27 March, 2010

That's Some Bad Preachin' Pastor

Last night I woke up with that awful feeling that follows a bad dream. As I lay in bed I tried to remember the content of the dream that bothered me so much. Here's what I remember:

I was asked to preach at Synod for the 2010 meeting of Synod (this has not happened by the way, but I would gladly accept an invitation in case there is anyone on the business of synod committee reading). As I approached the front of the room a desk was pushed to where the pulpit should be and a chair was placed on top of it so that I could stand on the chair. A very tall music stand would serve as the lectern.

I stood on the chair, and since I am a rather large man, the chair was a bit wobbly, and it took a lot of energy to properly stand in the make-shift pulpit. As I opened my notes to begin preaching, I noticed that they were not my sermon notes, but a compilation of magazine articles pasted onto printer paper and poorly copied textual notes in diverse colors, sizes, and fonts. It was so poorly printed that I could not make out what they even said.

Between the wobbly make-shift pulpit, the poor notes, and the overwhelming nervousness that abounded, I could not preach. I just stood there wobbling and flipping through these poorly prepared sermon notes. I was able to sputter out some word salad, but nothing of any value.

One by one the presbyters started to leave the Synod floor. Nothing that I said made any sense and the men obviously had better things to do. The numbers slowly dwindled and the last face that I saw was Pastor Ian Wise smile a heart-felt smile, and then he too walked away. (Ian is one of the kindest godly men that I know.)

I was asked to step out of the pulpit and then a nice young lady stood in my place and began preaching very powerfully to those on the Synod floor. Applause irrupted as her powerful sermon touched the hearts of the hearers. I was humbled and shocked for a number of reasons, as you can imagine.

Why such a bad dream you might ask? Well, it may have something to do with the fact that I read this article right before bed:

Brothers, those of us who preach, must be moved by the sermon before we even enter into a pulpit. Our lives must be living testimonies of the grace of God working in our hearts. If our sermons are merely pious thoughts on things and stuff we will never have the blessing of the Spirit to move our people to greater holiness. We will never preach as one who has been transformed by grace. We must preach with passion and heart. We must preach with conviction and with power from on high!

The state of the Christian pulpit is in need of reform from the Word of God. And it is not just the words coming from the pulpit that are in need of reformation, brothers, our hearts are in need of reformation.

Our Presbyterian forefathers were asked the question, "How is the Word of God to be preached by those that are called to preach?" They answered in a way that needs to be seared into every heart that preaches the Word of God, and carved into the desk of every pulpit in this land:

Those who are called to labor in the Ministry of the Word are to preach sound doctrine:
-diligently, in season and out of season
-plainly, not in the enticing words of man's wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power
-faithfully, making known the whole counsel of God
-wisely, applying themselves to the necessities and capacities of the hearers
-zealously, with fervent love to God and the souls of his people
-sincerely, aiming at his glory, and their conversion, edification, and salvation.

Brothers. Preach the Word. Preach as a dying man to dying men. Preach as you have but one sermon left to preach. Preach as though you have first preached to your own soul.

Link to article here: http://www.worldmag.com/articles/16511

20 March, 2010

How To Write A Proposal To Your Session

Many people want to participate in the ministry of the church, yet many do not know how to get their ideas across to their church leadership. Here is a short video that explains how to write a proposal to your session. My hope is that as men and women have God glorifying ideas- they share them with the Ministry of the Church. Enjoy... and get to work!

12 March, 2010

The Gospel According to Jiminy Cricket

'My conscience is clear.' This has become the standard answer in the church to excuse sin. And for many people- they believe this is a fine standard- Jiminy Cricket said to "always let conscience be your guide."

Although conscience is important, and conscience is one of the ways that God has given to direct our sense of right and wrong- we must understand something. The conscience is fallen. It too is tainted by Adam's guilt. So when one becomes a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, he or she must bring his conscience under the authority of Jesus Christ. As we inform our conscience from the Scriptures, only then will be able to find it useful for us. Of course, even then it is not our standard of behavior- the Scriptures are. So next time you attempt to excuse sin with stating, 'My conscience is clear' ask yourself whether your conscience has been properly informed by the Word of God. The Bible is our guide in the Christian life- and the conscience should affirm what the Scriptures teach.

The Reformed Presbyterian Testimony has a helpful statement in chapter 20:

Conscience is a sense of right and wrong by which one evaluates his own thoughts and behavior. When one follows his conscience, he feels a measure of contentment; when he violates his conscience, he feels dis- tress. Conscience is natural to man, and implies his accountability to God, but it is not the rule of faith and practice. Conscience shows the work of the law written on the heart, but is distorted by the work of Satan, by man’s sinful nature, and by the ungodly standards of the world. The Christian’s conscience is to be directed by God’s revealed law, under the illumination of the Holy Spirit, with due attention to the teaching and admonition of the brethren. Although conscience is not infallible, a person should not do what he believes to be wrong.

09 March, 2010

Reformed Red Flags

Over the past number of years, the Southern Baptist Church (SBC) has been fighting a battle that many evangelical churches are also fighting. The 'Calvinist vs. Arminian' debate is raging in the SBC. By the grace of God, the denomination is moving more and more towards its Reformation roots.

Recently, there has been a counter-attack rallying against the Reformed movement in the SBC . One of the tactical documents was recently given to the Founders' Ministries (one of the main agitators for reformation in the SBC). The document was for pastoral search committees to be aware of some of the 'red flags' to look out for when searching for a pastor. In the mind of many in the SBC- these are things that are to be avoided; because they are connected with Calvinism.
  • Lack of passion in public invitations for the lost to repent...
  • Use of the ESV Bible.
  • Adding... belief statements... to what their church believes... such as the First London Baptist Confession ((1689)...
  • Member of the Founders' Movement...
  • They will call Calvinists to join them on their church staff.
  • Tendency towards a highly logical systematic theology...
  • They love to write and blog about their reform theology...
I pray that the SBC continues to reform by the Grace of God in Christ. I look forward to watching the continuing unfolding of this story. And I pray that all those who love Jesus Christ will bow their knee to His Word and His Rule.

"Lord Jesus, build your Church."