Morning Mashup 04/04


A mashup of book deals, articles, and videos for your information, edification, and enjoyment.


Glory Hunger by J.R. Vassar ($2.99)


What’s In the Bible? by R.C. Sproul and Robert Wolgemuth ($1.99)


True Friendship by Vaughn Roberts ($2.99)



10 Symptoms of Legalism – Very diagnostic of the self-sufficient human heart.

Beneath the Evangelical Earthquake – Paul Carter on the word “evangelical” and the future of evangelicalism.

18 Things to Pray for Your Church – Jonathan Leeman suggests 18 biblical prayers for your church. Would you pray for your church today?

Discipling Teen Girls – Kristen Hatton: “One of the beauties of discipleship is the front row seat to the work of Christ in the lives of the ones he has given you as an instrument to serve. Go be blessed by investing yourself in the timeless truths of God’s word for his people!”

Imagine Your Children Are Black – Amy Medina writes a compelling post on race and paying attention to the experiences of minorities.

5 Ways to Protect Your Kids at Church – I’m thankful we are doing these and more to promote safety in the children’s ministry at Trace Crossing.

Should I Be Concerned If My Pastor Uses Pre-Made Sermons? – I couldn’t agree more, Pastor John.

How Do You Know When You Are Ready to Shepherd? – Man, this is helpful for any young pastor or seminarian.



Don Whitney discusses his new book on family worship with Justin Taylor.

Dowden Quote


“God’s clouds shouldn’t speak louder and clearer than his children.” – Landon Dowden


To Whom Should a Pastor Primarily Direct His Sermons?

In Jim Shaddix’s convicting and helpful book, The Passion-Driven Sermon: Changing the Way Pastors Preach and Congregations Listen, he tells the following story:

I learned an important lesson about people’s perception of preaching shortly after assuming my second pastorate, a small congregation in the deep south. I began immediately preaching systematically through a book of the Bible. All of the messages during the first several weeks were more fellowship-oriented, addressing Christians as the receptive texts demanded. I assumed the people were receiving the sermons eagerly as their shepherd fed them the Word. Boy, was I naive! About two months into the series, I finally came to a text that was more evangelistic in nature. So I proceeded on Sunday morning to wax eloquent with a hot sermon on hell, making primary application to those persons without Christ. The next day one of the prominent men in the church stopped in front of my house as I was mowing the lawn. He rolled down the window of his truck and yelled, “Great message yesterday, Pastor. You finally started preaching!” And I thought I had been preaching all along.

The fact of the matter is that many congregations today believe that every sermon ought to be directed at the lost, informing them of their sinful condition and their eternal destiny of torment (23).

I think many Christians believe the primary form of evangelism is to invite lost friends to church so that they can hear an evangelistic sermon. When this theory is implemented in a church, the extent of the evangelism of church members is to invite and the extent of the evangelism of the pastor is to preach evangelistic sermons week in and week out. Under this system, the pastor is the primary evangelist and the rest of the church serves as gatherers, not messengers.

However, is this the way preaching and evangelism are meant to primarily function? Is it wrong to invite someone to church? Is there no place for evangelistic sermons? Obviously the answer to both questions is “No.” Still, to whom should the pastor primarily be directing his weekly sermons?

I believe that as long as we keep the proper perspective, we can rightly say that the pastor should primarily direct his sermons to believers rather than unbelievers, while not neglecting the probability of the presence of unbelievers in the hearing of the sermon.

A quick glance at 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 may give the impression that Paul only preached evangelistic sermons. He wrote to the Corinthians, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (v. 2). However, Paul is writing this letter to the church for their edification. The role of every pastor is to be an undershepherd of the flock of God. This flock must be fed and so the pastor’s primary purpose on Sunday mornings is to glorify God through the preaching of his word to the people he has chosen and redeemed in Christ.

Like Paul, we are to preach the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). The direction of a sermon should be dictated by the text. If pastors narrow themselves to solely preaching evangelistic sermons only one implication of the atonement will be on display. This will show that the gospel is only vital for unbelievers. This will also place the burden of evangelism solely on the pastor’s shoulders. What pastors should strive for is to expose the word of God to the people of God to equip them to live a gospel-centered life with the gospel on display in their words and actions.

This does not mean there is no place for evangelistic sermons. Primarily directing sermons to believers does not imply that unbelievers should not be invited, should not attend, or cannot respond to the gospel. The way God has rigged the whole process of pulpit ministry is that when the preacher proclaims what God has said and nothing more, believers grow in Christlikeness and unbelievers can receive saving grace by responding to the gospel. When a pastor sets out to preach the word of God as God has intended, he will be preaching the gospel. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then, go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.”

In fact, direct messages on the atonement and God’s power to save sinners through faith in Christ will undoubtedly be preached if expository preaching is employed. But the role of the pastor must be to feed the flock that God has entrusted to him. The gospel is for both unbelievers and believers. To set aside certain days where you preach the gospel and neglect preaching the gospel from all of Scripture every single week is to miss the point of preaching. However, at the same time, it is not best for a pastor to solely prepare evangelistic sermons directed at unbelievers. The role of the pastor is to shepherd his flock with all of the word of God and he is to proclaim the whole counsel of God for the guidance and growth of his flock.

Shaddix calls this “reflecting on the cross.” He writes, “The shepherd of the local congregation has the responsibility of reflecting weekly on the cross of Christ in order to show its implications and applications for the body of Christ and the individuals who com rise it” (24). He admits this is the primary function of the New Testament itself.

So, pastor, preach the word primarily for your flock! Preach the word in all of its depth and reflect on the cross for the guidance and growth of your flock.

Church member, rejoice when your pastor preaches the word for your edification and spiritual nourishment. I know nothing brings me more joy than when my pastor reflects on the cross and draws out its implications from Scripture. Call him to preach the cross each week as together you worship the Christ who died to draw you to himself and together as a body.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Morning Mashup 10/10

Dear Brittany Maynard… – A gracious and moving open letter from one cancer patient to another (Brittany Maynard) who is planning assisted suicide. I was deeply saddened when I read, “Brittany, your life matters, your story matters, and your suffering matters.”

The Walking Dead: Brokenness Will Find You – “Though our dead rest in peace, the world of The Walking Dead echoes our own.”

Stop Calling it Marriage Equality – “I’m asking on what logical grounds can a person argue that gay marriage is okay but polygamy is not—or any other type of marriage?”

Joan or John? – What if a woman who was once a man is sitting under your preaching one Sunday and then desires to follow Jesus? How should this man who is trying to be a woman repent? How would you respond? Russell Moore offers a sobering and gracious answer.

14 Questions to Ask a Pastor Search Committee – I will be filing this away for future reference.

The Genesis of Resurrection Hope – Mitchell Chase with a great paper on elements of the resurrection in Genesis. If you have time, it would benefit your soul to check it out.

I Am Not a Christian Rapper – Check out this Trip Lee interview on BET as he discusses why he prefers to not be called a “Christian rapper.”

An Open Letter to Members of Sovereign Grace Churches – Mark Prater: “On September 22, Maryland’s highest appellate court denied the plaintiffs’ request for the court to review the lower appellate court’s dismissal of the civil lawsuit that was brought against Sovereign Grace in October 2012. The dismissal of this case is a significant moment for everyone involved, and may be the subject of much conversation in and beyond our churches. On behalf of Sovereign Grace’s leadership, there are some thoughts I want to contribute to that discussion.”

Spare the Rod? – An honest, thoughtful, and humble approach to spanking and parental discipline from Mathew Sims.

Why a Good Wife is the Difference Between Success and Failure – “When I am considering men for the ministry these days I am looking more and more at their wives and I am encouraging them to do so.”

It is wiser to acknowledge our ignorance than to reduce divine mysteries to our limited explanations. –John Calvin

Three Aspects of a Personal Philosophy of Ministry

Mt._Everest_from_Gokyo_Ri_November_5_2012Developing a philosophy of ministry is similar to developing a philosophy of Christian living. There are many different ways of looking at it, but as long as the object of our gaze is the same, the minor differences should not matter much. For example, four people can gather around Mt. Everest, one on each side. As long as all four people look up at the mountain, each of them will be amazed and awestruck, despite their differing angles of view. However, the moment one of them looks down at the ground they are standing on or a smaller hill or mountain nearby, the adoration and amazement is lost because the object has changed, not the perspective.
In ministry and in Christian living, we have an awesome and majestic God of wonders who has called us by his grace into his family and his mission despite our plight in sin. From the point of our calling onward, we all will develop a philosophy of how we should gaze upon, adore, love, obey, and ultimately glorify the God and Father of our salvation in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit. As long as the object of our adoration remains God, our differing perspectives will diminish under the unity we have in Christ Jesus.

Nevertheless, differing perspectives and philosophies of ministry and Christian living exist. There is no single perspective or philosophy that is correct with all others being heresies. We do have those primary doctrines that are needed to call a ministry “Christian.” However, different philosophies of ministry exist just as different perspectives in theology. Faithful Calvinists and faithful Arminians are both Christians. They both adore God and desire to glorify and obey him, but their perspectives are strikingly different—one stands in front of Mt. Everest with the other behind it (I will let you decide who is where!). All philosophies of ministry that are rooted in the inerrant word of God and founded on the salvation found by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone are legitimate.

In developing a personal philosophy, many things must be considered and many questions arise. What is ultimate? What is central? What is effective? And in all of the answers to these questions, what biblical-theological perspective or thought undergirds them? Each Christian needs to have a mission statement that guides him or her throughout his or her life. Likewise, each minister of the gospel needs a mission statement that guides him in all of his endeavors in the ministry whether it is pastoral ministry, church planting ministry, or full-time missions ministry. A personal philosophy of ministry is an anthem that should be heralded each day by a minister as his own personal creed that motivates his ministerial decisions and actions.

With that said, a personal philosophy of ministry must be biblically saturated, theologically rich, and practically relevant.

1. Biblical Saturation

A personal philosophy must be soaked with Scripture. It must ooze Bible. If a pastor grounds his philosophy of ministry in anything other than the Bible, he is sadly mistaken. History and theology are very important in understanding the ministry and very helpful in deciding what kind of ministry you would desire to have, but if it is absent of biblical truths and principles, it is sure to fail. Any ministry that is opposed to, or is antithetical to the Word of God is no ministry of the one true God. And there are many of these so-called “ministries” poisoning our culture.

2. Theological Richness

A personal philosophy of ministry must be theologically rich. Not only does our philosophy need to be saturated with Bible, it must be filled with theological thought. We must ask ourselves what thinkers and theologians have thought about God, the Bible, and ministry throughout church history. How did Calvin conduct ministry? What was Jonathan Edwards mainly concerned about in his ministry? Many of our understandings on countless doctrines are due to the countless hours put in by godly men from the past. We would do well to listen to them and model our ministries after them. Of course, this is all predicated on their consistency with the word of God.

3. Practical Relevance

A personal philosophy of ministry must be practically relevant. We can know what we should do or what we need to do, but if we cannot tangibly put these doctrines and thoughts into practice we need to come up with something else. In other words, how will we tangibly make disciples? How will we glorify God by enjoying him forever? How will we increase Bible literacy and understanding? How often will we conduct the Lord’s Supper? All of those ministerial decisions fall under this category. An effective philosophy of ministry needs to account for these daily decisions that make up the greater portion of our work.

All philosophies of ministry are different in one way or another. But all philosophies of ministry that gaze upon the glory of God in Jesus are legitimate. As long as he is our goal and he is our object of adoration, our philosophies will be unified despite their diversity. A good philosophy will be biblically saturated, theologically rich, and practically relevant. An effective philosophy that will honor God must come from biblical and theological frameworks that are relevant for ministerial practice.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

The Pastor and Character

One of the top things that churches evaluate in pastoral candidates is a man’s character. While sadly some if not many churches look first to a pastor’s personality and charisma before evaluating his character (Joseph Umidi, Confirming the Pastoral Call, p. 53). Nevertheless, on average, churches admit that a pastoral candidate’s character is one of the top five things they are looking for. This is encouraging due to the overwhelming biblical witness to the importance of a pastor’s character.

It is vital to notice first that every Christian is expected to exhibit high character because of their calling and response to follow Christ. From the beginning of our salvation, through justification by grace through faith alone, our broken character inherited from Adam is being renewed and radically transformed by means of sanctification. In fact one glorious purpose for which we were predestined by God to become his sons and daughters is that we be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29). In a real sense, our conformity to Jesus who is the perfect image of God is the reason for which we are saved. So, does personal holiness matter to God? This verse along with a more direct teaching in Hebrews answers with a resounding, “yes”. “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

Scripture is clear that personal holiness is a vital component and necessity in every Christian’s life. In fact, it is what separates nominal Christians from those branches who are connected to the Vine (John 15). We are each to “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13).

What bearing does this have on the pastor, the shepherd of the flock? Indeed, the pastor or teacher of the Word is held to an even higher standard than the flock (James 3:1). Therefore, the character of a pastor is of utmost importance. Since the pastor is not to be some distant figure who writes sermons from the solitude of some ivory tower, but rather a leader who suffers, grieves, and rejoices with his followers, his character will be on constant display and will be a mighty role in which he shepherds his flock. Many other roles of the pastor are dependent on his character and Christ-likeness. In the words of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, “How awful a weapon in the hand of God is a holy minister” (quoted from On Being a Pastor, Prime and Begg, Moody: Chicago, 2004).

A church body will be hesitant to heed the words from the pulpit where an immoral man is standing. The counsel from a pastor who is not striving for similar holiness will fall on deaf ears. The ministry in the community led by a pastor whose reputation is corrupted by moral compromise will fail. The entire ministry of a pastor is dependent on his commitment to the will of God of which personal holiness is of high importance (see Rom. 8:29 again).

Scripture is clear that personal holiness for a pastor is not a suggestion or merely a benefit to be received on our own terms. It is much more than this. It is necessary. It is necessary in two lights. Firstly, personal holiness (character) is necessary for a pastor in the sense that it is embedded and central in the pastoral qualifications. Secondly, personal holiness is necessary for a pastor in the sense of being a shepherd leading a flock.

Qualifications for a Pastor

Two places in Scripture we find qualifications for overseers or elders—in 1 Timothy and Titus. Paul includes many qualifications, most of which deal with a man’s character. In 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Paul instructs that an elder or pastor is to be “above reproach”, “sober-minded”, “self-controlled”, “respectable”, “hospitable”, “not a drunkard”, “not violent but gentle”, “not quarrelsome”, and “he must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil”.

Further, Paul exhorts in Titus 1:5-9 that an elder or pastor must be “above reproach”, “not arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” The other qualifications deal with a pastor’s ability to teach and defend sound doctrine and these should not be overlooked. Nevertheless, it is interesting to notice that the overwhelming aspect of a man’s worthiness to the call of pastor has to deal with his character or personal holiness. While there isn’t a pastor who will exhaustively fulfill each of these qualifications, the point is that a pastor must be pursuing greater Christ-likeness. His character must be sufficient for the task to which God calls him to—leadership of his people in the local church.

Thus a pastor’s character is of utmost importance in the evaluation of whether he is qualified to be an elder or not. In the words of Derek Prime and Alistair Begg, “the fruit of the Spirit is as important as the gifts of the Spirit in the life of a shepherd and teacher” (On Being a Pastor, p. 36). Being able to teach and preach (gifts of the Spirit) are no more important to a pastor than being able to love and exhibit self-control (fruits of the Spirit). All are gifts of God’s grace. All are necessary for ministry. But who will listen to a great teacher who has not loved nor has self-control in his personal life? We are not called to be professionals who put on a show on Sunday mornings. We are to “[fulfill] our tasks as shepherds and teachers [by] pursuing our Christian privilege and duty of knowing God better and becoming more like him” (Prime and Begg, 41).

A Shepherd Who Leads

Pastors are to be shepherds. And shepherds lead sheep—in this case, the people of God. The humbling thing about this is that we ourselves are to be followers. We are not leaders with our own agenda and kingdom, but merely agents of the Good Shepherd ultimately following his lead. We are to ask our people to follow us as we follow Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). Again, this is an extremely humbling reality when considering the character of a pastor. I like Prime and Begg here as well: “When any Christian falls into sin, he hurts others. When a Christian leader falls into sin, he hurts many others” (38).

My heart sinks when I read that. What a task the minister of God is called to! But it is true. Paul constantly referred to his own character as something for his followers to follow. And it is clear that this wasn’t out of pride, but instead was an honest evaluation of his own character—the character of a man who was personally growing in personal holiness as he worked out his own salvation in his conformity to the image of Christ.

Here are just a few examples:

  • He exhorts Timothy to “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).
  • Paul warns the believers in Thessalonica to keep away from brothers with low character and to imitate him since he exhibited his character by not being idle among them (1 Thessalonians 3:6-7).
  • And to the saints at Philippi, Paul writes for them to practice the things they had seen him do (Phil. 4:9).

Similarly, Peter exhorts elders to shepherd the flock willingly, but not domineeringly, as examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:1-3). And if there is any motivation for this type of leading, he gives it in verse 4: “And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” Praise God! Shepherds are leaders and our leadership is dependent highly on our character, which is daily being conformed from one degree of glory to another into the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 3:18). To quote Prime and Begg once more: “Whatever else a shepherd and teacher provides for God’s people, he is to give them an example to follow” (36). And this example is one from a man of God who is following the God-Man, Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 11:1).


Pastors are shepherds, and shepherds lead, one way or another. We will either, by our lack character, lead our flock by our example into sin and destruction; or we will lead our flock as a result of our character into further obedience to Christ as we follow in the footsteps of our chief Shepherd who embodied perfect character and forgives by his blood all of our faulty character. The words of C.F. Collins sums it up for me concerning the pastor and character: “Character is everything, and character is what pastors must have—and is the very reason why any church calls them as her pastor” (H3F: A Model for Christian Living, p. 54)! May all pastors strive to be more like Him and lead the people of God in His paths—all for His glory.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

The Pastor and His Family

There may be no greater issue to speak of in the life of the pastor than the balance and sensitivity that must be given to his ministry and family. Though I am not currently a pastor or a father, I am preparing for the ministry and these reflections on the possible future that lies ahead of my wife and me have sobered my mind. Pastors and pastors’ families are looked to for much and often supported little. I hope this leads you to pray for your pastor and seek tangible ways to serve him and his family. The great burdens that can often be on a pastor when balancing church ministry with family are often glamorized in this discussion, but I believe that despite the dilemma of balancing church with family, the pastor can find tremendous grace in the God who called him into this work for the kingdom.

High Calling

The calling of a minister is a high and demanding calling. In fact, when one thinks of all the work that goes into pastoral ministry, it is easy to conclude with Charles Spurgeon when he said, “Don’t do ministry if you can do anything else.” While this may be a bit over-the-top, the demands of ministry coupled with the demands of family can seem overwhelming. Every marriage and family will face problems and hardships. This is unavoidable when two, three, four, or five sinners live together. However, problems in marriage, parenting, and general familial issues are heightened in the life of a minister because his life is under a microscope viewed by the eyes of his congregation and community. While every husband and father is to lead his family in the way of the Lord, love and protect his wife and children, and guard them physically and spiritually, this task is heightened for ministers due to the nature of the calling.

Higher Caller

However, at this point it is important to remember the nature of the Caller and not just focus on the nature of the calling. While the calling can seem burdensome, particularly when it comes to balancing pastoral ministry and family life, it must be remembered that our Caller’s yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matt. 11:30). Our caller abounds in power, grace, mercy, and love. And it is by his grace that we labor. We are enabled to do all that God calls us to by the One who has defeated all sin and death. The pastor will often feel weak and inadequate to perform the ministerial duties and balance them with familial duties. However, so contrary to the world, this is good, for when we are weak, then we are strong (2 Cor. 12:10). Paul was content with all of his hardships and weaknesses because of the greatness, power, and grace of his Lord and his God. The grace of Jesus is sufficient for pastors to fulfill their duties as pastor-husband and pastor-father.

Despite the fact that the ministry is demanding, Derek Prime wisely notes, “but God’s will is never that we should be so busy that we neglect those closest to us” (On Being a Pastor, 268). This is very important to understand. Our family takes priority over our pastoral ministry. We are to sanctify our wives and children first. Our family takes precedent over our church. However, the two are linked. Prime and Begg assert “New Testament qualifications for church leaders link spiritual usefulness in the home with spiritual effectiveness in the body of Christ” (Ibid. 261). They continue with an insightful and bold statement: “If we neglect our families, we eventually undermine our entire pastoral and teaching ministry” (Ibid. 262). Inexplicably, a pastor’s leadership in the home directly correlates to his leadership in the church.

The Pastor as Husband and Father

With all of this in mind, the pastor’s relation to his wife and children is of utmost importance. The pastor must give proper attention to and be sensitive to the needs of his wife. The wife of a pastor is often under just as much pressure as the pastor. Prime and Begg make an astute observation when they write; “More is required of our wives than wives of men in other callings and professions. They cannot be separated from our work as other wives can be from their husbands’ employment” (Ibid. 270). She is often looked to lead the women’s ministries and teach the women’s Bible studies and small groups. She also has the pressures of maintaining a hospitable home constantly. There will be many unplanned and unanticipated visits from church members needing counsel. Particularly if the pastor works out of his home, there will be times of frustration where his wife will feel neglected, as he will be at home, yet absent.

The wives of pastors will know all aspects of his work and will therefore not only deal with the pressures of maintaining the home, but will also deal with her husbands pressures as well. There will also be more pressure on the pastor’s wife in the raising of children. More judgment and less grace are often shown to the parenting of the mother whose husband is the pastor. Due to these realities, the pastor must be focused and intentional on giving his wife and children the attention, love, and leadership they need and deserve.

A pastor’s wife and children need attention from her husband and their father. This means that the pastor needs to be faithful in taking a day off from ministerial duties. An entire day needs to be given to his wife and family. Barring emergencies, all the attentions of the pastor must be given to his family joyfully. And that is the key. It should be a joyful means of grace for the pastor to get to walk with, talk with, laugh with, and play with his wife and children. A pastor’s wife and children must see that they take priority over the church.

Pastors must love and lead their wives and children. I couple these together because a husband who loves his wife and a father who loves his children will lead them. Practically, nightly Scripture readings, times of prayer, and catechism exercises should be implemented and taken seriously and joyously. A time to love and lead your family in the ways of the Lord is not something to take for granted. Not only should pastors pray for their families in their own devotion/prayer time, they must pray with their families. There is no better way for children to learn how to pray than from their father. Wives also desire to be led in the truths of Scripture, so time should be taken either before bed or early in the morning to read with her, pray with her, and counsel her.

Pastors Need Grace

In closing, it is a daunting task as a pastor to balance pastoral ministry with family. I hope you have seen how, much like you, your pastor has a lot on his plate. What makes the pastor and his family more stressful than most other families is the fact that his family is under a microscope. Help your pastor and his family by holding a telescope up to their eyes pointed toward Christ, instead of holding a microscope to dissect their lives. Like you, pastors need grace. Pray for your pastor today and seek opportunities to lighten his burden. Pastor, remember you have a loving Chief Shepherd who empowers you as under-shepherd to fulfill the task that he has called you to. The ultimate question pastors face is this: “How can I structure my day so that I fulfill my pastoral duties and give time to my family (Ibid. 267)?” How pastors answer this question is vital to both his faith family and his immediate family.

I am humbled by the possible future that is ahead of me. The more I prepare for ministry, the greater the realization is that I may have a faith family and family at home to love and lead. I know I will need grace. May all pastors walk in the empowering grace and love of Jesus and faithfully love and lead their families while loving and leading their flocks.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY. with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.

The Pastor and Perseverance: Encouragement for Burnout in Ministry

Stories_MinistyBurnout1The Christian life from the point of conversion will be lived in tension with the world. Christians are evidence of the work of the Spirit and are new creations in Christ Jesus. Sinclair Ferguson astutely observes, “The Christian belongs to the community of the resurrection order, but lives within the context of the present order” (Ferguson, The Holy Spirit). The Spirit as spiritus recreator ushers us into the eternal kingdom of God while leaving us to live in a world full of mini-“kingdoms” all vying for our allegiance.
Any sinner who freely trusts Christ expecting life to be a “cake walk” is only kidding himself. Following Christ does not lead to more comfort and ease in this world, but less and only more hostility. On numerous occasions, Jesus attests to this reality (Mark 13:13; John 15:18-21; Matt. 10:25). However, the Christian can take heart for their Master has overcome the world (John 16:33).

Living between the times of the two advents of Christ, all Christians will experience the noted Pauline battle of flesh and spirit (Rom. 7). This is not any less true in the life of the pastor-shepherd and may even be more vibrantly felt. Now, obviously this is not prescriptive for all because the amount of spiritual warfare and the intensity of physical stumbling blocks will vary between Christians and cultural contexts. However, it is worth noting that as under-shepherd, the pastor is (or should be) in the line of fire of both deceiving and blatant wolves.

The leader of a group of people is always under the most duress when trials and tribulations come. When false teachings permeate a society and local church, it is the role of the pastor-shepherd to combat them with the true and profitable teachings of the Word of God. Not only does a pastor have the responsibility to guard his own heart, the heart of his wife, and the hearts of his children, the pastor also must guard the hearts of his congregates. When sin and Satan penetrate the body of Christ with poisonous teaching and living, the pastor must exercise the discernment and authority necessary to protect the true flock of the Chief Shepherd.

On top of this protective shepherding, the pastor must be faithful to herald the truths of God in Scripture, diligent in the demanding work of pastoral care (counseling, visiting, writing, grieving, weeping, rejoicing), active in equipping his people to be fishers of men, and true to the leadership of his wife and children. The task is daunting and it could easily become overwhelming. Not only does the pastor deal with his own stress, trials, and tribulations, but he also must deal with the countless heartaches, stresses, trials, and tribulations of his congregation.

In the face of these daunting tasks, the pastor will be subject to discouragement. Many sermons will return only negative and unhelpful criticism. Derek Prime and Alistair Begg highlight the subtle danger of discouragement by calling discouragement, which results from such sorrows as a congregate leaving the faith because the cost of discipleship was too much, a “subtle peril” (On Being a Pastor, 298). They also discuss many other things that could tempt pastors to leave a particular pastorate or the ministry altogether, including: opposition, spiritual battles, trials, laziness, discouragement, unhelpful criticism, over-involvement with people’s troubles and stress, the desire to escape, and pride (Ibid. 294-307).

Burnout in the workplace is the reality of many Americans. Educators, for example, most often exit college with the desire to change the world through teaching children. Within ten years, that same “world changer” may be going back to school to find a new career. Burnout is real and the ministry is not void of it. Burnout in the ministry must be guarded against, lest we be ineffective or disobediently board a ship for Tarshish. Again, Prime and Begg are sympathetic to what leads to burnout:

“Some of the sad circumstances into which we enter will frequently live with us, and as we go to bed at night, we may find our mind returning to them and reviewing all we have said and how we might have dealt with them more effectively” (Ibid. 300).

An inability to be empathetic without taking the sorrow of others home with us will lead to inevitable burnout. I am not writing from pastoral experience, so take the following points of encouragement with a grain of salt. I am preparing for pastoral ministry, but I have no idea what the aforementioned struggles are like. However, from an outside perspective, I hope I can offer a couple reminders that might help anyone in full-time ministry to not burnout, but keep their flame for the glory of God blazing. I believe there are two things a pastor must trust in when he comes under duress, stress, and discouragement in ministry.

1. The Sufficient Grace of Jesus

Firstly we must rely on the sufficient grace of Jesus Christ. His grace was sufficient for Paul despite his life of suffering and the “thorn in his side.” Likewise, the many thorns that plague the sides of so many pastors will be felt and endured in the strength of Christ who enables all things (Phil. 4:13) and is sufficient for the calling at hand. This grace may come in the form of a timely book or conference. Still yet it may come in the form of a kind word from a fellow pastor or a subtle kiss from the pastor’s wife. But all in all, pastors can be confident that the empowering grace of Christ will be sufficient for them.

2. The Promise of Final Perseverance

The preservation of God will endure the pastor through all tribulation. It must be remembered that it is God who has called the pastor into this work. The nature of this God is one of preservation. The God who called you into this work is the same God who preserved Israel through much sin, suffering, and even exile. The God who has entrusted this particular flock to your care is the same God who promised that none of his sheep will finally fall away.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me,is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).

Our God is one of perseverance and preservation. Trust this sovereign God to preserve you in a particular difficult ministry and in the ministry altogether. Obedience is hardly comfortable this side of the Fall. However, the one who called you is with you. He knew what he was doing. Are pastors inadequate for the vocation? In one sense, the answer to this question is always, “Yes.” However, is God big enough and powerful enough to be strong when we are weak? Yes. Always.

While the temptation to leave the ministry and burnout is real, the power of God to endure pastors to the end is stronger. His grace is sufficient. Pastors, trust in this.

If any pastor reading this has any suggestions or helps for dealing with ministry struggles without burning out, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY. with his wife Erica.

Morning Mashup 06/09

9 Things You Should Know About the Southern Baptist Convention – Joe Carter: “This week the Southern Baptist Convention meets in Baltimore, Maryland for its 156th annual meeting. Here are nine things you should know about America’s largest Protestant denomination.”

Pastoral Care, Confidentiality, and Sexual Abuse – Matt Capps: “What should a pastor do when a congregant confides that he or she has been or is being abused sexually? What should a pastor do when someone in the congregation exposes instances of sexual abuse involving others? When is it appropriate to break confidentiality?”

50 Novels Every Man Should Read – C’mon guys! Pick up some of these books.

What if Your Child is Gay? – Russell Moore: “Every child, whether gay or straight, is oriented toward sin, and so are you. If your child or grandchild says he or she is gay, you shouldn’t act shocked, as though you are surprised your child might be tempted toward sin, or that you find your own sinful inclinations somehow less deserving of God’s judgment.”

Sharpen Your Affections with Fasting – My wife and I were both heavily affected by this article from David Mathis. It prompted serious soul-searching and resulted in pointed resolution. Fasting is a ghost in much of evangelicalism, but it will no longer be in our household, partly because of this article. I could commend it to you more highly.

I believe that no matter how much we invest, from stained glass to strobe lights, without an appreciation of God’s holiness, our worship is fated to be superficial and, at best, momentarily moving. –Drew Dyck