• What people need most from their pastors

    Robert Murray M’Cheyne often said to ministers “what your people need most from you is your personal holiness.” This flies in the face of so much church leadership talk. Because holiness doesn’t really get a mention does it?  M’Cheyne is saying  that the most important thing a leader needs is a holy, loving, Christ-like character. M’Cheyne was a Scottish minister who died in the 19th century. His last sermon was preached  on Isaiah 60:1 – “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee”. He went home to bed sick, and died a week later. After his death they found a letter in his bedroom, here is a quote from it:

    “I hope you will pardon a stranger for addressing you a few lines. I heard you preach last Sabbath evening, and your sermon brought me to Christ. It was not anything you said, but it was what you were as you preached. For I saw in you a beauty of holiness that I had never seen before. You were talking about the glory of our God resting on the Savior, and I saw the Savior’s glory resting on you. That brought me to Christ.”

    The life and teaching of M’Cheyne shows that before being skillful, innovative or gifted, we as christian leaders, need to be holy.

  • The Key to Having Great Meetings

    Most meetings are boring and suck. They leave people unengaged and lacking motivation. That is why we hate meetings. What is the key you having great meetings?

    Conflict.

    Yes, conflict

    Not the I hate your guts type conflict or the political type conflict that can plague churches. Healthy conflict is discussion, where disagreements are brought out on the table and these disagreements are talked about passionately, but with respect.

    Patrick Lencioni in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team says teams that have good conflict:

    • Have lively, interesting meetings
    • Extract and exploit the ideas of all team members
    • Solve real problems quickly
    • Minimize politics
    • Put critical topics on the table for discussion

    So how do you get healthy conflict as a leader?

    You have to mine for it. You have to make sure that you push people to get what they are thinking out on the table. If you see someone’s body language communicating that they are uncomfortable with what is being said, then you need to get them to put that body language into words. But you also have to jump on conflict that is political or attacking a person. Remember, not all conflict is good you want healthy conflict that is to the point and on task.

    I will leave you with Lencioni on why your team needs conflict:

    “Teams that engage in productive conflict know that the only purpose is to produce the best possible solution in the shortest period of time. They discuss and resolve issues more quicklyand completely than others, and they emerge from heated debates with no residual feelings or collateral damage, but with an eagerness and readiness to take on the next important issue.” (p.203)

     

  • What the next Archbishop of Sydney can’t be

    I am not an Anglican, but I have been profoundly influenced by the Anglican Church.  I am so thankful for years of being faithfully taught the bible at Anglican churches and I am thankful for my time at Moore College. The Sydney diocese is a very influential diocese. Not just in the Anglican Communion, its influence stretches to the broader Christian world. That is why the election of the next Archbishop of Sydney is so important. It has been very encouraging to hear of people already praying for and working hard to get the right man for the job. Needless to say, this man is stepping into a job that is too big for him, or anyone else for that matter, so he needs our support in prayer. He obviously needs to be a man of evangelical character as well as a great communicator and leader but is there anything he can’t be?

    I was talking with a mate who I met at Moore College. He is no longer in Sydney but has strong ties to Sydney Evangelicalism about who should be the next Archbishop. He said this:

    “The next Archbishop must not be an egalitarian because every time a diocese or denomination chooses to allow women to be the lead pastors of churches the push to fully accept practicing homosexuals into all spheres of church life is pushed by the next generation. If you capitulate on the women’s issue the next generation will capitulate on the homosexuality issue. If the Sydney Diocese appoints an egalitarian then he will push for women being able to fill any role that a man can and that is one of the paving stones on the road to liberalism”

    We have seen this scenario played out in the Anglican Church but also in other denominations. But what about you, do you think the Sydney Diocese would go down this line if they appointed an Egalitarian as the next Archbishop?

     

  • How to pastor like the Apostle Paul

    One of my greatest heroes is Paul. He was a man who loved
    his people with great passion and intensity and he was a great pastor. In 1 Thessalonians 2 we get a glimpse of ‘Paul the pastor’ as he reminded the Thessalonians of how he cared for them. Therefore 1 Thessalonians 2 is great food for thought and it is a passage that we come back to again and again to learn how Paul did and how we should do our ministry. Here are some of the things Paul did  that wecan do:

    1. Paul cared for and loved his people and shared his life with them. 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 says “Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” The question is do we love our people like that? Are we sharing our lives with our people or loving and caring for them like a mother?
    2. Paul had courage. He says he preached in spite of strong opposition (1 Thessalonians 2:2). How could he keep preaching in spite of strong opposition? I think it was his confidence in God and who he is.
    3. Paul’s holiness was apparent to everyone. Paul can say “You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.” (1 Thessalonians 2:10.) If you got up in front
      of the people you lead could you say that? Are you growing in holiness each day in a way that is obvious to those you lead/pastor?
    4. Paul worked his butt off. Paul says “Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.” 1 Thessalonians 2:9. Pastoral work is very flexible in the hours we can keep. We can coast and cruise through our pastoral ministry and collect a cheque or we can work hard for his glory. We don’t want to be workaholics to be sure but we also don’t want to be lazy. No, we should be like Paul who consistently worked hard for God’s glory for the benefit of those he pastored.
    5. Paul was himself. He didn’t seek to put on a mask so other’s would be more impressed with him (1 Thessalonians 2:5). I have to keep asking myself; is that what I am doing? Or am I trying to be the next Piper, Chandler, Dever, Driscoll etc.
    6. He didn’t seek to please men but God. “For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed —God is our witness.  We were not looking for praise from people,
      not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.”
      (1 Thessalonians 2:3-6). Paul was all about pleasing God first and foremost, he didn’t fear man nor did he seek to please everyone. He never sucked up to people; he always used straight talk (see Galatians 2 if you don’t believe me!). Pastors, who are you seeking to please?
      Other men or God. Are you withholding confrontational sin just to keep people happy? Are you not going to have the hard conversation just because it will be awkward? Do you not preach on some topics because poor culture will hate them? Do you not lead strongly because you are afraid of people getting their noses bent out of shape? Do you suck up to pastors or leaders so you can be in their inner ring or to be getting a bunch of speaking gigs? Paul didn’t seek to please men but God. And as pastors or leaders we should do the same!

    I Love the apostle Paul and I love 1 Thessalonians 2. It is always a challenging read for me as a pastor. How else do you think we can learn from Paul’s example?

  • Do you love Doctrine more than you love Jesus?

    I’ve been reading Iain Murray’s great book Spurgeon Vs. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching. The book is about Spurgeon and his battles with pastors who said that a pastor should not offer salvation to everyone because God has only given salvation to the elect; therefore you offer salvation only to those who have either great knowledge of who God is and what he has done or great sorrow as a result of their sin. In other words you only call those who are pretty much already Christians. Spurgeon argued that even though few may be saved it is everyone’s duty to believe in Jesus and therefore the gospel should be offered freely to all. He also showed from the scriptures that the apostles and Jesus called all to repent and believe in Jesus. This is how Spurgeon argued his case for a universal call to repent in one of his sermons:

    “Repent and be baptized every one of you,” said Peter. As John Bunyan put it, one man might have stood in the crowd and said, “But I helped to hound Him to the Cross!” “Repent and be baptized every one of you.” “But I drove the nails into His hands!” says one. “Every one of you,” says Peter. “But I pierced His side!” says another. “Every one of you,” says Peter. “But I put my tongue into my cheek, and stared at His nakedness, and said, ‘If He is the Son of God, let Him come down from the Cross!” “Every one of you,” says Peter. “Repent and be baptized every one of you.”

    I do feel so grieved at many of our Calvinistic Brothers and Sisters—they know nothing about Calvinism, I am sorry to say—for never was any man more caricatured by his professed followers than John Calvin. Many of them are afraid to preach from Peter’s text, “Repent and be baptized every one of you.” When I do it, they say, “He is unsound.” Well, if I am unsound on this point, I have all the Puritans with me—the whole of them almost without a single exception! John Bunyan first and foremost preaches to Jerusalem sinners, and Charnock, you know, has written a book, ” The Chief of Sinners, Objects of the Choicest Mercy'” But I do not care for that. I know the Lord has blessed my appeals to all sorts of sinners, and none shall stop me in giving free invitations as long as I find them in this Book!”[1]

    One of the problems of the Hyper-Calvinists is that they seemed to love their doctrine more than Jesus. They seemed to want to protect their doctrine and preach against others who didn’t hold to sound doctrine more than they wanted to commend Jesus to a dying world. I think growing up as a reformed Christian I have a tendency to do this too. I have a tendency to fill my head with knowledge about Jesus rather than fill my heart with love for Jesus. I have a tendency to want to know doctrine about Jesus rather than Jesus himself. I find it easier to critique bad doctrine than commend Jesus to a dying world. Now I know we need both head and heart, we need to defend the truth and proclaim the truth, but I am not sure I have always got this balance right. I need to keep preaching to myself that Jesus is the one I love and serve and sound doctrine helps me do this. In this I need to hear Spurgeon’s words:

    There is a tendency, however, on the other hand in certain quarters, to make doctrinal knowledge everything. I have seen, to my inexpressible grief, the Doctrines of Grace made a huge stone to be rolled at the mouth of the sepulchre of a dead Christ. And I have seen sound doctrine, so called, made as a very seal to seal in the dead Christ, lest by any means the energy of His Grace should come out for the salvation of sinners. Oh, what is doctrine, after all, but a throne whereon Christ sits? And when that throne is vacant, what is the throne to us? It is the Monarch and not the throne that we reverence and esteem.

    Doctrines are but as the shovel and the tongs of the altar, while Christ is the smoking sacrifice. Doctrines are Christ’s garments—verily they all smell of myrrh and cassia and aloes out of ivory palaces, whereby they make us glad—but it is not the garments we care for so much as for the Person, the very Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. [2]

    What about you? Do you love doctrine more than you love Jesus?

     

  • Starving pastors can’t feed their sheep

    Last year was a dark year for me. My father passed away from cancer, the culture at my church was toxic and to top it all off I was going through a very dry time spiritually. I wasn’t making an effort to read my bible and pray. I wasn’t speaking with people who encourage me.

    I was dry.

    Now dry times happen to all Christians but it seems like so many of the stats I read say that pastors feel spiritually dry more of the time than they feel spiritually vibrant. Therefore, it is no surprise that a lot of pastors don’t spend quality time caring for their own souls. This is where I was at for a significant time last year and my church took a hit. My preaching lacked power and depth and was largely ineffective. Sure God did move but I could discern that my preaching didn’t have the power it should have.

    I realised this year that I was starving. I hadn’t been feeding on God’s word and when I did read it I read it either to tick a box saying I had done it or I was reading it to prepare for something. The thing is starving pastors can’t feed their sheep. As pastors we are to be people who watch our life and doctrine (1 Tim 4:16). Carson says about this verse says that there should be a discernible growth in life and doctrine because of our feeding and meditating on the word. Whenever I think about that I am always challenged.

    I want to feed my sheep. I want to be able to preach with passion and vitality. Therefore I need to be feeding on God’s word in a way where I am satisfied in it.

    Are you a starving pastor?

    When was the last time you had a satisfying time in God’s word?

    What steps do you need to take so you are refreshed by Gods word?

     

  • Do you want to do an internship at Resolved?

    Last year I was challenged by Mark Dever to work hard at training the next generation of leaders of the church. At Resolved we are already doing this with our Catalyst future leadership program. But we want to step it up to the next level and put on at least two Interns under the MTS program for 2013-2014. If you see yourself as a potential leader of the church (especially if you see yourself as a potential church planter) please apply.

    What we are offering:

    • Three hours of weekly training time with me
    • Many and varied opportunities to learn, grow and impact peoples lives
    • You will learn how to prepare sermons/ do pastoral care/lead people/ etc.
    • You will have consistent and detailed feedback about everything you do
    • You will get to see the inner workings of a young thriving church
    • To help you become the best leader/pastor/preacher you can be

    What you will need to be:

    • A Christian
    • Someone who takes Jesus seriously but doesn’t take themselves seriously
    • Someone who wants to be challenged to be a better leader/pastor/preacher/person
    • Someone who loves people
    • Someone who is hungry to learn
    • Someone with a sense of humour
    • Someone who is prepared to start a ministry from scratch
    • Someone who is prepared (with help from Resolved and our networks) to raise your support

    If this describes you email me at hans@resolved.org.au and I will email back your application and arrange a time to meet!

     

  • Would you like your pastor on Facebook?

    I love the internet; it has brought us so many good things. It has brought preachers that ten years ago we have never heard of into our homes and onto our iPods. The internet has brought us much more information in blogs, YouTube videos and podcasts. But today’s media has also brought something that should be odorous to Christians. Today’s media has brought us the “Celebrity Pastor”. Now that last statement needs to be qualified. There has always been a celebrity pastors (e.g. Spurgeon, Calvin, Luther, Wesley) but we have never seen this many celebrity pastors.

    These men who have great God given gifts are now considered the standard of what a pastor should be.  In some eyes Pastors are meant to be as insightful as Piper, as passionate as Chandler and as funny as Driscoll.

    But isn’t this unfair? God has made Piper, Driscoll, Chandler etc to be brilliant men of God with extraordinary gifts for which we should praise God.

    But what about your pastor? Do you see him diligently slaving away preparing those sermons he preaches? Do you see him working hard at counselling those people in your church? Do you see him praying for every member of the youth group? Do you see him take funeral after funeral? No usually the person in the pew doesn’t see all this.

    Your pastor works harder than you might realise and if the stats are true he is more discouraged than you can ever imagine. How do you go at encouraging him? Do you actually listen to his sermons instead of rating them? Do you ever go to church expecting that God is going to speak through him or do you just sit back waiting for him to entertain you? Do you thank him ever for the job he is doing? Do you ever send him an email letting him know how you are positively impacted by his ministry?

    We are so quick to ‘like’ a celebrity pastor on Facebook but would you like your own pastor on Facebook?

    By the way this is not a cheap ploy for people at Resolved to give me encouraged. I am very blessed and encouraged by the people at Resolved. I wish every pastor could have the experience I do in pastoring you guys!

  • Deny inerrancy and you will kill your church

    Okay it is a provocative title I know. But read this paragraph from Thom Rainers blog on Twelve trends for healthy churches

    A number of research projects over the past four decades point to this trend. Healthy churches have leaders and members who believe the totality of the Bible, often expressed as a view called inerrancy.

    Now I think a lot of people who call themselves Evangelicals deny a parody of inerrancy not the inerrancy that is expressed by The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. I would say for those of us who have never read anything on inerrancy and yet still denies it you should read the statement.  I think you will find you believe in true inerrancy not the parody of it that gets derided in some Evangelical circles.

    But my concern is that those of us who call ourselves Evangelicals and yet argue against the historicity of the scriptures realize that they are not doing the service to the church that they might think they are but they are actually destroying the church. One of the saddest things I have seen is Christians who are confused because their pastor or a theological college lecturer will say something like “Exodus didn’t really happen exactly like that” and yet say in the next breath “But the Bible is trustworthy”. Or when a pastor or lecturer makes a lot of so called contradictions in the Bible and yet say “But the Bible is historically reliable”. What the pastor or lecturer is generally doing is trying to argue against a parody of inerrancy but what they are really doing is undermining their listeners confidence in the scriptures. With this kind of teaching the chickens don’t come to roost for a few generations when no one holds to anything like an Evangelical doctrine of scripture.[1] But by this time it is too late. The scriptures wont be preached and the gospel will be denied and the church is dead and it all started with some of us trying putting intellectual respectability above faithfulness.

    If you deny true inerrancy you will kill the church. But you probably won’t be around to see it.

     


    [1] For more on the issue of inerrancy and Evangelicalism read the chapter ‘Intellectual Respectability and Scripture’ (pg. 173-214) in Ian Murrays book Evangelicalism Divided

     

     

  • Pastors, bad priorities and wasted time

    Last week I was very privileged to sit down and ask Ed Stetzer and Tim Sims a bunch of questions. Ed and Tim have both done extensive study on many aspects of the church. One of the things I asked them both was about how pastors use their time.

    Ed said that the average Pastor doesn’t spend enough time with two groups: the leaders of the church and the lost. He said that most pastors spend too much time in their desk on things like admin and sermon preparation and little to no time in people work. Tim said he basically agreed with this statement but he would add that a lot of pastors don’t devote enough time to care for themselves spiritually either.

    With this problem in mind I asked Ed how should pastors use their time? He said that he would advise pastors to spend 15 hours a week in each of these areas:

    • Training their leaders
    • With the lost
    • Doing admin
    • Preparing sermons

    I was thinking about this and thought what would happen in my church if I gave 15 hours a week in meeting with people who didn’t know Jesus? What would happen if I spent 15 hours a week training the leaders of Resolved? I can only imagine the benefits Resolved would reap if I spent 30 hours a week with these two groups of people.

    Because of Tim’s statement that Pastors don’t spend enough time with working on their own spiritual condition I changed Eds breakdown. I am trying to divide up each week into the following categories:

    12.5 hours with the Lost. This can mean anything from doing a bible study to just playing guitar/basketball and hanging out with them

    12.5 hours on leadership development. This is active discipling and the intentional training of the leaders at Resolved

    10 hours on self. This is reading the bible and praying, reading books, listening to sermons and meeting with mentors or others who can help me and my ministry

    10 hours on Admin. This is emailing, calls, social media, blogs anything I have to write for Resolved

    15 hours on Sermon preparation.

    5 Guitar – This is something I do for fun but I also use this time to hang with non Christians and so kill two birds with one stone.

    5 Exercise – This is crucial because I don’t want to be a fat pastor/dad but I also will be using this time to hang with non Christians thus once again killing two birds with one stone.

    This last week I have been very challenged in how I use my time.

    How are you using your time?

    Are you using your time as effectively as you can?