psychiatrist. Form a choir and raise a chant and haunt him with it night and day: “Sir, we would see Jesus!”

When at long last he dares assay the pulpit, ask him if he has a word from God. If he does not, then dismiss him. Tell him you can read the morning paper and digest the television commentaries, and think through the day’s superficial problems, and manage the community’s weary drives, and bless the sordid baked potatoes and green beans, ad infinitum, better than he can.

Command him not to come back until he’s read and reread, written and rewritten, until he can stand up, worn and forlorn, and say, “Thus saith the Lord.”

Break him across the board of his ill-gotten popularity. Smack him hard with his own prestige. Corner him with questions about God. Cover him with demands for celestial wisdom. And give him no escape until he’s back against the wall of the Word.

And sit down before him and listen to the only word he has left — God’s Word.

Let him be totally ignorant of the down-street gossip, but give him a chapter and order him to walk around it, camp on it, sup with it, and come at last to speak it backward and forward, until all he says about it rings with the truth of eternity.

And when he’s burned out by the flaming Word, when he’s consumed at last by the fiery grace blazing through him, and when he’s privileged to translate the truth of God to man, finally transferred from earth to heaven, then bear him away gently and blow a muted trumpet and lay him down softly.

Place a two-edged sword in his coffin, and raise the tomb triumphant.

For he was a brave soldier of the Word. And ere he died, he had become a man of God.

Life As A Pastor: Responding to Anonymous

The shepherd’s staff serves the dual purpose of rescuing lost sheep when their heads get caught in the hedges and fending off vicious wolves who seek to devour. In the same way, when God raises up a pastor, it is a gift to the people of God – a man who demonstrates God’s love for His sheep and yet also a man fearless when God’s people need protection. A Pastor needs both a tender and a brave heart.

When God raises up a man with a shepherd’s heart, He takes much time to forge him to become more and more Christlike, so that he can more faithfully represent the Lord Jesus as the Chief Shepherd of the sheep. This forging process usually involves tough and difficult times – times even of deep despair, almost to breaking point. The Apostle Paul was brought there (2 Cor. 1:8-10) and God’s ministers are often brought to the same exact place, so that they learn complete dependence on God rather than any kind of man-made provision.

God makes His true pastors, men who love God and people. They portray genuine compassion and tenderness and yet are to be wholly resolute in the face of opposition: a man of tender heart and a thick skin. That is quite the contrast and quite the balance, and for sure, this balance is not always achieved. The best of men are men at best!

A pastor will face criticism often. He needs to know how to handle it. One thing is sure, if he does not, he will not be in ministry long. It is vital that He knows whom He serves and what pleases Him. A pastor knows, going into the ministry, that he cannot ever please everyone. Therefore His priority is to please the One who enlisted him, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. If He is sure he is doing his all to please Him (though he never does this perfectly), this is his rest and comfort at all times.

A dynamic pastor (younger than me) in an eastern state in the US wrote the following to me:

“I have a question for you as an experienced pastor…. how does a Godly pastor respond (or not respond) to “Anonymous” to this kind of email (see below)? These kinds of emails obviously hurt and I never know how to respond… in the past I have just ignored them and not bothered to respond, but I don’t know… am I wrong to not respond to these kinds of emails? I would greatly appreciate any guidance you can offer brother!”

Good afternoon,

I have a minor complaint after listening to one of your online sermons. You claim your sermons are expositional, but you spent most of your time speaking what seems to be a personal rant about how everyone is a horrible failure… I thought pastors were supposed to be at least a little bit loving, uplifting, and positive, wanting to help their parishioners grow… not being judgmental, condescending, or mean, laughing at people’s sin… I hope this was a one-time occurrence and I just wanted to give you some constructive criticism from my viewpoint.

Col. 3:12 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience”

Eph. 4:31 “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice”

1. Cor. 16:14 “Let all that you do be done in love”

God bless

****

Here was my reply:

Hi Pastor ________,

Good to hear from you.

I wonder how I would respond to something like this and I think my answer would be… “I am not sure.” There’s nothing wrong with responding to an anonymous email like this, nor would it be wrong to simply ignore it.

However – if I were to respond, maybe I would write something like this: Continue reading

Why Do Churches Wound Their Pastors?

I am so blessed in getting to pastor the precious people at King’s Church. However, not every pastor’s experience mirrors mine. Here is an article about Pastors and the expectations often put upon them. (original source here)

Dan Doriani serves as vice president of strategic academic projects and professor of theology and ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary. He previously served as senior pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in Clayton, Missouri.

A renowned Reformed pastor, great preacher, visionary leader, and tender man endured such criticism from his church that he almost despaired. He told one of his confidants, “After 12 years as a pastor, I had to put a wall between myself and my people so I wouldn’t have to quit the ministry.”

“Jack” was another esteemed pastor. An excellent preacher with sterling organizational skills, he fostered healthy church growth and led numerous citywide ministries. When he retired, the leaders of the pastoral search team visited me. We spent an hour getting to know each other, then their presentation began. Before long, I felt compelled to interrupt, “Please don’t tell me your goal is to find a senior pastor who’s more of a shepherd than Jack.” Faces fell.

“How did you know?”

I replied: “Jack is friendly and socially adept, but clearly not as sociable as you are—we just spent an hour talking about our families. Jack is always busy preaching, teaching, and leading. Your church has 1,500 people, so you know he can’t know everyone. But you’re sad he doesn’t really know all 60 elders. Since you admire him, you long to know him and hope you will know your next pastor. But no one is equally gifted at everything, and everyone’s time is limited. Therefore, if this search led to a man bent on shepherding, he would inevitably be less devoted to preaching or leadership. But after 20 years with Jack, the church expects and needs a senior pastor who preaches and leads with excellence. If you want a consummate preacher, teacher, and shepherd, you want the perfect pastor.”

In short, the committee loved Jack, but they also thought, We need to fix his weakness. They forgot that everyone has weaknesses.

‘We Need to Fix Him’

My work often leads to sustained conversations with elders, unordained leaders, and pastors of large, complex churches. With rare exceptions, churches are quite vocal about the flaws of their pastors, whether newly installed or long faithful. Good churches wish it were different, but they tend to think all will be well if the pastor improves, and they take better care of him. Continue reading

About Your Pastor When He Preaches

Article by Kenneth Kuykendall (original source the articulation of his message, but what else is happening? Most of us, if we have been around preaching for any length of time, have certain ideas of what takes place when the preacher begins and when he ends. But do we really know all that is going on during the preaching hour? Probably not…including the preacher himself.

Preaching is one of the strangest events known to man; so much so, that it is considered foolishness to those who do not believe; while at the same time, it is the power of God to us who are saved. It is a paradox of the grandest kind. It is the straining of worlds together. It is the calling of lowly men to the highest of errands. The pressure is great, the stakes are high, the tension is real, but the joy is overwhelming, the grace is sufficient and the reward is heavenly. I love preaching, both in hearing it and in doing it.

In that hour, however, more is going on than exposition, application, illustrations, and invitations. There are some things happening behind that pulpit (or away from it, depending on the style of your preacher) that you don’t realize. Here are five things you probably don’t know about your pastor when he preaches:

He is Battled
Whether you mount a pulpit weekly or preach on the street corner daily, there is great opposition in the proclamation of the gospel. On every side, the man of God is enamored, hit hard, with a variety of oppressive forces. The dark dominion of the devil sets its course against those on the frontlines of battle. There is nothing the enemy hates more than a truth-toting soldier equipped to tell others what the Word of God declares. And thus, oftentimes, the preacher is the biggest target.

The congregation may see a suit and tie. They may hear the alliterated points. They may write down a title on the back of a bulletin. But beyond the natural framework of the worship service is a supernatural foe doing all he can to discourage, distract, and divert the preacher. If preaching is war, it is certain your pastor is feeling the heat during the preaching hour.

He is Burdened and Bothered
I do not mean he is annoyed. Now, he may very well be annoyed at times; but what I mean by the word “bothered” is that he has a weight upon him. This weight is part of his calling. You cannot take the weight off him. Aaron and Hur did all they could to secure the hands of Moses during the battle at Rephidim. They helped Moses bear his load, but not once did they take the rod of God out of his hands. They couldn’t…it was God’s call upon his life to bear it.

The preacher, by nature of his calling, has a weight, a burden, a bothering. He is bothered by the sinfulness of the times. He is bothered by the apathy of modern Christendom. He is bothered by his own shortcomings. He is bothered by the tragedy of split homes, broken lives, hurting people. All that he preaches is preached from the context of information that you do not necessarily have. What I mean is this: he knows the secrets, the pain, the darkness, the sadness, and the sorrow of those he leads. And many times he preaches in that context.

He is Beckoned
The preacher must stand before God before he stands in front of his congregation. He is between two worlds. And he must give an account in both! Albert Mohler said it like this, “Let’s be honest: the act of preaching would smack of unmitigated arrogance and overreaching were not for the fact that it is God himself who has given us the task. In that light, preaching is not an act of arrogance at all but rather of humility. True preaching is never an exhibition of the brilliance or intellect of the preacher but exposition of the wisdom and power of God.”

The true, God-called preacher preaches every time with the judgment seat of Christ in mind. Every word, every statement, every point, every illustration…every time is divinely examined. This reality is always in the background and in the forefront. Deep is calling unto deep in the preaching hour. God is beckoning in the heart of His messenger. He is moving, He is working, He is speaking, and the preacher must fulfill His calling, he must proclaim God’s Word in light of this weighty truth.

He is Blessed
Don’t feel too sorry for the preacher of the Word. He may be battled, burdened, and a little bothered; but he is equally blessed. He is like the disciples who distributed the bread to the masses in the desert. Those men were responsible to feed the thousands, but they were privileged to see the miracle first hand.

The preacher has already tasted the glorious meal that he prepares for his congregation. He has been in the closet praying. He has searched out the treasures of Scripture. Like an excavator, he has found the heavenly gem and longs to show his audience the glorious riches of truth. He is blessed with spiritual blessings. It is certain, if the congregation is blessed by the preaching of God’s man, the man of God who is preaching is getting blessed as well!

He is Bound
The preacher is bound by his message. He cannot preach what he has not already chewed on. E.M. Bounds said, “The preacher’s sharpest and strongest preaching should be to himself. His most difficult and laborious work must be with himself.” I cannot tell you how many times, during the preaching hour, God has illuminated truth, convicted me of sin, and prompted me by my very preaching.

The preacher who is bound to His message, His God, His calling, and His Bible is a preacher who will inevitably be free in the spirit during the hour of his preaching. No, you may never see these realities during the preaching hour, but I assure you, they are present. And if they are not, there is not much preaching going on.

What to Look for in a Pastor

Resolved Conference 2009 – Dr. John MacArthur:

Transcript:

I want to come to you, maybe on a little more personal level if I can in this session. When you get to be my age, you can kind of do whatever you want I guess, and I just want to talk to you a little bit from my heart.

I understand the spiritual battle with sin. I understand that, because I’ve lived it for a long, long time. I understand how difficult it is to live a holy life. I understand how difficult it is to maintain pure thoughts, holy thoughts, God exalting, Christ honoring thoughts. I understand how difficult it is to guard your tongue; to not say unkind things, hurtful things, sarcastic things, painful things. I understand that you lose that battle. You lose all those battles through the years. I understand how difficult it is to be godly, the most intimate environment of your life, in your marriage, with the wife you love and cherish, with your children, with the people that are closest to you. I understand what it is to disappoint the Lord, and to bear the sadness of your own soul over those disappointments that are frequent, tragically. I understand what it is to live in Romans 7, and to do what I don’t want to do and not do what I want to do. I understand what it is to be involved in sins of overt action and sins of covert action. I understand what it is to sin by not doing the thing that you ought to have done, by leaving great and needful and righteous things undone, while you preoccupy yourself with trivial things. I understand the spiritual battle. I’ve lived it. I’ve lived long enough to try to help other people fight this fight as well.

I was leaning over the bed of a man who was 78 years old, and he was dying and I said to him “What are your thoughts as you go to heaven?” 78 years old. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and he said “I just never got the victory over pornography.” What! 78 years old? That is not good news . . . for you that are struggling at 22. That is painful. It’s a long struggle. It’s a long battle. It’s a joyous thing to walk with Christ. It’s a thrilling thing to see His hand on your life. It is beyond comprehension, and it is the reason why we sing to the top of our voice “to live in grace, this grace in which we stand.” It’s a profoundly joyous thing, but there is this constant nagging reality of the ever-present war against remaining sin, the world, the flesh and the devil.

As a father, I have been concerned about the battle in my children’s life; as a grandfather, in the life of my grandchildren. I have been concerned about the struggle in my own dear wife Patricia’s life. I have been concerned about the struggle in the lives of the people around me and in the church that the Lord has given to me. I am more concerned now about you and your future in this battle than I’ve ever been. Continue reading

Fighting Burnout as a Pastor’s Wife

Erin Wheeler lives in Fayetteville, cheapest Arkansas, with her husband Brad and their four children. She attends University Baptist Church, where Brad serves as Senior Pastor.

(original source here)

We’ve all had those days. You know, the ones where you crawl into bed, makeup still on, wondering if it’s okay not to brush your teeth just this once. All the while, you wonder what actually happened to the minutes that evaporated into history.

There have been plenty of days like that for me, particularly as a young mother. But even now, when “new season” after “new season” seems to steam-roll over me, I find myself asking my heavenly Father, “Where is the time going? When do I get to catch my breath? I don’t have anything left to pour out or give to all the needs and cries for help around me. God, what does faithfulness look like when I’m empty like this?” Sometimes the old adage “the days are long, but the years are short” begins to feel more like “the days are long and the years are long.”

So, what do we do, as those God has called to be “help-mates to under-shepherds,” when the never-ending demands pummel us? Well, in many ways our calling is the same as every Christian woman’s—and every Christian man’s. We’re to take up our cross daily, and follow him (Luke 9:23). And often, that cross we bear is a call to give out of poverty, not abundance. Continue reading