A Moment of Silence

Quiet, please!

I’m going to turn the lights out here on For Younger Pastors for a few days. I need to organize some thoughts before I write more, so I’ll take a break of sorts. I’ll be back by Monday at the latest with some solid links you should check into.

Thanks for stopping by and for reading my ramblings!! May God prosper your ministry this week!

For Your Christmas List

Laura and I don’t watch a lot of network TV, so when we watch we don’t see commercials. However I do catch my share during football games, and it appears that people give each other cars and trucks at this festive season. My guess is that your budget won’t allow the exchange of new BMWs, so let me give you a list of books that you might want to include on your Christmas list.

I’m going to give you the Amazon links, but don’t forget to check out the good folks at wtsbooks.com. You may find their prices lower. I’ll also acknowledge that I haven’t read some of these, but have recommended them based on the author, reviews, or what I’d have on my list.

The best book on helping people that I can remember reading is Ed Welch’s Side By Side: Walking With Others in Wisdom and Love. This is a must read for pastors and would be worth working through with your elders or staff.

Fifteen Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me is a compilation of advice put out by The Gospel Coalition. By about two months into your pastorate you’ve probably said, “They didn’t teach me about this” a few times.

Leading in Prayer: A Workbook for Ministers. You actually might want to pick this up now for $3 in Kindle format. Hopefully you give great attention to your preaching. This encourages and helps you give great attention to pubic prayer. Hughes Oliphant Old wrote this one.

The late John Stott wrote several books on preaching. The Challenge of Preaching is an abridgment of an earlier work. That earlier work is the classic Between Two Worlds. In a past blog post I recommended reading at least one book each year on preaching. Either one of these would be worthwhile.

I love listening to Dr. Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He’s a great preacher, and wrote a helpful book on preaching called He Is Not Silent: Preaching in A Post-Modern World.

One other book on preaching that I enjoyed was The Archer and the Arrow. Geared more for beginning preachers, it’s worth reading no matter how long you’ve preached. Philip Jensen is the author, and he challenges us with these words: “My aim is to preach the gospel by prayerfully expounding the Bible to the people God has given me to love.”

While dealing with preaching to some extent, Jonathan Leeman’s book Word Centered Church is a challenge to build all of what we do in our churches around the Bible. I remember this being a very encouraging book, especially if you are looking at gimmicky churches growing while you seem to plod along.

Leadership is a challenging task, and Australian author Craig Hamilton has written a well-regarded book called Wisdom in Leadership. I love the subtitle: “The How and Why of Leading the People You Serve.”

Reformation Theology is both a book on theology and a book on church history. I’ve been reading through it and it is quite engaging. Matthew Barrett edits this compilation. Dr. Philip Ryken says, “Dr. Matthew Barrett has assembled a first-rate team of pastors and scholars to write an anniversary volume of the Reformation that promises to receive a welcoming readership across a wide spectrum of the evangelical community. At a time when some are suggesting that for all practical purposes the Reformation is ‘over,’ Barrett’s Reformation Theology offers a needed corrective by showing the relevance of the Reformation for healthy church ministry and the Christian life today.”

Also on the subject of church history is Michael Haykin’s Rediscovering the Church Fathers. It’s on my list of soon-to-read books.

I bought this book, All Things New: Revelation as Canonical Captone by Brian Tabb yesterday and look forward to reading it. While I hold to a specific eschatological position, I hold it a bit more loosely than I used to. One of the reasons for that was my own experience of preaching through Revelation several years ago. Looks good!

Finally, while not a book, you can get a year’s subscription to Christianity Today for $15 that also gives you access to all of the articles from CT and Leadership Journal from the last several decades. Don’t hesitate, though, because this price won’t last for long.

Have a great weekend of ministry! See you on Monday

Ministry With the End in View

Most of you are young and you have a lot of time left to minister. But I can assure you that time flies, and sooner than you think you’ll be doing more looking back on ministry than looking ahead.

On this side of eternity we’ll never be able to fully assess the impact we made. But God is gracious, and sometimes gives us glimpses of how he worked through us. Those are the things that will bring you joy when you look back on a lifetime spent in ministry.

But how does that happen? In this post I want to encourage you toward “ministry with the end in view.” Let me explain.

By choosing to minister with the end in view, I’m talking about preparing your people for eternity. This is what Paul did. He wrote, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:28-29 ESV).

I believe the primary – not the only, but the primary – means to “ministry with the end in view” is a matter of how we choose to preach. That phrase “that we may present everyone mature in Christ” is more than just making sure that people are believers.

We are to preach so that our people come to maturity in Christ. Preach so that they are “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:7, ESV). Preach so that they have “. . . the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,” Ephesians 1:18-20 (ESV).

You’re not going to do this with sermon series that could be lighter-fare Sunday School topics. You know – the “Five Steps To . . . “ or “Ten Keys to . . .” preaching that seems to be so prevalent today. Preach the text, point your people to the Gospel, and explain how that relates to their lives.

If you do that, your preaching will have “the end in view.” You don’t have to ignore the so-called “practical” themes. In fact they’ll often come up when you preach through a book of the Bible, paragraph by paragraph even. But in the end, if your people can balance a checkbook or live debt free or sketch out a detailed chart of the end times, but they have never understood the meaning of the work of Christ in their lives other than that he’s their ticket to heaven, then somewhere “the end” was sacrificed for the here and now.

But if you choose to focus on ministry with the end in view, you may get an email like this. It will remind you that despite mistakes, despite your own weakness, and despite being perfectly ordinary, God used you where it counted.

“I truly consider you as the single most influential person in my life as it relates to understanding the gospel. Little to do with me but everything to do with what Christ did for me…or, our changed lives is not the gospel but rather it is the gospel first that changes our lives. Not sure these were your words directly but for sure recall growing in my knowledge of the simple yet profound difference through your teaching and leadership.”

This ordinary former pastor treasures those words. Along the way God pointed me toward a more Gospel focused ministry, and I take no credit for that whatsoever. But I do take it as a responsibility to pass on, and that’s what I am doing with these words today.

Brother pastor, make sure that you minister with the end in view. And may God bless you as you work for the faith and maturity of your people.

Tools of the Trade for November 25, 2019

A Weekly List of Links and Resources for Pastors

I’m a bit late today, but here are some links that are worth looking at. I hope you had a good weekend of ministry.

People in your church are hurting. Here’s one of those articles I’d put on the literature table.

Simonetta Carr, writing for Core Christianity, tells us why people ignore church history but shouldn’t.

Burk Parsons, from Ligonier Ministries, talks about the value of creeds and confessions.

Pastors burn out. Do you know the signs? Do you know what you should do when it happens? This is worth the read regardless of how you are feeling at the moment.

While most pastors are hard working and burnout can be a problem, being lazy is also a potential problem.

Here’s encouragement for those of you ministering in small towns or rural areas.

How do you find God’s will? I’ve heard and read a lot of well-meaning suggestions that, to be honest, don’t have really solid biblical root. Aimee Joseph’s article may be really helpful.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably reading Tim Challies’ blog. Here is his review of a new book for preachers.

“We’re giving up Wednesday night services. We’re giving up Sunday night services. We’re shortening the preaching on Sunday morning. Is it any wonder that our churches are so weak?” Steve Lawson talks about the importance of preaching in this short video.

Tim Challies provides a service for believers by giving us a list of Kindle books on sale almost every day. Thanks, Tim! One of the books he linked to this morning is a must read for you as a pastor, and if you can find a way to get How to Walk into Church into the hands of your people, your church will be better for it. It’s 99 cents for you today. Don’t hesitate.

Have a great week. I hope to see you Wednesday.

Calling Veteran Pastors!

I’m not sure when a pastor qualifies as a “veteran.” Some guys go through enough in their first year or two that they might rightly lay claim to that designation. But for this post, I’m thinking about men who are in their mid-40s and/or have spent at least 15 years in pastoral ministry. Arbitrary, I know. But for what I want to say it works.

While this is a blog for younger pastors, I believe that some readers fit the “veteran pastor” category. And I’d like to say a few things to you. 

One of the great needs that younger pastors have is finding someone with ministry experience to help them, encourage them, pick them up when they are down, and even temper their enthusiasm if they are being unrealistic. Hanging around with their peers may be more fun than spending time with some older dude. But they need you.

Some of you have younger staff members. If you look at them mere employees you’re missing a huge opportunity. You have a chance to invest in their lives and help prepare them for their future ministry.

My son-in-law, Dan, and I went to see country singer (and guitar genius) Vince Gill the other week. He often talks about the people who brought him along when he was first starting out. And while some artists crave the spotlight, he willingly shares the stage with younger artists who are a part of his band. One of them was the “opening act.” Then during his concert, he allowed two other band members to do solos as a way of giving them exposure, speaking highly of their talents. I thought that was classy. It also reminded me of what veteran pastors should be doing.

If you have younger staff members on your team, how about taking them out to lunch once every week or two? Talk shop with them, let them share ideas, get to know them, laugh with them, and build relationships that will let them know them know that you are available to talk and not just “the boss.” And by all means “share the stage” with them. And if they can preach – or want to – let them preach occasionally, even for two or three weeks in a row. That way they’ll see what it’s like to prepare, preach, take a breath, and plunge right back into preparation. 

You can also encourage them by praising them publicly. You don’t have to mention them every week, but your people ought to know that you regard them well and that you appreciate their work. It will encourage your young staff members, but it will also help your church view them properly.

Others of you “out there” may be solo pastors. Are there younger guys in your area with churches of their own who might be helped by spending time with them? Maybe you can take two or three younger guys from different churches out for lunch or meet them for coffee and see if that catches on to become a monthly thing. You can do a great deal to help these guys in their work while building community between your churches.

As I’ve said, I work for a retirement community. A few months ago, I drove someone down to a hospital in South Philadelphia. I was sitting in a lobby area and saw this display.

It’s pretty easy to connect that challenge to those of us who have spent a number of years in ministry.

Older pastors have a great opportunity and, I believe, a great responsibility. “Consider well, Gentlemen, how much depends on your diligence…”

A Prayer for Younger Pastors Who Struggle

Father, I pray for the many younger men in ministry who are working to shepherd the people you have entrusted to them. In many cases they are in smaller churches and may be the only ones on staff. It can be a lonely and difficult calling.

Some young pastors have noticed that families who used to attend are missing. They’ve learned that these families have left for what they imagine are greener pastures – larger churches with bells and whistles that smaller churches cannot have. These families don’t realize that smaller churches feel the loss of younger families deeply. Their loss can be discouraging.

Others finished preaching this past Sunday only to be confronted by someone with a complaint. Whether the concern was valid or not, these young men felt ambushed at a time when they had just spent their energies preaching. This can take the wind out of their sails.

I want to also pray for those who are dealing with difficult situations in the lives of church families. Some are counseling people older than they are, trying to provide godly wisdom for parents with a rebellious teen. Others are doing their best to help couples whose marriages are in trouble. These young pastors often feel overwhelmed by the difficult counseling situations they face.

Some face significant decisions and wish they had someone to talk to – someone they could trust not to betray a confidence. Some need their elders to step up and share the load. Some are wondering if they are in the right place, if it’s time to think about moving on. A lot of them are thinking “They sure didn’t teach us this in seminary!” Some feel at the end of their rope.

Others in this group of your servants are trying to balance the needs of the church with the needs of their own young families. They need time to do their work well, but they don’t want to neglect their wive and children.

Some are being tempted to sacrifice substance for a style and approach that supposedly draws more people. They look at larger churches and wonder why their own church does not seem to be growing. Help them to stay faithful to your Word. Help them to be creative where creativity does not water down the message of the Gospel.

Then, Father, there are some who are being mistreated. For some it an unsupportive and even combative board. For others there has been betrayal, a withdrawal of support. Some are not being paid fairly and can’t make it on their salaries. Some face regular criticism but are told not to be so sensitive when they talk to others in leadership. They feel hopeless and disillusioned.

For all of these, and others, I pray that you would extend great grace, peace, and wisdom. They are young, vulnerable, and may be questioning their calling. Please encourage them and bring people into their lives who will stand with them and pray for them.

In Jesus name, Amen.

Tools of the Trade for November 18, 2019

A Weekly List of Links and Resources for Pastors

Several of the articles that follow are worth sharing. In a previous blog post I described how I had a literature rack in our church where I had copies of significant articles that I thought our people would find helpful. I’d recommend that for your church too.

Many of these articles deal with parenting. All are worth your time as a pastor, and hopefully there’s something here that you can share with some of your people in need.

Sometimes people wonder if they’re doing the right thing with their life. How Can I Know If I’m Wasting My Life may be a helpful article to enable them to see their lives clearly.

People going through trial need hope. Here’s some help from someone who’s been there.

Talking to Kids About Gender in a Gender-Confused Age. This is one to share with your youth pastor and the parents of the kids in your church.

We Need Not Parent in Fear. Here’s another article that the parents in your church will find helpful.

Joe Carter tells us 9 Things You Should Know About Cohabitation in America.

Dysfunctional Elders Make a Dysfunctional Church. This is worth prayerfully sharing with your elder board.

We follow Christ step-by-step. Matt Chandler’s article on following Christ is helpful.

Depression is far from just an adult or teen problem. What do you do when your child is depressed? Christine Chappell provides some guidance.