The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘Brian Croft

Three fascinating books

leave a comment »

May I draw your attention to three volumes, each relatively new, each stimulating in its own sphere? Each is written by a friend, and two received an endorsement from me, so please take that into account in what I write.

The first is from Brian Croft. The Pastor’s Ministry: Biblical Priorities for Faithful Shepherds is a basic introduction to the work of the ministry. It is a reflection of the failure of many churches and the paucity of much seminary instruction that these truths should seem so fresh, even novel, to many. It is also a reflection of the carelessness of our hearts that – though we may think we know them – we so often need to be reminded of them. This, then, would make an excellent gift for men entering or leaving any stripe of more or less formal ministerial training, as well as a good refresher for men already in the trenches. My endorsement read:

What my friend Brian Croft says in this book should be so obvious that it barely needs saying. Tragically, these are the very principles and practices that are so often unknown or neglected and so quickly lost or forgotten. Whether you need instruction or correction, learning or reminding, Brian’s gift for simple and clear communication of plain pastoral realities will clear your head, warm your heart, and strengthen your hands.

You can buy Brian’s book at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

The second book is by David Murray, and is called The Happy Christian. In my endorsement, I wrote:

What does it mean to be happy? The light of nature allows us to observe, desire and appreciate the benefits of certain kinds of happiness. Only the light of Scripture enables us properly to define, obtain and cultivate true and lasting happiness. David Murray’s difficult task in this genuinely stimulating and sometimes provocative book is to accept and acknowledge the former source of illumination while being governed by and relying upon the latter. He has no appetite for the fixed grin and glassy stare of a carnally-manufactured positivity. Instead, David seeks to train our hearts in Christian cheerfulness, genuine gladness, and believing hopefulness, to enjoy and employ the “solid joys and lasting treasures” of the true children of God. Some might take issue with the balance of his foundations and the choice or proportion of his materials, but all Christians would do well to consider the structure and style of the building David erects. It is a good and bright place to live, and many of us need to start construction.

I hope that gives some sense of the excellent work that David has done. This is a book very carefully pitched. My sense is that it steps outside the typical circles of many Reformed and evangelical writers, and – without compromise – seeks to engage and to attract those who might otherwise look over or around that circle. In doing so, it draws on many of our wonderful resources of a genuinely Christian worldview, and reminds all of us of what we are so often missing in our walk as disciples of Christ. Again, you can get it at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk, as well as Westminster.

The final book is by Stuart Olyott. This one is called Something Must Be Known & Felt: A Missing Note in Today’s Christianity. It is at once an exciting and unsettling book. It is a necessarily uncomfortable book. It is, at points, a contentious book. Some might consider it a dangerous book. It is, because of rather than despite all that, a good book. I agree with its primary thrust, even if I am presently left behind by some of its particular details.

Those who know Stuart Olyott as a preacher or author will know that he is not a man given to reckless flights of ungrounded fancy. That is important to recall in reading this book on the place of feeling in the life of the believer. His contention is that biblical Christianity is a holy compound of doctrine, ethics and experience, the last of these being often perverted or neglected today.

To correct this, he first gives a survey of emotion from the Scriptures then an overview of the work of the Holy Spirit in the soul. He applies these two matters in the spheres of assurance, Christ’s felt presence, guidance from God, asking and receiving, and waiting on the Lord (the latter two having to do particularly with prayer). In every instance he simultaneously discharges both barrels against the arid wastes of barren intellectualism and the dry expanses of mindless enthusiasm. Each chapter is a blend of scriptural evidences and personal and historical experiences. There is both a deliberate resistance to mysticism and an unembarrassed supernaturalism.

It is hard in a book so brief to give adequate attention to every point made. That means that there are some bold and bald assertions which need to be set in the context of Stuart’s wider ministry. This is not the writing of a man going soft, but of a man pressing on. He wishes to open our eyes and our hearts to elements of Christian experience of which we are ignorant, and ignorance here cannot be bliss.

On more debatable points the author is especially careful to add to scriptural arguments trustworthy witnesses both immediate and distant, including incidents from his own life. I struggled with some of his statements, especially regarding God’s ways of offering guidance or answering prayer. I also confess that this may be because of my own paucity of experience at this point. At each such point the author offers enough scriptural substance to make us tentatively positive, exercising a cautious care in debating his affirmations. Even those who would back away from some of the more striking assertions should take pains not casually to dismiss any part of the argument.

There is much here to which I can readily add a hearty “Amen!” At some points, I should be happy to find my minor concerns proved unfounded. In a very small number of cases, I should need more compelling evidence fully to embrace some of what is written. The fact that the untaught and unstable might abuse some of these things does not mean they should not be addressed. Neither should our reactions against various abuses blind us to what we ourselves might be missing.

Read it carefully and prayerfully; wrestle with it humbly and scripturally; respond to it righteously and earnestly. Buy it at Amazon.co.uk.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 24 March 2015 at 09:43

Twinterview: Louisville pastors

with 4 comments

Welcome to another twinterview, sports fans!

Following the Thomas/Trueman face-off we travelled back to the UK to quiz the London Welsh. This time we head again to the US for a couple of pastors from Louisville. One is Brian Croft, pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church and author of several introductory volumes of pastoral theology, who blogs at Practical Shepherding. In the other corner is Jim Savastio, pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville and long-term friend of the Walker family, a blogger at Main Things.

As usual, neither interviewee saw the other’s answers until both sets of responses were in, and there was no collaboration or collusion. The answers are as given, and I have not commented on them, either in terms of interest, agreement or disagreement. However, I do feel obliged to point out, in the context of Jim’s answer to question three, that I was never that short. The responses are edited only lightly for form, and the content is the responder’s own. Please feel free to engage politely in the comments section.

I am very grateful to Jim and to Brian for their willingness to participate, and I hope that they will not regret it. Please check back regularly for the next couple of twinterviews. Two are brewing in the pot, and a couple more are being slowly prepared.

1. Please tell us where you are serving the Lord in Louisville, Kentucky, and how you arrived there. Also, how did you get to know one another?

Brian Croft: I am currently in my ninth year as Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church on the south end of Louisville. I am born and raised near here and have spent all my 17 years of ministry in local churches either in Louisville, or in southern Indiana, just across the river. Jim and I found each other through some mutual pastor friends and had lunch together for our first meeting not far from his church.

Jim Savastio: I minister in East Louisville. I started my ministry here in 1990 to aid in a new church plant. At that time we met at a hotel in central Louisville (near the airport). Two years later we moved to a school in the East end and in 1995 purchased approximately six acres at our current location. I came to Louisville having just completed my ministerial training. It was originally intended to be a three month summer stint. Thankfully, the Lord had other plans!

I got to know Brian Croft five or six years ago. One of our families had their child in the same gymnastics program where one of Brian’s children were enrolled. This family thought that Brian and I would enjoy getting to know one another. I called Brian and invited him to lunch. We continued to meet sporadically over the next couple of years before solidifying our friendship in a deeper way over the past two years.

2. What are some of the particular blessings and challenges of being a pastor in Louisville?

BC: Jim and I agree that there is no city in the world like Louisville in this sense – it is flooded with solid, biblically, healthy churches, arguably more than any other city. The blessings of this dynamic are many, but one that I know Jim and I appreciate is the many like-minded pastors of which we are able to fellowship, serve along side, and lock arms for the sake of gospel witness in the city. One challenge is the sense of competition among some pastors and the temptation for church goers to church search like a consumer without them realizing it.

JS: When I first came to Louisville the city was deep in the shadows of two liberal seminaries (Southern Seminary at that time and the PCUSA school). Louisville is also home to a couple of mega-churches. There are churches on virtually every corner. The question we sought to answer at that time was, Why another church in Louisville? At that time that question was fairly easy to answer. Churches committed to historic and confessional Christianity were essentially unknown. Churches committed to expository and applicatory preaching, God-centered worship, and serious churchmanship were few and far between. There were only a couple of men within thirty miles who laid any claim to embracing the doctrines of grace.

Things began to change in the mid-1990s with the arrival of Al Mohler and the great change at Southern Seminary. It took some time for what began to be taught in the seminary to work its way down to the churches. Louisville now enjoys numerous places where the word of  God is faithfully preached, where men have a high view of God, the scriptures and the church. This is a blessing to be sure. The challenges that exist are in many ways the same. Louisville has not been won for Christ. The world, the flesh, and the devil are still in full force. The dangers of taking ease, of forsaking first principles, compromise, and weariness ever abound.

3. You have various friends in the UK, and I am glad to count myself among them. Apart from the inestimable privilege of seeing me, what do you especially look forward to when you come to the UK? What makes you want to go home again?

BC: I love church history, so as an American I must own the inferiority of U.S. History compared to UK history. As much as I love history, the fellowship of older godly pastors (oh, and younger too like you) exists for myself in the UK more so than in the U.S. I am challenged and ministered to by older pastors in the UK and it becomes a spiritually revitalizing exercise when I come and experience their example. So far, my wife and children have not been able to come to the UK with me. Until they accompany me, there are always strong motives for a short trip and speedy return.

JS: For the sake of  full disclosure…I first met Jeremy when he was an unconverted 13 year old (I’ll leave out the bit about his being short, chubby and having a ridiculous hair cut, because that would be cruel). My initial friendship was with his esteemed father and dear mother. I think I can lay claim to being the only man that you will interview who has wrestled you and held you over my head! I have long been an Anglophile, so coming to the UK is always a treat. I love the history of the nation, seeing the places where great men of God labored  and in some cases were martyred. I love the sense of secular history, the museums and the castles. As a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I really enjoy strolling down Baker Street too. Nothing makes me want to go home more than the food!

4. Have you ever considered leaving the ministry (if that’s a painful memory, feel free to give a “Yes” or “No” answer)? What kept you there, and what keeps you there now, especially when times are hard?

BC: What affirmed to me I was called in the midst of some hard early years of ministry in some very difficult places was, when I was most in the fire, I didn’t consider leaving. There was always this resolve this is what God has called me to and no one could ever overtake that desire – even when painfully attacked. The growing burden to “give an account for souls entrusted to me” keeps me pressing on in the work and the joy of that burden reminds me there is nothing else I would rather do. There is nothing like the honor to minister the Word of God both publically and privately and see God powerfully change people. Even in the hardest of times, that Word keeps my own soul steadfast and keeps the fire burning to preach it. To quote Spurgeon’s test, “There is nothing else I could be satisfied doing.”

JS: Yes! Several times! I can remember a certain time in my ministry where my counsel to young men who wanted to enter the ministry was, “Don’t!” The two great things that have caused me to want to leave the ministry can be broken down into “them” and “me”. I have at times been discouraged at what seems to be such little fruit among the Lord’s people, few conversions among the lost, people leaving the church without discussion or warning, of  being attacked for striving to be faithful. Sometimes I wrestle with my own sense of calling, my weariness, my inability to truly be a help to those in need.

Several things have kept me in the way. The first is the worthiness of my Master. I heard someone say years ago, “I stopped asking is it worth it and have started to ask, Is He worthy?” There is also something of the inestimable privilege of preaching the gospel. What a great thing to tell other people about the Savior! As a pastor I not only see the worst in people, but I see their best as well. There are testimonies of God’s grace that I get to witness, triumphs over sin and the past that I am privy to that many others do not see. I hope it is not wrong to mention that I have dear mentors in my life whom I never want to let down.

5. What advice would you give to a young man considering a possible call to the ministry of the Word of God?

BC: It is a great burden like nothing else that produces a greater joy than anything you have experienced. Paul says it is a good desire, but do not pursue it without a strong internal desire (calling) accompanied by an external calling, which is an affirmation of your gifts and calling by a local church. I believe this is the biblical model of God’s design to call out the called.

JS: I would begin by exhorting them to deepen their own walk with God and then to strive to be the kind of churchman that they want their own congregation to be one day. In regard to more practical issues I have encouraged men to read good biographies of useful saints of the past and to listen to as many modern useful preachers as they can. They need to integrate themselves among all the people of God and not just ‘hang with their own kind’. I want to see a young man develop a deep love for the Lord’s people and a heart to serve them rather than simply preach to them.

6. As you consider your development as a pastor and preacher, can you mention three of the books that been most helpful to you personally?

BC: Between Two Worlds by John Stott; The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter; and, The Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges.

JS: Preaching and Preachers by Lloyd-Jones,  Knowing God by Packer, and Spiritual Disciplines For the Christian Life by Donald Whitney (this came into my life during a spiritual dry spell and breathed fresh hope and life into my soul).

7. Some sermons have an unforgettable impact on us (for example, as a means of conversion, a point of striking illumination, or a stirring of soul to some particular endeavour or attitude) and leave us different men. Have you had such an experience, and might you be able to identify the occasion and its particular effect?

BC: I grew up in man-centered, pragmatic churches and that was my understanding of God and the gospel. My world was shook when I was 24 years old and I heard John Piper preach Isaiah, “For my sake I will do it…I will not give my glory to another.” The shackles fell off my eyes to begin to have a God-centered understanding of God’s character and the gospel. Life-altering!

JS: There are several such instances in my life. I have been privileged to have two of my pastors be George McDearmon and Al Martin. Both men are powerful and incisive preachers. However, the ministry that most deeply affected me was a 12 part series on the life of Paul by Pastor Edward Donnelly of Northern Ireland. He taught these classes in a winter session while I was in seminary. Again, they came to me at a time when I was growing dull in my own heart (this has obviously happened more than once!). He conveyed truths about Paul’s love for and commitment to Jesus and the gospel that have never left me. I continue to meditate upon many of those truths nearly 25 years after hearing them.

8. We preach of the unsearchable riches of Christ and speak of his preciousness to the saints. What makes him particularly precious to you at this present time? What is it about the Lord Jesus that draws your heart out to him? How does your estimation of Christ show itself in your preaching?

BC: I have faced some great and sudden losses in the last few months because of death. I have found Christ so precious to me as I consider the sting of death, felt the pain of that separation and overwhelmed by it, and how He has ultimately rescued me from it. This has shown up in a real, emotional way in recent days when I preach and apply the gospel as our hope from the snare of sin that leads to death. Several times in study these last few weeks I have found myself overtaken by emotion and declared, “I’m so thankful I have Christ! What a despairing life this would be knowing what awaits us without Him.”

JS: John Newton said, “My memory is nearly gone; but these two things I remember; I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” I spent the first fifteen years of my life a complete stranger to grace. I did not go to church, read the bible, or pray. When I came to faith in Christ I was overwhelmed by a sense of God’s love for me. While that continues to be the wellspring of my life, I find myself meditating more and more upon His great faithfulness, mercy, and patience through the years. I have failed Him repeatedly. I am not what I ought to be for all the benefits which have been poured into me. That He has not abandoned me and that He deigns to use me in any capacity is a wonder to my soul.

I believe that what makes a man’s preaching distinctively his own is not only his gifts but his experience of God’s grace. Paul says in Acts 20 that Christ sent him to ‘testify’ of the gospel of the grace of God. Not just to proclaim it, but to speak of his own experience of its truth. I believe that the wonder of His mercy to me permeates my ministry to give help and comfort to others who, like me, struggle and fail so often. I love the words of the hymn, “though for good we render ill, he accounts us brethren still!”

9. One of your flock comes to you and complains that his heart is dry and his soul is chilled. He wants to be more full of love to God and to his people, but he finds himself sadly otherwise. What advice would you give to such a person?

BC: We need to always be reminded that powerful truth can be comprehended in the mind, without touching our affections. I would encourage that person to cry out to God in prayer that God’s truth would stir his affections and love for Christ. If we earnestly pray that, I have confidence God would answer it. The other thing I would say is one that is unaffected by the hope of the gospel and the preciousness of Christ, usually has lost sight of why they should be. I would remind them of what they truly deserve as rebels against a holy, wrathful God and try to get them to remember the horrors of God’s wrath. I think this principle is a basic way to help foster gratefulness in general, especially for the gospel where it is lacking.

JS: The first thing that I would remind them is that gospel is not predicated on our love to God, but His for us. We will never love Him ‘enough’. Only Jesus did that! I would then seek to ascertain if there is anything in their own life at this time which has supplanted their love for the Savior. Have they been filling their belly with the things of the world? Is there unconfessed sin? Is it perhaps something as simple as a general fatigue? Are they attending to the means of grace despite them feeling arid and unfruitful? Jesus indicated to the Laodiceans that they could ‘remember, repent, and do the first works’ which would restore the fervency of first love. Their experience is not new. Others have sought God in the dry and weary land. They must continue to knock, and to seek, and to ask. They must not lose heart in doing good, knowing in due time they will reap, if they do not faint.

10. What would you say are some of the particular blessings your wives bring to you and your ministries?

BC: I was once told, “You can always have another ministry, you only get one wife.” I have had several different ministries, but she has always been there. As every year goes by, I grow more and more in appreciation of my wife and deep love for her as she continues to just faithfully be there. She also continues to amaze me with how she puts her own struggles aside to serve others and how God powerfully uses her in those moments of weakness is inspiring. So often, she is much wiser than I am, but graciously lets me take the credit as the one who shares the wisdom. The love she shows me that I feel and experience every day is unrivalled by anyone else in this world. She is the most fun, enjoyable person I could ever spend time with and I love to see her smile and laugh. Hard to stop…but I will.

JS: Having married the world’s finest woman, the answer to this question could go on for many pages! Several things though come quickly to mind. The first thing is that she herself is a fervent Christian woman who loves the Lord as much as anyone I know. She is an excellent mother to my four children. She has made my home a delightful place to return to and has helped to provide a happy place for other people to come to as well. My wife prays for me and supports me but is, in the right sense, ‘unimpressed’ by me. She will let me know when I’m off, and challenge me in my preaching and in my life.

11. What is the most painful and what the most pleasant thing about being a minister of God’s Word? Give me this moment’s snapshot, if that’s easier.

BC: The most pleasant is to see someone hear and receive God’s Word in faith and watch that seed fall on good soil and bear much fruit in their lives and becomes that anchor when a great storm comes. The most painful is when it is clear receptivity to that Word that is the answer to a weary soul, yet they choose to doubt it, forget it, and dismiss the bread it would be to their soul. This is especially true when you have just preached your heart out with that Word and it falls on deaf ears to those you know to be the most needy of it.

JS: Nothing is harder than feeling like I have failed to be what God has called me to be in someone’s life. I remember one time when a family had been through some deep waters and I was not as aware or as involved in being a help to them in their time of need. There is no greater joy than seeing someone come to faith in Jesus and then grow in that faith and grace.

12. How do you decide what to preach next (whether the next sermon or the next series)?

BC: I expositionally preach through books of the Bible 90% of the time. I will alternate Old Testament and New Testament on Sunday mornings. Regardless the size of the book I choose, I try to complete the book in less than a year. Hebrews took 35 weeks, 1 Samuel 33 weeks, Titus 12 weeks. This allows me to spend time in the details, and yet still move through the Bible at a steady pace. I will do a short 3-4 week series on something often between these book series. What book I choose revolves around what I haven’t preached, or done recently and what are the particular needs in the congregation that a certain book would address well.

JS: I normally preach verse by verse or passage by passage through a book. There will be breaks as I seek to discern from the people and in prayer what the needs of God’s people may be at a particular time. Sometimes there is a need for corporate encouragement and sometimes a need for corporate rebuke or challenge. I seek to listen hard to the people of God and interact with my fellow elders to determine what the needs of the hour might be.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 24 April 2012 at 14:59

Looking back and ahead

with 2 comments

Yesterday we had our semi-regular pastor’s fraternal here in Crawley, and it was a delight to welcome my friend, Brian Croft (who blogs at Practical Shepherding), to preach on the subject of pastoral perseverance.

Over two sessions (outlined here), Brian called on us to persevere by looking back and looking ahead. Then, because once a year we try and do something in which the whole church and other churches can share, we had an open meeting at which Brian developed his theme from Hebrews 12.1-3:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

It was solid, sane, sweet stuff, full of right challenges and needed encouragements, and is available to listen to here. Brian, with friends Nathan Eikenberry, Matthew Davison, and Shawn Hughes, then headed for Edinburgh, where I hope to join them on Friday with a view to preaching alongside Brian, Matthew, and Ray van Neste at the Call Conference on Saturday.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 22 February 2012 at 19:23

Posted in Updates

Tagged with ,

“The Call” Leadership Conference

with 2 comments

Readers, especially those in, near or with connections to Scotland, might be interested to hear of a conference being planned for Saturday 25th February 2012 at Charlotte Chapel in Edinburgh. The title of the conference is “The Call” Leadership Conference and the speakers will be Brian Croft, Matthew Spandler-Davison, Ray Van Neste, Liam Garvie, and self.

According to the blurb, the conference is for “anyone in leadership of a church, anyone aspiring to be a leader in a church, anyone exploring a call to be a leader in a church or anyone looking to understand what leadership in a local church looks like.”

It costs only £15 for the day (£10 concessions), which includes four addresses and a breakout session with lunch to boot, but the particularly good news is that attendees will also receive ten free books on leadership and church life. It’s why I’m going!

More information, with online booking to follow soon, is available at The Call Conference website.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 19 December 2011 at 20:20

Yet more pastoral theology

with one comment

Here we are, sliding effortlessly into the Cs and Ds of pastoral theology. We’ve done a couple of instalments already here and here, and the complete page can be found here or from the sidebar. As usual, comments and further recommendations are appreciated, and if you could put them on the full page, I will be able to keep track of them more readily. There are a couple here that are on my shelf without having been read yet. I have noted that, and when I get round to reading them, I will try to update the review. You can also see that I am trying to put in a bundle of links so that readers have a range of options for purchase. Thanks, and enjoy!

Carrick, John. The Imperative of Preaching: A Theology of Sacred Rhetoric. Outstanding material here. With illustrations from preachers of renown, Carrick insists that we must both explain and apply the truth, and he bases his case on a study of Biblical indicatives and imperatives, and their relationship one to the other (as well as exclamations and questions). Helpful in thinking about the why and how of sermons, and a real stimulus to preaching (or trying to). (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Carrick, John. The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards. I recently got it not least in the hopes that it would develop some of the seed-thoughts of the earlier volume (above). From what I can see, it is a survey of some noteworthy features from Edwards’ public ministry, and could be very helpful. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Carson, D. A. The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians. A helpful study of what it means for “the cross” to have a central place in Christian leadership. A reminder of the spirit in which our pastoral labours are to be conducted. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Chappell, Bryan. Christ-Centred Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon. This volume sounds some helpful notes, and is worth reading to be reminded of some basic realities in connection with preaching. However, while I know it has had much good press, I found it a little dry and somewhat prescriptive. I think that much of its substance and profitable emphases could be obtained elsewhere without the same constraints being unhelpfully imposed. I may be misreading or misunderstanding it. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Clowney, Edmund P. Called to the Ministry. An excellent and brief treatment of the call to the ministry. Very useful for those wrestling with the question. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Croft, Brian. Test, Train, Affirm & Send Into Ministry. With an easy style and an awareness of modern issues, the author puts the call to ministry right where it belongs, squarely into the context of the local church. Within this framework, the character of the man himself is briefly explored, practical recommendations made, and the ongoing investment of the church in the man under authority is pleaded. Although different churches might wish to adapt what they adopt, this is a solid foundation on which to proceed. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Croft, Brian. Visit the Sick. Again writing to equip men to be genuine shepherds of souls, this book sets out to remind the church and her pastors that the care of the sick is not merely a matter for health professionals, especially in the sphere of the soul’s well-being. Again full of practical advice and the fruit of sometimes painful experience, this book is helpful in rightly setting a pastoral priority. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Croft, Brian & Newton, Phil A. Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals. Many young pastors arrive at their first wedding or funeral having just realised that they have never really seen this done from their soon-to-be vantage point. Going beyond the mere mechanics of the service, Croft and Newton give wise counsel on how to think about and engage with the various aspects of a funeral that honours Christ and declares his truth even as it recognises the pains and sorrows of lost loved ones. Helpful especially for the uninitiated, but a good prompt even for the seasoned. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Dabney, R. L. Evangelical Eloquence: A Course of Lectures on Preaching (previously, Sacred Rhetoric). Another older gem, Dabney begins with the preacher’s commission before surveying a classic list of those elements which together enable a man gifted by God to compose and deliver his divinely-mandated message in such a way as to accomplish God’s ends, with his blessing. Changes in expectations and appetites in the world at large do not take away the usefulness of these basic Biblical principles. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Dickson, David. The Elder and His Work. Written from a Presbyterian perspective, and so dealing more with ruling elders as distinct from teaching elders, this is nevertheless a very helpful, practical survey of the work of elders/pastors generally. While you might tweak it depending on your ecclesiology, if you have (for want of a better phrase) “non-vocational pastors” there is much here that might help, quite apart from the benefit to the preacher of the gospel. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 4 August 2011 at 18:37

Reporting in

with 2 comments

I am starting to catch my breath after returning from the US where I spent a few days travelling around with a few appointments in my calendar.

Arriving at Newark airport on a Friday afternoon, I was kindly loaned a car for a few days by a couple of the esteemed in-laws in Montville and instantly headed south and east to Flemington, where Pastor Frank Barker was formally taking his leave of the Grace Covenant Baptist Church and heading south for the sun, leaving his fellow-elder Alan Dunn and the rest of the church to fend for themselves. The church there, together with a number of friends from a variety of places, had gathered to testify of God’s blessing to them through Pastor Barker’s ministry. It was a wonderful evening with many warm testimonies of Pastor Barker’s wisdom and earnestness in ministering to the saints, and a pleasure to be present and to see some of the good things that God gives to his faithful servants before they hear his own, “Well done!”

I stayed over with Alan Dunn and his family, heading back to Montville early the next morning for the memorial service of Mrs Helen Driesse, who had died only a few days before. I know various members of the Driesse family reasonably well, and it was one of those sorrowful pleasures to hear Mrs Driesse so warmly spoken of and fondly remembered. In particular, Pastor David Chanski of the Trinity Baptist Church, Montville, spoke briefly and pointedly from Psalm 139, including the verses on which Mrs Driesse thought every time she took her medicine: “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” When I thanked him afterward, he told me that the substance of the address had been provided by Helen’s husband, Gerry. It was good and deep stuff. I was particularly struck by something else that was attributed directly to Mr Driesse. He told his friends after his wife died in his arms words to the effect that, “I have now completed the main thing that God has given me to do,” namely, the bringing of his wife safely to and through the river to the Celestial City.

Following a reception at which I had the pleasure of meeting various friends who had gathered for the occasion, I then headed back south and east once more, past Flemington and out into Pennsylvania, this time heading for Downingtown with Mitch & Nancy Lush. Pastor Mitch cares for Grace Church, Downingtown, and had invited me to speak in the adult Sunday School class on the new Calvinism, and then to preach morning and evening taking that context into account. It was again a delight to catch up with a few old friends during the day and once the work of the day was done, as well as to spend a delightful day on Monday at Longwood Gardens with the Lushes and mutual friend, the Reuthers, from Covenant Baptist Church, Lumberton.

Later that Monday, I headed back to Flemington, where I spent an evening chatting over Chinese food with Pastor Dunn and some of his family, which included a splendid few miles on Ethan’s motorbike enjoying the wind in the Walker hair. Tuesday morning Alan and I chewed the fat for a few hours before I headed back to Montville to spend a couple of days with one of my wife’s sisters, Priscilla, and her husband, Rich. I took the opportunity to pick up a few gifts for my own family back home, and also managed to get in a couple of P90X exercise sessions with Rich, while Priscilla threw in some additional torture from the sidelines. Aching all over, I eventually left New Jersey for Kentucky on Thursday evening.

Arriving in Louisville for the bulk of my labours while in the US, I was picked up by Darrel Whiteley, who – together with his delightful family – were my first hosts from the Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville, the church which was hosting the family conference at which I was due to preach. Pastor Bill Hughes, another of the preachers at the conference, arrived on Friday evening, and I enjoyed a breakfast with him and with Pastor Jim Savastio of RBC Louisville (who blogs at Main Things) and Pastor Brian Croft of Auburndale Baptist Church (and Practical Shepherding fame) on Saturday morning. I had originally been scheduled to preach at RBC Louisville on that Sunday and at Auburndale the following Lord’s day, but – due to a mix-up, humanly speaking – there was a double-booking, and Brian was able to accommodate me at Auburndale the first Sunday instead. The Lord’s most wise superintendence was immediately evident, in that during that Sunday Brian was suddenly called away to Nashville to minister to the family of one of his closest friends from college, and my presence gave him additional freedom to do so.

Brian in his study

Sunday morning therefore found me en route to Auburndale Baptist Church, in the south of Louisville, where I had a delightful time worshipping with the friends who gathered, preaching on the salvation of the man who had been born blind. Spending the day with Brian and his family, we heard another brother preach in the evening and then gathered from some informal question-and-answer with some of the folks from the church. Brian drove me home through the night of 3rd July enjoying the slightly premature Fourth of July fireworks. On Monday I spent the day at the home of other friends from RBC Louisville, enjoying the evident buzz in anticipation of the conference beginning the next day.

Heading for the Alumni Chapel

Alumni Chapel begins to fill up

I was sleeping unusually badly, getting little more than four or five hours a night, perhaps feeling something of the buzz myself. Most of my days in Louisville were filled with some sort of preparation for the conference, and a few periods of relaxation, and it was good to finally get to the conference itself. Pastor Hughes kicked off on Tuesday evening in the Alumni Chapel on the beautiful campus of the Southern Baptist Seminary. Sitting there that first night with several hundred people singing their hearts out I did wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew.

My first sermon was on Wednesday morning in the Heritage Hall, on the theme ‘The Way Forward: Encouragements for a Future, Faithful Generation.’ I preached all three sessions from 2 Kings 13No-one could find the air conditioning, and that – combined with the theatre-style lighting, left me in something of a lather by the time the sermon was over. Bill Hughes followed, preserving his gentlemanly demeanour partly on account of the fact that someone had by then found the air conditioning on-switch. I then preached Wednesday night in the Alumni Chapel, swapping over again with Pastor Hughes for our final two addresses on Thursday morning. Then Pastor Stu Johnston took up the baton, preaching Thursday evening and Friday morning on contemporary challenges, and Pastor Jim Savastio earthed the conference on Friday just before lunch. Around the sermons (all available here) there were some excellent meals, some pleasant fellowship, and some vigorous recreation, and I also had opportunity to meet up again with Brian Croft and some other friends. All too soon, it was over, and I moved on again, this time to the home of Charlie Hall and his family. Charlie is another of the pastors at RBC Louisville, and I had a great few days with the Halls, not least in helping some friends who were moving to the area unpack their truck, and a Sunday lunch that morphed from a get-together for a couple of families to a gathering of about thirty or forty in the space of as many minutes. I preached at RBC Louisville all day on the Lord’s day, kicking off with a brief introduction to John Bunyan and his books in the Sunday School, before preaching in the morning on the joining in the death and resurrection of Christ of God’s mercy and truth, righteousness and peace and in the evening on the commissioning of the Gadarene demoniac to go home and speak of the great things the Lord had done for him, and how he had compassion on him.

Heritage Hall after they heard that I was preaching next

The Halls graciously closed the day by lobbing bits of fried egg into my by-then-drooping mouth when I was breathing in the right direction, and I packed my bags and dropped into bed. Jim pitched up early doors on Monday, and I spent a morning with him before arriving at Louisville airport where I headed back home via Newark. I arrived safe and well, although tired (not least on account of the gent sitting behind me who spent the small hours playing some kind of game on the touchscreen nestling in the back of my seat headrest, a game which involved punching the touchscreen every few seconds for about four hours straight), and made it home to my family soon afterward.

Since then, it has been mainly catching up and getting back into the swing of things, my heart warmed by the fellowship of the saints and the evident working of God in the advance of Christ’s kingdom in so many places.

Brian drops by

with one comment

It was our privilege last week to spend a little time with Brian Croft, pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky, and Ryan Bebee, who is working with Brian at the church and is also a student at SBTS. Brian is the author of Test, Train, Affirm, & Send Into Ministry and Visit the Sick (both from DayOne), and he blogs at Practical Shepherding. I would recommend these resources.

He had originally been planning something a little different, but – with a few days to go – his plans changed radically. Having mutual friends in Louisville, and having been in touch one way or another in a couple of small ways, we were able to help make the most of his visit, and he spent a couple of days with us at each end of his week in the UK. We were able to have him preach the Word of God on Sunday morning, and enjoyed a heart-warming and instructive sermon on Jesus’ sovereignty over sickness and death.

Brian has just added a few notes from his visit to his blog, and it is a pleasure to see my esteemed father honoured as he records some of the lessons learned:

I went to the United Kingdom to serve other pastors and Christ’s church.  Yet, in God’s kind providence, I feel I was served the most.  This came at the hands of a few older, seasoned, and faithful pastors who were in the trenches of pastoral ministry before I was born.  What a rare gift these men are to the church and I was able to sit at the feet of a few and learn. . . . [more]

For myself, it was sweet to have Brian and Ryan in our home, and to hear Brian preach, and to enjoy some delightful fellowship with these brothers (a lot of book talk too). I am looking forward to catching up with them, God willing, when I visit Louisville later this year.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 8 February 2011 at 23:15

Posted in General

Tagged with ,

A pastor oppressed

with 2 comments

I’m not discouraged, depressed, or dulled in my affections for Christ and His Word. My love for this calling and the task to shepherd God’s people has not waned at all, it only grows. I have very little to be discouraged about and so much to be thankful for. So, what is going on? I seem to be experiencing a common, yet often undiagnosed reality for pastors laboring in the day-to-day grind of ministry. It is that slow, subtle process over a long period of time where you continue to add to your plate (or others add for you) without taking anything away from it. All of a sudden, you feel like all you do is work so hard to keep all the balls in the air as you juggle them, thinking if one falls…disaster. As a result, you feel like a dear pastor friend of mine described it to me this past week, “I feel like I am doing so much, that I am doing nothing well.”

I think most pastors can identify with Brian Croft’s honest and humble words. There is plenty of transparency here, giving a profitable window into his own heart, with good advice for seeing this coming where you can and responding to it when you can’t.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 9 December 2010 at 22:15

%d bloggers like this: