Episode 6: Hospitable

Do you have to be an extrovert to meet this qualification for pastoral ministry? Does hospitality only refer to fellowship with other believers? In this episode, Jared and Ronnie talk about the postures and opportunities of true hospitality, a position of welcome and openness to outsiders, and showing love for neighbors in evangelistic conversations and more.

Pastoring is Tortoise Work: A Lesson for the Young and Aspiring

Talking with a fellow pastor I know and trust, I recently asked a question. “What’s one quality you believe is indispensable for an effective pastor?” After a moment’s thought, the answer came: patience.

If you aspire to pastoral ministry, you likely envision yourself preaching the Word and rightly administering the sacraments. Perhaps you also envision counseling sessions, praying with those who hurt, and leading the ministries of the church. All good things, no doubt. But have you taken time to consider the kind of patience these things actually require? Have you envisioned yourself learning the hard lesson of being patient and moving slowly? If you would rather not, then one of two things will eventually happen after you enter ministry: you will be crushed or you will change.

When I was in my twenties and aspiring to the pastorate, I gave little to no serious consideration to my need for patience. And on certain days, I find that I can still be this way. Pastors, like most people, struggle with impatience concerning life’s circumstantial ambiguities, those unresolved things we are chagrined to live with. Ministry is so filled with such ambiguities that a pastor must learn what do to with them. As much as I may not like it, pastoring is slow, steady work. It is “tortoise work,” not “hare work.”

Of course, a temptation every pastor faces is that of “making things happen.” According to Zack Eswine, our tendency is to do “large things in famous ways as fast and as efficiently as [we] can.” I’ve found that this very thing is widely incentivized, often marketed to me as the model of ministry success. After all, pastors who are thought to “make stuff happen” are the ones who get book deals and amass high follower counts on social media. Is this the kind of pastor I must be? Experience enough ministry setbacks, though, and that question answers itself. It doesn’t take long for the hoped-for glitz and glamor of pastoring to fade. And you’re left with the reality that much of your pastoral success is measured by something you didn’t expect: capacity for patience amidst the crises, criticisms, controversies, and conflicts that beset congregational life.

As a young man, aspiring to the noble task of pastoring, do you recognize your need to learn patience? Do you see in yourself a tendency to idolize immediacy? Are you frustrated when things don’t happen as quickly as you expect? Consider two observations, both drawn from events described in the book of 1 Samuel.

First observation: bad things almost always come from impatience. The text provides two examples. First, the people of Israel are impatient for a king (1 Samuel 8:4–6, 19–20). Because of their insistence upon being like other nations and the impatience which accompanies such insistence, Israel ends up with Saul, an epic monarchical failure.

Second, once king, Saul acts with haste. At one point, he is impatient for Samuel to arrive in Gilgal. Panicked and unable to wait any longer, he takes matters into his own hands, offering a sacrifice he was not authorized to make (1 Sam. 13:8-14). The divinely ordained expiration date of his kingship is now immanent. Impatience triggers the downfall.

Second observation: better things—the best things, even—tend to come with time. The ark of the covenant remains at Kiriath-jearim for twenty years, at which time the people of Israel are ripe for renewal under Samuel’s leadership (1 Sam. 7:1-4). The absence of the ark, a material emblem of Yahweh’s presence among Israel, becomes felt. They’d had their fill of what the Baals and Ashtaroth had to offer.

So the people began to lament and long for Yahweh’s presence. But to reach this point, it took time. Conditions for spiritual renewal almost always develop gradually. When a widespread return to God takes place, it is often preceded by years of preparation, an extended time of God working patiently in quiet, unseen places. Yahweh is not one to rush the achievement of His purposes. He is satisfied to play the long game.

Ecclesiastes 7:8b thus seems a fitly spoken word for us, whether we aspire to ministry or have already “arrived.” It says, “better is the patient in spirit than the proud in spirit.” The contrast here is striking. Pride is the antithesis of patience. This reveals what lurks beneath impatience—Israel’s, Saul’s, and ours.

Let’s be honest. Much too often “making things happen” is a fruit of nascent pride. The proud in spirit feel they must force a quick fix when faced with prolonged circumstantial ambiguity. They are compulsive and cannot trust God with what they do not understand about His timing. Too self-interested to wait, they attempt to supplant His unhurried work. However, God honors those who wait patiently upon Him. Humility accompanies the learning of this lesson. Ultimately, a pastor does not control his ministry circumstances. And our best efforts to eliminate their ambiguity may well make things worse.

To pastor effectively, then, learn to feel at home in the reality that your circumstances are a matter of divine purview. God makes things happen, and most of the time it is not ours to know the what and the when of his good providence; the secret things belong to Yahweh (Deut. 29:29). He will cause His purposes to prevail at a time of His sovereign choosing. He will bring resolution to life’s ambiguities in accordance with His wisdom. We must not only learn to accept this; we must learn to embrace it with a heart that is quiet and full of trust.

Mark these things well, all who aspire to such a noble task. God’s ways are not our ways. In His always- wise estimation, the best things come with time. Therefore, alongside your study of Scripture, theology, preaching, and ministry methods, befriend patience also. Though often underestimated, it will be your pastoral superpower. Slow and steady wins the race.

Episode 255: Raising Kids Who Love the Church

Some estimates put the adult church dropout rate for kids raised going to church within evangelicalism at 70%! How do we help our kids love the church? On this episode of the FTC Podcast, Jared Wilson and Ross Ferguson have a conversation about influencing our kids to grow up into adults who are committed to the family of God.

Episode 5: Sensible

When we say “pastor on Twitter,” what image first comes to your mind? It’s likely not an even-keeled, thoughtful, diserning personality. But social media isn’t the only platform for unstable pastors. In this new episode, Jared and Ronnie talk about the tendency for pastors to be swayed by cultural winds, congregational pressures, crazy headlines, and just their own rabbit trails and hobby-horses. When a pastor’s mind is constantly “held captive” by every thought — instead of the other way around — he loses his sense.

Episode 254: Being a Good Listener

On this episode of the FTC Podcast, Jared Wilson and Ross Ferguson discuss the art of listening. How can we make sure the people in our lives and churches feel heard? And why is that important? Included are some practical tips for becoming better listeners.

Episode 4: Self-Controlled

The biblical qualifications for ministry require that pastors be self-controlled, sober-minded, not a drunkard, etc. Jared and Ronnie have an insightful conversation in this episode about the various roots of some pastors’ lack of self-control, the importance of regulating one’s emotions, and how the pursuit of peace, stability, and gentleness is actually a pursuit of spiritual maturity and the fruit of sanctification.

Episode 253: Ronnie Martin on the Pastor’s Inner Life

On this episode of the FTC Podcast, Jared Wilson visits with returning guest Ronnie Martin about the inner life of our pastors.

Episode 3: Husband of One Wife

The cliche ministry danger of “sacrificing one’s family on the altar of the church” is cliche for a reason. In this episode of the podcast, Jared and Ronnie explain the biblical qualification of being a “one-woman man” (as well as managing the household well and having “faithful” children) and how it speaks to an even larger faithfulness to the gospel in the life of a pastor.

Episode 252: Narcissism in the Church

On this episode of the FTC Podcast, Jared Wilson and Ross Ferguson talk about the problem with narcissists in the life and leadership of the church. How do we spot narcissism? What is the cause? Is there any remedy? And how would I know if I am one?

A Brief Biblical Theology of the Transfiguration

The transfiguration story begins where all stories do: with Adam and Eve in the garden. Adam and Eve are made in God’s image and likeness on God’s mountain (Gen. 1:28). They are icons, or idols, of God. Though we typically view idols negatively, the sense from Genesis is that humanity has the Spirit of God breathed into it, indicating its participation in the divine. Adam and Eve’s vocation is to mirror and represent Yahweh. This is why Jewish literature outside of the Bible speaks of Adam and Eve having glory in the garden and why Paul speaks of sin as having “exchanged the glory of . . . God” (Rom. 1:23). The fall was therefore a descent from glory. Paul speaks of it in terms of having fallen “short of the glory of God” (3:23). Darkness ensues as humanity flees from its purpose.

Moses’s story previews the restoration of this “image.” He ascends the mountain of God, enters the glory cloud, and peers into heaven, seeing that the garden was a copy of the heavens. Moses is instructed to build another copy on the earth so that others might enter God’s presence. The result of him being with God is that his face now shines (Exod. 34:29).

In 2 Corinthians, Paul employs Moses as a prototype. Paul was not shy about using the verb metamorphoō to describe our spiritual pilgrimage to glory (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18). Gregory of Nyssa mimics Paul and presents Moses as an example of seeking after God in his book Life of Moses. Moses is an archetype for those who seek God’s face. His life represents spiritual stages as he seeks God’s glory.

Moses first pursues solitude in the desert, where he sees divine light in the burning bush. Next comes Moses’s renunciation (purgation) of his past and his seeking of a new life in the wilderness. Moses then communes with God in fire and a cloud of darkness on Mount Sinai. He is illumined. His face shines as he comes down the mountain, demonstrating the weight of this moment. Moses is still not satisfied. The greater degree of glory awakens him. He wants more. He desires union. This union is not satisfied until he sees Jesus.

Israel’s priests reenact Moses’s ascent up Sinai as they meet with God in the temple and then come out of God’s dwelling on earth, blessing God’s people with the shining presence of God’s face (Num. 6:24–26). However, Israel is not able to live up to their vocation of being God’s light to the nations. Therefore, God sends his only begotten Son as the light of the world ( John 1). The Spirit rests on him, and he acts in the way that God has purposed for humanity all along. Yahweh will fix what has gone wrong. The disciples get a preview of this restoration on Mount Tabor. Jesus ascends the mountain, his face shines, his clothes turn dazzlingly white, and the glory cloud appears. Jesus is the true image of God (Col. 1:18).

The promise for the redeemed is that those who participate in Christ will also be changed. As Ephrem the Syrian said, “Christ came to find Adam who had gone astray. He came to return him to Eden in the garment of light. . . . Blessed is He who had pity on Adam’s leaves and sent a robe of glory to cover his naked state.” Paul says that we all now have unveiled faces like Moses and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18). However, that transformation will only occur in full on the last day. At that time, our earthly bodies will be made new and become heavenly bodies. We will be raised in glory (1 Cor. 15:40–43).

This glory is explicated in the rest of the New Testament. Paul says that God will transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body (Phil. 3:20–21). He asserts that when Christ appears, we will also appear with him in glory (Col. 3:4). John says that when Jesus appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2). And Peter confirms that he will be a partaker of the glory to be revealed (1 Pet. 5:1).

Yet this will take place only through suffering. The transfiguration’s larger context is the looming cross. In Romans 8:18–25, Paul follows this “suffering then glory” pattern when he speaks of how the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to come. As Desmond Tutu writes, “The principle of transfiguration says nothing, no one and no situation, is ‘untransfigurable,’ that the whole of creation, nature, waits expectantly for its transfiguration, when it will be released from its bondage and share in the glorious liberty of the children of God, when it will not be just dry inert matter but will be translucent with divine glory.” When the Lord returns, we will wear a crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8). The shining mountain is not only an event to study; it transfigures us as we behold the glorious Son and wait for his return.

Even all of creation waits for the revealing of the children of God when they will obtain the “the glorious freedom of God’s children” (Rom. 8:21). We groan while we wait for the redemption of our bodies (8:23; 2 Cor. 4:17). In the new heavens and new earth, God’s presence in the Son and through the Spirit will dwell with us on his mountain. Jesus’s divine rays will suffuse all creation. His transfiguration is not only about his transformation; it is about our transformation and the transfiguration of the cosmos. The earth will have no need for the sun or moon to shine, for the glory of God and the lamp of the Lamb will be its light. We will shine as the stars in the sky (Dan. 12:3; Matt. 13:43). At that time, the nations will walk by his light, and the kings will bring their glory to God’s city (Rev. 21:23–24). We still await that day, but we wait for it with hope.

Content taken from The Transfiguration of Christ by Patrick Schreiner, ©2024. Used by permission of Baker Academic.