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Posts Tagged ‘Ministry

Short Thoughts on “Berean” Ministries

I’m all for examining what people teach.  I’m also for calling people to account for things they say or do.  Recently I posted on why I believe Christians should have avoided “Together 2016” as it featured the Pope as one of the speakers.  My fear is the Protestantism doesn’t mean anything anymore if we link up with Roman Catholics.

That said, are people heretics who associate with people who spoke at the conference or who have associated with Catholics in the past?  I don’t think so.  I myself was invited once to preach to Catholic youth back when I was a teenager.  I was fully prepared to preach the gospel (as I knew it then which was the sinner’s prayer method) but I knew I wasn’t going to go to the Catholics and just beat them up and down with my Bible.  That just wouldn’t have worked and I was invited to preach there by a friend (who is now a Catholic priest).  The event was cancelled and I was never able to speak there again.  I wish I could today.

What bothers me about so called “Berean” ministries is the self-righteousness I see.  I have been guilty of this myself.   I use to say that I was just being a good old Berean like those in Acts 17:11 but I was actually just being critical and self-righteous toward others.  I’m all for taking a teaching or a teacher to task from the Bible.  We are commanded to do so (see 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21; 1 John 4:1).  However, what I find is that many Bereans are simply not charitable towards those whom they disagree.  I daily get blog posts from Berean ministries and I have yet to find one that says at the end, “Please pray for this person.”  They just rip a person up and down and then throw them out.  I believe 2 Timothy 2:24-26 must apply to our discernment passages.

Meanwhile some of the people they are writing about are doing more for the gospel then they are.  I’m not a huge fan of Josh McDowell but I don’t doubt that his ministry is being used by God.  I don’t follow Ravi Zacharias but I don’t doubt that he too is being used by God.  I’m not a big follower of Francis Chan but his ministry is amazing.  David Wood is an amazing evangelist to Muslims and bold in doing so.  Is David Wood perfect?  No.  One can listen to one of these men long enough and find something to blog about.

I’ve never debated an atheist publicly.   I have never debated a Muslim.  I have never even debated a Mormon publicly.  I have never open air preached before very hostile crowds.  It is quite safe here where I am writing at this moment.  I could sit here and attack this ministry or that and never leave my home but boy I feel better about myself.  Why?  Because I was a Berean!

Now let me again state that, at times, people need to be confronted.  I was disappointed a few years back when Ravi was invited to speak in Salt Lake City, Utah at the Mormon Tabernacle (a place I too have been).  I was hoping Ravi would preach the gospel and call Mormons to repent.  He didn’t.  Do I think he was wrong there?  Yes I do.  Is he a heretic?  No.

Dr. Michael Brown went on Benny Hinn’s program a few years back.  Would I?  Probably not unless I could clearly state the gospel and know that Hinn would both agree and denounce the false prosperity gospel.  Brown didn’t do any of that.  Dr. James White, his friend, called him to task publicly for this.  Brown later admitted he was wrong to go on Hinn’s program.

Now should we denounce Ravi Zacharias or Michael Brown?  Some say yes.  I say no.  I don’t agree with all they have done nor do I agree with all that you might do.  Our standing is before God and we must give an account to Him alone (Romans 14:10-12).

By the way, do you ever pray for Benny Hinn?  I don’t think most of us do.  We just count him as a heretic and move on.  Hinn needs our prayers.  I don’t know his heart and neither do you.  I know he has preached some wacky things but is he too far gone to repent?

And simply because one shows up doesn’t mean that one endorses the totality of that ministry.  John MacArthur appeared on TBN once.  Should we denounce MacArthur?  Of course not.  In fact, I was proud of MacArthur’s appearance on TBN as he preached the clear gospel before millions.

So meanwhile while some brothers are on the front lines of battle against the enemies of the cross, bloggers blog about them to the world.  They call this discernment ministries.  They say they are Bereans.  I think they just need to get offline and pray.  Discernment is needed.  Being mean is not.

To God be the glory.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/02/2016 at 1:45 AM

“God Called Me To Be A Pastor”

When I was in my last year of high school, I was right where most high school seniors are in terms of their future.  I didn’t know what to do.  I wanted to go to college but even that was not easy.  My sister had attended a Lutheran university that was very liberal and a very sinful campus but I thought I wanted to attend there and perhaps try out for the baseball team.  The other part of me wanted to attend a Bible college in Florida.  In the end, because of money and time, I ended up at a local Bible college in my area (a fact I am still paying on years later!).  I graduated four years later with a BA in Bible with a minor in youth ministries.

Prior to all this, I thought the youth pastor life was excellent.  I mean you get to serve God in a local church, work with teenagers, play goofy games, go to concerts, youth retreats, camps, etc. all for the glory of the King. My youth pastor made it look fun and easy so I begin to pray about being “called into ministry.”  In my mind, I thought a light would shine around me and I would hear the voice of God telling me He needed me in His service.  I prayed and prayed for God to show me His will and to reveal to me His calling into the ministry.  And finally that day came.  No lights.  No smoke.  No glory.  No voice.  Just me reading 1 Timothy 1:12 and deciding that the Lord was indeed calling me into the “ministry.”  When the high school year books came out, I would write some message and always sign my name with 1 Timothy 1:12 under it.  This was my calling into the ministry.

They say that you must be called to preach.  I have been in youth meetings where the evangelist would say that this many got saved and this many were called to preach.  I am not sure how “called to preach” works other than people go by subjective experience to determine if they are called to preach.  Even cessationists that I know believe that God called them to preach.  When you ask them how, they typically reply in experiential terms such “Well, I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else but serving God in full-time ministry.”  Most evangelical pastors will give you their testimony of their “calling to preach” and many can name the date and time when God called them to preach.

A couple of things about this.  First, there is nothing in the New Testament to suggest that God calls men to preach.  In fact, the Bible calls all disciples to preach (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47).  The Bible says that we all have been given this ministry (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  1 Timothy 1:12, that I used back when I believed in this subjective experience, is Paul the Apostle’s own testimony to His calling.  Paul’s calling was unique (Acts 22:21).  Not one person in the New Testament can be shown to having been “called to preach” unless you twist the experiences of Paul the Apostle to make them fit your own.

Secondly, as a person who now works in the “secular” workforce, I find it offensive that I am not called to preach the gospel while a full-time, professional clergy is.  In fact, I would argue that people in the “secular” workplace preach more often than clergy.  I get to be around lost people all the time.  I get to share the gospel all the time.  When I was in full-time ministry, I could go days without talking to a lost person and had no real relationships with lost souls.  When I was in full-time ministry, my focus was always on Christians.  Now that I am no longer called (in terms of the clergy calling), I serve God more now with lost sinners than before.  The Bible is clear that we are all called (1 Peter 2:9-10).  Romans 8:29 tells us that all disciples are called.

The calling to leadership is a different story in the New Testament.  In fact, the leaders just lead.  In Acts 14:23 we read that the Apostles appointed elders.  My question is how did they know who the elders were?  Notice also that they appointed elders after leaving the saints and then coming back.  They didn’t preach the gospel, baptize disciples and then appoint elders all at the same time.  They allowed the Spirit of God to work in the lives of the disciples and the Spirit raised up the elders.  The apostles merely appointed whom the Spirit had already chosen (Titus 1:5).  In other words, leaders in the New Testament Church were already doing the work of the minister without official appointment.  They were serving already (1 Peter 5:1-4).

In our day, a person must have a subjective call to the ministry.  They go to Bible college or seminary and then come back to serve in a church.  None of this is found in the New Testament.

I don’t doubt that godly men love the Lord and want to serve Him.  I just question the “call” to ministry.  It seems very shaky to me, lacks biblical support, and hinders the other saints who serve God in “secular” jobs by making them feel they are not called to preach when in fact they are.  Instead of disciples going out and making disciples, people falsely believe that the pastor is to build the church and we bring people to our churches for the pastor to convert them, teach them, train them, etc.  This is not based on the Scriptures.  Disciples serving God in every area of life is better by far (1 Peter 4:10-11).

One final point about this.  I am not seeking to demean those who truly want to serve God as a pastor (shepherd).  I don’t doubt that many do take serious their passion for God, for His Church, for His Word.  I don’t doubt that godly men have served God faithfully in the local church.  I am simply trying to help us to see that the priesthood of the saints is a vital doctrine.  All of us, because of Christ, are called to serve Him and can approach the throne of God through Him (Hebrews 4:14-16).  The entire church can serve God and should serve God (1 Corinthians 12:7).  Christ is head of His Church (Colossians 1:18) and all of us who are His disciples can serve Him for His glory.  I fear that this is lost when we place emphasis on “Christian ministry” calling versus “secular job” calling.  All of us are to serve God where we are because all of us who are true disciples of Jesus are His temples (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/19/2014 at 12:00 PM

How The Clergy-Laity System Prevents Biblical Doctrine

In our day, pragmatism reigns.  Leonard Ravenhill use to say that if you let him hear a man preach for five minutes, he could tell you what books the man had been reading.  Sadly, brother Len was right.  I watch as pastor after pastor copies other pastors (usually over success more than character) and they seek to imitate the latest large church growth fads.  In our area, they copy the large seeker churches in hopes they their churches will someday be as large as those churches.  Pastors sit and dream of pastoring large mega-churches with satellite campuses all over the city.  Oh yes, they would gladly say that this is their passion for Jesus to be known and for souls to be saved but most of it is pride and money.

I know I am making some large blanket statements there.  I will begin up front by saying that I am thankful to God that I get to serve Him by driving a truck.  I am surrounded by lost guys.  I am daily getting to know lost sinners and I long to see them saved.  For me, my motivation has nothing to do with building a church or getting their money.  I just want to see souls saved.  I want 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 to be true of me.  I pray that there are many others out there like me.

On the other side are professional pastors.  I once was there myself.  I worked full time in the “ministry” for just over 10 years.  I don’t regret leaving it behind.  In fact, I now serve the Lord better than when I was in full-time “ministry.”  For professional clergy, ministry is both a blessing and a curse.  I don’t doubt that many go into ministry with their hearts set on pleasing the Lord.  Most, including myself, start out with pride being their biggest struggle.  Over time (and many failures), they see that they better trust in Christ or their will indeed fail.  Few reach the level of success that many of the seeker churches have obtained but sadly, the drive to build a big church turns many pastors toward seeker churches.  Seeker churches are driven by pragmatism.  What reigns in a seeker church is not the Word of God but a conviction that the church is for the lost.  The seeker church is designed to attract and keep the “unchurched” coming.  The “sermons” are designed to keep your attention, the music service is full of lights, smoke, flare, and shallow songs designed to keep you excited and coming.  Everything rotates around the conviction that church needs to be cool and attractive.  There is little to no emphasis on verse by verse teaching of the Bible, little to no emphasis on sound doctrine, little to no emphasis on creating an environment of evangelism and prayer.  Instead the focus is singular: the consumer.

For quickly, a biblical understanding of the church is that the church is composed of disciples who meet to build each other up (Hebrews 10:24-25).  If you read 1 Corinthians 14:26 and then consider most churches, few to none actually obey the text.  In most churches, the pastors do everything.  You might have a music pastor, a youth pastor, a children’s pastor, a senior pastor (or the new phrase is “lead pastor”).  They do all the “ministry” of 1 Corinthians 14:26.  The thought of “each one” doing this is unheard of unless you are in a small setting.  A house church can accommodate this text.  The church is to come together to edify each other and in turn the saints are equipped (Ephesians 4:11-16) to do the work of the ministry.  The church goes out to spread the gospel (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21) and does not sit waiting on people to come to them.  1 Corinthians 12:13 is clear that only disciples compose the church.  I heard one brother put it this way, “In the Old Testament, God gave the world Israel and said ‘Come and see’ but in the New Testament, He gave the world the church and said, ‘Go and tell.'”  The Church is not a building as in the Old Testament where God met with His people at His chosen place (Deuteronomy 14:23) but the Church is wherever saints of God meet.  It could be a house.  It could be an office building.  It could be a field.  It could be in a prison.  God is not limited by a building.

I believe the modern pastorate hurts the spread of sound doctrine in many ways.  Pastors struggle with busy schedules as is and yet one man is told to build the church when this is not found in the Bible.  Not one singular pastor is found in the Bible but Jesus Christ (John 10:14).  Jesus is the single head of His Church (Colossians 1:18).  On most churches, they oddly put the name of one person and that is the pastor.  I have often wondered why they only choose one person to place on the name of the marquee.  Why not other gifted people in the church?  Further, where is just one pastor in the Bible?  The word “pastor” only occurs in most English Bibles in Ephesians 4:11 but even there it is not a good translation. The ESV correctly translates it “shepherd” for that is the Greek word used here.  Jesus is called “the chief shepherd” in 1 Peter 5:4.  While it would not be a good translation, one could substitute “pastor” for “shepherd” in John 10:14 or 1 Peter 2:25 or 1 Peter 5:4 and one can see that Jesus is our pastor, He is the lead pastor.

People in churches such as this one above look to one person to lead the church: the pastor.  They don’t look to the Bible per se or to the Spirit to lead them (as He did in Acts 13:2) but to the vision of the pastor.  The pastor, for better or worse, leads them to where he wants to go.  Some pastors do well and lead the church toward Christ and His kingdom.  Others push their own agenda (or usually someone else’s agenda that they admire).  What all pastors rely on is the money of the people and this can be a tough issue.  Some pastors are controlled by a board of deacons or an elder board.  Some pastors have a big giver in the church who controls them.  Other pastors have to be bi-vocational but long for the day that they can work full time in the “ministry.”

Now let me change that all up for you.  Suppose there were no pastors.  What would the church look like?  It would not go away as some quickly think.  Consider the book of Acts.  There were no full-time pastors in the New Testament Church and they did just fine.  Not once in the New Testament is one pastor referred to.  Only once does a book of the New Testament even begin by mentioning leaders and that is Philippians and they are mentioned only after Paul addressed the saints first.  In our day, a letter to a church would always begin by addressing the senior pastor and no one would think of writing a church in our day and never mention the leaders but only one book out of twenty-seven New Testament books evens begin by mentioning the leaders.  The lack of leadership is what is amazing in the New Testament books.  It was as if the Spirit of God was really leading His Church.

The book of 1 Corinthians is a case study unto itself.  Here is a sinful church.  A church that is divided, that has much sin going on in it and much chaos.  Yet Paul the Apostle never addresses the leaders.  He never mentions that leaders should bring the Corinthians under their control.  He never writes to pastors.  He never addresses the elders.  Instead, he calls the church to take care of these issues.  The church as a whole is to do the work.  In our day, we would expect Paul to address the senior leadership and tell them to do this or that to get the Corinthians back in line yet Paul never does this.  He calls them all to repent and take care of the church themselves.  In our day, we look to the pastors to do everything, to take care of problems.  Not so in the New Testament Church!

This view of mine is not to scare pastors.  I know some pastors will feel threatened and they fear having to go and get a “secular” job.  I remember those fears myself.  I actually want to free you pastors.  Not a day goes by that I don’t rejoice that I am not in the ministry anymore.  Yet I praise God that I work a “secular” job that allows me to serve Jesus and not be controlled be a clergy-laity system.  I can preach what I want to preach and not fear that someone is going to get mad and leave.  I can evangelize as I desire without fear of scarring off people who might attend.  I work for 50 hours or more a week, receive my compensation for my work, and then I serve the Lord both on my job and off.  I never fear of losing my position in the “ministry.”  I never fear of having to make church attractive for the lost.  I never worry about having to compete with other churches.  I have one focus: on living a life that honors the Lord (1 Peter 1:15-16).  I am not controlled by money.  I am not controlled by a denomination.  I want to be like the Apostles who called themselves “slaves of Christ” (Romans 1:1 etc.).  A slave doesn’t expect much (Luke 17:7-10).

Traditional pastors have to worry about money.  About people.  About boards.  About programs.  About fads.  About what to preach and what not to preach.  About how not to offend people.  About how much time to devote to family, to prayer, to the Word and yet still pastor people.  About competition with other churches.  About whether the small crowd this Sunday will mean less money.  About how to leave the ministry and make a living.

And none of that is based on the New Testament.

For more information on all this, I encourage you to read Frank Viola’s excellent book, Reimagining Church.  

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/17/2014 at 11:24 AM

Preparing to Leave the Ministry

I wanted to write toward traditional pastors who perhaps are considering leaving the full-time ministry.  How do you begin to do this?

I read a statistic today that 80% of traditional pastors are discouraged and 50% would leave the ministry if they could.  I am one of those who has left the ministry.  I have not left Jesus.  I have not left true ministry (and I am actually doing more now for the kingdom of God than when I was a full-time traditional minister).  I strongly believe in the fundamentals of the gospel and I would stand with my traditional pastor friends in defending orthodoxy.  I believe that we all need to be biblical disciples who love the Word of God and test all things (including our traditions) by the Word of God (1 John 4:1-2).

For now, let me state some basics for leaving the ministry.  Let me begin by pointing out that I am not talking about walking away from Jesus nor from the Church.  I am talking about moving out of dependence on the money of the church toward a “secular” job and away from working in a traditional church.  Let me offer my own insights.

1.  Be Willing To Work

I was not afraid of “getting my hands dirty” when I left the traditional ministry.  I was ready and willing to work any job to provide for my family.  I am the type of man who will do whatever it takes to provide for my wife and children.  Obviously, I am not saying that a man should be sinful in work to provide (selling drugs for example or compromising the gospel to earn money) but I am advocating willing to do any job to provide.  Don’t be so smug as to think that because you went to Bible college or seminary, you shouldn’t have to work at a fast food restaurant or drive a truck for a living.  Be willing to do all things to the glory of God (Colossians 3:17) including dirty jobs.

2.  Be Willing To Wait

My first job out of the ministry was with Coca-Cola.  I had no clue when I got that job that it would open the door for other truck driving jobs.  I left Coke to work for Pepsi (I know they are competitors but it cut my personal vehicle driving in half!).  I left Pepsi to work for US Foodservice.  I left US Foodservice to work for Golden State Foods (GSF).  Along that way was years of waiting.  I would work my jobs (and some with pain more than pleasure) and wait on the Lord to open the next door.  In each case He faithfully guided me and led me every step of the way.  I struggled at times to know His plan or His ways but I trusted Him.  Several times along the way I tried to make jobs work out on my own but the Lord closed those doors each time (I tried to buy a Fed Ex Ground truck route and tried to get a Little Debbie route but failed at both).  I praise God for His faithfulness and for His providence in leading us.

3.  Be Willing To Worship.

No matter where you find yourself after leaving the traditional ministry, be willing to worship God.  We are not saved by going to Bible college or by preaching or by reading theology books or blogs.  We are saved through a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; James 2:14-26).  I have found that my prayer life is now stronger because I don’t carry the burdens of the church.  My Bible study is stronger because I am reading and studying the Bible with an eye on the Lord and not on me or the people.  My witnessing is better because I am not always surrounded by disciples but now with unbelievers.  I feel I am a better man, a better husband, a better father, and a stronger disciple of Christ after leaving the ministry.  I like to say that I left the ministry for the true ministry of the Lord.

However, wherever you find yourself in life, be willing to worship God.  Be willing to worship Him when you have no money and times are hard.  Be willing to worship Him when you get that job promotion and the Lord opens the door for success.  Be willing to worship God in whatever state you find yourself (Philippians 4:11-13).  Worship Him when you feel discouraged.  Worship Him when others doubt your decisions to leave the ministry.  Worship Him when others ridicule your faith in God.  Worship Him when you are struggling to just make ends meet.

4.  Be Willing To Wrestle.

By wrestle I don’t mean physical but spiritual.  Be willing to wrestle in prayer.  Leaving the ministry was the best decision I ever made.  But at first I had to pray a lot.  I had to just pray for food (Matthew 6:11) which was a good thing as I look back.  I had to pray for the Lord to open doors for jobs.  I had to pray for money to come through.  Yet I rejoice that the Lord was using my struggles to help me learn to pray (Luke 11:1).

So often when leaving the ministry, men try to make things work on their own.  Don’t do that.  Depend on the Lord.  Show this in prayer.  Praise Him for the small victories and for His leading.  Pray to Him who knows what you have need of before you ask Him (Matthew 6:8).  I prayed for many things after leaving the ministry including Him moving us away from the area we were in.  He did this and more.  I prayed for Him to open doors for us and close doors for us and He did.  It was not always as I dreamed it would be but He was faithful every step of the way.  Don’t be afraid to pray to our sovereign God and trust Him through it all (Matthew 7:7-11).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/27/2014 at 11:11 AM

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