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Making Sense of God

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Wed, 09/28/2016 - 20:05

New York pastor and author, Timothy Keller, talks to Barry about his new book, Making Sense of God.

http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/CWC-2016_09_28.mp3
Categories: Seminary Blog

FFA: World Changers, Google, and Parental Judgement

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Tue, 09/27/2016 - 20:05

Rob, Winston, and Daisy chat with Barry about faithfulness, “ghost words”, and the perceived risk parents put their children in.

http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/CWC-2016_09_27.mp3
Categories: Seminary Blog

What are the Toughest Ethical Issue Facing Christians Today? — An Interview with Dr. Scott Rae

Talbot School of Theology - Tue, 09/27/2016 - 15:00

Professor Scott Rae is one of the leading Christian ethicists today. As an undergrad, I had the opportunity to take his class on business ethics...and it was one of my favorites. I have used his book Moral Choices for my high school honors Bible class, and I consider it one of the best texts on ethics. Now, he has written a short, concise introduction to ethics called Introducing Christian Ethics: A Short Guide to Making Moral Choices, which officially releases today. If you are looking for a book to use as a text for a class, a small group, or even personal study, this book would be an excellent choice. Dr. Rae briefly answered a few of my questions regarding ethics today.

Categories: Seminary Blog

A call to be who you aren’t

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 09/27/2016 - 10:07

Every American has undoubtedly heard the phrase: “Be who you are.” Some of us heard it first from Dr. Seuss. Others from the Bee Gees. These days it seems to be the omnipresent mantra of Disney and even much of the church. But despite such endearing sources, I’m fairly certain its origins are far more sinister than we might imagine.

At first glance, the idea of being who we are seems to be a remedy for so many ills. It can be helpful, even freeing. For many it’s about authenticity and genuine personhood. Embracing a self-worth that doesn’t need to be enhanced by being fake. For teenagers, it’s an important message to reject the felt need to always ‘fit in.’ For Christians, it can represent our desire to be vulnerable and real with others in spite of our weaknesses or faults.

Those are certainly good, even biblical, motivations. Followers of Christ should never act a certain way to be seen and esteemed by others. We, as Paul instructs, should not be conformed to the mold of this world or by the evil expectations of those around us. But that would only be a slice of the biblical witness and only one side of what is conveyed by the idea of being who we are.

The Bible clearly says that we must also be transformed by the renewal of our mind—by the constant rearrangement of who we are and what we value and how we think. In other words, the positive opposite of external conformity is not to be who we are intrinsically and naturally. We must be who we aren’t. We must change and be transformed.

Be who you were created to be

There is actually truth to the idea of being who we are. That’s what makes it so attractive. In fact, Christian ethics is built to a certain degree on the truth that we should be who we are, acting in accordance with our new identity. But the modifier ‘new’ is key. We must act out who we are in Christ. To live our lives according to our new natures. To walk in newness of life. As Paul wrote to the confused Corinthians, we are now holy ones called to be holy.

This is ever so close to the world’s idea of “being who we are.” Yet it’s worlds apart. Instead of living out an authentic expression of who we sense ourselves to be and embracing how we naturally feel about ourselves, we are told to reject that so-called gospel and live out the reality of what God says about us.

First of all, God calls us sinners. Once we are changed by his grace, God calls us chosen and precious. We are also aliens and strangers. He says we are kings and sons, servants and stones. In fact, the Bible has a way of mashing those categories when it addresses us as elect exiles and precious stones. Such simple statements of our new identity help to orient us as to our new nature and purpose, transforming us into a new way of thinking and being.

The good of “fitting In”

The whole idea behind being called stones is that we fit in to a larger building, the temple that is God’s people. Here the church represents a healthy understanding of personhood and community. We are indeed individual stones with unique gifting, but the purpose of that individuality is the building up of the congregation through mutual service on the singular foundation of Christ. In other words, the church is a community of individuals who exercise (even sacrifice) their individuality for the sake of the unified whole. Our uniqueness thus brings worth and a purpose outside ourselves and within a larger body. We are one body but many members.

In such an understanding, fitting in is the best possible of all outcomes. In the church we can find our place, knowing that we were created and re-created with a divine purpose and inherent worth. And that individual value is experienced and expressed as we surrender it to the service of the other stones within the larger structure.

The good of social structures

Of course, not all structures are good. Society and culture, as Scripture tells us, can exert unhealthy pressure to fit in. But contrary to much current understanding, structures themselves are not inherently bad. In fact, the Bible reveals that certain structures are God-given and good. Governmental and societal structures can curb evil and shape community into life-giving patterns. Within the construct of the family, parental discipline instructs children for their good. Such corrective structures are often restrictive, even prohibitive, of our intrinsic and self-centered natures.

The reality is that social norms and cultures can have good and helpful limitations. But when our constant refrain is to be who you are, we dismantle the possibility of a cohesive society and we corrupt culture. You can never have a building or wall or school or home with only individual blocks expressing their individuality. There must be mortar and a cohesive pattern. Some rough edges must be chiseled away. Otherwise our rugged individualism results in a fractured society.

This is essentially what we see happening all around us today. When the primary role of the parent or the government becomes individual empowerment, we may open the doors of opportunity for our children to express their natures and live out their abilities. But we simultaneously destroy any hopes for genuine community and social flourishing.

I Am Who I Am

The only person who can be who he is is Yahweh. So for us to mindlessly preach the phrase “Be who you are” is not only potentially destructive for our families and society, it can be the newest form of blasphemy. When everyone is self-defined and self-sufficient, everyone is god. Not atheism, this is the anarchy of pantheism. And it’s now perhaps the dominant religion in America.

Certainly we as Christians wouldn’t actually claim deity for ourselves. We wouldn’t want our children engaging in false worship. But the oldest lie of the serpent was that we could be like God. By seeking to live out who we are, by trying to be authentic and true to ourselves, me may have fallen once again for the ancient lie that we too can be like God.

But he alone is good. He alone can embrace his self-worth and live out the perfections of his intrinsic nature. I am who I am is his name, an identity he alone can claim. To be who we are is to forget our own fallenness and proclaim our own self-sufficiency. I cannot imagine a greater affront to the One who is who he is.

___________________

Elliot Clark (M.Div., SBTS) lived in Central Asia for six years where he served as a cross-cultural church planter along with his wife and three children. He is currently working to train local church leaders overseas.

The post A call to be who you aren’t appeared first on Southern Blog.

Categories: Seminary Blog

April 30, 1945 and November 8, 2016

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 09/27/2016 - 09:35

What do April 30, 1945, and Nov. 8, 2016, have in common? The first date was the culmination of World War II. On that fateful day, Adolf Hitler apparently shot himself in the mouth as Russian soldiers moved in on his compound. But in the midst of all that tragedy, an interesting saga played itself out in Germany. Before Hitler realized that he had lost the war, almost all other Germans knew it well. The Russians were closing from the East, and the Americans came from the West. The dilemma of many German troops was relatively simple: “Shall we surrender to the Russians or shall we head west and surrender to the Americans?” Apparently no small number made every effort to fall into the hands of the Americans.

No one knew for sure what would happen to them if they opted for the American option. But the German army knew well what would happen if they were overtaken by Russian generals. In the end, it was what they knew, not what they did not know, that forced their choice. Having heard and often experienced the kindness of American soldiers, many decided that this was the best hope for the future.

And what about Nov. 8, 2016—election day in America? Apparently, there has never been an election quite like it. The two presidential candidates both sport disapproval ratings among the highest of any candidates in history. What on earth shall Christians do? Some have said that they will stay home that November morning and stoke the fire in the fireplace. Others will write in a preferred name—some have even said that this name will be “Jesus.”

There is another interesting aspect to this dilemma. There are actually three different ways to vote for Hillary Clinton. The first is the one that she prefers. Pull the lever for her to be the next president of the United States. But if you cannot bear to do that, then write in the name of a candidate who has no chance of winning or pour another cup of coffee and watch a vacuous TV show at home. Mrs. Clinton will be pleased, because she is confident that the vast majority of Democrats and other liberals WILL vote for her even if they intensely dislike her and do not trust her. “The sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8).

We know what will happen if the win goes to Mrs. Clinton. Judges throughout the judiciary will be appointed from among those who support the execution of preborns under the dubious rhetoric of caring for the health of women (those who managed to be born, that is). These same judges will continue to attack the religious liberty of evangelical Christians, and the preaching of much that the Bible teaches will be interpreted as “hate crimes,” especially if proclaimed in a public setting.

On the other hand, we have no idea what Donald Trump will do. His record is anything but stellar. But we do know what he has promised, and we are already aware of the docket of judges from which he promises to name those charged with the protection of constitutional rights. Should he keep his promises on only half of these issues, Americans will have a chance to save the lives of infants still protected in the wombs of their mothers and the sanctity of religious liberty. The first freedom that alone gives meaning to all of the others will be maintained in a world that desperately needs this witness.

A presidential election is not about whether you like someone. Neither is it about whether you agree with him on everything. When was the last time you voted for a president with whom you agreed at every point? Like the Germans and their surrender, the question is simple: Do you cast a ballot, in any one of three ways, that you know for sure will be devastating to preborn infants and to religious liberty, or do you cast a vote for a candidate who offers some hope?

We must hear the warning of Christ and see to it that the children of this world will not be wiser than the children of light. Every infant must be the recipient of a voting parent or grandparent who wishes to give that child a chance to live. And our religious liberty must be preserved!

Choose the candidate who offers hope, not the candidate who guarantees disaster. And you will make that decisive choice!

Categories: Seminary Blog

FFA: Me & My City, Prisons, and Museums

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Mon, 09/26/2016 - 20:05

Joe, Winston, and Daisy join Barry to chat about cities run by sixth graders, prisons, and immigration.

http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/CWC-2016_09_21.mp3
Categories: Seminary Blog

Ruth in the Days of the Judges

Talbot School of Theology - Mon, 09/26/2016 - 14:34

The book of Ruth presents the inspiring journey of God’s people from tragedy to triumph. The story is a mirror opposite of Israel’s depressing journey from triumph to tragedy that is presented in the book of Judges.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Free For All: Food Waste, Coming Home, and Suffering

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 20:00

Barry is joined by Steve, Winston, and Daisy to discuss biblical food-saving techniques, baseball, and enduring suffering as Christians.

http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/CWC-2016_09_23.mp3
Categories: Seminary Blog

Are Souls Dependent on God?

Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 12:00

Are Souls/spirits dependent on God for existence or not?

I am currently an atheist who is looking for reasons to believe that God exists. I was once a Christian but became an atheist by rationalisation when I realised that I believed simply because I was raised to believe.

I have since become horrified by the implications of the atheistic explanation of life's origin (particularly mindless spontaneous generation), not to mention what it says about human destiny.

I find the concept of God inspiring and want to believe that God exists but continuously encounter obstacles from numerous sources ranging from atheistic materialism to biblical and doctrinal difficulties.

If something is true then it should make sense.

Herewith one of those difficulties.

My understanding of spiritual death and hell is that it is the natural consequence of choosing separation from God who is the source of spiritual life.

I base this on the fact that the bible states that "the wages of sin is death" and other places in the bible where Jesus indicates that he (God) is the source of life.

However hell as consequence, which for some reason cannot be changed after death, (rather than punishment) only seems just and makes sense to me if the soul is indestructible and able to exist independently of God.

Yet my conceptual understanding of God is that He is the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient being who sustains the existence of everything. If he stopped sustaining it would not exist.

If that is true then how can anything continue to exist if it is actually separated from omnipotent God? Where can anything be that an omnipresent God is not?

Does this not mean that God is actively sustaining the souls of the damned purely so that they can suffer? For eternity?

Or can even omnipotent God not destroy a soul?

Neither really make sense to me. This is therefore one of the (unfortunately many)things that makes me doubt that the bible is true as much as I want it to be true ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

To the Church Planter: 6 Wise Words and Where to Find Them

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 10:11
Church Planting is all the rage right now–the topic seems to be on everyone’s mind, on every conference schedule, and taking hold of many church budgets. All Glory to Christ! I am so thankful for the surge of church planting among evangelicals and the advance of gospel preaching and disciple making around the U.S. As... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

FFA: Freedom, Missions, and Churches

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Thu, 09/22/2016 - 20:05

Kirk, Daisy, and Winston join Barry to chat about house churches, services within communities, and designated free speech areas.

http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/CWC-2016_09_22.mp3
Categories: Seminary Blog

How technology has changed missions

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 09/22/2016 - 06:29

We live in a technological age that is rapidly changing how we do business, banking, education, and on and on. Certainly there are disadvantages of being constantly in touch with everyone who demands our time and attention, and the anxiety caused by information overload is evident in the harried, hurried lives we live. Only the future will tell whether the ever-increasing velocity of new developments is new and better or simply “fast and furious.”

Missionaries and missions administrators have had to adjust to innovations just as much as every other field. More often than not it is the new missionaries who are introducing agency administrators to new developments, who must then decide whether the new ways are better or worse. In the book, Changing World, Unchanging Mission, I discussed contemporary global trends and changes and their missiological implications. As I have continued thinking about technological changes, seven developments are worthy of further consideration for the ways they have changed the way we do missions.

Ocean travel versus air travel

It sounds ridiculous to just now be evaluating the benefits of jet travel, and it would certainly be so if the evaluation sought to determine the best method for traveling to the field. No, the point here is simply to recognize the changes that the speed, ease, and affordability of contemporary international air travel have brought to deploying missionaries – not to decide whether or not we should return to ocean travel.

Only a generation ago, many missionaries traveled to their countries of service on ships that required several weeks to arrive. The first day after waving good-bye to loved ones at the dock was hard, the next day the processing began, and by the time the missionary family arrived on the field, they were renewed in their sense of God’s call and excitement to get started. Today, the missionary leaves family and friends at the TSA checkpoint and arrives within hours. In fact, many do not completely leave home because technology allows them to remain in constant touch. Blogs, emails, FaceTime, and Facebook allow a virtual community to continue.

Postal letters versus iMessage

As late as the 1990s, a missionary needing to communicate with their home office or a family member would write a letter and mail it. The letter would take two weeks to arrive in the USA, and if the recipient sat down that very minute and wrote back, it would be two more weeks before the answer arrived – if it ever did. Missionaries were “on their own” more often than now. In our age of constant and uninterrupted communication the missionary may be able to get an answer to a question within seconds. Depending on the issue, that could either be a great blessing or stunt his or her growth and leadership development.

Special occasion calls versus 8 calls per day

Because of the great expense, hassles of having to go downtown to the phone company to place an international call, and then the frustration with poor connections if it ever came through, missionaries were only able to call home on special occasions such as Mother’s Day, birthdays, or Christmas. Technology has changed all of that. A missionary told me that with her Vonage (voice over Internet protocol) phone, she talks to her Mom about 8 times per day. “After all,” she said, “it’s the same as a local call, just as clear, and I used to talk to her that much everyday. So, why not?” I can think of some reasons why not, and I suspect you can too.

Quarterly prayer-letters versus blogs and email updates

Before email, there was snail mail, and it was aptly named. The missionary would wait for several months of ministry before sending out the family newsletter. It would be typed, copied, stuffed into hundreds of envelopes, and then mailed back home to churches and families who would read them, collect the exotic stamps, and pray for the missionary family. Today missionaries have access to immediate prayer updates and communication methods that are much less expensive and cumbersome. The blessing is that the missionary can let prayer supporters know of a crisis prayer need, or supporters know of a financial need, on the same day that it arises. The downside is that many missionaries complain of the hours they must sit in front of the computer answering follow up emails from supporters who want to know “immediately” how a situation was resolved. Updating a blog is amazingly easy, inexpensive, and can keep everyone in the loop much more efficiently but may multiply hours online.

Landlines and paper notebooks versus iPhones

The required telephone wires that once were strung throughout countries limited telephone communication in many countries. Today’s cell phones leapfrogged right over landline requirements and enabled virtually everyone to have a phone. SIM cards are used for distributing gospel truth and messages may be sent and deleted easily in creative access locations. My missionary aunt once changed planes in Singapore in pre-cell phone days and realized about 30 minutes into her next flight that she had left her address book and calendar at the pay phone in the last airport. All of her phone contacts, calendar of committed events, and vital information for ministry were gone – with no digital copy or backup. Today’s iPhones not only have cloud storage capabilities, they are digital photo albums of family, calendars, and house a myriad of useful apps for international living.

Snapshots and Polaroids versus Skype and FaceTime

I remember the pictures that would arrive in the mail from my aunt and uncle showing how much my cousins were growing and their family’s ministry. Today we may Skype and FaceTime with our missionary friends and families and see them in real time as we talk to them. Those who enjoy this technology today and take it for granted will never know the wonder of how Dick Tracy’s television watch fired our imaginations. As a parent of missionaries and a grandparent of MKs in another country, I am so thankful for the technology that allows me to see them, hear their laughter, and listen to their sweet voices telling us exciting activities of that day.

Learners versus Finders

This is much like the difference between exegesis and eisegesis in biblical interpretation. The former unpacks a scripture passage and discovers what’s there, the latter goes to the Bible having already decided what he is going to find and reads that into it. In former times missionaries went to the field as a sort of blank slate and learned the language, the culture, developed relationships, and explored life in a new land for themselves. Today’s missionaries have the blessing and the disadvantage of the internet. The blessing is being able to research and go forewarned. That is also the disadvantage. Many simply find what they expect to find, and reinforce negative stereotypes when they get off the plane. They embrace unfair assessments that were formed by someone who had a bad experience.

In each of these seven changes there are pro’s and con’s of the change. Each of us must steward technological changes by embracing them, saying, “No thanks,” or finding the balance that is best for us.

____________________

David Sills is professor of missions and cultural anthropology at SBTS, and is president of Reaching & Teaching International Ministries. He has served with the International Mission Board in Ecuador as church planter and general evangelist among the Highland Quichua people in the Andes, and as a seminary professor at the Ecuadorian Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of numerous books on missions and missiology, including The Missionary Call: Finding Your Place in God’s World (Moody) and Changing World, Unchanging Mission: Responding to Global Challenges (IVP).

The post How technology has changed missions appeared first on Southern Blog.

Categories: Seminary Blog

The Center Cannot Hold

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 20:05

Barry talks through a poem by W.B. Yeats that some are using to describe our society today.

http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/CWC-2016_09_21-1.mp3
Categories: Seminary Blog

The Role of Presuppositions in Scholarship

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 12:11
A few weeks ago I asked the question concerning how much those committed to evangelical faith should engage with progressive scholarship.[1] The reader’s responses were helpful, pointing mostly to limited and purposeful engagement. Let’s say we follow this advice and have students engage with works by those opposed to the divine origin of Scripture. How... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

The Bible, the Preacher, and the Presenting Issue

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 09:30

The dust-up surrounding Andy Stanley’s sermon The Bible Told Me So and the related interview with Russell Moore at the ERLC national conference provides the preaching professor a great opportunity to think about the nature of the Word. And this blog is about just that, the nature of the Word, not Stanley’s recent sermon. However, some context is in order.

In his sermon, Stanley contends that even if people have trouble with the age of the earth or the lack of archaeological evidence for the Exodus, this should not stop them from coming to faith. On that we agree. People can, as we all do, come to Christ without all their biblical questions answered. The reason he cites is that Christianity predates the Bible. In other words, you can believe in Christ without having the questions of the Old Testament resolved because many came to faith in Christ before the books of the Old and New Testaments were canonized.

However, the passages of the Bible many find troubling, mainly in the Old Testament, predate the New Testament believers. Not to mention the fact that the first significant response to the Gospel (Acts 2) was in response to a sermon from Psalm 16, Joel 2, and Psalm 110. Evidently, the listeners embraced the argument that Jesus of Nazareth was, in fact, the Messiah that was prophesied about in the Old Testament—in their Bible. Peter had enough confidence in his Old Testament to lead people to Christ from it.

Practically speaking, the trouble with Stanley’s logic is that what we attract people with is what we will sustain people with. Stanley seems to concede, without actually doing so verbally, that the veracity of the Old Testament is not an issue, and we should not have to accept its truthfulness in order to come to Christ. But if you look at what Christ asks His followers to do—die to themselves; financially divest in this world and invest in the life to come; love their enemies; follow Christ even if they have to break with tradition—these are really, really hard things.

Personally, I like Stanley. He is a family friend, and I have a great deal of respect for him and his family. He is not the enemy, nor is he a rival tribe. He has a genuine love for lost people that, as Moore pointed out on his podcast, is a quality worth imitating.

As someone who has given his life to text-driven preaching, my issue however is a related one: the place of the Word in Christian worship. This is the real issue.

If you examine the worship of the early Christian church, as recorded in Scripture or early Christian history, it is clear that they carried the tradition of reading the Scripture and explaining it. That’s always been there in the life of the church. By “explaining,” I mean, broadly, expositing Scripture, which includes both explaining proper (explanation with illustration) and exhortation (applying and defending). This is the tradition of the church. It always has been.

From the witness of Scripture, and from the witness of the earliest followers, I think one can make the case that the explanation of Scripture is central to Christian worship. This does not mean it is the most important thing, but rather, to borrow a metaphor, it is the heart that pumps truth to all other facets of worship and ministry. Scripture is central to Christian worship. Sure, the New Testament believers were living while the cannon of Scripture was still being formed. Yet, they believed they had God’s Word. The early church had enough Bible to lead them to Christ. This is why Paul told Timothy he could trust his Old Testament, because it is “able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

As any counselor will tell you, the real issue is most often not the presenting issue. The presenting issue seems to be strategies for preaching and evangelism in the local church setting. But the real issue is a global confidence in the Word of God.

Should we assume that believers trust Scripture when we preach? Of course not. We, therefore, reason with them. We argue for the text. However, in assuming they do not believe it, should we concede that is it unbelievable? Of course not.

And this deeper issue is what really concerns me. This is the issue with which evangelical churches in general, and SBC churches in particular, need to grapple. We, collectively, have a tendency to verbally support the perfection of Scripture while questioning its function in corporate worship. We do this when we selectively preach Scripture; when we selectively choose topics to preach; when we sing songs that are inconsistent with Scripture; when we develop a “cannon within a cannon” and ignore major chunks of Scripture as irrelevant so as to only preach the interesting parts; when we do not counsel from the Word; when we do not allow the Word to influence our finances or our politics. The list is endless. Stanley, acting here as provocateur, has unnerved us because we already function as if there is a cannon within a cannon.

The strategy of downplaying Scripture is not an aberration we should mock; it is our immediate history we should mourn. It’s just really uncomfortable when someone says out loud what so many of us already practice. We have, in so many ways, already taken the spot light off the Bible. When the Word is not central in our counseling, in our worship practice, in our financial practice, in our approach to preaching, or in our political engagement, it should not bother us when someone says the Word is not central. But it does. It bothers us because we are hearing someone label our practice; it exposes a sort of moral licensing that says, “As long as we yell loud enough about morality on certain things, we have the license to be silent on others.” But God is not silent, Scripture is not silent, and we cannot be silent. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Desire to Sin Decreases When You Walk in the Spirit

Talbot School of Theology - Mon, 09/19/2016 - 18:21

As you daily walk in the Holy Spirit, God will fill you with his Spirit in such a way that your desires to sin lessen.  Galatians 5:16—set in a chapter that parallels Romans 8 in many ways—says it so well:  “Walk in the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.”  The one who walks in the Spirit will not give in to the desires of the flesh.  Walking in the Spirit and carrying out the desires of the flesh are mutually exclusive ideas; you cannot do one at the same time as you engage in the other.

Categories: Seminary Blog

10 questions to ask a pastoral search committee

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 09/19/2016 - 08:26

When seeking a new pastor, most churches elect a search committee that accepts resumes and sorts through them to find a few men who meet the criteria. It is by no means a perfect methodology — often equally difficult for committee members as for candidates — but it is typical. I have heard many who have served on these committees describe them as seasons filled with stress, trying to discern God’s man to fill the sacred office.

I have been interviewed many times by such committees and have had experiences ranging from excellent (a church I served in Birmingham was exemplary) to excruciating (a search committee told me the most important attributes a pastor could posses are devotion to the KJV Bible and a belief in once-saved-always-saved).

The head of one pastoral search committee concluded our interview with an excellent question: “Is there anything you feel we should have asked you, but didn’t?” I responded with several things, ranging from, “You should ask me how I guard my mind while on the Internet,” to “Do you think what I believe about the Bible is important?” Certainly, your mileage will vary with search committees, depending on the church.

I have learned several important questions a pastoral candidate should ask search committees:

1. Ask them about church finances and seek documentation. A financial crisis can devastate your ministry, yet it is one of those topics we tend not to think about when considering a pastoral position. Theology? We think of that. Methodology? Check. What happened to the last pastor? Got that. Finances don’t often rank as a vital topic, but it certainly is. Ask specific questions such as how the church finances large, unexpected expenses. Inquire as to whether or not they church has a savings account or a rainy day fund.

2. Ask them how they would define a healthy church. Keep in mind that growth does not necessarily mean health. Of course, it can signal health, but, as an apple tree must have strong roots to produce juicy, delicious fruit, so must health come before growth in a local congregation.

3. Ask them where the Bible ranks in importance as central to a healthy church. This may be a sub-set of No. 2, but what you should be looking for in a church, most fundamentally, is a congregation that prizes the Bible above all else. They want to learn it, live it, and proclaim it themselves. If a church loves the Bible and sees it as sitting at the heart of all life, doctrine, and practice, then you may be a long way down the road toward seeing it as a fit place of ministry.

4. Ask them how the church has handled conflict. This may provide a window into the church’s soul. Ask here for specifics. This will provide an opportunity to see if they have done church discipline or gauge their disposition toward it. Should you become pastor, it will provide key information as to what still needs to be taught regarding issues like church discipline and how the church rolls have been handled. These are issues that may require much teaching and patience on the part of a new pastor.

5. Ask them why they are interested in you becoming the church’s pastor. To their minds, what makes you a more fit candidate than others they’ve considered?

6. Ask them what makes a good pastor. This is related to the previous question, but is not exactly the same. This will help you discern how they see your role. You will learn whether they view the pastorate primarily as a teaching/preaching role or a shepherding role or both. It will tell you how the view the pastoral office and well help you understand their expectations more clearly.

7. Ask them what the church believes. Are they doctrinally aware? Ask them if there are things that some Christians teach that bother them. The last thing you want is to hide controversial theological commitments up front only to learn later that your new church doesn’t subscribe to your confession of faith! Be gracious, but try to be as clear about this as possible and answer wisely. Make sure they understand what you are saying. Biblical illiteracy even among evangelical churches may surprise a new pastor.

8. Ask them what they expect from your wife. What are their expectations for her? Are such expectations reasonable or are they unbiblical? Communicate your expectations of your wife up front.

9. Ask them how they expect you to handle day-to-day shepherding. Do they want you mainly to stay in the office? If they drive past the church two or three days in a row and don’t see your car, how they would feel? What do they assume you are doing? What do they think you should be doing? Are they okay with you working from home or “off campus” on occasion, assuming you are available if need arises? Make sure they realize ministry doesn’t magically happen in the church office between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

10. Ask about their former pastor(s). What do they see as his strengths and weaknesses? Why did he leave? A word of caution here, for this can be a Pandora’s Box if not handled carefully: Make it clear that you want to avoid criticizing or slandering the former pastor in any way. Once you become the pastor, it may be helpful to ask the people to avoid speaking negatively about the former pastor, even if it didn’t end well with him. But it is helpful to know what they think about how well he shepherded the flock and will provide insight into what they think is important.

I’m certain there are many other good questions, but these have helped me to learn much about may churches, even as those churches are seeking to learn about me.

_______________________________

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.

The post 10 questions to ask a pastoral search committee appeared first on Southern Blog.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Guest Speaker Andy Naselli – Using Technology in Ministry

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 09/16/2016 - 16:56
This week DBTS welcomed author, theologian, and pastor, Andy Naselli, to speak to faculty and students on ways to leverage technology resources in gospel ministry. Andy is a professor at Bethlehem College and Seminary (Minneapolis), a pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church, and runs his own blog. He approaches new technologies with open arms saying, “As a... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

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Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 09/16/2016 - 12:00

Dr. Craig,

First and foremost thank you for the work you've done. I'm young and I've barely scratched the surface of Christian apologetics and the enormous body of literature thereof, but your contributions to the field have made a huge difference in my life. I'm thankful God has blessed the Christian community with you and I hope you stay active for many more years to come.

My question is this: Does God Have a Plan? ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

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Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 09/15/2016 - 12:03
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Categories: Seminary Blog

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