Archive for the ‘Pastoring’ Category

I doubt many in the church realize what the Pastor experiences in his preparation during the week. How the warfare rages during his study. How familiar he has become with the satanic hiss that tempts him to water down the message. “Teach THAT and you’ll lose people. Quit being so serious. You need to be more upbeat, more positive, more user friendly. Tell more jokes. That’s how churches grow today!”

I recently taught a message on the church of Thyatira out of Revelation 2. In it, God sends a very severe warning to His people being seduced by the evil Jezebel into idolatry and sexual immorality. He warns them that His patience was running out and unless there was repentance, He would bring intense suffering and for some, even death. The message; Jesus takes sin in His church very seriously. The application; if He’s speaking to you about a sin in your life and has given you time to repent, take advantage of that time quickly. As Thomas Fuller put it, “You cannot repent too soon because you do not know how soon it may be too late.” Not a feel good sermon to be sure, but a necessary message for the church today.

As I studied and began to understand what Christ was really saying to His church, the warfare began. Fiery darts of fear and doubt began to be hurled my way, all dripping with the temptation to temper the message. “If you want the church to grow (I do. We are a new, small church) then tell them what they want to hear, and they don’t want to hear that!” This is a slippery slope that has claimed many victims. Water down one message to make it more palatable and it will make it easier to weaken the next. Eventually the pulpit becomes so compromised, that the gospel being proclaimed no longer convicts or converts. You can end up filling chairs with people converted to church but not to Christ.

The Bible rescues us here by providing many examples to pull from. Men who simply proclaimed what God said and left the consequences with Him. Men like Paul who was able to say to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, “I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” He could stand before God with a clear conscience, knowing that he had honestly proclaimed the comfortable and the uncomfortable. Truth that gave security and truth that sent a shiver up the spine because of its severity.

The ministry of Jesus, the greatest preacher of all, shows us that solid, loving but uncompromised teaching will cause some to leave. His message in John 6 created a mass exodus and we are told that many of His disciples stopped following Him from that point on. He knew that message would reduce the congregation, yet He still taught it. He also knew those who stayed, those who wanted to hear the truth even when it hurt, were the type of people He could turn the world upside down with. The point is loud and clear, teach the truth and some will look for the exit signs. If it happened to Jesus it will happen to us. We must accept this and stand against the temptation to lessen the impact of God’s Word to avoid it.

I believe that God’s Word is sufficient for the building of His church. That it will accomplish the purposes He sent it out for (Isaiah 55:10-11). I also believe you can build a church with a watered down message, I just wonder if it is God’s church that is being built.



Read Full Post »

Having our pastors proclaim the truth clearly and passionately doesn’t seem to be good enough today. We want them to be cool. Entertainment in church is as important as what is being taught, maybe even more important. This attitude in congregations puts pastors under tremendous pressure to compete. If I want my church to grow, if I don’t want my people to go to Mr. Big Personality’s church down the street, then I need to up my game as far as coolness goes. I need to be funny, quote modern rock songs, be up-to-date with recent television shows and movies and be very “now” with my fashion.

The problem is this pressure often results in a dumbing down of Christianity. If a joke has to be tacked on to every subject, no matter how serious it is, the appropriate gravity of the moment can be stolen. Unfortunately this is not a rare occurrence. Today I received an email from a friend who recently visited a church in the process of looking for a new pastor. Their search hadn’t been going so well. The last three preachers they invited had read a scripture, told a couple of jokes and a few stories and felt that was enough. This congregation wants more, but many don’t.

Other times, the commands of the Bible are turned into options so that nobody is offended. As Fred Craddock (Professor of Preaching and New Testament, Emeritus, at Candler School of Theology) so eloquently put it, “The exclamation points of the Bible are curled into question marks.” It is not uncommon to hear a pastor scrambling, trying to explain away a clear command rather than just simply teaching it. In the end, the passage that was meant to transform is so weakened that nobody feels any need to change, all because the pastor desired popularity above faithfulness to God’s Word.

Is this the model that Jesus, the greatest teacher of all time, left us? No! He told the truth in love, without fear of offending the people. Why? He knew that only truth can set the hearers free. Free from God’s wrath, free from sin, free from the joylessness of a self-centered life.

I’ve heard many styles of preaching and have decided that I want preaching that is more like Jesus and less like a late night talk show host. I want to be confronted by a courageous man who, from a heart of love, simply tells me what the Scriptures say, even when it’s uncomfortable.  I want to be called to move toward a life that is beyond anything I could ever experience in my own strength, that abundant life found in surrender to Christ and dependence upon Him. I want to be comforted by God’s promises and encouraged to take those promises from the pages of Scripture and put them into practice.

I want to be inspired by messages that so exalt Christ, my heart becomes willing to release its grip on the world and cling to Him as my treasure.

That’s what I want. Men who dip into the book so filled with God and His glory and bring out those God-drenched truths so I can understand and respond. That’s who I think is cool.

Read Full Post »