Interview with a Pastor: The Making of an American Pastor

I most recently had a candid interview with a pastor about his ministry and what it was like leading a church. My questions are in BOLD TYPE. His answers are in regular font. The name of the pastor has been omitted as well as the church. If you are thinking of going into the ministry as a pastor, the answers to these questions may help you with your decision. I hope that you enjoy this article.

Tell me about your call to pastoral ministry. I surrendered to Christ at age six through a desire to be a part of God’s family. Earlier than that, I longed to preach because my Dad was a preacher. At age twelve, I came to an understanding and asked the Father, “Is this what you want or what I want? If this is what you want, then speak to be as clearly as you did for salvation and make me miserable again like that.” And he did, and at age thirteen, I surrendered to ministry. I was fortunate to have a Dad who would honestly mentor me in real time of the things he was going through.

Which pastoral responsibility do you enjoy the most and why? I would say the preaching, because of the deep passion for scripture. I would say the leading, because of the longing to follow Christ. I would say the disciple making because of the pouring into others and seeing the transformation that only happens in them but also happens in me when we have those discipling times. Any other ones? Because of our services, I don’t get to do this as much, but I enjoyed doing baptisms. That is a sweet moment with God smiling on an individual for their obedience in baptism.

Which pastoral duty do you enjoy the least and why? Anything dealing with confrontation. One of the things in ministry that drains the most is disappointment. You must weigh through the disappointing responses, disappointing perspectives, where you realize it’s not a biblical perspective or response. It’s not a response that’s a surrender to Christ. It’s not a humbled response. And when you see that among God’s people, that’s one of the hardest things to wrestle through. I talked with and read Macel Falwell’s biography of her husband Jerry Falwell. And she rightly said, He could handle the push back and the criticism by those who had no relationship with Christ. What wounded him the most was heavier and harder for him to carry were the negative comments of those who were followers of Christ.

Describe the amount of time you spend each week in ministry preparation. The average week is about twenty hours. Other times it could get heavier and be more intense. That’s a lot of hours. Yes, but that is the key moment that you must minister to everyone. And you can have counseling moments. You can have committee meeting moments. But the one moment where you pastor and minister to everyone is that sermon. And furthermore, it must be a message from the Father and not your message to the people. So, you have to be with the Father as the herald to hear the message. To pray it through with Him so to make sure that it’s His message, not yours.

Describe the amount of time you spend in the week in administrative responsibilities.  Oh goodness! Probably almost all the time, isn’t it? Yes. And particularly at our church. You also have ministries connected to you beyond our church. I would say forty hours. Wow! No, let’s make that thirty because you have moments like this as well. And we will say another twenty in pastoring with one on one. This is just a rough estimate.

Describe the amount of time you spend each week in personal devotions and prayer. Here’s the thing. It has to be every day. And I would say every day, at least an hour. I imagine that you are praying without ceasing too. There you go. There you go! Everyone that comes into my office, they don’t come in without prayer and they don’t leave without prayer. That’s the same truth for every meeting that we have, administrative meeting. But that’s beyond what I need to have in the morning and what I need to have at night, and during the day. Like yesterday, I had to get away and get into the sanctuary and just pray.

What is the area of pastoral ministry that you wish that you had been taught in school? Pain management. The reason I say that was my Dad was very honest when he mentored me. He said, I want to tell you what I am going through in real time. When you are knocked into the same ropes, you know that your Dad has survived and so can you. The ropes that I am getting hit against are not unfamiliar because I saw that happen to Dad. But one thing Dad could never convey was how hard the punches are, when you are getting knocked against the ropes. In my opinion Joe, if time is short, and I think it is, Satan is going to ramp up his attack on the Bride, and try to keep us less effective as possible. So, there is more spiritual attack and spiritual oppression that adds to that pain, that you have to learn how to manage, as Ephesians Six says, to stand.

Describe your ordination council. First of all, we want to make certain that they have displayed a call to ministry. There must be evidence that they have. When we have seen that, then we can put together an ordaining council that will be of pastors and ministers who are also ordained. And they will meet with the individual. The first one is to be ordained or licensed to ministry. We are going through theological things to determine if they can be licensed to ministry. After, there is an approval, then the church votes on whether to license to ministry. That gives you a window to watch whether they continue to display the characteristics to be licensed into ministry. Then we will convene the ordaining council. The ordaining council consists of pastors, ministers, and sometimes deacons. This council asks theological questions as well as the pastor-elect asks questions. This creates a mentoring moment as well, but through that time, the ordaining council must recommend to the church if the pastor-elect is to be ordained into ministry. This is a careful and cautious process before we recommend a man for ministry. How long does the ordination process take from the time the process is started until the time the pastor is ordained? If you go from the process of licensing until ordination, it could take a couple of years.

What is the one piece of advice you give to someone aspiring to become a pastor? Make certain the Father has called you. That is the very first thing my Dad said when I surrendered to ministry at age thirteen. We were in the car and he said, “Son, if there is anything else you can do, do it. But if you can’t, you know the Father has called you.” Make certain above all things that the Lord has called you, because it’s that calling that becomes the “not at the end of the road,” that causes you to hang on when you would love to let go.

 In conclusion, I was made aware of the struggles of this pastor and what he goes through not only daily, but weekly, as the head pastor of his church. It was interesting to hear a pastor state that he surrendered to ministry when he made up his mind that he wanted to be a minister at the age of thirteen. One has heard the term surrendering to Christ, but I have never heard the term surrendering to ministry. I guess it is the same as “The Call.”

In reference to the pastor’s passion for preaching, he spends about twenty hours in preparation each week on average. It is evident that he pours into others when it comes to discipleship. Unfortunately, because of his schedule, he does not perform baptisms anymore.

It is evident that he does not enjoy confrontation. Confrontation can drain a pastor and they face disappointment almost on a weekly basis. He referenced Macel Falwell’s biography about the late Jerry Falwell and how Jerry could take the criticisms of unbelievers better than those who were followers of Christ. What can wound a pastor the most is the ugliness of those who are supposed to love you when they criticize. I see this constantly in ministry where Believers who may mean well constantly criticize and ultimately push pastors out the door of their churches because of the constant attacks. Although these people may not understand what they are doing, if not caught and these people counseled with, this can cause division in the church.

The pastor wished that he had been taught pain management in seminary. He gave an analogy of his Dad in a boxing ring, fighting with those who hurt pastors. He stated that “when you are knocked into the ropes that your Dad had survived, then you realize that you can survive as well (paraphrased).” This pastor feels the punches and they hurt when it is delivered from the loved ones, the congregants that are beating you up in the church. He feels that we are in the last days and that Satan is stirring up hate and dissention among the followers of Christ. The spiritual warfare adds to the pain. But the rewards can be sweet when those who he is pouring into comes to Christ and he can see heart transformations right in front of his eyes.

Pastoring and shepherding is a lifelong commitment that is not for the faint in heart. It is a tough job and one that may not be highly paid. Many times, it goes without thanks and one can see that it could be a lonely occupation as to whom does the pastor trust? Besides his relationship with God and his wife and family, one can understand why pastors keep a distance from congregants in their church. That is why the pastor must stay in prayer and seek the Father’s will so that he can preach the message that is God inspired. It is only through this close relationship with God that the pastor can be successful in leading the lost to Christ.

If you love your pastor and care about him, please pray for him and his family. Please allow him the time he needs and give him and his family privacy. Do not be so demanding on him. God has called pastors to shepherd, but Christians are called to love one another as well as love their neighbor. Consider being a servant in your church by helping the pastor out instead of draining him dry. Consider praying for him before he gives his sermon so that God will speak through him. You can get engaged in your church and then see where God leads this ministry.

Joseph T. Lee © November 16, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC

 

 

 

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Defeating The Adversary

The following is a discussion about Jerry Rankin’s book, “Spiritual Warfare: The Battle For God’s Glory.” The discussion pertains to how Satan tries to use one’s past and old nature to destroy a Christian’s walk with Christ and their testimony.

According to Jerry Rankin, our old nature is what comes natural for us. Our nature before Christ, our human and carnal nature loves satisfaction and gratification. We want what makes us happy and what feels good in the flesh. That is our old self, our old sinful nature, which is about our self. Suffering occurs because we must die to self and put on a new attitude, which is enriched in Christ. Satan loves to use our certain weaknesses to ensnare us in sin and make us feel defeated. Rankin quoted Romans 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy fleshly desires.” We are to surround ourselves with Christ-like attitudes and remove ourselves from things that would temp us to sin. An example would be if a person had a problem with sex. Before Christ, one with this problem may have been indulged in numerous affairs or potentially had many sexual partners. The person may also have been addicted to pornography. After Christ, this same person should not want to continue with his or her illicit behavior. They should concentrate on Christ and strive to live for Christ everyday by praying and reading the Bible. But Satan knows their weakness and will try to destroy their witness by attacking them with opportunities to sin. A person who was addicted to pornography should not be watching television where nudity is included in the program. That in itself is like pouring gasoline on a house fire. Because people are human and have no power to save themselves, they must put on the full armor of God to avoid the traps and the fiery darts of Satan as described in Ephesians 6. If people do not want to fall back into a sinful lifestyle, they must change their habits and not watch or look at things that can cause temptation to sin and fail.

Rankin quoted a youth evangelist he knew as a child. The youth pastor stated, “If you don’t want your passions aroused in a way that would lead to hard-to-resist temptation, don’t put yourself in a situation where that is likely to happen by parking with your date in a dark car at a drive-in or anywhere else.”[1] “It comes down to the choices we make. If we desire to walk in the Spirit, then we have to choose to avoid situations that would cause the flesh to be tempted.”[2] People need to avoid situations that would lead them to lustful thoughts, which in turn may excite them or lead them to seek gratification. Of course, in the old nature, it is natural to want to do these things, but doing so is against God’s Law, principles, and will. That is why Jesus Christ came to take our sins, burdens, and our filthiness, and those sins and actions were already nailed to the cross with Christ. Jesus bore our sins and when we asked Jesus to come into our hearts and forgive us of our sins, He forgave us. God has forgiven us. But once we accepted Christ and started living for God, Satan was furious and wants to destroy our testimony so that we will become ineffective in the Great Commission. Therefore, Satan uses every means to attack us because we are representatives of Christ. Rankin states, “In emphasizing the victory of which we are assured, we must not diminish the reality of the warfare. There is an ongoing battle between the flesh and the Spirit. Satan is opposed to our doing anything that glorifies and exalts Christ. He uses that self-centered nature of the flesh within us and the carnal values of the world around us to defeat us and cause us to sin.”[3]

Rankin quoted 1 Peter 5:10, “Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Jesus Christ, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little.”[4] Peter states that we suffer a little in contrast to Christ suffering to the point that His blood was spilt which lead to His death and resurrection. Our sufferings pale compared to giving up one’s life for the sins of the world. We will suffer if we follow Christ because the world, in which Satan currently has dominion over, will see to it that we are tempted and that we will struggle for the cause of Christ. “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:13-14). Living for Christ is hard because of our old sinful nature. The road traveled for Christ is narrow and few will find it. The road to the wide gate of worldly pleasures is easier to follow because one does not have to make any sacrifices and give up their old nature. But if we stand firm in our faith, Christ will deliver us. “Be sober! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your brothers in the world.” (1 Pet. 5:8-9)

I agree with Rankin that if we put to death deeds, inclinations, and desires of the flesh, then we will suffer because this is not easy. Self-denial does cause suffering because of our old nature and the wants of self-centeredness. If we concentrate on serving Christ and loving others, then the desires of the flesh are greatly diminished. Getting serious about serving God means that one sets aside time everyday to pray and seek the face of God. Then we must also study God’s Word. To fight against Satan, we must get into God’s Word and really study. We must seek a relationship with God. We must walk in the Spirit and live our lives in a manner that is pleasing to God, in public, in private, and in secret. Our lives should be the same in all three categories. God sees all, even what is done in secret. Putting on Christ means that we are living our lives for Christ everyday in all that we do. We are to show love to everyone and grant grace and forgiveness. If not, Satan will use that as a foothold to try to destroy our lives and our testimony for Christ.

From the reading, one application I can implement into my prayer and ministry is to start fasting and praying more in order to get to know God better and to seek a closeness with Him. I have fasted in the past and did see answers to prayer, but Rankin indicated that fasting can bring us closer to God and “…demonstrate our longing and need for God through the denial and sacrifice of normal fleshly desires in our battle and victory over the flesh.”[5] This in turn could bring an outpouring of God’s blessings. I desire to be closer to God and want that intimate relationship with Him.

What about you? Do you desire a personal walk with the Savior, Jesus Christ? If so, then stop right where you are. Talk with the Father. That is called praying. Pray to Him and ask forgiveness of your sins. Ask Jesus to come into your heart and live in you. Then seek out a Bible believing church. Get involved in a church and in a Bible study so that you can be discipled in how to live a Christian life.

[1] Jerry Rankin, Spiritual Warfare: The Battle For God’s Glory (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2009), 140.

[2] Ibid., 140.

[3] Ibid., 141.

[4] Ibid., 155.

[5] Ibid., 164.

Joseph T. Lee, © November 14, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.

What Is Marketplace Evangelism and the Power of One?

Someone recently asked me what Marketplace Evangelism was? This is my definition, but first, let me tell you what it isn’t. Marketplace Evangelism is not standing on the street corner and preaching to people in the street. It is not forcing Jesus Christ down people’s throats. Marketplace Evangelism is loving people at the job, career, or workplace; by living your life in a manner that is pleasing to God. It is espousing the love of Christ so that others will see something different in you. An example of this is going to see a co-worker or client who is hospitalized and visit and pray for them. It is opening yourself up, in faith, and only when truly led by the Holy Spirit, accept divine appointments to share your faith and how Christ has helped and changed you with those in your environment. It’s living your life in a manner, striving to be Christ incarnate, so that others may see Christ in you, because you may be the only Jesus anyone will ever see. It is making a difference in people’s lives one life at a time!

I know many people will not want to stand out in a crowd because of ridicule. I know this personally, because I have lived 59 years, being afraid to share my faith because of rejection. Being afraid because I did not want to “offend” anyone or I did not want to say the wrong thing. I know what other Christians think, because I have lived a lifetime not sharing the most wonderful gift that God has ever given to me, from His Son, Jesus Christ. That gift was forgiveness of all the terrible and sinful, dark, sins that I have ever committed or thought. That gift made me whole and changed my life. That gift is still changing my life every day. Do I still sin? Yes, I do. I am human and live in the same dark world as before. There is one exception. I have God’s forgiveness, have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of me, and have conviction when I sin, which tells me that I need to stop and ask forgiveness from the one I sinned against and to God.

A few years back, when I finally got serious with what God had been calling me to do, my life changed dramatically. It changed in a way where my eyes were opened wide to the “TRUTH.” That “TRUTH” helped me to overcome my fears, so that I could do the work that I was called to do, right here in my own town. But God wants all Christians to get serious with what He has called all of us to do. Look what it says in Matthew 28:16-20, “16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus gave us something called the “Great Commandment.” According to Matthew 22:36-40, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love your neighbor as yourself. What does that mean? It means that we are to care and treat our neighbors the way we would want to be treated by doing for them when we see their time of need. Who is our neighbor? Our neighbor is everyone who we encounter. Our neighbors are our co-workers, managers, employees, customers, waiters, waitresses, dry cleaner employee, anyone in the marketplace, the vagrant on the corner, everyone.

When we understand that our Christian walk is not only how we live our life in a pleasing manner to God, but we are to also step out on faith and tell someone about that saving grace that rescued us from a burning hell, then we are fulfilling the other commandment that Christ gave to us. Look at Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Our Jerusalem is our own neighborhood. Our Samaria is our own town or city. Our Judea can be our state or nation. These places can also be in the marketplace, where we live, work, and play. Don’t you see what Christ and our heavenly Father is asking us to do?

Have you ever heard of the power of one? I will post the excerpt from “Evangelism Is” written by Dave Earley and David Wheeler.

THE POWER OF ONE

“One Samaritan woman testified to her town, and many believed in Jesus.

One man, Noah, built a boat that saved the human race.

One man, Moses, stood up to Pharaoh and delivered the Hebrews from Egypt.

One woman, Deborah, delivered Israel from the Canaanite oppression.

One man, David, defeated the Philistines when he killed their champion, Goliath.

One woman, Esther, had the courage to approach the king and see her nation spared from extermination.

One man, Peter, preached a sermon that led 3,000 to be saved.

One salesman and Sunday school teacher, Edward Kimball, led a young man named Dwight to Christ. Dwight Moody became a blazing evangelist who it is said, led one million souls to Christ in his short lifetime. Wilbur Chapman received the assurance of his salvation after talking with Moody and went on to become a noted evangelist himself. The drunken baseball player Billy Sunday was an assistant to Chapman before becoming the most famous evangelist of his day. One of the fruits of Sunday’s ministry was the forming of a group of Christian businessmen in Charlotte, North Carolina. This group brought the evangelist Mordecai Ham to Charlotte in 1934. A tall awkward youth named Billy Graham was converted during those meetings. According to his staff, as of 1993, more than 2.5 million people had “stepped forward at his crusades to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Millions of souls trace their spiritual lineage back to the influence of one man, a simple Sunday school teacher, Edward Kimball.

Someone said, “To the world you may just be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” To this we might add, to you they may seem like just one lost soul, but to God that may be a soul who can shake the whole world.” ~ Dave Earley & David Wheeler

Let me ask you one last question. Why are you not sharing your faith? You never know. You may be the only “Jesus” anyone will ever see. You may be the one who shares your faith and the love Christ has given to you to a lost person who may become the one who God will use to shake the world! When I realized this, that was the turning moment in my life where I could no longer be a bench seat player in the “World Series” of our Christian faith! I could no longer sit still. I had to do something. What will you do to help spread the love and saving grace of Jesus Christ? When I think of all the time I have wasted in life and not have done what God called me to do so long ago, I grieve and become emotional. I have realized that although I have been a bench seat Christian all my life, and the time God has given me for the remainder of my life, I am to serve Him and be the evangelist He has called me to be. What about you? When will you get off the bench and get into the game?

Excerpt Credit:

Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010) 133-134.

Joseph T. Lee, © November 10, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC

 

 

Less of Myself

“I pray that I will live a life for Jesus that others will see Jesus in me and less of myself.” ~ Foy Hocutt Lee

My Mom wrote the above statement in her devotion book a few years before she went to heaven. She did live a life pleasing to God and she wanted her children to do the same. As she lived her life, she was a wonderful example of walking close with God. The devotion she was reading at the time she wrote that statement was called “Walking Worthy” (Blackaby and Blackaby, 1997, p. 207).

The following are quotes from the study as well as scriptures relating to the subject matter. I will make my own commentary at the end.

Walking Worthy

Philippians 1:27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

“Paul never lost his wonder at having been called by God. He understood that the way he lived ought to be worthy of the King who had chosen him. He knew that the mystery of the gospel had been hidden for generations and had only been revealed in his day through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Col. 1:26-27). Paul also understood that until people accept the gospel, they are spiritually dead and therefore without hope (Col 2:13). As a result of God’s plan of salvation, those who trust in Jesus are not only made alive in Christ but are also adopted as the Father’s children (Rom. 8:16-17). Paul recognized that though the Gospel sounds like foolishness to the world, it is the power of God that brings eternal life to those who accept it” (Blackaby and Blackaby, 1997, p. 207).

“Because Paul’s life had been radically transformed by the gospel, he was intent on living to honor the gospel that gave him life. It would have been tragic to receive the riches of the gospel and then to live as a spiritual pauper. It would have been disgraceful to be saved from death by the blood of Christ and then show no reverence for that sacrifice. It would have been foolish to accept such love from Christ and then to resent what He asked in return” (Blackaby and Blackaby, 1997, p. 207).

“The way you live your life ought to be a tribute to the matchless grace that your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has bestowed upon you” (Blackaby and Blackaby, 1997, p. 207).

“Walking Worthy” is a tall order for men and women of the faith. Living a life pleasing to God is very hard if one does not transform their life into a life of holiness. No one can do this on his or her own. That is why it is important to constantly have a prayer time with God and to study the Bible and reach out to God through the scriptures, which are God inspired.

Walking worthy means that we should be living our lives in a way that is pleasing to the Father. We should do this both in our public lives as well as our private lives. You know what I am talking about. When you are alone and no one is around to see what you are thinking about? What your eyes see or what you do? God sees everything. He knows everything. You might be able to fool your friends but you are not fooling God! We should be living our lives in a manner that others see Jesus in us. But we also need to live our private lives in a manner that God sees Jesus in us. There are consequences of sin. A believer who has accepted Christ should strive to stop sinning and turn from his or her wicked ways. “Less of myself” means more of Christ and our focus should be on God and not ourselves. The way we live our lives should be a tribute to the matchless grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ has bestowed on us!

Today, Father, I pray that others will see more of Christ in me and “less of myself.” I pray that if someone reading this is not right with you, that they will repent of their sin and ask forgiveness and be transformed into the men and women you have called us to be. I pray Father, that you will constantly help me to be more like Christ in all that I do. I pray for our nation will turn back to you! I pray that our nation will have a revival and that our brothers and sisters in Christ will walk tall and walk worthy of you! In Jesus name! Amen!

Scripture References:

Colossians 1:26-27 “26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” New International Version (NIV)

Colossians 2:13 “13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.” (NIV)

Romans 8:16-17 “16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (NIV)

References

Blackaby, Henry T, and Richard Blackaby. EXPERIENCING GOD DAY-BY-DAY: The Devotional and Journal. Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 1997.

Joseph T. Lee, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC, © November 5, 2017

Unfriended!

Wow! I have lost yet another friend on Facebook! I had 503 and now I have 502. I guess I am going to cry! Not really. Listen, I am trying to live my life the best that I can for God. I will take a stand. Sometimes, taking a stand for God is not popular. But I have never really cared about popularity. I just want to do what is righteous in the eyes of God. I have friends on both sides of the aisle. They know what I believe. I still love them and care for them dearly. But I cannot compromise my beliefs. If I lost all of my friends, it still would not matter. One day, we will all have to make a choice. Either deny Christ or die. I am not looking forward to that day, but I will never deny my God and Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

If one is a friend with me on Facebook, they are either family, a Christian, someone I have met in business, or a client. My Facebook page is my personal page. It is where I can share my faith and hopefully, minister to others. If someone does not want to see my posts, they could ignore them. To unfriend means rejection. But that is okay with me. If they were TRULY a friend, then they would accept me for being me.

Many people turn to social media as a way to communicate with others. They get caught up into how many “LIKES” that they can get in order to feel accepted and loved by their so-called “Friends.” The fact is those “Friends” probably do not have your best interests at heart. Many people, especially teenagers are looking for acceptance through any means available. Social media is one way of gaining acceptability and sparking their ego with many “Likes.” But if one is “unfriended,” a person’s self-esteem may already be low, and they may be devastated by the fact that someone has rejected them. “Yet for some, being digitally deleted by their contacts can be bruising to the ego — even if the relationships aren’t close” (The Canada Press, 2015).

“There’s this idea that unfriending on Facebook is like an active step that you take to tell somebody: ‘I don’t like you. I don’t want to see your stuff anymore'” (The Canada Press, 2015). People who have a low self-esteem may take this as a rejection and may resort to depression or even harming one self. It appears that some people so wrapped up in social media take offense when someone they actually do not know in real life “unfriends” them. It is very sad that people have stopped building friendships and relationships naturally by personal interaction. I have actually seen families communicate via texting sitting in the same home or at the dinner table.

Technology is a wonderful tool, but if used incorrectly, can be devastating in people’s lives. For example, take a pastor who needs to check on a congregational member who may have had a family loss or who may be facing a surgery. I believe the correct method of contact is either picking up the telephone and calling them or get into his car and go to them, if at all possible. When pastors text a congregational member who is in need of prayer, consultation, or comfort; texting is not appropriate and is impersonal.

The Internet can be an impersonal place and yet many use social media as a way to communicate in their lives. Social media means so much to some people, that they neglect their own family and personal relationships. Some teenagers are so addicted to their smart phones that if a parent took it away, they would almost have a breakdown. Their smart phones are their lifelines to others and if their phone were broken or taken away, I am sure the situation and interaction would not be pleasant to either the child or the parent.

In my opinion, a parent should not ever give a child a smart phone because by doing so, you are introducing that child to a world of information that the child may not be mature enough to process. For example, some cellular companies cannot implement parental controls on certain types of smart phones. If a child wonders on the Internet, they can be exposed to pornography. A parent cannot control what or where a child goes using their smart phone. This is not even scratching the surface. Texting in itself leads to problems. Teenager’s sexting pictures of themselves to boys and girls, and then that picture get circulated. In actuality, the child has just distributed child pornography and has committed a felony and could be found guilty and have to register as a sex offender. Many of you reading this will think I have gone to the extreme, but the fact is that Virginia is prosecuting these types of cases.

As parents, if we allow our children the freedom to do what they want on the Internet or buying and allowing them to use smart phones, we have potentially caused them harm because of the dangers of the Internet. I wonder how many parents look at their kid’s Twitter feeds or their Facebook posts? My child did not like it that I snooped and watched her social media. I did it because I love her! I have always wanted the best for her! I asked questions. I wanted to know what she meant by certain things she said. I got involved and ran interference when I thought something might have been inappropriate language.

Parents. Listen to what I am saying! If you really love your child, PROTECT them from harm. Watch their social media. Know what they are saying. Monitor their computer and smart phones. If your child will not allow you to monitor them, take their phones away as well as their computer. Protect your child from the predators on the Internet. When your child becomes so addictive to social media, then the “friending”, “unfriending” and the “Likes” will dominate their lives. Be their parent and not their friend! If you really love your children, you will be their parent first and guard them against the evil of predators.

So how did we go from an adult being “unfriended” to teenagers and children? The fact is that social media has affected everyone’s lives. Social media has almost become one’s church and god. It has become people’s lives and many may live their lives through other people’s experiences. When social media becomes more important than having personal relationships in “real life,” then it becomes an addiction. The Bible says in Exodus 20: 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.” When we as Christians place more emphasis on social media than reading and studying God’s Word, then we have in fact placed social media on a higher level than God.

Think about it! If we put anything ahead of God, we are sinning. I am not saying not to have a social media account. What I am saying is that moderation is the key! Please do not let the “Like”, “Friending” or “Unfriending” affect your walk with Christ. God wants a personal relationship with each of you. He loves you and He sent His one and only Son to die for you and to redeem you from your sins. In John 3: 16-17, the Bible says “ For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” If you are looking for acceptance and you do not want to be “unfriended”, then God will never “unfriend” you if you give your heart to Christ.

As a Christian who is in love with Christ and loves God, there will be many people who despise God. And if they despise God, they will despise a follower of Jesus Christ. But I would rather be despised by the world than to be rejected by God. I love my God and I have committed my life to a lifetime of service to Christ.  Service to Christ means living one’s life in a manner that is pleasing to God. It means to follow God’s standards of living and obeying God’s commandments as well as acting as Christ would act. It means sharing one’s faith with others. I pray that you will find love and acceptance that is found only through Jesus Christ and only in God’s love.

References:

The Canada Press. (2015). CBCNews / Science & Technology. Retrieved 2015, from CBCNews : http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/facebook-unfriending-why-you-should-think-twice-1.3154487

 Joseph T. Lee, Managing Partner, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC © November 4, 2017.

What are the top five tasks of a pastor and why?

What are the top five tasks of a pastor and why? The answer to this question will vary from student to student because there are more than five tasks of a pastor. Certainly, John MacArthur made mention of seventeen primary activities taken from First and Second Thessalonians. They are praying, evangelizing, equipping, defending, loving, laboring, modeling, leading, feeding, watching, warning, teaching, exhorting, encouraging, correcting, confronting, and rescuing (MacArthur, 11-12). To determine which of these activities are most important is dependent on the pastor and what are their priorities and ministry? An activity may be considered a task, but this student wants to examine tasks as possibly ministries of a pastor.

According to MacArthur, there are seven ministries that can be boiled down from these activities. These ministries have three basic purposes of the church. They are exaltation, evangelism, and edification (MacArthur, 59). Therefore, to boil these tasks or activities down a little more, these activities lead a pastor into these seven ministries: The Ministry of the Word, The Ministry of Fellowship, The Ministry of the Lord’s Supper, The Ministry of Prayer, The Ministry of Outreach, The Ministry of Missions, and The Ministry of Interchurch Fellowship (MacArthur, 61-62). MacArthur wrote, “The role of pastoral leadership, composed of a select group of men from the church of redeemed believers, is to provide guidance, care, and oversight for the church so that it fulfills its Christ-ordained mandate of evangelizing the entire world, growing into the likeness of Christ, and existing for the exaltation and worship of God” (MacArthur, 58). Out of these seven ministries, this student will select his top five based on what he thinks are the priorities, but all are of equal importance.

The first and probably the most important ministry task of a pastor is the Ministry of the Word. Pastors are responsible for teaching the Word of God. This is done through a combination of opportunities such as preaching, teaching Sunday school, and small group Bible studies. Romans 10:17 states that faith comes by hearing the Word of God. MacArthur wrote, “What is important, however, is that the Word of God be taught. If the Word of God is taught, the church will grow in faith and love (Rom. 10:17)” (MacArthur, 59).

The second ministry task of a pastor is the Ministry of Prayer. According to MacArthur, “Prayer moves God; prayer changes things” (MacArthur, 61). A church that prays will see God’s miracles and His work. Praying is the way Christians communicate with God. MacArthur wrote, “A praying church will be a victorious, growing, maturing community. The wonder of today’s church is that so much goes on with so little praying. The answer to many of the church’s problems is not more seminars, programs, and promotional gimmicks but more intercession on the part of God’s people, both as a group and in a closet” (MacArthur, 61). This quote is so very true. This student has seen miracles come through prayer, from his own healing to church organizations receiving the funds needed to carry on. Through diligent prayer, through that communion with God, it will bring the church community closer in their faith walk with Him. Then that is when one will start to see lives changing for the cause of Christ.

The third ministry task is the Ministry of Outreach. The pastoral leader is to lead his flock into evangelism. Christ gave every one of His followers a command. This is found in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The church is to take the Gospel throughout the world. Pastors must teach his congregants how to lead others to Christ. He must himself, practice personal soul winning. MacArthur stated that many in the church feel that it is the pastor’s sole responsibility to evangelize, but they are mistaken. It is every believer’s responsibility to evangelize. But it is the pastor’s responsibility to teach his congregants in how to share their faith.  MacArthur wrote, “A Church that does not know how to reproduce and does not reproduce is in reality an immature congregation, regardless of its intellectual comprehension of Scripture or the sophistication of its corporate programs” (MacArthur, 62). Therefore, it is the pastor’s responsibility to teach his church members how to share their faith. If not, unfortunately, the membership will dwindle.

The fourth ministry task of a pastor is the Ministry of the Lord’s Supper. The early church participated in “breaking bread” as a remembrance of Jesus Christ and the last supper with His disciples. MacArthur wrote, “The Lord’s Supper, like the ordinance of baptism, is no trivial practice, but one that lies at the heart of the Christian message (1 Cor. 11:23-26). The symbolism, solemnity with celebration, and the sanctity required by all participants make it one of the most inspirational and worshipful services of the Christian community” (MacArthur, 60). MacArthur also wrote that great spiritual benefit comes from participation in the Lord’s Supper (MacArthur, 61). Pastors must teach his congregants that by celebrating the Lord’s Supper will help bring meaning and will edify each person’s soul. It is the worship of Christ and what He did for us, by laying down His life for all who would believe.

The fifth ministry task of a pastor is the Ministry of Missions. This goes almost hand in hand with the Ministry of Outreach. The pastor must lead his congregants in establishing and maintaining a missions program. Christ gave His followers the commandment to take the Gospel to all of Jerusalem, Samaria, and the utmost parts of the world. By following Jesus Christ’s commandment, this results in attempting to fulfill the Great Commission. The church must also participate in sending or supporting missionaries who are willing to go throughout the world proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the responsibility of the pastor to teach his congregants that this is a requirement and not an option.

In conclusion, this student interpreted the top five tasks of a pastor as ministries. Certainly, the first seventeen activities are all important, but these were boiled down to actual ministries which the pastoral leadership must accomplish to lead his church congregants in the way that Christ would have led them. The result of these five ministries will help to accomplish the three basic purposes of the church which are exaltation, evangelism, and edification.

 

Bibliography

MacArthur, John. Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2005.

Joseph T. Lee © November 2, 2017 The Lantern & Shield Times LLC

 

Spread the Word

My father collected pocket knives. I don’t think it was a formal hobby, he just did it. When he died, I inherited more pocket knives that I counted. I kept a few to remember him by, but I sold most of them.

What do I collect? Bibles! My father’s mother, whom I barely remember, gave me a Bible when I was born, a King James Version. The church we attended gave me a Revised Standard Version when I was in the fourth grade. Neither would be particularly memorable, except that my full name was printed on the front of each.

When did my habit of Bible collecting start? I accepted Jesus after reading a Billy Graham tract. I was 15 at the time. At that point, I became very interested in reading scripture; I wanted to devour it since I knew almost nothing about it. I hadn’t attended a Bible-believing church. The Sunday School I went to sporadically, mostly discussed social issues of the day. I even remember one teacher at the church explaining away the miracle of the loaves and fish by saying that the little boy demonstrated a spirit of sharing, and the other people were moved by his generosity and shared the food they had brought with them. There was nothing in my background that would have motivated me to be interested in a book that I believed was untrue. But when I accepted Jesus, I believed the Bible was true. So, I wanted to learn as much as I could.

The first step was to read it through.  I got a four-parallel translation in paper back. I read the King James on the left, and looked at the other translations for better understanding when I was unsure of the meaning.

My next Bible, which I asked my parents for at Christmas, was a New Scofield Reference Bible. I read it voraciously until it was well-worn.

While in college, hanging out at the Baptist Student Union, I found that the more committed Christians were using the New American Standard Bible. It was a more literal translation and easier to understand than my KJV. I got a copy.

Then I moved to study Bibles. My big favorite was the Ryrie Study Bible. Ryrie’s notes covered the essential information I needed to understand they text, but they were not like a commentary under the text that came with some later translations.

Next it was the New International Version. I got it in the Study Bible, which did have great notes, which I devoured.

Then I got a New King James Version, when that came out. I could read the beautiful language, but it had more understandable wording than the older KJV.

I acquired many study Bibles as well: The Nelson Study Bible, The Criswell Study Bible, The Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible, which allowed me to look up selected Greek and Hebrew words.

I could go on…but fast forward to later years, Lifeway came out with the Holman Christian Standard, so my wife got me that version’s study Bible, and I have an Apologetics Study Bible in the same translation. Now that translation has been updated with the Christian Standard Bible. Oh, and least I forget, the New American Standard was updated in 1995.

Another favorite translation in a more literal complete equivalence is the English Standard Version. I have a few copies of that, included the ESV Study Bible.

All total I probably have had 70 or so various Bibles. Some I’ve worn out, others I’ve given away.

We English speaking believers have many choices, and some good choices at that. Other languages have maybe one translation, and many languages have no translation of the Bible. Some languages are not even written.

Translations do make money for publishers, which is the case in English. But what bothers me is that many people around the world have no copy of God’s word.

Read the Bible in one of the translations I’ve mentioned. Obey God’s word, applying it to your life. But be sure to support those who are translating scripture into languages that don’t currently have a copy.

Don’t be simply a collector. Be an applier, and be a spreader of God’s word.

Dr. Ashton Smith © November 1, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.

Which Is More Foolish: Millennials or Preaching to Them?

I enjoy driving, maybe not as much as some, but probably more than most.  However, when I was young I wasn’t all that interested in learning how to maintain cars; consequently, I learned some very expensive lessons.  For example, engines must have 3 essential liquids if they are to run very long; they are fuel, oil, and coolant.  When it comes to engines, only having 2 out 3 is a very bad thing.  Of course, if you had to choose one of these essentials to run out of, then the best choice is gas.  That’s because once your run out of it then all you have to do is add more and you’re back on the road.  But if you run out of oil or coolant and keep driving, then your engine will freeze up and be ruined.  That, my friends, is a costly repair, so costly it may even mean that your car is totaled, depending on its value.  When it comes to driving there are some things that are essential if you want stay on the road.  The reality of “essentials” is everywhere in our lives, but occasionally some think it fashionable to challenge their importance, and those who do so inevitably run the risk of ruining the very things they claim to value.

Recently I read the online article titled “10 Church Activities That Need to Go.”  Keeping up with current trends in ministry is important, so this article piqued my interest.  The last item on the list of things that churches need to jettison was “sermons.”  First of all, that someone would make such a suggestion, or that an “online Christian media leader” such as Crosswalk.com would allow it to appear on their website is symptomatic of the spiritual decline and biblical illiteracy of our time. Nevertheless, I can relate to the problem that Millennials are experiencing in many of today’s churches, which is that pulpits are filled with people that they aren’t worth listening to because they really have nothing of significance to say.  Regrettably, what occurs in many pulpits today amounts to little more than religious speeches.  Ironically, the solution promoted by the author, Lindsey VanSparrentak, is to simply get rid of sermons altogether rather than replacing pastors that are ungifted, disinterested, or poorly trained with respect to effectively communicating God’s word.  It’s kind of like what we are experiencing with respect to the NFL and the protests during the national anthem.  Some have actually suggested that the “solution” to this controversy is to stop playing the national anthem before the games.  Now there’s a thought.  

Regrettably, VanSparrentak apparently is unaware that she’s attacking God’s primary method for casting vision, educating, evangelism, and discipling the church at large. Paul made it clear that God has ordained the method of preaching to bring people to faith (1 Cor. 1.20-25).  Moreover, the Spirit inspired Paul to tell his disciple Timothy, and by extension all future ministers, God’s charge to “Preach the Word!” (2 Timothy 4.1-4).  God has ordained that preaching the scriptures is a paramount method of communicating His word to His people.  And, at the risk of being obvious, sermons are the product of Christian preaching, plain and simple.  And to be clear, we are talking about preaching, not “sharing,” “suggesting,” “informing,” or “lecturing” about God’s word.  To preach means to “publically proclaim” the good news of the gospel; to forcefully assert with conviction the truth of God’s word; and to implore God’s people to conform to His will.  To put it another way, preaching is not the dissemination of recommendations and suggestions, it is publically announcing the word of God “in and out of season.”

Nevertheless, VanSparrentak’s justifies doing away with sermons in the church in favor of adopting more effective educational methods because apparently even universities are moving away from lecture based education models.  First, writing as a professor I must say that this is certainly not the case, there is no mass movement in higher education away from lectures as a foundational educational tool. Regardless of VanSparrentak’s assertion, even if it were true, she has unfortunately made a category mistake.  The church is not a university, and God has ordained that what may work in secular institutions does not apply to the body of Christ, which is the church.  And is precisely Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 1.20-25.  In this text Paul explained in emphatic detail that God has chosen what the world deems foolish (i.e., preaching) in order prove wrong what it views as wise and erudite (and this includes whatever educational models Millennials are currently advocating). Moreover, the greatest spiritual renewals throughout human history came about with sermons being a major method used by God to reach both his people and the lost.  Moses, the prophets, Ezra, Peter, Paul, Chrysostom, Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, Whitefield, Wesley, Edwards, Moody, Spurgeon, Graham, Criswell, and Falwell all regularly preached sermons and were used greatly by the Lord. And lest we forget, even Jesus preached sermons; so I ask, what would Jesus do?

I must admit, however, I can relate to VanSparrentak’s frustration with the educational ineffectiveness of many of today’s churches.  If you are only listening to one sermon a week, and you are not involved in any relevant small group Bible studies (the operative words being “relevant” and “Bible”), nor are you being discipled by someone of greater spiritual depth and biblical literacy (which is probably the experience of the majority of those attending church), then you are probably seeing very little spiritual impact for Christ in your life, your church, and your community.  And that is especially true if your church is being held captive by weak lay leaders that tolerate inept pastors giving sermons devoid of scriptures.  If that is your experience, then only the Lord can help you.  Nevertheless, the Lord himself used several different educational methods throughout his ministry, one of which was regularly preaching the word of God.  Of course he reached people while also utilizing different instructional methods as well, teaching them both individually and in small groups, as well as engaging in interactive “ask and answer” discussions.  Consequently, if we know how Jesus engaged in ministry, should we excuse ourselves from doing any differently?  Should not our Lord provide for us the educational models that we should practice and master? The problem is not that the time for sermons has expired, the problem is with those pretending to be preachers and/or with those tolerating their irrelevant Bible-less sermons.  

Without question, preparing and communicating weekly sermons that are fresh and relevant is a difficult task.  Moreover, communicating God’s will to those living outside of it makes preaching a more daunting task. So daunting that many pastors have become jaded; consequently they provide “sermonettes” that are entertaining, less threatening, and harmonized with the greater dominant culture.  In other words, many pastors tend to sanitize their sermons of things that our unbelieving culture finds offensive.  In today’s churches, pastors dare not sacrifice the world’s sacred cows; consequently, they have unwittingly become cattle protectors instead of shepherds.  The result is that they have ceased being effective spiritual leaders; consequently, they have stopped providing reasons for anyone to listen to them.  I generally do not recommend books in my blogs, simply because I find that most people aren’t all that interested in reading substantive books.  Nevertheless, I’m recommending one that is on my top-ten list of books to read for both layman and those preparing for ministry, and it is Stott’s book Between Two Worlds, and I recommend that you read its first edition (i.e., 1982) instead of its politically correct revision.

Ministry is difficult enough, and it is made even more challenging when people uncritically accept man-made premises about how to do God’s work. There are some things that God has ordained as essential to biblical ministry, and one of these essentials is the preaching of sermons.  To those who have made the mistake of concluding that sermons are no longer foundational for effective ministry, but instead are actually an impediment to building relevant churches, all I can say is that you are building your houses upon sand.  While your “groups” may grow and enjoy the momentary success that comes with being fashionable and popular, they will not last.  They will not endure simply because they are not built upon the foundation of God’s wisdom. As Paul put it, “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.”  Ministries built upon man-made wisdom are not biblical ministries, and if your church is not built upon the foundation of God’s word, then one has to wonder if it is truly a church at all.

Dr. Monte Shanks, © 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.