Highly gifted and in demand: But are you a pastor?

When asked what counsel he would leave with today’s Christian preachers, Haddon W. Robinson said:

Preach the Bible. If you don’t preach the Bible, you have nothing to preach. But don’t just preach the Bible. Preach the Bible to people. Understand your audience. Who are they? Pastors have a great advantage when they interact with their congregation. You know their hurts, problems, and questions. I think it is vitally important that the people in your congregation know that you love them. You want God’s best for them. When you do that, you capture something in your preaching that is vital and solid. ["Life-changing preaching: An Interview with Haddon W. Robinson", Ministry, July, 2014]

I have been thinking about Robinson’s counsel after reading a couple of engaging posts by a well-known American evangelical pastor and consultant. This pastor is a highly gifted and skilled communicator and leader. But does he measure up in terms of Haddon Robinson’s counsel?

In addition to his responsibilities as Lead Pastor of a growing congregation, the above-mentioned evangelical pastor holds an executive position with a major publisher, is a contributing editor for a leading Christian publication, is a columnist for another magazine, overseas a major publishing project, and serves as a visiting professor at two leading seminaries. Further, he has authored many books and articles and is in demand as a consultant throughout the evangelical world.

In what way is this pastor really a pastor? What meaningful interaction does he have with the congregation he leads? What does he really know about his people – their burdens, hurts, questions, and fears? Is he a good pastor?

I do not mean to be overly critical of this man. He is passionate for the cause of Christ and he works hard. And there are many like him. My question relates to the pastoral call – to the solemn responsibility as an overseer of God’s people gathered in a local church. It concerns the increasing ways in which today’s pastors involve themselves in a growing array of activities not directly related to shepherding the congregations where they serve. My burden is that those of us who are called to be pastors need to be just that – pastors. It is a full-time responsibility.

We do well to reflect again on how the Scriptures define and describe pastoral ministry.

Acts 6:2–4 (ESV)
And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

Acts 20:28 (ESV)
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

1 Timothy 4:13–16 (ESV)
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

1 Peter 5:1–3 (ESV)
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

However highly gifted and in demand you may be, if you have accepted the call to shepherd a congregation, give that solemn charge your full attention and energy. Be a true pastor.


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Solid Food: A Layman’s Study of Hebrews

Solid Food-J-Leith (196x300)Solid Food: A Layman’s Study of Hebrews
Jeffrey Leath
outskirtspress Inc., 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4787-2801-6

Jeffrey Leath faithfully prepares and teaches a weekly adult Sunday School class at Pine Grove Church in Bowmansville, Pennsylvania. While he could choose to use one of the many excellent curriculums available from a multitude of evangelical Christian publishers, Leath has embraced the challenge of studying and preparing his own materials.

At the encouragement of those who benefit from his weekly teaching, Leath has made this study of Hebrews available to the wider Christian public. In doing so, he illustrates the cherished doctrine of the priesthood of the believer – every Christian is privileged and responsible to study and meditate on the Word of God.

Written at a popular level, Solid Food is not an academic study; though extensive footnotes demonstrate Leith’s commitment to drawing from the work of a wide swath of evangelical scholars. This is a great example for the scores of laypersons called upon the lead groups and teach classes in evangelical churches everywhere. English-speaking Christians have a deep well of resources from which to draw, and Leath shows how this can enrich one’s personal study and subsequent teaching of others. Hopefully Solid Truth will encourage other lay people in developing their own material for use in their respective ministries.

Following an introductory meditation on how Christ, the Passover Lamb, fulfills the Mosaic Law, the core themes of Hebrews are laid out in thirteen chapters.

Table of Contents

Preface To My Children

Introduction: Christ, the Passover Lamb, Fulfills the Law

Chapter 1. Heavenly View
Chapter 2. 1-4 Earthly View
Chapter 2. 5-18 Earthly View
Addendum to Chapter 2. 5-18, the Preacher’s Us of Psalm 8
Chapter 3. Jesus is Greater Than Moses
Chapter 4. The Rest of Faith
Chapter 5. Jesus the Superior High Priest
Chapter 6. Forward to Maturity
Chapter 7. Order of Melchizedek
Chapter 8. Better Covenant
Chapter 9. Better Sanctuary
Chapter 10. Better Sacrifice
Chapter 11. Faithful Lives
Chapter 12. Support Each Other
Chapter 13. Final Words from the Preacher

Drawing from Jewish literature (e.g. apocryphal writings and the Talmud), Leath reminds readers that the New Testament book of Hebrews was first written to early Jewish believers. Knowing the Jewish background to Hebrews provides a richer study, and strengthens the student’s understanding of the unity of Scripture – how the Old and New Testament tell the same wonderful story of redemption.

If you are seeking an easy-to-follow study guide for your class or small group, or a resource for your own personal study, Solid Food is a good option.

Purchase this book.

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28 Free Lectures on Covenantal Apologetics

K. Scott Oliphint, Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology (Westminister Theological Seminary), aims to “provide biblical and theological principles that are a part of, and can be applied to, a defense of Christianity.

Working in the same stream as that of Cornelius Van Til, Oliphint believes Christians should be aware of the philosophical arguments for God and the Christian faith. But he warns against falling into the trap of believing that Christian apologetics is mainly a question of of philosophical debate. He wants to encourage believers to root their defense of the faith in the supernatural revelation of Scripture itself.

Covenantal-Apologetics---K-Scott-OliphintOliphint’s latest book, Covenantal Apologetics: Principles & Practice in Defense of our Faith, presents his approach to defending the Christian faith. If you are interested in knowing the basics of Oliphint’s apologetics, Justin Taylor posted Ten Tenets of Covenantal Apologetics, which he culls from from Oliphint’s book.

Earlier this month, Oliphint uploaded Apologetics 101 – 28 lectures – to WTS iTunesU. These free lectures (listen online or download to your personal device) provide a great opportunity to become familiar with Covenantal Apologetics.


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Chief: Leadership Lessons from a Village in Africa

Chief - Paul-SegerChief: Leadership Lessons from a Village in Africa
Paul Seger
Swaubona Press, 2013
ISBN: 978-1483909332

When it comes to books on leadership, the words of the ancient biblical wisdom writer come to mind: “Of making many books there is no end…” (Ecclesiastes 12:12 ESV). So, do we really need another book touting the latest theory on leadership?

Anticipating the question, Paul Seger writes:

The complexity of our Western world blurs our understanding of leadership. Thousands of books have been written on the topic. There are multiple theories of leadership, and each one seeks to replace the previous popular approach. So why would anyone write another book on leadership? (p.vi).

In making the case for yet another book on leadership, Seger says many leadership texts come from secular theorists who make no claim for presenting a Christian theory of leadership. Others take secular leadership models and clothe them in biblical texts “in an attempt to give them a Christian look” (p.vii). Targeting a Christian readership, Seger is unapologetically biblical in his approach.

Truth originates with God. Sometimes non-religious people stumble onto principles that work. It didn’t happen because they were searching Scripture. They just found something that seemed to function well. In many non-Christian leadership books there are practical hints that work. This book, however, is an attempt to bring to the surface biblical truths on the topic of leadership (p.vii).

As Director of Biblical Ministries Worldwide, Seger oversees an international team of missionary evangelists, church planters and disciplers. Not only is he a mission leader, Seger grew up in a remote Nigerian village where his parents were pioneer missionaries. In the early 1970′s, he joined the mission he now leads, serving 17 years as a church planter in South Africa. As a missionary-kid-turned-missionary-church-planter-turned-mission-leader, Seger is well qualified to write about leadership. He understands leadership from an explicitly Christian perspective exercised in an international, multicultural context.

In Chief: Leadership Lessons from a Village in Africa, Seger explores 20 basic leadership principles. The study is built around the definition of leadership used by the agency he directs.

A leader is a godly servant who knows where he is going and inspires and equips others to follow.

Drawing from a childhood of Nigerian village life and from the actions of African wildlife, along with his subsequent life and ministry experience, Seger builds a colorfully-engaging and convincing picture of biblically-based leadership. The chapter titles below give you an idea of his approach to leadership.

  1. Village Chief or Medicine Man? – Leading without title
  2. King of the Jungle – Learning to lead
  3. Lorries – Paradigm shifts
  4. Mai Haji – The importance of vision
  5. Ant Hills – The art of teamwork
  6. Dodo – Define reality
  7. The First Rain – Time management
  8. Hornbills – Servant leadership
  9. Mud Huts – The beauty of simplicity
  10. The Blacksmith – The value of mentoring and apprenticeships
  11. Sawubona – People skills
  12. Pushing Boulders – The importance of values
  13. Veld Fires – The reset button
  14. Village Life – Transparency
  15. The Baobab Tree – Rejecting status quo
  16. Rhino Skin – Handling criticism
  17. Head Loads – The art of multi-tasking
  18. Wells – Creating margin
  19. The Swinging Bridge – Succession
  20. Going Rogue – The danger of success and getting old

Every chapter concludes with questions for reflection and action, encouraging readers to apply the leadership lessons in their own lives. The appendices include several valuable tools to help readers assess their leadership readiness, style, strengths and weaknesses.

If you are looking for an enjoyable, practical, and useable text on biblically-informed Christian leadership, this may be just the book you are looking for.

[Other than an author-provided copy of this book, no remuneration was received for this review representing the independent views of the reviewer.]

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Flourishing Faith: A Baptist Primer…

flourishing-faith-chad-brandFlourishing Faith: A Baptist Primer on Work, Economics, and Civic Stewardship
Chad Brand
Christian’s Library Press, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-938948-15-2

Chad Brand says “the Bible does not explicitly lay out a theory of economics in a political context” (p.111). Because of this, it seems many Christians are ambivalent about such things, believing it does not really matter what position one takes. And yet, regardless of whether or not we recognize it, or are able to articulate it, we all live by some political economic worldview.

Further, though the Bible does not promote one particular political economic theory, it does speak to issues of work, money, ethics and relationships. Our understanding of these issues forms the basis for our worldviews, so it becomes imperative that Christians understand and apply those biblical principles. This is particularly important where Christians participate in democracies with free elections – politicians govern in light with their political economic theories, and these theories have genuine spiritual implications.

In Flourishing Faith, Baptist pastor, professor and author, Chad Brand, introduces political economic theory from a baptistic, free church perspective. Though written from an American perspective for an American audience, the underlying principles are transcultural and all readers will find value here.

Brand approaches this theme by presenting a biblical theology of work (God created us to work and work is a noble vocation), wealth (having wealth is not the issue, but rather how one gets it and uses that wealth), and government (a necessary institution, but should be limited because of the damage caused by an over-reaching bureaucracy). He develops these themes by providing brief surveys of pertinent biblical teaching and histories of how these themes were understood and applied. Brand does a good job in covering a lot of ground in relatively few pages. Readers will come away with a good overview of this subject.

There are three major competing economic theories, according to Brand.

Free market
Scottish moral philosopher, Adam Smith, in his ground-breaking work An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), “advocated the principle of “natural liberty,” which meant, for him, that people ought to have the freedom to do what they want with little interference from the state, so long as they are law-abiding citizens” (pp.96-7)

Karl Marx articulates the socialist economic theory in The Communist Manifesto (1848) co-authored with Friedrich Engels, and Das Kapital (1867). Among other things, Marx called for the abolition of private property and rights of inheritance. He believed credit, communication and transportation should be centralized in the hands of State. Factories and production facilities should be centrally owned. He promoted a progressive tax system and free education for all. Virtually all economic life should be directed by the State.

Governmental Management Model
Cambridge (England) economist, Milton Keynes, in a highly technical work, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936) argued that Marx was not entirely right in his economic theory. While Marx believed free market entrepreneurialism was inherently unreformable, Keynes believed it could be reformed through government management of the economy. Brand highlights the “most enduring claim” of the Keynesian theory: “Mass unemployment had a single cause, inadequate demand, and an easy solution, expansionary fiscal policy” (p.104). Brand then concludes:

To boil that down to its basics, Keynes was saying that when there is mass unemployment, the government must insert itself into the economy with significant stimulus spending. Of course, if there is mass unemployhment, it is also likely that government spending resources will be at low ebb. So, in such situations, governments must either borrow heavily in order to stimulate the economy or they must raise taxes on the wealthiest persons in society or both. When they insert such a fiscal stimulus, unemployment will go down. This is Keynesian economics at its most basic level, what we might call the governmental management model (p.104).

It doesn’t take much reflection to realize that Keynesian economic theory is the accepted wisdom of the day in the American political arena. And it does carry significant implications for the country going forward. While all three economic theories have Christian proponents, Brand shows that the free market view has been the most widely held view among Baptists.

But why should Baptists care about political economic theories anyway – especially over-burdened, time-starved pastors? Aren’t Baptists concerned with spiritual matters: evangelism, discipleship and church-planting? Anticipating the question, Brand provides five excellent reasons why Christians should understand economic theory.

  • The Bible speaks to economic issues: acquiring and disposing of money and property, fair wages, and stewardship of the earth.
  • Understanding political economics helps us understand the world in which we live.
  • It leads to a more comprehensive model of Christian discipleship.
  • We need a solid theology of work and economics.
  • All political theories hold theological implications.

As a Primer, I believe the book succeeds – it provides an easily grasped introduction to the subject, lays out the major themes, and provides direction for those interested in digging deeper. Each chapter concludes with a series of probing questions encouraging reflection and a bibliography for further in-depth reading.

I recommend this book for all Christians, and especially for pastors and teachers who have responsibility for guiding others into a clearer understanding of how worldviews impact our day-to-day decisions. It would be a great small group study.

[Other than a publisher provided copy of this book, no remuneration was received for this review representing the independent views of the reviewer.]

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