• Five questions every pastor should be asked

    Pastors need to be accountable. If they aren’t bad things happen. Here are five questions I am getting my elders to ask me when I am hanging with them.

    1. Is your wife happy?

    Ministry creates an enormous amount of stress on your family and your marriage. This is an issue because we want the people in our families and especially our wives to love ministry.  This is a good question to be asked because it pushes us to prioritize our family. If you are in ministry when was the last time you asked your spouse (if you are married) are they happy? If they are not happy what will you change so that they are happy that you are in ministry?

    2. Are you using your time well?

    There are a lot of ways pastors can waste time. You can read the endless number of blogs, keep up with the latest books that are ever coming out, catch up with every pastor you can or just fart around because, quite frankly, you are not entering a time sheet and you are your own boss. But we have only a short amount of time on this earth and every moment is precious and so we must use our time well. This question helps us analyse how we use our time and make adjustments where we need to.

    3. What’s your plan for fun and rest?

    Ministry is never ending. There is always another sermon to write, another person to shepherd and another thing to organise and plan. One of the first things that gets chopped out of a schedule is the pastors time for rest and recreation. But rest and recreation are essential if we want to perform at our peak. This question makes us plan out times for fun and rest.  This week I have 3 talks to prepare, one bible study to prepare, a preaching schedule to organise, a number of other things to plan for and 10 meetings to prepare for. But I am making sure that I have a few hours this week to go and play basketball with some mates as well as date night with my wife and a day off.

    4. How are you doing spiritually, emotionally and Physically?

    Ministry is tough work and Satan does a great job of making it hard. It is very easy in ministry to eat crap and not exercise and forget about bible reading, praying and reading theology. Ministry is also a job where we can get very down emotionally. I am an upbeat guy but even I find ministry to be depressing sometimes. It is good to have other people encouraging, coaching and pastoring us as we want to be in this game we call ministry for the long term.

    5. Are you emotionally or physically attracted to anyone other than your wife in an unhelpful way?

    Attraction happens in the blink of an eye. You see or interact with someone, they are good looking/ have a winsome personality and you think that they are hot or whatever. That is natural but the problem is when this attraction becomes more than that, it is an issue when your thoughts are lingering on that person. It is even worse when you start thinking about how much better they are than your spouse. If you are in this place you are in trouble and things need to change. Having someone ask you this question helps keep adultery whether emotional or physical at bay.

    It goes without saying that these questions will only be helpful if you are completely honest with the person who is asking them.

     

  • Every church must do social justice part 5:The priority of Preaching and the mission of the church

    Because of the reality of hell and the nature of the cross by far the biggest concern for those of us who are Christians needs to be the eternal fate of those who do not know Jesus. So therefore the priority of our time, money and planning should go to making sure that the most people hear the gospel as possible. At Resolved we see Social Justice and evangelism as distinct expressions of the outworking of the gospel. We agree with Stott who writes that social Justice and evangelism are “partners the two belong to each other and yet are independent of each other.  Each stands on its own feet in its own right alongside each other.  Neither is a means to the other, or even a manifestation of the other.  For each is and end in itself.  Both are expressions of unfeigned love.”[1] This is not to say that evangelism won’t be done because of social justice or that we will be trying to both evangelise and do social justice in every situation. We see both evangelism and social justice as necessary and yet distinct outworking of the gospel. But that being said, as we have noted because of the day of Judgement we put an emphasis on preaching of the gospel. Because that is what we are called to do (c.f. Matthew 28:18-20)

    This brings us nicely into the question about the mission of the church. Is Social justice part of the mission of the church? I would say no. The mission of the church is outlined by Jesus in the above quote from Matthew’s gospel. The mission of the church is to make disciples, baptize them and teach them to obey everything that Jesus commanded them. But social justice is part of what Jesus taught and so as pastors and leaders it is our duty to help people see the need for social justice, equip them to serve the poor and displaced and to provide opportunities to do so.

    I put social justice on the same level as pastoral counselling. Christians are commanded to love each other and provide support for each other but is pastoral counselling the mission of the church? If we take the mission from  Matthew 28:18-20 then we conclude no it isn’t.  But the church would be disobedient if it didn’t partake in caring for each other.  That is the same with social justice. Is it part of the church’s mission? No it isn’t but it is commanded by Jesus and the bible and so we must do it if we are to be bible believing Christians. This being said I do believe that there is far more scriptural support for pastoral care then social justice. But this doesnt negate my point about them both not being the mission of the church but being necessary things the church does.

     

    Over the past few days we have looked at social justice form a variety of viewpoints and we have seen that even though social justice isn’t part of the mission of the church it is so biblically waranted that for a church to ignore it that church would be ignoring the teaching of Jesus. So let all churches and all Christians care for the poor because of the gospel and for the glory of Jesus!


    [1] Stott, J.R.W, Christian Mission in the Modern World (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 1975), 27
  • Every church must do social justice part 3: Social Justice and the Gospel

    The problem with just stating that the bible commands that we are to care for the poor is that it is a cold hard law which will either make us fall into despair because there is always poor and we can’t help them all or we will be proud because we are doing more then the next Christian or church. Christians need to be motivated by grace first and foremost. As Jerry Bridges says “We are brought into God’s Kingdom by grace; we are sanctified by grace; we receive both temporal and spiritual blessings by grace; we are motivated to obedience by grace; we are called to serve and enabled to serve by grace; we receive strength to endure trials by grace; and finally, we are glorified by grace.  The entire Christian life is lived under the reign of God’s grace.” So if this quote is true then the ministry of social Justice must be motivated by grace but how is this so?

    The bible gives us a great example in 2 Corinthians 8, in verse 1-5 Paul tells us about the example of the Macedonians who out their poverty they want to give money and be abundantly generous. But Paul Gives us the theology that motivates their giving Paulstates “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). The motivation for their giving is the fact that Jesus gave up his riches and made us rich. Once you were poor, once you were spiritually destitute and Jesus left behind the riches of heaven and became so poor for you. It is in the cross we see the great exchange that Paul describes here in economic terms. Because of the cross we are able to give our money away because Jesus has given us the example of how to treat riches just as he gave his riches away, we, like the Macedonians, are free to give our money to help those who are poor. Therefore it is because God has been generous towards us in Jesus and the cross that we can be generous towards those who are needy and suffering in our world.

     

  • What I wish I did when I started fulltime ministry

    It is the time of year that people in their last year bible/theological college or in their last few weeks of work before doing an internship next year. Either way these are exciting times, times of great opportunity and potential but opportunity and potential need to be worked with to be fully realised. If you are doing an internship or going into fulltime ministry have you though and planned for next year? Have you worked out what your priorities are?

    Here are a few things I wish I did when I started fulltime ministry:

    1. Scheduled in times for bible reading, prayer and reading.

    When fulltime ministry hits one of the first things that can go out the window is personal bible reading and prayer. This is because bible reading and prayer seems not urgent but those 50 emails are urgent. This is where we need to work on things that are not urgent but are very important. This means scheduling in time to read the bible and pray, time to read theology, time to have significant alone time with God. If you are in fulltime ministry and you don’t work on your relationship with God why should you expect anyone else to work on theirs?

    2. Got a mentor

    There is a temptation that when we enter into fulltime ministry we have got it all sorted and we know how things are because we have had great training. But one of the things I realised (and am still realising) is that despite all the great training that I had at bible college there is so much more to learn about myself, theology, the world, people etc. Having a mentor who will put time into you and keep you accountable with your bible reading prayer, godliness etc is a great thing to have.  I know I have benefitted greatly from my mentors!

    3. Worked on my health and fitness

    Since starting Resolved I have put on about 13 kilos. Yes you read that right 13 kilos! In the first year of Resolved I slept very poorly, ate worse and almost never exercised. I have been convicted of my need to look after myself by my beautiful caring wife and my rapidly developing gut. Needless to say in the grind and rapid pace of ministry there will be temptations for you to eat junk, not work out and sleep only a few hours a night. This will surely mean you will burn out or become very ineffective.

    4. Worked harder on my preaching.

    I think I have a gift of communication and sometimes I am lazy and I rely on this. I wish from day one I not only prepared the text properly (which I usually did) but I also worked on how to communicate that text properly. Working out how to communicate the word properly turns your speech from a boring exegetical lecture to a great expository sermon.

    5. Worked harder at being organised

    I like flying by the seat of my pants. It is fun and exciting for me. But it is not for everyone else. I need to love the people I lead/pastor by being as organised for every meeting as I can, setting deadlines and keeping them and keeping myself to a high standard in the area of organisation. If I don’t do this I will lose credibility very fast and I bring the gospel and my ministry into disrepute.

    6. Made every moment count

    Because of my lack of organisation and my arrogance I wasted time. I didn’t realise and keep in front of me that every moment matters and that God is going to hold me to account. So when I am at work I need to work hard with all the hours I have. I shouldn’t scroll endlessly through blogs or YouTube or debating about how much pastors should be paid on my bible college year Yahoo group. Brothers and sisters going into fulltime ministry, you will have a lot of time to use effectively but also a lot of time to waste. Please don’t waste your time. The gospel is too important, hell too real and Jesus too amazing for us to waste time!

    These are things I am continuing to work and I will be working on these till I die I am sure. My prayer is that if you are going into fulltime ministry next year you will have a long and fruitful ministry and you will see many people come to know our great Lord Jesus!

     

  • What does it mean to preach the whole counsel of God?

    We kicked off Resolved in 2009 with a sermon on Colossians 1:15-20 and then we preached through the whole book of Luke in almost a year and a half. Yes, you read that right, a year and a half. But in fact it worked. I never had a sermon prep day where I thought “Oh no Luke again!” and nor did I ever hear one complaint about us going through the book of Luke at such a slow clip. But since 2009 we have preached through Galatians, Exodus, Job and Ecclesiastes as well as doing topical series’ on, suffering, defeater beliefs and sex. One of the things I have noticed is that it is very easy for a series to get dry very quickly this is especially so if you are preaching a book like Galatians or Ecclesiastes which seems to be making the same point week after week.

    Add to this dilemma I have two convictions about my preaching:

    1. I want all my sermons to be expository in nature
    2. I want to preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27)

    There has been much written on the first point but what does it mean to preach the whole counsel of God? Especially when you have different models, you have the Driscoll/Piper/Macarthur method which seems to take books and preach on every verse over a long period and then there are other guys who preach books in a far more rapid pace tackling entire chapters where other brother may just preach on a few verses. Which method is right?

    I think I have come to realise that preaching the whole counsel of God is not expositing every verse in the pulpit but preaching the word of God in such a way that it is faithful to the text, the canon of scripture and the Gospel. This does mean I am going to work hard at exegeting the text but this will also mean that I free myself up to preach bigger chunks and to tackle books of the Bible at a faster clip then if I thought I had to exposit every verse. I am thankful to brothers who can preach slowly through books of the Bible I think I have come to realise that is not me. But I am still going to be an expository preacher who preaches the whole counsel of God!

    What do you think “preaching the whole counsel of god” means and what does it look like for you to do it?

     

  • Whores, Prostitution, Sin, Idolatry and the Bible

    I have been reading a brilliant book called God’s Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery by Raymond Ortlund. If you think the title is confronting in it’s first print it was called Whoredom! It is a book which is traces the theme of spiritual adultery through books of the bible like Hosea, Ezekiel, Micah, Jeremiah etc. . It is a very confronting and yet spiritually enriching book.

    It has caused me to think about the following things:

    Do I really realise how offensive my sin/idolatry is to God?  If God has said that sin/idolatry to him as offensive to him as a married woman who is cheating on her husband with any man she can find (Jeremiah 2:23-25) is offensive to her husband. My sin is that bad. Do I take it that seriously? Do I take my lust, my pride, etc that seriously? Or do I think it is a mere annoyance to God?

    Do I really savour the cross as much as I should? If my sin is as bad as Jeremiah for instance makes out that must mean that the cross is much more glorious than I could ever imagine because it payed for that sin. If my sin is that bad and the cross is that amazing I should treasure Jesus and the Gospel more than anything else.  It should be delight and my satisfaction.

    The preaching of the prophets was not nice. You really don’t see many passages about God’s people being whores on Christian t shirts do you? This has given me pause to assess my own preaching and proclamation of the gospel. Am I communicating not only the gravity of sin but also the gravity of the gospel? Am I scared of being offensive? Is the antidote to spiritual complacency more practical application or a deeper grasp of our sin and the glory of the gospel?

    These last few questions are questions that I don’t have an answer on as yet. They are merely food for thought. But one thing I am sure of is you need to get God’s unfaithful wife and read it!

     

  • Baptism: The book of Acts

    In the book of Acts baptism is an initiatory rite closely associated with conversion to Christianity.

    The following examples make it clear that believing, repenting and being baptised go together in the book of Acts.

    Acts 2:38 Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    Acts 8:12-13 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.  Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

    Acts 10:43-48 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.  The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles.  For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.  Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

    I could put Acts 8:35-39, 16:31-34, 18:8, 19:4-5 into the mix because they all show a strong connection between faith and Baptism but you can look them up in your own time. These passages all show a very strong connection between faith and baptism. It is like Acts is saying that if you want to be baptised you have to be a believer.  Isn’t this evidence enough to say that only believers baptism is a legitimate baptism?

    No I hear many of you say because of Acts 10 where Cornelius’s whole household is baptised (10:46). The argument here and in the baptisms of other households (i.e. Lydia in Acts 16 and Crispus in Acts 18) is that they baptised the whole household therefore the person who baptised them would have baptised any infants in the household. Two things could be said about this point. Firstly, Luke is frustrating in the scant amount of detail he clothes these narratives with. Cornelius might have been a young man with a young family or an old man with no children at home. He and his wife could have been barren, we just do not know. So in response to the scant detail we must not press the text into saying something it is not. We are left saying that he baptised the whole household and we do not know who comprised that household. Therefore, to use this text as a proof text for infant baptism is pressing the text further than it can be pressed.  Secondly, we need to see that the people who were baptised in 10:48 are described as hearing the word (10:44) and speaking in tongues (10:48) these are signs of belief in the books of Acts. Therefore,  it is exegetically safe to say that Cornelius’s household was baptised because they believed not because the early church baptised infants. Therefore even though Acts 10 is used by proponents of infant baptism it is actually a text, when exegeted closely, that comes out in favour of believers baptism.

    In conclusion, the book of Acts links baptism with belief and repentance. Therefore those who must be baptised must be able to have faith in the lordship and saving work of Jesus.

     

  • Baptism: The Gospels

    Summarising everything that the gospels say about Baptism in the space of a blog is going to be very hard but here goes:

    The majority of times that the Gospels mention baptism it is usually in connection with John the Baptist (Mark 1:4-9, Matthew 3:1-16, Luke 3:1-22.)What was John’s baptism? It was a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4) and also it was a baptism that, along with John’s preaching, was to prepare the way of the Lord (Matthew 3:1-3).  If we take these passages together, John the Baptist’s ministry and preaching was one where repentance was crucial. He wanted people to repent and, for John, baptism was a sign that a person had done just this.

    The other major passage that mentions the practice of Baptism is Matthew 28:19. Now if we look at the Greek of Matthew 28:19

    πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντες

    αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνοματοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος,

    We see in this clause the main verb is “make disciples “(μαθητεύσατε). It is imperatival in its force meaning that as Christians Jesus is commanding us to make disciples. The other verbs “go” (πορευθέντες) and “baptising” (βαπτίζοντες) are participles meaning they are subordinate to the main verb which is to make disciples. This means that baptising and the verb go is defined in some sense by the main verb “make disciples”. So Christians “go” to make disciples and they baptise those disciples.  Therefore here, as in the preaching and baptising ministry of John, baptism is strongly linked with repentance and being a disciple of Jesus. To put it more strongly, Jesus is linking Baptism with repentance in a way which says to have a legitimate baptism the person must have become a disciple.

    Now we do see Jesus interacting with Children (e.g. Matthew 19:13-14). But not once in the four gospels do we see Jesus (or anyone else for that matter) baptising a child. This surely makes us pause to at least reconsider whether infant baptism is legitimate.

    In conclusion, the evidence from the gospels is that a person believes and repents and then is baptised. This makes repentance and belief precursors to baptism. Therefore the gospels are in favour of believers baptism and silent on infant baptism.

     

  • Baptism: My story

    I wrote last week a post entitled “Why I am not an Anglican” and one of the reasons I wasn’t an Anglican was that I disagreed with Infant baptism.

    The question was posed “How does a person who grew up in an Anglican church and went to an Anglican theological college wind up practicing believers baptism and not infant baptism?” Well as always there is a story behind every belief and my one follows…

    As already stated, when I became a Christian at 14 I went to an Anglican church and needless to say this church baptised children. But they baptised the children of unbelievers and this troubled me. I heard the parent of some children say they were Christians and they would raise this child to know and love Jesus when we all knew they weren’t going to keep these promises. When I asked about this I was told that it is the parent’s choice to make these promises and keep them and that is it a great chance to evangelise the parents by telling them about Jesus in the baptism class. This made me uneasy even though I did see people come to know Jesus through this process.

    I honestly didn’t give baptism much thought until I hit theological college. I was going to an Anglican college where baptism wasn’t mentioned all that much.  When I was in College a decided to make use of the amazing library at the college, I did this by picking a topic (e.g. gender, scripture etc.) and reading for an hour a day on that topic till I came to a position on it. Needless to say one of the topics I investigated was baptism.

    When I read stuff by Baptists I was struck by how much exegesis they did. They seemed to be constrained by the text and then go to theology. When I read people defending infant baptism I saw that they were very shallow on exegesis and then were very heavy on arguing from theology why infant baptism was legit.

    As I hope the next few blogs make clear I found the arguments of infant Baptists unconvincing. I wanted to be a pastor who was on about the text. I wanted who I baptised not be driven by anything but the text and so I found myself convinced that we should baptise Believers and not infants. I also found that my Baptist brothers had better theological arguments as well.

    I want to lay out my theology of baptism and so here is what I will be blogging about over the next few days:

    Blog 1: Baptism: My story

    Blog 2: Baptism: The Gospels

    Blog 3: Baptism: Luke and Acts

    Blog 4: Baptism: The Epistles

    Blog 5: Baptism: The covenant

     

    I hope that we all can get to know what God would have us do as we consider this very important issue.

     

  • Will you be disqualified from ministry?

    I remember sitting there as a 15 year old absolutely enthralled as this man taught the bible. He was clear, funny and winsome. As years went on I saw this man lead brilliantly, heard of the stories of people his ministry had touched, saw the people who were trained under him for fulltime ministry.

    And now his life is ruined.

    This man, like many others I know, disqualified himself from ministry.

    Every time I hear of a brother or sister disqualifying themselves from ministry I feel like God is slapping me upside the head and saying “Don’t get cocky, this could happen to you! Watch your life and doctrine closely!”

    Brothers and sisters let’s make sure we are not disqualified.

    I once heard a very famous preacher be asked “Why in 40 years of ministry has your name never been associated with a scandal?” His reply was shocking to a certain extent. He said “I never forget that it could be me and I am scared of disqualification and so I do everything within my power to guard against it!”

    Brothers and sisters are we doing everything to guard against disqualification?

    What I am doing to guard against disqualification:

    1. Reinstalling Xwatch. My computer’s hard drive was wiped a few months ago and I haven’t got around to reinstalling Xwatch. This is stupid and just lazy and shows my pride and cockiness.
    2. I am going to reread “The Ministers Self Watch” by Spurgeon. This is always a challenging read. It challenges me to watch my life as much as my doctrine.
    3. I am going remind my elders when we meet next Tuesday about watching our lives and doctrines closely and I am going to ask some hard questions of myself and of them. I will also remind them (and therefore myself) that we are meant to be open books so let’s ask each other hard uncomfortable questions out of love for each other.
    4. I am going to buy a big bunch of flowers for my wife to remind her and myself of how much I love her and how much she means to me.
    5. I am going to pray that God would show me where I am cocky and arrogant and where I am on trajectories that would lead me into disqualification.
    6. I will get busy with what I need to be doing. Work tends to focus the mind and it causes me to focus on what is good and not things that could lead me into being sinful.

    Brothers and sisters, we all know people who have been disqualified from ministry. Let us guard against this with all our might for the glory of God and our joy!