Month: August 2018

The Pastor and the Weight of Glory

If you were asked to isolate the “fundamental problem” in the evangelical world today, what would you say? I believe David Wells had it right when he outlined what ails contemporary American evangelicalism: The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is not inadequate technique, insufficient organization, or antiquated music, and those who want to squander the church’s resources bandaging…

Friendship Evangelism

Before Billy Graham, there was Reuben Archer Torrey. Torrey graduated from Yale in 1875 and, after graduate studies in theology, served what’s now Moody Bible Institute. He pastored a flock in Chicago for a number of years before leading the Bible Institute of Los Angeles.

However, we remember Torrey most for his evangelism. Like D. L. Moody before him and Graham after him, Torrey traveled the world, sharing the gospel by calling sinners to repentance and faith. Scores of Christians looked to him for counsel, and he had plenty to offer. In his book . . .

Pastor, Don’t Neglect Leviticus

A while back, I was preaching through the book of Ruth, and I highlighted that Boaz demonstrated himself to be a profoundly godly and extraordinary man. I said this because he, first, knew the law and, second, went beyond it when he allowed Ruth to glean under his watchful care. Then I said, “And you’ll never know why Boaz is so extraordinary if you don’t know Leviticus. For that matter, you can’t really understand your Bible unless you know Leviticus. That’s why it’s my favorite book of the Bible.”

Church Growth and the Cross

When I entered the evangelical world in the mid-70s there was much talk and teaching (and guilt manipulation) about personal evangelism, but not much talk of church growth. A decade later, however, when I went to seminary, church growth was all the rage. I expected to study Scripture, to learn Hebrew (I did Greek in university), systematic theology, church history, homiletics, and pastoral theology. I was completely unaware of the so-called “church growth” movement. My earliest experience in a Reformed church was in a small German-Reformed congregation from the wrong side of the tracks. The “successful” and “influential” churches in my hometown tended to be on what was, temporarily, “church row” on the east end of town. Meanwhile, my little German Reformed congregation moved toward the center of town where it has been ever since. There we talked about Scripture, doctrine, the Christian life, and outreach to the community, but there was no expectation that we should become a large, influential presence in our heavily churched city. In a couple of my pastoral theology courses …

Discipleship: A Cost-Benefit Analysis

Does it pay-off to be a follower of Jesus Christ? Is it a sound investment? A good decision? Can it be justified in the light of what it costs a person? These are the questions that make up the cost-benefit analysis of discipleship. And this helps us get at the heart of Jesus’ words on discipleship in Mark 9:42-50: Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. [43] And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. [45] And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. [47] And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to …

Some Pastors and Teachers: A Manifesto

The Tortoise wins.

I remember hearing Aesop’s famous fable The Hare & the Tortoise as a little boy and thinking, “I’d still like to be the hare. After all, the tortoise may win, but who wants to be a tortoise?”

Many years later I’ve reconsidered, especially when it comes to pastoral ministry. If there ever was a vocation wherein “the race is not to the swift,” it’s the pastorate. A faithful shepherd will . . .

One There is, Above All Others

Faithful pastors need a song on their heart. But not just any song. We need songs that sing of our Savior; songs that are richly theological and doxological. In Newton we have both. *** One there is, above all others, Well deserves the name of Friend; His is love beyond a brother’s, Costly, free, and knows no end: They who once His kindness prove, Find it everlasting love! Which of all our friends to save us, Could or would have shed their blood? But our Jesus died to have us Reconciled, in Him to God: This was boundless love indeed! Jesus is a Friend in need. When He lived on earth abasèd, Friend of sinners was His name; Now, above all glory raisèd, He rejoices in the same: Still He calls them brethren, friends, And to all their wants attends. Could we bear from one another, What He daily bears from us? Yet this glorious Friend and Brother, Loves us though we treat Him thus: Though for good we render ill, He accounts us brethren …

“At the Bottom of a Well”: Why Should You Believe?

Henry David Thoreau famously observed how the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. The late theologian Carl F. H. Henry took it a step further when he argued most people don’t really know where they are or where they are going. It’s as if they “cower at the bottom of a well run dry.” 1Carl F. H. Henry, Toward a Recovery of Christian Belief: The Rutherford Lectures (Crossway, 1990), 17. The thrust of this essay is basically a summary of Henry’s important book. Imagine what it would be like to sit at the bottom of a dry well. There is no water to quench your thirst and no light to help you see. You can’t explain where you are, and unless someone reaches in to save you, you’ve no hope of escape. This is the condition of most people today, though they’d never admit it. This is what life is like without faith in the triune God of the Bible. Sure, many people will claim meaning for their lives. Yes, quite a few will assert that …