Recent generations of pastors have suffered from a ministerial identity crisis. Some pastors see themselves as the organizers and promoters or programs to attract more people into the church’s walls while others see themselves as showmen who seek to bring in large crowds with an ever-increasing array of stunts.
What many pastors seem to have lost is a biblical understanding of the role of the pastor. The marketer, the organizer, and the showmen have come in vogue because we have lost our connection with the biblical vision for pastoral ministry.
To regain a biblical view of the ministry, we need to reengage with a variety of biblical texts that show the multi-faceted work of the pastor. While we immediately of the Pastoral Epistles as the first stop on this exercise, we also need to give attention to various Old Testament texts. In particular, the book of Ezekiel gives us three images of the work of the pastor—the watchman, the shepherd, and the debater. This article will focus on the image of the pastor as a watchman.
The prophet as watchman in Ezekiel
In Ezekiel 3:16-21, the Lord introduces Ezekiel to the gravity of his task as a prophet. He tells Ezekiel he is to act as a watchman on the wall, conveying whatever words of warning the Lord delivers to Israel. He will not be held responsible for the reaction of the people. Whether they repent and return to the Lord or continue in their rebellion, Ezekiel’s only task is the delivery of the message. If they do not repent because they ignored the warning, their blood is on their own heads.
However, if they do not repent because Ezekiel did not declare God’s word to them, they will still die. In addition, Ezekiel will hear the fateful words, “his blood I will require at your hands.” He cannot repent for the people or ensure their repentance, he his only responsible to proclaim the Lord’s word to them.
The apostle as watchman in the New Testament
When Paul speaks to the Ephesian elders at Miletus in Acts 20, his words show that he carries this same sense of responsibility before the Lord to convey God’s word to perishing souls. He tells them that he is “innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” In watchman-like fashion, Paul recognized that all men everywhere need to repent, so all need to hear the whole counsel of God. Therefore, he preached this message whenever and wherever he could. Because of this, he was not responsible for what people did with the Gospel once they heard it, but he was responsible to get it to them.
The pastor as watchman in the New Testament
The writer of Hebrews echoes this language in chapter 13 when he tells the believers to whom he is writing that they should obey their leaders and submit to them. Then he says pastors keep watch over the souls of these believers and will give an account. He stresses that church leaders will stand before the Lord and answer to him for how they watched over the souls of the people who were committed to their care.
The Pastor as watchman today
Pastors today also bear this responsibility to act as watchmen on the wall who deliver God’s word to his people and keep watch over their souls. This first manifests itself in three particular areas.
1. Public proclamation
In our entertainment-driven and therapeutic culture, we face the temptation to minimize the preaching of the word for more “exciting” elements and to reduce our sermons to mini counseling sessions that give people practical tips for how to get along in life.
Instead, we must labor to lay God’s word before God’s people in all of its fullness. We stand under the divine obligation to open up God’s word, proclaim its meaning and message, and apply it to the hearts of his people.
2. Personal discipleship
If we exercise our calling as watchman in the pulpit only, we fulfill it only in part. Therefore, we must also carry out this mandate in personal pastoral ministry. Richard Baxter reminds us of this when he says, “You may study long, but preach to little purpose, unless you also have a pastoral ministry.” Baxter does not diminish the role of the pulpit, but points us to the importance of one on one discipleship, encouragement, and discipline.
The faithful pastor meets with people to teach them the Scriptures and help them learn how to follow Jesus with greater faithfulness. He warns brothers and sisters who stray into sin and shows them the beauty of repentance. He also comes alongside the tired and the broken to encourage them.
3. Pastoral watchfulness
The people the Lord has entrusted to our care will often walk through discouragement, pain, and sin without our having any idea what is happening to them. We assume they will come talk to us when things get tough, but experience proves this assumption to be false. Therefore, pastors must go to their people to find out how they can pray for them and how they can help them.
Warn them of dangers ahead
In his book The Shepherd-Leader, Timothy Witmer suggests two questions the pastor can consistently ask that will create opportunities for good discussions. “How are you doing?” and “How can I pray for you?” Often, the answer will be “We are doing great” and “I can’t of think of anything you should pray for us about.” Other times, these questions will be an open door inviting them to tell us about the difficulties through which they are walking. This gives us an opportunity to come in with the encouragement and help that they need. Faithful watchmen must be proactive shepherds.
The greatest dangers that people face are the ones that they don’t know anything about. When the pastor acts as a watchman, faithfully preaching, discipling, and shepherding; he warns people of the danger they face and helps them walk through the darkest valleys.
People often ignore the watchman or disregard his words, but this does not deter the faithful pastor. We pray, we preach, we teach, we disciple, and we ask pointed questions. Then we lie down and go to sleep, trusting the Lord to accomplish his purpose through his Word.
The post Pastor, don’t forget you are a watchman on the walls appeared first on Southern Equip.
Undoubtedly, Christians in America should be commended for the growth of missions in the last two to three decades, and specifically the growth in short-term mission trips (STMs). In 1989, there were 120,000 American “short-term missionaries.” This number has exploded to 2.2 million at a cost of $1.6 billion in 2006. This statistic comes from authors Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert in their somewhat controversial book, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor … and Yourself. The natural question that the authors consider—and one that we all should as well—is whether we are being good stewards of God’s money and resources with each STM.
Although it might surprise you, given that I grew up with a famous apologist father, my parents asked me more questions than they gave me answers. My parents did not want me to believe something simply on authority, but because I had good reasons for believing it was true. They certainly wanted me to become a Christian, but they were also deeply interested in helping me learn how to think critically for myself and to confidently arrive at truth ...
The grind of the 9 to 5 work life has perplexed many a believer who sometimes stops to wonder, “Is this all there is?”
No doubt, since the Fall of Humanity (Genesis 3), work has indeed become something altogether different than God intended prior to our expulsion from Eden. Even so, many believers may come to wrongly conclude that work is, well, just “work.” But nothing could be further from the truth.
Work matters ...
The post Conflicts Within, Wars Without, and the LORD’s Mediated Provision appeared first on Southern Equip.
They were pretty while they lasted, I suppose. For Valentine’s Day, I had given Pamela an arrangement of flowers. The florist had included some red roses, a few pink carnations, and, since it’s one of her favorite colors, a selection of lavender flowers. She liked them. Onto her desk at the office they went, and eventually, they made their way home, where she displayed them for a few more days, fussing over their care.
But it wasn’t long before I found myself one evening washing my hands at the kitchen sink. I looked over to where she had placed the flowers. For a moment, water dripping from my fingers, I grieved. They were gone. They had not been able to sustain their beauty. Once, we savored their perfume; but not that night. The space they had brightened was now dark. Gloom replaced the color they had once brought to our home. Their promise of cheer had been rescinded.
“He was right,” I said, too quietly for Pamela to hear. “Flowers do fade.” And as my heart once again ached with the memory of a loved one’s death, I added, “Yeah, and so do we.”
“He,” of course, is God, speaking through his prophet, Isaiah:
A voice says, “Call out.” Then he answered, “What shall I call out?” All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40:6-8)
Here, the prophet, like Job and the psalmist before him (Job 14:2; Psalm 102:11; 103:15-16) and James and Peter after him (James 1:10; 1 Peter 1:24), compares the bitterness of human mortality to the frailty of the fields. The beauty of both flesh and flower decomposes. This was Paul’s point as well when he writes of all creation groaning until it is released from its “bondage to decay” and God’s children experience the resurrection of their bodies that had returned to the dust that they always had been (Romans 8:21-23; Genesis 3:19). This is the sad, desperate, withering condition of the fallen creation.
But one line in verse 8 of Isaiah 40 stands in heartening contrast to this hopeless condition: “but the word of our God stands forever.” Although the destiny of all fields and flesh is decay, for they have no ability to restrain time’s onslaught of decomposition, one thing laughs at time and remains unthreatened, unmoved, unchanged: God’s Word.
The immutable Word of the God of Israel and Isaiah does not whither; it does not fade, decompose or decay. It is not transitory. It stands forever. Or, in the words of our Lord, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). In contrast to those things that God created in the beginning, the words of Jesus endure; they do not perish.
We should not be surprised by any of this. The contrast that is drawn, by both the prophet and the Lord, is one between the creation, the creature, and the words of the Creator. This contrast is foundational to the record of creation given in the first chapter of Genesis. As Moses describes how God created the heavens and the earth and all that fills them, he repeats the key refrain, “God said…” 10 times. In other words, God creates by the power of His Word; by speaking. The universe is made, comes into being, and exists by His Word. The Word of God is the foundation, the cause of all creation. Repeatedly, the Bible gives witness to the creative activity of God’s Word.
We can now return to Isaiah 40:8 and Matthew 24:35 with deeper understanding. God’s Word eternally stands and does not perish—that is, it is imperishable because it is not part of those things that were created, that are temporal, and that have a beginning and an end. The Word of the Lord created; it is not a frail creature. It does not share the creature’s disappointing destiny of decay. It comes forth from the one who is eternal and, therefore, it is eternally steady. Also, as uncreated, God’s Word does not share other creaturely attributes, such as fallibility or capacity for error. Unlike human beings, who are constantly in flux, repeatedly wavering between accuracy and inaccuracy, and once born, already dwindling, God’s Word is not untrustworthy or transitory.
When Bible critics, then, deny the Bible’s credibility in matters of history or science, or insist that its perspective is inconsistent, contradictory or obsolete, they attribute creaturely traits to that which has not been created. Creatures (human beings) have been used of God to speak and write down His Word in different human languages and in diverse human cultures, so the Bible certainly has a human dimension. However, the Bible testifies of itself that even though its human authors unquestionably composed it within time and space and it remains a collection of ancient and culturally bound human words, the Creator so acted as to ensure that, miraculously, it remained, dependably, God’s Word. (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-13).
So, when reviews like that of Jim Hinch’s 2016 essay “Evangelicals are Losing the Battle for the Bible. And They’re Just Fine with It” appear, we might take note of the disappointing trajectory, but we need not reconsider the Bible’s inspiration or inerrancy. And when, for example, Hinch relates as emblematic the opinion of a 25-year-old “evangelical” director of a pastoral training center who rejects inerrancy, we should not assume a creaturely weakness in Scripture’s nature, but recognize the disappointing fallacy in this young man’s faith. The inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture are corollaries of its nature as the Creator’s Word.
Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28.
Psalm 33:6, 9; 148:5; Hebrews 11:3; 2 Peter 3:5.
Los Angeles Review of Books, 15 February 2016.
Family worship can be daunting. After all, many of us didn’t grow up in homes where family worship was practiced, so we do not really know what it looks like. Additionally, most of us aren’t pastors, so we do not have experience in leading worship. If family worship is like leading a daily mini-church service in our home, then this would be a challenge for anyone to lead!
So let me begin by reassuring you that family worship was never intended to be complex. It can be as simple as gathering together to read Scripture and pray before bed. What’s more, there are many resources out there to help you get started. But let me get the ball rolling by providing some ideas for you to use in practicing family worship.
Sing a song
Our God is worthy to be praised through song! Why not sing a song together? I like the idea of choosing songs that our children will be singing in church on the Lord’s Day, so you can get a copy of the hymnal that your church uses. Or you can bring home a church bulletin and search for the lyrics of the songs on the internet and print them out. A few years ago, my family moved to singing the psalms in family worship, so we bought a psalter that we use.
If you can’t play a musical instrument, don’t worry—my wife doesn’t play piano and I can’t play guitar! Your voices will glorify God, and this is what matters most. You can also play CDs with hymns or worship music to help you learn to sing new songs. Obviously, your goal isn’t to win a singing competition, it is to worship God as a family. And singing in the home will help build confidence when you sing with the church during corporate worship.
You may not be called as a preacher, but you can open God’s Word and read it to your family. You can simply choose a book of the Bible and begin reading a paragraph or a chapter each morning or each night. You can leave time to answer questions, and if you don’t always have the answers, then this gives you the opportunity to learn more about the Christian faith. Let me tell you, children can ask some tricky questions!
If you want to take the next step and give a brief devotional from Scripture, then there are many books and online materials to provide you with support. To provide just one recent example, Reformation Heritage Books recently released a Family Worship Bible Guide. You can also read out of a story Bible like David Helm’s The Big Picture Story Bible (for young children) or Catherine Vos’ The Child’s Story Bible (for older children).
You can add to this time in Scripture by choosing a memory verse to learn together. It can be chosen from the passage read, or you could use a verse memorization program. Whatever your approach, the family can encourage one another and hold each other accountable by memorizing verses together.
Ask catechism questions
One other way to help your family understand God’s Word is through using a catechism. Through this method of instruction, you ask questions and allow your children to give the answers. Our goal was always to have our children memorize the correct answer word-for-word before moving on to the next question, so we might spend a week or more on one question, but by the end of this time, they knew the answer well and could give it without our help.
Over the years, Baptists have produced a number of biblically faithful and edifying catechisms. Founders Ministries has a series of Truth and Grace (TAG) Memory Books available. Grace Baptist Church in Carlisle, Pennsylvania has produced a Catechism for Young Children, and there are many good historical catechisms such as Keach’s Baptist Catechism and Spurgeon’s Catechism. There is no shortage of ways that you can learn God’s truth through tools like these.
Finally, your family worship should include a time of praying together. You can go around the room and ask each person in your family to pray, or you can ask everyone for at least one thing to be thankful for and one thing to pray about before leading prayer yourself. You can also use one of the psalms or another Scripture passage as a prayer, or you can pray using The Valley of Vision. But however you decide to pray, you will want to draw near to the throne of grace as a family, giving Him thanks for His many blessings and asking for help in time of need.
Yes, family worship is a commitment, and commitments can be challenging to meet and maintain. But when we are faithful to God in bringing our family together to worship Him, we are fulfilling the very purpose for which He created us. What could be more important?
Donald Whitney offers helpful encouragement in his excellent book Family Worship, including this reminder: “In family worship, be brief, be regular, and be flexible” (75, 76). Typically, my family’s worship lasts for about 10 to 15 minutes in the evening. Do we miss nights? Yes. Have our methods changed over the years? Sure. But we cannot stay focused on our struggles and failures. So we pray for help and look forward to another day of leading our family to worship our glorious God.
My story is like many others. When my wife and I got married and came to the United States, we told our parents that we would be back in two years. Our plan was to study at a seminary in Dallas and after our graduation to return to the city where we were born, grew up, and where most of our relatives and friends live. 19 years later we still live in the United States and most likely we will never go back permanently. Just like has happened to many others, through the years our temporary residency here became a permanent one ...
3 Questions with Daniel B. Wallace, professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary; author, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics
How has A.T. Robertson’s A Grammar of the Greek New Testament impacted your study of the language?
I have two copies of his magnum opus — one at school and one at home. Robertson was a brilliant grammarian with an intuitive sense of how the language worked. He was one of the first to recognize how important the non-literary papyri were for New Testament studies. I have devoured his masterpiece several times. Not only his big grammar, but his journal articles and other books have impacted me. His command of the literature was most impressive, and his devotion to our Lord is clearly seen in his academic work. That may have impacted me the most: Here was a man who did not divorce his mind from his heart, but loved God with both fully.
If you could meet Robertson in person, what would you discuss?
I would want to know why he held so tenaciously to the eight-case system and his relationship with some of the great biblical scholars of his day. His correspondence is extensive with many of the world’s finest scholars. Did he know these men personally? What was Debrunner like? What about Deissman, Sanday and Headlam, Warfield, Moulton? The list goes on.
Finally, I would want to know what his time commitments looked like. How was he able to write so much, minister so much, know so many languages, and yet be a humble servant of Christ?
What are your favorite movies, TV shows, and non-academic books?
movies: The Untouchables; Raiders of the Lost Ark.
As for TV shows, I really don’t watch them that much. But the old Mission Impossible and the more recent Monk have been my favorites for a long time.
Frankly, I don’t read many non-academic books. But I enjoy, from time to time, biographies of movers and shakers (e.g., Malcolm X, Jean Paul Sartre, C. H. Dodd, Adolf Hitler) and histories — especially histories about World War II and the Civil War. I’m not a big fan of fiction, except for some of C. S. Lewis’s works (e.g., Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, The Chronicles of Narnia).
The study of Arabic at Southern Seminary goes back much further than its recent renewal in the 2014-2015 academic session. “At SBTS, we have realized the significance of studying Arabic and Islam as early as 1877,” said Ayman Ibrahim, Southern Seminary professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic, emphasizing the importance of this study for Southern’s past and future impact on the nations. “Our rich heritage drives our strong conviction today: We want to communicate the gospel with Arabic speakers, particularly Muslims, using their own language.”
The 1868-1869 academic catalog notes that a new professor, Crawford H. Toy, was elected to be professor of interpretation of the Old Testament and Oriental Languages. Starting with the 1869-1870 session, it is recorded that “Instruction in other Shemitic [sic] languages is given to those who desire it.” In 1877-1878, however, the institution began to offer “Collateral and Post-graduate Studies,” which included courses in Arabic, Syriac, Ethiopic, “and other languages cognate to Hebrew, and Sanskrit, which is so important to a thorough knowledge of Greek and of English.” At this point in SBTS history, students had the opportunity to be instructed in a multitude of ancient Semitic languages, though this was reversed in the succeeding decades.
Within two years the availability of courses changed as Toy resigned on account of his heterodox views of biblical inspiration. While the course listing for the senior Hebrew class retained that “Instruction in other Shemitic [sic] languages is given to those who desire it” in the 1879-1880 catalog, the “Collateral and Post-graduate Studies” section omitted Arabic and Ethiopic.
For 10 years a course in Arabic was not offered. The 1889-1890 catalog included a description for an Arabic class comprised of three students. The instructor was not named until the 1893-1894 catalog, in which the description of the course changed significantly (shown in bold):
Arabic. – Lansing’s Arabic Manual is used as a textbook. Special work on the Life of Mahomet, the Composition of the Koran and the History of Islam is done by different members of the class. Special attention is given to the relations between Hebrew and Arabic. About thirty-five suras of the Koran have been studied critically during the present session. Lexicons are furnished from the Library. – Prof. Sampey.
In his memoirs, President John R. Sampey recorded a summer study in 1893 under W.R. Harper at Episcopal Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. The study included reading suras from the Koran. Sampey commented on teaching the following academic term that “One of the best ways to make progress in any field is to teach it.” It is clear from Sampey’s life, his notebook, and course descriptions that the instruction of Arabic was not purely academic, but also evangelistic.
The aforementioned textbook, Lansing’s An Arabic Manual (1886), was donated together with the Arabic New Testament and a lexicon by Southern Seminary professor Basil Manly Jr. The Koran and another lexicon were donated by Southern Seminary founder James P. Boyce. Other very interesting resources Sampey’s classes used are housed in the SBTS Archives and Special Collections.
Until the 1948-1949 academic year a course in Arabic remained in the catalogs. After this it was only studied under John J. Owens, a professor of Old Testament, as part of a seminar in Old Testament Language, focusing on comparative languages, offered from the 1956-1957 session until the closing of the 1969-1970 academic terms, then Arabic was not offered at all for 44 years.
The seminary community should celebrate Southern’s recent renewal of the study of Arabic as both academics and as disciples of Christ, so that we may share the gospel with Arabic speakers — and Muslims in general — without forgetting the rich heritage we share with earlier alumni.
More information on the Arabic materials housed in the Boyce Centennial Library is available in the Archives & Special Collections office on the second floor.
¹Aramaic has always been instructed at SBTS, but at times Assyrian, Chaldean, Coptic and Syriac were taught in addition to Arabic.
²John R. Sampey, Persons and Institutions I have Loved, Volume 1, 85, 88.
³“Arabic lessons copied by John R. Sampey from Arabic Studies by William R. and Robert F. Harper [and other notes],” Archives and Special Collections, James P. Boyce Centennial Library, SBTS.
4Sampey, Persons and Institutions, Volume 1, 41. In reference to the notebook, the vocabulary words chosen in conjunction with the translation exercises of Scripture definitely seem to indicate that the course was sensitive to evangelism. Later course descriptions reveal students
Dear Dr. Craig,
I have some questions on the issue of eternity and God. I understand that you hold to the view of God as timeless "before" creation and in time ever since ...
One of the most significant implications from Hebrews 13:17 (giving account for souls) I was grateful to learn early in ministry was that I don’t have the right to dislike and refuse to care for someone’s soul that God had entrusted to me. This is important to realize as pastors because we all have those who despise us in our congregations; those we have upset by something we said or did; that we will still give an account for when we stand before God.
As you read this, some of you may be thinking these kinds of people are a good reason to leave and start over, but they are actually a good reason to stay and endure. Why are these difficult people a good reason to stay and endure?
A former foe
I was reminded of this while reflecting on a hospital visit I made several years ago to see an elderly lady who almost died, but was beginning to make a slow recovery. Years ago, she publicly attacked and slandered me in front of the whole church. Not my biggest fan. Although the tensions had calmed down the last few years, I didn’t expect a great deal of warmth from her.
I sat with this woman and had the most encouraging and pleasant visit with her. She was warm, kind, and gracious to me. She praised me for caring for her and the church so well over the years. Just as I started to intently look for the “candid camera” that had been planted, she reached to hug me as I left. When she died a few years later I preached her funeral.
The joy of endurance
Unable to humanly explain anything I had experienced that day, God reminded me of one of the greatest joys of staying and enduring with these people. As we endure the criticism, complaints, and verbal attacks, and try to love and care for the souls of those who attack us, God in his grace might allow us to eventually win them over.
What a powerful testimony of the power of God at work in his shepherd and sheep when he does this. It is not the first time God has allowed me to experience this, and I can definitely say it ranks as one of the great joys I now experience in pastoral ministry with my congregation.
Pastors, hold fast to what you know to be true and right. Love those who love you as you love those who don’t–at least right now. However, don’t be surprised when you wake up one day (years from now) and find that a church member who has been cold to you for years suddenly has warmed up.
I leave you with these stunningly wise words from Richard Baxter on why we should especially care for the souls of those who despise us:
“Even the stoutest sinners will hear us on their death bed, though they scorned us before.”
The post Why should you stay a long time in the same church? appeared first on Southern Equip.
Mi historia se parece a muchas otras. Cuando mi esposa y yo nos casamos y nos vinimos a vivir a los Estados Unidos les dijimos a nuestros padres que en dos años regresaríamos. El plan era estudiar en un seminario en Dallas y al término del programa regresar a la ciudad en la que crecimos y en donde viven la mayoría de nuestra familia y amigos. 19 años después seguimos viviendo en los Estados Unidos y lo más seguro es que nuestro regreso ya nunca se dé. Como a tantos otros les ha pasado, nuestra estadía temporal se ha ido convirtiendo en definitiva al paso de los años ...