Archive for the ‘Pastoral theology’ Category
Pastors in the Classics: Timeless Lessons on Life and Ministry from World Literature
Leland Ryken, Philip Ryken & Todd Wilson
Baker Books, 2012, 192pp., paperback, $16.99
This is an odd book. It is not a bad book, but it is hard to categorise. Divided into two parts, the first consists of twelve fairly detailed considerations of literary representations of pastoral ministry, drawn from a reasonably wide sweep. The second contains 58 précis of other such representations. It is difficult to gauge for whom and for what this book exists: from the blurb and endorsements one is clearly meant to come to the book as a pastor and here find prompts to profound self-awareness together with penetrating insights into the pastoral calling. Frankly, this was not my experience. For Christians (not least pastors) with a literary bent it might provide an interesting reading list or a stimulus for study and discussion. However, as a means of getting to grips with the challenges, demands and struggles of pastoral ministry, I think that there are far better lessons to be drawn from life than art: this is one area where reality trumps realism. I am not suggesting that this is a worthless book, but I think it will sit more readily in the literary theory than the pastoral theology section of the library.
Always good to see Samuel Pearce getting a nod. Here is a summary of his counsels to a man attending a ministerial academy:
1. Cultivate Personal Spiritual Disciplines
2. Submit to Your Professors
3. Practice Self-Control
4. Be Wise with Your Time
5. Pursue Excellence
6. Stay Focused
I know it sounds obvious, and it might apply to the ongoing life of ministry in Christ’s church, but still worth worth reading.
The therapeutic concerns of the culture too often set the agenda for evangelical preaching. Issues of the self predominate, and the congregation expects to hear simple answers to complex problems. Furthermore, postmodernism claims intellectual primacy in the culture, and even if they do not surrender entirely to doctrinal relativism, the average congregant expects to make his or her own final decisions about all important issues of life, from worldview to lifestyle.
Authentic Christian preaching carries a note of authority and a demand for decisions not found elsewhere in society. The solid truth of Christianity stands in stark contrast to the flimsy pretensions of postmodernity. Unfortunately, the appetite for serious preaching has virtually disappeared among many Christians who are content to have their fascinations with themselves encouraged from the pulpit.
Al Mohler delivers the second in a series of broadsides at the modern pulpit. Good stuff!
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.