Archive for the ‘Pastoral theology’ Category
The voice is the preacher’s primary tool, and we need to keep it in good condition. Reminded of and freshly and uncomfortably impressed with some of the elements of vocal hygiene, and being very willing to help other preachers keep their voices healthy, and equally to spare anyone the experience of a doctor inserting what looks and feels like a car aerial into your nasal cavities, or worse, herewith some counsels (garnered over many years) on vocal hygiene tailored to the preacher, arranged topically, some or all of which may be helpful to some. A lot of it is sanctified common-sense, and I should imagine that most preachers do most of it almost naturally.
Read the counsels at Reformation21.
. . . if someone has a burning calling, a teachable spirit, a passionate heart, and a reckless abandon to pay the price to preach well, then not even the limitation of their own background, personality, or natural talents will keep them from preaching the Word of God with power.
A very insightful article on learning to preach better here.
David Murray is working through a series on the qualities of positive leadership. Links to previous posts are at the foot of this existing post.
As a professor at Princeton, Miller would devote himself to preaching and building up the pastoral office through his teaching and publications. He is often remembered for these publications on pastoral issues, including his Letters on Clerical Manners (1827) and his famous An Essay on the Warrant, Nature, and Duties of the Office of the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church (1831). It is often overlooked, however, that he had struggled to maintain his pastoral focus and unswerving devotion to his pastoral duties while a pastor in New York. His eventual triumph over pastoral distractions would win him universal esteem of his colleagues, and by the time he reached his maturity as a professor, the younger James W. Alexander, would be able to look on him with admiration and say, “I think [Samuel Miller] one of the most conscientious and pious men I ever knew.”
You can read about the struggle that Samuel Miller had here. It is a painful history, all the more so because he only learned as a professor what he needed to know as a pastor.
Ministry idolatry is becoming increasingly widespread, reaching epidemic proportions. It is showcased at network and denominational gatherings, where the focus and conversation is often not about Jesus, but about us and what we are accomplishing and achieving. Leaders discuss the latest poster children for ministry success and their methods so we can all emulate them, buy their books, and attend their “how we did it” seminars and conferences.
Joel Beeke offers some insights on plain preaching, Puritan style, which addressed the mind with clarity, confronted the conscience pointedly, and wooed the heart passionately. Not a bad model . . .
Kevin DeYoung passes on five features of preaching in the book of the Acts which he suggests should be essentially normative for all preaching:
Interesting and useful.
Russell Moore reminds us that pretty much every preacher is on a perpetual learning curve, and that our first attempts are almost invariably (though for various reasons) bad, that this is to be expected, and that it is part of what will, hopefully, make us sufficient. It is of particular encouragement to those starting out in the work, and may be read here.
An old minister’s complaints via Heavenly Worldliness:
I. I complain that many of my people are not so prayerful or so earnest, or so spiritual as Christians ought to be. They seem to pray very little, for their minister, for their fellow-worshippers, or for the revival of the work of God in the midst of them.
II. I complain that so few attend the prayer-meetings. Not a sixth part of the regular worshippers come to it, as if it were no business of theirs, as if they had something far more important to do. They go to public meetings, scientific lectures, parties of pleasure, but neglect the prayer-meeting.
III. I complain that some, of whom better things might have been expected, are only half-day hearers. What they do on the other half of the Sabbath I do not know; but their seat in Church is empty each afternoon.
IV. I complain that some are not punctual to the hour, but come in late, missing the first Psalm and the first prayer.
V. I complain that some are, during service, not so reverent in prayer or praise or hearing as worshippers of God should be.
VI. I complain that some do not observe the Sabbath as it ought to be observed, and as it once was observed in Scotland. Their conversation, their employments are inconsistent with the holiness of that day.
VII. I complain that our workers are so few, that of a large congregation only a handful should devote themselves to the active service of the Master.
VIII. I complain that our Office-bearers and teachers are not so earnest and self-denying and prayerful as they ought to be; taking their work too easily, not as a matter of life and death for souls.
IX. I complain that our liberality is poor and stinted; our givings upon a low and narrow scale; God getting the least, self and the world getting the most of what we have.
I think many ministers would suggest that not a great deal has changed.
Well-known blogger, recently-appointed pastor, and – by his own admission – novitiate preacher Tim Challies offers some perceptive thoughts on what he is learning along the way.
George Herbert offers an image:
Lord, how can man preach thy eternall word?
He is a brittle crazie glasse:
Yet in thy temple thou dost him afford
This glorious and transcendent place,
To be a window, through thy grace.
But when thou dost anneal in glasse thy storie,
Making thy life to shine within
The holy Preachers, then the light and glorie
More rev’rend grows, and more doth win;
Which else shows watrish, bleak, and thin.
Doctrine and life, colours and light, in one
When they combine and mingle, bring
A strong regard and aw: but speech alone
Doth vanish like a flaring thing,
And in the eare, not conscience ring.
David Murray has been looking at the issue of evangelistic preaching, in the following sequence:
- What is evangelistic preaching?
- Four kinds of evangelistic sermon.
- Why is evangelistic preaching so rare?
- Four characteristics of evangelistic preaching.
- Four (more) characteristics of evangelistic preaching.
It is a discussion both helpful and necessary. Head over and join in.
From the first page of Lectures to my Students:
Every workman knows the necessity of keeping his tools in a good state of repair, for ‘if the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength.’ If the workman lose the edge from his adze, he knows that there will be a greater draught upon his energies, or his work will be badly done. Michael Angelo, the elect of the fine arts, understood so well the importance of his tools, that he always made his own brushes with his own hands, and in this he gives us and illustration of the God of grace, who with special care fashions for himself all true ministers. It is true that the Lord, like Quintin Matsys in the story of the Antwerp well-cover, can work with the faultiest kind of instrumentality, as he does when he occasionally makes very foolish preaching to be useful in conversion; and he can even work without agents, as he does when he saves men without a preacher at all, applying the word directly by his Holy Spirit; but we cannot regard God’s absolutely sovereign acts as a rule for our action. He may, in his own absoluteness, do as pleases him best, but we must act as his plainer dispensations instruct us; and one of the facts which is clear enough is this, that the Lord usually adapts means to ends, from which the plain lesson is, that we shall be likely to accomplish most when we are in the best spiritual condition; or in other words, we shall usually do our Lord’s work best when our gifts and graces are in good order, and we shall do worst when they are most out of trim.
I read last night of Samuel Pearce’s battle to make time for reading and study in his ministry. Here, Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones (via Piper) make the case:
Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers and expositions of the Bible.
Brian Croft with some helpful insights on a pastor’s wife’s battle against loneliness and pastor’s children’s battle against resentment. Brian is hard at work on a book on the pastor’s family, and I hope that this solid, unspectacular, commonsense, thoroughly sensible approach is indicative of how he is approaching it. Brian’s determination not to do fireworks for their own sake means that you don’t get dazzled, but see clearly.
Many pressures and demands pull on the pastor’s time. A full-time capacity does not allow enough time to address them all, though I wish it did. Be wise and diligent with whatever time you are given, and delegate to other capable servants in the church so you are able to focus on that which God calls us to whether bi-vocational or full-time.
Brian Croft offers some counsel on how a full-time pastor should prioritize his time. Easier said than done, and rarely done well without the conscious and deliberate involvement and support of the whole church. (“Necessary administration” is a category that can swallow days of a week.)
Brian Croft is part of a denomination that has undergone significant changes, often at congregational level, over recent years. He offers some thoughts on how a pastor might choose his battles:
Pastors who walk into existing churches are quickly burdened by needed changes to improve the church. Where the challenge is for most of us is when and how those changes need to be brought. If you are wondering how to choose those battles wisely, first receive this most excellent counsel I received as I entered my first Senior Pastor position at a church clearly needing change and revitalization, “Preach the Word, sacrifically love those people, and do not change anything for a while.”
Three particular counsels follow.
An anathema pronounced against the overuse and abuse of rhetorical questions and the interrogative:
I suspect that those of you who hear a fair amount of preaching have experienced this, haven’t you? Somewhere along the line the preacher has been informed that a rhetorical question is a good way to engage his congregation, hasn’t he? And so what does he do? Well, he uses them almost relentlessly, doesn’t he? Doesn’t he make sentences that don’t need to be questions into questions? If in doubt – and perhaps this is the most distressing approach – he even throws in some form of interrogation at the end of most sentences, doesn’t he?
The point, of course, is the necessity of a proclamational ministry, not one that is consistently asking for affirmation. Read it all at Reformation21.
St Paul expected his hearers to be moved. He so believed in his preaching that he knew that it was “the power of God unto salvation” [Rom. 1:16]. This expectation is a very real part of the presentation of the Gospel. It is a form of faith. A mere preaching which is not accompanied by the expectation of faith, is not a true preaching of the Gospel, because faith is a part of the Gospel. Simply to scatter the seed, with a sort of vague hope that some of it may come up somewhere, is not preaching the gospel. It is indeed a misrepresentation of the gospel. To preach the Gospel requires that the preacher should believe that he is sent to those whom he is addressing at the moment, because God has among them those whom He is at the moment calling: it requires that the speaker should expect a response.
Roland Allen, Missionary Methods—St. Paul’s or Ours? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962), 74.
HT: Justin Taylor.
Kevin DeYoung is proving himself a solid guide in many things. He writes:
Recently, we tweaked our pastoral internship program for this year to focus more on pastoral theology than trying to cover the whole gamut of a seminary education (church history, systematics, biblical theology, exegesis, etc.). To that end, we choose to highlight twelve categories of thought and practice that seem especially important to pastoral ministry. I know not every category below is technically “pastoral theology,” and obviously this isn’t anything like an exhaustive list. But these are some of the books I’ve found most helpful in pastoral ministry.
We still hear a fair amount about incarnational ministry. Unfortunately, it too often refers to choosing the right T-shirt, identifying the right body piercing, listening to the right music, and so on. It too rarely refers to a readiness to put down your phone, pod, pad or whatever else you might be using, and give your undistracted attention as a physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual presence to the person or people who need it. That is what a pastor does.
What are the priorities of preachers and teachers of God’s word to be?
You can read Carl Trueman’s answer to that question here.
Alexander Archibald’s counsels to serminary students:
(1) Keep habitually in view the awful importance of the office which you have in view.
(2) Cherish assiduously the sincere and ardent love of truth.
(3) Meditate frequently and profoundly on the imbecility of the human intellect.
(4) Accustom yourselves to such divine direction in every thing and to depend entirely on the divine blessing for success in your studies.
(5) Learn to think for yourselves. Depend rather on your own faculties than on those of other men.
(6) Avoid hasty discussion and premature judgments. Endeavor to get a full view of a subject before you form a decisive opinion.
(7) Avoid of the same time the more dangerous extreme of a skeptical, unsettled state of mind.
(8) Consider always what kind of evidence any particular subject admits of and be satisfied when you have such as the nature of the case requires.
(9) Be not discouraged from aiming at high attainments in literature, by the difficulties which belong to the subjects, or by a sense of the weakness of your own faculties. No man knows how much he can accomplish before the trial. Moderate abilities, by diligence and perseverance, have made astonishing progress. Many things which appear extremely difficult at first become easy by degrees. Those men who have become most eminent in literature have struggled valiantly through the same difficulties which now encompass you.
(10) Lay the foundation deeply and solidly. Be not too hasty in securing the superstructure. Though your progress in this way be slow at first it will become rapid in due time. I mean that you should understand distinctly elementary principles and acquire that knowledge which is necessary as a means of extending your inquiries after truth. A scattered and superficial knowledge of many things serve only to make a man flippant in conversation. Acquire incidentally all you can.
(11) Do not waste your time and strength on studies which are never likely to be profitable but do not hastily conclude that this and that are unimportant.
(12) After having undertaken any important literary pursuit do not relinquish it on account of inconsiderable difficulties. When circumstances imperiously require you to abandon, for the present, any study in which you have had some progress, seize the first favorable opportunity of resuming it.
(13) So regulate your attention to your studies as never to lose any part of learning which you have gained. A little care and diligence will enable you to preserve knowledge once acquired, and whatever is worth gaining is worth preserving. If you should be under a necessity of omitting attention to any branch of learning until you have forgotten it, be not discouraged from attempting to recover it when opportunity offers, for whatever we have ever known is easily secured, however completely it may seem to be obliterated for the present.
(14) Accustom yourselves to meditate on subjects which you wish to investigate in different situations and circumstances. Learn to think and reason closely and correctly when you have no access to books, and no opportunity of committing your thoughts to writing.
(15) But when circumstances will admit, write down your thoughts both for the sake of preserving them; and to assist you in confirming your attention to the subject and of forming more distinct ideas.
(16) When the investigation of some point is your object, think nothing of the language in which you clothe your ideas. Let attention to the style be a matter of subsequent consideration. First, collect your materials, then arrange them to the best advantage, and decorate them with such ornaments as are chaste and becoming.
(17) Animated and candid discussion of subjects in conversation with others engaged in the same course of study is one of the best methods of aiding us in acquiring distinct and perspicuous ideas.
(18) With respect to many parts of knowledge it is sufficient to know where they may be found when needed. That knowledge of books therefore which extends no further than their contents is important.
(19) All pious affections are favorable to the acquisition of real knowledge; and all depraved passions tend to pervert the understanding.
(20) Many physical causes affect the powers of the mind: diseases, watchfulness, fasting, exhilarating and intoxicating substance. Avoid all artificial methods of exciting and raising your minds.
(21) There is reason to believe that although inspiration has long since ceased, yet the Spirit of God does now in various ways guide, assist, and elevate the minds of men. This assistance may therefore be sought and expected, in our studies, and in our public performances. Teachers who depend on this aid are raised to an elevation of thought greatly above that to which they can commonly attain. This to some may appear like enthusiasm but I am not disposed to relinquish any thing which appears to me to be founded in fact and experience for fear of having the sentiment stigmatized with an odious name.
(22) Form habits of diligence in your studies. “Life is short and art is long” is as true now as formerly. Talents without industry are not sufficient. Without diligence, no man can become truly learned. To the theologian it is indispensable both as it relates to his studies and official duties.
(23) Diligence without method will enable us to make but little progress; adopt, therefore, and preserve a regular method in the disposal of your time and distribution of your studies. When you have your time judiciously apportioned you proceed with ease and alacrity like the traveler on a road where the distances are marked and the stages conveniently arranged for his accommodation.