The Lord’s Day Blessings for a Pastor

Most Sundays after worship I stand outside and greet people. I’m often told by several people that they appreciated the service and the message. After several years of this it’s easy for a pastor to think of the Lord’s Day gathering as a time for us to minister to others. Of course it is, but not exclusively. This past Lord’s Day was especially a blessing to me.

Brothers and Sisters you ministered to me: when you shared with me about a book you had read that helped you understand the Scriptures better, when our deacons met with a family that needed assistance, when you welcomed visitors, and when I watched you encouraging and grieving with someone going through trials. It is a blessing to serve Christ’s church and to watch Him minister through you.

10 things I love about being a pastor.

I’ve seen several lists around the internet of difficulties pastors face.  Ministry is unique in several ways and pastors do face stress, but all jobs have their own difficulties.  It’s natural for any group to blow of steam by commiserating and sharing war stories when they get together.  (And fellow ministers, if you don’t have some brothers who you can complain to and with whom you can share your struggles, you need to find some.)  However, in serving God and His people there are so many more delights than difficulties and I wanted to share a few that come immediately to mind.

Here are 10 things I love about being a pastor:

  1. BaptismGetting time to think deeply about significant ideas.
  2. Working with such a variety of ages.
  3. Seeing people in the church care for one other.
  4. The privilege of walking with families through deep sorrows and great joys.
  5. Watching husbands’ and wives’ faithful, committed love for each other over years and decades.
  6. Hearing funny stories of things kids said during family prayer – not so much for how cute the kids are, but knowing that parents are passing on the faith.
  7. Having something I’ve said challenged with a reference to scripture, they know where the real authority in the church is.
  8. When I see people with nothing in common but Christ spending time together.
  9. When people introduce ideas for ministry with a desire to lead.
  10. Watching God’s work of grace and redemption in spite of the sinner in the pulpit.

Pastors, what would you add to the list?

The Word and the Priesthood of All Believers

I’ve been preaching through a list of “Essential Tenets and Reformed Distinctives” the past several weeks; today was on the priesthood of all believers.  In laying out my discussion I realized how closely this doctrine is related to the doctrine of the authority of scripture.  The role of the priest is to act as a mediator – speaking God’s word to people, and on behalf of the people to God.  The doctrine that each of us are priests means that we speak directly to God in our prayers through Christ, and we hear God speak directly to us through the scriptures.

We lose this if we do not take the scriptures to be the very Word of God.  If they are only a witness to the Revelation, or potentially a channel for the Word then we must have someone distinquish for us which portions are the Word of God and which are the words of men.  We return to having a magisterium, an authoriatave priest or professor who tells us which portions are accurate witnesses and which are errors.

(Photo of people reading the New Testament for the first time in the Mape language by kahunapule)

Have we forgotten something?

Since I’ve finished work on my thesis I’ve been digging back into more pastoral reading.  I’m immersing myself in books on preaching and pastoral ministry.  I try to follow C.S. Lewis’ advice of reading one “old” book for every new one.  (see his introduction to Athanasius’ On the Incarnation)  By doing so I’ve noticed that modern books on pastoral ministry tend to emphasize technique and models, older ones the minister’s personal piety.  I wonder if we might have forgotten something.

The Sermon and Ego

Mike Khandjian has a good post on our tendency to invest our ego into our sermons at Pooped Pastors.

We don’t like to admit it but we preachers put a whole lot more weight on any given message than most would ever know. In a sense it is the highpoint of our own practical unbelief in the Gospel because we easily tie much of our own sense of value into how well our messages are received.

The Easter Homily of St. John Chrysostom

In seminary we were shown a video of an Eastern Orthodox liturgy. It included St. John Chysostom’s Easter Homily, which, we were told, is read every year as part of the Easter liturgy. I love the exuberant invitation of Chrysostom’s sermon and like to use it on Easter as the invitation to the Lord’s Supper.

If any man be devout and loveth God,
Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any man be a wise servant,
Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.

If any have laboured long in fasting,
Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.

For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour,
Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour,
Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last,
And careth for the first;
And to the one He giveth,
And upon the other He bestoweth gifts.
And He both accepteth the deeds,
And welcometh the intention,
And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.

Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord;
Receive your reward,
Both the first, and likewise the second.
You rich and poor together, hold high festival!
You sober and you heedless, honour the day!
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted
And you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty,
For the universal Kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities,
For pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
For the Saviour’s death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.

By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered
When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be glory and dominion
Unto ages of ages.


Quote on Pastoring

I guess this can be considered a Re-Blog. I found a great quote on Bill Streger’s Blog today:

“The two cultural characters that capture what is most important in modernity are the psychologist and the manager. These characters now define what the professionalized pastor is becoming: in the pulpit, a psychologist whose business is to spread warm feelings; in the study, a CEO whose business is to have a successful year in terms of numbers.”
– David Wells

Moving into the Neighborhood

The Advent season draws our thoughts to the miracle of the Incarnation, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) – or as the Message colorfully paraphrases it “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood”.  Our salvation was not wrought by Jesus swooping down from Heaven in a single day to fix our troubles and then ride off into the sunset. He was “born of a woman”. He was made like us “in every way”.  As a child he “grew and became strong”.  As an adult he went to synagogue, got hungry, slept, cried and celebrated weddings. In every way he lived the day to day realities of a first century Jewish peasant.  As Christians, we are called to proclaim the good news of what Jesus did and to serve as he served, but we are not simply to do the things Jesus did – feed the hungry and proclaim the gospel, welcome the stranger and pray for the sick – but to do things in the way that he did. The Incarnation is a model of ministry.  This is particularly apparent to our family.  We have packed boxes and moved to a new ZIP code.  We have sent our change of address notifications and I’ve updated my computer’s weather notification.  We’re moving into the neighborhood to minister as part of a new congregation and community.  As a pastor becoming part of a particular community and serving a particular congregation is the way my vocation is exercised.  What is true here for pastoral ministry is also true for the “ministry of reconciliation” given to all Christians.  The ministry of all the baptized is done as part of a particular culture, place, and time.  Ministry is not “Us” helping “Them”.  Christians are not to be sequestered from the world; that is we are still “in” the world though not “of” it.  We all follow Christ among our friends and neighbors, classmates and co-workers, and amid the funerals, ballgames and PTO meetings we point to Christ.

As one early disciple explained:

The Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. … inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners.