All articles filed under: Church History

In Praise of the Ordinary Pastor: A Review

The example of Tom Carson’s life is worthy of every pastor’s imitation. Many pastors need the encouragement and instruction this book provides as we continually ask with the apostle, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16). Tom’s story shifts our eyes from earthly ideas of ministerial success to what Paul desires in Acts 20:24: “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” This was Tom Carson: an ordinary pastor who remained faithful to the end. May God give us the grace to do likewise.

Killing Words

Four words are haunting me: “And their voices prevailed” (Luke 23:23). With these four words Luke described the irreversible wave of fury that crashed on Jesus. The multitudes had a choice. The crowd could have opted for Barabbas—the convicted insurrectionist and murderer. But instead they chose Jesus of Nazareth. Pilate’s feeble attempts could not persuade the mob otherwise: But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”—a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted (Luke 23:18-24). It is easy for us to sit in judgment on those that cried out, “Crucify, …

Charles Finney Does Not Live Here

This is a really important consideration for our friends from the broader evangelical world as they come into contact with confessional Presbyterian and Reformed (P&R) worship. There is a high likelihood that those emerging from the broad evangelical traditions are addicted to a regular, even programmed release of dopamine and/or norepinephrine. It is not your fault. You are part of a tradition that dates to the mid-19th century. That tradition (represented and perfected by Charles Finney) discovered ways of manipulating people in public worship in order to move them from point A (the pew) to point B (the anxious bench).

Personality Driven Ministry

Carl Trueman has a helpful essay in the current issue of Modern Reformation magazine. In “Reflections on the Reformed Resurgence,” Trueman takes stock of what we can learn about a movement within evangelicalism now over a decade old. Trueman introduces the Reformed resurgence in contrast to another significant trend within American Christianity at the time: It is now over a decade since Collin Hansen coined the term “young, restless, and Reformed” (YRR) to characterize a rising generation of Christians who had rediscovered the vitality of the central doctrines of the Reformation: Scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, and so on. What Hansen (then a journalist with Christianity Today) had noticed was that while much of the trendy Christian media attention focused on the emerging/emergent church, there was another vibrant strand of evangelical Christianity gaining momentum in the United States and beyond. While the emergent gurus, such as Brian McLaren and Tony Jones, were moving in a more non- and perhaps anti-doctrinal direction, other church leaders—John Piper, Tim Keller and so forth—were doing the opposite. They were …

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 …

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 …