Re-post: What Really Makes the Church Grow?

Photo credit: AdamSelwood (via flickr.com)I have believed for many years that the local church grows — when its growth is genuine — from the pulpit outward.

That does not mean that all a church needs is good preaching and the rest will care for itself. A local church is a complex body and there are many other standards that must be met for the church to increase both in spiritual depth and numerical strength.

Nor does it mean that the whole burden for the growth of a church is upon the pastors and if their performance in the pulpit is exceptional the church will thrive in every other respect. The growing church must also have a core of lay workers who bear the spiritual burden for growth and outreach along with the pastor.

It does not even mean that brilliant preaching is necessary for the church to grow. As G. Campbell Morgan so clearly summarized, real preaching must only meet three basic criteria: it must be true, clear and anointed.

What it does mean is that the center for spiritual nourishment for the congregation is the pulpit, and if the pulpit lacks authenticity either in content, clarity or unction, even an increase in numbers of people will not equal genuine congregational growth.

We have all seen hummingbirds hover in air, wings ablur, while they sip from feeders filled with a red liquid — sugar and water. I’m told that if the mixture is made up of saccharin and water they will continue to come and feed with equal thirst, but gradually they will become weak and unable to fly. The taste of saccharin is sweet enough to fool them, but it lacks the calories they need.

In a similar way, what is delivered from the pulpit must not only appeal to the ear of the listener; it must nourish the spirit. That is, it must speak the word of God to the deep hunger for soul-food that God puts in his people.

What can move pastors everywhere to come before their people with a well formed word from the Lord? I know of nothing but the commands of the Scriptures, and the best place to seek that prompting is in the Pastoral Epistles — 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. These were first century pastors who were assigned to oversee young established congregations. And what did the Apostle Paul say to them in writing?

“…the overseer must be…able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2)” “Command and teach these things” (4:11). “Until I come, devote yourself…to preaching and teaching. Do not neglect your gift” (4:13,14). “Watch your life and doctrine closely” (4:16).

Also in Paul’s second letter to Timothy he writes, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Tim. 2:2). And, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2:15). We take such exhortations as Spirit-inspired also for us today.

I cannot write this way without remembering that on many occasions I have fallen far short of doing what I believe is so needed. But God is merciful. He forgives and keeps the passion alive. So, “forgetting what is behind,” I call any pastor who reads this to join me in seeking renewal in Spirit — anointed preaching to the pressing needs and hungers of today — for the edification of the Lord’s people and the genuine growth of Christ’s church everywhere.


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Photo credit: AdamSelwood (via flickr.com)

Re-post: 10 Tips for Young Pastors

Photo Credit: "Outside the camp" via flicker.comPastoral work is demanding. It has its peculiar stresses. But, it is also deeply satisfying when done with wisdom and care. Here are some suggestions gleaned from 22-years of pastoral ministry and another 19-years as a general church overseer.

1. Ground your ministry in daily Bible reading and prayer. Pray daily for your people. Pray often through the day. Consider that pastoral labors grounded in prayer are the “gold, silver and costly stones” the Apostle Paul speaks of as durable building materials used in pastoral labors (1Cor. 3:10-15).

2. If your study is at the church, be there at a set time each work day. I suggest 8 A.M. God honors a good work ethic.

3. Spend your mornings in sermon preparations, reading, and related study. Be diligent. If you have a secretary, have her guard these hours. Don’t allow legitimate resources to become time-wasters — the Internet, TV, video games, long telephone calls, news papers, news magazines, etc.

“If in the morning you throw moments away,
You’ll not catch them up in the course of the day.”

4. Get an exercise program and stick to it, whether it be jogging or swimming or walking or exercising to a DVD. If you have no better idea, consider, as one possibility, incorporating this routine into an extended noon hour. A jog, then a sandwich, an apple, and a beverage need take no more than an hour-and-a-quarter.

5. Do not have favorites. If your attachment to one person or couple or family becomes obvious — you meet regularly for meals together, even go camping together — this will make other members feel second rate. The pastor must be pastor to all the people all the time. If you need more intimate friendships, form them outside the congregation — with a neighboring minister, for example.

6. Never, discuss church problems in the presence of growing children.  They do not have the wisdom to handle adult problems.
Their trust may be damaged, and eventually their respect for Christ and his church.

7. If division develops over some issue (whether to launch a building program, add a staff member, change the music program, etc.) give leadership through proper channels. But don’t take sides by talking informally with one faction or the other. To do so will deepen the congregational rift and likely shorten your tenure.

8. Develop a clear understanding of your boundaries and observe them — with the opposite sex, the aged, children, young people, church officers, staff members, etc. Strive to keep all pastoral relationships above reproach.

9. However modest your income, set an example of responsible stewardship. Show leadership in tithing your income. If you have debts that are out of hand, seek professional counsel. Your care with money will increase the congregation’s trust in your leadership.

10. Never ask to borrow money from your parishioners. To do so puts parishioners at a disadvantage, may reduce their respect for you, and if not repaid as agreed may create a rift that puts your pastoral tenure at risk.

Pastoral ministry is built on the ability to preach and teach the Bible. But it is also grounded in genuine godliness, basic ethical competence, good interpersonal skills, and beyond these on common sense. These ten points do not tell the whole story but they offer some time-tested suggestions about how to avoid the traps that sometimes spring and limit or even shorten a minister’s usefulness to the Lord and a congregation.

 

Photo Credit: Outside the camp (via flicker.com)

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Churches Today Need Prophetic Voices

The Prophet Amos by Gustave Doré

The Prophet Amos
by Gustave Doré


Several decades ago a Bible teacher shared the following ideas.

He said: if you instruct a congregation from the New Testament epistles, you will develop a body characterized by spiritual warmth and devotion.

But if you wish them to also have a clear sense of biblical morality, and be ready to take a fearless stand when necessary — introduce the congregation to the Old Testament prophets.

I reflect on this as a pastor because I spent most of my adult life, before retirement, as a pastor — a shepherd of God’s people. My first three assignments were over local churches. Then for 19 years I was a general overseer who attempted to continue to work pastorally, largely in a New Testament way of thinking.

At the same time, I have been aware for years that the church needs an Old Testament prophetic influence: spokesmen who are clear-sighted about the moral disorder in the world, the consequences, and who offer the hope of redemption. These prophets were greatly needed in Old Testament times, and they are needed today.

Consider the Old Testament prophet, Amos. He was originally a shepherd who lived in Judah south of Bethlehem (Amos 7:14,15). He traveled into Israel, the northern kingdom, where he saw unrestrained affluence – choice lambs for dining, ivory inlaid beds for sleeping, finely-made musical instruments for entertainment (Amos 6:4,5). The self-indulgence behind these conditions was being openly flaunted. God called Amos to speak prophetically to this state of affairs.

In response he cried out to the North: “You trample on the poor” (Amos 5:11). In their self-indulgence they had smothered their compassion for the needy. Also, affluence and greed had dimmed their commitment to justice: “You hate the one who reproves in court / and despise him who tells the truth” (Amos 5:10). They scorned the call to distinguish right from wrong.

The words of Amos were strong but he spoke them with compassion. At the same time that he courageously named the Northern Kingdom’s sins, he prayed earnestly to God to spare his errant people from judgment. “I cried out, ‘Sovereign Lord, forgive! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!’” (Amos 7:2).

Prophets like Amos come to mind when I watch the morning news. It is saturated with reports of the abuse of power, unanswered complaints of injustice against the powerless, an epidemic of lying in high places, and massive cover-ups.

Political systems, and society as a whole, surely need the voice of the prophets. And, the church today does too! Even as Christians, we may become too easily comfortable with corruption in high places. We are at risk of going too readily with majority opinions brought to us in the form of pollsters’ statistics, rather than in the strength of God’s timeless laws.

It’s not as though what’s in the Old Testament should stay in the Old Testament, or that the rigor of the prophets belongs only to a bygone era. Consider above all else that the Lord Jesus was deeply versed in the words of the prophets, and is referred to as a prophet. He was speaking to the disciples of his time and ours when he said:

“You are the light of the world; a city on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). It’s as though he was saying to us, as a company of believers, that you must live my message, give my message, and you must shine into the world’s moral darkness with moral clarity.

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Leadership Traits That Really Matter

WallCommon words to describe successful leaders include vision, talent, and persistence. In thinking of the authentic leader however, an additional trait must never be left out — integrity.

Consider Nehemiah, a Jewish boy, as an example. He was living in Babylon with throngs of his displaced countrymen from Judah. Over time, he rose to the position of cupbearer to King Nebuchadnezzar. He was charged to taste the king’s wine before serving it to assure that it was not poisoned. It was a position of unmatched trust.

His important job notwithstanding, his heart remained in his homeland, Judah, and focused on the Lord’s covenant with his people. When a traveler arrived from Jerusalem, and Nehemiah learned that the people back there were “in great trouble and disgrace,” he wept for them.

Consider four time-tested character traits that marked Nehemiah, not only as cupbearer, but also as a patriot who, with the king’s permission, returned to Judah to rebuild Jerusalem.

I. Nehemiah was unwaveringly honest. While still the king’s cupbearer the king asked him why he looked so sad. He knew telling the truth might cost him his job or his life. But he told the truth anyway: he was heartsick over the wasted state of his homeland (Nehemiah. 2:1-6). And later, in Jerusalem after his nighttime inspection of the damage to the city’s walls, he shared openly and honestly with the officials what he intended to do and then invited their help (Nehemiah. 2:16-18).

II. Nehemiah was a man of deep spiritual commitment. Even while still in Babylon identification with his beloved homeland moved him to pray and fast for days on end. His deeply personal prayer at that time is recorded (Nehemiah. 1:5-11). Also, he readily attributed his great achievements in his homeland to the working of divine providence (Nehemiah. 2:8). When enemies threatened to overcome his exhausted workers laboring to restore Jerusalem’s wall, he made their peril a matter of prayer (Nehemiah. 4:4-5). This deep spiritual grounding is constant as his story unfolds.

III. Nehemiah was quick to discern the sinister intentions of his enemies. All leaders have enemies. When the broken walls of Jerusalem were again forming under his leadership, certain jealous neighbors – namely Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem – devised a plot to hinder Nehemiah’s achievements. He was quick to sense their hidden intentions and avoid their traps.

Perhaps because Nehemiah was not a devious man himself, his honesty kept his mind uncluttered and thus keen to discern what his enemies were up to.

IV. Nehemiah’s tough-mindedness remained intact even when dealing with wrongs committed among his own people. When famine struck Jerusalem and surrounding areas, a few wealthy men in Jerusalem had control of the grain supply. They were selling it to the poor at inflated prices. The people cried out to Nehemiah that they were losing their land and even their children just to stay alive.

For Nehemiah this may have been his supreme test. When dealing with charges of wrongdoing – the rich against the poor or the powerful against the weak or the individual against the  group — it can be tempting to come down on the side of strength or influence. The law of God recognizes this peril and says, “Do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly” (Leviticus. 19:15).

Nehemiah could have come down on the side of the powerful but with moral keenness he made himself see the situation for what it was and sternly commanded the grasping wealthy officials to quit their greedy practices and make amends. He made them pledge to pay back the excessive amounts they had exacted (Neh. 5:6-13). He was a man of clear moral discernment and thus led with conviction.

In our times the call for morally grounded leadership is being sounded with urgency — in government, business, education and particularly in the Christian cause. In the light of that call, Nehemiah’s traits look good: unshakeable honesty; deep spiritual commitment; keen discernment of evil; and general tough mindedness in making moral decisions. And all wrapped in a robe of personal integrity.

Nehemiah, the patriot and the godly man, will forever model leadership traits that really matter.

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Strong Foundations

Gateway ArchOn the western bank of the mighty Mississippi River, at the eastern edge of Saint Louis, Missouri, stands the towering Gateway Arch. At 630 feet high it is America’s tallest monument, about as tall as two football fields standing end on end. The two legs of this towering monument are likewise 630 feet apart at ground level, increasing the sense of hugeness.

The Gateway Arch is also the world’s tallest stainless steel monument. From its observation deck, one can see 30 miles.  It has now been standing unshaken by wind, storm, and even earth tremors for 46 years.

I lived 50 miles to the east of St. Louis during the 1960s when it was being built.  When I went into the city to visit parishioners in hospitals there, I passed nearby and saw this remarkable structure rising stage by stage.

But it did not begin to rise into view from the first day of construction. What I could not see for the first year-and-a-half was the labor invested to burrow 20 feet into the bedrock to establish a substructure.  Workers poured 23,570 tons of concrete into that foundation before any signs of the monument appeared above ground.

The Gateway Arch stood as a metaphor in my mind as I prepared for Kathleen’s and my recent visit to Northeastern Seminary in Rochester, New York.  There I spent part of an evening with a class of seminarians who are preparing for a life of ministry.  The paper I presented there was on nurturing the inner life of the minister. I selected that subject for a simple reason: Ministry only succeeds in the long pull when one’s visible ministry, carried out day-after-day and from year-to-year gains unseen support from a devotional life not open to the public, but methodically rooted and grounded in God.  The seminarians and I talked about daily reading of scripture and vital prayer above all, but also about some classics of Christian devotional literature.

But attention to the foundation of Christian life and ministry is not only for ordained men and women.  Every Christian life that succeeds in service to God will have a visible life of witness, standing as a monument to God’s grace. But it will also have an out-of-sight life of practiced daily devotion and worship that stabilizes and reinforces that witness.

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Dreams at 87

Dream_8347131150_716198d6a4_nLast night, at 87-years-of-age, I dreamed that I was a Christian worker at a youth retreat.

In my dream I fell into conversation with one young married couple and turned our chat toward the subject of the Christian ministry. I asked the young man quietly, “Have you ever wondered if you were called to be a pastor?”

This young man in my dream resisted my question politely but his response surprised me. Although a believer he shied away from the subject saying that he wanted only to have an eight-hour job and then go home and relax.

But in my dream his wife was of a different mind. She thought that he should consider the ministry (even perhaps that God was calling him). She said that she was ready for such a challenge. The discussion went on ever so briefly in this vein until the dream faded without resolution.

This dream probably arose from my frequent daytime thoughts, and especially my reflections on a long life in Christian ministry. My memories are almost always positive. I have largely forgotten the heavy stresses of the calling, and the passing years have muted the memories of disappointments (both in myself and others), my failed efforts to meet certain needs, and occasional misunderstandings that temporarily strained good relationships.

Pleasant memories regarding the life of a pastor flow readily. They include shaping the life of a congregation by preaching weekly from the Scriptures; greeting a dispersing congregation one by one at the door after a Spirit-anointed Sunday morning worship service; knowing and being known by all the little ones in the congregation; sitting at a widow’s hospital bedside as she wept out her memories of a departed husband; sharing in the joys of a young couple’s wedding; visiting for the first time in the home of a family new to the congregation, and on and on. I think all such memories must be dream-starter materials.

Sixty-five years ago when Kathleen and I set our sights on preparing as thoroughly as possible for a lifetime of ministry the dreams had not yet begun. We had no starter material to dream of what blessings, surprises and even heartaches we would experience if we answered the call. We were like Abraham who “went out not knowing where he was going.”

Now we know broadly what Christian ministry entails. In retrospect, I’m sure that’s why I dream as I do. I can think of no blessing greater than to serve God full time under the Holy Spirit’s call and the church’s endorsement of that call through ordination.

The e-mails, letters, cards, phone calls and personal visits that come to us now with some regularity are enough to keep my dreams well stocked for months to come.

Last night’s dream as well as Kathleen’s and my storehouse of memories make us want to say to young people everywhere who are wrestling with a call to full-time ministry that life is richest and most fulfilling when it is lived in full obedience to God’s call — whatever that call may involve.

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The Call To Preach

Arrows_2420989165_0ec11e57c2_nDuring my boyhood days in Saskatchewan I heard the following saying often enough for it to stick in my mind: “Don’t preach unless you can’t get to heaven any other way.”

It was a homespun saying. It implied that the preacher’s life was hard and one should only accept God’s call to full time service if following any other course would be an act of radical disobedience. The saying seemed a call more to dutiful than joyful ministry.

It’s true that during the thirties of the last century, the preacher’s life in the West was hard. Preachers were largely self-taught, by studying such as Ralston’s Divinity, sometimes after a day’s work.

Incomes were tight. Reassignments were frequent. In our denomination Preachers were moved every two or three years. And preaching a radical gospel of sin, repentance, salvation through Christ, and holy living often brought resistance if not persecution.

By comparison, the pastor’s life today is less demanding in that radical way. College and seminary provide better education for the task; a parsonage family is usually settled in a community for much longer periods; in most cases optional housing is provided by a given choice between a parsonage and a housing allowance; and incomes are not so near the edge as they were.

But for today’s pastor who takes the calling seriously, responding to “the call to preach” still leads to a demanding life that tests and stretches. Preaching credible sermons in an internet- and DVD-saturated age requires rigorous discipline. Warm-overs from the internet will not refresh the church. Parishioner expectations regarding sermons, pastoral care, and church administration are high and disapproval is sometimes expressed roughly; expenses for children’s activities or medicines may press the margins.

Even more importantly, serving the Lord whether during economic depression or days of abundance involves spiritual warfare. As Paul wrote long ago, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood….” (Eph. 6:9). In other words, any struggle in the pastoral life is not so much with people as with powerful spiritual influences that create resistance to the gospel. To carry out this warfare successfully requires the daily disciplines of prayer both private and communal.

The scarcity of young promising and gifted pastoral prospects today is, in my opinion, related very much to the materialism of our times. I recall one young man who showed all the signs of being called to the ministry but who turned aside to another path influenced, it seemed to me, by a family that could not see adequate material rewards and prestige offered in the pastoral life.

Admittedly the rewards are not usually “material,” but they are surprisingly great. Jesus said to his disciples: anyone who leaves all for me and the gospel will receive a hundred times as much in this present age (with persecutions) “and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-31).

The pastoral life is not a job, it is a “calling.” A job is a defined task (like clerking in a store eight hours a day, or mowing lawns) that may be completed so one can turn elsewhere. A calling is a divine summons which should be answered and is only lifted when the Master himself lifts it. The minister who called his work a “career” did not understand this.

Pastors who have given a lifetime to this calling can report the numerous rewards with joy — the trust reflected in the church’s ordination; the challenge to deliver the word of God regularly through preaching and teaching; the privilege of sharing deeply in the lives of parishioners and adherents; close involvement in the rites of passage with all ages — birth, conversion, marriage, anniversaries, retirement, and death.

Who can measure the deep spiritual satisfaction of celebrating a quiet fiftieth anniversary dinner with a couple whom one had married a half century earlier? Or talking by long distance with another man whom he had led to the Lord at his dining room table forty years before? Or the e-mails, notes and calls that come regularly from Christians (and even unbelievers) who say they were influenced for the Lord even though the pastor did not know it at the time?

There’s a quiet joy that is nourished regularly in the hearts of those who heard the call while young and who responded wholeheartedly.

(If you want to read more about pastoring, get my new book on Amazon.com, THE PASTOR’S FIRST LOVE: And Other Essays on a High and Holy Calling)

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An Evening at the Seminary

Photo credit: Jonathan & Jill (flickr.com)For Kathleen and me, one of our greatest delights is our twice-yearly visits with a class of seminarians at Northeastern Seminary in Rochester, New York. We are just back from the Spring visit.

During our time together there were 15 in Professor Elizabeth Gerhardt’s classroom plus another 10 in a room in Buffalo participating in discussions via a 2-way audio-video feed.

So, why our visit? It’s generally expected that trained pastors have a deep personal faith, a working knowledge of the Bible and social skills that are at least above average. But there is much more involved in effective pastoring.

My assignment was to deal with some of these additional, nuanced aspects of the pastoral life from the perspective of a longtime practitioner. In these visits I use materials I have written over a period of time and have recently put into the book, THE PASTOR’S FIRST LOVE.

For example, on this visit, along with other subjects I dealt with “The Seven Characteristics of the Effective Pastor.” My use of the word “effective” rather than “successful” was intentional. Success can often be reduced to numbers. That is not bad, and no pastor worth his or her salt is without the growth urge that can reflect itself in numbers.

But the word “effective” has a greater depth to it. For example, a pastor who is effective in ministering to a grieving family may not add numbers to the membership rolls in doing so but will nurture health in the grieving process and bring consolation to the whole congregation. That is “effective” pastoring.

Another of the seven characteristics of the effective pastor is personal integrity. Integrity doesn’t come easily and it is not always full blown upon one’s conversion. But during seminary days and beyond under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, through an honest and consistent prayer life, and perhaps with additional input from a caring, perceptive professor or parishioner, a pastor’s integrity can be broadened and deepened.

The greater the congregation’s belief in the deep honesty of a pastor in the give and take of daily life, the more responsive they are to receive his preaching and teaching as from the Lord.

Additional characteristics we talked together about are wise management of the family, good care of one’s dwelling, the skilful and restrained management of money and even good judgment about dress, especially when on duty.

It was the subject of the pastor’s attire that raised the greatest response. There were two who spoke for casual attire in the pulpit (“I don’t like ties”). It’s a controverted subject not yet settled. I believe that divine worship may be somewhat informal in style but it can never be casual.

It is the triune God we worship – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the God before whom Abraham bowed with his face to the ground. The awe and humility that such a vision inspires cannot be casual.

Kathleen and I love our times with seminarians. That’s because for many years, we have carried a growing passion for the increase in numbers of effective pastors.

Our visits prompt us to join congregations everywhere in prayers that God will raise up a new generation of candidates for ministry who will study hard to become godly and competent pastors!

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My Book Will Be Out By Month’s End

Pastor's First Love_shadowI am now counting the days until I receive the first copies of my new book, The Pastor’s First Love: This and Other Essays on a High and Holy Calling. The book will be on Amazon.com/Amazon.ca and my excitement is mounting.

The pastoral love of which I write is not first of all a love for preaching or pastoral visitation or the oversight of a congregation – as important and even focal as these duties are.

The pastor’s first love is to be a love for Jesus Christ, a steadfast and ever-renewing love – and out of that love, I believe, will flow a desire to carry out the pastoral task with excellence. That’s my thesis. In the book I share details of that task.

The words “pastor” and “shepherd” are interchangeable because they mean the same thing. The Bible has an amazing number of references to the work of shepherding used as a human metaphor. Best of all, Jesus used it of himself.

In the majority of cases today pastors do not fill a highly visible position. They serve in the inner-city, the suburbs, at the county crossroads, in hospitals, nursing homes, wherever there is a station of Christ’s church or there is human need.

But their influence is greater than they often realize. I was brought up in a little church in southeastern Saskatchewan. The pastors we had back in the thirties of the last century were of necessity self-taught. Seminary and even college were out of the question in the days of the Great Depression. But for kids growing up these men were markers of godliness and I still remember their names – Wartman, Garret, Smith, McGougan, Summers, and perhaps others. They paid attention to the children.

So who do I hope will be helped by The Pastor’s First Love? In writing I’ve had a target audience in mind. (1) Seminary and college students in pastoral training; it is the period of training when a pastoral mind is being formed. (2) Young and newly appointed pastors who feel the need to further refine their understanding of the task and sharpen the skills required. I write about cases.

I have also had in mind, (3) Pastors who have served for a long while but have grown discouraged and perhaps lost the vision and zest for their calling; and (4) lay people who sense the need for a better understanding from a layman’s perspective of what the pastoral calling is all about.

I have prepared the book prayerfully and would ask my faithful readers to pray with me that, as it goes out by the end of the month, it will find its way into the hands and hearts of those who need it most.

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A Book About the Pastoral Task

Shepherd stockx_853654_98006501I have just sent away the manuscript of my new book dealing with issues every pastor faces. It will soon be returned to me for a final read-through, and then sent to the printer to be printed sometime this spring.

The book represents insights gleaned from my 37 years as pastor or overseer of pastors plus reflections during 20 subsequent years of my retirement. I’ve also added insights I’ve shared during approximately 25 trips to teach a seminar-style class to pastors-in-training at Northeastern Seminary in Rochester, New York.

The book is grounded in the conviction that Christ himself is “the chief shepherd” over his church. I try to specify what it means to follow his lead in today’s world — concretely and specifically.

An early chapter is entitled “The Pastor’s First Love.” From that foundation, I cover a wide variety of topics, such as: Why does the church “ordain” its leaders? Why should the pastoral prayer be prepared as carefully as every other part of Sunday morning worship? How does a skillful pastor conduct a wedding rehearsal when the wedding party is full of energy and fun? Is pastoral visitation still a necessary element in a pastor’s ministries? What about pastoral attire in the pulpit during this casual time in history? Added to these I offer tips for the pastor’s first 30 days in a new pastoral assignment.

In the final chapter I tell how my own call to full time ministry began soon after my conversion at 16 years of age. It was only after some years singing the gospel and functioning as a youth speaker but without formal training or credentials that I attended seminary and was led into pastoral ministry.

My purpose in writing this book is to continue to be faithful to that calling and to use the gifts God has given me in accordance with opportunities and abilities he provides. That has been the motivation for what I have written and the preaching I have done.

And, dear reader, that is the inspiration for this weekly blog.

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