Wednesday, May 31

When It's Time To Say Goodbye: The Ins And Outs Of Leaving A Church, Pt. 3

I have been putting this post off for a long time -- nearly a month. Addressing this issue has not been a pleasant experience, especially for a pastor. In fact, to be honest, I would rather write on nearly any other subject than the subject of leaving a church. But, as my father taught his eldest son, "sometimes we've gotta do things we don't wanna do!" Okay, Dad was right; so here we go!

I have never been a fan of teeter-totters; in fact, I hate teeter-totters. I remember the frequent tailbone discomfort caused by a tottering partner intent on having fun at my rear end's expense. I quickly learned that a good tottering partner is hard to find, which explains my propensity for staying away from such pain-inducing playground equipment.

Finding a church intent on maintaining a biblically balanced philosophy of ministry can be nearly as difficult as finding a good tottering partner. Healthy and successful teeter-tottering is all about balance, and healthy church ministry is too!

In parts one and two of this series, I have shared several reasons why leaving a church is not only warranted, but necessary. In this final post on the subject, I add a final reason: because a church has failed to practice a biblically balanced philosophy of ministry.

Let me begin by clarifying the previous statement. I am not intending to infer that any church is perfectly balanced in its practice of biblical Christianity. While some churches are strong in evangelism, others tend to be better equipped for discipleship. Others seem to be better at fellowship than they are at worship. I am not advocating leaving a church simply because the backgrounds, gifts, and talents in a congregation result in ministry strengths and weaknesses; rather, I am bemoaning the idea that any church would intentionally aim for imbalance in its ministry. And, just as an inconsiderate tottering partner is dangerous to one's health, so is a church that intentionally aims for imbalance in its ministry.

So, why any church would intentionally aim for imbalance in its ministry? Because pastors and church leaders fail to understand the biblical concepts of success and evangelism. If big numbers and large crowds make a church successful, evangelism and outreach will always trump discipleship. And while the aim of the seeker-sensitive and emerging church models may be admirable, the purpose of evangelism isn't merely to get people into heaven, but to make them disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20).

Now ... because those in the seeker-sensitive and emerging paradigms would vehemently deny any such "intentional aim for imbalance in ministry," I offer Rick Warren in his own words:

"Church growth is the natural result of church health. But church health can only occur when our message is biblical and our mission is balanced. Each of the five New Testament purposes of the church must be in equilibrium with the others for health to occur.

Focusing on church growth is the wrong focus. If we'’ll focus on developing healthy churches, they will grow automatically."

"All living things grow -- – if they are healthy! I don'’t have to tell my kids to grow. They do it automatically. Now, what makes a healthy church? The answer is "balance,"” just like in the human body. Your body has a number of different systems: a circulatory system, a skeletal system, respiratory system, central nervous system, digestive system and others. When these systems are in balance we call that "“health."” When they are out of balance, we call it, "dis-ease," disease.

Likewise the Body of Christ, the church, is made up of different systems, each fulfilling a different purpose: for worship, fellowship, evangelism, discipleship, and ministry. When you have a healthy system or process for each of these purposes, and these systems are balanced, the church naturally grows!"

Rick's cry for the church seems to be a balanced ministry where worship, discipleship, fellowship, service, and evangelism happily coexist, and are equally important. A closer look at the purpose-driven paradigm seems to prove otherwise (with intentionality). Consider these clarifications from Saddleback's website:

"What is the most natural way to increase the number of visitors in your church? The answer is quite simple: Create a service that is intentionally designed for your members to bring their friends to. And make the service so attractive, appealing, and relevant to the unchurched that your members are eager to share it with the lost people they care about."

"So, when I started Saddleback Church, we decided to specialize our services, having one targeted for the purpose of growing Christians and planning another one specifically for reaching our non-believing friends. We call our evangelistic-targeted service a "seeker-sensitive service."

"A seeker service is an evangelistic service specifically designed for two purposes: First, so that people without any religious background will understand everything that takes place, and second, so that members are proud to bring their non-believing friends to it..."

Did you catch Rick's admission? At Saddleback, weekend services are designed to be "attractive, appealing, and relevant" to the unbeliever! How much time, effort, and energy do they put into their weekend services designed for the unbeliever? Well, according to their website, they offer 15 services intentionally designed for the unbeliever!

Not everyone has the same taste in worship style. That's why we've put together different worship venues on the Saddleback campus each weekend. At these venues, you'll get the same teaching as everyone else through a live video feed from the main service, but with a smaller, more intimate style. Plus, each of the venues have live bands with a little different music style than the Worship Center.

Main Service is our venue for those looking for a Saddleback style of praise and worship with a full band.

Praise is our venue for those who prefer to spend a little longer singing songs and features the Saddleback Gospel Choir. Praise! Meets in Venue Tent 3.

OverDrive is our venue featuring a rock 'n roll music style. This venue is for those that like their worship loud. OverDrive meets in Venue Tent 2

Ohana Come for the worship... Stay for the sounds of the islands. Experience hospitality and hugs. Learn to worship through signing or hula. Room 404 near the Beach Cafe and island huts.

Elevation is our venue for all singles. Elevation's service is Saturdays at 6:30pm in Venue Tent 2 . You'll get the same great message along with live music.

Passion Join us for a time of expressive worship and heartfelt praise. The look and feel is younger than our main service and more intimate.

El Encuentro Worship with music in Spanish and listen to the live message in either English or Spanish. El Encuentro meets in the Plaza Room.

Traditions Enjoy a lower volume worship experience with a mix of classic hymns, old favorites, and cherished choruses. The message is videocast on the big screen for great viewing.

Herein lies the problem of intentional imbalance: if Saturday and Sunday services are intentionally seeker-driven, then discipleship and edification are relegated to Wednesday nights; and we all know what happens to attendance on Wednesday nights! While small groups are available for church members' growth, here are the requirements for being a small group leader at Saddleback:

"If you have a willing heart, a VCR/DVD, and a few open seats in your Living Room, you are ready to be a Host. Saddleback's small group material and recordings are "plug and play" so that any one with any level of experience can Host a successful group. If you will take our basic Leader Training 1 course, our pastors and instructors can help equip you to successfully host a small group."

Here are a few series-concluding observations:

1) Church is for the Church. What happens when the unbeliever becomes the church's primary target? We please the wrong person, we meet the wrong needs, and send the wrong message.

2) Evangelism is the result, not the focus, of doing church well. Today's church doesn't need to become more culturally relevant, the church needs to become more culturally distinct! We've "relevanced" ourselves right into our culture and out of God's kingdom!

3) Teeter-totters aren't much fun for the guy left teetering alone.

Dan Edelen Does It Again!

This was what I was waiting for from Cerulean Sanctum. Dan Edelen has posted another great article on true community! While reading this article I kept saying, "AMEN!" over and over. This is the post I would love to write if I had the talent, but since Dan has already written it I just encourage you go on over and take the time to read it. It is time well spent!

Saddleback's "Because God Loves Me..."

In preparation for an upcoming post, I stumbled upon the following from Saddleback's family website. This was listed under the Pastoral Care Resources for small groups web page [click here]:

Because God Loves Me

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Because God loves me, He is slow to lose patience with me.

Because God loves me, He takes the circumstances of my life and uses them in a constructive way for my growth.

Because God loves me, He does not treat me as an object to be possessed and manipulated.

Because God loves me, He has no need to impress me with how great and powerful He is because He is God, nor does He belittle me as His child in order to show me how important He is.

Because God loves me, He is for me. He wants to see me mature and develop in His love.

Because God loves me, He does not send down His wrath on every little mistake I make, of which there are many.

Because God loves me, He does not keep score of all my sins and then beat me over the heat (sp?) with them whenever He gets the chance.

Because God loves me, He is deeply grieved when I do not walk in the ways that please Him because He sees this as evidence that I don’t trust Him and love Him as I should.

Because God loves me, He rejoices when I experience his power and strength and stand up under the pressures of life for His name’s sake.

Because God loves me, He keeps on working patiently with me even when I feel like giving up and can’t see why He doesn’t give up with me too.

Because God loves me, He keeps on trusting me when at times I don’t even trust myself.

Because God loves me, He never says there is no hope for you, but rather, He patiently works with me, loves me, and disciplines me in such a way that it is hard for me to understand the depth of His concern for me.

Because God loves me, he never forsakes me even though many of my friends might.

Because God loves me, he stands with me when I have reached the rock bottom of despair; when I see the real me and compares that with His righteousness, holiness, beauty, and love. It is at a moment like this that I can really believe that God loves me.

Yes, the greatest of all gifts is God’s perfect love!

Yes, it is true that the greatest of all gifts is the gift of God's perfect, matchless and amazing love. Yet, the proof and picture of God's love isn't so much about us as it is about the cross!
Romans 5:8, "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
The cross is the single most significant proof of God's love for us. God's love for us doesn't magnify our worth, it magnifies His work; and to describe God's love for us without emphasizing the cross-work of Christ on our behalf cheapens grace and devalues Christ's sinless sacrifice.

So, because God loves me ... He took the initiative in reconciling me to Himself, sending His only Son to bear the penalty for my sin, paying my infinite sin-debt, and removing God's holy wrath against my sin.
"In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:10, ESV)
If God's love magnifies anything in me, it's my utter sinfulness (pictured by the cross). And you know what? I'm okay with that. You know why? Because ...
"...he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:4-12, ESV)

May we always remember that the greatness and glory of God's love is not found in its object, but in its Source!

Tuesday, May 30

[!]FREE SERMON CHALLENGE...THE FINAL HINTS

Here is a recap....

The winner will receive the complete set of 9 Marks interviews, Capitol Hill Baptist Church's Henry Forum Lectures and John Piper's series on Romans, the Master's Seminary Faculty Lectures, and an assortment of sermons by Sovereign Grace guys--like Mahaney, Harris, and Kauflin.

Place your answers in the comment section.

Here are the hints:
1) American
2) Presbyterian
3) Not Well Known
4) Currently the President of a Seminary
5)NEW**Linked on my Audio Resources

I have submitted this challenge at my blog--Under Sovereign Grace. So if the winner is already decided here swing over there and see if you can still win.

The Quotation is...

"Why is that what is so common in the Bible has become so foreign to those who profess belief in the Bible? Too often there has been a rush to achieve visible results without giving the necessary attention to the means to and reasons for those desired results. Inviting people to walk an aisle has been equated with 'getting people saved.' Motivating people to live by conservative standards has been equated with living for Christ. Reminding people that 'once saved always saved--after all you can't make God a liar' has become the only thread of assurance for doubting hearts to cling to. Consequently, the best churches are filled with genuine Christians whose only argument for salvation is a date written on the flyleaf of a seldom-used Bible and whose only concept of living for Christ is being in church whenever the doors are open. Sadly, the best churches are filled with professing Christians who have 'done it all' and convinced themselves that all is well with their souls when in reality they have no saving interest in Christ."

Please provide the book title and author. Good luck!


Soli Deo Gloria

BLOGGING: A LIFE-CHANGING EXPERIENCE?

I am a Johnny-Come-Lately to the Christian Blogosphere. I had heard of blogging, but had never checked into it. In January of this year my brother Ken asked me to take a look at “The World From Our Window”, the blog on which he was posting. It took me an hour or two of searching the web to find it (due to my lack of internet skills). Over the next few months I became a frequent visitor to many blogs, but seldom did I write a response except on “The World From Our Window”. I felt at liberty to do a little responding here since I personally knew some of the writers and responders. When Ken asked me to join him in posting at “The World From Our Window” (for reasons yet unknown to me), I had a couple of questions for him.

What do you hope to accomplish by having this blog?

What difference are you making?

His answers weren’t completely satisfactory, but I have joined him anyway (I’m not quite sure why). I am still trying to determine if being a frequent contributor will have any impact. I was hoping that you, the readers, could help me.

How has reading this blog helped you?

What do you most appreciate about “The World From Our Window”?

Has reading this blog changed you in any significant way?

This is an opportunity for you to give a testimony. I would really appreciate it if you would take the time to respond.

Why Mathew Sims?

If anyone is still wondering why I have invited Mathew Sims to join The World From Our Window team, take a look at this and wonder no more! These are pretty high praises from the Christian blogosphere's link-master extroardinaire himself, Adrian Warnock.

Mathew is sure to become a household name in Great Britain with Adrian's mention, and his praise of my blog-mate gives me the warm fuzzies! In case you are wondering what Adrian said about Mathew, here it is [click here to read it on Adrian's site]:

I don’t know how I missed what this guy has been up to, but I wanted to feature Matthew Sims over here. Perhaps his blog wasn’t featuring on Google Blogsearch – it is now.

He is fairly STORMING ahead in a romp through the T4G statement, and is an inspiration to the rest of us sluggards like me about what is possible! If you are looking for inspiration as you join the free Christian book challenge, then look no further than this series of posts . . . .

Questions (and Answers) For All Cubbie Fans

These need no introduction:

Q: What do the Cardinals and the Cubs have in common?
A: Neither has won a World Series Championship in their new ballpark.

Q: Do you know why the Chicago Cubs are lacking an official web-site?
A: Because they can't string 3 W's together.

Q: Do you know why Pete Rose purchased a $1+ million condo near Wrigley field?
A: Because he wanted to get as far away from professional baseball as possible.

Monday, May 29

Agree or Disagree: Luther on Free Will

There may not be any more hotly debated issue in conservative evangelicalism than the matter of man's free will. Martin Luther, in his classic work, The Bondage of the Will, makes some rather bold statements while addressing the topic. Luther authored the book in response to Erasmus' book Freedom of the Will. Following is presumably the most controversial statement in the entire book:

"For if we believe it to be true that God foreknows and foreordains all things; that He cannot be deceived or obstructed in His foreknowledge and predestination; and that nothing happens but at His will (which reason itself is compelled to grant); then, on reason's own testimony, there can be no 'free-will' in man, or angel, or in any creature."
For further research and study on Luther's view, see The Reformed Reader and A Place For Truth.

Well, here it is -- your chance to either correct or compliment Luther on his views in reference to man's will. So have at it!

A Source of Grace: Prayer

Prayer is one of the best sources of grace. We are not trying to change God's mind when we pray; we are attempting to have God change our desires so that we can say with Christ, "Not my will."

I have come across two books that you should go out and purchase--first, Matthew Henry's A Method for Prayer; second, The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions.

I would like to now provide a sample of what you will receive:

"NEED OF GRACE from The Valley of the Vision (p 99)
O Lord,
Thou knowest my great unfitness for service,
my present deadness,
my inability to do anything for thy glory,
my distressing coldness of heart.
I am weak, ignorant, unprofitable,
and loathe and abhor myself.
I am at a loss to know what thou wouldest have me do,
for I feel amazingly deserted by thee,
and sense thy presence so little;
Thou makest me possess the sins of my youth,
and the dreadful sin of my nature,
so that I feel all sin,
I cannot think or act but every motion is sin.
Return again with showers of converting grace
to a poor gospel-abusing sinner.
Help my soul to breathe after holiness,
after a constant devotedness to thee,
after growth in grace more abundantly every day.
O Lord, I am lost in the pursuit of this blessedness,
And am ready to sink because I fall short of my desire;
Help me to hold out a little longer,
until the happy hour of deliverance comes,
for I cannot lift my soul to thee
if thou of thy goodness bring me not nigh.
Help me to be difficult, watchful, tender,
lest I offend my blessed friend
in thought and behaviour;
I confide in thee and lean upon thee,
and need thee at all times to assist and lead me.
O that all my distresses and apprehensions
might prove but Christ's school
to make me fit for greater service
by teaching me the great lesson of humility."

"Thanksgiving for Mercy from A Method of Prayer (99)

Unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks, and let all that is within us bless his holy name; yea let our souls bless the Lord, and not forget any of his benefits.

We will praise the Lord, for it is good, it is pleasant, yea, it is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High, and to show forth thy loving-kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night."

In Henry's book, he explains how to pray--Adoration, Confession, Supplication, Thanksgiving for Mercies, Intercession--giving a point and then a sample prayer. The unique and the most beneficial aspect of these prayers is he prays Scripture and the book provides the footnotes for each passage referenced.

You can purchase these books at GoodTheology.com

Soli Deo Gloria

Saturday, May 27

[!]FREE SERMON CHALLENGE...

I recently heard about Justin Childers giving away free mp3s sermons. This made start to think. I have also amassed a pretty extensive sermon collection (well over 1,500).

So I decided to provide a quotation. The person who can identify the quotation without using google wins. Also, a friend cannot google it for you and then tell you the answer (I am trusting fellow Christians to be honest here). The winner will receive the complete set of 9 Marks interviews, Capitol Hill Baptist Church's Henry Forum Lectures and John Piper's series on Romans, the Master's Seminary Faculty Lectures, and an assortment of sermons by Sovereign Grace guys--like Mahaney, Harris, and Kauflin.

First, comment that you have answered the challenge and then e-mail me at USGBlog AT Bellsouth DOT net with your answer. I may allow more than one winner, so think quick. I will announce the winner in the comment section once I have received the correct answer. I have to admit that this author is not well known, but he is one of my favorite authors. If I do not have a winner by Wednesday, I will reveal a hint that might help.

I will also submit this challenge at my blog--Under Sovereign Grace. So if the winner is already decided here swing over there and see if you can still win.

The Quotation is...

"Why is that what is so common in the Bible has become so foreign to those who profess belief in the Bible? Too often there has been a rush to achieve visible results without giving the necessary attention to the means to and reasons for those desired results. Inviting people to walk an aisle has been equated with 'getting people saved.' Motivating people to live by conservative standards has been equated with living for Christ. Reminding people that 'once saved always saved--after all you can't make God a liar' has become the only thread of assurance for doubting hearts to cling to. Consequently, the best churches are filled with genuine Christians whose only argument for salvation is a date written on the flyleaf of a seldom-used Bible and whose only concept of living for Christ is being in church whenever the doors are open. Sadly, the best churches are filled with professing Christians who have 'done it all' and convinced themselves that all is well with their souls when in reality they have no saving interest in Christ."

Please provide the book title and author. Good luck!

Soli Deo Gloria

The Wisdom of a Six Year Old

Here is a brief conversation my son, Noah, and I had today:

Noah: Dad, who has the most money in the world?

Dad: Well, who do you think, buddy? (fully expecting to hear the theologically correct answer)

Noah: Oh, never mind ... I know the answer anyway. The government has the most money in the world!

Dad: Umm... Umm... Umm...

My Debut...Biblical Worship

I am very excited to be posting here. My prayer is that everything I do and say will glorify God. Ultimately that is all that will matter. In the get-to-know-the-new-contributor(s) survey, Ken mentioned that the issue of music has never really been discussed from Our Window. I thought it might be beneficial to begin by discussing this issue. I have to admit that this is something that I already had prepared and written, but I think it is still relevant (and this weekend was my wife's "birthday weekend," so not a lot of time for writing....). I have made some amendments to the original article.

One of the most controversial issues in evangelicalism today is worship. This can be seen in the title often given to the argumentation: Worship Wars. Christians fall on all ends of the spectrum. Some believe that only Psalter should be used, others that all forms of music honor God, and others still that only hymns and classic musical forms are acceptable.

However, the argumentation that I have come across for each position often time lacks clear Biblical support. Without a doubt there are guidelines that should hinge all worship. That is what I want to stress in this article because these hinges will help keep worship connected to Scripture and focused on Christ (i.e., the Door).

Is this an issue where Christians can disagree? The Apostle Paul says, "Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.' So then each of us will give an account of himself to God....For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin" (Rom. 14:10-12. 23b).

Of course, we must be very circumspect with our worship. "Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD" (Lev. 10:1-2). We must obey the Scripture when we worship.

I want to consider 1 Chronicles 15-16. I'm sure most of you can relate to reading through the Bible and coming to sections that appear to be less relevant to your own situation. Especially in Chronicles, people often drudgingly read. However, I bathed in Chronicles the last time I read through it, particularly in chapters 15-16. These chapters revealed to me the hinge of worship.

The background of these chapters is important. The Ark of the Covenant had been absent from Israel's capitol for years. David had once before tried to bring the Ark home, but Uzzah had touched the ark and died so David decided to leave it with Obed-edom the Gittite for three months (1 Chron. 13:5-14). God opened the windows of heaven on Obed-edom's home.

David decided the Ark should come home, and this time David decided to do things right. He prepared a place for the Ark, gathered the people together, and commanded that no one but the Levites should carry it. The Lord blessed David with worship that encouraged everyone and pleased God.

First, worship must be expressed through joy. Through out 1 Chronicles 15-16 phrases such as "to raise sounds of joy" (15:16), "with rejoicing" (v. 25), "let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! " (16:10), let the earth rejoice,and let them say among the nations, 'The LORD reigns!'" (v. 31) and "sing for joy before the LORD" (v. 33). Joy is paramount in worship. Without it worship dies. What delight will God have in worship that does not express joy and satisfaction in God Himself?

Second, worship should be led by someone competent who understands music (if possible). Of course, this is not always possible for all congregations, but it is preferable. The value of a great worship leader should not be underestimated and, even more ideally, someone possibly who writes music. "Chenaniah, leader of the Levites in music, should direct the music, for he understood it" (15:22).

Third, worship may include music and dancing. "And as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came to the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David dancing and rejoicing, and she despised him in her heart" (15:29). Needless to say this dancing was probably a bit different than what some might call dancing today; David's dancing appears to be a spontaneous reaction out of the joy he had at seeing the Lord's presence return to Jerusalem. (See this article "I Saw Joni Dance" by Sam Storms). Bob Kauflin is currently discussing the issue of physical expression over at Worship Matters. He says, "Our bodies naturally reflect what affects us. I cringe when a glass of milk is about to be knocked over; I open my arms wide as my daughter runs to greet me; I jump up from the couch with my hands upraised when my team scores the winning goal; I gratefully applaud unselfish acts of service; I cry when a friend'’s child dies. Is the church the only place where our bodies can'’t express what our minds are comprehending and our hearts are feeling?" (Part 4).

Also, musical instruments may be included in worship: "David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers as the singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise sounds of joy" (15:16) and "Heman and Jeduthun had trumpets and cymbals for the music and instruments for sacred song"(16:42). Although some might say that these were led by Levites and should, therefore, still be led by Levites today. I believe the general principle that musical instruments led by a competent instructor brings glory to God in our worship. (See the many references in the Psalms to the use of musical instruments.)

Fourth, worship should invoke thanks and praise. This idea is central--complementing the idea of joy in worship--and cannot be caused or strained but must be an outpouring of the heart. "Then he appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the LORD, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel" (16:4; emphasis mine) and "Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the LORD by Asaph and his brothers. [David’s Song of Thanks] Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!" (vv. 7-8). "Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;for his steadfast love endures forever!" (v. 34). This statement is an important theme through the Old Testament (cf. Ex. 34:6; 2 Chron. 5:13, 7:3, 6, 20:21; Ezra 3:11; Ps. 100:5, 106:1)--emphasizing the Lord's past faithfulness and therefore His future trustworthiness. "'Save us, O God of our salvation,and gather and deliver us from among the nations,that we may give thanks to your holy name,and glory in your praise'" (1 Chron. 16:35). This verse narrows the focus of thanks and praise to God's gift of salvation.

Fifth, consecration precludes worship (i.e., 1 Chron. 15:12-15). When we come before the presence of God we must be prepared to meet him. However, often times meeting God will cause us to see our complete and utter sinfulness (cf. Is. 6:5). Thus, we should attempt and pray for grace to come before God consecrated but also be humble and ready to fall on our face when we realize that even our best efforts to cleanse ourselves leave us utterly filthy (cf. Is. 64:6-"all our righteousness deeds are like polluted garments [menstrual rags]").

Sixth, worship is sacred. Often modern/contemporary music lacks this sacredness. Through out church history the great theologians and students of the Bible often have wrote the most theologically in depth songs. As in preaching, so it is with song writing, that you can tell whether the writers (often times) have spent time meditating on the great ideas of the Bible. This idea does not have anything to do with age necessarily. I have come across many young men who have a relationship with God that is to be envied. Calvin wrote his Institutes at 26.

For instance, David Ward of Reformed Praise says, "Let me say that I don'’t know any Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) 'stars' personally. I don't know their character, their commitments, or even if they are genuine believers. But I do have an opinion about the public face I see of these stars. Interviews I've heard on the radio or read in magazines often grieve me. The Lord has given these men and women a platform to share about the character of God, His mercy to them, and most importantly the gospel to a lost and dying world. Instead, what I normally hear is what their favorite foods are, what the last movie they watched was, why they shaved their head, why they choose the clothes they do, etc. And the article on MercyMe shows the increased trend to make references to Jesus more veiled to draw people in who might not know right away that they are listening to music whose supposed aim is to glorify the Lord. What I see of how CCM musicians compose themselves on the stage also grieves me. Again, I don'’t know their character and would love to talk with them about such issues, but the way music performances are often given reminds me all too much of secular rock concerts which glorify the musicians" ("Singing to Jesus or My Prom Date: David").

Songs for worship must keep Christ in focus. For whom do we praise but our Savior? I would prefer a song with theological depth and sacredness to a up beat, easy listening "Christian" song. Our songs must praise the Lord who is great and magnificent. We must make this clear and we must give God the glory in all things--including our worship.

Seventh, worship should include sacrifice. "Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness" (16:29; i.e., 15:26; 16:1-2, 40). Worship may include tithes and offerings. I will not demonstrate this here but I believe tithes are required of the believer (Lev. 27:30; Mal. 3:8; Heb. 7:6) and in the covenant of grace offerings out of our abundance (2 Cor. 8:13-14; Lk. 21:4), so possibly more than the tithe but not less. We do not bring our offerings out of complusion, but out of a spirit of worship and love and praise.

Eighth, worship must be orderly but not lacking spontaneous emotion. This principle is seen more through the structure of these two chapters than anything else. Notice again David's concern that the Ark be brought up properly, but this process did not occur without outburst of joy. Notice the spontaneous dancing and praising the Lord.

Last and most important, worship must keep the LORD Jesus Christ central. Notice in the midst of all the worship in chapters 15-16 is the Ark. What does the Ark symbolize, but the presence of God? Thus, we must most of all seek the Lord's presence in our worship and not only seek it but make Him the sole focus of our worship.

Furthermore, worship in heaven will be acutely focused on the Jesus (cf. Is. 6; Rev. 4). So we must strive while here on earth to offer up a similarly Christ-centered worship. These principles are just some hinges that should assist us in keeping worship connected to the Door--Jesus! Never forget the Jesus...

This list is not exhaustive in any sense. Much more could be said by surveying the Psalms and New Testament passages. However, I believe looking at this passage in particular is beneficial because Chronicles is often neglected.

In closing, notice a few things. First, nothing is said about any strict forms of worship, yet it is explicitly and implicitly stressed that God is holy and that we must approach Him as beyond us in holiness and majesty. Also, some people (i.e., Michal, David's wife [cf. 15:29]), will not understand and, therefore, will despise the outpouring of emotion of others, but we must not despise, although we may not understand. We must rejoice that God is being delighted in.

Martin Luther says, "I truly desire that all Christians would love and regard as worthy the lovely gift of music, which is a precious, worthy, and costly treasure given to mankind by God. The riches of music are so excellent and so precious that words fail me whenever I attempt to discuss and describe them.... In summa, next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts, and spirits" ("Luther on Music").

Grace to my readers and may the Lord use these thoughts to encourage you as you participate in personal, corporate, and universal worship of the our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ.

For further consideration see 9marks.org for an interview concerning worship with Mark Denver, Carl Stam, Bob Kauflin, & Ligon Duncan.

Soli Deo Gloria

Some Friendly Cubbie Birthday Banter

While I wait for my new blog-mates to post something profound and significant, I will post something lacking in profundity and significance! Here is how I wished my former blog-mate, Mike Hess, happy birthday yesterday! By the way, Mike received a Chicago Cubs blanket as a present from his family.

Mike,

Happy Birthday!

A couple of questions:


Did your new Cubbies blanket have a picture of Bartman on it?

Do you really expect to be able to pay less attention to baseball when you live near the best baseball town in America the world?

Will the Cubs lose 100 games this year?

Are you old enough to remember 1908?

Are you aware that the last living Cubs fan to remember them winning the World Series is seventy seven years older than you?

Do you realize the Cubs have been officially eliminated from the pennant race -- again? And it's still May!

Do you realize that only these Cubs go into hibernation this early ... while the Cardinals are still flying high?


Happy Big Red Birthday, Buddy! You should daily praise God for His grace in bringing you here to baseball heaven!
(Question to self: I wonder if Mathew and Don will think twice about leaving me here alone at the Window???!!!)

Friday, May 26

New To The World From Our Window ...

Well ... you've been waiting with baited breath for the earth shattering announcement I promised would be coming ... so here it is. The World From OUR Window is officially a group blog again!

Here's what this means to me: I can breathe again! Being a lone blogger is tough stuff! But that's all water under the bridge now! PRAISE THE LORD!

Here's what this means for you: You finally get to read some good writing from a World From Our Window author! Now it's your turn to PRAISE THE LORD!

While you are wondering who is joining with me, allow me the opportunity to thank all of you for sticking with me over these past few weeks. The substantial posts were becoming less frequent due to time constraints (and writer's block!!); the idea pool in my head was drying up; and my lack of writing talent was evident to all. Still ... you all stuck with me. And for that I humbly thank you. I have the greatest readership in the entire blogosphere. Although I cannot boast the quantity of readers, I do boast in the unparalleled quality of this blog's readership -- which says more about you than it does about me!

Joining me at the Window are ... Mathew Sims and Don Fields. Allow me the privilege of introducing them to you. I have interviewed Mathew (notice -- only one T in Mathew) and Don (notice -- only one O in Don!!), and will allow you get to know them via the interview. So here we go... (FYI, editorial comments by Ken are in RED)

KEN: Where are you from, where did you grow up, siblings, and how did you

come to faith in Christ?


MATHEW: I am from California originally, but my father was in the Navy so I have lived in all sorts of places (California, Guam, Connecticut, & South Carolina).


DON: I was born in Iowa and raised in the booming metropolis of Adrian, MO (population 1,500 if you count stray dogs
(actual population was 1,600 without the dogs). I have an older brother, Ken, of blogging fame, and a younger brother Dan, who is an associate pastor in Iowa. I trusted Christ as a child through the influence of my father, who is a pastor, and my mother.


KEN: Where are you now, who are you married to, what are you doing now, what church do you attend, and how did you come to believe in the doctrines of grace?


MATHEW: I am living in Greenville, SC and married to the beautiful LeAnn Michelle Sims (who is from Kansas). Currently, I am working in sales and was waiting for my wife to graduate from college--which she did. This fall I will be attending Geneva Reformed Seminary (it's the seminary for the Free Presbyterian Church). I attend Calvary Baptist Church in Simpsonville, SC.

Actually, I really started getting serious about my Christian life and had been reading through the Bible each year. At first, I did not even know there was a name for what I believed. I first realized how great my sin problem was then understood election--the other two irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints were next. The last which I have recently been studying out was particular redemption. Mainly and truly the grace of God and His Spirit opened my eyes to the magnificence of Christ in Scripture and when you see Christ for who He is and see your problem for what it is then the doctrines of grace -- or what Spurgeon called the gospel!! -- is really the only option.


DON: I am associate pastor of discipleship and worship at Daniels Road Baptist Church in Fort Myers, FL. My wife Traci and I have served at DRBC for five years. I came to believe in the doctrines of grace through the influence of my family and Baptist upbringing as well as the influence and teaching of my professors at Faith BaptistBible College in Ankeny, IA.

KEN: What are your family and ministry plans?


MATHEW: Just me and my wife right now. She graduated with a degree in interior design and will be working full time while I am in seminary. My ministry plans are in the Lord's hands right now. I do not know for sure. I was never planning on going into seminary, but as the Lord was
simultaneously opening my eyes to the gospel, He was creating a desire in my heart to preach. Originally, I was an English undergrad and planning on being a professor. I have thought about teaching after seminary and then the pastorate, but who knows?


DON: Traci and I are in the process of adopting a five-year-old boy named Tylar (We have no other children at this time). I believe I have been led by God to look for a Senior Pastor position and I am currently searching for God’s leading to the church He would have me pastor.

KEN: What are three little-known, but significant facts about yourself?


MATHEW: Ekk...I do not know if there any "little known" but significant facts. There are a lot of little known insignificant facts!


DON: First, in the summer of 1985, as an eleven-year-old, I won the local public library reading contest by reading over 300 books in ten weeks. (KEN READ 301!) Second, from the age of three to eleven my family did not own a television. (He is telling the truth!) Third, Growing up I refused to preach in church because of my fear that I would say something heretical (No comment necessary!). I finally preached my first sermon when required to preach in homiletics class as a sophomore in Bible College.

KEN: Favorite sports teams, NASCAR drivers, and golfers?


MATHEW: NASCAR drivers....yikes. NASCAR is not for me. But I am a HUGE UNC Tarheels fan (Not good -- I'm a Jayhawks fan. Roy is rather unpopular in Lawrence!). I was planning on attending graduate school their before I entered seminary. I also follow the Oakland Raiders (REALLY NOT GOOD!) and Oakland A's. No real favorite NBA team just pull for the team with most UNC guys playing.


DON: I find the vast majority of NASCAR fans to be inebriated rednecks! 8-) Therefore I don’t follow racing. In golf I find myself rooting for Phil Mickelson and in all other sports I typically favor and follow the local team (which right now is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Orland Magic).


KEN: Favorite music, movies, and books?


MATHEW: Um...I do not know if I have a favorite music. I pretty much just listen to Christian music. I do like piano arrangements and string CDs--classical music, too. My favorite movies have to be Tolkien's, The Lord of the Rings, and the books, too. I am a huge Tolkien fanatic. Again, before I entered seminary I was planning on writing my English dissertation and stuff on Tolkien. I also read pretty much anything John Piper and Michael Crichton. Richard Sibbes', The Bruised Reed, is an excellent book, as is John Owens', The Glory of Christ.


DON:


Music: Philips, Craig and Dean; FFH; Steven Curtis Chapman; Beach Boys and Diamond Rio


Movies: Hoosiers, Remember the Titans, Castaway, Dead Poets Society, Gladiator and Cinderella Man


Books: Spiritual – anything written by Jerry Bridges, John MacArthur, Jay Adams and Steve Farrar


Books Secular – Anything written by Louis L’Amour, Tom Clancy, John Grisham and Michael Crichton


KEN: Which theologians have shaped your theology?


MATHEW: Contemporary -- John Piper; God's Passion For His Glory really points back towards Christ. Also, through Piper, I have enjoyed getting to know Jonathan Edwards. This year I am spending time each month rotating off between Edwards, John Calvin, and CH Spurgeon.

DON: John MacArthur, Robert Lightner, Charles Ryrie and Jay Adams.


KEN: How did you propose to your wife? And why did she say "yes"?!!


MATHEW: I proposed to her at La Bastide. It's a little French inn and restaurant one hour north of Greenville. I was actually taking French at the time and had been writing her sonnets all week long and the last one I gave her at the restaurant said, "Will you marry me?" in French--which was supposed to cause her to ask,"What does that mean?" because she does not
know French, but I had to prod her to ask!


After we were married, we actually went back to the Inn and stayed. Anyone looking for a high end French Inn, this place is the place to go.

Why she said is a tougher question. It was definitely not my good looks or charm or the potentially large earnings. I have to attribute her saying yes to God's grace. My old youth pastor used to tell us guys to shoot over your heads and you'll never be disappointed. I just asked her
and she said because she wanted the ring (She was joking)!


DON: I took her down to the St. Petersburg Pier and bought her a very expensive dinner. The whole time we ate she was telling me why we shouldn’t be eating at such a fancy restaurant because I needed to be saving money for an engagement ring – the very ring I was carrying in my pocket at the time. After dinner as we sat on a bench at the waters edge, I got down on one knee and began singing “From Here to Eternity” by Michael Peterson while pulling out the ring. Of course she was blown away and began sobbing uncontrollably while crying at the top of her lungs, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”


She said, “yes”, because she loved me and she believed that she had found the perfect man. Of course she knows better by now, but it is too late. She is mine till death parts us!

_________________________


In case you all were wondering, I became acquainted with Mathew via SharperIron, and met him at the T4G conference in Louisville. Mathew comes to us from his own blog, Under Sovereign Grace. As for Don, well, we do share the same last name, so I guess you all get the connection there!

Welcome to The World From Our Window, guys ... glad to have you aboard!

Questions And Stuff

How do you overcome writer's block?

Why don't more readers comment?

Is blogging really a profitable thing?

Are today's deacons functioning as elders?

Does unregenerate man have a free will?

How do you overcome writer's block?

Oh, and one more thing. Check back later today for a major The World From Our Window announcement!

And if you have anything else to talk about, feel free -- it's Friday!!

Thursday, May 25

Flip-Flopping The Sermon: When Application Precedes Interpretation

Which came first? Interpretation or Application? According to Pastor Rick Warren, if we want our preaching to be effective in reaching the lost, we need to shuffle our sermon structure:

"What we normally do in the structure of a message is that we do interpretation and then application of a point, then the next interpretation and the next application, the next interpretation and the next application. I am suggesting that if you want to reach the unchurched, you just reverse that procedure. You still get both -- it's just the way you do it."

--Pastor Rick Warren, from the Saddleback Sayings portion of The Pastor's Toolbox, issue #259 [click here]
Although a sermon structural change may seem innocent enough (due to a rather significant amount of dry and lifeless preaching in today's evangelicalism), I'm not buying it. To flip-flop the application and interpretation could very well undermine the meaning of the text. Here's how:

1) The foundation of biblical exposition is to explain the meaning of the text as it related to the original hearers. Swapping application and interpretation places a premium on what the text means to me without considering what the context meant to the original hearers (i.e., the purpose for which it was written, the setting in which it was written, the people to whom it was written, and the anticipated response from those to whom it was written). Bridging the gap from then to now is necessary, but it is secondary to a correct understanding of what the text meant in relation to the original hearers.

2) Biblical exposition interprets a text within the larger context of a passage. Application, if not held in check by proper interpretation, does not consider the context as important. For example, Philippians 4:19 says,
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
This verse, when considered apart from its context, seems to indicate that every believer's every need will always be met -- according to Christ's riches in glory. One could apply this in a myriad of unhealthy and even unbiblical ways when divorcing this verse from its context. Philippians 4:19 happens to follow a rather lengthy personal note from Paul to the Philippian church in appreciation for their sacrificial giving to his ministry. Paul is not expressing God's universal care for all people (in this context), or even for all Christians; he is teaching that God will faithfully meet the needs of those who give sacrificially. Therefore...

3) Biblical exposition demands that our application be limited by correct interpretation. All of us have heard wild and senseless applications based upon verses that have been ripped out of context. And while this is a common practice in seeker-sensitive circles, it is also true in fundamentalism -- which explains the plethora of preaching on the length of men's hair, Bible versions, and women in pants.

Please do not misunderstand me; I am not advocating passion-less, lecture-like preaching that is mere interpretation of a text. Application is vital to true expository preaching, but application is not the foundation of expository preaching -- interpretation is. Not only do our people first need to know what the text meant to its original hearers, they need to be shown that we are unwilling to "play fast and loose with the truth."

Pastors, we must be careful to handle the Word carefully and accurately. We must be careful to lay the foundation of a text before building upon it. God-honoring biblical exposition is much like building a house: the foundation comes first. Scripture tells of a man who thought the foundation wasn't all that important, so he built his house on sand.

And we all know the application of that story!

NOTE: In the comments section [click here], I have shared another reason interpretation should precede application in our preaching. This is something I should have included in the post itself ... oh, well! There has to be an application here somewhere!!!

Faith Is Forged In The Fire ... Ashley's Story

Each of us has probably experienced tragedy of some sort. Although we would certainly like it to be different, pain is a part of this life; an unpleasant, but necessary part.

Pain is never pleasant, but for the true child of God, pain is always productive. Although we may not always feel pain's purifying effects, Scripture convinces us that ...

"This slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison." 2 Corinthians 4:17 (ESV)
Several days ago, Brian McCrorie (Bowing Down) posted these words penned by a 17-year-old in response to her mother being diagnosed with breast cancer. Ashley's words have stuck with me, and with Brian's permission, I share them with you.

May the Lord use the words of this young woman to strengthen our faith in Him. As you read, be sure to catch the scent of gold being refined, and hope being solidified.
"We pray for courage in times of tribulation – then question our Commander’s battle plan. We pray to be made perfect – then run at the first sight of the refining fire. We pray for brokenness – then flee the Potter’s hands. All too often our Savior’s merciful act of sanctification is met by our doubt when we discover that His path may lead us down the valley of the shadow of death. How foolish it is for us to demand peaceful green pastures, as if we expect to be carried to Heaven’s skies on “flowery beds of ease.” We erroneously see these valleys as periods of abandonment, when they are actually demonstrations of Christ’s perfect love. Our Father gives only good gifts to his children: this is His character, and as such is not subject to change. The man that proclaims his gratitude only when “the Lord giveth” has much to learn. When “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away”, man often forgets gratitude and screams injustice has befallen him. He searches for any visible exit, then sprints toward escape. But God did not design these tests so man could cheat. He designed these tests so man could be made more like the image of His Son. When we finally see God as truly good and merciful beyond compare, we will not flee. We will instead fall face down in the valley before the Lord of perfect love and worship His majestic sovereignty. This humble submission is where peace and joy can be experienced; the misery comes when we lean on our own understanding and attempt to climb out of the valley. My Commander will give me His strength, and I will stay in the valley He has ordained. When I pray to be made perfect by God’s grace, I will welcome His refining fire. When I pray for brokenness, I will rest in the Potter’s outstretched hands. Only then will I be able to repeat, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
God, grant us Ashley's vision of the valley, and enable us to remain faithful in what You've ordained. Let us be consumed with a passion for Your glory rather than our comfort. And teach us that You intend our pain as preparation for the eternal glory You are working in us and for us. Amen.

Wednesday, May 24

Check This Out ... You'll Be Glad You Did!

Dan Edelen, of Cerulean Sanctum fame, has showcased his love for the sacred once again in his current series, "Unshackling The American Church."

Everyone who reads this blog (and I mean everyone) must check out his latest post, "Unshackling The American Church: The Sacramental" [click here].

I commend this post to all -- while including a warning for all you IFB'ers out there. To use the common vernacular from the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement ... "You ain't never heard nuttin like this in yur church!"

And it's too bad you haven't!

To All Parents and Children's Pastors ... Note This Quote

This is a direct quote from Lakewood Church's (Joel Osteen, Houston, Texas) website, in regards to their children's ministry, Kidslife [click here]:

"Kidslife is a place where kids can have a great big life with a great big God. A place where faith, imagination, and learning go hand in hand. A place where loving God is cool and kids rule! Kidslife is the children’s ministry of Lakewood Church that serves infants through 5th grade. Check out all of the great opportunities for your kids to live their best life now."
What parent would want to spend the rest of Sunday with kids who had spent a couple of hours in this environment -- at church nonetheless???!!!

P.S. -- Whatever happened to teaching kids that God rules? Just a rhetorical question...

Agree or Disagree?

While assuring you that I am not the author of the following quote, I am going to allow him to remain anonymous, so as not to influence your opinion of what he says (for good or bad):

"What we normally do in the structure of a message is that we do interpretation and then application of a point, then the next interpretation and the next application, the next interpretation and the next application. I am suggesting that if you want to reach the unchurched, you just reverse that procedure. You still get both — it’s just the way you do it."
So ... do you agree or disagree?

Tuesday, May 23

Married To The Ministry: Falling Back In Love With Our Families

I have been in ministry for nearly twelve years now, and I’ve not heard this issue addressed in pastor’s meetings or ministry conferences. In fact, now that I think back over my ministry training, this issue was either ignored or overlooked in my pastoral theology class (if my memory serves me correctly).

Why? Why are pastors and professors prone to sweeping this dirt under the proverbial ministry rug? I may not be correct, but I have a few ideas as to why family/ministry relations are rarely discussed:

1) Shame. Personal guilt and embarrassment may keep this problem from being addressed. As pastors, we find it rather difficult (and convicting) to address the issues with which we personally struggle. I am convinced this is the primary reason pastors tend to be hush-hush on family/ministry relations – too many have disqualified themselves from doing so – and they know it (BTW, I do not claim to have this issue solved in my own life. My children are rather young, with the majority of their lives ahead of them. Therefore, my parenting success is yet to be determined.)!

2) Naivety. Some pastors (and congregations) are probably unaware that any problem exists. I do not understand how this could be true; nonetheless, I am sure it is.

3) Priorities. Let’s face it … how successful would a How To Not Be An Eli: Balancing Family and Ministry conference be? Pastors would rather discuss ministry when they get together. Too often we enjoy swapping stories of ministry success, exchanging ministry ideas, and discussing the pros and cons of the latest trends in evangelicalism. And rather than being encouraged in loving our wife and raising our children for the glory of God, we’d rather be encouraged in our preaching and teaching and leading … at church.

Men, we DO have a problem (dare we call it a crisis?). Neglected pastors’ families are far too common. We are all-too-familiar with the growing number of PK's (preacher’s kids) who have forsaken the faith of their fathers ... and grown to resent the church because it was their daddy's bride! Others, children of distinguished fathers in my Baptist circles, have shared with me (or my family members) how detrimental the ministry was to their family. While understanding that wayward adult children are prone to rationalizing their sin, I can’t help but wonder if preacher-daddies share a good bit of the blame. And while these well-known men lead prominent denominations and congregations, they aren’t so well-known at home.

So, as I tie the loose ends of this series together, I want to offer up some solutions to this pastoral predicament (some, of which, I have alluded to previously):

1) Involve your family in the ministry: While I don’t condone dragging your wife and children with you everywhere you go, inviting them to come along may offer you some precious time with them – all while fulfilling your ministry responsibilities.

2) Eat together … and turn off the television: Several months ago, I wrote a post on this very issue (the following thoughts originated here). How can eating meals together have such an eternal impact upon our families?

First, eating dinner and/or supper together as a family promotes an environment that's conducive to effective communication. Eating in front of the television does not. Eating with my family (5 of us with children 9, 6, 5) is rarely quiet. I like it this way...it means my children (hopefully not with their mouths full) want to talk with me, and want me to talk with them.

Second, eating dinner together as a family promotes unity in relationships. I want my children to hear me tell Joanna how delicious the spaghetti is! I want them to see me help her clean up the table, and to thank her for her work, and even give her a smooch on the cheek as a token of my appreciation.

Third, eating dinner together as a family gives my children opportunities to learn how to work, and then to enjoy the fruit of their labor. In our house, our son, Noah (6), loves to make our favorite orange salad. Last night, our youngest daughter, Hannah, helped her mom make the spaghetti sauce. It is rewarding to watch my children's eyes and mouths light up when everyone enjoys something they have prepared!

Fourth, eating dinner together as a family (at the dining room table) enables us to focus on others. My children like eating together as a family because (this is not meant to be funny) they get to see their daddy's face! I mean it. I know I like to eat together at a table because I like looking into the eyes and faces of my children. I get to know them this way. It's the same reason I like to play ball with my son (and still love playing catch with my dad), or ping-pong with my daughters. When we face each other, we are able to look into each other's eyes, and connect. Eating together helps us to focus our attention on someone we love.

3) Involve your children in your household projects: Every pastor should have a hobby … something he does as a diversion. Pastors suffer burnout at mind-boggling rates when they fail to make time for break time. Having a hobby not only preserves his sanity, it gives him an opportunity to involve his children in an activity he enjoys. So, when you go fishing and hunting, go together. When you mow and garden, mow and garden together (my son, Noah, has taken over the riding lawn mower – he turns seven in June!). Whatever you enjoy doing, allow your children to enjoy it with you!

4) Plan your church schedules with families in mind: Everybody in your congregation has a family, including you! Busyness is never equated with godliness in Scripture (this, by the way, does not excuse laziness). If you are the pastor, you should have a great deal of say in regards to the church calendar. Take advantage of your pastoral privilege and declare a family month, and suspend all extra-cirricular, non-essential church activities. Moms and Dads will thank you, and so will your wife and children!

5) Do youth ministry with the family in mind: I am a huge proponent of family-based youth ministry. Age segregation in church has probably done more harm than good (that’s another post)! Family-based youth ministry will afford you even more opportunities to spend time with your teen-age children, in a setting that’s enjoyable for them!

6) Teach your congregation to expect you to be a family man: This may require some time and patience on your part, but in the long run being a family man will benefit your church as much as it benefits your wife and children. We all know men who have lost credibility in their communities because they first lost credibility in their home. And no church wants this to be true of their pastor.

7) Teach your congregation to love children for the sake of the kingdom: Do this by example. Each of us have children in our congregations who don’t have a daddy, and as this child’s pastor, you are responsible to minister to them. So do it – with your own children. Take that fatherless boy to the ballgame with your boy. Treat that fatherless girl to a Build-A-Bear Workshop trip with your daughter. It’s ministry to that boy and girl … and to your boy and girl at the same time!

8) When you are at home, be at home: Leave your ministry-work at the church. Leave the problems at the deacon’s meeting and in the counseling room. When you come home, be there mentally and emotionally – your wife and children will know when you’re not!

These are my conclusions … some may be right, others may very well be wrong. Still, we must all agree that there is a problem - a growing problem of pastors being married to the ministry. We would all do well to remember that the church doesn’t belong to us, it belongs to Christ. The church is not our bride – it’s His – and we all know what the Bible says about falling in love with someone else’s bride …

Monday, May 22

Married To The Ministry: Why Pastors Tie The Knot, Pt. 3

Several weeks ago, in response to a church member’s question, I began logging my ministry hours. I have been rather surprised by the results: in the last month, I have averaged nearly sixty-five hours/week in ministry work.

That’s a lot!

I hesitate to share this due to the possibility that some may confuse my transparency with arrogance. Let me assure you, I am not boasting in the amount of time I spend in ministry – in fact, I am concerned by it. I am concerned that I may be guilty of neglecting my family for the sake of my ministry. And that bothers me – a lot.

Have I begun to measure my ministry effectiveness according to people’s expectations of my ministry? Am I too sensitive to what church members think? Have I so desired to appease people that I have failed to please God? These are all questions that I wrestle with continually.

I minister in a church of 200 people, and each of those 200 members has differing expectations of their pastors. Some believe the pastor(s) should visit each church family monthly. Others don’t want the pastors around at all – until they are in the hospital! And when they are in the hospital, they want the pastors to visit them (to them, deacons or other church members don’t count), and to visit them daily. Others believe the pastor should spend forty hours in his office. Monday through Friday, eight to five, he should be sitting behind his desk, popping out exciting and theologically astute sermons and lessons. Oh, and as a family-man, he should take his wife on a weekly date (and pay more than the going rate for babysitting), coach his kids’ T-ball teams (this is good PR for the church, you know), and always carry enough spare change to buy the neighborhood children a few items each time the ice cream truck meanders down his street. And he should get a solid eight hours of sleep each night, to ensure his non-grumpiness in performing all those ministry, family, and community responsibilities.

Last week, in an attempt to diagnose why pastors are prone to neglecting their families, I wrote:

Pastors neglect their families because they cave to the unrealistic time and energy demands placed upon them by their congregations. In other words, too many pastors desire the affirmation of people rather than the affirmation of God. Too often, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" are the words we long to hear after our sermon rather than after our death!
Have you ever stopped to consider why God took six days to create the universe? It certainly wasn’t because He needed six days in order to get all that hard work done. It wasn’t because He grew progressively more tired throughout the week. The six days of creation, and the one day of rest, were not for God’s benefit, they were for our benefit! In creation, God has given us a pattern to follow: work for six days … rest for one. This pattern teaches us several important truths about our ministry:

1) There will always be more to do. I realize God finished his creation work in six days, but my point is that He didn’t need those six days to do it!

2) There will always be things I must decide to leave undone. God, if my theology is correct, decided to leave lots of things undone at the end of day one. In fact, the crown of his creative work (humans) didn’t come until day six!

3) There will always be a need to prioritize what I do, and when I do it. God had a purpose for creating light first, and then the dry ground, and then plants and animals, and then man.

These facts should transform the way I view the ministry and my family. I am first a husband. Then I am a father. Being a pastor cannot supersede who I am at home. There will always be more ministry to do, but the time I have with my wife and children is limited. There will always be things I must choose to leave undone, but it shouldn’t be the time I invest in my wife and children.

Have we taught our congregations these truths? If we don't educate our churches on the realistic expectations of a pastor, who will? And after I burn myself out -- while my family suffers -- the next pastor will suffer the same fate!

Let us remember that Ephesians 4 teaches us that our responsibility is to EQUIP members for ministry, and then DEPLOY them for ministry. If we could convince our people that they are the MINISTERS and we are the EQUIPPERS, the ministry load will lighten, and we will be able to leave the office (or the hospital) without feeling guilty about going home to our wife and children.