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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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STANDING FIRM IN THE WORD

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV)

I recently heard that a pastor in a church I am familiar with was asked to resign by his elders. He did the right thing and Samuel A Cainhumbly resigned. When the elders, in a church meeting, later explained their decision to the congregation, they used language like; “Many thought he was teaching too much about works,” and others said, “He didn’t preach many sermons they found comforting.” It was obvious that some people were uncomfortable with his teachings on God’s sovereignty. Others did not like that he taught revelation is found only in the Bible – not in the phrase, “God told me ….” 

Having heard this pastor preach many times, I can say that his sermons were always full of grace. As to the elders’ comment about works – I think they have confused this with his frequent calls to holy living and gospel progress. He always urged his congregation to become more like Christ that they might glorify Him by the way they lived. Continue reading

The Good Pastor

I have no doubt that it is much easier to write about what a good pastor should be than it is to live up to the expectations. I almost attended seminary once about 25 years ago. I believed that God was creating the providential circumstances to encourage me to become a preacher/pastor. People told me that they believed they were really learning the Bible when I filled the pulpit for an absent pastor or taught an adult Sunday School class. The seminary even offered me a 75% scholarship and a part-time job working in the education department if I would attend their school. As all this was coming together, the Lord made it clear to me one day that I was not pastor material. You see, I could teach a lesson or preach a sermon, but I did not have in my nature the social skills that a pastor must possess to demonstrate how much he personally cares for and loves the members of his congregation. My ability, by God’s grace, to teach or preach and my good listening and counseling skills were simply not enough to serve God in the capacity of a pastor over a church. I began to understand that my “calling” was to be a Bible teacher working with adult classes or small groups. This was the way for me to develop personal relationships in which I could also grow in Christ.

So, when I look for a good pastor – just what am I expecting to see? You cannot give a good pastor too much credit. A pastor is a man with many tasks set before him; however, his primary task is the preaching of the Gospel. God uses him to build the church and to assist in converting sinners. The pastor is to expound and explain the truths found in the Scriptures (including doctrines) and to guide men to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. A true pastor is a man of mercy from a God Who loves us.

The Bible must be preached to the mind and heart. It must be understood as well as felt. A pastor must understand his congregation’s intellectual ability. He should know that many of his flock are weighed down with the troubles of life. All must be considered if his preaching is to be successful. All men and women want to hear preaching that will warm their hearts with the love of Christ; to be encouraged as they face their troubles; and to be armored against temptations. It is a grand mistake to preach exclusively for intellectuals or the illiterate. The object of preaching is to focus attention on the subject of the preaching; not the pastor, but Jesus Christ our Savior.

The pastor in the pulpit should not come across as a cold fish. His preaching should make the congregation feel the power of God’s Truth. The preacher must devote time to discovering the true meaning of his selected text. He must be zealous to show forth the burning truths that he has learned in his studies. The pastor must cultivate his thought and speech to the utmost, but it must all be for the glory of God.

A good pastor will read much, meditate on God’s Word and pray much for God to bless his preaching and his congregation. He will do his best every time he preaches to exalt Christ and save men’s souls. After all, he is preaching to dying men. Who knows if someone is listening to the last sermon he will ever hear! The pastor must take into account all the sudden sicknesses and accidents that may occur to prevent members from attending church again. With that in mind, his congregation must witness the love of Christ in their pastor’s conduct.

The great value of a man’s immortal soul should motivate all Christians to passion and faithfulness; especially the pastor. The salvation of one soul merits the focused attention of your life, strength, and your most faithful labors. The pastor will one day have to give an account for the souls that have been under his ministry. The author of Hebrews reminds us: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” (Hebrews 13:17 ESV)

In conclusion, I recognize that there are many more duties a Pastor performs than what has been mentioned here; but pastors I admonish you before Jesus Christ to remember that you are called to preach the truth of God. You are to preach the whole truth even if it is unpopular in your age. Your message must be absolute Bible truth. Don’t wander into the assertions of popular magazines, the trends that are in, or copying other churches because they are popular and have big crowds. If you are faithful in preaching God’s Word and ministering to your congregation, the Holy Spirit will build a Christian Church.

The Prideful Pastor

Richard Baxter speaks here of pastors who hold their dignity and intellect in too high esteem. They consider themselves (though they would never admit it) the final arbiter of what God wants of the church and its people. Baxter writes:

[Pastors beware that] so high are our spirits, that when it becomes a duty to any man to reprove or contradict us, we are commonly impatient both of the matter and of the manner. We love the man that will say as we say, and be of our opinion, and promote our reputation, though he is less worthy of our love in other respects; but he is ungrateful to us that contradicts us, and differs from us, and that deals plainly with us in our miscarriages, and telleth us of our faults!” Especially in the management of our public arguings, where the eye of the world is upon us, we can scarcely endure any contradiction or plain dealing. I know that railing language is to be abhorred, and that we should be as tender of each other’s reputation as our fidelity to the truth will permit: but our pride makes too many of us to think all men condemn us that do not admire us, yea, and admire all that we say, and submit their judgments to our most palpable mistakes! We are so tender, that no man can touch us scarcely but we are hurt; and so stout and high-minded, that a man can scarcely speak to us . . . And a man that is not versed in complimenting, and skilled in flattery above the vulgar rate, can scarcely tell how to handle them so observantly, and fit their expectations at every turn, but there will be some word or some neglect which their high spirits will fasten, and take as injurious to their honor: so that a plain countryman that speaks as he thinks must have nothing to do with them, unless he will be esteemed guilty of dishonoring them.

I confess I have often wondered at it, that this most heinous sin should be made so light of, and thought so consistent with a holy frame of heart and life, when far lesser sins are by ourselves proclaimed to be so damnable in our people! And more have I wondered to see the difference between ungodly sinners and godly preachers in this respect. When we speak to drunkards, worldlings, or any ignorant, unconverted men, we disgrace them as in that condition to the utmost, and lay it on as plainly as we can speak, and tell them of their sin, and shame, and misery: and we expect, not only that they should bear all patiently, but take all thankfully, and we have good reasons for all this; and most that I deal with do take it patiently; and many gross sinners will commend the closest preachers most, and will say that they care not for hearing a man that will not tell them plainly of their sins. But if we speak to a godly minister against his errors or any sin – if we honor them and reverence them, and speak as smoothly as we are able to speak – yea, if we mix commendations with our contradictions or reproofs, if the applause be not apparently predominant, so as to drown all the force of the reproof or confutation, and if it be not more an applause than a reprehension, they take it as an injury almost insufferable. . . .

Brethren, I know this is a sad and harsh confession; but that all this should be so among us, should be more grievous to us than to be told of it. Could this nakedness be hid, I should not have disclosed it, “We have dishonored ourselves by idolizing our honor” at least so openly in the view of all. But, alas! It is long ago open in the eyes of the world: we print our shame, and preach our shame, and tell it unto all. Some will think that I speak over charitably to call such persons godly men, in whom so great a sin doth so much prevail. I know where it is indeed predominant, and not hated, bewailed, and mortified in the man, there can be no true godliness; and I leave every man to a cautious jealousy and search of his own heart. But if all are graceless that are guilty of any, or many, or most of the aforementioned discoveries of pride, the Lord be merciful to the ministers of this land, and give us quickly another spirit; for grace is a rarer thing than most of us have supposed it to be. (From the book: The Reformed Pastor)

Pastors Called To Watch Their Egos

Richard Baxter

In this excerpt, Richard Baxter addresses a problem that has its root in the natural man but also often afflicts church leadership. It is easy for personal pride to be elevated in those who have authority in the church. Some govern themselves and their behavior well while others see themselves anointed by divine right. The latter attitude leads to many problems in the church. Baxter writes:

It comes to pass, that men [many pastors and teachers] so magnify their own opinions, and are as censorious of any that differ from them in lesser things, as if it were all one to differ from them and from God; and expect that all should be conformed to their judgments, as if they were the rulers of the Church’s faith! And while we cry down Papal infallibility and determination of controversies, we would, too many of us, be popes ourselves, and have all stand to our determination, as if it were infallible.

It is true, we have more modesty than expressly to say so: we pretend that it is only the evidence of truth that appears in our reasons that we expect men should yield to, and our zeal is for the truth, and not for ourselves: but as that must needs be taken for truth which is ours, so our reasons must needs be taken for valid; and if they be freely examined, and found to be infirm and fallacious, and so discovered, as we are exceeding backward to see it ourselves, because they are ours, so how angry are we that it should be disclosed to others! We so espouse the cause of our errors, as if all that were spoken against them were spoken against our persons, and we were heinously injured to have our arguments fully confuted, by which we injured the truth and the minds of men!

So that the matter is come to that pass through our pride, that if an error or fallacious argument does fall under the patronage of a reverend name, (which is no whit rare,) we must either give it the victory and give away the truth, or else become injurious to the name that doth patronize it. For though you meddle not with their persons, yet do they put themselves under all the strokes which you give their arguments, and feel [narcissism] it as sensibly as if you had spoken it of themselves, because they think it will follow in the eyes of men, that weak arguing is a sign of a weak man. If, therefore, you take it for your duty to shame their errors and false reasonings, by discovering their nakedness, they take it as if you shamed their persons; and so their names must be a garrison or fortress to their mistakes and their reverence must defend all their sayings from the light. (From the book: The Reformed Pastor)

Watering Down The Gospel

John Newton

Quoting Church of England Pastor, preacher and writer, former slave trader John Newton (1725-1807):

“The Bible is the grand repository … It is the complete system of divine truth, to which nothing can be added, and from which nothing can be taken, with impunity. Every attempt to disguise or soften any branch of this truth, in order to accommodate it to the prevailing taste around us, either to avoid the displeasure, or to court the favor of our fellow mortals, must be an affront to the majesty of God, and an act of treachery to men.” (The Works of John Newton)

Proof Of The Resurrection Of Jesus

The One Minute Apologist is Bobby Conway. Bobby serves as the Lead Pastor of LIFE Fellowship Church in Lake Norman, NC.

A Pastor’s Confessions

The following article is composed of excerpts from “A Pastor’s Secret Heart” published by The Banner of Truth Magazine, no. 235, April 1983. I think that it is good for those of us who are laypeople in the church to consider the reality and difficulty of a minister’s life. Toward this end, I suggest you read and consider the following article very carefully:

Our experience of the pastoral ministry stretches back to an ordination in the late fifties, and during the ensuing years we have fed and shepherded three congregations. . . .

In the sweep of these years since ordination, that is, from youth to our middle years, we can see two categories of experience, the bad and the good. Perhaps most of us, in our more public thoughts, are accustomed to concentrate upon the good and we give much emphasis to the privilege of our calling (of which none should be in doubt). But it is possible that, by taking stock of the bad, by facing it honestly, we may arrive at a deeper appreciation of the good. . . .

For us, at least, these are more difficult days than were those of the late fifties. Partly this derives from our youth being gone, because many will make allowances for a young man where none is made for the pastor with grey at his temples, and with heavy eyes. The most obdurate listener will entertain some hope that the youthful preacher will ‘change’, whereas no such hope will shield the same preacher in his later years from the barbs of those hard hearers. (We would here thank God for the love and understanding of those many Christian people, who, with courtesy and encouragement, have warmed even to our most immature utterances!)

But these are also more difficult days than former ones because of developments in society itself. Respect for authority generally, and respect for the ministerial office in particular, is much reduced. Individualism and self-assertiveness now rage without control. The very concept of the declarative communication of truth is demeaned: participation in the quest for ‘consensus’ has much diminished the preaching office. Together with this, we have seen a growing passion for excitement among professing believers. This poor, crude generation appears to know nothing, and to care nothing, for the testimony of the church’s experience through the ages. . . .

The cult of youth enters upon our present experience with desolating power. We recall from our childhood an awe of those who were old in the faith. ‘The glory of young men is their strength, grey hair the splendor of the old’ [Prov 20.29]. Today, however, our western world has gone far to rob old men of their splendor. Even the middle-aged must often give way to youth as we have witnessed when serving as moderator in vacancy committees. We have sat in despair as believers have stipulated that they shall look only for a man under thirty years of age, or certainly no where beyond his early thirties. Indeed, we must frankly confess to a spirit of outrage at the assumption that men in their forties, with both vigor of mind and body enriched by years of pastoral care, are now dismissed as vessels no longer fit for noble use. . . .

We believe that these three ingredients of the present times, namely, diminished respect for authority, increased passion for excitement, and the cult of youth, have given rise to the existence and employment of wrong criteria among the churches in their search for pastoral care. The danger may be described, in general terms, as looking for ‘instant’ personality — ‘cooked and tinned’ and needing but to be opened and served — for glamour, for youth. . . .

We may speak from sore experience, and say that a confrontation with moral problems will prove to be rocks upon which many ministries break. We know what it is to weep with and for the fallen, while seeking to counsel them in the way of life and with nothing but compassion and love for them in one’s heart. But we also know how wrathful a flock can be, if their pastor should dare to enter upon such matters. . . .

The pilgrim went from his Valley of Humiliation into the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Our path has gone in much the same way. We believe that, as greed rends the world, so vanity too often rends the church. Congregation upon congregation is dominated by a few powerful personalities who love their prominence, and who brook no interference. We do not depreciate powerful personalities, per se. Nor do we forget that the church has been greatly blessed, in every age, by those whom God gifted with leadership qualities. Such men are needed today in every congregation. It seems to us, however, that the church is blighted by the influence of those who love their power more than they love the Lord. To such people there is an impossibility about the apostolic command, ‘Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ’ [Eph 5.21]. . . .

We cannot deny the weight of this suffering. Our resolve at times grows weary. We break-down and cry in our study where no one sees. We learn a certain slowness in our trusting of others: some prove false, and their evangelical statements are exceedingly hollow. But of others we may suggest that their hold upon the truth is so slight, their sympathy with the Biblical emphasis is so superficial, their openness to the poor values of this crazed world is so wide, that, while they declare themselves to be profited under our ministry today, we dread lest some turn of events shall quickly disrupt their loyalty. The night-watches do tend to close our mind upon these sorry things; sleeplessness is our frequent portion during the darkness, and weariness is our frequent portion through the day. Loneliness is the salient feature of our path. . . .

We confess that, at times, we feel that the dullness and beast-like passivity in the people, as if they were so many cows placidly gazing at one from the other side of the hedge, derives from too much television-viewing. In fact, we suspect that our people do sometimes ‘switch’ to another ‘channel’ as they sit before us. Certainly at the heart of our human need is the inability to stir anyone until Christ’s loud voice says, ‘Lazarus, come forth’ [John 11.43]. We have seen this throughout our work. It has dominated our thinking, until, night and day, we cry to the Lord that he will graciously bless our hearers.

John Piper On The Indifferent Minister

John Piper

Quoting John Piper:

Gladness and gravity should be woven together in the life and preaching of a pastor in such a way as to sober the careless soul and sweeten the burdens of the saints. I say “sweeten” because it connotes some of the poignancy of the gladness I have in mind, and sets it off from the glib and petty attempts to stir up lightheartedness in a congregation. Love for the people does not take precious realities lightly (hence the call for gravity), and love for people does not load people with the burden of obedience without providing the strength of joy to help them carry it (hence the call for the gladness).

Gladness in preaching is an act of love. It continually amazes people when I say that if a pastor is to truly love his people he must diligently pursue his happiness in the ministry of the Word. People have been taught consistently that to be a loving person you must abandon the pursuit of your own joy. It’s all right to get it as an unexpected and unpursued result of love (as if that were psychologically possible), but it is not all right to pursue your happiness.

I assert the opposite: If you are indifferent to your joy in ministry you are indifferent to an essential element of love. And if you try to abandon your joy in the ministry of the Word you strive against God and your people. (The Supremacy of God in Preaching (Baker, 1990), 52-53)

“Welcome Our New Pastor” And Be Comfortable!

Imagine: Your church has selected or been assigned a new pastor. As part of your church’s community outreach, you want people living in the area to know that you have a new pastor. After all, they may have visited your church before and did not like your old pastor.

As one way to communicate with the local community, you decide to put a message on the marquee in front of the church so that people driving by will read about your new pastor. Now, one very important question is going to be: “What do you say about your new pastor in such a limited space?”

Would you describe him as – “a mighty man of God?” How about describing him as “a man of God”, or “a biblical preacher”, perhaps even “a man who loves God”, or “a man who demonstrates God’s love for His people”? Of course, your imagination is the limit – as long as you are truthful and concise.

If you were called to be the pastor, what would you want the few words on the sign to say about you? If I were called to be a pastor, I would be greatly honored to be called “God’s man” or “a man who has experienced the grace of God.” Whatever is said, I would hope that the words would convey that this church and this minister are all about God, Jesus Christ, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and God’s mercy and grace toward us who are sinners.

While driving home during the past couple of weeks I have noticed a marquee announcing a new pastor at a neighborhood church. The sign reads:

WELCOME OUR NEW PASTOR!

DR. JOHN SMITH (name changed)

“HE’S A CASUAL DRESSER!”

What would you assume is important to this church?

Honoring God By Honoring Your Pastor

Pastors are servants who have been called by God to shepherd His flock. It is not an easy job to undertake. Pastors need encouragement and support from their church members.

One of the most important things you can do for your pastor is to pray for him. The pastor, his family, the elders and deacons are often targeted by satanic schemes and strife. The devil’s objective is to strike the pastor (shepherd) and scatter the flock. This is often accomplished through members of the pastor’s own church. It is, therefore, important that the church leadership and members of the congregation stand in the gap with consistent prayers for the pastor’s protection.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Speak words of encouragement to and about your pastor. Talk well of him. Embrace his ministry to you as a gift from God. Do not allow your words to reveal an immature relationship with Christ in your life. Do not allow your tongue to speak evil when the Word of God is preached to you.

“So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:5-10)

God honors his shepherds and commands us to do the same. “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17) It is worth noting that the Bible mentions other groups to honor but only one group worthy of double honor. You may not agree with every opinion your pastor holds or like every sermon he preaches, but you must take into account the spiritual importance of his work in your life. Maybe you have unrealistic expectations for him to be something other than human. Remember, his position is worthy of “double honor.” It must be esteemed because to do so is to honor God.

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