Category: Pastoral Ministry

Brothers, Be Patient: A Few Thoughts on Pastors and the Writing of Books

I’m thirty-eight. I’m a pastor. I love to write. But in terms of full-length books, I’ve only written a dissertation (which remains unpublished), a little book entitled How to Pray for Your Pastor, and a recent book, Strong and Courageous: The Character and Calling of Mature Manhood. I’ve got some other projects in mind, and I hope to serve the church by someday writing more books, but right now it’s hard to find the time. I have a wife and two young (very active) boys, a new (super cute) baby girl, a ministry full of people I love to serve, and friends and family members to whom I want to give my time and attention, so it’s often difficult to secure time for book writing.

But I’m not discouraged. Continue reading “Brothers, Be Patient: A Few Thoughts on Pastors and the Writing of Books”

Self-Promotion, Pastoral Ministry, and Our Spiritual Condition

Last week I wrote an article on the issue of self-promotion. Today I want to apply a few reflections from last week’s article specifically to pastoral ministry.

Postcards and Self-Promotion
Before I went to seminary I served for nearly five years as a youth pastor. I was fresh out of college with a Bible degree and a desire to disciple students when I took the job, so I didn’t give much thought to preaching opportunities outside the church. On a semi-regular basis, however, I would receive mail–typically oversized postcards–from men my age or a little older who were offering their services to my youth group. They were self-appointed Christian speakers who would be willing–for a fee–to speak at our retreats and summer camps. Continue reading “Self-Promotion, Pastoral Ministry, and Our Spiritual Condition”

30 Recommended Books for College Students

The following is a list of recommended books for Christian college students. I have compiled this list based on what I perceive to be the most important issues facing students today. I have also included several important devotional and theological works in order to ground students in a glorious vision of God and a deepening walk of practical faith and obedience. Continue reading “30 Recommended Books for College Students”

Two Lessons Learned from John Piper's 'Brothers, We are Not Professionals'

Brothers We Are Not ProfessionalsJohn Piper’s Brothers, We Are Not Professionals is simultaneously a challenging and encouraging read. Pastoral ministry is serious work. It is not to be taken casually or viewed as a less strenuous alternative to a other professions. It is a glorious, demanding, painful, thrilling, satisfying endeavor with eternal ramifications. Pastors are charged with the accurate handling of God’s Word and responsible for the souls of men. It is no wonder why Paul cried out, “Who is sufficient for these things” (2 Cor. 2:16)? Continue reading “Two Lessons Learned from John Piper's 'Brothers, We are Not Professionals'”

The Importance of a Note-Keeping and Retrieval System

I once heard a college professor say that the best scholars are not necessarily those who are the smartest, but those who know how to best access the information. I think (and hope) he is right. This applies to two aspects of scholarship:(1) research and (2) note-keeping and retrieval. I want to focus on the latter.

If we know how to take and store our notes in a way that is not only easy but also highly-accessible, then we will make good use of our time and effort; what we learn now will be ready for us to use 5, 10, 20, 30 (yes, think long term) years from now. On the other hand, if we do not have a way in which we can store and retrieve notes, much of our time studying and reading and thinking and writing may be wasted; not completely wasted, but not as profitable as it could be.

As a positive illustration, take one of my professors, Dr. Donald Whitney. During the last few days of the semester, Dr. Whitney conducted a Q & A where he answered any remaining questions we had about the class (Spiritual Disciplines). One question regarded his method of note keeping. In answering the question, he mentioned how he had recently been asked to write an article for a popular Christian magazine. He was given very little notice, however—the article had to be submitted soon. Yet, when he heard the topic of the article, he breathed a sigh of relief: he had a file folder full of solid and previously sifted information on that very topic.

Had he researched for that article? Yeah—for over thirty years, as he, week after week, placed what he found to be helpful pieces of information about that subject into his file cabinet. Now he just needed to open the file and let it spill out onto paper. The article was written before he ever typed a word.

As a negative illustration, just consider the last 20 books you read. What did you learn from them? What sentences and paragraphs convicted, encouraged, admonished and taught you? What footnotes enlightened your understanding on a particular issue that was not germane to the subject matter of the book? What ever happened to that excellent illustration of courage you read about in that book on World War II? What page was it on? Even more to the point: how will you access that information for later use in sermons, articles, blogs, counseling, and other teaching opportunities? The crushing truth is that much of this information is lost, or, at best, hidden somewhere difficult to remember. All that reading and so little to show for it.

Much of our labor as pastors, teachers, and professors will be the gathering and distribution of useful knowledge. Our care to maintain a note-taking and retrieval system, then, is not a matter of preference, but a matter of stewardship.

Correcting with Gentleness: Finding Balance in the Pastoral Ministry

The Word of God is a glorious book. One of the many facets of the Bible that I find most wonderful is its balance. But we are so prone to swing from one extreme to the other—either we go all out in the pursuit of discipline at the expense of reason and slow, steady progress, or we slump into laziness and simply chalk it up to grace. We are either too harsh, or too lax; we talk too much, or we talk too little; we speak truth with no practical acts of love, or we care only for people’s physical welfare and never for their souls. The list could go on and on. But the reality is that we all tend toward imbalance at some level. The Bible, on the other hand, provides us with the balance we desperately need. One of those areas where we are provided with this much needed balance is in the area of pastoral ministry, especially in 2 Timothy 2:24-26. It reads,

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Notice the first instruction: the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome. Why would Paul need to say that? Because it is a massive temptation for some men to make fighting and arguing and confrontation their starting point in ministry. For some, the ministry is primarily about rebuke, correction, and admonition, and some may even find joy in seeking to argue for the sake of arguing—they want to fight.But Iain Murray aptly warns us,

The minister who makes controversy his starting point will soon have a blighted ministry and spirituality will wither away (The Forgotten Spurgeon)

I wonder how many churches and individuals have been destroyed by pastors who have sauntered into pastoral ministry without any check on this attitude? I wonder how many pastors have destroyed themselves?

What is the next instruction? The Lord’s servant must be kind to all. Not someone who is constantly looking to pick a fight, but someone who is compassionate, gracious and kind. Yet, not just kind, but able to teach. Here is the balance: a Christlike pastor is not only kind and gracious, he is able to teach the truth and ‘correct his opponents’ when it is necessary. Nevertheless, even this correction must be tempered with gentleness, as the verse indicates. As John Piper puts it, this kind of pastor must have a theological backbone of steel, and yet be as tender as a field of clover.

Soon after I became a Christian, I heard a true story of two Bible college students whose theological discussion had escalated into a heated argument that finally boiled over into a fist fight. On the one hand it is difficult to fathom such a blatant contradiction between profession and action: you would think that talking about Scripture, Christ, and theology would preclude violent debates between brothers. On the other hand, it is rather easy to see in myself such a tendency because my pride is at stake in these discussions.

But the way of Christ is better. Not quarrelsome. Kind to all. Patiently enduring evil. Correcting opponents with gentleness. Imagine the kind of ministry that will grow out of such rich soil. I want to be like this. I trust you do too.