Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hunters and Gatherers

My wife is a wonderful cook, and normally gets dinner on the table at a reasonable hour. But on this day, she came home with the groceries a little too late for our 11-month old son. Being the hunter-gatherer that he is, he took matters into his own hands!

That's my boy!

Friday, October 26, 2007

More Murray: On The Incarnation and Humility, Christ and Ours

The life of God which in the incarnation entered human nature is the root in which we are to stand and grow; it is the same almighty power that worked there, and thence onward to the resurrection, which works daily in us. Our one need is to study and know and trust the life that has been revealed in Christ as the lift that now is ours, and waits for our consent to gain possession and mastery of our whole being.

In this view it is of inconceivable importance that we should have right thoughts of what Christ is--of what really constitutes Him the Christ--and specifically of what may be counted His chief characteristic, the root and essence of all His character as our Redeemer. There can be but one answer: it is His humility. What is the incarnation but His heavenly humility, His emptying Himself and becoming man? What is His life on earth but humility, His taking the form of a servant? And what is His atonement but humility? "He humbled himself and became obedient unto death." And what is His ascension and His glory but humility exalted to the throne and crown with glory? "He humbled Himself, therefore God highly exalted Him." In heaven where He was with the Father, in His birth, in His life, in His death, in His sitting on the throne, it is all--it is nothing but humility. Christ is the humility of God embodied in human nature: the Eternal Love humbling itself, clothing itself in the garb of meekness and gentleness, to win and serve and save us. As the love and condescension of God makes Him the benefactor and helper and servant of all, so Jesus of necessity was the Incarnate Humility. And so He is still in the midst of the throne, the meek and lowly Lamb of God.

If this be the root of the tree, its nature must be seen in every branch and leaf and fruit. If humility be the first, the all-including grace of the life of Jesus--if humility be the secret of His atonement--then the health and strength of our spiritual life will entirely depend upon our putting this grace first also, and making humility the chief thing we admire in Him, the chief thing we ask of Him, the on thing for which we sacrifice all else.

Andrew Murray, Humility: The Beauty of Holiness, p. 20-21.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Finding Reliable Men: Not a Lover of Money

It's an ol' school O'Jays kinda morning in the Cayman Islands. Well, maybe not in the Cayman Islands, but in my office in the Cayman Islands.

When I turned to Paul's instructions to Timothy on finding qualified overseers, this morning's qualification reminded me of a classic O'Jays song called, "For the Love of Money." Here are some of the lyrics for the unitiated (I see the rest of y'all already bobbing your heads):

For the love of money
People will steal from their mother
For the love of money
People will rob their own brother
For the love of money
People can't even walk the street
Because they never know who in the world they're gonna beat
For that lean, mean, mean green
Almighty dollar, money

For the love of money
People will lie, Lord, they will cheat
For the love of money
People don't care who they hurt or beat
For the love of money
A woman will sell her precious body
For a small piece of paper it carries a lot of weight
Call it lean, mean, mean green
Almighty dollar

Perhaps one of the most frequent criticism I hear of Christian churches is the fear that "all the pastor/church wants is my money." And let's be honest, with the non-stop jingles and pithy promises of a big spiritual pay-off that fills the air on some television stations, one can understand how people might fear this. The Daddy Graces, Kenneth Copelands, "Cashflow" Dollars of the world have made this a real issue. And before the contemporary televangelists stepped on the scene, there were popes and their underlings selling indulgences and the like to finance their tastes in high-quality art and monuments to men.

Against all of this, the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy to find men who are "not a lover of money." The KJV does its usually poetic and lively job with language here. The man is "not greedy of filthy lucre." And this rendering gets closer to the compound word used here. Paul has in view an indecent, dishonorable gain, a person who is eager to gain even at the expense of moral character. Interestingly, the term is only used in 1 Tim. 3, 8 and Titus 1:7, where Paul describes qualifications for elders and deacons. It would seem that the Lord has a unique concern for an elders' attitude toward money, that he not be the kind of man that would sell his soul for a buck.

Paul is giving another negative quality. Greed and love for money is to be absent or negated in the potential elder's life.

Some Observations and Questions to Ask (Please add others)

1. Does the prospective elder give generously and sacrifically? One mark of independence or freedom from money and love for it is giving. We are to store up for ourselves treasure in heaven, not on earth, to serve the Lord and not money (Matt. 6:19-24). Prizing Christ and the things of His kingdom will result in sacrificial, generous and cheerful giving among other things. Does the prospective elder give generously to the work of the church? (which may also be a measure of his commitment to the church). Does he give to the needs of others as opportunity permits? Or, is he a horder?

2. Are his investments heavenward or earthly-minded? Surely it's appropriate that a man provides for the needs of his household (1 Tim. 5:8). But does his investments tend toward excess and a love for excess? Is he financially over-extended? What kinds of debt is he carrying (consumer debts or "necessary" debt like mortgages)? Does he purchase fancy cars when a more modest model were an option? Does he love large and expensive houses when a more modest home might have met his needs? Is his savings disproportionate to his giving? And beyond merely having a fancy car or big house, does he go away like the rich young ruler at the suggestion of giving it up, giving to the poor, and following Christ with a more basic lifestyle? Can a heart attached to the world be discerned in conversation with a prospective elder about his purchases and use of money?

3. This is a close cousin to item 2 above. What is the man's philosophy about gain in this life? What for him is the measure of success? Much of secular western philosophy tends to say, "Get all you can, can all you get, then sit on your can." Or the other, more mercenary slogan: "The golden rule: he who has the most gold rules." Does the prospective elder hold either of these outlooks. Is money power in his mind? Is the amassing of money the measure of success for him? Does he horde what he gets? Is his sense of self-worth built upon possessions and wealth? Contrast all of that with Paul's instruction just a little later in 1 Timothy: "Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" (6:6-8).

4. Consider the man's professional and personal decisions, whether they are calculated to pursue gain. Does the prospective elder organize his life around the goal of monetary gain or pursuit of kingdom objectives? "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1 Tim. 6:9-10). The love of money will manifest itself in practical decisions and schemes, leading to temptation, ruin and destruction. Is the man given to over-work in the pursuit of gain, while his family or spiritual life suffers? Is he willing to bend the Lord's word or commands in order to justify pursuit of riches? Does he seem willing to make professional and family decisions (like moving to another area of town or accepting a promotion) to pursue gain at the expense of faithful involvement in the church?

5. What is his attitude toward church finances? Are there any ways that a love for money affects his outlook on the church's financial dealings? Perhaps he wants the church to stockpile cash. Or, maybe he thinks primarily about real estate value instead of whether the church's location facilitates an effective witness where one is lacking. Or, consider his participation in the approval of the church's budget. Does he seem to argue against increases in the budget because he would rather horde than invest in solid ministry? Does he approach the budget and the church's finances with faith or reliance on worldly wisdom?

6. Does the prospective elder show more regard for money than people? If there were a decision involving either serving people (even at great cost) and protecting or securing the church financially, which would he choose? Is he the kind of man that would rather be broke and serve the poor, or wealthy while surrounded by the hungry?

For a long time I resisted the urge to gospel ministry because I really didn't want to be associated in any way with the hucksters we sometimes see on TV. I thought, "Lord, let me be anything but a preacher. Too many of them seem only concerned about money." Well, the Lord will have His way... and apparently a good laugh, too. Here I am serving as a pastor in one of the largest banking sectors in the world!

The O'Jays remind me to pray this morning. They warn:

Don't let, don't let, don't let money rule you
For the love of money Money can change people sometimes
Don't let, don't let, don't let money fool you
Money can fool people sometimes
People! Don't let money, don't let money change you...

The good news is that the Lord gives us greater loves than money, which makes wings and flies away. And those loves are greater than our fear of being associated with this or that thing. He gives us greater delights in Christ... and the greatest delight of all, which is Jesus the Lamb. What a privilege it is, by God's rich grace, to preach Christ the Lamb to a world overrun with love for money. May the Lord make us all faithful and keep us from greed. And may He give to His church men who disdain the world's trinkets and serve the Master rather than mammon.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Andrew Murray on Humility

This week, in three different circumstances, I received three different books by Andrew Murray. I'm thinking I should read Murray, having never done so before. Today I wanted to share a small bit from the opening chapter of his little meditation on humility.
And so pride, or the loss of this humility, is the root of every sin and evil! It was when the now-fallen angels began to look upon themselves with self-complacency that they were led to disobedience, and were cast down from the light of heaven into outer darkness. Even so it was, when the Serpent breathed the poison of his pride--the desire to be as God--into the hearts of our first parents, they too fell from their high estate into all the wretchedness into which man is sunk. In heaven and earth, pride--self-exaltation--is the gate and the birth, and the curse, of hell.

Hence it follows that nothing can be our redemption but the restoration of the lost humility, the original and only true relation of the creature to its God. And so Jesus came to bring humility back to earth, to make us partakers of it, and by it to save us. In heaven He humbled Himself to become man. The humility we see in Him possessed Him in heaven; it brought Him, He brought it, from there. Here on earth "He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death"; His humility gave His death its value, and so became our redemption. And now the salvation He imparts is nothing less and nothing else than a communication of His own life and death, His own disposition and spirit--His own humility--as the ground and root of His relation to God and His redeeming work. Jesus Christ took the place and fulfilled the destiny of man, as a creature, by His life of perfect humility. His humility is our salvation. His salvation is our humility.

And so the life of the saved ones, of the saints, must needs bear this stamp of deliverance from sin and full restoration to their original state--their whole relation to God and man marked by an all-pervading humility. Without this there can be no true abiding in God's presence, or experience of His favor and the power of His Spirit; without this, no abiding faith, or love or joy or strength. Humility is the only soil in which the graces root; the lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure. Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with others as it is the root of all, because it alone takes the right attitude before God and allows Him as God to do all.

Andrew Murray, Humility: The Beauty of Holiness (Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, reprinted 1997)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Finding Reliable Men: Sober, Gentle, Peacemaking

I feel compelled to begin this post with a bit of personal disclosure. I hope it's not inappropriate or offensive, most of all to the memory of people I'm thinking about as I write.

My grandfather and my brothers are alcoholics. My grandfather was a binge drinker. For months he was sober... and then he'd "fall off the wagon," exploding in verbally abusive fits and from time-to-time violent behavior. In his sober periods, he was professing Christian. When drunk, you couldn't reason with him from the Scripture or speak to him of Christ. In his later years, in declining health, he gave up drinking. And he was one of my favorite people. He had a jolly laugh that caused his shoulders to jiggle and his head to fall back. And when something was particularly sweet to him, he'd let out a warm and oozy, "Yeeesss, Lord."

My brothers also binged. There's tended to be longer than my grandfather's. And like my grandfather, they lost all social skill when drinking. They lost jobs. They lost friends. They also lost their families.

Personally, I don't have any objections to the Apostle Paul's instruction in 1 Timothy 3:2. An elder or pastor should "not [be] given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome." Drunkenness, violence, and being quarrelsome are strung together here probably because they are strung together in life. Generally, where you find one, you find the other. My experience growing up around so many men sinfully given over to alcohol makes this vivid and necessary wisdom. I trust that not many others have difficulty with this instruction.
Though I love my grandfather and my brothers, and though my grandfather may have professed faith in Christ, they would not be suitable candidates for leadership in the church.

In 1 Tim. 3:3, Paul takes up qualities related to those in verse 2 (temperate, self-controlled, respectable). However, in verse 3, he states the issues in the negative. He rules out some negative characteristics. Previously, if the qualities were present the man in question satisfied the requirements. Here, if the qualities are present, the candidate is disqualified.

"Given to drunkenness" is as it sounds, a tendency to drink intoxicating beverages to excess, until the faculty of a sober mind is lost. Calvin notes that it includes "any intemperance in guzzling wine." An elder is not a winebibber.

Violence often follows intoxication. But a brawling and violent disposition is unbecoming a pastor. He is not to be a "striker." Instead, gentleness is to be his way. A pastor must evidence this beatitude, rather than its tawdry opposite.

And finally, an elder must not be quarrelsome. He is not argumentative and divisive. Paul wrote the same instruction in his second letter to Timothy. "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive" (2 Tim. 2:23-26). So, far from being an arguer, the pastor avoids arguments, patiently instructs, and recognizes that a spiritual battle normally lies beneath such disputes in the church. Patience, gentleness, and teaching are the rule of the day. And those things are not to be confused with lampooning every person with a different opinion. It more often requires discernment to stay far away from "foolish and stupid arguments." How often have pastors found themselves enmeshed in some controversy or another over some wild and silly idea. The church needs men who are able to see through such demonic ploys and give the people a model of soberness and peace.

Some Observations to Make and Questions to Ask:

1. Is the elder given to drunkenness? Does he partake of alcohol at all, and if so, is it with appropriate sobriety? Whether at home or in the community, does he drink to the point of intoxication? Are there other forms of intoxicant that enslave him?

2. Look for men who show an ability to biblically discern between the cardinal matters of the faith and "foolish and stupid arguments." We may see this in a man's teaching, if he's had opportunity to share. Does he use "public air time" to receive people to "doubtful disputations" or speculative and fanciful ideas, or does he demonstrate sound and mature judgment that emphasizes the truth of God. Is everything a matter of conscience for him and a "hill to die on," or can he parse out less important and unimportant issues? Does that show in his conversation with the sheep, or does he attempt to herd them into some "correct" mold on every issue no matter its significance?

3. In the midst of conflict is he patient and gentle? Sometimes conflict in a church is the pressure that refines diamonds. Perhaps there have been difficult situations in the church's recent past or in its current life. Who demonstrates a 2 Tim. 2:24 ability to avoid foolish disputes? Who responds with gentlenss and avoids retaliation and striking at "opponents"? Are there men facing attack and arguments who maintain hope in God that those who are lost in error or combativeness might be given from God the grace of repentance? Those men are maintaining an eternal and spiritual perspective instead of giving in to arguments and fights.

4. Beyond avoiding fights, is the prospective candidate a peacemaker? Does he do everything within his power to maintain unity in the church? (Rom. 15:5-6; Eph. 4:3; Col. 3:15) Conflict avoidance may be merely that... avoidance. An elder should be an agent of peace and reconciliation. It's a ministry given to all Christians, but an elder must be an example of positive peacemaking and unity building. It's one thing to "stay out of something," and quite another with patience and gentleness to teach others to lay down their arms and join arms. Such would be an excellent elder.

5. Is the man a physical abuser of his wife, children, or anyone else? He must not be a "striker." In the way he disciplines his children, if it includes physical discipline, is the discipline fueled by anger, rage, jealousy, or disappointment? Or, would his wife and children say his discipline is sober, appropriate, and godward? Is there a past history of spousal abuse? Current pastors would be wise to investigate how old or recent that history is, whether it was before or after conversion to faith in Christ, and if there are and have been well-established patterns of repentance and accountability. A man given to violence in his home obviously would not be managing his own family well.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Around the Blog in 80 Seconds

My brother Lance loves baseball... and the gospel--and not in that order. He's still recovering from the fact that the Phils are watching the Fall festivities and so he's resorted to creative baseball analogies for presenting the speaking schedule for the Miami Pastors' Conference (which isn't just for pastors, ya know). It's looking like a great time in the word, meditating on the riches of Christ in the gospel. Jones. Carter. Horton. Ascol. If you're anywhere near Miami this Nov. 8-10th, you need to come to Glendale Baptist Church for this year's conference! Write it down. Cancel some meetings and be there for great gospel fellowship!

Al Mohler is reviewing King Cos' new book, Come On, People (HT: JT). You may recall that Cosby took some shots and was held at arm's lengths for his comments at an NAACP event a couple years back. Well, now, he's in print saying things that some have been saying for quite a while but no one with Cosby's stature. May his tribe increase.

It's been a deep and soul-satisfying privilege to be preaching through Matthew's gospel right now. So, I've been enjoying whatever I can get my hands on re: Matthew. So, this post asking and answering Did Jesus Spiritualize the Old Testament was helpful.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Grace Gets a Facelift

Grace Church San Diego has launched a new website, coinciding with a soon to come move into new facilities. Finally we get to listen to Mark Lauterbach online and learn from the saints at grace online. Check them out!

Finding Reliable Men: Able to Teach

Have you ever thought of how central an activity teaching is in the New Testament? I know pastors think of the centrality of teaching all the time, but usually as it relates to their own duties and the gathered church. But teaching appears necessary to every aspect of the Christian life. We call ourselves disciples and we practice spiritual disciplines, ideas with their root in the clasroom, in teaching and learning. Teaching is central to how we train younger generations (Titus 2). It's central to serving others in the church and living out the faith in a worthy manner (Eph. 4). Teaching is unmistakably central to the proclamation of the gospel and making disciples (Mt. 28:19-20). If we're going to pray, we must be taught (Luke 11:1). Even singing is connected with teaching (Eph. 4:19; Col. 3:16)--we speak to one another and admonish in song, if we're singing correctly we're teaching in the process.

We could go on. Teaching and the necessity of teaching is everywhere on the pages of the New Testament. And even in the old, when God's people were revived and strengthened and made faithful it was through the agency of teaching the word of God.

So, it's completely understandable that the apostle Paul should include in his list of qualifications for church leadership "able to teach." As many have noted, of all the qualifications listed 1 Timothy 3 this ability to teach is the only qualification we would not necessarily expect of every Christian. All the others should be true of every growing and maturing Christian. Able to teach is the gift or characteristic in the list peculiarly required of those Christian men who would hold the office of elder or pastor. A man should not hold the office if he can not teach. And the reason is simple: the primary task of the elder is to teach. Other things are necessary in a church (administration, mutual care, etc). But one thing is necessarily done by the elders: teaching.

So, we're not to overlook this qualification when assessing a candidate for pastoral/elder leadership. Can he teach?

Well, what is meant by the "ability to teach"? Simply, teaching is the ability to communicate and apply the truth of Scripture with clarity, coherence, and fruitfulness. Those who have this ability handle the Scripture with fidelity, and others are edified when they do so. This ability isn't limited to public teaching from the pulpit. Men with the ability may be gifted public teachers or they may have stronger gifts one-on-one or in small groups. There are men who are teaching all the time as they counsel from the Scripture in small settings, but who would not be exceptional public speakers.

Because the entire Christian faith and life requires solid teaching, it's imperative that in considering men for leadership their ability to teach be assessed.

Some Observations and Questions (please comment on how you do this in your setting)

1. One thing that pastors have to figure out is how to give men opportunity to teach in order to assess giftedness and ability. Men who have an interest in teaching and who are perhaps otherwise qualified for the office of elder should be given opportunity to teach in appropriate settings. Some churches use their Sunday evening services to this end. Men from the congregation regularly prepare and deliver messages in that setting and it becomes an opportunity to observe how they handle Scripture and their teaching effectiveness. Other churches use Sunday school opportunities or Wednesday nights for this same purpose. Whatever the local situation, creating this opportunity for the the current pastors and the congregation to observe and affirm giftedness is critical.

2. Assuming the opportunities are in place, what is the honest assessment of ability? Pastors might grant a man several opportunities to grow and learn as a teacher. His ability need not be judged on a maiden voyage. But over time or several opportunities, does the man demonstrate skill in interpreting a text, outlining a sermon, communicating biblical ideas clearly, applying the Scripture appropriately, and anticipating objections, questions, and pastoral needs in the body? Because teaching is central, those making the assessment should not "fear man" or be too hasty. It may be that a man will develop this ability, but the ability needs to be present before a man is recognized as an elder. So, clear and honest appraisal is necessary.

3. Does the man show pastoral sensibility in his teaching? We're looking for pastors, overseers, not merely academics or polemicists. We want men who know the body and are able to apply God's word to His people. Does the prospective elder show discretion in this regard? Is he able to speak to hurts, pains, joys, needs, history, and hopes of your congregation? Does he tend to beat the sheep or feed the sheep? If he knows the people, it should show up in how he nurtures them in the teaching.

4. Is the prospective elder committed to exposition (or the church's preaching philosophy)? Does he agree with the current elder(s) on what preaching is and should be? Is he supportive of the teaching philosophy and approach of the church? Does he think that teaching is central to the work of the church or does he believe something else should hold the pole position? Enshrining widely divergent views of this essential task on the eldership is unwise.

5. Are others edified by his teaching? Will the congregation, if asked, affirm that this man has teaching ability and that they spiritually benefit from his teaching? Ask around to see how others received and used a prospective elder's teaching. We can sometimes rule out that a public ability is not developed or present by hearing the assessment of others.

6. Does the man disciple others? Because not all (perhaps most?) teaching is not public but private, we should look to those smaller, less public areas as well. Does the prospective elder demonstrate an ability to help others grow in Christ in more private settings like small groups or one-on-one discipleship? Is he faithful to help others work through difficulties or questions? Do others come to him for advice and counsel? And is his counsel consistently and thoroughly biblical? A man may do a great deal of pastoral work in the hallways or parking lot after church or over a cup of coffee during the week. Who are those men who teach in this way?

7. Is the man theologically mature and supportive of the church's theological distinctives? A man may have a gift, but the gift must be informed and filled with appropriate content. There are many who are skilled at "moving the crowd" but who couldn't explain the most basic doctrines of the faith. So, assessing a man's theological maturity and knowledge are important. When considering a prospective elder, we should discuss the church's statement of faith in detail. Are there any points with which he disagrees? Can he sign the statement in its entirety with good conscience? His teaching would be expected to uphold that statement. And does he understand and support certain theological distinctives of the church, like the church's view of the ordinances, gender roles in the home and church, and so on. A man with teaching authority should be able to fully champion these distinctives for the unity of the church.

8. Is the man himself teachable? Will he be a model to the congregation of someone who humbly and joyfully receives the word with profit? Modeling that attitude is also a critical part of teaching. If a pastor isn't given to learning and submitting to the teaching of fellow elders, he'll create hardness in the sheep. Or worse, he may be less the teacher and more the dictator in his interaction with the sheep.


We're to find reliable men and entrust to them the things we've learned from faithful men. If the transmission of the truth is going to happen well, the men we appoint to leadership must be able to teach in various settings and ways. Calling a man without the ability to teach to serve as a pastor is essentially to channel the pure, sparkling water of the gospel through rusty corroded pipes. It's still water, hopefully, but for how long... and who wants to drink from a rusty pipe?
(By the way, that fella in the picture is a pretty good teacher!)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Finding Reliable Men: Hospitable

"How do you find our hospitality?"

That was the first question my young Middle-Eastern friend asked me immediately after our introduction. I'd been in southeast Asia for about two days, and he wanted to know how the people famed for their hospitality were doing. And he asked with an admixture of pride and determination to do something if for some reason I'd not found myself well-treated.

My immediate impression was, "Wow. I've never been asked that before. I wonder how many Christians ever ask that question of strangers they meet? Is hospitality an all but lost practice in the Christian faith?"

My questioner asked me that question nearly three years ago now. I still ponder it from time to time. Whether it's from my proud, competitive, sinful heart... or some genuine conviction, I want to do better. I want to be more hospitable.
The Apostle Paul teaches us that being hospitable isn't merely a "nice thing." It is essential to Christian leadership. An elder or overseer must be hospitable. It's one natural expression of being respectable and certainly is commensurate with the "noble task" of shepherding God's people. Nobility and hospitality simply seem to fit together. And it's all the more appropriate that God's people, especially their leaders, exhibit this quality.

My first Sunday morning visiting Capitol Hill Baptist Church, my family and I sat in front of a lovely family in the church balcony. I first noticed them because their children sat with them attentively and seemingly patiently participating in the service. I then took note of them because of their lovely and vigorous singing. But I really noted them when immediately after the service they greeted us warmly, he took me around and introduced me to many of the men in the church, and after about 15 minutes or so invited my family to join his at his home for lunch... right then.

Honestly, I was a little wigged out by the experience. First of all, his name was Jim. And literally the first three men he introduced to me were all named Jim. Strange I thought. What kind of church is this? Will I have to change my name again? But then the invitation to lunch so soon after meeting him. Well that just about knocked me down. At the very least, it was moving too fast. And with my southern upbringing, it might have even been considered impolite. I gave a polite southern way of saying no, "That's mighty nice of you. Perhaps some other time." Now everybody down south knows that a sentence like that means "no." And they know that's how you have to say "no" because actually saying "no" is itself impolite. And southerners are nothing if not polite.

So, I had clearly said "no" to this man's kind but hasty offer of lunch. And wouldn't you know it? The very next week when we went to this strange church again, he insisted that we join them for lunch. He was New Jersey. He didn't understand the rules and DC was too close to the Mason-Dixon to clearly establish which "Rome" we were in and what we should do.

Paul instructs the churches to look for hospitable men to lead Christ's church. Why hospitality? A few brief thoughts:
  1. Hospitality is a tangible expression of love. Christians are called to love one another and their enemies and hospitality gives practical form to that love. Elders should model this.

  2. Hospitality is a tangible way to care for strangers. How do we know that we're caring for the strangers in our gate? Well, one measure is how close we get to them. Hospitality brings us close in a meaningful way. It establishes intimacy and relationship that reflects the love of Christ in an identifiable way.

  3. Hospitality enables evangelism. Perhaps the reason so many Christians have no non-Christian friends and find themselves "far removed" from evangelistic opportunities is they are not hospitable. You can't share the gospel with a person you don't greet or with a person you will not spend time with in some way. Apart from being hospitable on some level, sharing the good news become close to impossible.

  4. Hospitality enables discipleship and fellowship. The early church devoted themselves to, among other things, breaking bread and fellowship (Acts 2). Among the fundamental activities of the early Christian church, hospitality ranks up them with devotion to the apostles' doctrine.
So, hospitality and the modeling of hospitality is essential to the Christian life. Churches are to be places filled with people given to this particular kindness and compassion. And those who are to be examples for all to learn from are to be hospitable.

How do we find men who are hospitable? How do we assess this qualification?

Some Observations to Make and Questions to Ask

1. Note those men who seem to make it a ministry of greeting everyone at church. Are they wall flowers or are they candidates for Mr. Congeniality? This may be little more than a bubbly personality working itself out, so we can't stop here. But it does pay to take note of the men who hang around after church, who arrive early, who greet visitors and saints alike. This greeting and welcoming activity is essential to being hospitable. And it's useful to note whether the man is doing this contrary to his natural tendency. Note the positive act of love that resists inward inclinations.

2. Note those men who are helpful to those in need. Hospitality often extends a helping hand. Those men who arrive early, are they helping seniors make their way to the church? Are they giving rides to other church members or visitors wanting to attend the church? Are they helping to not only greet but perhaps escort visitors to Sunday school classes or the children's ministry? Hospitality means service to those in need.

3. Does the man open his home to others? This is perhaps the most obvious form of hospitality, having someone over for dinner or fellowship, hosting them. We should identify those who seem to make their home a place of ministry. Perhaps they host a small group Bible study. Perhaps they're the first ones to volunteer to host a missionary or to prepare meals for visiting preachers. And, maybe they seem to always have people over for dinner like my friend Jim (the first Jim). Men with an active hospitality ministry like this are gems.

4. Homes are not the only place to show hospitality. Does the man use lunchtime opportunities to show hospitality? Does he use the lunch hour to build relationships with coworkers with the hopes of gospel opportunity? Does he meet regularly with other men from the church to build fellowship and accountability and to disciple? Is he hospitable in terms of caring for the elderly or serving his neighbors? Is he out in the workplace and community modeling this Christian discipline?

5. Does he accept invitations to hospitality? He knows how to humbly receive the love and care of others. It's especially important that he spends time with different kinds of people in the congregation (young, old, wealthy, poor, different ethnicities, etc.). The potential elder should model both the giving and the receiving of love. And in my experience, it's often the receiving of love and care that is most discomforting for people. We tend to want to feel strong. But the hospitable person doesn't do the mental calculus of figuring out if my host can 'afford' to do this, or whether it's a burden to them, or am I comfortable. He honors others by accepting their hospitality with genuine thankfulness and with as little myopic awareness of self as possible.


When Jim and his family were relocated from DC, at their last evening service Mark asked all those who had been to their home for lunch or dinner to please stand. In the service were probably 350-400 people. Literally 90% of the congregation stood and gave God praise for their hospitality. Their home and their lives had become a very real extension of the church's ministry and pastoral care. They bore immeasurable fruit simply by regularly having people over for their normal Sunday dinner.

And if that sounds like a burden, I should also mention that Jim and his wife have six children, adopted nephew and niece, and lived about 45 minutes from the church. He wasn't superman, but the way he and his family modeled hospitality sometimes made it seem so. It also convicts me for not forsaking ease and crossing more boundaries with the love of Christ. May Jim's tribe increase.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Fatherhood, football, and hell

My wife sent me this link to a recent Salon article. In the article, an atheist father is troubled about how to convince his young evangelical daughter that he's not going to hell because he's not a Christian. The columnist, Gary Tennis, does a pretty interesting job using a football analogy to upend the atheist father's pride.

Though the piece risks trivializing the gravity of the situation with the analogy, it was nevertheless a helpful way to prompt the reader to see that he couldn't rightly judge the issue without ever genuinely coming into contact with it. Worth the read.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Finding Reliable Men: Temperate, Self-Controlled, Respectable

I don't much like walking through malls. I guess I'm the stereotypical male. I storm through to the one (at the most three) stores that potentially have what I'm searching for, select the item, and then escape the whole harrowing experience through the closest exit.

"Vanity fair" is such a dangerous place to hang out. Of all that could be said about malls, this is certainly true: they do not exist to promote sober-mindedness and self-control. Advertisements, displays, samples, music--the entire experience is meant to separate a person from their wallets in the most intemperate and out-of-control way as possible. Sobriety is disdained. Self-control flung off.

Over and against the materialistic orgies of the local mall, there stands the call of Scripture to Christians to be sober and self-controlled, to be good stewards, and conquerors of their flesh. And not surprisingly, the Apostle Paul in 1 Tim. 3:2 insists that those who are to be leaders in the church, elders or pastors, are to be people who are temperate and self-control. They are to be examples for the flock in this regard.

The word nephalios, translated variously as "temperate" (NIV), "sober-minded" (ESV), and "vigilant" includes the idea of being watchful or circumspect. It is to be free from excessive influence of passion, lust or emotion. The Lord calls his undershepherds to be sober in their desires, feelings, and attitudes. He is a person that places limitations on his own freedom. He's not drunk with wine, power, lusts or anything else. He doesn't understand every situation to be a paper bag to punch your way through.

Which enables the next qualification, self-control. The terms are closely related and aim generally at the same thing: an elder must be a person who bridles himself. He must control his internal state (emotions, etc.) and his outward actions. He is decent in conduct. He is not rash or unthinking, but sensible, discreet and wise. Foolish actors are unfit for leadership in the Lord's church.

A sober and self-controlled man is a respectable man. They live godly, ordered lives. And these are the qualifications necessary to shepherding the flock of God. Well, what are some ways of spotting such men in the church?

Observations and Questions (please add others)

1. Does the potential elder teach other men to live as they live? This is the essential calling of the elder (Titus 2:2). The elder candidate should be one noted for encouraging sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable behavior in others.

2. Is a man trendy? Is he a lover of fads, bouncing from one "new" thing to another? A man who is trendy and places emphasis on novelty by definition is one controlled by things outside himself. His appetite is for the ever-changing, ever-elusive "next great idea." He may be "down" with the coolest in the congregation, but the very basis of that acceptance is the kind of instability that works against sobriety, watchfulness, and self-control. We might see this in his style of dress or other purchases (cars, etc.). While we don't wish to be prudish about such things, trendiness in these outward things ought to be noted because they may be early warning signs of trendiness in the more important world of ideas. Is this a man that chases or seriously considers adopting every new church fad or "model" for doing church? Is he drawn to novel theological ideas? Trendiness has nearly destroyed the church from within. Those things are to be avoided. Instead, we're to look for men who are steadfast in their resistance to fads and trends and who adopt a consistently sound biblical view of themselves, the world, and God. We're looking for classic, well-worn pin stripe suits rather than the latest Paris, avante-garde couture.

3. Are the man's appetites balanced? Is there any place where he is given to excess? Foods? Alcohol? Negative emotions like anger? Or, does he restrain himself, exercising control and demonstrating contentment in all things? Men addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex or other things are not suitable candidates for the office of elder.

4. We should take note of the man's actions and reactions in various situations. How does he behave when things are going well? Is he self-controlled, praising the Lord, but not abusing his prosperity at the moment? Likewise, what is his demeanor and conduct when things are really tough? Does he handle suffering in a composed way? Does he persevere in adversity, not losing control to fear, resentment, or cowardice? Is the man a complainer? A complainer may be a man imbalanced in his desires, as he constantly assumes things should be done his way or at least a "different" way.

5. Do others respect how this man lives his life? Are his enemies unable to condemn him and ashamed in the face of his life and witness (Titus 2:7-8)?


The ministry and the church are always examined by those within and outside. Her enemies look for things to condemn and opportunities to slander. Churches are greatly helped in this onslaught when her leaders are respectable in their conduct and men of sound judgment.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Finding Reliable Men: One Woman Man

Paul continues in his treatement of qualifications for leadership in the Lord's church. He has placed desire in the pole position and followed that with an ominbus statement of qualification: above reproach.

The first item the Apostle then lists, perhaps explicating "above reproach," is "the husband of but one wife." The phrase rendered more literally is "one woman man." And, here, there are some differences of opinion as to precisely what is meant.

Calvin follows Chrysostom in asserting that Paul "expressly condemns polygamy." Calvin argues that "Paul forbids polygamy in all who hold the office of a bishop, because it is a mark of an unchaste man, and of one who does not observe conjugal fidelity." D.A. Carson takes this position as well.

John MacArthur does not understand "one woman man" to refer to marital status at all, but to moral and sexual purity. "This qualification heads the list, because it is in this area that leaders are most prone to fail." MacArthur rejects the polygamy argument, saying it was "not common in Roman society and clearly forbidden by Scripture." The phrase is addressing sexual purity, not marital status.

In his excellent series of sermons on 1 Timothy, Phil Ryken makes the following observation:
To be above reproach, an elder must be 'the husband of one wife.' This does not prohibit bachelors from serving as elders. Commonly, elders will be married, and God will use the demands of their callings as husbands and fathers to do much of the sanctifyinig work that needs to be done in their lives before they are ready to serve as officers in the church. But remember that Paul himself was single and commended singleness to others as an opportunity for greater service in the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 7:17; 9:5). Some suggest that the phrase means 'married only once.' This would disqualify widowers who remarry, as well as men who have been through a divorce. If this is what Paul meant, however, one might expect him to be more explicit.

The point of the phrase is probably more general: elders must be morally accountable for their sexuality. The Greeks and the Romans of the day generally tolerated gross sexual sin. Polygamy was practiced by both Greeks and Jews. Marriage was undermined by frequent divorce, widespread adultery, and rampant homosexuality. The words of Demosthenes show the scope of the problem: 'Mistresses we keep for the sake of pleasure, concubines for the daily care of our persons, but wives to bear us legitimate children'.

Though there are some differences in what Paul may particulary have in view with this phrase, all would agree that sexual purity is a prerequisite for holding the office of elder.

And not surprisingly, there must be an examination of a man's life in this regard. How do we find the sexually pure "one woman man" in the congregation?

Questions and Observations for Single Men

1. What are the man's habits regarding dating and fellowship with Christian women? A man given to serial dating may be undiscerning and careless with the hearts of Christian sisters. If he is "playful" in matters of the heart, he may need discipleship in this area and will not be an appropriate example to the flock. Does he treat sisters in the faith "with absolute purity" (1 Tim. 5:2). Is that evident in the single man's social conduct with other women?

2. What are a man's entertainment choices? Does he view sexually explicit material or pornography? If he is embattled with this issue, it's best not to make such a man an elder. He will be responsible for being an example, teaching younger men to be self-controlled (Titus 2:6), and a life of sexual impurity is incongruent with the office.

3. Related to the above, how does the man battle lust? Does he gouge out his eye and cut off his hands (Matt. 5:27-30)? The warfare against sexual immorality must be waged at the level of desire. Men in the eldership should fight their sins like Christians, which means they must radically deny opportunity for the flesh, the world, and the devil to excite lusts leading to sin. And they must cultivate a deeper desire for Christ and the things of Christ. A single man who maintains camouflage in this area, or who flirts with or coddles his lust, is a danger to himself and others. An elder must accept and desire accountability in this area.

Of course, these are questions that apply to married men as well. But with a single man, determining if he is a "one woman man" requires thinking about the trajectory of his affections rather than examining his marital behavior. Do his behaviors "tend toward" purity or do they suggest immaturities to be avoided?

Questions and Observations for Married Men

1. Does the man evidence fidelity to his wife? Is he faithful emotionally and physically? A potential elder should be asked directly if he is in or has had an adulterous relationship with another woman, if he has broken the marital covenant. And if not the physical act, has he become emotionally involved with someone in a way that disqualifies him from the office? It would be wise to have this conversation with his wife as well. She may provide insight into the husband's attitude and behavior that may be blind spots for him. And it's wise to know whether the wife supports her husband as qualified for eldership. It's better to know these things previous to making a man an elder. The position and requirements of eldership will only add stress to any fractures that may already be present.

2. Does he organize his interactions with female coworkers and ladies in the church in a way that provides full accountability and transparency? For example, is he careful to avoid potentially compromising and tempting situations with women (traveling or meeting alone, etc.)? Elders who work in co-ed environments ought to be the kind of men that are trusted by female co-workers--not because they've proven themselves good counselors in intimate matters but because they've appropriately avoided such intimate encounters altogether and established safe distance from temptation.

3. Is the potential elder faithful in making his home marriage centered? By God's design, at the center of the family is sthe marriage of one man and one woman (Gen. 2:24). Men and women leave and cleave from their parents and become one flesh. Being a one-woman man means, in part, maintaining a family atmosphere that disallows other people or things (children and work, for example) from displacing the marriage as the center of the family. This is part of what it means to have a well-ordered home. A potential elder prizes his wife even above the other precious people in the home and in earthly relationships directs his affections to that one woman first and foremost.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Finding Reliable Men: Those Above Reproach

"If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach..." (1 Tim. 3:1-2a).

The nobility of the pastoral office requires a certain character. The reliable men churches are to seek for the office must be men whose inner and outer lives are sewn together with integrity and Christ-like character.

The second characteristic that Paul lists after desire is "above reproach." This first characteristic is really an umbrella for all those that follow. A man is to be blameless in his outward conduct. He is to be upright and just in his dealings with others.

Paul says that the elder is to be beyond question in this regard. It's a reputation that is deserved. An elder is to be the kind of man that no one suspects of wrongdoing and immorality, the kind of man that people would be surprised or shocked to hear charged with such acts. It's certainly not that he is sinless or perfect, but that his demeanor and behavior over time has garnered well-deserved respect and admiration from others. This is critically important because once an elder at least two things are assumed: that man is then held out as an example for all areas of life to all the sheep (1 Tim. 4:12; 1 Pet. 5:1-3) and elders are to be granted the benefit of the doubt in the protection from charges they receive in the congregation (1 Tim. 5:19). One of the worst thing you can have is a man lacking in character setting a bad example while being shielded by the generosity of judgment the office warrants.

Another critically important thing is that an elder be held in high esteem for his character, not for his wealth, popularity at parties, or any such worldly thing. There is a real temptation and pitfall when it comes to discerning whether men meet this requirement of being beyond reproach. We may be tempted to grant this status to men on the grounds that they have "made it in the business world," "have a long family history with the church," or "everyone really likes Joe, he's a great guy." The apostle isn't commending notariety in those terms, but a dignity of character commensurate with the office. If a man is popular in the worldly sense but lacks the "beyond reproach" character Paul identifies, he will likely lead out of his popularity instead of character. He may fear man more than God (a temptation at times acutely felt in the office), or attempt to run the church like his business, or assume certain "rights" because of his standing in the community or his family name. That man may cripple an eldership for a time.

All Christians must be above reproach, but Christian elders must be so. How do we find such men? How do we train men in this attribute?

On the Lookout for Those "Beyong Reproach": Some Observations to Make (Please add others)

1. Take note of those men who are faithful in their dealings inside the church. For example, do they keep their commitment to give regularly and sacrificially to the church? Do they swear to their own hurt, keeping their word when others might not blame them for backing out of a commitment?

2. Take note of men who "command respect" (in the best sense of the phrase) from others. Are there men who inspire uprightness in others? Perhaps by their very presence people out of respect for them seem to "straighten up" or show more zeal. Perhaps he is a man that everyone turns to or nominates for positions requiring ethical integrity because they are confident he will "do the right thing."

3. Take note of those men who carry on their lives outside the church with integrity. Are they men who show up to work on time, or men who can't hold a steady job because of poor work habits? Are they men who manage their financial affairs well, paying debts and living within their means, or are they men living beyond their means financially and failing to meet obligations?

Some Questions to Ask (Please Add Others)
Assuming church leaders have such a man in view, a few questions might be asked during the "courting" of that man for eldership.

1. Is there anything in your life you feel disqualifies you for serving as an elder? It's a wide open question but a good basic way of beginning to hear the man's self-assessment and possibly find out more about his integrity.

2. Would any of your coworkers or family be surpised to hear that you were a leader in your church? Here, you're sorta probing for whether the man's reputation is good among others outside the church. The question relies on the man's knowledge (imperfect) of his reputation among others, but it's a start. Church leaders may decide to ask this question of some of the man's business associates or coworkers to get a response from them as well.

3. Are there persons who would say you should not serve in any church's leadership? And why would they say this? Elders are to enjoy good reputations inside and outside the church. If there is some outstanding "beef" from others, it would be good to explore (a) the nature of that dispute, (b) how the potential elder has handled that issue--whether godly or not, and (c) whether the opinion of others disqualify the man.

The character of the elder is paramount in importance. The nobility of the office requires that only men with befitting integrity hold it. In a day where most people, Christians included, are repulsed by the idea of "judging others," being patient to discern mature and "beyond reproach" character for potential elders may be one of the most difficult things churches do in finding reliable men. But it's necessary for the health and purity of the Lord's Bride.

And because it's necessary, cultivating this kind of integrity--both in the current elders of a church and prospective elders--is critical. Questions, encouragement, and accountability regarding our conduct in various settings should constantly be on the agenda in our discipling and teaching efforts.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Finding Reliable Men, 1

"And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others" (2 Tim. 2:2).

These are the Apostle Paul's well-known words to Timothy, his "dear son" in the faith, a young man who had grown up in the spiritual instruction of his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice (2 Tim. 2:2, 5). It's a deeply tender letter at almost every verse. The apostle is writing in the "shadow of the gallows" as one commentator put it, and he is giving his final instructions and exhortations to this young pastor who has traveled, served, and learned alongside him.

Among the many jewels in this letter is Paul's charge to Timothy to find and entrust "reliable men" with the things Timothy has learned from Paul. The apostle's teaching is to live on, being passed from faithful hand to faithful hand. Consequently then, the pastor is one who of necessity must be able to spot such reliable men and be able to train them in this stewardship. If a man is not given to discipling others in this way, it's likely that he is not called to the pastoral office.

Okay... that's the easy part... saying that a pastor must do this or that. But practically, what does this look like? How is it done? What are some effective and less effective approaches to fulfilling this charge?

In this series of posts, I want to invite the pastors/elders out there to a conversation about finding and training faithful men for the task of leadership in the church. I'm no expert. I haven't been at this very long at all and I'm certain there are tons of men out there who have and are doing it well. So, as we work through the list of qualities the Apostle Paul lays out in 1 Timothy 3, I hope folks--as Paul does here with Timothy--will contribute with their experiences and learning.

Today, we focus briefly on the first qualification Paul lists in 1 Timothy 3:1--"If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task" (NIV). "If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task" (ESV).

In our finding and entrusting reliable men, we're first to look for men who desire this "noble task." We're to find men who have a "heart for it," who "aspire to the office."

This, in my experience, isn't as straightforward as the words suggest. Has anyone out there come across men who "want the office," who lust for it really, but aren't fit for the task? And conversely, has anyone come across men who are fit for the office but think that desiring it is a show of pride or ungodly ambition or impoliteness? Then there are those who are probably qualified but lack desire because of some "super elder" image don't think they're qualified.

Practically speaking, one of the first things Timothy has to do is clarify and teach godly ambition, including the godliness of aspiring to be an elder. A number of the elders at CHBC are faithful in encouraging young men (including 20-somethings) to include in their personal aspirtation or goals the goal of being an elder (at least qualified to be an elder). Especially when one considers that the only quality peculiar to eldership in this list is "apt to teach," that all the other qualities are things that should mark every Christian, this challenge to aspire to be an elder is good and godly. It's another way of saying to Christian men this is what Christian maturity and Christ-likeness looks like. And that's to be desired, not shyed away from or down-played. Can you imagine the upward toward Christ pull and power of having a church filled with men strongly desiring/aspiring in a godly fashion for leadership? In my experience, the problem is generally the opposite... men aspiring for comfort, anonymity, ease and just about anything else except "the office of overseer."

Secondly, practically, Timothy will likely have to clarify and teach the goodness of the leadership task. Paul calls leadership in the local church "noble." And it is. But there may exist the impression that it's a burden, a headache, or a necessary evil. So it may be necessary, without painting a false picture of unending comfort, to develop, discuss, preach, and model joy in the ministry. After all, it's the Lord's intent that leading His church be a joy to those men with the privilege (Heb. 13:17b). Part of the nobility of the task comes from the privilege of modeling Christ for His people. The elder is to be an example in all things (1 Tim. 4:12). The man not desiring to model Christ should be asked, "What exactly do you intend and think is more worthwhile to model than Christ?" It's also noble because it's necessary. The Lord designed the church in such a way that it requires godly leaders. The sheep need shepherds. And tending the sheep is a good thing.

The task is noble and therefore to be desired.

But practically, what are some things we can do/questions to ask to discern which men have this godly ambition?

Some observations to make (feel free to add others):

1. Note those men who are regularly in attendance at the church's services (Sunday morning and night if you have one, mid-week prayer or Bible study) and the church's business meetings. Start with those who already show an active commitment to the ministry and who will be models of that commitment to the body.

2. Note the men who already appear to be shepherding members of the church yet without the title "elder" or "pastor." Who are the men that care for others by visiting or practicing hospitality, giving counsel (being often sought after by others), and who participate in the teaching ministry of the church.

3. Note those men who show respect and trust in the existing leadership, who work to understand the directions leadership pursue, who ask good/apropriate questions in appropriate settings, who avoid creating confusion or dissension in public meetings, etc.

4. Be patient and note those men who evidence the desire over time. Watch a man; encourage him. But observe the desire in fruitful seasons, in dry times, when he is full of joy, and when he is sorrowful. Does the desire persist, grow, and strengthen, or fade, wither, and weaken?

Some questions to ask (feel free to add many others)

These are just a few things we might ask of those who catch our eye:

1. Have you ever thought of being an elder? Start here. Many have never considered it and will be surprised that we ask. Others have considered it and maybe put it out of their minds because of some incorrect impressions we may be able to correct. For those who have not considered it, we should be prepared to give them some reasons why they should, ranging from "this is one way of defining Christ-like maturity for Christian men" to "I've seen these particular things in you that suggest to me this is something you should think about."

2. Have you considered that your lack of desire might be an indication of spiritual complacency or misdirection? Again, this question builds on the teaching that desiring the office is a good thing and that the qualifications for the office are a good self-assessment for Christian maturity. Pastorally, we want to press that vision into our men.

3. Why do you desire to be an elder? To what extent are you aware of anything impure (pride, power, etc) in your motives? This is a question, obviously, for those who are considering eldership. Because we don't want to lay hands on any man hastily, we need to practically tease out godly ambition from impure motives. None of us are perfect in our motivations; we're all sinners who wrestle with some mixture indwelling sin. But due diligence requires we help a man excavate his heart and that we inspect what's unearthed. Are we looking at a humble man desiring to serve, or an unsubmissive, proud seeker after control? What's the source of his eagerness and desire? We're to avoid calling men who may desire oversight "for shameful gain" or to be "domineering over those in our charge" (1 Pet. 5:3).

4. Have you ever considered what would happen to the church, to the sheep, if they have no shepherd? Does your heart respond the same way as Jesus' at the sight of shepherdless sheep? (Matt. 9:36; Mark 6:34) This is for those men who may recognize giftedness and some qualification but who may be shrinking away from leadership. Sometimes it's helpful to take the man's eyes off himself and focus them on the people he would be called to serve. More is at stake than whether or not an individual feels "comfortable" with the idea of leadership, though that should be attended to. At stake is the spiritual care of the sheep.

5. Have you considered what your avoidance of leadership teaches the congregation about this noble task and the care of souls? This is for men who are already seen as "shepherds" in the eyes of the body. Sometimes gifted, qualified men are helped to realized that even in their avoiding of the role they are teaching the congregation something about leadership. They are teaching them that even the men most spiritual and gifted in the eyes of the body think this is a burdensome or unnecessary task. And in teaching that by example, men unintentionally may lower the congregation's standard and expectation for its leaders and consequently lowering the quality of spiritual care and oversight they and future generations may receive. After all, the congregation is commanded to "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consder the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith" (Heb. 13:7).


Finding men who desire the noble task of overseer is of great importance. Choosing pastors is the most important decision a congregation makes, for the pastors will shape the congregation through their teaching and their model. And given that, the Lord calls us to find men who "shepherd the flock of God... exercising oversight... willingly, as God would have [us]... eagerly... being examples to the flock" (1 Pet. 5:2-3). May the Lord give us discernment, patience, and clarity of thought and observation as we seek reliable men who desire this noble task.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Speaking of Conferences...

The Desiring God conference audio and video is all online. If you've missed this, you'll probably want to carve out some serious time to listen and enjoy. I really wish I could have been there for this one.
Here are the sessions and speakers:

Women's Conference with Noel Piper

The sisters at Capitol Hill Baptist Church are hosting a women's conference that promises to be edifying and challenging. The conference will be held, D.V., October 12-13 at CHBC. Noel Piper is scheduled to be the keynote speaker. And the theme is a "Psalm 91 Woman."

A description from the conference information page:
"Noel will be speaking on "The Psalm 91 Woman"--a meditation on living as a godly woman without fear. She will explore how this psalm speaks to women today as we strive for godliness in our busy, modern lives. Noel will also bring us the story of Betsy Stockton, a woman from the past who exemplifies a life without fear. Times of teaching will be accentuated by worship, Scripture, and prayer."

If you're in the DC area Oct. 12-13, prayerfully consider joining the ladies at CHBC for a tiem of fellowship in the word. Registration closes Oct. 1st (today!) so register today.