Winston, Rob, and Daisy gather around the table to talk with Barry about miniaturization, conservatives, and pocket monsters.http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/CWC-2016_07_22.mp3
First and foremost, I would like to thank you for the significant impact that your ministry has had in the life of my family. My wife and I have been encouraged to share our faith with confidence knowing that we can provide a rational response to many of the objections that Christians face.
I have been a Christian for a majority of my life. However, my new found interest in apologetics has highlighted my considerable lack of knowledge with respect to the basics of the faith that I attempt to defend. As a result, I have started to study theology.
The question I have for you arises from my recent study on the atonement. Howard Marshall's Aspects of the Atonement (2007), was very helpful, and provided a solid defence of penal substitution. However, I have since developed doubts regarding this atonement metaphor ...
Barry continues his examination of Matthew 7 and how believers should individually and inter-personally confront sin.http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/CWC-2016_07_21.mp3
On July 7, we were once again confronted with the problem of violence and the state of race relations in our country as Micah Xavier Johnson shot and killed five Dallas police officers and wounded many more. The deadly attack followed the police shootings of two black men—Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn. In the aftermath of the Louisiana and Minnesota shootings, tensions soared in both communities, and protests erupted in different parts of the country.
No one knew until the night of July 7 that Micah Johnson was preparing his own reprisal for what he believed to be another unjust shooting of African-Americans by police. As we all know by now, before the night was finished, Johnson carried out his deadly attack until Dallas Police ended his life shortly thereafter.
On the morning of July 17, we all learned of the deadly shooting of police officers in Baton Rouge by Gavin Long, leaving three officers dead and one fighting for his life. The investigation is still underway, but it appears yet again that a lone gunman filled with hate targeted police officers.
The mainstream cable media across the gamut have once again controlled much of the narrative in the aftermath of these events (not to mention the impact of social media!), offering their own spin and inviting commentary from parties on both sides of the debate. One side believes that an inequality of justice exists in America against people of color, which often leads to the targeting of young black men by police. In the wake of slavery, Jim Crow, and the long struggle for civil rights, this side asserts that systemic racism still exists. Others acknowledge that racism existed in the past but fail to see its current presence in society.
The other side points out that that most murders committed in America are “black on black,” not “white cop on black,” and that it is duplicitous to ignore the former and fixate on the latter. This group believes that the police are being targeted and unfairly portrayed as racist. In the case of police shootings of black men, police believe they are presumed guilty before due process has gathered and adjudicated all of the facts. Voices of reason on both sides have affirmed the need to cease ascribing the actions of the few to the whole and to seek nonviolent solutions together as a country.
How are we as Christians to think and act in the wake of these events? Christians can and should respond from a thoughtful, biblical perspective, believing that the Bible provides us with a sufficient and infallible guide to viewing the problems and solutions of life in this world and in our country from God’s point of view (Rom. 12:1-2). In short, the Bible should progressively shape our narrative of all that we experience in this life, allowing its message on the dignity of all human life to critique and undermine deeply ingrained cultural and racial assumptions.
Clearly, the gunning down of innocent police officers is a heinous act of murder that a civil society must reject. The current climate of hostilities and the shooting of police officers are undermining the fabric of democracy and the rule of law. Likewise, the lives of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile deserve and demand a fair and impartial investigation by federal and state officials to determine any wrongdoing by the policemen involved.
Our interpretation of these tragic events is in one way or another affected by our own cultural perspective and upbringing. Often, racial tensions in our country can inflame unexamined feelings of racial hostility that are the result of our cultural conditioning. As Christians, however, we must not allow the world or our impulses to do our thinking for us. Now is the time to be biblically reflective and lovingly engaged, refusing to be baited into hate by the media or demagogues on both sides. We Christians must not react viscerally and without reason, aligning ourselves out of loyalty to one political or racial view without filtering our thoughts, words and actions through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The standard for Christians is to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
The loving thing to do as Christians is first to listen (James 1:19). The church must pay attention to majority and minority cultural voices in society to discern the deeper need among different segments of the population and apply the only solution to what ails the human heart and rends asunder the human community—the word of the cross. As John Wesley said, the world is our parish. As a result of the fall, racism and violence will always be with us. We are ambassadors of Christ to whom God has committed the word of reconciliation—a vertical reconciliation with God (2 Cor. 5:20) and a horizontal reconciliation among men (Eph. 2:16).
We view the diversity of races in the human family as the display of God’s creativity and grandeur, believing all human beings to be created in the image of God and those for whom Christ died (Gen. 1:26). We should never call unclean what God has called clean (Acts 10:15). Christians must view all people regardless of race or social status as the objects of God’s love and those for whom we labor tirelessly to bring to faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16).
Times of racial tension are opportunities for the church to act on our view that all life is sacred and to work out of the Gospel for a more just and fair society; the church does so by lifting high the message of redemption in Christ by word and deed. Christians are a Gospel people and believe that the Gospel offers the only real hope for racial reconciliation and a cure for violence in society.
The church must also affirm that God has ordained government to maintain order in a disordered world by providing equal justice under the law (Rom. 13:1-7). Good government provides protection against anarchy, tyranny and unjust treatment of people based on race or religion. As with any government, the police who enforce the laws of the land do not get it right all the time and, as a result, are subject to the laws of the land.
Christians have the responsibility to support and uphold the rule of law as long as it does not contradict the commands of God. Christians also have an opportunity to contribute by serving as police officers, public officials and concerned citizens to bring the Gospel to light in the discharge of their duties. Those who serve and protect the public deserve our respect, support and accountability. Their job is an increasingly difficult one.
Divisions of race and class are ever-present realities in our society. The Gospel is the only real and lasting means for reconciliation among races and social classes. The church is God’s reconciled community and has the opportunity in every generation to exhibit a new way of relating to others despite disparities of race and income.
The church is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural city set on a hill called out by the Holy Spirit through Christ and His Gospel to enjoy a common fellowship and membership in God’s household (Eph. 2:11-22). The hostilities between races have been destroyed in the cross of Christ. Christ has made both groups, Jews and Gentiles, into one new humanity and one new body (Eph. 2:13-16). In Christ, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).
John, the revelator, saw a vision of members from every tongue, tribe and nation together at the great eternal worship service in heaven, singing the praises of the Lamb of God, who has bought us all with His precious blood (Rev. 7:9-10). The church has the opportunity today to make that future gathering more of a present reality by making disciples of all ethnicities, offering society a visible solution to racism and violence. As God’s new humanity, the church, through the Gospel, can and should offer a new way of living in human community, displaying the united Kingdom of God among the divided kingdom of man.
Few weeks go by without someone reminding pastors that 85 percent to 90 percent of churches are plateaued or declining. This means at least four out of five pastors lead churches in need of revitalization. The work is difficult. For every story of a declining church that turned around and began to reach its community, there are hundreds of stories of pastors working hard but seeing few visible results.
It is hard to overstate the difficulty of working in a church where revitalization is not happening. There are years with more funerals than baptisms. Teenagers graduate, move on to college, and don’t come back. Families with young children leave and go to the church with “better” children’s ministry, music, and preaching. The church’s leaders stare at you and wonder what you are doing wrong to keep the church from growing. The pastor hears countless stories about church’s glory days and how great was the pastor who led them in those years. When those stories are told, the pastor hears, “We wish we were in those days again, and we wish he was still our pastor instead of you.”
If this is your situation, consider these encouragements to continue laboring in a situation where the fruit is not visible.
Find your identity in Christ
Many men try to find their identity in their work. They either revel in their successes or bemoan their failures. The pastor struggles with this temptation more than most because his work and his spiritual life are so closely connected. If the church is growing and things seem to be going well it is easy to assume you are more spiritually mature than you really are. On the other hand it is easy to assume that the church’s decline or lack of progress reflects deficiencies in your walk with the Lord.
You are defined by Jesus and not by the number of people sitting in the pews each Sunday.
It is easy to assume that the church’s decline reflects deficiencies in your walk with the Lord.
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Be faithful to the ministry
Pastors can be tempted to shift into neutral when the church doesn’t appear to be doing well. There are many ways a pastor can look like he is busy while accomplishing absolutely nothing. The fire is gone, and he just clocks time to get a paycheck. Pastor, fight this temptation with every fiber of your being by focusing on the work that really matters in your church. Focus on the things you know the Lord has called you to do and do them regularly. This plodding ministry work does not make for an interesting reality show, but by God’s grace it is the means he uses to build a faithful church that brings glory to Jesus.
Plodding ministry work is the means God uses to build a faithful church that brings glory to Jesus.
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Faithfully look for opportunities to share the gospel with people in your community. Do you know your neighbors? A recent article estimated that half of Americans do not know the names of their neighbors. Think of the rich opportunities that await you in your own neighborhood. Get out in the front yard and play with your kids or walk the dog. Stop and introduce yourself to neighbors you have not met. Prepare a meal and invite your neighbors over. The possibilities for gospel ministry where you live are endless. Also, think about the places in your town where people gather regularly. Go there and start conversations. Pray that God will put new people in your path. Talk with them about things other than sports and weather. Look for ways to turn the conversation towards the gospel, open your mouth, and share it.
Be faithful to disciple men in your church. You don’t have to have a formal curriculum and a three-year growth track. Start meeting with guys to read through the Bible or a good book together. Pray for each other and talk about life. Bring them along with you as you go on hospital visits. If they live close to you, invite them over and model hospitality. Live life alongside each other, teaching them as you go.
We get discouraged when we believe our preaching isn’t making a difference and begin to buy the lie that our sermons don’t matter. God’s Word does not return void, so we would do well to reaffirm our commitment to the ministry of the Word. Plan what you will be preaching several months out and begin to read ahead on issues related to what you will be preaching. Spend plenty of time in your text, thinking through the issues it raises and how the Lord intends for the message to change the lives of your people.
Finally, be faithful in your prayer life. If we are being truthful, this is the easiest aspect of your ministry to neglect. Sometimes we simply don’t pray at all, and sometimes we pray without actually praying. Pray the Lord will continually make you into is image. Pray that he will keep you from discouragement, bitterness, and frustration. Pray for your family to grow in godliness. Pray for your leaders and the people in your church faithfully. Do you want to see conversions and revival? Pray. Pray that people in your neighborhood will come to know Jesus.
Above all, whether you labor in a church of thousands or a church of twenty where everyone has the same last name, pray that king Jesus would be glorified by your life and your ministry.
Scott Slayton, a 2002 graduate of SBTS, serves as Lead Pastor at Chelsea Village Baptist Church in Chelsea, AL and writes regularly at his site One Degree to Another. He has been married to Beth since 2003 and they have four children. You can follow him on Twitter. This article was originally published at The Gospel Coalition.
Barry looks at Matthew 7 to find out how believers should approach sin in their own lives, as well as in the lives of others.http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/CWC-2016_07_20.mp3
In my recent book, A New Kind of Apologist, I was able to interview my friend and colleague J.P. Moreland. He is the distinguished professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and the author or coauthor of thirty books, including The Kingdom Triangle ...
Barry talks with Jeff, Daisy, and Winston about corporate apologies, “cool streets,” and a robotic defender.http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/CWC-2016_07_19.mp3
President Obama and a host of other leaders seem unable to resolve the racial tensions in our country. And neither they nor anyone else will ever succeed unless there is a return to acknowledging the words found in Genesis: “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20).
Whatever else this verse might suggest, the clear affirmation is that we are not many races but one—the human race. Consequently, we are united by origin; and when a loss occurs, it is a loss for all. We are inexplicably bound to one another, and we either prosper in the celebration of that arrangement or suffer in the abrogation of it.
Then comes the first murder: Cain kills his brother Abel. Doubtless there was no racial animus here, simply two full brothers. What then was the cause? Once again, Genesis has the answer: anger. Anger against Abel and against God. This attitude of the heart is precisely what fuels violence today even though the Bible warns that “the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).
Anger is the most objectionable form of human pride. To some degree, almost everyone struggles with it. In fact, the Bible says, “Whoever has no rule of his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (Proverbs 25:28). And by contrast, “He who is slow to wrath has great understanding” (Proverbs 14:29). Anger that is not dealt with before God soon festers into bitterness.
During decades of evolutionary instruction, we have been indoctrinated with the idea that men and women are nothing more than sophisticated animals. As a devoted observer of wildlife, including the multiplied varieties of animals on the African continent, I can tell you that your warm cuddlies in the animal kingdom live mostly by tooth and claw. Whether it is ISIS, North Korea, or shootings in the U.S., mankind is all too often quick to imitate the violence of some animals with no reason other than the churning of personal anger.
Is there a solution to this blood-red mayhem? Yes, of course, and it is found in the creation narrative. As that account unfolds in Scripture, of all the species created by God, only one—the human—is said to be made in the image of God. When we take the life of another human, we are killing an individual who carries the image of God. Provision is made for what was intended to be the rare necessity for the social justice system to do that, but even then, to snuff out the life of one carrying the image of God is a serious matter. What if this clear biblical truth were drummed into the heads of social consciousness in this modern era?
And, finally, there is forgiveness. God actually protects Cain against reprisal—a sure sign of God’s longsuffering. But then what can be done about the nakedness of his parents? Many question whether Genesis 3:21 in some sense portends or foreshadows the substitutionary atonement of Jesus. All I can say is that an animal gave its life to provide a covering for the nakedness of our first parents. In the provision of God, Adam and Eve did not die physically; but being clothed of God and accepting those vestments, they appropriated God’s forgiveness.
Forgiveness is God’s crown jewel. In a sense, only He can forgive (Mark 2:7). But by His grace, we too can learn to forgive (Matthew 6:12). In fact, we are never more like God than when we practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is so difficult because part of you has to die in order to forgive. But this is both good and noble, because “whoever saves his life shall lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). We must die to self-will, to our rights, to all entitlement, to the desire for vengeance in order to be able to practice forgiveness.
Now imagine for a moment a social order where a significant part of the population recognizes that we are all the handiwork of God. Envision a social order in which anger is openly acknowledged as selfishness on steroids and is not approved by God. And what if forgiveness were made the currency for all major human transactions?
Where sociological solutions have failed to accomplish much of anything on a global basis, and where advanced education has greatly complicated matters apart from Christ, a world bathed in forgiveness would become monumentally distinct from the one in which we now live. Come to think of it, the church is designed to model such a social order. Perhaps if we begin with the church, the rest of society may follow when inspired by a living example of the difference Christ makes!
David Brainerd was a missionary to the American Indians in New York, New Jersey, and eastern Pennsylvania. Born in Connecticut in 1718, he died of tuberculosis at the age of 29 in the home of his friend Jonathan Edwards. Edwards preached the funeral sermon for Brainerd and published his diary.
Brainerd would have a hard time being accepted by any missionary board today. His health was poor and he was expelled from Yale in 1742 for accusing some faculty member of being carnal and unconverted, which meant that he could not serve as a pastor in the region. Brainerd was devastated and felt cut off from pursuing his calling until he began serving as a missionary to the American Indians in 1743.
Christ is the center and goal of every sermon
Brainerd’s primary method in his mission work was Christ-centered preaching. He explained his approach to preaching in his journal: “I cannot but take notice, that I have, in the general, ever since my first coming among these Indians in New Jersey, been favoured with that assistance, which to me is uncommon, in preaching Christ crucified, and making him the centre and mark to which all my discourses among them were directed.” According to Brainerd, Christ was the energizing center of every sermon but he is also the mark, or the goal of every sermon.
His preaching was both Christocentric and Christotelic. He explains his homiletical method as focusing on “the being and perfections of God,” man’s “deplorable state by nature as fallen creatures,” “The utter insufficiency of any external reformations,” to open [Jesus’s] all-sufficiency and willingness to save the chief of sinners,” and “thereupon to press them without delay.”
Thus, Brainerd’s normal expositional pathway was:
- The perfections of God.
- The fallenness of man.
- The utter insufficiency of self-justification.
- The utter sufficiency of Christ to save.
- The urgent call to respond to Christ by faith without delay.
Christ is the substance of every biblical subject
Brainerd explained that no matter the biblical subject, “I have been naturally and easily led to Christ as the substance of every subject.” He elaborated regarding his relentless Christ-focus in preaching,
“If I treated on the being and glorious perfections of God, I was thence naturally led to discourse of Christ as the only “way to the Father.”—If I attempted to open the deplorable misery of our fallen state, it was natural from thence to show the necessity of Christ to undertake for us, to atone for our sins, and to redeem us from the power of them. If I taught the commands of God, and showed our violation of them, this brought me in the most easy and natural way, to speak of and recommend the Lord Jesus Christ, as one who had “magnified the law” we had broken, and who was “become the end of it for righteousness, to everyone that believes.” And never did I find so much freedom and assistance in making all the various lines of my discourses meet together, and centre in Christ, as I have frequently done among these Indians.”
“I have been naturally and easily led to Christ as the substance of every subject.”
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It is important to note that for Brainerd preaching Christ from every text did not involve personal ingenuity and hermeneutical gymnastics. He consistently uses the words “easily” and “natural” when he refers to preaching Christ from every text. He wrote,
“I have been drawn in a way not only easy and natural, proper and pertinent, but almost unavoidable, to discourse of him, either in regard of his undertaking, incarnation, satisfaction, admirable fitness for the work of man’s redemption, or the infinite need that sinners stand in of an interest in him; which has opened the way for a continual strain of gospel-invitation to perishing souls, to come empty and naked, weary and heavy laden, and cast themselves upon them.”
Christ is the center in which all the lines of revelation meet
Brainerd was convinced that the Spirit had enabled him to preach Christ in plain speech, “with such freedom, pertinency, pathos, and application to the conscience, as, I am sure, I never could have made myself master of by the most assiduous application of mind.” He notes that formerly he read Acts 10, the apostle’s discourse to Cornelius, and “wondered to see him so quickly introduce the Lord Jesus Christ into his sermon, and so entirely dwell upon him through the whole of it, observing him in this point very widely to differ from many of our modern preachers: but latterly this has not seemed strange, since Christ has appeared to be the substance of the gospel, and the centre in which the several lines of divine revelation meet.”
Promote morality by preaching Christ
Brainerd preached with the conviction that “morality, sobriety, and external duties” are best “promoted by preaching Christ crucified.” He believed that the external duties of Christianity flow from the internal power of genuinely embracing divine grace in Christ. The proper relationship between the gospel indicative and imperative is not to pit one against the other. Rather, it is to understand that their relationship is irreversible. The imperative rests on the foundational gospel indicative and is consequential. Brainerd explains,
“And God was pleased to give these divine truths such a powerful influence upon the minds of these people, and so to bless them for the effectual awakening of numbers of them, that their lives were quickly reformed, without my insisting upon the precepts of morality, and spending time in repeated harangues upon external duties.
When these truths were felt at heart, there was now no vice unreformed,—no external duty neglected. … The reformation was general; and all springing from the internal influence of divine truths upon their hearts; and not from any external restraints, or because they had heard these vices particularly exposed, and repeatedly spoken against.”
External duties of Christianity flow from the internal power of embracing divine grace.
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Brainerd believed that according to Christ and his apostles, “smooth and plausible harangues upon moral virtues and external duties, at best are like to do no more than lop off the branches of corruption, while the root of all vice remains still untouched” and the only way to get to the root of the sin problem was by the gospel of sovereign grace in Christ. Brainerd also contended that when the root of sin was severed by a focus on the gospel people naturally moved toward positive spiritual disciplines such as corporate worship and prayer. He explained that it was “not because I had driven them to the performance of these duties by a frequent inculcating of them, but because they had felt the power of God’s word upon their heart,—were made sensible of their sin and misery, and thence could not but pray, and comply with every thing they knew was duty, from what they felt within themselves.”
The soul-humbling doctrines of grace bring holiness
Brainerd clarifies that he does not oppose the preaching of morality, but only insists that morality must be preached as a consequence of faith in the gospel, and not abstracted from the gospel. He summarizes his thoughts about his preaching:
“That the reformation, the sobriety, and external compliance with the rules and duties of Christianity, appearing among my people, are not the effect of any mere doctrinal instruction, or merely rational view of the beauty of morality, but from the internal power and influence that divine truths (the soul-humbling doctrines of grace) have had upon their hearts.”
All who preach, would do well to follow the approach to preaching taught by Jesus, modeled by his apostles, and faithfully applied by Brainerd in his mission work among the American Indians.
David E. Prince is assistant professor of preaching at Southern Seminary and is pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. This article originally appeared on his blog, Prince on Preaching.
Barry and Winston continue the conversation about just war theory.http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/CWC-2016_07_18.mp3
Barry and Winston continue the conversation about just war theory.http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/CWC-2016_07_13.mp3
In Scripture God bids us to “love our neighbor” no fewer than eleven times. Yet centuries later the church still struggles with its calling to do so. From the pulpit to the pew, Christians interpret this command in a variety of ways. In his book Word vs. Deed, Dr. Duane Litfin, president emeritus of Wheaton College, addresses this struggle writing, “The gospel is inherently a verbal thing, and preaching the gospel is inherently a verbal behavior. If the gospel is to be preached at all, it must be put into words.”(20) Though this is not a new topic in theology, the Evangelical church in the West is seeing the urgent necessity to find the balance between word and deed in the dynamic culture of the 21st century. The church is more aware than ever of the pressing needs of the world. Technology has given us unprecedented access to seeing the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs that exist worldwide. On our smart phones and computers we can watch natural disasters destroy cities and wars and violence destroy lives. While knowledge of the needs of the world is growing, there is a great necessity to understand how the church is to respond. What is the biblical view of how the church is to care for others, particularly in light of the growing awareness of the pressing needs both near and far? ...
Barry is joined by Scott and Winston to chat about second chances for students, skeletons in the closet, and prayer.http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/CWC-2016_07_15.mp3
I would like to ask a clarifying question, and also ask you to consider some implications of your view on the Trinity.
For reference sake, here is the view to which I'm referring: "Suppose, then, that God is a soul which is endowed with three complete sets of rational cognitive faculties, each sufficient for personhood. Then God, though one soul, would not be one person but three, for God would have three centers of self-consciousness, intentionality, and volition, as Social Trinitarians maintain. God would clearly not be three discrete souls because the cognitive faculties in question are all faculties belonging to just one soul, one immaterial substance. God would therefore be one being which supports three persons, just as our individual beings each support one person." ...
Barry talks about the very interesting intersection of ministry and money.http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/CWC-2016_07_14.mp3
Am I rejoicing at Perry Noble’s forced departure from NewSpring Church in Anderson, South Carolina? I could scarcely believe my ears when that question was asked. To the contrary, I am profoundly saddened – hurting for an obviously gifted young man, sad for his family, grieved for his church, and burdened with sorrow for evangelicals everywhere. Hardly is it necessary for me to agree with every soldier in the army in order to grieve over a fallen fellow combatant who wears the same uniform as I. In our vocation as followers of Christ, we are forbidden from rejoicing even in the fall of an enemy (Proverbs 24:17-18), and he is no enemy!
Alcohol is only one issue with which we pitiable humans struggle. That temptation may not affect me, but I have been in a life-long battle to keep my nose on top of the sludge in my own life, so I now reach out a hand to Perry and say, “Grab hold!” I cannot help you, but I am holding on to God’s hand of grace and love, which has been extended to me. As I am sure Perry knows, God Himself is the only dependable rock in the universe. Thank the Lord for His mercy extended to me and to all who seek it.
No one will go to hell for imbibing alcohol. If someone spends eternity in hell, he does so because he failed to seek Jesus and His atoning forgiveness on the cross. So let’s be clear about the nature of sin. Sin separates us from God; and Jesus died on the cross, extending His hand of grace to all of us sinners.
On the other hand, the Bible does not have to record a “thou shalt not” to make a behavior wrong. The Bible contains no command that “a man shall not mainline heroin.” But surely our slide into moral ambiguity has not taken us so far that someone would wish to argue that such a practice would be fine.
The Bible does have prohibitions. However, the wisdom literature, such as the book of Proverbs, is remarkably lucid. The principles revealed in 1 Corinthians on the subject of meat offered to idols are as relevant as ever to issues not commanded or prohibited. And there is the example of Nazarite vows and the fact that pastors are “not to be given to wine,” which hardly conjures up an openness to the use of alcohol.
So what is it with which I am not pleased? Anything that attacks and cripples our pastors must be resisted. Pastors are to be blameless, sober-minded, known for good behavior, and not given to wine, among other characteristics (1 Timothy 3:2-3; Titus 1:6-7). Porn and alcohol happen to be among the most devastating methods devised by our enemy, and the inappropriate use of prescription drugs is not far behind.
The comments of one well-known commentator carried some good advice. But the answer to these problems will not be found primarily with the psychiatrist or the ever-burgeoning self-help industry. Remedies arise from God’s Word and from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Nor can the church fail to speak.
Admittedly, the church’s denunciation of sins of all kinds has often been harsh and uncharitable. A younger generation detests this approach, and the church can learn to do better. What is needed in this day is a clear exposition of all of God’s Word throughout all organizations of the church saying, “Here is the way of holiness; walk in it.” This admonition does not involve as much the denunciation of human sins as it does a clear definition of what it means to embrace holiness before God. And the grounds for personal holiness are not discovered in positive or negative mandates but in your love for Jesus and gratitude to God for His grace. This pursuit of holiness does make demands, however. For that reason, God-anointed preaching must identify the nature of sinfulness and should never call good “evil” or evil “good.”
When I became a senior pastor, transitioning from an associate role at another church, my life and ministry suddenly became very busy—busier than they had ever been before. I knew, without a doubt, what I was called to do. I knew what I should be doing. Yet week after week, I saw the things I was supposed to be doing getting squeezed out of my schedule because there were urgent demands on my time. Above all else, the one task that seemed to get squeezed out most was prayer.
And I don’t think I’m alone in this. More than any other aspect of a pastor’s calling, prayer is the most difficult to maintain. Prayer requires time. And prayer is usually most fruitful when done in a quiet place, without constant interruption or distraction. Unfortunately, prayer doesn’t demand your attention.
More than any other aspect of a pastor’s calling, prayer is the most difficult to maintain.
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A pastor knows that he will be preaching every six days, regardless of how busy he gets. The sermon must get done, and so time is set aside for that. And there are sick people in the hospital, and their suffering sits on your conscience so that even if you are busy you’ll eventually make the time to go.
Funerals happen as well and a pastor is at the mercy of the plans of that family and funeral home. Pastors’ and deacons’ meetings get planned in advance, and these become default priorities in a pastor’s schedule. Besides, other people are depending upon him to be there and lead. But none of this is true with prayer.
Prayer may sit on your conscience, but it isn’t complaining. It remains on the list of tasks for the day, but those who are not prayed for are unaware that they are forgotten. As other demands steal our attention, prayer gets pushed to the background.
Many pastors, myself included, will go week after week until eventually that soft but necessary voice calling us to stop and pray just fades out. If enough time passes, the voice of conviction and desire will go away. When that happens, prayer gets squeezed out of our life.
Pastors, I know your schedule is busy. I am aware of the great demands on your time that pull on your conscience. But, don’t forget to pray for your people this week. Pray with your people. Set time aside in a quiet place and cry out to God for your people. Make the other pastoral matters wait. It is safe to say they are less important than prayer.
Brian Croft serves as senior pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville. He is also senior fellow for the Mathena Center for Church Revitalization at Southern Seminary. A veteran pastor and author of numerous books on practical aspects of pastoral ministry, Brian oversees Practical Shepherding, a gospel-driven resource center for pastors and church leaders to equip them in the practical matters of pastoral ministry.
This goal of this blog is for me to soak up wisdom from my father and share it with you. I have been blessed to have an incredibly influential father, Josh McDowell. He has written over 150 books and spoken to more young people live than anyone in history. But what I appreciate most about my father is his love for my mom, for his kids, and now for his many grandkids. Enjoy! ...
Barry talks with Joe and Winston about space exploration, authentic patriotism, and spiritual work.http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/CWC-2016_07_12.mp3