HT: Tim Brister
I recently had the opportunity to attend the Acts29 bootcamp in St. Louis. My wife was able to go with me, and I must say we both left encouraged, challenged, and thankful. I’ve long appreciated what Acts29 guys are saying, promoting, and writing (The Resurgence); so I wanted to get a closer look and here are some of the observations I walked away with.
- They want to make Jesus and the Gospel big. They want to preach Jesus from the Scriptures, and they want to make the gospel the core of everything they do. This emphasis was not just theme of the bootcamp, but it is the theme and driving force of the entire network.
- I saw a real sense of brotherhood. These guys care about other pastors. They want to coach, mentor, and disciple you. We had so many great conversations with other men and women; people facing similar challenges, but trusting in the same Lord.
- As much as these guys care about pastors, they care the same, if not more about healthy gospel-saturated marriages. The had some really good stuff to say to men about being husbands, and had a time for the women to interact and talk about the challenges of ministry and church planting. This emphasis was really encouraging for both of us.
- They want a culture of multiplication. They are all about sending more men out and planting more churches. As much as they want to see more church plants, they are honest about the struggles and pitfalls associated with it. I was deeply challenged and grateful at the same time as I heard this theme of multiplication throughout the bootcamp.
- These guys are honest about their struggles and sins. I sensed a real transparency from the speakers and the men I spoke with. I see that the gospel is not just something these guys preach, but actually believe. Despite our sin, they continued to point all of us back to our acceptance in Jesus.
- The network is more diverse than I thought. A lot of men at the bootcamp were from all walks of life. I think there are some stereotypes about Acts29 guys that are misguided. These guys care about seeing the church made-up of people from every tongue, tribe, and nation.
- Even though the network doesn’t have a strict top-down model on ministry philosophy, almost everyone reflects the same mindset. They are big on strong leadership, godly men, relationships, discipleship, being missional, and multiplication.
While there still is a lot to process from these two-days, more than anything the Lord gave us confirmation on many things we were already thinking and believing. Whatever place you find yourself in; you should attend a bootcamp.
Found this humorous, but true:
Churches must not look for people who are never jerks, but for the people who admit that they are jerks and are willing to fight it. Kind of like me. Maybe like you?
Jonathan Leeman, Church Membership, p. 90.
Carl Trueman has some excellent thoughts on the gospel and the church. As much as I have a concern and love for the local church, he reminds me why the gospel must remain central. Below is an excerpt of what he writes. Read the whole thing here.
Now, Paul certainly thought ecclesiology was important: it is why he spends so much time talking about it in his Pastoral Epistles. He also had very little to say about arts pastors. He never seems to have identified the Christian mind with being taken seriously by secular academics, intellectuals, and people who throw paint at blank canvases. But he did spend rather a lot of time talking about Christ. Indeed, his primary focus was always on the gospel and – crucially – he never conflated the gospel with the doctrine of the church or with opinions about the Christians relationship to secular society. Ecclesiology is necessary to Paul in this end-time tribulation for the preservation and transmission of the gospel. For Paul, an understanding of believers as sojourners and pilgrims arises out of a correct understanding of what the gospel means; but neither of these are to be identified in itself with the gospel or to occupy more discussion space than the gospel.
In case you aren’t familiar with the Elephant Room you can check it out here. If you are familiar with it, then you know the recent swirl that has taken place with the invitation of T.D. Jakes. Below are three helpful reflections that I benefited from.
Grace and Truth Beyond the Elephant Room, by Trevin Wax
Truth, Debate, Unity, and The Elephant Room, by Joe Thorn
The Elephant in the Room, by Voddie Baucham
Seven Thoughts on the Elephant Room and T.D. Jakes, by Kevin DeYoung
11 Things I’m Thinking in the Wake of Recent Events, by Thabiti Anyabwile
Carson and Keller on Jakes and the Elephant Room, by Don Carson & Tim Keller
I really appreciate the 9Marks ministry. Where I have really benefited from them is how to put “flesh on the bones” so to speak. Scripture clearly gives us the theology and direction for ministry, but at times pastors need encouragement in connecting the dots and thinking practically about certain situations. Recently I found two posts by 9Marks that were especially applicable.
Probably most are familiar with this article from Bridges’ book, The Bookends of the Christian Life, but it is well worth reading again.
How a Mega-Church is Rediscovering the Gospel, by Joe Coffey.
A couple of interesting posts have recently come up regarding the challenges of pastoral ministry. The first is by Thabiti Anyabwile. Here are some of the statisitics he shares (read the rest here):
Hours and Pay
- 90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
- 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
- 70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.
Training and Preparedness
- 90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.
- 90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they
thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.
Health and Well-Being
- 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
- 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if
they could, but have no other way of making a living.
Marriage and Family
- 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
- 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.
- 80% spouses feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.
- 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
- 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
- #1 reason pastors leave the ministry — Church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction but the people are not willing to follow or change.
- 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
- 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.
- 4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.
- Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
- Over 1,300 pastors were terminated by the local church each month, many without cause.
- Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year.
The other post is from Jared Moore (read here). His post is more about the way you will be treated in pastoral ministry, rather than statistics about it. Here’s what he writes:
If you enter pastoral ministry…
10. Not everyone will like you.
9. You will make people angry regardless how godly you handle yourself; it comes with the position.
8. You will feel like a failure often; and when you do appear to succeed, the fruit that is produced cannot be accredited to you. God alone gives the increase. Thus, there is little “sense of accomplishment in ministry” that you may be accustomed to in other vocations.
7. You will fight legalism and liberalism, along with laziness, ignorance, tradition, and opposition.
6. Not everyone will respond positively to your preaching, teaching, or leadership. You will bring people to tears with the same sermon: one in joy, another in anger (I have done this).
5. You will be criticized, rarely to your face, and frequently behind your back. This criticism will come from those that appear to love you, those that obviously do not like you, and pastors and Christians that barely know you.
4. You will think about quitting yearly or monthly, if not weekly or even daily.
3. You will be persecuted for preaching the truth, mostly from your brothers and sisters in the pews.
2. You will feel very lonely on a consistent basis, feeling like no one truly knows you or cares how you feel, because you do not want to burden your family, and trust-worthy peers are few and far in-between. Because of the “super-Christian” myth accredited to pastors literally, you will find it extremely difficult to disclose your deep thoughts and feelings to others. Thus, you will struggle with loneliness.
1. You will probably pastor a church that is barely growing (if at all), is opposed to change, doesn’t pay well, has seen pastors come and go, doesn’t respect the position as biblically as they should, doesn’t understand what the Bible says a pastor’s or a church’s jobs are, and will only follow you when they agree with you (thus, they’ll really only follow themselves).
After understanding these realities, do you still want to be a pastor? If so, then God has probably called you to the ministry!
I can certainly agree and relate to much of what both of these men have written. With that said, there is nothing else I would ever want to do than be a pastor. Despite the many hardships, I can easily list the fruit and blessings that God has bestowed in ministry. Yes, it is good to be reminded of the challenges with pastoral ministry, but let us also give thanks that God has called us to such a noble task and makes us fit for it according to his grace.
One of the challenges facing biblical theology is making it applicable to the local church and pastoral ministry. However, when we recognize that we are part of God’s ongoing redemptive plan we quickly discover how the story of Scripture has implications for the church and ministry. I am grateful that over the past year or so there have been some good resources that address how biblical theology is applied to the church and pastoral ministry.
Michael Lawrence, Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church. Lawrence has done the church a tremendous service by providing in one volume a book that covers the what, how, and why of biblical theology. In the first section of the book, Lawrence spends a good deal of time on what biblical theology is and how it relates to systematic theology. This section of the book is especially helpful for those unfamiliar with biblical theology. Lawrence then shows how biblical theology is done by providing five examples on various themes from Scripture. The final section of the book is most helpful. Lawrence spends time explaining why biblical theology is important for the church and applies the discipline to various aspects of ministry: preaching, teaching, counseling, missions, et al. If you are seasoned in biblical theology you might find the first two sections of the book a repeat from things you have read and learned elsewhere. If you are not seasoned in biblical theology then carefully chew on what Lawrence has to say in those two sections. Regardless of whether you are conversant or new to biblical theology the last portion of the book is where it all comes together. Lawrence’s book is a great resource to introduce others to biblical theology while showing its practical benefits for the local church and pastoral ministry.
Michael R. Emlet, CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet. Emlet’s book came out near the end of 2009, but I did not read until recently. It is by far one of the best books I have read this year. In his book, Emlet seeks to apply biblical theology to pastoral ministry. Specifically, he wants to show how biblical theology is essential and applicable for counseling. Emlet spends several chapters talking about what the Bible is and is not. This part of the book is important, since it helps readers understand that proper biblical interpretation is crucial for effective counseling. Emlet argues that a correct interpretation of the Bible is done when Christ is seen as the sum and substance of God’s Word. Believers must understand redemptive-history if they are to properly apply the Bible. In the next portion of the book, Emlet states that all people live by some story. Although people are directed by all sorts of stories, the story that should govern our lives is the story of Scripture. Emlet explains how to connect the story of Scripture to the lives of people in a way that is responsible and meaningful. Emlet provides some helpful categories of understanding the lives of people (saint, sufferer, and sinner) and then shows how Scripture addresses each of them in a biblical-theological way. In the last four chapters of the book, Emlet unpacks how to apply biblical theology to counseling with two different people and situations. Emlet has provided a helpful book for pastors. I found myself agreeing with him again and again. Whether you are a pastor or not, purchase CrossTalk and be encouraged to see how biblical theology is applicable to the lives of God’s people.
Here are a few other resources on applying biblical theology to the church and pastoral ministry.
R. J. Gibson, ed., Interpreting God’s Plan: Biblical Theology and the Pastor. A collection of essays from the faculty at Moore Theological College on the importance and application of biblical theology for the pastor.
Scott J. Hafemann, ed., Biblical Theology: Restrospect & Prospect. In this book there is a short essay by Graeme Goldsworthy entitled, “Biblical Theology as the Heartbeat of Effective Ministry.”
Graeme Goldsworthy lectures at Southern Seminary on biblical theology. His lectures are in MP3 and PDF format. Pay special attention to the one on “Biblical Theology and Its Pastoral Application.” See them here.
Read anything by the authors and faculty of CCEF. CCEF is a ministry that seeks to provide and train the church and pastors with a gospel-centered approach to counseling. Interestingly, Michael Emlet is a faculty member at CCEF and one of their required courses is a class on biblical interpretation. Learn more about CCEF here.