• 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
  • 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?

     

  • Why we need to repent over how we speak about Charismatic Christians

    One of the things I have noticed in Sydney is that some of us get riled up at the mere mention of anything to do with Chrasmatic theology or practice. I know people whose preaching usually has a point in it where they critique, helpfully or otherwise, an aspect of charismatic theology or practice.

    Now I am not a charismatic but I am concerned with the way we Sydney evangelicals talk about our charismatic brothers and sisters and I do think we need to repent and apologise for this lack of tact and grace.

    Here are my three biggest concerns:

    1. We lump all Charasmatics together

    What do all these guys have in common: Creflo Dollar, CJ Mahaney, Brian Houston, John  Wimber, John Piper and Kenneth Copeland. Answer: They all, in some sense, call themselves charismatic. This little exercise should show us that charismatic is a broad term in which many different people fit under. Now I have got no problem with anyone going at a charismatic prosperity preacher with gusto but when we, with that same gusto, go after a reformed brother who happens to be charismatic with a small ‘c’ I think we are forgetting that there are differences and we are now lumping all people who call themselves charismatic together and tarring all with the same brush. This is neither loving nor gracious.

    2. We don’t critique them lovingly, graciously or well

    I remember at college having a class about music in church.  The topic shifted to how our charismatic brothers and sisters do music. It was interesting that those of us who were most vocally opposed to the charismatic view of music were the ones who had the least experience with charismatic music! The scary thing is that I have heard preachers do this too. I have heard preachers critique the charismatic point of view based on hearsay and the like and not on their own experience or research. This leads to wrong conclusions and, in some cases, slander. We also don’t do our people any service when we critique badly because we are warning them against a straw man and not a real danger which may or may not be there.

    3. We treat Charismatics like they are Galatians and not like they are Corinthians (if they even are)

    Have a look at the way Paul talks to the Galatians:

    6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

    Galatians 1:5-9

    1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4 Have you experienced[b] so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

    Galatians 3:1-5

    Have a look at how Paul; talks to the Corinthians:

    4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— 6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

    1 Corinthians 1:4-9

    1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.

    1 Corinthians 2:1

    21 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.

    22 If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord!

    23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

    24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.

    1 Corinthians 16:22-24

    Why the difference in language? Why is Paul so harsh to the Galatians and loving (notice the repeated use of brothers and sisters) to the Corinthians? It is because the Galatians were going to a false gospel. Whereas the Corinthians, even though they had issues to do with speaking in tongues, prophecy and the like (1 Corinthians 12-14) were not going to a false gospel. For Paul there were issues that, because these issues threatened the gospel, needed to be dealt with harshly using strong language. Then there were other which needed correction but were done with loving words and with an acknowledgement that these guys were his brothers and sisters.

    When I look at our critiques of charismatics I hear a different thing going on. I hear us treat our charismatic brothers and sister as if they are Galatian heretics not Corinthian believers. This says far more about us than it does about our charismatic brothers and sisters.

    Do charismatic brothers and sister need to be critiqued in love? Yes, just like we do.

    Lets make sure we love them as we critique them. Lets make sure we commend the gospel by how we critique anyone as we do it with grace, love and

     

  • 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!

     

  • God has given you this life therefore be loving

    Have you ever thought “Why do I have air in my lungs?”

    Have you ever thought “Why do I have that meal in front of me?”

    Have you ever thought “Why do I have the education I have?”

    Have you ever thought “Why am I living?”

    Why do you have those things? It is because God has given those things to you.  He didn’t have to give you life or breath or food or education or friends but he did. Why did he give you these things?

    Because God is the God who gives good gifts

    “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! “

    (Matthew 7:9-11)

    Did you notice the character of God in these verses? God is better than a loving father who knows how to give gifts. This is because God is compassionate and loving.

    If God has been compassionate and loving towards us we should be compassionate and loving towards others.

    “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

    1 John  4:10-11

    If you have only one life and Jesus gave his life for you what should your attitude be to the people around you?

    Love and compassion

    What about those people who are unlovely? What about those people who get on our nerves? What about those people who hate me?

    Did you see 1 John 4:10? God loved you so much that he sent Jesus as an atoning sacrifice. He loved you and I when were unlovely, when we were his enemies and he has infinitely more reason to turn his back on us. So our response to his love is to love him and everyone else.

    Who do you have to pour some love on today?

    You have only one life therefore be loving

     

  • God has given you this life therefore be intentional in all you do!

    Why do you do the things you do?

    Do you have a reason for doing the things you do?

    Some people meander through life. If you were to ask them why they do the things they do or how do the things they do now help them get to where they ultimately want to go they shrug or they come up with some reason that is not thought out.

    Some Pastors meander through their jobs. Why did they preach that last sermon series? Was there thought, planning and preparation behind it? Why did they meet up with that person? How are they training those people?

    The issue that a stops a lot of people from becoming good or great leaders is that they have not learned to be intentional.

    Intentionality is doing or saying everything for a reason. It means that you have to have thought about what you are doing long term and figure out a way to get there. Then from this plan it means that every conversation, presentation, action and every meeting has intent and that you are prepared for all these things.

    What would happen to your organisation or church if every meeting you were prepared with an agenda (either on your head or on paper), desired outcomes and a plan for following up on those outcomes? I think you would lead a lot better and there would be momentum in your organisation or church.

    What would happen if you planned your preaching/teaching series one year out and then you were intentional about spending a few hours each week preparing for that next sermon series? I think your preaching would improve.

    I heard a very successful man say that the difference between a successful person and a failure is that successful person has drive, discipline and is intentional.

    I want to be successful in what counts (Luke 12:13-21). I also know that times is short, limited and one of the most precious things God has given me and I should use it well (Psalm 90:12).

    Therefore I want to be intentional with everything I do. Every blog, every tweet, every meeting, every phone call, every sermon has to have a specific purpose and desired outcome.

    I want to make my life count and therefore I will endeavour to be intentional about everything.

    What about you are you intentional?

    How do you discipline yourself to be intentional in everything you do?

     

  • Vibe Part 2: A Biblical Theology of Vibe

    When we think of vibe and we think of theology they rarely mix do they? People strong on theology don’t really think about vibe and people who are good on vibe don’t really think theologically. Or so the story goes…

    As Christians we need to think theologically about everything, especially the vibe of our meetings. The big question I want so ask is “Do our meetings reflect the character of God?”

    What is the character of God?

    You could write a book on it.

    When I think of God and his character I keep coming back to two words, loving and holy.

    We see God’s love in the verse we all know John 3:16

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

    We see in Revelation 4:8 a picture of a holy God:

    8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

    “‘Holy, holy, holy

    is the Lord God Almighty,’[a]

    who was, and is, and is to come.”

    If we are going to think about who God is and let that shape our vibe we need to think about how our vibe contributes to people going away knowing that God loves them and that he is so holy .

    I think if we are to say that God is a loving God we need to show that we love the people who come to our Churches. It would be pathetic if we say that God loves people and we didn’t show it.

    But holiness is much harder. How do you shape the vibe of your service so that you communicate that God is holy?

    Now I must be clear, God is a speaking God and the main way we communicate his attributes is by speech. That is how God has set it up and I am not saying we should go mystic or catholic But I want to have the vibe of the service match what we are saying.

    In the Bible we see that God is loving and holy. The question is how do we shape the vibe of our service so that our vibe is consistent with what we are preaching and saying?