“If you can do anything else, do it.”

October has been Pastor Appreciation Month. I am thankful for those who have reached out to me this month, and I want to express my appreciation for those who have pastorally poured time, love and energy into me.

A question that people sometimes ask is, “How do you know if you’re called into pastoral ministry?”

“The Prince of Preachers”, Charles Haddon Spurgeon addressed this question to the students in his pastoral training school, recorded for us in the book, Lectures to My Students

Spurgeon’s advice to his students was: “If you can do anything else, do it. If you can stay out of the ministry, stay out of the ministry.”

He continued, “If any student in this room could be content to be a newspaper editor or a grocer or a farmer or a doctor or a lawyer or a senator or a king, in the name of heaven and earth, let him go his way.”

In other words, only those who believe they are chosen by God for the pulpit should proceed in undertaking this sacred, yet difficult, and sometimes wearisome calling.

Why You Should Do Anything Else if You Can

Earlier this year, I shared the tragic story of Andrew Stoecklein — see: Pastors, Depression and Suicide

Pastoral ministry is taxing on the pastor’s family. The church is not only the pastor’s “workplace” or place of ministry, it is also their family’s own faith community. There is a social element to it as well. When people leave the church, your kids suffer because they lose friends.

I came across these posts from pastors on social media recently, reflecting some of why people in pastoral ministry struggle:

https://www.facebook.com/cnieuwhof/posts/951599645028464

Why There’s Nothing Else I’d Rather Do

My point here is not to complain but to acknowledge that pastoral ministry can be difficult. There is something cathartic about hearing someone else say these things out loud.

However, there’s nothing else I’d rather do.

This is the genius of Spurgeon’s statement: If you can do anything else, do it. There are plenty of other ways to serve God. The role of pastor is only one of many roles in the body of Christ. And yet, there are those who find themselves convinced that there is, in fact, nothing else they can rightly do but answer God’s call to serve His people through pastoral ministry.

These are those who say along with the Apostle Paul: For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if it is not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. (1 Corinthians 9:16-18)

They say along with Jeremiah: “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, indeed I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9)

It isn’t only a duty, it is also a joy. It is an honor and a joy to be able to lead a group of God’s people and regularly get to be an instrument through which God helps people grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is an honor and a privilege to get to be involved in the most meaningful moments of people’s lives as a representative of God’s Kingdom.

There are very few things in life that are truly meaningful, which are not also difficult.

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. (1 Timothy 3:1)
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.  (1 Timothy 5:17)

So, to all you pastors out there:

Take joy in being a pastor! Keep fighting that good fight, keep running that race, keep looking to Jesus. Seek your acknowledgement, affirmation and appreciation primarily from Him. Go to Him with your frustrations and hurts. Cast your cares on Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

And may we say along with the Apostle Paul:

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24)

Happy Pastor Appreciation Month!

What is Expository Preaching? – Some Thoughts from Martyn Lloyd-Jones

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The approach to preaching that we champion at White Fields is called “expository preaching.” I’m also involved with a movement called the Expositors Collective – which will have its next event in Bradenton, Florida on Nov 30-Dec 1, and which has a great podcast you should check out!

What is Expository Preaching?

The root word of “expository” is “expose” – and expository preaching is all about exposing the meaning of the text, as opposed to imposing a meaning upon the text. 

The goal of expository preaching is to let the Bible speak for itself, rather than using it as a “prooftext” to validate what we already think or what we really want to say. As opposed to coming to the Scriptures with a pre-conceived notion or goal and then looking for verses which back that up, expository preaching/teaching is focused on coming to the Bible and understanding what it has to say to us.

For this reason, we usually teach and preach through the Bible in a verse-by-verse fashion, but expository preaching can be done when addressing topics as well.

However, just teaching verse-by verse does not necessarily equal expository preaching. An expository sermon aims to expose as clearly as possible the meaning of the text, which means that it will have an effective structure for doing so, and will bring in other biblical texts to reach that goal.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Expository Sermons vs. Running Commentary

Consider these words from Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ classic: Preaching and Preachers

A sermon should always be expository. But, immediately, that leads me to say something which I regard as very important indeed in this whole matter. A sermon is not a running commentary on, or a mere exposition of, the meaning of a verse or a passage or a paragraph.

I emphasise this because there are many today who have become interested in what they regard as expository preaching but who show very clearly that they do not know what is meant by expository preaching. They think that it just means making a series of comments, or a running commentary on a paragraph or a passage or a statement. They take a passage verse by verse; and they make their comments on the first, then they go on to the next verse, and do the same with that, then the next, and so on. When they have gone through the passage in this way they imagine they have preached a sermon. But they have not; all they have done is to make a series of comments on a passage.

I would suggest that far from having preached a sermon such preachers have only preached the introduction to a sermon! This, in other words, raises the whole question of the relationship of exposition to the sermon. My basic contention is that the essential characteristic of a sermon is that it has a definite form, and that it is this form that makes it a sermon. It is based upon exposition, but it is this exposition turned or moulded into a message which has this characteristic form.

A phrase that helps to bring out this point is one which is to be found in the Old Testament in the Prophets where we read about ‘the burden of the Lord’. The message has come to the prophet as a burden, it has come to him as an entire message, and he delivers this. That is something, I argue, which is not true of a mere series of comments upon a number of verses.

I maintain that a sermon should have form in the sense that a musical symphony has form. A symphony always has form, it has its parts and its portions. The divisions are clear, and are recognised, and can be described; and yet a symphony is a whole. You can divide it into parts, and yet you always realise that they are parts of a whole, and that the whole is more than the mere summation or aggregate of the parts.

One should always think of a sermon as a construction, a work which is in that way comparable to a symphony. In other words a sermon is not a mere meandering through a number of verses; it is not a mere collection or series of excellent and true statements and remarks. All those should be found in the sermon, but they do not constitute a sermon. What makes a sermon a sermon is that it has this particular ‘form’ which differentiates it from everything else.

Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Preaching and Preachers (pp. 82-84). Zondervan

He then goes on to make the point that “Spirit-led” does not mean structureless. We must not assume that structure and organization is at odds with being open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The ultimate goal of expository preaching is to let God’s Word speak and be understood as clearly, and with appropriate force upon the life of the hearers, that they might know God’s Word to them.

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Pastors, Depression and Suicide

This past weekend, a young head pastor from an influential church in Southern California took his own life. From all outward appearances, Pastor Andrew Stoecklein of Inland Hills Church in Chino had it all: a successful ministry, a photogenic family. And yet, he struggled with depression.

Please join me in praying for Andrew’s wife and three sons. My heart breaks for them.

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Pastor Andrew Stoecklein and family

Sometimes people have asked me questions like: “I see the statistics on pastors, about burnout and how many pastors leave the ministry every year. What is it about being a pastor that makes it more difficult than other work?”

My main answer to that question has usually been that what makes it hard is the personal aspect. Pastoring people is highly relational, and with that comes high highs and low lows.

It has been said that in order to be a pastor, one must have the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the hide of a rhinoceros.

Another pastor summed it up this way:

In this generation, pastors are expected to be business savey, Instagram quotable preaching celebrities, fully accessible, deeply spiritual, not too young, not too old, and if a pastor doesn’t quite measure up to someone’s expectation at any given moment, you are given a two out of five star rating on Google.

I certainly don’t want to come across as whining or complaining. Pastors get to do the greatest thing in the world: to love people, teach them and lead them towards Jesus. We get to be there in the most crucial moments of people’s lives, and minister the gospel to them. We get to lead people towards the building up of God’s Kingdom and the spreading of the message of ultimate life, hope and joy!

If ever we feel that we are used or taken for granted by people – isn’t that what we signed up for? Isn’t that what Jesus himself experienced, and part of what made him so great? Isn’t that what it means to get to “share in his sufferings”? (See Philippians 3:8-10)

But in light of this high profile suicide of a well-known pastor, I think it is worth talking about, and taking the opportunity to encourage you to pray for your pastor and look for ways to encourage them.

Here is a good article written on this subject from Thom Rainer: 5 reasons pastors get depressed (and why they don’t talk about it)

Finally, whoever you are, if you are struggling with depression, please reach out for help.
(Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255)

 

Expositors Collective is Coming to Colorado!

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A few months ago I told you about an initiative I’m involved in called Expositors Collective, which is a movement to raise up the next generation of Christ-centered expository Bible teachers.

Our first event was held in March in California, but our next event will be held in Aurora, CO on July 20-21, 2018.

This will be a 2-day interactive seminar for young men and women age 18-34 who feel called to teach God’s Word and would like to receive instruction and ongoing mentorship in this area. If that’s you, then you won’t want to miss this – or if you know someone else who would benefit from this, send them our way!

Location: Calvary Aurora, 18900 E Hampden Ave, Aurora, CO

For more information and to sign up, go to: expositorscollective.com
On the website you can see some of the great Bible teachers we have coming in to lead this.

Spaces are limited, so sign up soon!

Calvary Chapel Ukraine Pastors and Leaders Conference and Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk

The past few days have flown by in a blur. On Friday Jani and Tünde arrived to Kyiv from Eger and then we headed out the the Calvary Chapel Ukraine Pastors and Leaders conference which was held at a very nice Christian conference center in Irpen, just North-West of Kyiv. There were also pastors in attendance from Belarus and Moldova, almost 40 in total.
Ben Morrison and I taught the conference on the topic of Christocentric preaching, and our focus was on explaining why it's important to preach that way and how to do it. Let's just say, the weekend and the material was nothing short of revolutionary for these pastors, and I can see how God is going to use this approach to shape this movement going forward. It was so good that I plan to make sharing this approach a priority in the US and wherever else I will have the opportunity to do so.
One of the pastors in Ukraine, in the city of Kharkiv, is the nephew of a lady at White Fields, so it was great to connect. Additionally, the pastor who came up from Moldova is an old friend of my wife and I, and it was great to catch up with him and hear what the Lord is doing there.
After the conference, Travis and I drove with Ben and Levi to Svitlovodsk, and this morning I taught at their church service. The people are very open and responsive to the Gospel and I was able to see many of the people I had met on my trip last year.
In the evening we did a men's fellowship at the Banya (Russian sauna) and had a great time.
Tomorrow evening and the following evening Travis and I will be teaching a seminar on Work as Worship, so please pray that goes well.
Here are some photos of the conference and church today:

Me teaching at the CC Ukraine Pastors and Leaders Conference with Victor Fisin translating. Victor is the pastor of Calvary Chapel Kharkov, Ukraine
Ben Morrison teaching at the conference
Teaching the morning at Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk with Ben translating to Russian
CC Svitlovodsk

 

A Day in Kyiv

We arrived yesterday to Kyiv and have been staying with George and Sharron Markey. George's dad pioneered Calvary Chapel church planting in Ukraine, where there are now around 20 churches.
About 9 months ago George and his family moved back to Kyiv from Ternopil, where they had planted a church several years ago, to lead the church in Kyiv after the previous pastor stepped down. When I lived in Eger I had come to Ternopil twice to work with George and visit the church there.
After we arrived yesterday we went with George to the church office where he had a meeting, and then we got to walk around the city center of Kyiv.
In just a little bit we will be heading to the conference center for the Pastors and Leaders Conference which begins this afternoon. Jani and Tünde from Eger are on their way; I'm hoping they'll be blessed, instructed and encouraged by the conference and get connected with the Ukrainian Calvary Chapel leaders.
Here are some pictures from downtown Kyiv:

Dniper River in Kyiv
Mother of the Motherland Statue and Great Patriotic War Memorial

Famine Memorial

 

Every Single Day

There are certain messages that you hear, which you never forget. I remember hearing Jon Courson speak at a missions conference in Austria in the early 2000’s. I don’t remember much of what he said, but I do remember this phrase, which he repeated several times:

Read your Bible and pray,
every single day.

Novel concept for a group of missionaries and pastors, right? 

Well, it is actually. Because one rut that preachers and Bible teachers in particular tend to fall into is that of only reading your Bible to look for something to preach on or teach about: “sermon material” if you will. 

What I have found is that when I read the Bible purely to hear from the Lord and delight in His Word, it keeps me so fresh and alive as a Christian, that it makes me a better minister.

For example, yesterday I was reading through 2 Chronicles, and I read chapters 20-23. That’s one of those sections of the Bible that people like to skip over, because it’s full of hard to pronounce names and stories that are downright confusing – because it’s never clear who the “good guy” really is (hint: the only “good guy” in the story is GOD himself!).

After reading those passages, I went to meet with a brother from our church, and it just so happened that the very chapters I had read spoke directly to what he was going through in his life – in a way that was actually quite moving. And it wasn’t just one thing – it was several things from various stories in those 4 chapters. If I hadn’t been reading through the Word consistently, I’m sure I would have had something to share with this brother, but it wouldn’t have been so alive and prophetic as this was.

Another thing I remember Jon Courson saying: 

Wherever you are in the Word, that’s where you are.

That was basically Jon’s way of saying that in the providence of God, the scriptures you will read as you read through the Bible will often apply directly to the situation you are in. I have found that to be very true. 

May we never be people who only look to God’s word for “material” that we can USE in speaking to others. May we come to it always as the fountain of life.  But if you do that, you will also find that when you hide His Word in your heart, you will have plenty of “material” to share with others. 

The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death. – Proverbs 14:27

What is the best thing happening at your church?

About 2 months ago I got invited to a pastors’ lunch up in Berthoud. There were about 12 of us there from different churches in Northern Colorado – I was the only one from Longmont. There was a guest speaker, Ray, who pastors a large church in Sacramento.

I’ve been to these kinds of meetings before – but this one was different, because Ray asked a question that I wasn’t expecting:

“What is the best thing happening at your church?”

That was the question which he opened the meeting with, and it caught me off guard! I had expected Ray to talk about the great things that he is doing, or to ask: ‘what needs to change at your church?’ – but I wasn’t ready for that question: “What is the BEST thing happening at your church?”

It seems that the other pastors in the room were caught off guard by it too, because many of them didn’t know what to say. Quickly though, momentum picked up and everyone had plenty to say on that topic – including me.

Ray went on to explain that we need to stop focusing on what is lacking, and we need to start focusing on what is right – the areas where our church is knocking it out of the park and killing it, the things that we just naturally do well, and we need to do those things more and better!

I have found this concept to be so freeing, so invigorating and exciting and so vision-focusing – not only when it comes to visioneering for church, but when it comes to life and who God has called me to be.
The essence is: Who is it that God has uniquely gifted and called you to be? What is that niche that God has created you for and called you to?  You can’t be everything – but you can be something, and if you learn to focus on being and doing what God has uniquely called and gifted you to do and be, then you will thrive, and it won’t be contrived, it won’t be a burden – it will feel like you just stepped into the fast-current on the lazy river ride at the water park, rather than being stuck in the whirlpool.

This is important when it comes to church, because the fact is that there are other churches out there. And there are many churches that are doing things that we aren’t – or can’t. BUT – there are things that we can do better than any of them; there is a culture that we have, that they don’t. There is a place and a role that God has uniquely given us in the Body of Christ in this place. There is a reason why people come to our church – and it’s not because they don’t know that there are other churches out there.

So I’ve been asking the question: What are the greatest things happening at White Fields church?
And THOSE are the things I want to be focused on. Those are the things I want to turn the dial UP on and make better. Rather than focusing on what we aren’t (yet) – I want to focus on what we ARE and what makes us great, uniquely – and turn up the dial on that! When you start thinking that way, you are no longer “competing” with other churches, but you realize that you are each filling a different role in the Body of Christ.

The danger is, that if we spend all our energy focused on what we aren’t (yet), we can neglect the things which to us are as easy and natural as falling off a log – and then those things will suffer as a result. The end result of that? We are mediocre at EVERYTHING and great at nothing. Rather, our focus should be on being GREAT at the things which God has uniquely gifted us to be and do – and those are usually the things which come most naturally to us – which are as easy as falling off a log.

People wanted David to fight Goliath the way that Goliath was good at fighting. David knew that he could probably do that – but it wasn’t what he was good at. He knew that he wasn’t Goliath. But he also knew what he was: he was David. And he had certain abilities and strengths, that he was uniquely gifted at: he could sling a rock like no one else! So he went out to battle with his strength, and ended up victorious.
It is important to know who you are, who you aren’t – and how God has uniquely gifted and called you. Go to battle with that, and you are much more likely to be victorious.

This doesn’t just apply only to church – it applies to many areas of life, business, etc. Who has God uniquely called you to be? What is the niche that God has called you to fill?  You don’t have to be everything! But God has called you and gifted you uniquely for somethings. Focus on those things. Go and kill it in those areas, and focus on developing those areas and being GREAT at those things.

Leave me a comment below and tell me: What’s the BEST thing happening in your church?