Do Our Ministries Need “Glittering Tinsel”?

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Former Assembly of God General Superintendent W.T. Gaston wrote an article of warning in 1953 that pastors and ministry leaders would do well to heed again today. This part especially caught my attention—

Gaston suggested, “If we are to have a future that is better or even comparable and worthy of our past, we will need to learn over again some of the lessons of yesterday.” One of the important lessons to rediscover, he wrote, was the importance of promoting “pure, undefiled” religion. 

He recalled that many early 20th-century Pentecostal pioneers were bivocational ministers, that often met in homes or rented buildings, and that most were not very impressive by the standards of the surrounding culture. However, they did not need worldly goods and accolades in order for the Holy Spirit to accomplish great things through their lives and ministries.

Gaston wrote that he witnessed an “utter disregard for poverty or wealth or station in life” in the early Pentecostal movement. Yet “those rugged pioneers,” he noted, “had something that made them attractive and convincing.” The contrast between the attitudes of the world and the early Pentecostals was striking. According to Gaston, early believers were “completely satisfied without the world’s glittering tinsel, and content to be the objects of its scornful hatred.”

In the Preface to my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, I sound a similar note of warning and encouragement: 

My larger concern is that churches, parachurch organizations, and nonprofit ministries that are largely founded to fulfill a biblical mandate are straying from the simple, freeing truths found in the Bible. Or maybe I should say that they are adding things to their ministries that aren’t in the pages of Scripture. Whichever way you want to say it, the result is the same: We are using the wrong metrics to define “success” for our ministries. I fear that in our focus on unbiblical practices, we are missing the joy of really doing ministry. 

All of these titles, flowcharts, and non-essential things that we are discussing, revamping, implementing, and measuring aren’t doing anything to liberate us, but they are keeping us focused on checking off meaningless boxes. We’re spending far too much valuable time and resources on keeping the machinery running, but we’re not correctly evaluating the outputs. We need to recalibrate our understanding of leadership: God’s leaders are servants. … 

I believe that leaders of churches and nonprofit ministries will find the greatest freedom and enjoyment—and ultimately experience the full blessing of God—when they learn to view themselves as shepherd leaders. Jesus is our ultimate example: Our Good Shepherd showed us how to live out the lifestyle that pleases Him and glorifies our Heavenly Father. 

I hope you will buy a copy of this book. And I invite you to also check out this video where I explain a little more what I hope this book will accomplish in all of our ministries. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Useful To The Master

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Useful To The Master  

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. (2 Timothy 2:20-21)

     On the vessels of honor, you can see the hallmark. What is the hallmark that denotes the purity of the Lord’s golden vessels? Well, He has only one stamp for everything. When He laid the foundation, what was the seal He put upon it? ‘The Lord knows those who are His, and, everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness’ (2 Timothy 2:19). That was God’s seal! That was the impress of the great King upon the foundation stone. Do we find it here? Yes, we do. ‘Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work’ (2 Timothy 2:21). Do you see, then, that the man who is the golden or silver vessel departs from all iniquity, and that is the token of his genuine character. …  

     Brethren, I count it an honor to be useful to the meanest child of God, but I confess that the honor lies mainly in the fact that I am thereby serving the Master Himself. Oh, to be used by God! This is to answer the end of our being. If you can feel that God has used you, then you may rejoice indeed! 

     There are some Christians whom the Lord cannot much use because, first of all, they are not cleansed from selfishness. They have an eye to their own honor or aggrandizement. The Lord will not be in complicity with selfish aims! Some men are self-confident—there is too much of the ‘I’ about them, and our Master will not use them. He will have our weakness but not our strength!

From The Great House And The Vessels In It

The Church of Jesus Christ is made up of many members. The Bible uses pictures of a body, a building, and a bride to describe how all of the parts work together to bring strength and vitality to the whole. But Jesus is always the central object: He is the Head of the body, the Chief Cornerstone of the building, the beloved Bridegroom to the bride. 

Everyone in the Church is placed there by God Himself to fulfill a vital role. It is incumbent upon every single Christian to yield themselves to the sanctifying, maturing work of the Holy Spirit so that we can all be “made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” 

Don’t let either the extremes of selfishness of self-abasement limit the good work you were created to do in making the body of Christ, the building of Christ, and the bride of Christ something radiantly God-glorifying!

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4 Ministries Of Healthy Churches

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

In the Foreword to my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, Dick Brogden observes, “God plucked David from the sheepfold. God chose a sheep to be a shepherd. And though we all are stupid sheep, when God plucks us out of obscurity to serve others, we can have the humble confidence for as long as we are asked to lead that God has chosen us. That confidence both faithfully drives us to our knees and fearlessly propels us against our giants. It is good to be a sheep; it is good to be an under-shepherd. Just remember you are stupid, chosen by the Wise One, and as long as you serve as a shepherd, you and your flock will be safe.” 

How true it is that all of us are sheep. The role of the shepherd is to care for the sheep and create a healthy environment for them. The role of healthy sheep is to reproduce more sheep. In this, both shepherds and sheep are ministers—we all minister to those God has placed around us. 

God calls all Christians to be ministers. The Church is the sheepfold that equips us, but then we must go out to minister in a way that will bring lost sheep to a personal relationship with Jesus. 

Our foundational truth statement about church ministry says: A divinely called and scripturally ordained ministry has been provided by our Lord for the fourfold purpose of leading the Church in evangelism, worship, sanctification, and compassion. 

(1) Evangelism. When we looked at the foundational belief about the Church, we noted that it’s not either-or—evangelism or discipleship—but it’s both-and. Christians are being the Church when they are intentionally living in a way that makes Jesus known (Matthew 10:1, 7-8; 28:18-20). 

(2) Worship. We shouldn’t have the mindset of, “Let’s go to church to meet with God.” Instead, we need to live in a way where we are always abiding in God’s omnipresence. This worship-centric lifestyle empowers our evangelism, changes our hearts, and fuels our compassion (John 4:23-24; Romans 12:1; Acts 2:46-47). 

(3) Sanctification. Remember that we are all in-process of becoming saints (I like to remember this by calling it saint-ification). We need each other to do this, which is why God gives gifts to bring out Christ-like maturity in us (Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16). 

(4) Compassion. Compassion is feeling turned into action. This opens the door for evangelism, creates more opportunities for worship, and matures Christians (Mark 6:34-37; Luke 10:33; Acts 2:45).  

Notice that each of these ministries are interdependent with all the other ministries. 

In a blog post nearly 10 years ago, I questioned: “How do we know if our church is successful?  The apostle Paul uses two words to help answer these questions: Quality and Faithfulness (1 Corinthians 3:13, 4:2). 

So here are two important questions we need to ask ourselves: (1) Am I doing quality work? (2) Am I faithfully doing my work? 

To help answer those questions, I like this thought from Leonard Sweet’s book I Am A Follower: “The most important metrics we must rely on, the crucial ‘deliverables’ we can present, must focus on the newly formed lives of the disciples we are making, the followers who are following Christ into a place of serving Him by serving others. The most important measure of our faithfulness to Christ must be the extent of transformation into the living image of Christ Himself. … The quantifiable fruit of our church is not found in the number of people we can gather on a weekly basis. What counts is what is happening in the lives of those who have gathered. 

These are questions we should all ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us: 

  • What is happening in my life? 
  • Am I telling others about Jesus? 
  • Am I worshipping God so consistently that everyone can see it? 
  • Am I maturating as a saint and am I helping other saints mature? 
  • Is my faith seen in my compassionate actions? 

Our individual answers to those questions will determine the success of our individual churches, which will ultimately determine the effectiveness of the global Church of Jesus Christ. I hope you will take some time to consider these questions for yourself. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series exploring our foundational beliefs, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—God Is The Great Worker

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

God Is The Great Worker

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9) 

     God Himself is the Great Worker. He may use what laborers He pleases, but the increase comes only from Him. Brothers, you know it is so in natural things—the most skillful farmer cannot make the wheat germinate, grow, and ripen. … And in the spiritual farm it is even more so, for what can man do in this business? … We can tell out the truth of God, but to apply the truth to the heart and conscience is quite another thing. … 

     Well said our Lord, ‘Without Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). What is the effect of all this upon your minds? Briefly I would draw certain practical lessons out of this important truth of God. (1) The first is, if the whole farm of the church belongs exclusively to the great Master Worker and the laborers are worth nothing without Him, let this promote unity among all whom He employs. … 

     (2) Next, notice that this fact ennobles everybody who labors in God’s husbandry. … 

     (3) But lastly, how this should drive us to our knees! Since we are nothing without God, let us cry mightily to Him for help in this, our holy service!

From Farm Laborers

I learned long ago of both the confidence and the humility in reminding myself that God chose me to work in His field. Here’s how I describe that in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter

     There is nothing wrong about aspiring to a leadership position. The apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé Timothy, “This is a trustworthy saying: ‘If someone aspires to be a church leader, he desires an honorable position’” (1 Timothy 3:1 nlt). Yet this desire needs to be tempered by Jeremiah’s words to his scribe Baruch, “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them” (Jeremiah 45:5). Taken together, a shepherd leader’s passion for greater leadership should be to gain greater things not for himself but for others. 

     Shepherd leaders need to remind themselves frequently of this simple statement: God chose me. The confidence comes from remembering “God chose.” If God has chosen me, then He has also equipped me. He foresaw the needs of this organization, and He has prepared me to step into this role for such a time as this. The humility comes from remembering “God chose me.” Who am I that God would think so highly of me? Of all the people on Earth that God could have placed here, why did He pick me? This confident humility will do two things for us: keep us confident to continue to lead when doubts or naysayers arise, and keep us humble to continue to serve people when pride or applause arises. (except from chapter 2 “Secure To Serve”) 

How important it is to remind ourselves that God makes things grow—not us. Our role is to perform the highest-quality labor possible, and to remain faithful at our post until God gives us a new assignment.  

This isn’t true just for church leaders, but for every member of the Body of Christ

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Please Consider Supporting This Ministry

For over 12 years and 4700+ posts, I have endeavored to provide my readers with sound biblical content. From devotionals, to sermons, to book reviews, and quotes, each blog post is intended to give my readers as much solid content as possible. 

Recently I have begun making my blog posts available in an audio format both on my website, and for subscribers through Apple and Spotify. Additional ways of getting even more content to you are always in the works. 

May I ask you to consider something? If this ministry has blessed you, would you please consider making a financial donation? You can click one of the links below to make either a one-time gift or a recurring gift. Thank you! 

 

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8 Quotes From “Words To Winners Of Souls”

I don’t say this very often, but Words To Winners Of Souls by Horatius Bonar is a must-read for those in pastoral ministry. You can check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“The question, therefore, which each of us has to answer to his own conscience is, ‘Has it been the end of my ministry, has it been the desire of my heart to save the lost and guide the saved? Is this my aim in every sermon I preach, in every visit I pay? Is it under the influence of this feeling that I continually live and walk and speak? Is it for this I pray and toil and fast and weep? Is it for this I spend and am spent, counting it, next to the salvation of my own soul, my chiefest joy to be the instrument of saving others? Is it for this that I exist?’” 

“It is not opinions that man needs: it is truth. It is not theology: it is God. It is not religion: it is Christ. It is not literature and science; but the knowledge of the free love of God in the gift of His only-begotten Son.” 

“Our power in drawing men to Christ springs chiefly from the fullness of our personal joy in Him, and the nearness of our personal communion with Him.” 

“Why so many meetings with our fellow men, yet so few meetings with God?” 

“Our life has not been a lying-in-wait for the voice of God. ‘Speak, Lord; for Thy servant heareth,’ has not been the attitude of our souls, the guiding principle of our lives. Nearness to God, fellowship with God, waiting upon God, resting in God, have been too little the characteristic either of our private or our ministerial walk. Hence our example has been so powerless, our labors so unsuccessful, our sermons so meager, our whole ministry so fruitless and feeble.” 

“It is easier to speak or write about revival than to set about it. There is so much rubbish to be swept out, so many self-raised hindrances to be dealt with, so many old habits to be overcome, so much sloth and easy-mindedness to be contended with, so much of ministerial routine to be broken through, and so much crucifixion, both of self and of the world, to be undergone. As Christ said of the unclean spirit which the disciples could not cast out, so we may say of these: ‘This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.’” 

“These must be days of strenuous, ceaseless, persevering, and, if God bless us, successful toil. We shall labor till we are worn out and laid to rest.” 

“It is unbelief that makes ministers handle eternal realities with such irreverence. It is unbelief that makes them ascend with so light a step ‘that awful place the pulpit,’ to deal with immortal beings about heaven and hell.” 

Words To Winners Of Souls (book review)

Horatius Bonar has given us a collection of sermons preached to pastors, which have been collated in a book under the title Words To Winners Of Souls. 

Although these were words by a pastor to pastors, this shouldn’t be a book exclusively read by pastors. Anyone who wants to successfully share their Christian testimony with unsaved friends and loved ones can find much to digest in these sermons. That being said, this is still a must-read (and I don’t say that very often) for those in pastoral ministry. 

Bonar was a no-pulled-punches preacher! He spoke candidly and forcefully, but he also spoke out of a love for the Body of Christ and its ministers. Early on in this book he says, “We take for granted that the object of the Christian ministry is to convert sinners and to edify the body of Christ. No faithful minister can possibly rest short of this. Applause, fame, popularity, honor, wealth—all these are vain. If souls are not won, if saints are not matured, our ministry itself is vain.” Wow: “our ministry itself is vain”—you cannot get more gut-level honest than that! 

In this collection of messages, Bonar helps us diagnose what may be hindering our soul-winning practices, and he also proposes the remedy for those shortcomings. These words are honest and often hard to hear, but they are so needed for everyone who desires, as Jesus does, “that none should perish but all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). 

Pastors, please read this book! 

Parishioners, please get a copy of this book for your pastor and then offer to prayerfully read through it with him or her. I promise you: this book will pay eternal dividends. 

UPDATE: I have shared some quotes from this book here.

9 Quotes From “A Spiritual Clinic”

J. Oswald Sanders gives Christians just the check-up we need in his hard-hitting and highly practical book A Spiritual Clinic. You can read my full book review by clicking here. 

“The greater our weakness, the greater glory will be God’s as we work in His power.” 

“We are busier than God intends us to be if we are too busy to take time for relaxation.” 

“It is characteristic of the earthly mind that it always covets the service of others: it desires to avoid toil and drudgery. This is one of the factors which makes wealth so desirable—it can secure the service of others. The mind of Christ manifested itself in His words: ‘I am among you as He that serves’ (Luke 22:27). ‘The Son of Man came not to be ministered to, but to minister’ (Matthew 20:28). It was His delight to be servant of all.” 

“How are we to obtain the mind of Christ? … Is not the secret hinted at in the exhortation, ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus’? It is the work of Another. Is not the supreme work of the Holy Spirit to reproduce in the yielded believer the inner disposition of Christ? What is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) but the mind of Christ? As we willingly consent to the crucifixion of the earthly mind and purposefully yield to the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, He will perform the miracle. Our minds will be transformed in ever-increasing degree by the renewing of the Holy Spirit.” 

“Nothing so tends to inflate a man with a sense of his own importance as the possession of great gifts of intellect and the enjoyment of special and unusual experiences. And there is nothing which more surely disqualifies from spiritual usefulness than spiritual pride.” 

“It will be recalled that the favored three disciples were not permitted to encamp on the Mount of Transfiguration. They must exchange the vision glorious for the convulsions of a demon-possessed boy. So must Paul descend into the valley if he is to be God’s messenger to a distraught humanity. He must learn that the mountain is only as high as the valley is deep. The higher he ascends in spiritual experience, the more deeply must he be identified with his crucified Lord.” 

“Even God’s honored servants cannot break His physical laws with impunity, nor are they immune from the onslaught of despondency. … We must seek physical and spiritual renewal if we are not to be put to flight by our enemy. If we shift our center from God to self, even for a period, we lay ourselves open to this malady of the spirit.” 

“Discouragement over the apparent failure of our best efforts, if not met with the shield of faith, will react disastrously on our spirits and degenerate into self-pity and despair.” 

“We seldom give God time to deal with us radically and deeply. Even when we experience conviction of failure and sin, we do not allow the Holy Spirit to work in us so strongly that we are brought to hate the sin. We lightly assent to our sinfulness without seriously and permanently dealing with it. We act as though new results would take the place of heart repentance and renunciation. [see Hosea 6:4] 

Keep Up Your Spiritual Health

In Workmen Of God, we have a collection of lectures Oswald Chambers delivered to those “reliable men” and women (see 2 Timothy 2:2) who were either already working in pastoral ministry or preparing to do so. Chambers talks to pastors about their work among those entrenched in their unbelief, those who are skeptical, those who are backslidden, those who are hypocrites, and those who have sick souls. He especially challenges pastors on how to minister to themselves so that they are prepared to minister to any soul in which God brings them in contact.

It’s in that light that I think this passage is so vital for anyone involved in Christian ministry—

“So remember, it is absolutely necessary to be like the cedars of Lebanon. Do you know the characteristic of a Lebanon tree? The cedars of Lebanon have such extraordinary power of life that instead of nourishing the parasites it kills them, the life within is so strong and so robust that instead of feeding the parasites it chokes them off. God grant that we may be so filled with His life, may flourish as the cedars of Lebanon, so that He can trust us down in all the dark, difficult places amongst the souls of our brother men and be able to pour His tremendous health and power through us. … 

“Do you remember, then, that it is necessary for the worker to be healthy, and beware of this mistake, that by working for God amongst men, you develop your own Christian life; you do not unless your Christian life is there first. It is so obvious that it needs to be said over again—you cannot develop your own Christian life unless it is there. The advice given that if you work for God you develop your own life often means that if you work for God you get right yourself; you do not, you have to be right with God first.” 

Pastors and other Christian workers, remember that you cannot give to others what you do not have yourself. You MUST make regular time to abide with Jesus, not for sermon preparation, but for your own robust spiritual health. 

Although written over 100 years ago, this book is still a treasure-trove for anyone in church ministry today!

Covenants To God

Christmas Evans tells us in his diary that one Sunday afternoon he was traveling a very lonely road to attend an appointment, and he was convicted of a cold heart. He wrote,

“I tethered my horse and went to a sequestered spot, where I walked to and fro in an agony as I reviewed my life. I waited three hours before God, broken with sorrow, until there broke over me a sweet sense of His forgiving love. I received from God a new baptism of the Holy Ghost.

“As the sun was westering, I went back to the road, found my horse, mounted it and went to my appointment. On the following day I preached with such new power to a vast concourse of people gathered on the hillside, that a revival broke out that day and spread through all Wales.”

Christmas went on to write 13 covenants to God. You can read all 13 of them by clicking here, but here are six of them that especially resonated with me—

V. O Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, take for the sake of Thy cruel death, my time, and strength and the gifts and talents I possess; which, with a full purpose of heart, I consecrate to Thy glory in the building up of Thy Church in the world, for Thou art worthy of the hearts and talents of all men.

VI. I desire Thee, my great High Priest, to confirm, by Thy power from Thy High Court, my usefulness as a preacher, and my piety as a Christian, as two gardens nigh to each other; that sin may not have a place in my heart to becloud my confidence in Thy righteousness, and that I may not be left to any foolish act that may occasion my gifts to wither, and I be rendered useless before my life ends…. 

VIII. … Grant that I may experience the power of Thy Word before I deliver it, as Moses felt the power of his own rod, before he saw it on the land and waters of Egypt. Grant this, for the sake of Thine infinitely precious blood, O Jesus, my hope, and my all in all.

IX. Search me now, and lead me into plain paths of judgment. Let me discover in this life what I am before Thee, that I may not find myself of another character when I am shown in the light of the immortal world, and open my eyes to all the brightness of eternity…. 

X. Grant me strength to depend upon Thee for food and raiment, and to make known my requests…. 

XII. Grant, O blessed Lord, that nothing may grow and be matured in me to occasion Thee to cast me off from the service of the sanctuary, like the sons of Eli; and for the sake of the Thine unbounded merit, let not my days be longer than my usefulness…. (emphasis mine)

If you want to do great things for God—if you want Him to do great things through you—then you must be wholly committed to Him. Perhaps Christmas Evans’ covenant statements will help you draft your own, or adopt a couple of his, to consecrate yourself to God’s service. 

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