By jredd / Mar 29
On this episode of the FTC Podcast, Jared Wilson and Ross Ferguson discuss the new Christian film “Jesus Revolution.” Did Ross love it? Did Jared hate it? And what implications might it have for ministry and church life today?
Gospel-Centered Resources from Midwestern Seminary
On this episode of the FTC Podcast, Jared Wilson and Ross Ferguson discuss the new Christian film “Jesus Revolution.” Did Ross love it? Did Jared hate it? And what implications might it have for ministry and church life today?
Last week, a young adult I pastor came into my office to ask about something he’d seen. It was a video of a deconstructionist influencer on TikTok “proving” that the Gospels are unreliable. He wanted to know what I thought. The video had shaken his faith. Videos on social media like these have millions to hundreds of millions of views. If you pastor younger generations, you’re likely already aware of this new reality. If you’re not, welcome.
The thought of those in our ministries being drawn away by a stranger through a screen is gut-wrenching. As I’ve talked with friends who pastor junior high through college-age students, many feel daunted by this new trend. “We’re only with them a few hours a week, these accounts are available to them all day every day!” “Should we start accounts where we combat these videos?”
What is a pastor to do? How do we who’ve been charged with shepherding younger generations respond to this new reality and the threat it poses to those in our care? Before I try to answer that, let me first tell you what the answer is not.
As much as we might feel the need to, the response is not to go on TikTok or Instagram and watch every video we can find to know all the gauntlets being thrown. One reason is because the sheer amount of content out there is just too much for any pastor to try and get a hand on. To try to do so will only exhaust and discourage us. While some familiarity with the posts is wise, too much focus on them will distract us from who truly needs it—our students and young adults. Rather than the trend, they must command our attention.
Moreover, focusing on the content isn’t the right response because the questions being asked aren’t new. Sure, there are new angles and implications because of the new realities of our day–like LGBTQ+ issues; but the foundational questions underneath every point being raised by Exvangelical, deconstructionist, or atheist influencers are ones the Church has been asked and answered for nearly 2,000 years. It’s the medium that’s new, not the questions. The Church has a treasure trove of answers in its attic. We just need to open it up and familiarize ourselves with them.
At the same time, while old answers are what we have, new ways of putting them are what we need. Pastors should seek fresh presentations of old answers to fresh spins on old questions. Thankfully, we have contemporary resources just for that. There are plenty out there that you can find via YouTube or TikTok. These resources are a great help to both pastors and students because they answer the questions being raised in ways that most resonate with our context.
All of that being said, I strongly believe that familiarizing ourselves with the available resources is only secondary work. Worth a measured dose of our time? Absolutely! The most vital response we should have? Not by a long shot.
So, what should we do? I want to propose the blueprint Paul gives in 1 Thessalonians 2:8:
“We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.”
This latest Christian-adverse social media trend is tricky to deal with, but I am convinced that the primary response must be life-on-life discipleship. What this moment demands of pastors of younger generations is that we keep doing what pastors have done since the dawn of the church. In our teaching, across coffee tables, at In-N-Out, by hospital beds, on drives home from youth group, we give the gospel and we give our own selves. The “answer,” as it has always been, is life-on-life discipleship.
Why is this the particular solution to deconstructionist social media? Because we have something the influencer on a device doesn’t: physical proximity. This means we have the unique opportunity to validate the truth of our words by our lives, to offer a front row seat to the gospel enfleshed in us. Through intentional, life-on-life discipleship, we let our lives verify the gospel.
This was Paul’s strategy. Multiple times in his letters he appeals to his in-person life among those he ministered to as the validating criteria of the gospel he shared with them (Acts 20:18; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, 2 Corinthians 1-12, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10). That’s exactly what he does next in 1 Thessalonians 2. Right before and right after he tells them he loved them so much he shared not only the gospel but his very self with them (v.8), he says:
“For we never used flattering speech, as you know, or had greedy motives — God is our witness — and we didn’t seek glory from people, either from you or from others. Although we could have been a burden as Christ’s apostles, instead we were gentle among you, as a nurse nurtures her own children…For you remember our labor and hardship, brothers and sisters. Working night and day so that we would not burden any of you, we preached God’s gospel to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how devoutly, righteously, and blamelessly we conducted ourselves with you believers. As you know, like a father with his own children, we encouraged, comforted, and implored each one of you to walk worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:5-7, 9-12)
Paul viewed and pointed to his tangible, in-person living among the Thessalonians as the case-in-point evidence for the genuineness of his love for them and the reliability of the gospel he had shared with him.
The same is true for pastors today. Life-on-life discipleship remains our authenticating witness to the gospel–and the effects are salvific. That’s exactly why Paul exhorts Timothy to “pay close attention to your life and your teaching.” Because, “in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). A pastor’s life among his people is the greatest apologetic he has for the Word he teaches, and by it people are brought to and kept in the faith. But in order for that to happen we must step off the stage and out of the office and get around our people so that our lives can be seen.
What is needed of pastors today amidst a rising tide of anti-gospel social media content? Answer our students’/young adults’ questions. Resource them. Train them to defend the faith. But above all else, share with them the glorious gospel of the grace of God and your very own self through run-of-the-mill, every day, your life on their life discipleship. That is the primary way pastors must respond to this latest challenge to our students’ and young adults’ faith.
Here are just a couple of ways of doing this that my wife and I have tried and seen fruit from that you could easily start doing this this week:
1. Make space for students/young adults to pose the questions they and others have. This could be in a teaching series, but I think the most fertile ground for this is less from a stage and more so while sitting at a table. Here’s how I’ve tried to practice this: After our Sunday night gatherings, our young adults ministry goes, without fail, to In-N-Out. While we’re there, I will occasionally ask what TikToks they’ve seen lately that run counter to Christian teaching or what’s a question their friends have about Christianity. After they tell me, I ask them what they make of it, how they would respond, and then I give my own response or affirm theirs. These conversations assure them it’s ok to ask good questions, while also opening a door for good answers to be given to the questions they’ve come across.
2. Invite your students/young adults into your home/family life. Not only is this an incredibly vulnerable practice in our privatized culture in the West which is compelling in itself, but it also lets them see that the life you lead doesn’t vary depending on the turf you’re on. By demonstrating you are the same person everywhere, you adorn the gospel (Titus 2:10) with a validity the influencer on their phone simply can’t. What’s more, this act of vulnerability may give them the courage to ask questions they might feel less confident to ask in a group setting. But maybe most importantly, what better way to give yourself to them than to make space for them in your home/family life? This can look a million different ways. You can invite a student to help you get the heavy thing your wife bought off Facebook Marketplace. Your wife can invite a young lady over to help with the kids or in the garden. You can invite students to come watch your daughter’s soccer game with your family. The possibilities for opening our home/family life to students and young adults and the fruit that will come from doing so are endless.
So pastor, be encouraged. As your young people watch you handle the word and live it out by the Spirit’s power; as you invite them into your home where they see how you care for your wife and kids; as you show up at soccer matches and swim meets and dance recitals; as you do late night TacoBell runs after small group; as you make space across coffee tables for honest questions; as you invite them to go on a grocery run with you; as you hold them in hospital ICU rooms as their worst nightmare is unfolding before them, the validity of the gospel they’ve heard from you will be confirmed. Your life-on-life discipleship of those in your charge is the more compelling witness the Spirit will use to save and grow and keep them. You don’t need a social media presence. You don’t need a clever strategy. You just need to be around them. That will be your greatest and most Spirit-laden apologetic against which no question can stand.
I turn 48 this year, loosely ensconced in my middle age years, on the downhill slope to 50. I’ve thought a lot about this season of life, primarily from the standpoint of committing to passing the baton and investing in the Church’s younger generations. But I’ve also thought a lot about the peculiarities of this season of life, how for many it holds such uneasiness and insecurity. I’ve thought about the so-called “midlife crisis.” I used to think it was a weird thing that (mostly) men in their middle ages feel suddenly drawn to sports cars and career reinventions and (worst of all) trading in their wives for younger models. These things have become midlife cliches.
I still think that phenomenon is a weird thing, but I think I understand it a bit better now. Midlife brings new insecurities and awakenings to long-dormant regrets. Many of us face empty nests and the prospect of, in effect, starting over with spouses we’ve only related to for so long as co-parents rather than as partners or friends. Many of us face the reality of aging parents and any fears or worries or responsibilities that come with that. And of course we daily face the reality of lost youth, waning strength, more difficult processes for maintaining health. Time moves a lot faster the older you get. That’s a cliche too, but it’s true.
By God’s grace, I don’t feel the need to buy a sports car or to make a career change or to blow up my marriage. But I do think a lot about the distant past and the quickly approaching future. And I don’t know how anybody handles these things without walking with Jesus.
In midlife, Christ is a consolation for all the things I wish I’d done differently. He doesn’t change my past, but he can redeem it. And I’ve discovered he is faithful to do that. He does not judge me by my actions but by his own, freely given to me in love.
In midlife, Christ is a companion through all the worries and stresses. I’ve gotten more serious about my health over the last year and a half, and while I have no illusions about having the strength and energy I did at 25, I have no doubts that my friend Jesus is as strong as he’s ever been, and wherever I have to go, I know he will go with me. There is no partner like the King of the Universe who will never leave me or forsake me.
In midlife, Christ is a constant encourager. His Spirit has been bearing fruit in my life all along, and the longer I walk with him, the further down the narrow road I wander, the sweeter I find him, and the more precious. As so much is wasting away — including myself, day by day — his renewing presence sustains me, cheers me. I cannot imagine getting old without the daily newness of his mercies.
And I can’t imagine dying without him. Or, actually, I can. And that idea makes me increasingly happy that I know I won’t.
I would think I should be more sanctified by now! But I am grateful that the One who began the work in me will be faithful to complete it. That glorious truth is the only real antidote to the potential crises of middle age.
If you’re on the front side of middle age, I encourage you to begin investing in your friendship with Jesus now. Don’t put off communion with Christ. He’ll still be there, waiting for you, if you do — assuming you even make it to middle age. But imagine yourself in those days of thinning hair, stubborn paunch, creaky bones and joints, callouses of hand and scars of heart, having walked closely for years and years with the Savior. It will make the middle age something to savor.
After too many hours of labor and multiple complications, I finally heard the most beautiful sound of my newborn boy’s cries for the first time. After the doctor, my husband was the first to hold our son, as I was sewn back together post cesarean section. As many new mothers, my heart was exploding with worship and gratitude over the gift of a safe delivery and healthy child. Yet there was a thought that I have not been able to escape from that day on: It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.
When Eve, the Mother of All Living, was cursed as a result of sin in Genesis 3, God said to her:
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.”
Biological mothers everywhere know a version of this pain, even if they were spared some of it through medication. Labor hurts. Not to mention, hundreds of thousands of women around the globe still die every year in childbirth. Physically bringing a baby into the world involves pain. We know this. Yet while “pain in childbearing” is not less than labor pains and life-threatening births, it is more than that.
Every woman, young or old, biological mother or not, experiences the curse of pain in childbearing.
Infertility. Miscarriage. Debilitating pregnancy symptoms. Complications during pregnancy. Contractions. Painful breastfeeding efforts. Failed adoptions. Menstrual pain. Menopausal pain. Disobedient toddlers. Wayward teenage and adult children. These examples just scratch the surface of the sufferings of women that can be categorized as “pain in childbearing.”
When we experience this pain in childbearing (and if you’re a woman, you have and you will), what do we do with it? Let’s allow the grief to drive us to these truths:
1) It’s not supposed to be this way.
While my unplanned c-section was a very minor suffering compared to others, my sense of it being somehow “wrong” was not unfounded. God designed women to be able to deliver children in a particular way. Because of the fall, sometimes women’s bodies don’t work the way they should. Mine didn’t, and that’s something to be grieved.
It is not only okay to acknowledge when things aren’t the way they should be– it is good and right. Doing so orients us to the beauty of God’s original design and to the hideous brokenness that sin has wrought. When we experience pain in childbearing, we ought to remember the curse and grieve the sin that caused it.
2) Our pain points us to Christ, the serpent-crusher.
The good news is that the story doesn’t end with grief. In this very same passage of Genesis 3, we see what scholars call the protoevangelium– the first gospel proclamation. Just before the curse of the woman we see it in the curse of the serpent:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
In God’s kindness, though it is through much pain, women do still bear children. More than that, we see in this curse a promise that one day a woman would have an offspring that would bruise (in other translations, crush) the head of the serpent. The Christian’s New Covenant lens allows us to see that this woman was Mary, daughter of Eve, who brought forth Jesus, the Serpent-Crusher himself, through much pain in her childbearing.
Our pain in childbearing is tied to the gospel. As we grieve things not being the way they are supposed to be, we can remember the hope that Jesus gives. Even in the moment of cursing it was promised that he, the seed of the woman, would come to deliver us. He has come, and he will come again.
3) It is worth it.
This is something mothers hear and say often, rightly so. But it’s not only worth it for the woman who successfully conceives and delivers a healthy baby. It’s not only worth it for the mom who is fortunate enough to see all her grown children happy, healthy, and walking with the Lord. We must believe the suffering is worth it for the mom who lost her baby in the third trimester. We must believe the suffering is worth it for the woman who always desperately wanted to be an earthly mother but was never married as she wished, or was infertile, or who had too many miscarriages for her heart to handle. We must believe the suffering is worth it because Christ is our prize.
While in our suffering we may not get clear answers to our “why” questions in this life, we can trust that God has good purposes for us in it. As Paul says in Romans 5, “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame.” Our suffering, whether we get the earthly blessing of a healthy, God-fearing child or not, is never wasted.
Pain in childbearing will continue to be felt by all women everywhere until the Kingdom comes. Let’s grieve sin when this pain comes, put our hope in Christ, and remember that for the believer, no suffering is ever wasted.
On this episode of the FTC Podcast, Jared Wilson visits with pastor and author Jeremy Writebol about his new book *Pastor, Jesus is Enough* and the problem of ministerial burnout.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself . . . strengthen [you].” — 1 Peter 5:10
To suffer, with Christ, is a vastly superior to a life of comfort without him.
And if he has saved you through his death, manifesting all his divine power in his own human weakness unto death, do you not think he can be your power in your suffering?
He will be your strength in the eternal life he gives you. Eternal life means just that—“eternal.” This means however much you suffer, even if it be all of your life, and even if your life is long, it will still be nothing but a blip on the radar of eternity. “After you have suffered a little while,” says Peter. It is the context of eternity, which is the length of our union with Christ and therefore the un-expiring duration of our security, which colors our suffering. So that Paul could refer to his missional life of suffering, “a light momentary affliction” (2 Cor. 4:17). It’s not even worth comparing to the eternal weight of glory.
It is the sustaining vision of eternal life in Christ that fixes even a lifetime of suffering to a fine point — a fine point that in the last day will be eclipsed by the glory of the radiant Christ, perhaps even distilled down to a jewel placed amidst your treasures, or placed in the crown of Christ himself as we offer our suffering up to him, finally in our fully sanctified state, truly not loving our own lives even unto death.
But the apostle here is not simply promising the escape of suffering –- he is promising the sustenance through it.
He will be your strength in the midst of your suffering, with sustaining grace to persevere. He is there, with you and around you and beneath you and over you and in you and beside you, and you are in him, and there is no furnace so hot that Christ will not walk into it with you.
I’m reminded of the passage in The Hiding Place, as Corrie ten Boom, with her father, contemplates the prospect of torture and death ahead of her:
I burst into tears, “I need you!” I sobbed. “You can’t die! You can’t!”
“Corrie,” he began gently. “When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?”
“Why, just before we get on the train.”
“Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.”
When you must go through the furnace, you will not be alone.
In the weakness of suffering, Christ will be your strength.
1. Without a clear, discernible, and simple structure, your sermon will feel longer than it actually is.
2. Don’t short-shrift the exposition, but the quicker you move from point 1 to point 2, the shorter your sermon will feel, even if it’s not a short sermon. Ideally, your exposition should be a bit longer under each successive point. This will also lend the feel of a narrative arc to your sermon, a sense of build and climax.
3. An exegetical outline is not a homiletical outline. When it comes to the outline, remember to think in terms of proclamation, not just in terms of structure/data. Sometimes the difference in composition is just a well-placed verb.
4. Your homiletical outline should reflect a sense of symmetry (think alliteration, repetitive form, etc.), not because it helps people remember your sermon points – as a rule, sadly, they won’t – but because it forces you to think more compositionally, substantively, and even artfully about your sermon.
5. If you’re not a great extemporaneous speaker, a manuscript can keep you from crutch words and phrases (um, uh, er, “you know”) and make your preaching more polished and thus more listenable.
6. If you are a pretty good extemporaneous speaker, a manuscript may keep you from making eye contact and compassionate connection and make your preaching feel more robotic and thus more lecture-like.
7. A sermon is not a lecture.
8. If you manuscript your sermons, remember that you’re not writing for the page, but for speech. Adjust language, construction, development of arguments, etc. accordingly.
9. The sermon preparation process should be as much devotional as exegetical.
10. Sermon prep works best when it is prayerful.
11. Engaging introductions are important, but if you take too long to get to the text, you may give the impression the text is not setting the agenda for the sermon.
12. Preaching Christ as moral exemplar is fine and biblical, but it is not the same as preaching Christ.
13. The word “gospel” is not magic. Don’t mistake using the words “the gospel” for actually preaching the gospel. To steward the Spiritual power of the good news well, you must actually articulate the news – cross and resurrection, at a minimum.
14. Verse-by-verse is a perfectly fine mode of exposition, but it’s not the only one.
15. Sometimes verse-by-verse exposition falls short of biblical preaching, like when it misses the text’s context, and especially when it misses the text’s Christ.
16. A well-worn cliché worth remembering: A text without a context is the pretext for a prooftext.
17. There are generally three contexts for every text: the immediate, the biblical, the Christological.
18. Remember, the verse numbers are not inspired.
19. The most common point of application in the apostolic preaching is “Repent and believe.”
20. Don’t underestimate what good illustrations can do, but don’t overestimate them either. The power in your sermon is not in a well-turned phrase or a well-told anecdote but in a well-preached gospel.
21. Illustrations make your exposition “visible” to the mind’s eye of your hearers. Furthermore, they help hearers rest from exposition and engage a different portion of their brain. Good illustrative content makes a sermon feel more substantive, more full, and more aimed at the whole person.
22. Some of you should remember to smile.
23. Some of you should remember to cry.
24. Some of you think preaching just means yelling, and you’re way beyond the age of knowing better.
25. A succession of cutesy stories is just a hokey standup routine masquerading as a sermon. (Looking at you, older preachers.)
26. A succession of intellectual ruminations is just a theology lecture masquerading as a sermon. (Looking at you, younger preachers.)
27. Both of the above approaches are just opposite ways of “preaching ourselves.”
28. If you disdain creativity, you could probably stand to be more creative.
29. If you prize creativity, you could probably stand to be less creative.
30. Pay attention to what you’re doing with your hands. Pay attention to your tone of voice. Varying your gestures and modulating your voice suppress a “monotone effect.”
31. The sermon length sweet spot for the vast majority of us is probably 35 minutes, give or take a few minutes. This is not so much a capitulation to the short attention span of modern audiences as it is a preacher’s ability to economize in his presentation and be merciful to his audience. Most of us are not as listenable as we think we are.
32. Too-long sermons are sometimes the result of overcooking, the preacher trying to say everything about a text that is possible to say, which is not the point of a sermon. Too-short sermons are usually the result of superficial preparation. Beware both extremes, but for the favorer of short sermons, remember that, unfortunately, the sermon is the most Bible most of your congregation will get each week. They need a good, deep look, not a quick glance.
33. Law-heavy sermons please the flesh, but cannot save or sanctify a heart.
34. Law-heavy sermons are excellent at provoking conviction, but grace-heavy sermons both convict and comfort.
35. Grace-heavy sermons console, but they also empower.
36. Mind the imperatives and the indicatives and learn to distinguish them well. A stubborn distinction between law and gospel is part of what makes Christian preaching Christian.
37. When you are done with your sermon prep – ideally, before you have preached your sermon – ask whether there is anything distinctly Christian about it. Could your informational Old Testament sermon be preached in a Jewish synagogue? Could your inspirational New Testament sermon be preached in a Mormon setting?
38. Every text of Scripture has a road that leads to “the great metropolis of the Scriptures,” which is Christ (Spurgeon). The preacher’s job is to find that road.
39. If, after as much toil as time and energy allows, you cannot find that road, “make one” (Spurgeon). It is better to clunkily preach Christ than not to preach him at all.
40. Topical sermons are fine in theory, but in execution, topical sermons should entail the exposition of a central text on that topic.
41. Good expositional preaching passively trains churches how to study their Bibles.
42. Preaching through whole books of the Bible should be the normative diet in congregational worship.
43. Preaching through whole books of the Bible exposes the congregation to texts they might not encounter of their own volition and challenges the preacher to present texts he might otherwise wish to avoid.
44. Preaching through whole books of the Bible nurtures a deeper love of God’s word among the congregation, as well as a sense of endurance (Rom. 15:4).
45. At first, congregations will listen to your good preaching. Over time, however, if they do not experience you as a caring shepherd, even your good preaching will have little effect. They will wonder if you even believe it. But: “If they believe you love them, they will bear anything from you” (Baxter). Even a bad sermon now and again.
46. If you listen to the same preacher or two, you’re going to end up sounding like them – for better or worse. If you cannot listen widely, choose wisely.
47. As in writing, in preaching it takes a while to find your voice. In the beginning, you will (even unwittingly) sound like your favorite preacher(s). Over time, however, your true voice will begin to emerge. It will be a neat discovery.
48. A preaching of Christ that feels formulaic and one-note is not always a failure of hermeneutic but often a failure of spirituality. A preaching of Christ that feels formulaic and one-note is frequently the result of a personal relationship with Christ that is formulaic and one-note.
49. The preacher must take personal care during the week that he is not simply engaging in a relationship with the idea of Jesus rather than with Jesus himself.
50. A feeble, flawed preacher preaching a fallible sermon can nevertheless deliver a powerful Savior that scares devils, shakes strongholds, and saves sinners from death and hell. Many might preach the gospel better than you, but nobody can preach a better gospel.
On this episode of the FTC Podcast, Jared Wilson talks with author and publisher Drew Dyck about the ins and outs of Christian publishing — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Have you ever known a married couple who confessed they didn’t love each other? I have, and trust me, there is nothing more painful. As a husband, I can’t imagine waking up every morning beside a woman I didn’t love. I pity such a person.
On a couple of occasions, I’ve had such couples meet with me. Their stories tend to be similar. Life is rote. Their relationship is boring. They are married, but they feel more like individuals sharing a home and splitting the bills. For these people, romance left town long ago. They feel trapped because they understand divorce isn’t an option.
I can’t imagine the boredom, frustration, and disappointment that type of life must entail, especially for those who, like me, believe that marriage is between one man and one woman for life.
This is what one who enters the ministry without a love for the church will feel. In many ways, ministry is like marriage; you sacrifice for, love, and serve the body of Christ. You cannot do this—you will not do this—unless you serve out of a heart of love.
Perhaps you’ve seen pastors like this. They look for every opportunity to be away from their congregation. They erect barriers between themselves and their church. They view other activities, ministerial or otherwise, as more important and more satisfying than just serving God’s people. They seem to view God’s people as an interruption to their ministry, when the people are supposed to be their ministry.
Imagine giving your life to a task you do not love—or worse, to a people you don’t love. Ministry service is glorious, but it can also be uniquely taxing, and only those propelled by a love for Christ and His church survive the long haul.
THE NEW TESTAMENT IS ALL ABOUT THE CHURCH
It is impossible to read the New Testament without being struck by the centrality of the church. In the Gospels, Jesus dies for His church, charges Christians to expand His church, and promises to build His church. In the book of Acts, the church is birthed at Pentecost and explodes into unstoppable expansion and powerful ministry. The Epistles were all written to congregations or individuals about what the church should believe, how it should function, and how it should be led. When we come to the book of Revelation, we see Christ writing seven letters to seven churches and promising to one day return for His bride, the church.
This all speaks to the importance of the church—indeed, of Jesus’ love for it. In fact, Christ so identified Himself with the church that He famously challenged Saul on the Damascus Road, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:5, emphasis mine). Saul’s occupation was to persecute the church, but to Christ, that was tantamount to persecuting His very self.
So we must right off dispel the notion that you can serve Christ without serving the church, or that you can love Christ without loving the church. Such an argument is harmful, goes directly against the grain of the New Testament, undermines the local church and the call to ministry, and will shipwreck your pursuit of Christ and Christian service. You may not serve it directly as a pastor or minister, but you should plan on serving the church at least indirectly in a ministry supportive of, or supervised by, the church. That is fitting and right because the New Testament defines ministry in the context of the local church. In whatever capacity you minister, to serve faithfully is to serve from a heart of love.
Editor’s Note: This originally published at JasonKAllen.com
*This article is an excerpt from Discerning Your Call to Ministry: How to Know For Sure and What to Do About It, by Jason K. Allen. If you are considering the ministry, there are two mistakes you must avoid. The first is taking up a calling that isn’t yours. The second is neglecting one that is.*
Available to purchase online at Amazon.com, Moody Publishers, and in LifeWay Christian Stores. Learn more at jasonkallen.com/calltoministrybook.
The Lord invites us to know Him better. What a privilege! If the joy of heaven is in knowing the Lord’s presence without any sin to hinder us, surely seeking His presence now must be the greatest possible pursuit.
Do you feel your need to pray? A person who has no need to pray cannot be living by faith. Prayerless-ness says, “I am sufficient in myself for everything required of me.” But is that so? And do you not grieve God by your persistent self-sufficiency? The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
The following suggestions are designed to help you spend an extended time in prayer and meditation with God. You may spend this hour alone or with others. The order is not essential, but does provide a helpful way to progress. This tool may be used daily or for special times of retreat with God. Some may wish to follow this hour with more intense Bible reading.
It is sometimes good to kneel or to lie down before the Lord. “Come let us bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our God, our Maker” (Psalm 95:6). Walking while praying can also be helpful, or sitting in a comfortable chair so that all the focus can be on God. Be sure and find a quiet place.
The audience we have with the Father is entirely based upon the merits of Christ. In other words, it is solely because Christ lived perfectly, died satisfactorily, and rose again victoriously for us that we have the privilege of addressing the Father. Because God accepts Christ, He can accept us in Him. “…He made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6b).
Don’t just say the words, but actually trust in Christ as your mediator. Express in some detail your dependence on Christ’s worthiness and on His substitutionary work on your behalf.
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ….For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:13,18).
Express your wonder and delight in God. Praise Him for His character and His power. Do not thank Him at this time for His activity in your life, but focus on the person of God and His attributes: His Love, Patience, Immensity, Strength, Holiness, Grace, Glory, Knowledge, Wisdom, Goodness, etc.
“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
Tell God what you desire above all other things. Express your deepest longings for fellowship with Him and for holiness of life, or whatever is in your heart. This is not a time to pray about everything you need, but to make known your deepest, long-term desires. You may wish to personalize Ephesians 1:15-23 as a guide.
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2a).
You may wish to use one of the “Psalms for the day,” according to the day of the month. Add 30 to the day of the month to arrive at five Psalms for the day (i.e. on the 15th, the Psalms would be 15, 45, 75, 105, and 135). It may be helpful to read the Psalm you choose out loud.
Use a hymnbook, recall a chorus or hymn from memory, or make up your own song from the Scriptures.
“Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing” (Psalm 100:1-2).
If you are praying in the morning, you may wish to place every aspect of the day before the Lord, one item at a time.
“Lord, please give me patience with my daughter when she comes to breakfast; help me show her love and kindness.”
“Lord, when I try to make that sale at 2:00 this afternoon, help me to speak as a Christian would speak, and give me wisdom.”
By going chronologically through every possible event of the day, you are learning to trust Him in the details of life.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
There are matters needing attention in your own life and in the lives of others, the church, or your group. Tell these to God and ask for His guidance, deliverance, endurance, wisdom, or whatever it is that you need. It is at this time that you will want to deal with any repentance God is requiring. Expect Him to give you grace to overcome. “Be zealous therefore, and repent” (Revelation 3:19b). Ask with faith and genuine humility.
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
“…Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24b).
To meditate means to ponder, reflect, contemplate, or think over slowly, the Words of God. If this is your only Bible reading time, continue reading the passage that is next for you in your plan. Read at least a chapter of Scripture. Look for the key verses and meditate on them, asking God to show you what they mean. Mark them in your Bible and ask God to help you remember what He is showing. Pray that He will give you a way to humbly share these truths with others. Read to obey.
If you are in a group, allow a period of quiet so that each person may read the Word. The leader may wish to suggest the passage for use with the group. If there is time, insights may be shared with each other.
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also does not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” (Psalm 1:1-3).
Even if there have been difficulties in your life, the Lord has been good to you. Express to God your appreciation for specific acts of kindness He has done in the light of what you truly deserve.
“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15).
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published at ccwtoday.org.