The Most Important Thing

When wars have ceased, international leaders have become dust and the poverty of their souls is revealed; when enterprises crumble and the last dream has evaporated; when death has claimed the final person, and those alive are changed for their eternal future; when everything earthly and mundane is over, and each person resides in heaven or hell—what will be important? And what among all that is important will be the most important?

This is a question worth thinking about, because finding out what is important in the end will, or at least should, tell you what is important now. That which is important for eternity, that is, for billions of years and more, is surely the most important thing to God for this brief wisp of time called human history. And it should be even more important for you, since you live here for only a small fraction of that wisp.

What if, in your hurry and your worry about so many little things, you actually missed the most important thing?

That which is most important for all time, as is well known only to some, is Jesus Christ. I mean, not just Jesus Christ as a being, but Jesus Christ in the light of what he has done—his life, death, and resurrection. It is a huge gamble to dismiss the one who is the center of everything. There is, in fact, no hope for such a person.

You know what it means to forget the most important element of some concoction—like the sugar in sugar cookies, or the coffee in your coffee and cream, or the lens in your glasses, or the warhead on your nuclear weapon. But some of you have forgotten Christ, and his death and resurrection, as if he were not essential to life and eternity. He is, rather, everything related to life and eternity. This is why I say there is no hope for such an omission.

Christ’s perfect life, his sacrificial and substitutionary death, and his victorious authenticating resurrection provide the foundation of all hope. As Dr. J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) stated, “Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative.” God declares that something is done on behalf of those who will come to him—Jesus lived without sin as the perfect lamb, took on their sin and died in their place as the adequate sacrifice, and was raised bodily over the power of sin and death for them.

To think little or not at all about the centerpiece of history, is to guarantee that you will have no place in heaven. It is not enough to merely be religious by going to church on holidays or even every Sunday, or doing a few other well-meaning duties. It is not religion that makes you acceptable to God. You must be “accepted in the Beloved,” that is, in Christ’s merits alone. (Eph. 1: 6) Only trusting in Christ, resting your confidence in the one who lived, died, and was raised again, can assure you of heaven.

To believe otherwise, to add your little bit of religious activity to Christ as if you could impress God, is actually insulting to God. Either Christ is sufficient or he stands in need of you to satisfy God’s wrath and to provide your acceptance before the Father. The declaration of Scripture is that he does not need you; rather, you need him, for without a living relationship with him through faith, you could not possible be received by the Father. Christ cried out on the cross, “It is finished,” meaning, it is paid in full. But “If righteousness comes by the law, then Christ died needlessly.” (Gal. 2: 21)

You may say, “Anyone can begin a religion like Christianity.” But you give away the fact that you think of Christianity as only a system of duties. You are wrong. It is about Christ and what he has done that could not be done by any other. If you are merely a moralist, using some Christian terminology at times, don’t think you have become a true Christian. Moralism damns, in and of itself. Christianity is not based on what you do, but on Christ, his death, and his resurrection. If this is too much to swallow now, you will avow it later, but sadly, when it is too late.

It does not have to be this way. You may put your trust in Christ, terminating your confidence in yourself as sufficient to please God. You may enjoy now, before the end of time and throughout the rest of time, an authentic relationship with him. There is a world, an eternal world, of difference between trusting him and dismissing him as will one day be completely understood.

It is Christ who will one day be seen by all, rightly, to be the center of everything, the apex of history, the hope of mankind, the reference point of the universe, the conversation and exaltation of heaven, the eternal joy of millions, and the eternal bane of even more. And it is now that you should trust him.

Editor’s Note: This originally published at Christian Communicators Worldwide



Pastors, Fight Against Fear of Man by Fighting for the Fear of the Lord

When I began pastoral ministry, I didn’t realize it would be my job to disappoint people. I had to tell a young man he wasn’t ready for ministry. I had to counsel a couple that they shouldn’t get married. I had to  inform the church that Sunday’s text means exactly what they don’t want it to mean. Pastoral ministry is full of no-win decisions. Because of this, ministry is a miserable place for a pastor who needs everyone’s approval.

If we knew that before 2020, we know it even more now.

FEAR OF MAN & PASTORAL MINISTRY

 

This sinful desire for the approval of others is often called “the fear of man.” We were made to desire loving relationships, acceptance into a community, and the favor of those in authority over us. But the fear of man multiplies and warps these desires into an insatiable hunger for applause, honor, and status.

In pastoral leadership, this wrongly placed fear surfaces in many ways. It makes a pastor perform in the pulpit, but never quite preach from it. It makes him hide in his study with the light off, afraid the bully member might swing by. It fixates him on what would make his favorite professor proud, so much that he forgets to ask what his people need. It addicts him to fame or internet attention. It makes him easily manipulated by those who know how to hand out honor, shame, and pressure.

Every pastor struggles against this in different ways, but their hearts all say the same thing: “I need approval to be happy.” Young pastor, learn to overcome the fear of man now.

That’s easy to say. But how?

FIGHTING FEAR OF MAN

There’s a temptation to fight fear of man with self-confidence or a foolhardy “who cares what anyone thinks” attitude. But that won’t work. After all, humans were made to revere something. The question isn’t whether we will tremble, but what will make us tremble. The only pastor who won’t tremble before the honor and shame of others is a pastor who has learned to tremble before God. This must be part of why, again and again, the Bible urges leaders to fear the Lord (Exo. 18:21; Deut. 17:18–20; 1 Sam. 12:14; 2 Sam. 23:3–4; 2 Chron. 19:7; Neh. 5:9, 15; Ps. 2:10–11, Lk. 18:2).

The fear of the Lord is a glad trembling before God that leads to humility and obedience. Like the word “thrill,” the word “fear” can be either positive or negative. It’s possible to be afraid of God, but the man who rightly fears God enjoys the thrill, the breathlessness, the awe of glimpsing God’s glory. This man knows his own smallness—and doesn’t mind it.

Over the years, this trembling disposition will form a man into a courageous and gentle pastor. He’ll learn to sit patiently while a church member scolds him or hurls false accusations at him. When that conversation is over, he can love that member even more than he did before. He can do this because he does not need others to tell him he is great. He is so consumed with God’s greatness that he is free from the fear of man.

Trembling before God does more than help a pastor overcome the fear of man. It actually becomes a source of strength for his leadership, giving him integrity (Deut. 6:2; Job 1:1, 8, 2:3, 4:6; Prov. 6:6) and wisdom (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7) while also blessing his wife and children (Ps. 128:3–4: Prov. 31:30). These qualities make him a more credible and effective leader. Some church members may not like the direction he takes Wednesday night Bible study, but they will recognize a gentle father whose children obey him. They will notice when he sorts out a sticky staff situation with God-fearing wisdom. A member whose husband left after two years will notice when her pastor leads for twenty years without a moral failing. In the fear of God he earns their trust while he also becomes a better steward of that trust.

WHAT YOUR CHURCH NEEDS

Future pastor, local churches need unwavering leaders who fear the Lord. They don’t need you to meet their expectations, but they do need to see your hand tremble when you hold up your Bible. They need to know that you would rather have the whole room turn on you than utter one word that displeases the Spirit. That means they need you to close the door to your study, read your Bible, and marvel at the God who forgives sinners. They need you to learn the fear of the Lord.

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared the 9Marks blog and is used with permission.



The Christian Creeds: An Introduction

From the very beginning, creeds and creedal formulations have played a crucial role in the beliefs and practices of Christian churches. Some Christians (usually in free church traditions) deny the creeds any authority in teaching or value in worship. But this rejection of tradition usually stems from a misunderstanding of the function of the creeds and the classical Protestant understanding of sola Scriptura. Creeds have no independent “authority” on their own, but they are “authoritative” or normative to the degree that they faithfully represent what Scripture teaches.[1] As faithful interpretations of Scripture, creeds can be a tremendous asset to us today.

Creeds are in the Bible

The creeds may have been formulated centuries after the last books of the Bible were written, but there are numerous models for creedal formulations within Scripture. Consider the numerous passages in Scripture that summarize and profess the faith of Israel and the early church in creedal forms. The Shema (Deut. 6:4–5) was a simple, concise profession of Israel’s faith: “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”[2] This pronouncement declared the uniqueness of Israel’s God and the mandate of his people. The psalter contains liturgical formulas like “his faithful love endures forever” (Ps. 100:5; 106:1; 118:1–29; Ps. 136:1–26) which helped ingrain Israel’s faith into the hearts of their hearers. New Testament epistles contain early hymns to Christ that served an important liturgical function in the early church (Phil. 2:6–11; Col. 1:15–20; 1 Tim. 3:16).[3] Given these biblical precedents, it should not surprise us that the early church replicated this pattern in her own expressions of faith and worship.

Creeds summarize the grand narrative of Scripture

Yes, some of the creeds do employ philosophical concepts, but they are not mere abstractions rooted in speculative contemplation. Instead, as N. T. Wright astutely observes, creeds are “portable narratives” that

consciously tell the story—precisely the scriptural story!—from creation to new creation, focusing particularly, of course, on Jesus and summing up what Scripture says about him in a powerful, brief narrative (a process that we can already see happening within the New Testament itself). When the larger story needs to be put within a particular discourse, for argumentative, didactic, rhetorical, or whatever other purpose, it makes sense, and is not inimical to its own character, to telescope it together and allow it, suitably bagged up, to take its place in that new context—just as long as we realize that it will collect mildew if we leave it in its bag forever.[4]

While they are not meant to be substitutes for Scripture, the creeds do model for us a succinct way of talking about the whole biblical storyline of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. The Apostles’ Creed is a clear example of this kind of discourse:

I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth,
and believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived from the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary,
who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried,
descended into hell, rose again from the dead on the third day,
ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father,
who will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

The creed begins with the beginning of the story—God is “creator of heaven and earth”—and ends with the end of the story—the Son is coming again “to judge the living and the dead,” bringing with him “the resurrection of the body” and “life everlasting.” While it does not explicitly describe the Fall, it does speak of “the forgiveness of sins” needed because of human fallenness. It does not directly address the history of Israel, but it does shout about Israel’s Messiah who fulfills the promises given to Israel.

Creeds explain biblical revelation

Christians are often curious why we value creeds so much when Scripture itself is a clear and sufficient authority for faith and practice. While Scripture is the supreme source of divine revelation and the only norming norm for our faith, it still must be interpreted (Neh. 8:8; Acts 8:30–35). Individual readers interpret the Bible to make sense of its meaning. Sermons are interpretations of the biblical message that include explanation and application. The same is true of the early creeds: they are explanations of what the Bible says about Jesus Christ. We certainly don’t need the creeds to interpret Scripture, as the message of Scripture has an internal clarity that can be grasped with the illuminating aid of the Holy Spirit. However, the creeds are helpful guides that resulted from centuries of reflection on the biblical message.

The early church faced serious external challenges from heretical sects who, while giving lip service to biblical authority, undermined its meaning. So, how did they respond to those, like Arius, who used biblical prooftexts to make his case for his errant view of the Son? As R. P. C. Hanson explained, the “theologians of the Christian Church were slowly driven to a realization that the deepest questions which face Christianity cannot be answered in purely biblical language, because the questions are about the meaning of biblical language itself.”[5] Though the creeds used some conceptual language that would have been foreign to the human authors of Scripture (i.e., homoousion), they expressed the same judgments made by biblical authors. The Nicene Fathers made the same judgment about Jesus as Paul did—that he is truly equal to God and worthy of devotion and service (Phil. 2:5–11)—but did so using philosophical categories that would have been familiar to their context.[6]

Editor’s Note: The full version of Dr. Putman’s article is here. This post originally appeared at the blog for Credo Magazine.


Endnotes

[1]. See Rhyne R. Putman, “Baptists, Sola Scriptura, and the Place of the Christian Tradition,” in Baptists and the Christian Tradition: Towards an Evangelical Baptist Catholicity, edited by Matthew Y. Emerson, Christopher W. Morgan, and R. Lucas Stamps (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2020), 27–54.

[2]. A helpful overview of these biblical creedal formulations can be found in Michael F. Bird, What Christians Ought to Believe: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine through the Apostle’s Creed (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), 19–21.

[3]. Steven E. Fowl, The Story of Christ in the Ethics of Paul: An Analysis of the Function of the Hymnic Material in the Pauline Corpus, JSNTSS 36 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990).

[4]. N. T. Wright, “Reading Paul, Thinking Scripture,” in Scripture’s Doctrine and Theology’s Bible: How the New Testament Shapes Christian Dogmatics, ed. Markus Bockmuehl and Alan J. Torrance (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 64.

[5]. R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy, 318-381 (London/New York: T&T Clark, 1988), xxi.

[6]. David S. Yeago, “The New Testament and Nicene Dogma: A Contribution to the Recovery of Theological Exegesis,” in Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Classic and Contemporary Readings, ed. Stephen E. Fowl (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1997), 93.



I Don’t Want To Be A Pastor Anymore

Twenty-something months into pastoring through this pandemic on a Thursday afternoon I had to reckon with the thought, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” I don’t want to be a pastor anymore. In 18 years of vocational ministry and nearly 8 years as pastor here, there have been times of burnout and leading from a place of emptiness. But this was different. This had been a season where every decision feels like a bad one and the Church seems divided on every issue imaginable. I wanted out. If “bearing with one another in love” met “seventy times seven,” I felt like I had reached the tipping point. I was done. It wasn’t one thing in particular. It’s the endless drip, drip, drip that had finally worn me down.

I hadn’t been sleeping well. I began to be short with my kids and distant from my wife. And I couldn’t see an end in sight. With the Fall approaching and everyone getting back into their routine after Summer, this should be the time when we are ramping things up. But I was drowning and I simply didn’t think I had it in me. And I didn’t need anybody’s Jesus jukes or platitudes.

So, I talked to a friend. Then my wife (I know… I should’ve talked to her first. But it’s that kind of constant criticism that led me to this place) Jenny & I went for a walk. I vented. She lovingly listened. We got home. Talked some more. I cried. A lot. I didn’t know what to do. I love my church and I love what God lets me do, but I knew I just couldn’t keep doing what I’ve been doing.

Then came the gracious ultimatum from my wife: “Either you can talk to the elders or I will.” So… I reached out to these faithful brothers that I get to shepherd alongside, told them I was struggling, and asked them to pray for me. They did, and I am so grateful for them. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for God’s grace shown to me through these brothers.

Over the next few days I met with a few of these brothers individually then we met together as a group like we do every Tuesday at 6:15am. I was honest. They let me vent. They offered encouragement & correction where it was needed. And we prayed.

Sometimes it’s in difficult days like those that God reminds me of His Faithfulness. Here’s a few lessons I learned:

  1. There’s still work to do in my heart.

My nagging, Narcissistic Messiah Complex still needs to be put to death (among many other besetting sins). Colossians 3:5a reminds us to “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you.” By God’s grace, I’ve come a long way with this, but the Spirit reminded me He has yet to complete the good work He has started in me (Phil. 1:6). And the know-it-all, please everyone, fix everything because it all depends on my nature that shows up sometimes still has a ways to go! But I’m confident, The Spirit will complete that work as well!

  1. My wife is a gracious gift that I often overlook.

In Andrew Peterson’s song “My One Safe Place” he writes about his wife, “And I know that you’re broken too, but you are a sacrament God has spoken through. He has spoken through you.” This certainly wasn’t the first time God has spoken through Jenny. I know it won’t be the last. But I thank God for the grace He has shown me through my wife over the last 17 years. She really is my safe place.

  1. A Grace-filled Church Culture shines even on the dark days.

In a meeting several years ago that was tumultuous, to say the least, our worship pastor, Josh Hilliker said something that has defined us in many ways since that day. In the midst of some tough times, he said, “The Gospel frees us to have hard conversations.” Man, has that stuck with me! And I thank God that though our Church isn’t perfect, He has shaped us into a people that are free to be transparent. To be honest. To have hard conversations. When I was struggling with whether or not I had it in me to continue on I didn’t run from our elders, I ran toward them (with my wife’s nudging, of course). But even that is a gift. My wife, while I was in despair, loved me and then said without hesitation, call the elders! I’ve been in Churches where that wouldn’t have been the case. But not here. Even though we have a long way to go as a Church, God has created a culture where brokenness, transparency, and honesty are welcomed, not shunned. That has been a salve for my weary soul!

Dear Pastor, you are not alone! A lot of us are struggling. Some of us have thought seriously about quitting. But don’t give up. The God that began this good work in you is going to complete it! So breathe. It’s all gonna be alright.

And if you’re not a pastor but you are a Christian, check on your pastor. There’s a good chance he’s struggling. He probably needs a little encouragement. Or a lot. Just let him know you love him and appreciate him. It’ll mean the world to him.

I’ll talk to Jenny first next time.



Return, O Wanderer: An Open Letter

Dear friend,

It’s been a while. We’ve seen each other in passing a couple of times. Your pictures popped up in my news feed. I think I might’ve seen you at the grocery store last week.

What I really mean to say is, it’s been a while since we fellowshipped.

The last time we had fellowship—where we prayed, laughed, and bore one another’s burdens —was probably more than a year ago. Back then, we were confused and afraid. We really thought that a plague of biblical proportions was about to end our way of life.

Truthfully, we did see—and are still seeing—the judgment-hand of God. We, as a people, have turned our back on the Lord and should expect to reap the consequences. Yet with any judgment, there is mercy. God is never as harsh with us as we deserve. Even his most severe chastisements are intermingled with grace. He does not treat believers according to their sins (Ps. 103:10), and he makes the sun to rise on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45).

So what was—or is—the nature of the judgment we’re experiencing? The Apostle John records for us Christ’s words for the church in Ephesus:

But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place⁠—unless you repent. (Rev. 2:4-5 NASB)

Hear me, friend: this is for us. Our Lord has something against us and is disciplining his people. There are too many reasons to discuss them here. But note the solemn warning: “I will remove your lampstand.” In Revelation 1:20, we’re told that the lampstands represent local church communities. Jesus is saying that unless we repent and renew our love for Christ, our assembly will disintegrate. The church planted will be uprooted. This little light of ours won’t shine.

This is a weighty threat. Remember what happened in Jerusalem following Pentecost? The first generation of believers became devoted to learning from the apostles, coming together in communion, and selling their possessions to care for one another’s needs. Through their faithfulness, their little group quickly grew as “the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).

Now, imagine a church community like this extinguished.

Friend, doesn’t this feel weighty to you? Does your soul not ache for the type of fellowship witnessed in that passage—the type of fellowship Jesus threatened to withhold from his wayward Bride? How dare we cut ourselves off from such grace?

If Scripture considers it a judgment for a local church assembly to be snuffed out, then why would any individual casually exclude himself from the church—in effect, replicating that kind of judgment on a personal level?

We must gather with the local church. The Book of Hebrews exhorts us:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Heb. 10:23-25)

Let’s put it another way. If you learned that tomorrow Jesus was going to return (let’s pretend for a second that it’s possible to know this ), and you had only to meet him in a given location, wouldn’t you move Heaven and earth to be there? The answer is an easy yes, right?

We make much of the final Day of the Lord, but far less of the Lord’s Day that comes every week—the day Christ promises his presence with us as we gather.

My friend, I’m not simply trying to hotly rebuke you but to win you back to Christ. Consider this. What married couple have you known who chose to separate and were happier and more intimate as a result? None? So how can we sever ourselves from the vital Vine, our Lord, fail to commune with him as his people on each Lord’s Day, and expect to remain alive?

At the risk of piling on, consider: do we forget to eat meals each day? When we miss a meal, don’t we immediately feel the effects? So why do we starve ourselves of our spiritual food?

We miss you. You used to be here every week shaking hands and holding doors. Then it was every other week. Then monthly, if ever. And when you’re with us now, you slip away at the end without greeting others. It started with the pandemic and became about family, vacations, or missed alarms. You watch online or listen to the message—usually. But we, the church, yearn for you. “For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:8).

Return, o wandering friend. Jesus left the ninety-nine to go after the one. He is seeking you, too. An old saint once wrote that he does not have God as his Father who does not also have the church as his mother. Perhaps that’s an overstatement, but I don’t think so. Jesus loves his people. He is the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for them (John 10:11). This means he loves you, if indeed you are counted among his people. Are you?

Come back. You won’t be scorned, mocked, or eyed suspiciously. (If someone looks at you funny, we’re sorry—accept our apology in advance.) We don’t want your tithes, time, or talents as much as we want you. We yearn to fellowship with you again.

See you this Sunday?

In Christ,

A Fellow Church Member

Editor’s Note: This originally published at ABWE.org



Yes, Preaching Really Does Change People

If you’ve been in pastoral ministry for any length of time at all you’ve asked the question: Is my preaching actually doing anything? Is it having any effect?

The question could be addressed on several different grounds. It could be addressed on historical grounds, pointing to the powerful effects of preaching in various times and places in the history of the church, notably, from the beginning in the book of Acts. It could be addressed on personal grounds by means of collected anecdotes—“Let me tell you about Joe and Mary Black and what God did in their lives through the faithful preaching of God’s Word.”

But without question, the most compelling response is going to be a theological one, grounded in the realities presented in Scripture regarding who God is, what he is doing, what his Word does, and what he fully intends preaching to accomplish.

An Under-Celebrated Characteristic

We rightly celebrate the authority, the trustworthiness, and the sufficiency of Scripture. But perhaps an under-celebrated characteristic of Scripture is its efficacy. By “efficacy” I simply mean the ability to actually accomplish what is intended.

Probably the clearest statement on the efficacy of Scripture is found in Isaiah 55:10–11:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it . (italics added)

That’s a powerful statement on the efficacy of God’s Word, and it provides more than sufficient grounds for a deep conviction in the heart of every faithful preacher. Without this conviction, a pastor will regularly wonder about and doubt the usefulness of his preaching. But with this conviction fully in place a pastor will have every reason to persevere in his regular and faithful exposition of God’s Word.

What God’s Word is and Does

Think of the images the Bible uses to speak of God’s Word. It’s like a sword (Hebrews 4:12). It’s like a hammer (Jeremiah 23:29). These images evoke powerful efficacy. Even the less aggressive images of rain (Isaiah 55:10) and seed (Mark 4:14) speak of efficacy.

And think of all the things the Bible says God’s Word can do.

  • It brings about faith. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
  • It gives new spiritual life. “You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).
  • It helps us grow. “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).
  • It sanctifies us. “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).
  • It searches and convicts. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
  • It liberates. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32).
  • It refreshes and renews. “Give me life according to your word” (Psalm 119:25).
  • It revives our souls and rejoices our hearts. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul … the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart” (Psalm 19:7,8).

These are all things the Bible claims God’s Word can do in our lives! And there’s so much more! So is it any wonder that David says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree” (Psalm 1:1–3)? And the amazing thing is that God has ordained preaching as the primary means by which this powerful Word is brought effectively to human beings (cf. 2 Timothy 4:2).

What’s at Stake

There’s so much at stake in our preaching. People’s lives are at stake. People are lost, alienated from God, and desperately in need of hearing the saving Word of Christ. The health of Christ’s church is at stake. God’s people desperately need instruction and encouragement from God’s Word. When God said to Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” it didn’t look very promising. But God instructed him to preach and the result was absolutely marvelous. (Read the wonderful account of this in Ezekiel 37:1–14. Pay special attention to the very last line.)

There are some particularly emboldening words found in the early chapters of Deuteronomy. Very significantly, these words are often repeated by Jesus himself: “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4). Don’t miss that. Man lives by God’s Word!

This is why God has called us to preach. Natural, unregenerate man comes to life by the Word of God. And having been brought to life by the Word, the regenerate man continues to be sustained and nourished by God’s Word. Peter said it so well. In a moment of spirit-inspired brilliance he spoke this truth, “Where else would we go, you have the words of life” (John 6:68).

Fellow preacher, God has promised that through this apparently weak and frail means, using weak and frail creatures like us, he will accomplish much. He has said so. He has promised to do it. Believe what God has said. The faithful preaching of God’s Word accomplishes much.

So, steady on brother. Do your work and then let the Word do its work, a work almighty God has promised will be done.

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared at the 9Marks blog and is used with permission.



The Renewal of the Body: When Shame and Weakness Give Way to Glory and Power

Have you ever planted anything?

You break the ground. You open a hole in the earth. You fill the emptiness, laying seed to rest. It decomposes. It transforms. Death yields to new birth. And then a life that’s strikingly different — and yet the same — rises from the dirt.

It happens all the time. It’s a resurrection cycle God has planted in creation.

Our bodies long for it.

The Corinthians struggled to believe in it.

In response to some in the congregation who denied the bodily resurrection of the saints, Paul argues that the resurrection of Jesus has been proclaimed as central to the gospel from the beginning (1 Cor. 15:1–12). And we cannot separate his resurrection from the people who belong to him. He’s like the point of an arrow launched into the future; it will pull the tail forward with it.

The Corinthians could stomach the resurrection of Jesus but couldn’t choke down their own resurrection. Better that all the nasty things they’ve done in the body not show up with them in the afterlife. It’s an understandable reaction.

But Paul tells them they cannot separate their resurrection from Christ’s without doing damage to the faith. They cannot split this atom without disaster.

Granting the resurrection of believers, some questions remain. Paul anticipates an objection: “But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? What kind of body will they have when they come?’” (1 Corinthians 15:35, CSB).

How does it work? Explain to me exactly how this is possible. 

Naturalistic skepticism is not new.

While we might have questions about how scattered molecules are assembled again in the resurrection, believers living in first-century Greco-Roman culture had moral concerns. Is this the body that we’ll have forever? The one we’ve stained with sin? The one subject to sickness?

The Corinthians had trouble imagining how the resurrection of the body is possible — or even desirable. They suffered from a poor imagination.

We might as well. The American church has not always been clear on what awaits us. We’ve sung hymns that give the impression that our destiny is more floaty than earthy. But the Christian hope is not just to “fly away” from the body and set it aside forever. We are promised the renewal of the body.

Awareness of this renewal ought to impact how we feel about our bodies today, and what we anticipate for eternity.

Paul uses the metaphor of sowing and reaping to sanctify our imagination:

“So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.” (1 Corinthians 15:42–43, ESV)

These are rich words. Consider them. Imagine with me.

From perishable to imperishable

We are sown in corruption. That’s the condition that touches a fallen creation. Everything corrupts. Everything grows stale and rotten. Everything disassembles into entropy. When you grasp it, it’s gone.

Good things move away from us. What we love breaks in our hands. We are broken.

This is what it means to be perishable.

Do you feel vulnerable? Overwhelmed? Frail? You are. Your spiritual great grandfather gave you his DNA.

Our bodies have an expiration date. Everything we are one day falls apart into dust. A cursed ground claims us again as dirt.

But what is planted corruptible comes out of the earth incorruptible. In the resurrection, we will never again be subject to injury or disease. The coronavirus cannot claim us. The human heart will never need to be shocked back into rhythm. A cancer cell will never again form in a body. It won’t hurt anymore.

Nothing will be lost. You’ll never feel like life has left you behind, like what you love has retreated from you. It will just be an indestructible joy — forever.

Anticipate imperishability.

From shame to glory

The body is sown in dishonor —it is subject to shame and shameful treatment.

Ever since Genesis 3, our bodies have been a source of shame. We hide. We don’t want our nakedness seen. We need to cover, to self-protect. We feel exposed — like someone could hurt us, or worse: see how we have hurt others.

We sense the label of what we have done, and the things that have been done to us. And we feel it in our bodies.

The trauma specialist Bessel van der Kolk describes this as “the body keeps the score.” Those who have struggled with PTSD know this.

If you’ve experienced a bad accident or suffered abuse, your body registers that awareness. It feels like you always carry it around with you. Certain settings and sounds trigger your senses and heighten your heart rate. Your body resonates with the tremors of the world around you. Telling you that it’s a dangerous place. In some cases announcing, “You should be ashamed.”

Jesus carried our shame. He bore our abuse. He shrouded his glory, veiling it — until the morning the light cut through the tomb.

And Paul says you will be glorious!

We will be, for the first time, what we were made to be. Comfortable in our skin. Content as image-bearers. A display of the delight of God in all he has made. Fit for eternity.

C.S. Lewis said that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to today may one day be a creature, which if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship. This is what it means to be glorified.

From weakness to power

We are sown in weakness. We’re subject to infirmities and deformities. We lack the ability to do anything lasting. We’re described in the Bible as wasting away.

It is sobering when the weakness becomes visible.

My wife’s grandfather held the title of being the strongest man in his state. He died, weak in body and mind.

My own Pa Pa was always an image of power to me. He seemed omni-capable. Always in charge. In fact, he tended to make the people around him nervous. After he lost my grandmother and the Alzheimer’s began to set in, he shrank physically. We watched an illness stealing away all the capacities that were once so impressive.

For some, all it took was one bad fall to take your parents away from you. All that they had done, all that their life had meant, all the moments of strength they had shown — and one little stumbling sealed the end. It’s oppressively stupid. That’s when the weakness has its way.

During this pandemic, bodies have been intubated and dependent on ventilators to survive. Some have died alone in a hospital, weak, away from the people who loved them and knew all they’d accomplished.

For Christ’s people, it won’t always be this way! We will be raised in power. We will be the product of omnipotence.

How will this transform us and the ones we love? A son formed with an additional chromosome; an adopted daughter who was addicted to drugs in the womb and whose brain is still jumbled by the effects — what will they be when the weaknesses are gone? When the unopposed power of the Creator is in full force?

What will it look like when our weakness of will, our incompetencies, our laziness, give way to power?

That’s the resurrection.



2021 For the Church Conference Recap

With a focus on establishing and maintaining healthy local churches, Midwestern Seminary hosted its seventh annual For the Church National Conference in Kansas City on Sept. 27-28.

The event returned to the Daniel Lee Chapel on the campus of Midwestern Seminary, one year after the 2020 conference was held exclusively online due to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s keynote speakers H.B. Charles Jr., Juan Sanchez, Robby Gallaty, Jason Allen, and Jared Wilson, preached impassioned messages revolving around the conference’s theme of “Until Every Church Healthy,” while Jimmy McNeal and Austin Stone Worship led attendees in corporate worship.

“We consider it a significant stewardship to host the For the Church Conference each year, and we were particularly delighted to be back in person on our campus for this year’s gathering,” Midwestern Seminary President Jason Allen said.

“Every opportunity we have to encourage pastors and ministry leaders is significant, yet this annual gathering held each September is altogether unique. We are grateful for the chance to invest in and encourage ministry leaders through corporate worship, the teaching of God’s Word, and through rich fellowship with brothers and sisters from across the nation.”

Note: To view full messages from each session, follow the appropriate links.

Biblical Preaching and Church Health

Allen led the conference’s first session, answering the question, “Why is expositional preaching important for church health?” Allen preached the message from 2 Timothy 3:1-4:5.

Biblical preaching, according to Allen, is not only important for church health; it is essential. From the text in 2 Timothy, Allen highlighted three points related to the importance of biblical preaching for cultivating and maintaining healthy churches: (1) the church needs biblical preaching, (2) Scripture asserts the need for biblical preaching, and (3) a faithful ministry requires biblical preaching.

Leadership and Church Health

Juan Sanchez, senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, delivered the conference’s second message. Sanchez was tasked with answering the question, “Why is leadership important for church health?”

Gleaning from his years of ministry experience, Sanchez based his conference message on Ephesians 1:7-23 and 1 Timothy 3. Sanchez framed the message’s content with answers to two additional questions: “What is the eternal plan of God?” and “What is the place of the church in God’s eternal plan?” Leadership for church health, according to Sanchez, is grounded in the answers to these two questions.

Membership and Church Health

Continuing the theme of “Until Every Church Healthy” on Tuesday morning, the conference’s next speaker, H.B. Charles Jr., pastor-teacher at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fl., reflected on the importance of biblical church membership for church health.

Preaching from 1 Peter 2:9-10, Charles reminded the audience of what the church is and what it is not according to Scripture. Fundamentally, Charles asserted, the church is a redeemed community that belongs to God.

“The church, if it is to be healthy, cannot be based on individual taste and opinions and preferences,” Charles said. “The church is not a collection of individuals. It’s a community of people. What kind of people? He says we are a people for his own possession.”

Discipleship and Church Health

Robby Gallaty, senior pastor at Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., addressed conference attendees on the topic, “Discipleship and Church Health.”

The main emphasis of his message from Mark 1:16-20 was to communicate a biblical depiction of true discipleship. From the text, Gallaty established three points related to the process of discipleship in the lives of believers: (1) true disciples are called by Christ, (2) true disciples are formed by Christ, and (3) a healthy disciple is focused on others.

Gospel-Centrality and Church Health

In the conference’s final session, Jared Wilson, assistant professor of Pastoral Ministry at Spurgeon College and Author-in-Residence at Midwestern Seminary, preached from Colossians 3 on keeping the gospel at the center of the church’s focus.

“Because the gospel is the beating heart of Christianity, to say that keeping the gospel central is important for church health is like saying keeping your heart in your chest is important for bodily health,” Wilson said.

Pre-Conference and Workshops

On Monday morning, the FTC Women’s Pre-Conference featured speaker and teacher Nicole Lino, author Abigail Dodds, and Karen Allen, founder of Midwestern Women’s Institute and wife of Midwestern Seminary President Jason Allen. The ladies’ event focused on the theme: The Body of Christ.

On Tuesday afternoon, multiple workshops and breakout sessions were held for conference attendees. The sessions were led by pastors and ministry leaders from among the broader SBC community. Speakers and sessions included:

  • Jeff Dodge, teaching pastor at Veritas Church (Iowa City, Iowa), on “Multiplication”
  • A panel discussion with Nicole Lino, Karen Allen, Christy Allen, and Faith McDonald
  • Brian Davis, pastor at Risen Christ Fellowship (Philadelphia), on “Theological Foundations”
  • Noah Oldham, lead pastor at August Gate Church (St. Louis), on “Faithful Preaching”
  • Dean Inserra, lead pastor at City Church (Tallahassee, Fla.), on “Evangelism”
  • Jonathan Leeman, elder at Cheverly Baptist Church (Washington D.C.) and editorial director for 9Marks, on “Public Theology”
  • Charles Smith, senior vice-president of institutional relations and professor of Christian Leadership at Midwestern Seminary, on “Missional Leadership”

The 2022 For the Church National Conference will take place in Kansas City on Sept. 26-27. More information and registration information is forthcoming.



Celebrating the Beauty of Complementarity in Corporate Worship

Allow me to highlight a way that our church seeks to celebrate the beauty of gender complementarity during our corporate worship gatherings.

A couple of years ago, as I was reading through the Scriptures, I was struck by 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, where the Corinthians are given the instruction: “but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven” (v.5). As tempting as it is, let me invite you to not get bogged down by the curious element of head coverings in this passage (a topic I’m looking forward to wrestling with when we eventually decide to preach through this controversial book!). Instead, I invite you to zoom in on the thing that struck me a couple of years ago. Namely, the fact that Paul just seems to take for granted that women in the congregation were praying and prophesying publicly. It’s as if he’s saying, “Of course, you know that when you assemble together, the women will be praying and prophesying as well. When they do, make sure that they do it like this.”

Given how self-evident it seems to Paul that women will be routinely praying in the gathered assembly, the persistent absence of sisters praying in our worship gatherings was conspicuous. This was a convicting absence for me, as a pastor. So, I began to think to myself, “Where in our congregation would it be appropriate for that to happen?” At our church, we follow a consistent pattern every week: a biblical call to worship, two songs of praise, a corporate biblical confession, a corporate prayer of confession, a private prayer of confession, a biblical/pastoral assurance of pardon, a song of thanksgiving, the public reading of Scripture for the sermon, the pastoral prayer, the sermon, the communion prayer, communion, a final song of thanksgiving, and the benediction.

The only three times of formal, corporate prayer in our liturgy are (a) the corporate prayer of confession, (b) the pastoral prayer before the sermon, and (c) pastoral prayer before communion. The most natural place to have women lead the congregation in corporate prayer from time to time is obviously the corporate confession. So, I concluded that, at the very least during the weeks that our sisters are leading the worship service entirely, they should also be leading out corporate prayer of confession. I brought the issue to my fellow elders, and they agreed wholeheartedly.

However, that does not mean that the entire liturgy will ever be led by our sisters. Why? For a couple of reasons.

Firstly, when we think about the assurance of pardon and the benediction, both of these elements are saturated with a deeply pastoral flavor that seems to brush up against the activities of “teaching” and “exercising authority” over men, which Paul expressly prohibits for women (1 Timothy 2:12). In other words, as a pastor, I want to protect the able sisters in our congregation from (even inadvertently) disobeying God’s Word. But secondly, and related to the first reason, I think we’d be missing a splendid opportunity to showcase, and revel in, the beauty of gender complementarity if we had our sisters lead out in the entire liturgy. For in doing so, we would either have to invite our sisters to engage in these “pastoral-like” activities, or we would have to make these activities “less-pastoral-like” so as to accommodate the sisters leading. In both of those scenarios, we would be missing out on the beauty of female prayer and worship, and male leadership. Which is precisely what Paul roots his prohibition regarding female teaching within (1 Timothy 2:13-14).

You see, Paul is not arbitrarily saying, “Here’s the one thing that women shouldn’t be doing, but regarding everything else, all bets are off.” Were that the case, we would have to consider this prohibition virtually arbitrary; as if men and women are totally interchangeable, and male leadership in the church in this one activity (i.e., teaching) came down to a coinflip. But Paul’s mindset is far more holistic than this. He roots this instruction all the way back to the garden, arguing that this kind of female leadership in the church isn’t fitting, not just because it goes against the grain of cultural customs, but because it goes against the grain of nature. God made men and women differently, to harmonize with one another and complement one another. Male headship in the home, and male leadership in the church is not an arbitrary structural requirement placed on an otherwise amorphous cosmos—as if everything were malleable, and the relationship between the genders are completely up for grabs outside of those two explicit areas. No, male headship in the home and male leadership in the church is reflective of the structured cosmos that God has placed us all within. There is a grain to the universe, and the instructions God’s Word gives to men and women goes with the grain.

Think about it like a symphony. If it is true that all of creation sings out with praises to God (cf., Psalm 19:1-6), we should be thinking, “Where do I come in? Where do I go loud? Where do I quiet down? When do I sing melody, and when do I sing harmony? Etc. etc.” When God gives men and women unique instructions in Scripture, he isn’t just making arbitrary requirements. He’s giving us instructions on the good life. He’s saying, “You’re not a tuba, you’re a flute; I’ve made you to do trills, so do that right… here,” or “You’re not a cello, you’re a pair of symbols. Don’t just play willy nilly; you need to crash as loud and hard as you can right… here!

This is, in my estimation, the answer to many of the debates regarding “complementarianism” in the western church today. Too often, people get hung up on the particulars. On the one hand, you have people getting hung up on the particulars in such a way that everything becomes a slippery slope. Don’t start doing this, because if you do it won’t be long before you cross this boundary. Always keep the boundary in mind! On the other hand, you have people getting hung up on the particulars in such a way that the particulars become mere fences. As long as we don’t cross that line, everything else is fair game. We’re nowhere near the boundary and we’re not on a slippery slope, so it doesn’t really matter what responsibilities are taken up by men and women!

I think a much better way forward is to see the particulars as reflections of the world that God has made, and indications for the good life. Our Triune God is not capricious or half-baked in his instructions. If he’s instructed for men to be on one trajectory, and for women to be on another complementary one, it’s because he’s made us to function that way, and structuring our lives along those lines will actually lead to our joy.

We can, obviously, find reasons to object. We don’t like the idea that we were made to function in a particular way. We want for things to be more up in the air, arbitrary, and amorphous. We want a cosmos that isn’t structured or hierarchical, but is rather malleable for us to structure as we see fit. But the reality is, whatever we come up with is nowhere near as beautiful as the cathedral God intends to build with the very different material of men and women. To stick with the metaphor (which isn’t all that far off from 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, by the way), if men are stone foundations, built to handle weight and deal with wear and tear, and if women are stained glass windows, equipped to beautify and adorn the structure as a whole (or, made to be a “glory” per 1 Corinthians 11:7), it won’t benefit anyone by putting the stained glass window as the foundation or the stone in the windows.

To bring the issue back to our corporate worship gatherings, we have a beautiful opportunity to revel in the complementarity of godly men and women when we worship, especially on those weeks where our sisters lead in some areas while qualified men continue to lead in others. It is more beautiful, not less, when the voice of a godly sister in Christ articulates our corporate prayer of confession, and it is then complemented by the strong godly voice of a brother in Christ, speaking on behalf of Christ the pastorally tinctured assurance of pardon.

All that to say, I invite you to notice the complementary loveliness of your services as often as you can. When you hear the conspicuous presence of the feminine, revel in it. Praise God for it. Imagine how colorless and lifeless our expression of worship would be without it. And when you hear it complemented with masculine leadership, do the same. As we say in the Emmaus Kids Catechism:

Q: Are boys and girls the same?

A: No, they are different.

Q: Why is this a good thing?

A: Because God’s not boring, and their differences are good!

 



Principles for Giving and Receiving Encouragement to the Preacher

How much do you think your preaching influences your people? We know the biblical answer. Preaching is God’s ordained means of communicating the truths of scripture and the gospel to His people and the world. But on a personal level, how much do you think your preaching is influential?

Most pastors will never stand before hundreds of people and preach. Still fewer will ever receive an invitation to preach at some conference. In fact, in my small part of the world, most pastors around me are bi-vocational with very little to no training in preaching. Yet, they labor every week in preaching to their same small flock – some for several decades.

It can be easy for a pastor to feel a disconnect between what he knows to be true and what he experiences. He knows that God’s Word is enough and that God uses it to accomplish all His purposes (Is. 55:11). He knows that it is living and active (Heb. 4:12), and that it is never a waste of time to share it. And yet, he rarely ever sees the fruit of his labors. Preaching is one of the rare tasks in which you don’t really know the effect of your efforts.

Furthermore, most pastors don’t go searching for the fruit of their preaching. There is a sense of pursuing flattery or praise from man to ask how your sermon may have set in a person’s heart. Simultaneously, the pastor wants to, and sometimes needs to know if his people are listening, if they are listening well, and if they are benefitting from his efforts. There is an aspect of good shepherding in discerning ways in which your sermons benefit your people without seeking to be puffed up by such information.

Additionally, pastors want to know how they can improve. They want to keep laboring. They want to get better. And they want to be encouraged that they have not and are not running or laboring in vain. I think this is why Paul tells the struggling Galatians, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches (Gal. 6:6).”

“Good things” in this verse might refer to several things. But I think it at least means to encourage the pastor in the labors of his preaching. Preachers will preach better sermons when they know that their preaching has an effect upon those to whom they regularly preach. In other words, right encouragement to the preacher has direct benefits for the preaching ministry of the church.

Let me highlight a few ways to receive encouragement in preaching and then highlight a few ways to give encouragement to preachers.

Receiving Encouragement as a Preacher:

  1. Remember you are just an instrument. In other words, God does all the work and His Word effects change. You are merely the mouthpiece. Don’t let encouragement go to your head.
  2. Respond to encouragement with exaltation of Christ. When people encourage you after a sermon make sure to give the credit to God verbally. I try to say something like, “Praise God! If it was good it is because of Him!”, or “It was a good passage wasn’t it?” This helps keep the listeners eyes on Christ and it helps keep your mind on Christ! Gratitude to God is giving credit to God and that is what preachers must do.
  3. Be humble and receptive. Don’t deter encouragement from your flock in regards to your preaching. They are doing a very good thing when they boast on God’s work through your sermon. Take the encouragement, thank God for it, and then keep working. Humility is not self-debasement. Humility is dependence on and giving credit to God. It would be a good practice to get alone and thank God profusely for using you when your people encourage you for a sermon.
  4. Don’t get discouraged at the lack of encouragement. Some churches are not naturally encouraging. This may be because of past struggles with previous pastors. But don’t let their lack of encouragement translate to discouragement in your ministry. After all, we don’t labor for the praise of man, we labor for the glory to God. Stay faithful to God even if you never hear an encouraging word from your people.
  5. Not every sermon will warrant encouragement. Sometimes pastors have to say very difficult and hard things. When this is done it can be hard for people to encourage or be thankful. In other words, conviction is tough and it can be hard to say thank you when God has just raked your soul over the coals! Every sermon should be preached with your best effort, but not every sermon will be fertile ground for immediate feedback.

So much more could be said. Bottom line: encouragement can be so helpful, nourishing, and refreshing, but the goal is faithfulness to and the pleasing of Christ!

What about the listener? How do we give encouragement to pastors without puffing them up? Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Recognize their labors go much further back than just Sunday morning. My people are very good at saying things like, “Thank you for your work this week.” Or “Thank you for laboring for that message this week.” That is a simple acknowledgment that they know I work more than just behind the pulpit and it yields more opportunities!
  2. Give credit to God and not to the preacher. I helped one church member express his gratitude for my sermons by telling him to say, “The Holy Spirit really worked in me today.” That means so much more to me than anything else!
  3. Be careful of the backhanded compliment or the partial compliment. Preachers know that not everyone agrees with their sermon. And they know that no one agrees with every detail in their sermon. You don’t have to remind them of this. It is one thing if they are unbiblical. It is another thing if you disagree with minor points. More good can be done in the long term with simple encouragement and not with encouragement coupled with “….but I disagreed with…”
  4. Small things are big deals. Let’s be honest, not every pastor is a great preacher. Most of the time pastors know they are not great preachers. But instead of telling them that they aren’t good preachers encourage them in the small victories. This will help spur them on to growth in preaching. Have encouraging chats with them about preaching, preaching styles, language, structure, scripture, etc. This produces long-term health in the pulpit and not burn out or burden. Pastors pour their souls out on Sundays. Don’t wound them with unnecessary complaints about non-scriptural, non-gospel matters.
  5. Sincerity matters. Flattery for the sake of flattery is frustrating to a pastor. But sincere small encouragement can fuel a preacher’s soul and efforts for months. Avoid flattery by being specific in your encouragement. Then notice your pastor step into the pulpit with more energy, passion, commitment, and dedication.
  6. Encouragement does not mean lack of accountability. Pastors are fallen men. We have many flaws. We face the pressures of our flaws effecting the whole church. We know we don’t have perfect theology and we wince when we miss speak. So, we must be held accountable. Encouragement is a form of accountability. It is encouragement to do what is good and avoid what is bad. And encouragement doesn’t mean pastors shouldn’t be confronted if they say something unscriptural – especially developing a pattern of unbiblical thought. If you need to confront, do so with gentleness, patience, and clarity.

Preaching is a two-way street. It is not just a man talking to a group of people. It is also a group of people listening to and responding to the labors of the man. Encouragement is one of the great and necessary parts of this exchange.