ministry

Oct

18

2011

Commending Them to God

Those who read this blog have probably already heard the news by now, but figure it is about time to say it in public. Long story short is that I will be stepping down from the pastoral ministry, having concluded over a long period of struggling that I am not yet fit to be in the pastoral role, finding myself lacking both a clear calling and a sufficient training. 

I came here to Taiwan to try to serve the church here, out of love for them upon hearing that they would be without a pastor--but not out of a response to the call of God. Even now, it is still this man-centered desire ("I can still do it!") that makes me want to continue and be there for them. Yet, if God has not called me here, then I ought not to be here. I also came without finishing a full seminary training and without sufficient time "learning the ropes" in practical ministry experience, with the result that I really am just not equipped to do the work here.  

I have decided with counsel that I am not suited for this, at least not at this juncture. We will see what God has prepared for the future. But if there is a next time, it will be approached more cautiously and preceded by completed training. I plan for now to return to EBCB as a normal member, work as a programmer, and grow as a Christian.

Many have wished I would have continued and persevered. Many are possibly shocked by this news. Hadn't I just said I was seeking to grow in faithfulness and perseverance? What made this decision easy and fast at the end was when things came into clear focus and I realized it was not an issue of perseverance, but of principle. While the struggles here were the occasion of me asking hard questions about whether I am fit here, they were not ultimately the cause. In the end, if I am doing this only because I want to help people, and not in obedience to God's call, and if I am not adequately trained, then I simply should not keep doing it. So that is the plan for now. 

Pastor John visited here this past weekend to talk to the church about how this decision affects them. They will be continuing (at least for the next 6 months) to meet together and pray together for God's provision of another pastor. Please pray with them as I will surely be doing. The great comfort to me at this time is that the Lord is my Shepherd, and the Lord is their Shepherd. It has been an amazing privilege to serve them and be used for the salvation of some and the spiritual growth of others. Yet, it is time for me to set this lofty position down for now and entrust them to God.

Acts 20:32 seem to be the right words to close with:

And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Now I get two more sermons to help prepare them to wait, and to prepare them to receive the next pastor who comes. Please pray I can invest as much as I can into them in these next two weeks. I will return to America on Oct. 31. Thank you for your faithful prayers on our behalf. Please keep them coming for the church.

Sep

28

2011

Reformed Christian Ministry

Carl Trueman has written an insightful post recently entitled "Is the Reformation nearly over? Perhaps, but maybe not for the reason you think", which is about the holistic pastoral concern which was a major in the Reformation and how this mindset is lacking in the multi-site model.

Now, I don't subscribe to the multi-site model, but I enjoyed this article not only for this reason; much more because I find these words equally convicting and challenging applied to myself! 

In the process, the importance of putting in place educated ministers who could articulate the faith and offer pastoral nurture to the people was never far from the centre of concern.

...

Further, they were too busy training people to go to places where there was no Reformation witness to have found the idea of church planting on the doorstep of faithful churches to be an attractive idea

...

The problem with the way 'Reformed' is often used today is that it divorces certain things (typically the five, or more often, four points of Calvinism) from the overall Reformation vision of pastoral care, church worship, Christian nurture and all-round approach to ministry.

...

The Reformation was about more than a doctrinal insight into justification; it was also about abolishing the fetishisation of certain great figures as if they possessed some special magic and about instituting an ideal of educated, personal, local ministry.

Sep

18

2011

God Speaking Through Preaching?

Three quotes to think about:

The Second Helvetic Confession

The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God.

John Calvin, Institutes, IV.i.5

It is a singular privilege that He deigns to consecrate to Himself the mouths and tongues of men in order that His voice may resound in them.

Al Mohler, He Is Not Silent, p. 57

I fear that there are many evangelicals today who believe that God spoke but doubt whether he speaks. . . . But if you call yourself a preacher of God's Word, and you think that all of God's speaking was in the past, then resign. I say that with deadly seriousness. . . . If you are not confident that God speaks as you rightly read and explain the Word of God, then you should quit.

Discuss.

Sep

05

2011

Faith Is Greater than Reason

I found an insightful comment from a puritan prayer I read this morning, entitled "Belonging to Jesus":

I thank thee for showing me the vast difference
    between knowing things by reason,
    and knowing them by the spirit of faith.

By reason I see a thing is so;
    by faith I know it as it is.

I have seen thee by reason and have not been amazed,

I have seen thee as thou art in thy Son and have been ravished to behold thee.

Indeed. I desire to know God not simply by reason as a list of facts which do not affect my heart and do not lead to amazement and worship, but rather to see him through the eye of faith to know him truly as he is. I desire to know God more and not simply know more about him. I so desire also to have God's blessing upon my ministry such that the Spirit of God might effect this in the hearts of others as well.

Jul

21

2011

Sermon Preparation Prayer

Lord, help me to...

Study diligently

Think carefully

Feel deeply

Write clearly

Speak passionately

and then entrust all the rest to You.

Jul

20

2011

Running Ahead with Patience

Running ahead is not usually  associated with patience, neither do these seem to fit well together. We might think to connect running with endurance, but not patience. We want to be like the hare racing ahead, yet also must be like the tortoise patiently trodding along. There is a strange tension as a Christian, and I feel it more intensely in the ministry, of a need to be running ahead, and yet doing so with patience.

We want to see the gospel advance, we want to see people grow, we want to see conversions happen and people saved, we want to see progress and moving forward; we want to see explosive things happen. We are to not look back, but to press on running forward (Phil 3:13).

Yet, we are told to be preach the word "with complete patience" (2Ti 4:2), that we are to sow seeds, that growth is like a plant that grows and bears fruit--not exactly something that happens overnight. Even though we are to press on running forward, we have not yet arrived (Phil 3:12)! Rather, we are told that this change happens gradually and slowly, "from one degree of glory to another" (2Co 3:18).

This tension helps me. We pursue excellence, yet recognize perfection does not come this side of glory. In all of our pursuit forward, we do so with patience. 

Mar

31

2011

Expository Listening, by Ken Ramey

Expository Listening, by Ken Ramey is a helpful book on how to listen to the word of God preached. Those who listen to sermons have much more preparation to do than those who preach sermons--and have an equally great accountability to obey God's word as those who preach. It is not only pastor who much "practices what he preaches", the congregation must also "practice what he preaches"!

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Mar

21

2011

Reverberation

Having recently read The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love, I was excited to pick up Reverberation by Jonathan Leeman and see what he had to say about how the word of God works in the life of the church, and what this means for how pastoral ministry is to be done. As I mentioned in a recent post, his thesis is, "God's Word, working through God's Spirit, is God's primary instrument for growing God's church" (Reverberation, 19).

I came to the book with two desires. For one, I wanted to see how he would map out the trajectory of God's word in the life of the church. I want to make sure that my expectations are set on the right things and have the right priorities in the church. Secondly, I wanted to learn more how the word works so that my confidence in it may be deepened. All in all, mission accomplished.

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Mar

17

2011

Spirit-Backed Preaching with Freedom and Authenticity

For various reasons, I have been brought these days to read more on the church and on preaching in particular. If there is one firm conviction I have about ministry, if I know anything at all, it is this: the Word of God is true, is the authority, is the power to change, and preaching it in the power of God's Spirit is the essence of ministry. On my blog's "about me" page, I say it this way: I believe that Spirit-backed expository preaching of God's word is the heart of the Christian ministry.

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Feb

10

2011

Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome

Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, by Kent and Barbara Hughes is an encouraging book. Begins with them telling their story of how they ended up discouraged in ministry on account of a sense of failure, and how this sparked their study that led to this book. This is followed by their definition of success in about seven different points. These provide a helpful way to truly measure success in God's eyes. They conclude with encouragements and sources of encouragement to the discouraged pastor, as well as ways the congregation and wife can help.

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Matt Hauck (郝柏昇)

A once enemy now son, forgiven and freed by Jesus' blood, adopted and called by grace for glory.   (more...)