Spurgeon’s productivity staggers the imagination. To pastor a mega-church, write as prolifically as he did, lead 60 ministries that were connected to the Metropolitan Tabernacle, write upwards of 500 letters per week, and faithfully care for his wife and two sons, required a uniquely disciplined manner of life.
Spurgeon wrote about the burden that he felt beneath his responsibilities:
“No one living knows the toil and care I have to bear. I ask for no sympathy but ask indulgence if I sometimes forget something. I have to look after the Orphanage, have charge of a church with four thousand members, sometimes there are marriage and burials to be undertaken, there is the weekly sermon to be revised, The Sword and Trowel to be edited, and besides all that, a weekly average of five hundred letters to be answered. This, however, is only half my duty, for there are innumerable churches established by friends, with the affairs of which I am closely connected, to say nothing of those cases of difficulty which are constantly being referred to me.”
Though Spurgeon left behind no hourly breakdown of his activities, his top daily priority is easily discernable, providing the essential key to understanding his productivity. In his devotional book, Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith, the Scripture reading for August 23 is Proverbs 8:17: “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.” Spurgeon commented first on the importance of seeking Jesus in the days of one’s youth. He then expanded his initial thought by applying the passage to pursuing God early each day:
“Thriving tradesmen are early risers, and thriving saints seek Jesus eagerly. Those who find Jesus to their enrichment give their hearts to seeking him. We must seek him first, and thus earliest. Above all things Jesus. Jesus first, and nothing else even as a bad second.”
Spurgeon encouraged his readers to seek Jesus “first, and thus earliest,” just as a thriving businessman rose early to engage in trade. He believed Jesus should be the all-consuming, first priority of a godly person’s day. For Spurgeon, pursuing Jesus meant seeking him through Bible intake and prayer. In his sermon “How to Read the Bible,” Spurgeon asserted that Bible reading was important because “the Lord speaks to us in these words [from the Bible].” Spurgeon encouraged thoughtful, meditative, prayerful, and Christ-centered Bible reading. Such reading was important to him because when he read Scripture, Jesus was present:
“He [Jesus] leans over me, he puts his finger on the lines, I can see his pierced hands: I will read it as in his presence. I will read it knowing that he is the substance of it, that he is the proof of this book as well as the writer of it; the sum of Scriptures as well as the author of it. This is the way for true students to become wise. You will get to the soul of Scripture when you can keep Jesus with you while you are reading.”
Spurgeon developed several resources to assist Christians in their devotional times. One such example is Morning by Morning: or Daily Readings for the Family or Closet. (5)
Scholar Timothy Larsen notes,
“As the subtitle ‘closet’ is biblical language for a private, individual time of prayer (Matt. 6:6), and thus Spurgeon was commending this volume as an aid to either personal or household devotions. As to the former, Spurgeon suggested that private morning devotions should be completed before meeting another human being; to go straight to work without doing this would be like neglecting to get dressed.”
Therein Spurgeon’s priority is unveiled. Spurgeon’s first and nonnegotiable order of business each day, before he met with anyone else or put his hand to any other work, was devotional exercises. He remarked, “It is a good rule never to look into the face of man in the morning till you have looked into the face of God; and equally a good rule always to have business with heaven before you have any business with earth.”
By the phrase “business with heaven,” Spurgeon was referring to private prayer. Beyond a set time for prayer, Spurgeon was concerned that Christians maintain “continued communion with God through prayer throughout the day.”
Wisdom for the busy minister and layperson
You may wonder how a person as accomplished as Spurgeon was able to spend so much time reading the Bible and praying. Perhaps it is most accurate to conclude that the key reason Spurgeon was so fruitful in his work was because he had his priorities in order. His first priority was to seek Jesus. Everything else was secondary.
In the day in which we live, no doubt you are very busy. How do you discern what to do each day, and how can you be more productive in your daily responsibilities? It all starts with priorities. Do you seek Jesus early by immersing yourself in Scripture and crying out to God in prayer? Perhaps Spurgeon’s example will help you in organizing your busy schedule, in order to experience spiritual growth and blessing.
A classicist by training and student at heart, new Boyce College professor Tyler Flatt seeks to help students polish the fragments of God’s beautiful design glimmering in the stories and adventures of Greek and Roman civilization.
Raised in a Christian home, Flatt’s father kept in touch for many years with a college professor who passed on many books to Flatt and his brother. It was from the stories he read there, during his childhood in Waterloo, Ontario, that Flatt’s love for the classics was fostered.
“I remember having a Greek mythology book with really vivid pictures of Jason and the Golden Fleece and the Odyssey and those kinds of things, and my imagination was really fired by that,” said Flatt, assistant professor of humanities at Boyce. “I started to believe that all the best stories in the world, more or less, came out of the Greek and Roman civilizations.”
His interest in life of the Romans, their history, and their obsession for everything orderly grew throughout high school, and people around him encouraged him to pursue further academic study. While he had read a lot of the classics in translation, he did not want anything standing between him and the world of the Greeks and Romans. It was then that Flatt decided to learn Greek and Latin and pursue higher education in the classics.
“The first time I read Homer in translation, I remember sitting back in my chair and thinking, ‘I could spend the rest of my life studying this and it would not be a waste.’ And as it turned out, that instinct was right,” Flatt said.
Flatt completed a bachelor’s degree in the classics at the University of Waterloo, but his hunger for learning was not yet satisfied. He went on to earn his master’s at the University of Toronto.
Flatt had always enjoyed visiting relatives in the United States, so the opportunity to apply to doctoral programs there was attractive to him.
“You have to understand, for Canadians, that is fairly exotic,” he said.
To his great surprise, Flatt was accepted at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts, and spent six and a half years studying and teaching in a traditional classics program, under the guidance of internationally renowned scholars. Flatt was quickly adopted into a welcoming and close-knit community.
Halfway through his time in Boston, Flatt met and married his wife, Liz, and together they attended City on a Hill Church in Brookline, pastored by Bland Mason, a Ph.D. graduate of Southern Seminary.
Knowing Mason from his time at Southern, Dan DeWitt, former dean of Boyce, would bring students from the Worldview Certificate program to tour Harvard University. When asked for recommendations about who could lead them on this tour, Mason recommended Flatt. After the relationship between Flatt, DeWitt, and Boyce College grew over several years, Flatt was offered a place on Boyce’s faculty in the Humanities department.
“The more I learned about Southern and Boyce, the more I knew there is nowhere else in the world I would rather work. This is it,” Flatt said. “The faculty that is here, the work that they do, the kind of students that are here — I was just really excited about this opportunity.”
“It is a very different culture here than at Harvard, which isn’t surprising,” he said. “To be able to talk with students not only about literary theory, but to do so from a Christian perspective, is not something I have ever had the opportunity to do before. Just being able to pray with students, explain to them why the things they are learning are relevant to their faith, and incorporating all of these things together is brand new, fun, and really exciting for me.”
Flatt considers Harvard a valuable training ground in articulating his views and understanding the views of others. Since he wasn’t trapped in a “Christian bubble,” Flatt finds that he is not only able to effectively simulate the arguments that students will encounter outside of Southern Seminary, but he is also better equipped to prepare students to go out into the world.
“It also helps me to equip students to appreciate what they have here at this institution. It becomes normal to us, but it is not normal in the world. Boyce College is extraordinary, and I don’t just know that in an abstract way, I know that from my experience,” Flatt said.
In the Great Books courses he is teaching, Flatt hopes to provide students with not just a taste, but a deep drink of the classics. Through Plato’s Apology, the epic poetry of Homer, Virgil, Dante, Milton, and more, he plans to provide students with ample evidence that God works through his creation.
“There is not a lot of assembly required. Most of the authors you read, from Plato to Sophocles, to Virgil, to Homer, are all grappling with the deepest, most important questions of human life. You don’t need to superimpose that on those texts, you just cannot avoid it if you are reading them,” Flatt said. “It is one of the reasons I think people in our culture keep coming back to the classics as a source of wisdom and provocative questions about what it means to be human. The richness in our cultural heritage is not buried very far below the surface.”
Flatt’s job, as he sees it, is to link the what the Bible says about who we are, what we ought to think, and how we ought to live with the reflections present in the classical world. While the fragments of God’s design are grimed by the consequences of the fall, he explained, they are there to be polished and made bright again that truth may be reflected through it.
“Grappling with these questions will be extremely enriching,” he said. “I am there to guide and curate this experience for our students, serving as the intermediary and performing the introductions between the students and these great thinkers, and then to say, ‘Go now and dialogue with them.’”
The post Polishing the glimmerings of God’s design in the classical world appeared first on Southern Equip.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
22 gatherings to worship and hear God’s Word
Join the Southern Seminary community each Tuesday and Thursday at 10 a.m. for worship in Alumni Memorial Chapel.
Tweet about the service with #SBTSChapel and tell your friends about the livestream at sbts.edu/live.
Feb. 7 | R. Albert Mohler Jr., Convocation
Feb. 9 | Randy Stinson
Feb. 14 | Brian Payne
Feb. 16 | Dean Inserra
Feb. 21 | Denny Burk
Feb. 23 | Andrew Hebert
Feb. 28 | Ben Mitchell
March 2 | Corey Abney
March 7 | Charlie Dates
March 9 | Timothy McCoy
March 14 | Anthony Jordan
March 16 | McCall Leadership Lecture
March 21 | Jim Richards
March 23 | Rick Holland
March 28 | Donald Whitney
March 30 | Eric Geiger
April 11 | Steve Gaines
April 13 | Hershael York
April 18 | Bill Langley
April 20 | David Helm
April 25 | Dan Dumas
April 27 | Francisco Preaching Award
Gheens lecture with Rod Dreher
Conservative columnist and author of the forthcoming book, The Benedict Option ,will deliver three lectures in Heritage Hall. The first 100 students at each session will receive a free book, and attendees can register for an iPad mini; the winner will be drawn at the final session.
Feb. 7 | 1 p.m., 2 p.m.
Feb. 8 | 10 a.m., 1 p.m.
3 ways to listen to The Briefing
1 NEW: “Alexa, play my Flash Briefing.” — If you received an Amazon Echo Dot this Christmas, add Albert Mohler’s daily podcast “The Briefing” under Settings > Get more Flash Briefing content.
2 AlbertMohler.com App — Available on iOS, the app provides both “The Briefing” and “Thinking in Public,” as well as Mohler’s full library of essays.
3 Subscribe to the podcast on your smartphone or laptop by visiting albertmohler.com/subscribe.
5 steps to writing better papers
♦ Pray — Ask the Lord to guide you and give you strength to accomplish this task.
♦ Research Hub — Talk with the Boyce Centennial Library’s team of research experts for tips on finding resources for your project and best practices for writing your paper.
♦ Style Guides — Download the Southern Seminary Manual of Style and templates for research papers and book reviews at sbts.libguides/style.
♦ Cite with Zotero — Avoid plagiarism and make citations easy with Zotero. Download the software and integrate with Word and your web browser at zotero.org. You will remember this day forever.
♦ Writing Center — Don’t wait until the night before to finish your research paper. Finish a draft early and email firstname.lastname@example.org for feedback on grammar and style.
3 conference scholarship opportunities
1 Equip: Practical Training for Women in Ministry | Feb. 11 | Speaker: Joni Eareckson Tada
2 Renown Youth Conference | March 17-18 | “Salt and Light” Speakers: Albert Mohler, Dan Dumas, and Eric Geiger
3 2017 Southeast Region ETS | March 17-18 | “Work, Vocation, and Human Flourishing in the Christian Tradition” – Plenary speaker: Gene Veith, professor of literature at Patrick Henry College
Drink coffee like a pro
♦ Buy a Southern mug
NEW: Founders mugs — Collect all four mugs featuring SBTS founders Boyce, Broadus, Manly, and Williams at 5&B. Priced at $26.99 each, you can get 25 percent off if you buy the set.
♦ Choose your brew
a. Sunergos, the official coffee of Founders’ Cafe
b. Goodfolks, the Study Cup coffee in Fifth & Broadway
HOW YOU CAN GROW
4 podcasts to enrich your ministry
Cultivated — Hosted by Sojourn Community Church elder Mike Cosper, “Cultivated explores the intersection between the Christian faith, the arts, and vocation.
Love Thy Neighborhood — From a Louisville urban missions agency comes a podcast about social justice featuring strong reporting and NPR-level production value. Kevin Jones, associate dean of academic innovation at Boyce College, serves as co-host.
The Boundless Show — Most Boyce and Southern students find themselves in the middle of the strange and perplexing phase of early adulthood. “The Boundless Show” podcast provides resources and encouragement for navigating relationships, faith, and the challenges of being grown up.
CT’s The Calling — SBTS alumnus Richard Clark hosts a variety of pastors and leaders as they discuss their ministry calling.
3 tips to get bigger, faster, stronger
Bigger: With the Health and Recreation Center installing brand new squat racks, bumper plates, and platforms permitting deadlifts from the floor, nothing will get between you and your gainzzz this year.
Faster: Get your cardio workout in on the treadmills and elliptical machines while watching the brand new high-definition televisions on the wall of the rec center’s weight room.
Stronger: Help your kids get active at KidsFit, which allows them to learn basketball, volleyball, and soccer directly from Boyce College athletes.
Basketball: Mondays, Jan. 30 – Feb. 20
Volleyball: Mondays, Feb. 27 – March 20
Soccer: Mondays, April 10 – May 1
4 Ways to Give Back
1 Southern Tell — April 20: Upload a 90-second video to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram with #SouthernStory and share briefly how Southern has made a difference in your life.
2 Preview Day — April 21: Invite a friend to Southern’s Preview Day and help them consider God’s call on their life. More info is at sbts.edu/preview.
3 1937 Project — April 22: Step up and serve Louisville in a massive service project that honors Southern’s commitment to the city.
4 Preach the Word — April 23: Sign up at missions.sbts.edu to preach at a Southern Baptist church on a Sunday celebrating theological education.
5 ministry training opportunities
Learn about disability ministry
The Feb. 10 Student Life Conference, “Life and Lessons in Disability Ministry,” will offer an evening of training with Ken and Joni Eareckson Tada. The couple will speak about disability ministry as well as their life and marriage. More information on the free event is available at sbts.edu/students/student-life.
Connect with a local church
The Ministry Apprenticeship Program Local Church Fair will be held on Feb. 16 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Heritage Hall. Lunch will be provided. The purpose of the event is to connect students to churches in the area that can provide ministry experience and course credit through the MAP program.
Interact with missionaries
Global Connections lunch meetings Feb. 17 and March 17 will help connect the dots between the classroom and the international mission field. Grab a free lunch and gain practical information, resources, and preparation for international mission service. RSVP at missions.sbts.edu/home/events.
Proclaim the gospel
The 2017 Great Commission Summit will be Feb. 21-23 and will challenge believers toward faithful, worldwide gospel proclamation. It will be a practical, theological, and educational experience for all students and their families to be equipped to proclaim the gospel to all people. More information at missions.sbts.edu.
Meet with church planters
The Bevin Center will host Church Planting 101 Feb. 24 and March 24, a lunch and dialogue to allow students to engage with other church planters and pastors. More information is available at missions.sbts.edu/home/church-planting.
3 opportunities to engage Islam
1 Impacting the World of Islam – Feb. 10, 5:30 – 8 p.m. in the President’s Reception Room. Watch and discuss the 2012 award-winning foreign language film A Separation. This Iranian movie will demonstrate how Shiite Islam is practiced in Iran, how Sharia is applied, and how Muslim women are treated.
2 Mission trip to Dearborn, Michigan – Feb. 24-26
Visit mosques, interact with Muslims, enjoy Middle Eastern food, and discover how Christians in Dearborn are ministering to Muslims through church planting and parachurch ministries. The price for students is $15 per person. If you are interested in attending this trip, please fill out the application on the Jenkins Center website by Feb. 6.
3 Summer mission trip to Southern Spain and North Africa – July 15-July 30. Ayman Ibrahim will be leading a team of students to engage Muslims with the good news of Jesus. Students will earn three hours of course credit by taking the class Apologetics in Christian-Muslim Relations. Scholarships for the course tuition will be provided to students. The total cost for the trip (excluding course tuition) is estimated to be $2,900. If you are interested in this trip or have any questions, stop by the Jenkins Center or email JenkinsCenter@sbts.edu.
2 women’s ministry events
Koinonia — Feb. 7, April 11 | Koinonia is a place for a fun atmosphere of fellowship for the ladies, whether you are a student, staff member, or wife. Build lifelong relationships with other women during your time at Southern. More information is available at sbts.edu/koinonia.
SWI Seminar — Saturday, March 11 | The 11th annual Seminary Wives Institute Seminar Saturday offers SWI students and women from the campus and community to attend five one-hour talks from faculty and faculty wives, March 11, 9 a.m.–3:10 p.m. in Legacy Hotel & Conference Center. The cost is $15 for SWI students and $25 for non-SWI students. Email email@example.com for more information
WHERE YOU CAN GO
2 museums with $5 admission
For the month of February, Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory and the Muhammad Ali Center will offer $5 admission to Louisville residents and students. Show your Shield Card when purchasing tickets.
4 must-see Kentucky Derby Festival events
Before the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby, Louisville enjoys “The Greatest Two Weeks of Celebration.” Here are a few big events before the May 7 Kentucky Derby:
1 Thunder Over Louisville, April 23 — The nation’s largest annual fireworks show kicks off the Derby festivities with a top-five air show featuring the Blue Angels. Plan ahead and arrive early to Waterfront Park for a fireworks display that will take your breath away.
2 U.S. Bank Great BalloonFest, April 27-29 — Wake up early on April 28 and 29 to see the Great Balloon Race, as hot air balloons fill the morning sky. Catch the hot air balloons on the ground at Waterfront Park, April 27 at 8:30 p.m., and the Kentucky Exposition Center, April 28 at 9 p.m., for a creative light show.
3 GospelFest, April 30 — GospelFest will feature performers from 2 until 7 p.m. at the Chow Wagon on Waterfront Park. Admission is free with a Pegasus Pin.
4 Republic Bank Pegasus Parade, May 4 — The festival’s oldest event, the Pegasus Parade marches down 17 blocks on Broadway in downtown Louisville.
5 nights to date your spouse
Date Night Out – Feb. 3, March 3 — Enjoy an evening out on the town with your spouse while the HRC watches your kids. $12 per child. Registration begins at the HRC front desk the Saturday before at 8 a.m.
Date Night In – Feb. 17, March 10, April 28 — Enjoy a nice dinner for two while Tom and Robyn Scott invest in your marriage. Childcare available. Contact Tom Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3 don’t-miss Boyce life celebrations
Coffeehouse – Feb. 17
As you can probably guess by the name, it’s a time for students to share original work in a coffeehouse setting in Heritage Hall with music and poetry. It’s a laid back atmosphere to enjoy student art and meaningful conversation.
Big Show – March 10
Students can audition for a time slot a few weeks before the Big Show, and the best acts will be selected by the Student Council and Student Life Office. The Big Show takes place in Alumni Chapel and is one of the highest-energy events of the year.
Spring Banquet – April 21
The semi-formal affair hosted off campus will look back at what the Lord has done at Boyce during the previous academic year, recognize outstanding students, and thank the students and staff that have put so much work into making Boyce such a special place.
Experience a live show
Actor’s Theatre — Attend a show at Louisville’s only Tony Award-winning theatre, the State Theatre of Kentucky, and home to the Humana Festival of New American Plays.
Louisville Orchestra — Hear why it is well on its way of achieving music director Teddy Abrams’ goal “to become known as the most interesting orchestra on the planet.”
Concert venues — Explore some of Louisville’s top spots for live music including the KFC Yum! Center, Louisville Palace, and the Mercury Ballroom.
Sign-up for the monthly concierge email
Southern provides a monthly concierge email full of local activities, new restaurants to try, and upcoming events. To subscribe, email email@example.com. Also learn about student discounts in the Event Productions Office.
Become a Foodie
Louisville is listed as one of the 15 best cities in the world for food, according to The Culture Trip.
Research new places on foodanddine.com and thrillist.com/louisville. Try these top-ranked restaurants by Trip Advisor:
Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse
Actually, there are lots of ways to kill a prayer meeting. Display bitterness or hostility to someone just before you start praying; that’s sure to do the job. Or thoughtlessly rush into a prayer meeting, without any spiritual preparation, cracking jokes up until the moment you bow your head. That, too, has a good chance of killing a prayer meeting ...
Training the heart, head, and hands: Sills on writing teaching manual for equipping pastors overseas
EDITOR’S NOTE: In what follows, M. David Sills, A.P. and Faye Stone Professor of Christian Missions and Cultural Anthropology, discusses his new book, Hearts, Heads, and Hands, with Towers writer Annie Corser.
AC: Where did the concept of the book, Hearts, Heads, and Hands, come from?
DS: I came back to the States in 2003 from Ecuador. We were missionaries there and I ran the seminary and did pastoral training. I taught specific courses, but I realized they didn’t know much about the Old Testament, New Testament, Christian doctrine in general. So I began to divide that out, and all the classes that you would normally get in a seminary, like Old Testament, New Testament, Christian doctrine, church history and those things. In the U.S. we just assume Christians are good solid disciples, but when Christians in other cultures get into carnal leadership or spiritual manipulation it’s because they had just not gotten the formation of their character. So we started adding in personal spiritual disciplines using Donald Whitney’s book. Doing those kinds of training of the head, and then adding the spiritual disciplines training was like adding the heart. Then we realized they might have the spiritual formation they needed and they might have the head knowledge but they needed the hands, the skill set — like how to baptize, perform the Lord’s Supper, weddings, administration, stewardship in the church, and mentoring another person. So that was the hands part. We’ve been doing that for years with Reaching and Teaching, the ministry I lead. It’s been a great blessing to see that grow and grow and grow because more and more people need that and are begging for training. LifeWay, about a year and a half ago, came and asked, “Could you write that up and we’ll publish it.” I thought, “Well, okay, on the one hand it’s like you own Coca Cola and you’re going to give away your secret formula.” But it’s not about logos and egos. I just wanted the most amount of people to be trained as possible. So I took a sabbatical, Southern and the trustees here gave me a full-year sabbatical and I spent writing this resource and it came out first in English and in Spanish and now in Portuguese, and LifeWay is also doing about 10 other languages. It’s really been fun to see it come out and see so many people using it. That’s what we have developed in the Hearts, Heads, and Hands resource, and we’re very thankful to Southern for allowing us the opportunity for me to concentrate on writing it but also to LifeWay for keeping the price intentionally very low so it’s accessible for internationals and translating it into other languages and starting this summer it will be coming out in student modules.
AC: A lot of times Christians think evangelism and discipleship are two different things. In your own words, can you describe how they go together?
DS: I think if you are truly evangelizing a person, they are coming to know Jesus and seeking to be the person he would be if he were them, and that is truly the definition of discipleship. When I come in, if I present the truth to you and you raise your hand and say, “Yes, I would like to have that Savior,” what we’ve seen around the world is that oftentimes they simply heard me say, “If you accept Jesus the Holy Spirit will come and live in you and he is greater than all the spirits you fear in the jungle,” and they think, “I want this Great Spirit on my side.” They don’t truly understand that they’re sinners, that Jesus is the Savior, who he is, what he’s done. They’re not genuinely born again but somehow now they think they are. And they may come together once a week in a building that has a cross on the top, but they’ve never really been discipled so they don’t understand what the Bible teaches, who Jesus is, and they certainly can’t pass it on to someone else. We have to remember that God has many children around the world but he has no grandchildren. Every person has to understand the gospel and be born again to have eternal life. So we want to not just reach these people but as our ministry is named, Reaching and Teaching.
AC: What happens when discipleship is forgotten or neglected?
DS: When discipleship is forgotten or neglected, what we find is people do not deal well with a vacuum. Every culture already worships something. Psalm 19 and Romans 1 tells us creation declares there is a God. Romans 2 tells us we know we have sinned against that God, we have a conscience, we have a law of God in our hearts, we have the ability to reason in our minds. So everyone knows there’s a Creator, they know they have sinned against that Creator, and Ecclesiastes 3:11 says we’re going to spend eternity somewhere. There’s no culture that sits around saying, “Oh I wish someone would bring us a religion.” They’ve got one. So if I come in and I just share the gospel, then they’re going to try to interpret that against the background of the religion they already have. So we’ve got to figure out what people know and then teach them the truth and apply the truth to their lives so that we can see their worldview change and their true conversion take place.
AC: You easily could’ve provided a brief summary in your book. Instead you took time and gave specific examples and outlined teaching lessons. What led you to take that approach?
DS: With Reaching and Teaching we take a lot of teams of people to train on the field. And as they go to train we can’t assume they’re all Tom Schreiner. A lot of these guys have never received a formal education although they’ve been solid Sunday School teachers of adults or pastors even if they haven’t had the opportunity to get advanced degrees. So I wanted to make sure in the content portion of each module, the information you need is there. You can read it. That’s also what your student wants to read. And then in the very back of the book there are nine sets of robust outlines for teaching. So once you’ve read the module you can take the teaching outline, which is about 30 pages for every one of the nine modules, you could take that teaching outline and take it into a classroom and teach it. It’s all laid out for you. Because a lot of people even those with advanced degrees would be a little intimidated if you said, “Will you go with me to train pastors next week. By the way, your part is the Pentateuch.” How detailed to be in your instruction? Should we read up and prepare? So we’ve done that for you, what we know is doable in a week’s time. So the first module just explains our pedagogical approach, philosophy of training people, remembering these guys are usually from a less educated background or they are oral culture people or they are adults. So I wanted to spell it out in the book so that anybody who takes this book anywhere around the world would not just have a U.S. training system translated into their language but something that’s able to be contextualized for all the different settings of the world.
AC: How did you develop the nine modules?
DS: You know that is probably just through the years of being a believer. All the reading I’ve done, looking at training programs throughout Christian history, what pastors have needed to know, what I have taught about the various subjects we offer here at Southern Seminary, thinking about pastors on the field, and as I say in the book, there are many other subjects that could be treated but these are the basics. These are what must be taught to people. If you think about it, it’s a nine-week training program, if you could go 8–5, Monday through Friday. But with Reaching and Teaching, we divide it over three years. Because those guys are full-time workers in their fields; they could pull away for a week every three or four months and we can only take a team every three or four months so it works out. But after they finish the basics, all nine of the courses in every cases, they ask for an advanced cycle. So we do. We teach them an advanced class while in another room we teach a group of guys who have come along since through the basic classes.
AC: What would you say your hope is for this book?
DS: The hope for this book is that pastors and leaders around the world, anyone who wants deeper discipleship and to be trained in understanding God’s Word, that they would have a resource available to them to receive the training they need in an accessible way that is also culturally appropriate. Being biblically faithful and culturally appropriate is my initial goal. But the heartbeat of Reaching and Teaching, and my own understanding of what God set us in the world to do, is 2 Timothy 2:2. We want these guys to take what they’re learning and teach others, and we tell them that from the very beginning. On the first day, I tell them, “Look, guys, this class is absolutely free. It won’t cost you a penny. But it’s also very expensive.” And they look at me funny when I say that. And I say, “The cost is we expect every one of you to have someone you’re teaching the book to when I’m gone.” My bigger goal of all of this is they are learning how to teach peers. They are learning how to teach other people like themselves, whether it’s women teaching women or men teaching men. So my goal is that they would go farther into the jungle, farther into the mountains, and train people I don’t have access to.
The post Training the heart, head, and hands: Sills on writing teaching manual for equipping pastors overseas appeared first on Southern Equip.
Hearts, Heads, & Hands: A Manual for Teaching Others to Teach Others by M. David Sills (B&H Books, 2016, $16.99)
Spiritual growth, wisdom, and proper understanding of the Bible do not happen automatically when someone receives the Holy Spirit, but require training and discipleship based on one’s cultural background, writes SBTS missiology professor David Sills in his new book Hearts, Heads, & Hands. The book is a training manual that combines teaching in biblical theology, systematic theology, personal spiritual disciplines, church history, and practical application.
“The reason for integrating the hearts, heads, and hands approach is because the man of God should be integrally and thoroughly prepared,” writes Sills, SBTS A.P. and Faye Stone Professor of Christian Missions and Cultural Anthropology. “Each module is designed for the instructor and serves as an overview of the topics to be addressed to assist in understanding, noting global insights or illustrations for contextualizing the training.”
Sills, who served with the International Mission Board in Ecuador as church planter and as a seminary professor, uses his years of training leaders as the basis for writing this book as a manual for “Teaching Others to Teach Others.” Founder and president of Reaching & Teaching International Ministries, Sills recognizes there is a strong need for a discipleship method that incorporates personal spiritual disciples (the heart portion), strengthening skill sets (the hands portion), and training in biblical and systematic theology (the head portion).
“The goal of this curriculum is to prepare the whole man — head, hearts, and hands. We are to focus on the whole man, training men to have minds for God, hearts for truth, and hands that are skilled for the task,” Sills writes.
Each module contains about a week’s worth of material. Sills’ method suggests starting each day with an hour focused on “heart” issues, ending each day with practical “hand” strategies, with “head” training and instruction.
“We start each teaching day with a personal spiritual discipline, explaining what it is, how to practice it, why it’s important, and then actually doing so to model it, and then move into the head knowledge instruction, which more closely resembles what would be expected in pastoral education. We end the day with the hands portion, which is training in the skill set for pastoral ministry for the more practical aspects of mentoring leaders, managing church finances, administration, etc.,” he writes.
Developed with nine modules, Hearts, Heads, & Hands provides a curriculum for teaching and training believers in the basics of the Christian faith. Arguably, the introduction is the most important section as it reminds teachers to think in terms of their cultural context and provides examples of non-Western teaching models. Without a contextualized understanding of a specific people group, teaching on the nine modules will be done in vain.
“God is pleased when His servants know His Words, practice it, and teach it to others,” Sills writes. “But such knowledge is not common, automatic, or possible in a fallen world that is saturated with false worldviews, religions, and worship apart from intentional discipleship of believers and teaching teachers to be able to teach others.”
Revealing all of his secrets for success, Sills writes that he desires for this manual to develop a cycle of salvation and discipleship in areas that have not had access to such training in the past.
The post Feature review: ‘Hearts, Heads, & Hands: A Manual for Teaching Others to Teach Others’ appeared first on Southern Equip.
Book Reviews: ‘J.C. Ryle’; ‘Biblical Authority After Babel’; ‘You Are What You Love’; ‘Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians’
J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone by Iain H. Murray
Review by S. Craig Sanders
Best known today for his classic work Holiness, Bishop J.C. Ryle has much to offer Christians for his steadfastness to biblical doctrine in the face of opposition. In a recent biography, Iain H. Murray examines Ryle’s life and bold convictions in the context of 19th-century controversies in the Church of England and the separatist movements.
Similar to his 50-year-old work The Forgotten Spurgeon, Murray renews focus on Ryle’s role in defending the truths of God’s Word both in denominational controversies but also amid a cultural shift in perception of religious authority. He also follows the remarkable trajectory of Ryle’s life and demonstrates the significant moments of his subject’s conversion and pastoral calling. Murray concludes his work with a chapter on Ryle’s message for the Church of England today and what his beliefs about grace and salvation can teach Christians in tough times.
Biblical Authority After Babel by Kevin J. Vanhoozer
Review By Andrew J.W. Smith
The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation represents one of the most radical shifts of any religion in world history which — depending on one’s perspective — either soiled the true church or rediscovered the core of Christian faith. Kevin J. Vanhoozer, theology professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, offers a helpful evangelical reappropriation of fundamental tenets of the Reformation — the five solas of the movement’s monergistic soteriology.
In what Vanhoozer calls “mere Protestant Christianity,” believers can find the unity of two apparently opposite poles of Catholicism and Protestantism: “church alone” and “Scripture alone.”
“The kind of Protestantism that needs to live on is not the one that encourages individual autonomy or corporate pride but the one that encourages the church to hold fast to the gospel, and to one another,” Vanhoozer writes.
You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K.A. Smith
Review by Andrew J.W. Smith
For the last 2,000 years of church history, all Christians have struggled with a core question of the sanctification process, one echoed in 1 John and Romans 7 — If we know something is sinful, and we have the theological knowledge and information necessary to make such an assessment, then why do we continue to sin? While genuine Christians do not live under the dominion of sin, we all still “stumble in many ways,” as James says. Why? Is there some piece of information or theological acuity we lack?
According to James K.A. Smith and his book, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, the effects of the Fall are not merely cognitive, but also affective; the reality of our brokenness seeps not only into our brains, but also our splankna — our guts or desires. To love God well, we must receive transformation at a deeper level than the intellectual, and to do this, we need a godly imagination and rich community life.
Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians: Finding Authentic Faith in a Forgotten Age with C.S. Lewis by Chris R. Armstrong
Review by S. Craig Sanders
“Chronological snobbery” is a term C.S. Lewis coined to describe the notion that new is always better, whether it be art, science, and philosophy. But I find it equally troubling when many Lewis devotees subject themselves to their own chronological snobbery by concluding Lewis’ writing and theological insight is far superior or more original than anyone before or since.
This is one of many reasons why I find Chris R. Armstrong’s recent work, Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians, to be so helpful for 21st-century evangelicals who love Lewis without trying to understand his intellectual heritage. Like many of his influences and fellow writers — among them G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Dorothy Sayers — Lewis studied and adopted a medieval worldview which is embedded in all of his popular and academic writings. Armstrong describes this medievalism as finding a “vividly sacramental sense of the aliveness of all things, to be treasured in the face of much that was deadening in modernity.”
“I think that medievalism was important for Lewis not only as a source of understanding of the truth of things but also as a primary way that his ‘chest’—the seat of his affections and thus his moral reasoning—received its formation,” Armstrong writes. “He was medieval not only in his mind but also in his heat.”
While young evangelicals search for an authentic faith rooted in tradition and mystery, Lewis embodies that in his discovery of the incarnation of God and the immortal destiny of humans. Even if you disagree with Armstrong’s fondness for tradition as a guide in theology, ethics, and spirituality, this book is a necessity for understanding the medieval roots of Lewis’ worldview.
I must say I feel completely defeated and I could use your help and insight. I had a discussion over God's existence tonight and totally botched it!! I feel I did a dis-service to the reasonableness of the Christian worldview.
I've been studying apologetics for quite some time. I felt I knew the material pretty well. Now I'm not so sure. Dr. Craig, I know you're one of the great Christian debaters. When you were younger, did you ever feel you completely botched a debate and felt like a failure? That is how I feel right now!! ...
Political discussions have dominated social media for several years now and only seem to be getting more heated. With every executive order issued by President Trump or protest aimed at changing a current practice, social media will generate a plethora of links and opinions. These opinions often lead to debates in comment sections that generate way more heat than light.
For the Christian, how we engage in political discussions on social media can be especially tricky. On the one hand, our faith touches every arena of life, so politics is important. On the other hand, we know that every person in the world must stand before Jesus one day and the ultimate issue will not be whether they had the correct position on national security issues.
When you consider how divisive politics can be and how often we say things in the heat of a moment that can influence the way people view Jesus and the Gospel, Christians must spend time in careful thought before they post about politics on social media.
In fact, I would suggest that there are seven questions you should ask yourself before you post about politics or share a link to an article about a political issue.
Do I have the correct facts?
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” While King Solomon couldn’t foresee the advent of social media, he knew the human heart. Proverbs 18:2 reminds us of the importance of hearing and understanding a matter before we start talking about it. The more divisive the issue, the more time we need to spend understanding it.
Does the Bible speak to this issue? If I think it does, am I sure that I understand the biblical passage in its proper context and that I am applying it correctly to the situation? Are there other texts that speak to this that I have not considered?
I would suggest that you read a wide range of resources on an issue before opining about it on social media. Read the most fact-based article that you can find on it. For example, Joe Carter posted a roundup of frequently asked questions about President Trump’s executive order on immigrants and refugees.Reading this type of article can help you get a grasp of the basic facts. Then, read several articles from more liberal publications and several that come from more conservative publications. Read The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The National Review. Look at the points each side makes and see how the other side answers them. Through this type of careful reading, you can gain a better grasp of the issue before you speak about it.
Does this need to be said?
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Most of the times that I heard Ephesians 4:29 when I was growing up, it was the verse that was used to tell us not to cuss. While it may speak to that, it also has something to say about our interactions on social media.
“That it may give grace to those who hear.” Is what you have to say going to bring grace to those who hear it? Will they increase in understanding and gain a greater insight into the Bible’s perspective on this issue? Will your words point them to Christ? Or, is what you are going to say be mere venting? Are you going to bring light, or are you going to bring heat only?
What you have to say may be correct, but it may not need to be said.
Why do I need to be the person to say this?
Let’s pretend that what you want to say about politics on social media should be said. Now you need to consider if you are the right person to say it. Do you have an insight into this issue that you haven’t seen somewhere else, or are you merely repeating an argument you read in another place? Do you have a role or responsibility where people are looking to you for guidance? Why should you be the person to say what you are about to say?
Am I saying this in a way that represents Christ?
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” People who have experienced grace should speak in a way that exhibits grace. Often, we post the first thing that comes to our minds about an issue, don’t read it to see how it sounds, and end up bringing shame upon Christ and his church through our hasty speech. Venting opinions that are not thought out and that insult others is a sign of tremendous foolishness, demonstrates a lack of love for our neighbors, and does not bring honor to Jesus.
Before you post something, read it three or four times. Take a screenshot of it and send it to a friend. Is it kind? Is it accurate? Is it designed for the good of others? Will it negatively impact how other people think of Jesus?
On a closely related side note, if you need to think twice before posting about American politics, then you need to think ten times before posting about denominational politics. In fact, I can think of no good reason for denominational squabbles to be shared before the watching world on our social media feeds. Discuss them in groups or the comment sections of blogs, but do not drag them out into public and bring dishonor to the cause of Christ.
How could I be misunderstood?
I learned my lesson this past August on Facebook. I posted about what I believed to be Donald Trump’s lack of commitment to pro-life issues and said that it was a terrible mistake to nominate him. Almost immediately, my friends and family perceived that my concerns about Trump were an endorsement of Hillary Clinton.
The lesson I learned from this was that there was nothing to be gained by questioning the decision to nominate Trump, which at this point was in the past. The Presidential contest was primarily between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I failed to think through how people would interpret my concerns about one candidate as an endorsement of the other. My post brought no light or grace to the situation and only brought confusion.
Stop and think before you post. Are you communicating clearly and is there a possible way for a significant number of people to misunderstand you?
What are my motives for saying this?
“Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all to the glory of God.
Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God.” While the question of our motives has been underlying several other questions, we should ask it on its own. Can you honestly say that you are saying what you are saying for the glory of God and the good of others?
We must be aware of our motives because they will determine what we say, how we say it, when we say it, and how we will respond to people who disagree with us. If our motive is to vent because we are angry, we will speak harshly, rashly, immediately, and eviscerate those who disagree with us. On the other hand, if our motives mirror Paul’s in 1 Corinthians 10:31-32, then we will speak graciously, kindly, thoughtfully, and respond patiently to those who disagree.
Can I wait until tomorrow to say this?
When Abraham Lincoln got angry with someone, he would fire off what he called a “hot letter.” He would set aside the letter until his emotions cooled off. Then, he would read the letter with a cool head. He left many letters unsigned and unsent.
While Abraham Lincoln wrote letters instead of posts on social media, his practice provides a worthy example for us today. If your post deals with a particularly sensitive topic, can it wait until tomorrow? If it can wait a day, save it as a draft and revisit it tomorrow. You may find that you read it with fresh eyes and see that you shouldn’t post it. Or you may see that it would be helpful to people and click “post.” Either way, the longer you can wait before inserting yourself into a conversation, the better.
Christians, we need to remember that we are Christians first. We represent King Jesus and his church. When we speak, it should reflect the priorities and character of our King and his kingdom. This concern means that we need to take extra care to consider the words we speak online.
The post Questions to ask before posting about politics on social media appeared first on Southern Equip.
Kyle Strobel has been a friend of mine since we were classmates in the M.A. Philosophy program at Talbot in the early 2000s. Now we are both professors at Biola (he's at Talbot Theological Seminary and I am in the Christian Apologetics program). Kyle has a recent book that, in all honesty, is going to stir some people up. He didn't write it just to provoke, but because he really believes the church today has co-opted some non-biblical ideas that radically undermine the gospel.
And I tend to agree. If Kyle is right, then we the church need to seriously rethink how we approach ministry. I hope you will genuinely wrestle with his responses to my questions in this interview ...
Does God speak to Christians in dreams or in our hearts? If we have never had this experience, then are we missing something and should expect it? Is there a danger of relying on a personal word from God instead of looking to the definite word of God given as the Bible? ...
Last month, Matt Krause, a state representative from Fort Worth, introduced a bill to ban no-fault divorce in Texas, “a process that now lets a couple end their marriage without assigning blame to either spouse.” Now, in Texas, it takes only one spouse to divorce, based upon “insupportability” of the marriage, with limited cost or exertion. Krause’s is not the first or only such effort by lawmakers across America to close this door.
In a recent Theological Matters column, I bemoaned the fact that it was Ronald Reagan, then-governor of California, who signed the first no-fault divorce law in 1970, setting off a chain reaction that, in less than 15 years, led to a vast new experiment with disposable marriage all across America. Prior to that revolution, marriage carried at least the force of a simple contract. Today, in most states, one party may break a marriage “contract” even in contradiction of the desires of the other party, giving the marriage certificate a uniquely irrelevant texture in the law.
Yet the purpose of this post is not to delineate the history and the nearly criminal costs to our culture and society of no-fault divorce. Rather, in this brief space, the object is to call the reader to engage a biblical view of marriage and to place children in biblical perspective relative to the parental relationship.
In 1994, a woman named Karen stopped by to see Dr. Judith Wallerstein. Wallerstein, as a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley from 1966-1991, had produced research that asserted that “divorce is difficult for children, but in time, they’d adjust,” providing support for the divorce revolution by comforting divorcing parents and no-fault divorce legislators. But according to Wallerstein, Karen’s visit “was to entirely revise my understanding of divorce and how it has changed the nature of American society.”
Karen had been part of a study begun by Wallerstein in 1971 that resulted in a best-seller, Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce. As the book’s title indicates, the book showed that children cope with divorce, and that its major impact is temporary. Karen taught Wallerstein differently. As a result, Wallerstein revisited the children, now adults, in her study and discovered two key myths that had been believed about divorce.
First, Wallerstein discovered that the belief, “if the parents are happier the children will be happier, too,” is not true. A child’s happiness is not dependent upon the happiness of the parents. According to Wallerstein, children generally “don’t care if Mom and Dad sleep in different beds as long as the family is together.”
Second, Wallerstein exploded the myth that “divorce is a temporary crisis that exerts its most harmful effects on parents and children at the time of the breakup.” Rather,
It’s the many years living in a postdivorce or remarried family that count … feeling sad, lonely, and angry during childhood … traveling alone on airplanes when you’re seven … having no choice how you spend your time. … It’s worrying about your mom and dad for years. … And most tellingly, it’s asking if you can protect your own child from having these same experiences growing up.
Given the damage we know divorce does to children into adulthood, marriage, and the parenting of their own children, the church must consider seriously its response to widespread divorce, even within its own congregations. Yet, I do not believe that responding to divorce is the church’s primary and best help for children. The church must understand, teach and obey biblical instructions concerning marriage.
As Christ loves the church and gave Himself for her, seeking her holiness, so must a husband love his own wife and seek her holiness. Can you imagine a husband who loves his wife this way, seeking her holiness above his own comfort and preferences, filing for no-fault divorce? Doing so is an immediate admission of disobedience to our Lord. Could a wife who lives a life in submission to her husband, praying for him and loving him, file for no-fault divorce?
And in no way can no-fault divorce be reconciled with Scriptural teachings on marriage or on divorce except in the most tortuous and strained bending of God’s Word. But more, when a couple stands in front of a congregation, who are witnesses with God, and vow to God and to each other to keep those vows until death, can the congregation, can the pastor, simply wink when those vows are shattered outside any biblical sanction?
America will not change until the church allows Christ to demand through each church that the biblical standard of marriage be upheld, that husbands obey the command to love their wives, that wives obey the command to reverence their husbands, and that they both sacrifice their own desires in love for their children. So long as we do not obey God’s Word ourselves, the world will not respect us or it, and the children always will be the ones who pay.
See, for example, http://www.businessinsider.com/iowa-republicans-divorce-women-2013-3.
http://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-evolution-of-divorce. Interestingly, Illinois (1984) was almost last, followed only by South Dakota (1985) and Utah (1987), in establishing no-fault divorce, the application of which has varied widely state to state. See http://content.csbs.utah.edu/~fan/fcs5400-6400/studentpresentation2009/04DivorceReadingVinsky.pdf.
See http://www.albertmohler.com/2006/06/09/no-fault-divorce-the-end-of-marriage-2/ and http://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-evolution-of-divorce for an introduction to that.
Judith S. Wallerstein, Julia M. Lewis, and Sandra Blakeslee, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A Twenty-Five Year Landmark Study. (New York: Hyperion, 2000), xiii.
Judith S. Wallerstein and Joan B. Kelly, Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce. (New York: Basic Books, 2008).
Wallerstein, Unexpected Legacy, xxiii.
Ibid., xxv. These findings have been confirmed and affirmed. “Sociological studies have shown that people who experience parental divorce as children, compared with individuals who grow up in continuously intact families, have lower educational attainment (McLanahan, 1985), earn less income (Hill, Augustyniak, & Ponza, 1987), and are more likely to be dependent on welfare (McLanahan, 1988). They are also more likely to bear a child out of wedlock (McLanahan & Bumpass, 1988), get divorced (Glenn & Kramer, 1987), and be the head of a singleparent family (McLanahan, 1988). These problems for adult children of divorce, in turn, may be associated with decrements in psychological well-being (Amato, 1988; Glenn & Kramer, 1985). A recent review of the literature on adult children of divorce has found broad support for the notion that parental divorce has lasting implications for children’s life chances (Amato & Keith, 1991).” http://slatestarcodex.com/Stuff/divorce_paper.pdf. See also, http://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/divorce-and-infidelity/should-i-get-a-divorce/how-could-divorce-affect-my-kids; Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially (New York: Doubleday, 2000); Elizabeth Marquardt, Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce (New York: Crown Publishers, 2005); Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, The Divorce Culture (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997). For a longer, sociological view, see James Q. Wilson, The Marriage Problem: How Culture Has Weakened Families (New York: Harper Collins, 2002).
Beyond divorce, the church’s lack of visible and unabashed commitment to a biblical practice of marriage certainly has reduced friction against America’s move toward the exaltation of fornication and ultimately homosexual “marriage.”
Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1-7; Titus 2:1-6.
Following a pastor who has run well and gone the distance is only a problem for those who lack the character or the stamina to do the same. Taking the baton of leadership from someone who has served the church for 20 years or more is certainly not without daunting challenges and discouraging obstacles, but the advantages of stability—even when “stability” has morphed into apparent intransigence—are usually preferable to following a rapid succession of pastors who did not stay long enough to lead the people in any meaningful sense of the word.
In 1990 at only 30 years old I was called to be the third pastor of the Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. My two predecessors had served for 50 and 23 years respectively. One of them, Clarence Walker, was legendary. Both Jerry Falwell and W. A. Criswell told me about his impact on their lives. My immediate predecessor, Ross Range, was the quintessential pastor, a dignified and refined man who mowed his yard wearing a tie.
The church I now serve, Buck Run, has a very different history, one marked by a long succession of very short pastorates with one notable exception: my immediate predecessor, Dr. Bob Jackson. He served the church twice for a total of two decades (his last tenure was 13 years) and under his expert leadership the church exploded with growth and grace, morphing from a sleepy rural church on the banks of the Elkhorn Creek to one of Kentucky’s most vibrant and missional congregations.
He led Buck Run to found the Romanian American Mission, which today has planted over 400 churches and continues to impact Europe. His emphasis on prayer and evangelism led Thom Rainer to include a chapter, “The Miracle Called Buck Run” in his book on church growth, Eating the Elephant. When Dr. Jackson resigned, many members grieved his departure, even years later.
I am acquainted with the ups and downs, the blessings and not-so-blessings (curses is too strong a word!) of following long-tenured legendary pastors. While I have benefitted from the stability and unity that it brings, I have faced the monolithic intransigence it fosters as well. Here’s what I have learned.Two great challenges
1. You aren’t him.
Furthermore, you are never going to be him. You don’t have his abilities, convictions, wisdom, skills—you can simply fill in the blank here. In fact, church members will do this for you. I lost count of how many times someone looked me in the eye with no intent to hurt or discourage but flatly stated something like, “Now I think you’re really good at __________ , but when it comes to _________ , you’re no (Clarence Walker, Ross Range, Bob Jackson).
Everything in a man wants to defend himself at this point, to point out one’s own strengths and value added, but the best move is simply and humbly to plead guilty. “I aspire to be as great a pastor as my predecessor. He certainly sets the bar very high. Would you commit to pray for me that the Lord might, for His glory, make me the best shepherd that I can be to His flock? I desperately want to be.”
If the goal were to be more loved or revered than the previous pastor, one might have a tough and trying tenure, but the objective is faithfulness, and that lies completely in one’s own control. I do not have to be revered, applauded, or appreciated to be faithful. I simply have to submit to God’s will. The example of my predecessor, even the humiliation of constant reminders that I am not him, motivate me to cast myself on Christ and beg the Holy Spirit to help me be faithful.
2. Preferences become convictions.
The longer a pastor stays and does things a particular way, the less congregations distinguish between biblical mandates and pastoral quirks. Consequently, some members will be prepared to defend the practice to the death when a new pastor suggests an alternative. Children’s ministries, worship styles, Sunday School practices, altar calls, and even the way the offering is received might become sources of tension and division he will encounter.
Since longevity and faithfulness were the source of the last pastor’s credibility, any new pastor would be naïve to think he can make significant changes without enough time to establish them. Some problems—even some people—must be outlived or outlasted. No pastor gets a shortcut to character or credibility because they are forged in the furnace of life and experience.Two great benefits
1. Stability means predictability.
Long-tenured pastorates usually indicate a stable church family. A pastor typically does not have new crises that threaten his position arise after about 10 years. Through the years of his ministry those who opposed him left or changed, and every new member came in at least partly because they resonated with him. The effect is that over the course of years, the congregation coalesces behind the pastor’s leadership and enjoys great unity.
While a new pastor certainly will feel the pressure of change and even of possibly disappointing all those people, he also has a church with established patterns and habits that make them predictable. Whatever challenges follow a long and successful tenure, they aren’t as bad as those presented by the church that cycled through 10 pastors in 20 years. Those churches grow accustomed to instability. They typically place far more trust in key lay leaders than in any pastor because so many pastors come and go while a key leader or two seem constant and dependable. That kind of congregation may even see those lay leaders as their protectors from pastoral overreach and vicissitudes.
While one can always find exceptions, the general result is that the steadiness of a church accustomed to a long pastorate is easier to lead than the instability of one that has cycled through multiple short tenures. In the strength and consistency of the former, a pastor will at least get the opportunity to build bonds and relationships in a congregation that knows what long-term commitment looks like.
2. They know how to overlook faults.
Like any lasting committed relationship, the bonds between a pastor and a congregation work best when they love one another across their differences and disappointments. Frankly, the necessary skill is even more stark than that. People in happy relationships that endure acquire the ability not even to notice one another’s faults. Pastors will find that true in church life as in marriage, otherwise, no pastor could last long because all men have great flaws.
Following a pastor who stayed at a church a long time means, at the very least, that this church learned how to follow a man in spite of himself and his weaknesses. Greater still, they may have learned to love him so much that they didn’t notice or dwell on his flaws. If they have done that for one man of God, perhaps they can learn to do it for another.Two great moves
1. Never criticize your predecessor.
If he went insane one night and slaughtered a local herd of goats with a machete, you brag on his ability to sharpen a blade. That may be an overstatement, but the point of the hyperbole is to drive home a hard and fast rule: just don’t criticize him at all. Find the good things that you can say about him and say those things even if they are small. Do not be fooled by the church members who feel comfortable criticizing him to you. They will still think you petty and insecure if you join in. Just don’t do it. Ever. You gain nothing and lose a great deal.
Even if a predecessor did much worthy of criticism, anyone who follows him should leave that to the Lord and others to judge. No successive pastor ever had to suffer criticism because he was not critical enough. A man with a lengthy tenure did enough right things that he survived all the business meetings, crises, funerals, deacon elections, and church splits for a long time. Do not discount that. Even if his tenure ended in shame and sin, speak only of your commitment to purity and transparency, but never in contrast to him. Everyone either already knows the truth about him, thus you need not say it, or they believe him to be better than he is, and you only anger and frustrate them when you say it.
If you are blessed to follow a man who was faithful and honorable and whose service ended well, then thank God for him, honor him, bless him, and speak well of him openly and often. I have been blessed to follow men of character and distinction in my pastorates, and I have taken every opportunity to praise them sincerely, thank God for them, and invite them back for special occasions. Even after the death of Dr. Jackson, when we dedicated our new campus 13 years after he left, I publicly thanked God for him and made sure that his widow and family were present to receive our gratitude and honor and to witness the continuing fruit of his ministry. Honoring my predecessors has never taken anything from my leadership. To the contrary, it has added value and leadership currency.
The people who were loyal to my predecessors did not see me as an interloper trying to deprive their beloved pastor of his legacy, but as a fellow admirer and a grateful servant happy to build on the great foundation that they laid. They easily and quickly gave me that same loyalty and respect because I gave them permission to keep loving the man who had shepherded their hearts faithfully. I learned long ago that people have a great capacity to love and I don’t even have to be their favorite pastor so long as I am a faithful pastor.
2. Stay a long time and be faithful.
Every time I had someone give me the “you’re no Bob Jackson” speech, I knew that if I would just be faithful to love the people, preach the Word, and point people to Christ, the day would come in which someone looks at my successor and says, “You know, you’re a good guy, and we like you, but you’re no Hershael York.”
In all candor, I take no solace that anyone might ever be compared unfavorably to me, but I understand human nature well enough to know that will happen if I am a faithful shepherd who walks through life with the precious people God has entrusted to my care. After a few years of preaching the Word, loving the people, and shepherding hearts, I have earned trust and leadership collateral, and, I pray, so will my successor. So I end where I began: following a pastor who has run well and gone the distance is only a problem for those who lack the character or the stamina to do the same.
What is the purpose of life? How does work fit into the purpose? As a college student I spent many hours contemplating these important questions and many others, such as:
- Do we have free will or are we predestined?
- What is the best form of worship- hymns or praise songs?
- How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
Maybe you have asked some of these same burning questions? ...