THE PASTORAL MINISTRY OF SHAKING HEARTS

I am writing to respond to a blog post entitled, The Pastoral Ministry of Shaking Hands, written by Pastor H. B. Charles Jr. which was recently shared on Tim Challies blog.  I reluctantly read it with caution because it touches on a topic that I have been wrestling with issue for a number of years.  Reading the blog post confirmed my deep seated convictions on what Pastor Charles Jr. calls “The pastoral ministry of shaking hands.” I simply do not agree with his rationale for this mainly because I believe that the practice that he is advocating is mainly cultural not biblical.  This “pastoral ministry of shaking hands” is mainly a creation of the American culture than it is of the Apostles in the New Testament church.  The practice is very foreign among many Christians outside of North America (although some are now copying it simply because it’s coming from America and thus it must be right).  For this reason (mainly), I do not think that it should be expected of every pastor.  In all fairness, the Bible does not necessarily condemn the practice (although I believe good biblical grounds may be found against it).  But it is also fair to say that the Bible does not sanction or prescribe it for pastors and congregations for that matter and we shouldn’t either. Continue reading “THE PASTORAL MINISTRY OF SHAKING HEARTS”

Why Young Men Don’t Go into the Ministry

Today, I would like to follow up on yesterday’s post, Where Are All the Men, and talk about some reasons why many young men in our day don’t want to go into the ministry.

Jesus in talking to His disciples in Matthew 9:37 said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few…”  Here is what Matthew records for us in Matthew 9:35-38:

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

The Lord Jesus Christ looked around Him and saw a needy people, a people “harassed and helpless” or “dispirited” “like sheep without a shepherd.”  And then He gave His analysis of the situation, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.”  I think Jesus’ analysis of the spiritual condition of the men and women in our cities and villages today would be the same.  Though outwardly people look “okay” they are not so inwardly.  All the TV stars that we know, the celebrities, “powerful” people in government, all the multitude of people across the globe, need Christ desperately.  Many of them have been bruised and are being bruised by the effects of sin.  They are looking for peace, happiness and joy in all the wrong places.  Their relative success isn’t cutting it for them – that’s because they need Christ.  Then, they are all the multitude of people all around the world who aren’t celebrities, they aren’t among the “powerful” – they are vulnerable in every way – they too need Christ! Christ alone is the answer to the problem!

Bored Young Men
Bored Young Men - Nothing to Do

Here is the BIG question:  If this analysis is correct (and it is), if Christ is alone is the answer (and He is), then why aren’t we seeing more young men going into the ministry so that they can preach Christ to these people?  I am sure there are a myriad of reasons as to why this is the case.  And, I would also like to state here that I am aware of the fact our individual situations and circumstances are different and that sometimes certain constraints are placed upon us which make it difficult to do what we may have been called to do.  I am also aware that there are exceptions to the general comments that I am about to make.  But I think the following five reasons contribute to the problem:

1.  A Lack of Compassion for Lost Souls – this I am sure is the biggest problem.  Jesus was moved with compassion for the souls of the men and women that He encountered, every time He encountered them.  He was first and foremost concerned about people’s spiritual condition above all else.  When compassion for souls characterizes one’s life – it’s difficult – and I would even say, that it’s impossible to ignore the call to preach, the call to the ministry.  The only response in that situation is:  “Woe is me, if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16).

2.  A Loss of Confidence in the Gospel and It’s Power to Save Lost Souls – This is a sad reality in our day.  Even those who are in the church (clergy and laity alike) seem to have lost the necessary confidence that they need to have in the power of the gospel.  That’s why you see many churches today replete with all kinds of programs aimed at “supplementing” the gospel – or “improving” the gospel – or making the gospel more “relevant” and more “attractive.”  Why, because many people today do not really believe that the gospel is intrinsically sufficient, relevant or necessary to the human soul.  But Romans 1:16 tells us that the gospel “is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes” Jews and Gentiles alike.  There is a desperate and urgent need for the gospel to get out there NOW!

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:13-15)

3.  A Lack of Courage to Face the Unknown – Many young men (and old men too), but mostly young men just don’t want to go there!  Too many risks!  Too many unknowns!  Too many uncertainties!  The list could go on and on!  And so what happens is that most of our young men are more concerned about getting those lucrative, white-collar jobs which promise a relative measure of financial security, power and prestige.  I think this lack of courage – this unwillingness to take risks for the gospel and lost souls coupled with a low view of the gospel ministry and its power to change lives for eternity cripples and kills many young people’s ambition and desires to enter the ministry.

4.  A Lack of Good Role Models – I think we really need God’s help here.  We need to do a better job of training our young people and modeling what faithful, God-centered, gospel ministry looks like.  We need to be more intentional too about training and preparing our young people for the gospel ministry from a very young age.  This means that parents as well as pastors should be praying and working together for this causes.  Personally, I think every pastor should have a “Timothy” and every “Timothy” should have a “Titus” if we are to see a significant reversal in the modern trend.  There is biblical precedence for this in the life of Paul (for example) – see 2 Timothy 2:2 where Paul says to Timothy:  “…What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”  It would foolish and presumptuous of us to ignore this apostolic precedence and admonition!  The flip side of the same problem is that there just aren’t many good, faithful, committed, strong, Word-saturated, God-centered pastors around!  The “stick-to-it kind” of pastors.  Many of them are “hirelings” who are always marking the EXIT doors and are ready to “jump ship” with the slightest trial and/or temptation.  And, you can understand how difficult it would be for our young people to develop enough confidence in the ministry.  We have given then little or no reason to urge and help embrace the call to the ministry.

5.  Spiritual Apathy – Defeatism.  O, what a deadly disease this is!  What a plague on the modern church this has become!  Frankly speaking, many of the people who frequent the church today – and yes, even those who frequently preach (pastors) – many of them have already given up the fight – tragically.  They are no longer fighting “the good fight of faith.”  They are walking by sight and no longer by faith as they (and all of us Christians) should.  And what do they see around them?  More apathy!  More rebellion against God!  More people drowning themselves in the pool of sin and indulging themselves in the deadly pleasures!  On the other hand, they see dwindling numbers in many of our churches, lack of commitment to the truth claims of Christ and His Word.  They see Christians fighting over nothing and churches splitting because they couldn’t agree on whether the main entrance should be on the north or the south side of their church building.  They see the church engaged in this and several other trivialities and they want nothing to do with the church let alone the gospel ministry.

We need to repent of this and seek God’s help.  And we need to heed Christ’s call!  Let’s “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38).  Only He can do it and we want Him to do it – not we ourselves apart from Him.

For those young men out there who may be considering the gospel ministry, I have some good news for you:  It’s the highest calling any man can receive from the LORD!  If you have any inclination within you towards the gospel ministry, I urge you to seek the Lord faithfully and diligently in prayer and in the study of His Word.  Talk to your family members about it – ask them to pray with and for you.  Talk to your church leaders – seek their counsel and prayer support.  Talk to your friends (the good ones – the ones you can trust).  Be open to the possibility and be on the look out for God’s leading in that direction and be ready to take the first step when He calls!  You will never regret!  More on this later!  Scripture says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15)

Where Are All the Men?

A few days ago, the London Telegraph published a story entitled, “More new women priests than men for the first time.”  I read the story with great interest because it touches on something that I am very much interested in, namely the biblical teaching regarding the role of women in church offices.  I believe that it is a direct violation of God’s Word (thus sinful) for women to take up leadership positions in the church (i.e. as pastors or elders).  Well, this article approvingly talked of women priests outnumbering men.  In summary, the author fo the article basically wanted to let us know that:  “More female priests are joining the Church of England than male ones for the first time ever, it can be disclosed as it takes another step towards the introduction of women bishops.”

The debating chamber at Church House, Westminster. Photo: AP

My initial response was:  “Where are all the men?”  It’s such a sad reality of our times particularly here in the West where a lot of men (if not most) have become too lethargic and sluggish to lead both in the home and the church.  The end result?  Well, somebody has to step up to the plate and lead – and the women are doing just that.  That’s the tragic reality that the Western Church (mostly) has to deal with.  But is that really the answer?  Should women take up these roles/offices which are clearly and divinely assigned to men?  The answer to this question and all it’s practical implications is no doubt complex.  Each particular situation where this is an issue would have to be evaluated individually and the practical implications would have to be worked out the same way.  However, violating the clear principles found in God’s Word is not the to deal with our social ills (e.g. lack of male leadership, etc).  Whatever we decide to do by way of addressing the lack of male leadership in our society, particularly in the church, we must unwaveringly adhere to the standard that has been set forth for us by God in His Holy Word! See 1 Timothy 2:9-15.

What is happening in the Church of England and other similar Christian denominations like the Church of Scotland or the Presbyterian Church – USA is quite sad and tragic.  One can only hope and pray that those who lead these denominations will come to their senses, repent and return to the clear teaching of Scripture on this issue!  But O, it’s a slippery slope and the devil seems to be holding a tight rein on these denominations with some relative success.  For most of such denominations, it all started with the erosion of biblical inerrancy.  Once that was thrown out of the window, then pretty much everything that men/women didn’t like could be thrown out of the window on one hand and everything that men/women wanted could be entertained in the church.  So, the ordination of women to church offices was brought into the church as 1 Timothy 2 and other related Scriptural passages were thrown out of the window.  Quite tragic isn’t it?  People are picking and choosing what they should and shouldn’t listen to in the Bible.  If I don’t like what Romans 1 says (for example), then I can just tear it out of my Bible, and so on and so forth.  That’s where we are today.  But what’s next?  Well, I hope and pray that there will be a spirit of repentance which will in turn bring a true reformation in these denominations so that Christ and His Holy Word may be honored.  That’s what I pray for!  Please join me.

Finally, a word to all Christian men reading this:  “Rise up, be men and start leading in your home and church as the Lord would have you do.”  I encourage you to watch/listen to the messages preached at this year’s pastors’ conference organized by Desiring God Ministries in Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA) especially these two:  1.  “Father Hunger” in Leading the Home, and 2.  “Father Hunger” in Leading the Church.

R. C. Sproul & Sinclair Ferguson – Video from “Theology Night”

On January 20, 2012, Saint Andrew’s was the location for “Theology Night with Sinclair Ferguson and R.C. Sproul.” It was a relaxed and informative evening where two notable theologians and pastors answered questions submitted by online viewers and those present in the audience. Topics addressed included the doctrines of grace, when to leave a local church, Tim Tebow, dispensationalism, free will, and the peccability or impeccability of Jesus.

You can now stream the video of this edifying evening by clicking here.

Faith Beyond Circumstances!! Please Pray for This Brother in Christ & His Family!!

This morning, I got the following e-mail from a “prayer chain” that I am a part of.  The e-mail said:

Please begin praying for this dear sister in Christ- Carol Poston.  Carol is the wife of the pastor of Rainbow Community Church in Fallbrook, CA. (about a half hour north of Escondido).  One minute she’s the healthy wife of a pastor, the mother of 5 beautiful daughters… next minute attacked by bacterial meningitis to her brain.  To read about this tragic situation and the unwavering faith of her husband, go to: http://carolposton.blogspot.com/.

I immediately went to the blog to read more about this.  I was shocked and amazed.  I was shocked because of the gravity of the situation.  I was amazed by the strength and courage with which Craig (the pastor/husband) is handling this fragile situation.  This afternoon, another pastor friend and I prayed for Craig and his family and committed them to the Lord.

For me as a husband, father and also as a pastor, my heart goes out to my brother in Christ, Craig.  I was greatly touched by something from his most recent blog post.  This is what he wrote:

“I do not yet have emotional energy to read Scripture to Carol but still can only cry to the Lord, Please Have Mercy!  Those are the only words I can find to say to God.  But I trust Him.  God will be glorified through this whole horrible tragedy.”

What faith!  Faith beyond circumstances!  Faith in spite of circumstances!  Craig is so candid as to admit his weaknesses.  He is emotionally weak and yet spiritually strong at the same time.  This is because he is resting in the Lord and in His sovereign purposes.  I really can’t say much more about this, except to say that it moved me, challenged me and encouraged me in at least the following two ways: 1.  to pray for this brother in Christ (whom I have never met before), but mysteriously enough, I feel a special connection to him.  I will pray for him, his wife and kids.  I will pray for his congregation – it must be hard for the congregation to see their pastor, his wife and kids suffer so much, 2.  to exult in the sovereignty of God which Craig I am sure understands and is resting on.

If you are reading this, would you please take a moment to pray for Craig, Carol, their kids and congregation?  Thank you – may the Lord richly bless you through Jesus Christ!

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).  “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

NEEDED! DEAD OR ALIVE: FAITHFUL PREACHERS!!

As a minister of the gospel, there is no subject that interests me more than the preaching.  I am not just interested in a “fanciful” manner, but I am captivated by this subject because it sums up God’s call upon my life this side of heaven.  But it’s not just preaching in general that interests me.  Rather it is Christ who is to be the Grand Theme and Subject of all faithful preaching!  I am not only called to preach.  I am called to “preach Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23).  “…We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord…” 2 Cor. 4:5).  All true preaching is Christ-centered, and all Christ-centered preaching is true preaching.  There are no two ways about it!  Those who are committed to the faithful exposition of Scripture will necessarily preach Christ because all of the Scriptures testify about Him (Luke 24:25-27,44-48; John 5:39).

Sadly, there is a dearth of preaching in our day.  Many are the pulpits which have been severely afflicted and inflicted by this terminal disease.  We do not lack “preachers” capable of giving interesting talks, moral advice or motivational speeches.  There are plenty of those around – everywhere you turn!  But faithful, Christ-centered preachers!  Oh, no!  Those are scarce!  Only a few of them are still standing!  I think the sign below needs to be hang on just about every church door today.

William Still in his book entitled, The Work of The Pastor writes:  “…If the hope of the world is Christ, it is Christ in all the Scriptures, and that hope can only be fulfilled by men pouring out the riches of Christ’s saving grace upon the Lord’s people through the Scriptures” (p. 93)

Why then is there such a dearth of faithful, Christ-centered preaching in our day?  Well, that’s a very good question.  Many reasons can be given as to why this is the case.  But one thing is for certain, there has been a great lost of confidence in Scriptures among both preachers and hearers as Alistair Begg points out in his book, Preaching for God’s Glory (pages 18-19):

The absence of expository preaching is directly related to an erosion of confidence in the authority of and sufficiency of Scripture.  At the beginning of the nineteenth the battle lines were drawn against the forces of liberalism.  Liberals were challenging the miraculous, questioning the divine, and opposing the historicity of the New Testament documents.  Evangelicals weathered that storm, and empty liberal churches testify to the futility of the liberal quest for a demythologized Christ.  But today the battle is more subtle.  The Scriptures are neglected and debased and are used only as a springboard for all kinds of “talks” that are far removed from genuine biblical exposition…There is little, if any, sense of either the preacher or the congregation bowing under the majestic authority of God’s written Word.

I couldn’t agree more!  Let me end this post by asking you to do three things in light of what I have shared here:

First, pray with me that the Lord will raise up a new generation of preachers who will not be afraid or ashamed to preach the “whole counsel of God” and point people to the Lord Jesus Christ in every sermon.

Secondly, pray for your pastors that by God’s grace and the working of God’s Holy Spirit they may be kept faithful and true to their calling. In my view, that is the best way to keep your ministers accountable before God and their congregations.

Secondly, pray for me also that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel…that I may proclaim it clearly and boldly, as I should (see Ephesians 6:19-20; Colossians 4:3-4).  Thank you!

For more on this, please click on this link:  Contending for the Faith in America.

I also recommend the following additional resources:

Essays:  Is Christ-Centered Preaching a Biblical Mandate? by Fred A. Malone;  A Listener’s Guide to the Pulpit by Todd Wilken; Preaching Christ, by Charles McIlvaine (1799-1873)

Books:  Preaching Christ in All Scripture, by Edmund Clowney; Him We Proclaim, by Dennis Johnson, Christ-Centered Preaching, by Bryan Chapell