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Necessary but Dependent Beings?

Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 02/12/2016 - 12:00

Dear Dr Craig,

In your work on abstract objects, you have mentioned that there could exist necessary beings which exist "ab alio", that is, dependent for their existence on other necessary beings.

My question is this: Let's suppose for the argument's sake that such ab alio necessary beings exist, is their existence an exception (or somehow relevant) to the premise of the teleological argument according to which everything which exists exist in virtue of a necessity of its own nature or in virtue of an external cause? ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Ask a professor: Am I called to plant or revitalize?

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 02/12/2016 - 08:07

Editors’ note: This article begins an occasional series called “Ask a Professor” in which a member of the SBTS faculty will answer practical or theological questions related to preparing for ministry in the local church. If you have a question you’d like to see answered in this series, e-mail our blog editor at jrobinson@sbts.edu.


Question: “Am I a church planter or church revitalizer? How do I know which I should pursue?” 

That question is one that many young men wrestle with as they consider God’s calling on their lives and ministries. As one who has been both a church planter and a church revitalizer, let me offer a few thoughts.

First, since studies show that 80–85% of churches are plateaued or declining, the sheer numbers dictate that most young pastors will be involved in church revitalization versus church planting.  Even if you desire to be a church planter, you may spend some or much of your ministry in revitalization.

Second, both options are noble callings. Both are kingdom enterprises. Both require many of the same spiritual qualifications and leadership skills. But a few distinguishing characteristics seem to rise to the surface in both “successful” church planters and revitalizers.

Called to plant

Church planters must be men of vision, with a high level of intrinsic motivation. They need to be men of faith who are not afraid to take risks. They must have a “holy tenacity” for the task.

Church planters have a specific vision for the church plant and invite those who share this vision to join in. A church planter functions like a college basketball coach who can recruit players to his specific vision.

Called to revitalize

Church revitalizers must be visionary shepherds. Revitalizers must have a pastor’s heart to love and shepherd the existing members in that church. A revitalizer inherits many visions and has to shepherd those in his trust towards a unified vision. A church revitalizer operates like a high school basketball coach, who works with the players he already has.

Revitalizers also must have strategic patience. They need to take a longer-term approach, at times patiently implementing “tiny baby steps” towards change. They need to be good listeners, to “hear” the story of the church. They need to understand the church’s past victories and also what has helped bring about the need for revitalization. They must be able to work with persons across all age spans. They need a commitment to minister to broken, hurting people.

Either way, it’s about the gospel

Whether planting or revitalizing, pastors must know, share, and live out the gospel. They must passionately seek to know Christ, even as they are making him known. Many of the qualifications for church planting and church revitalization mirror one another, but in a few areas some characteristics seem more conducive towards one calling than the other.

The best assessment for an aspiring pastor will come from those in his own home church, from those who know him and who have seen him do ministry. What do they see as his strengths/weaknesses?  How has God “wired him up?” As in all decisions of this type, seek the counsel of others but ultimately trust in the leading of God.


Tim Beougher serves as associate dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at SBTS. He has written and edited numerous works related to evangelism, discipleship, and spiritual awakening, including Overcoming Walls to Witnessing, Training Leaders to Make Disciples, Evangelism for a Changing World, Accounts of a Campus Revival: Wheaton College 1995, and Richard Baxter and Conversion. He currently serves as senior pastor of West Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville and has ministry experience as an evangelist, church planter, and interim pastor.

Categories: Seminary Blog

An Atheist’s Worldview: Part 2

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Thu, 02/11/2016 - 20:05

Everett Berry continues the conversation with Barry about the next axiom of atheism: Reason as Revelation.

Categories: Seminary Blog

2016 William R. Rice Lecture Series

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 02/11/2016 - 10:51

Please join us on Friday, March 18 from 8:30 am to noon for the 2016 Rice Lecture Series. Dr. Kyle Dunham will speak on the topic: Holy War: Past, Present and Future Implications.

Date: Friday, March 18, 2016
Time: 8:30 – Noon
Location: Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary
Speaker: Dr. Kyle Dunham
Theme: “Holy War: Past, Present, and Future Implications”

8:00-8:30 a.m.           Complimentary Continental Breakfast
8:30-9:30 a.m.           Session 1: “The LORD Is a Man of War: Holy War in the Old Testament”
9:30-10:00 a.m.         Fellowship Break
10:00-10:50 a.m.       Session 2: “The Cross and the Crescent: Genocide, Jihad, and the Christian”
10:50-11:00 a.m.       Fellowship Break
11:00-11:50 a.m.       Session 3: “The Once and Future Holy War: Eschatological Implications for Israel”
11:50-12:20 p.m.       Q&A
12:30 p.m.                 Complimentary Luncheon

About Our Speaker
Dr. Dunham will address questions that skeptics often ask, such as:

  •   Was the God of the Old Testament a vengeful, hateful God?
  •   Why did He command “genocide” for the inhabitants of Canaan?
  •   Isn’t the holy war of the Old Testament the same as Islamic jihad?

His goal is to help you address these questions with honest, thoughtful, biblical answers and defend God’s word effectively.
As always, you’ll have an excellent opportunity to connect with ministry colleagues, area pastors, alumni, and students. It’s going to be an encouraging, edifying morning of learning and fellowship.
We’ll provide a continental breakfast beginning at 8:00 am and a complimentary luncheon following the lecture at noon.

We look forward to seeing you!


Categories: Seminary Blog

Getting To Know My Body: Five Good Reasons To “Flee From Sexual Immorality”

Talbot School of Theology - Wed, 02/10/2016 - 12:00

This year we are studying 1 Corinthians at Oceanside Christian Fellowship. I preached the message on 6:12-20, with the above title. I began by explaining Paul’s foundational principles in verse 12: (1) not all things are helpful, and (2) I will not be dominated by anything.  The rest of the sermon outlined the “Five Good Reasons” (subtitle, above) as follows ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Beware of your fictional church

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 02/10/2016 - 09:30

His words rang in my ears for days and triggered a few nights of nocturnal unrest. “What were you expecting in the pastorate? You’re not in seminary any more and this church isn’t filled with your seminary buddies. You’re in the real world now, son.”

I had been on the job exactly seven days when a man who’d been in ministry for several decades hit my beautiful, peaceful, fictional church with the force of an F-5 twister. I’m not certain what my expectations for ministry were as a rookie pastor, but it didn’t take me long to realize that prior to arriving on the battlefield that is the local church, I had unwittingly built a fictional church in my mind that was nothing like the congregation that now called me “pastor Jeff.” I suspect that I’m not alone.

Ministry megalomania

I had built a ministerial Shire that didn’t exist anywhere in this fallen world. It was long on success as some who analyze churches reckon success, and it was decidedly slim on tribulation, anxiety, and pain. It was a church that loved everything I “brought to the table.” It was populated by a people who delighted in my preaching, my family, even my personality. I simply showed up, preached, and instantly it grew both spiritually and numerically. My “honeymoon period” would endure indefinitely. But, it was pure fiction, ministerial Disneyland, and being a church historian and a preacher/teacher who is fairly well aware of Genesis 3, I should have known better.

And if you’re not careful, you may construct a variation of this church while in seminary or even fantasize about it being your “next” congregation while you are serving in a difficult place of ministry.

After a few years in the pastorate—and in the wake of far too many foolish pastoral missteps on my part—I realize how my fictional ministry life plagued the early days of my non-fictional pastorate and grew into sinful (but thankfully, temporary) disillusionment from which God, in his excellent mercy, helped me to learn many valuable lessons about both the glories of ministry and the poison ivy of self-centered expectations that had grown along the walls of my heart.

Six reasons why this is dangerous  

Why does a fictional church have such deadly potential? Six reasons:

  1. Your fictional church might make it difficult to adjust to your real church. If you enter with false expectations of your congregation, staff members, and yourself, failure is inevitable. And it won’t take long. Ministry is difficult. If you’re prepared to be at ease in Zion, the first appearance of the Philistine Goliath on the hill will send you running for cover.
  2. Your fictional church might leave you disappointed with your real church. You may be trying to reach an artificial—perhaps even unbiblical—standard that neither you nor the people in your care are able (or should be striving) to meet. You will be frustrated with them and they will be frustrated with you. You are called to love the congregation God has given you, not the church you desire. It’s easier to be orthodox than loving (see 1 Corinthians 13), but God has called you to shepherd these flawed sheep, not the you-centered sycophants who populated that fictional church. Remember, you are a deeply flawed man too.
  3. Your fictional church might unleash your inner Pharisee on your real church. As the next step down the path from danger number 2, you may be tempted to hold them in contempt due to the bareness of their cupboard of theological knowledge, their lack of interest in your ministry heroes, their disinterest in talking about the things of God. Your inner Pharisee will tempt you to be proud that you’re not like them, that you possess deep theological knowledge, that it’s far more spiritual to talk about the decrees of God than college football. But you are called to be a shepherd and it’s your privilege to lead them—slowly, patiently, and humbly—to the green pastures of delighting in the things of God. There was surely a time when you did not know the Bible and its theology very well, that you were not well-versed in the things of God. You must never forget this. Besides, learning about the things that interest them, like college football, will greatly improve your ability to relate to the congregation.
  4. Your fictional church may have equipped you with a mental encyclopedia of cut-and-dried answers to questions that are not cut-and-dried in your real church. Real life ministry requires wise nuance in the application of Bible and theology. It requires others-focused relational savvy. In a former venue of service for me, the church was constitutionally elder-led, but had no elders in place when I arrived. In my fictional church, we would have elected elders in the first month. After all, plural leadership is the New Testament pattern, and we want to be biblical in all things. However, I had to take time to see whether there were qualified men in the church and needed to get to know them well before this right and good step could be considered. Sadly, years later I’m convinced I wasn’t patient enough. You will face many challenges for which there are no cut-and-dried answers, challenges that require careful, patient, wise, nuanced application of God’s Word. Some of them will call for seeking wisdom from pastors who are more seasoned than you. Bathe yourself in the wisdom of Proverbs 15:22.
  5. Your fictional church may have subtly contorted your theology of suffering. You may even begin to wish—in some dark corner of your fallen mind—that a theologically respectable version of the prosperity gospel was but true. You always knew ministers suffered. You’ve read about Charles Simeon, Jim Elliott, various Puritans, and the Reformers, but if you’ve live too long in a ministry fantasy camp, you’ll be shocked, perhaps even a little peeved at God that it’s happening to you. It wasn’t supposed to be this way . . . or was it? But listen closely to Peter: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Pet. 4:12-13). You will suffer in ministry. It’s axiomatic, and it’s glorious (2 Cor. 4:17-18). Paul used an entire letter, 2 Corinthians, to trace out out a pastor’s job description. It tells us that, at times, it’s not going to be pretty and that local church ministry is not for the squeamish. And know this sobering reality: the cauldron of real-life ministry might either confirm your calling or cause it to evaporate like a mist in late summer. You must cling to the one who suffered in your place and learn to find your contentment in him (Phil. 4:12).
  6. Your fictional church may cause you to forget who builds the church. You are the under-shepherd of Christ’s church. He is the hero, not you. Christ builds his church—see Matthew 16:18. Whether your real ministry efforts seem to bear fruit that is puny or healthy—and the difference between the two is often difficult to discern from our limited vantage point—God is strong and you are weak. Ministry has nothing to do with your glory and everything to do with his. As Paul makes clear in 2 Corinthians 12, God demonstrates his power through human weakness, builds his church through the spiritual atomic bomb that is the gospel, and does so by means of weak clay pots. That’s you. That’s me. Your ambitions must be God’s ambitions, the glory all his.

Set a watchman

Just as the Lord calls his people to perpetual self-examination (2 Cor. 13:5), so pastors—both present and future—must always be weighing the motives of their hearts. We must keep a sharp eye trained on the landscape of our hearts lest we build upon it unreasonable—fictional—expectations for ourselves or for those whom God has granted us, or may grant us, the choice privilege of shepherding.


Jeff Robinson (M.Div. and Ph.D., SBTS) is editor of the Southern Seminary blog. He is pastor of New City Church in Louisville, serves as senior editor for The Gospel Coalition and is also adjunct professor of church history and senior research and teaching associate for the Andrew Fuller Center at SBTS. He is co-author with Michael A. G. Haykin of To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin’s Missional Vision and Legacy (Crossway, 2014). Jeff and his wife Lisa have four children.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Free for All: Technology and man’s ability to conquer

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Tue, 02/09/2016 - 20:05

Barry is joined by Kirk, Rob, and Daisy to chat about the Revenant movie and the effects of technology in two very different ways.

Categories: Seminary Blog

What Should You Value In A Preacher?

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 02/09/2016 - 09:30

Who is your favorite preacher? Oftentimes I will ask my students to answer that question on the first day of class. I have just about heard them all: Swindoll, Evans, MacArthur, Platt, Dever, Chandler, Rogers, etc. I even had a student say “Dr. Vern Charette”—students will say anything to get on the professor’s good side!

Though we might not be able to zero in on one specific favorite, we all have preachers we prefer over others. Why is this? Why is it that one thinks a certain preacher “hung the moon,” while another wouldn’t give that same preacher the time of day?

Having favorite preachers is nothing new. Do you remember the Corinthians? They took having favorites to a whole new level. They were divided because some liked Paul, some Apollos, and some Peter, while a group of the real spiritual ones claimed to only like Christ (1 Cor. 1:12). Paul, of course, rebuked them for allowing such a petty thing to divide them.

There are several factors that cause us to favor certain preachers. I think it helps to invoke the ancient terms that Aristotle identified in persuasive speakers: ethos, pathos and logos. In short, ethos is one’s credibility, pathos is one’s passion, and logos is one’s argument. What in the world does Aristotle have to do with preaching and judging preachers?

I think Aristotle is helpful in the sense that he gives us the terminology to describe the individual elements that we tend to sum up with the word “style.” Different people like different preachers because they favor one “style” over another. One’s tradition, upbringing, culture, family, geography, language, ethnicity, denomination and more all play a role in shaping our individual tastes for the “style” of preaching we prefer.

The value we place on the different aspects of preaching causes us to differ in our opinions. For example, someone from a certain tradition might highly value the explanation of the Bible (logos) while another values the emotional appeal of the preacher (pathos). Still another might highly value a preacher’s authenticity and transparency (ethos) above all things. This is what causes us to differ in our opinions and choose favorites.

Early in my development as a preacher, I was in a culture that favored emotional appeal (pathos). If you didn’t holler and sweat, you didn’t preach. The worst thing to say about a preacher in those days was, “They are more of a teacher than a preacher” (ouch). People like this usually consider those who are more cerebral, reserved, polished and prepared to be “dead and lifeless, void of the Spirit.” On the flipside, those who value explanation and exposition (logos) may devalue those who preach with high emotion based on a so-called lack of biblical and doctrinal accuracy. Their demeaning response is, “That preacher is a mile wide but only an inch deep,” or, “He is all heat and no light.”

When you stop and think about it, the “great” preachers of antiquity were men who excelled in all three components of persuasive speech—ethos, pathos and logos. The same is true of the outstanding contemporary preachers as well. They are men of conviction, passionately articulating a well-prepared and coherent word from God.

Sometimes, preachers who only excel in one particular area remain popular with certain segments of the population because that group places high value on the asset in which the preacher excels. I have known men who have failed morally, oftentimes on numerous occasions, and yet, even though they “lost their testimony and credibility” (ethos), they continue to be used because of their outstanding delivery (pathos, logos). They are given a pass because of their gifts. I have known others who have a history of not being prepared, lacking biblical accuracy and depth, yet are well-liked because of their passion (pathos). People will attend just to see them “burn.” Many more examples could be cited, but I am sure you get the picture.

By the way, which component is the MOST important for the Christian preacher? I would think that ethos (one’s credibility, godliness and testimony) is absolutely vital to the Christian preacher today. In short, if you do not have credibility with your audience, it doesn’t matter how accurate your exposition of the text is. If you aren’t considered a real man of God, you could have more passion than Billy Sunday, John Piper and Johnny Hunt all put together, but for what?

I have to admit that a seismic shift took place in my own preaching while I was in seminary. I began to value the clear exposition of the Word over the topical method that I grew up on. I began to understand that the biblical text should drive the sermon, not clever outlines or passionate appeals. In the terms that we have been discussing, the logos of the sermon became more important to me. For this reason, I acquired a new taste for certain expositors who faithfully focused on communicating the biblical text. I now value text-driven preaching.

All of this is not to say that we should devalue passion and conviction (pathos) in the pulpit. Passion is vital. In fact, I still believe that the 11th commandment is “Thou shalt not be boring!” One of the criticisms of so-called expository preaching is that it is boring. Boring expository preaching should be an oxymoron. Nevertheless, don’t get bad preaching and those who claim to be doing expository preaching mixed up. Good expository preaching exposes the inspired text to the hearer in the spirit of the text using riveting illustrations and piercing applications. How can you not value that?

Much more could be said on this topic. I hope, however, that this post has given you some insight as to why different people favor different preachers. Much of it comes down to what we value in a preacher.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Ministry Influence: Part 1

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Mon, 02/08/2016 - 20:05

Kevin Stilley joins Barry to talk about some surprising influences on our Christian lives and how God uses them to shape us.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Blood Brothers

Talbot School of Theology - Mon, 02/08/2016 - 12:00

More than a generation ago, Don Richardson popularized the idea that Christians who share Christ across cultures might encounter—and even ought to look for—“redemptive analogies” in those cultures. The idea was that God has pre-placed customs or stories into cultures that prepare people to respond to the gospel ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

What Is Forgiveness?

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 02/08/2016 - 10:39

In the past few months I have encountered several conflicting ideas about forgiveness in unexpected counseling situations. Nor is the confusion confined to the uninformed or immature. The biblical idea of forgiveness is an elusive one that is often missed entirely or sometimes mixed with other ideas—ideas that are not necessarily bad, but that are not exactly what the Bible is trying to convey by its use of the word forgiveness, either. Note the following:

  • Forgiveness is clinically defined as releasing thoughts/feelings of animosity, bitterness, or revenge toward someone who has wronged you. Biblically speaking, this is the immediate response required of all those who have been wronged. Period. We should not harbor and nurture bitter thoughts of vengeance—vengeance is not the proper purview of the individual, but rather that of God and the state; further, such bitter intentions can be personally/psychologically debilitating (Rom 12:19, etc.). The idea of “letting go of bitter feelings,” however, while necessary to biblical forgiveness (the root meaning of ἀφίημι, in fact, is “to release” or “let go”), is more of a prequel to forgiveness than the act of forgiveness itself. IOW, while forgiveness requires “letting go,” it is more than this.
  • Forgiveness is legally defined as releasing the wrongdoer from all punitive or legal debt/obligation. This legal definition is sometimes reflected in Scripture, especially when the forgiveness of a material debt in in view (Matt 18:27), but this definition likewise does not exhaust the semantic range of the term. We also observe in Scripture that while the cancellation of the consequences of sin may be a gracious accoutrement of forgiveness, it need not be in every case. Even God’s own forgiveness of his children does not mean that he will automatically free us from every consequence of sin. This is particularly important in a counseling setting, in that it makes room for a Christian victim to seek legal protection from, file legal complaint against, and even seek reparations from a wrongdoer without violating God’s command to be ready to forgive.
  • Forgiveness is popularly imagined at times to involve ignoring an offense or pretending that a sin has never happened. For this understanding, appeal is sometimes made to 1 Peter 4:8, where “love covers a multitude of sins.” Now this verse surely teaches that, having been biblically addressed and forgiven, sins should not be made a matter of public broadcast to be rehearsed over and again (so also 1 Cor 13:5). Peter is most definitely not teaching, however, that believers must adopt a general policy of ignoring or concealing sins (so Matt 18:15, among dozens of other texts). Not only is such a policy detrimental to the spiritual life of the offender, but it can also put the safety of other potential victims at risk (e.g., when we “cover up” chronic abuse, sexual assault, or tendencies to physical violence)….so again, counselor, be warned. Forgiving and forgetting are not coextensive concepts; more than this, forgiving and ignoring are mutually exclusive concepts.
  • An amalgamated construct of forgiveness extracted from pieces of all three concepts above is the idea that forgiveness necessarily includes the reinstatement of a wrongdoer to the status/office/rank that he held before being caught in a sin. This simply does not follow. Just as there may be lingering legal consequences for the forgiven, so also there may be practical consequences for the forgiven. An elder, for instance, who violates the qualifications requisite to his office (1 Tim 3) forfeits his office even when he is forgiven. And it goes without saying that we should not restore a person caught abusing a child or embezzling funds, upon being forgiven, to the functions that he may have had in prior to his sin in, say, children’s ministry or the treasurer’s office, respectively. That simply is not what forgiveness is. That’s stupid!
  • What, then, does biblical forgiveness require? Well, some of the ideas above contribute to our understanding, but none, I think, captures the totality of the idea of forgiveness. Forgiveness begins by abandoning feelings of bitterness and vengeance and may graciously expand to include the cancellation of debts (financial and/or punitive), but these are not properly forgiveness, the former being a prequel to forgiveness and the latter a hopeful accessory of forgiveness. The heart of biblical forgiveness is instead reconciliation, or the restoration of a mutual relationship and even mutual respect (1 Cor 5:17–21). The term mutual is critical here, and suggests that forgiveness rests necessarily on an overture by the wrongdoer: forgiveness in its proper sense is not a unilateral action; the offender must instead humble himself to seek it by expressing repentance. Only then may the “record of the offense” be erased and the sin “covered.” The biblical requirement is not that believers forgive willy-nilly, but that they stand ready at all times to extend forgiveness to those who confess and repent of their sins, following the example of God in Christ (Eph 4:32; 1 John 1:9).

To summarize, God’s requirement that we forgive others as God has forgiven us does not mean that we must (1) ignore sin, (2) conceal sin, (3) endure sin silently, (4) let sins go unresolved, or (5) abandon all hope of relief from abusive sin.

But his call to forgive others as he has forgiven us does demand that the obedient Christian (1) eschew bitterness/vengefulness, (2) seek reconciliation and stand ready to extend it instantly upon a genuine expression of repentance, and, thereupon, (3) respect the repentant wrongdoer enough to “cover” the sin without resentment or personal censure.

For more information on this topic, see Moises Silva, NIDNTTE, 1:444–49 and esp. Chris Brauns, Unpacking Forgiveness (Crossway, 2008).

Categories: Seminary Blog

Free for All: Terminology, Burn outs, and Parenting

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Fri, 02/05/2016 - 20:05

Jeff, Joe, and Daisy join Barry to chat about introverted teachers, the term “refugee”, and governance in parent-child relationships.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Dawkins on the Non-Random Nature of Evolution

Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 02/05/2016 - 12:00

Dear Dr Craig,

I have noticed of late that Richard Dawkins often states that Neo-Darwinism is non-random. Dawkins recently repeated this line in an interview on a Scandinavian talk show Skavlan when asked, "What is the most common misconception about Evolution?" His response was, "That it is a theory of random chance. It obviously can't be theory of random chance. If it was a theory of random chance it couldn't possibly explain why all animals and plants are so beautifully ... well designed." He goes on to say that, "[W]hat Darwin did was to discover the only known alternative to random chance which is natural selection". A few years ago he made similar comments on an Australian television show Q&A where he said, "There's random genetic variation and non-random survival and non-random reproduction". He goes on to say that, "that is quintessentially non-random" ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

How does a man not lose his soul in the pastoral ministry?

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 02/05/2016 - 09:13

I wish I could say that most of my time caring for pastors is spent teaching them what to do and where to take a church over time, but it’s not. Sadly, my time is mostly spent trying to get pastors to stay longer than a couple of years; trying to help pastors weather the difficult people, the criticisms, and the unmet expectations that lead to disappointment, even despair. Much of my effort is trying to keep a pastor’s family from crumbling in the chaos of church life.

There is a harsh reality in this fallen world that many of the labors of a pastor are incredibly hard, painful, and despairing. This is one reason why Charles Spurgeon instructed his ministerial students to go do something else if they could be happy doing it. Pastors need to know how to survive, but before I explain how a pastor prepares to survive in the work of the ministry, I want to address an unhelpful and unbiblical approach to survival in pastoral ministry.

The “easier road”  

Some seek ministry survival by finding what appears to be the easiest, healthiest church they can find to pastor. Some even use this “easier road” as a reason to plant a church, thinking if they get to set the church up just like they want it from the beginning, they won’t face many of the struggles of regular pastors.

This is not a realistic understanding of pastoral ministry for several reasons. First, it is very unlikely a young man straight out of seminary will get that healthy church, even if it becomes available. Second, most pastors find that “easier church” is still full of broken sinners and no pastoral ministry post is easy.

An easier church post is not a good, nor biblical strategy for survival in pastoral ministry. The key to survival in pastoral ministry is a pastor’s diligent care for his own soul.

Struggle for identity

Many of the discouragements that come in a pastor’s ministry are about him, not his church.

God calls pastors not to be superman, but to be faithful. As pastors seek to be faithful every day in their ministries, God’s sovereign will is being accomplished. Why is that not enough? Because a pastor brings with him to his church his own brokenness, personal struggles, and unhealed scars deep in his soul where God’s grace in the gospel has yet to affect. Pastors struggle to find their true and full identity in Christ and when pastors fail to show up secure in Christ, they show up in these false ways:






Fearing man





These false ways of living expose the fact that a pastor is seeking the fulfillment that only Christ can provide and seeking it from the affirmation of others, his ministry successes, or self-imposed expectations. A powerful gospel-freeing truth for pastors who serve in difficult churches is that many discouragements come ultimately not from our church situation, but from crushing expectations we place on ourselves, people we fear and think we are responsible to change, and anxiety about how other “more successful pastors” might evaluate our ministries.

All this is about the pastor and his own soul—not the church. The turmoil that exists in every pastor’s soul to some degree gets activated when the struggles of ministry come. Awareness of this needed soul work in every pastor is the answer to survival in the most difficult church scenario.

Your true identity: In Christ alone

The gospel tells us our identity is in Christ. The Chief Shepherd reminds us our task is to shepherd his people until he returns for us (1 Pet. 5:4). When we as pastors realize that our worth and identity is found in Jesus, we are freed and secure to be who we are, live authentically, embrace our brokenness, emotionally connect, be gracious, love those who reject us, preach to those who hate our preaching, and lead in godly strength those who struggle to follow, knowing the Chief Shepherd is with us.

Pastors have Jesus’s approval, favor, and presence. What more do we need to survive? This is the key to survival in any church, but especially a particularly difficult one.  A pastor’s diligent care of his own soul and awareness of this needed internal work will be the key not to just survive, but thriving under the sovereign hand of the Chief Shepherd, regardless the church he serves.


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.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Acts 24-26: Part 2

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Thu, 02/04/2016 - 20:05

Barry finishes the conversation about not just Paul’s defense of himself but his defense of the gospel before King Agrippa.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Free for All: Zika, OPEC, and Math in America

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Thu, 02/04/2016 - 15:18

Scott, Jeff, and Daisy join Barry to talk about math, the Zika virus, and oil prices.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Have You Been Called?: Part 1

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Thu, 02/04/2016 - 15:14

Barry starts a conversation about what a “call” does and doesn’t mean in the life of a believer.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Acts 24-26: Part 1

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 20:05

Barry heads back to Acts to talk about Paul’s defense before rulers and kings.

Categories: Seminary Blog

La Santidad de la Vida / Sanctity of Life

Talbot School of Theology - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 12:00

Hace un par de semanas estuve en Guatemala para iniciar un curso semestral en un programa doctoral en educación teológica. Este programa es singular en Latinoamérica y enseñar en él me da la oportunidad de convivir con líderes de diferentes países y también aprender de ellos. A pesar de que este doctorado se enfoca principalmente en la educación teológica formal a través de universidades y seminarios, la realidad es que todo nuestro entorno debería tener un enfoque teológico porque Dios es el creador del universo y el centro fundamental de toda la existencia. Por esto el conocimiento de Dios o educación teológica nos debería ayudar a “pensar teológicamente” sobre todas las áreas de la vida ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Dr. Robert McCabe To Retire

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 02/02/2016 - 16:34

After serving for thirty-three years as the Professor of Old Testament at DBTS, Dr. Robert McCabe will retire at the end of the 2016 spring semester. During his tenure he established the seminary’s solid foundation in biblical languages, OT hermeneutics and exegesis, and biblical creationism. An avid supporter of six-day creationism, he is nationally recognized for his expertise in defending a literal understanding of Genesis 1-3. He is also a leading scholar in Ecclesiastes with a forthcoming commentary.

In addition to scholarly pursuits, Dr. McCabe has invested in the lives of many DBTS students and alumni through his years of service. Outside the classroom, he enjoys chatting about theology, current events, his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers, and his family. In retirement, Dr. McCabe and his wife Linda will move to the Phoenix area where they can enjoy the fellowship of family and grandchildren. Dr. McCabe will continue serving in the local church, working on writing projects, and speaking on creationism.

We thank Dr. McCabe for his many years of faithful service to his Lord and the DBTS community, and we wish him all the best in the days ahead.

Categories: Seminary Blog


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