Marriage Is a Reflection of Our Relationships with Christ

A few years ago I learned  the important lesson that marriage is a reflection of our relationship with Christ. Katie and I faced the biggest crisis of our marriage. I started pastoring Woodland Christian Church when it was fairly small. Within three years the congregation had tripled in size. I admit that before I became a pastor, I was completely unaware of how much work is actually involved in shepherding a church of even a few hundred people. I had been an Army officer, a supervisor at a distribution center for Target, and an elementary school teacher. But none of those occupations approached the amount of mental and emotional energy and sheer hard work pastoring entails!

We had no secretary or associate pastor at the time. Almost all of my waking hours were packed with studying, teaching, counseling, making phone calls, sending e-mails, meeting with people, addressing administrative responsibilities, and tending to benevolence issues. When I was home, I should have been an engaged father and husband. Unfortunately, I did not have much left for my family emotionally, mentally, or physically.

Although I was failing as a husband and father, I was able to convince myself I was still pleasing the Lord. I compartmentalized my life by saying, “I am a Christian first, a spouse second, a parent third, and an employee fourth.” Instead, I should have said, “I am a Christian spouse, a Christian parent, a Christian employee.” The danger of seeing ourselves as a Christian first and a spouse second is we can find ourselves believing the lie I bought into at the time: “If I can be a good pastor, I can please God even though I am not the best husband.” The truth is that I was a poor husband, and I should have recognized that meant I was not pleasing the Lord. Continue reading “Marriage Is a Reflection of Our Relationships with Christ”

“Pastor, YOU should talk to this person!”

As a pastor, there are two situations I find myself in at times. I’d like to explain why I handle them the way I do.

First situation: “Pastor, YOU should talk to Brian!”

James sees Brian do something he thinks is wrong, so James makes this request of me. I tell James to go directly to Brian based on:

  • Matthew 18:15 Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.
  • Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

Neither verse encourages people to first go to their pastor. Instead, the verses instruct Christians to go to each other. Matthew 18:15 gives one reason with the words “between you and him alone.” In case the person repents, God desires to keep knowledge of the sin to the fewest number of people. Including even the pastor.

I might also add the verses don’t mention age or maturity. The words “you who are spiritual” is a way to refer to believers, not ultra-mature believers. Sometimes when I’ve told people they should go to the person, they say something along the lines of, “But I haven’t been a Christian long enough.”

There are only two situations where age matters:

  1. If Brian is still under his parents’ authority it would be appropriate for James to speak to Brian’s parents.
  2. If Brian is much older than James, it might be appropriate for James to encourage someone older to speak to Brian. I base this on: 1 Timothy 5:1-2 Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father [and] older women as mothers.

Second situation: “Pastor, what do you think about Brian doing _____.”

Continue reading ““Pastor, YOU should talk to this person!””

Pastoring (Shepherding) and Teaching

NOTE: Most of my posts come from letters I write to the congregation on the back of the bulletin each week. As a result, some of the posts apply more to people attending WCC, and this is one such post.

pastoring (speherding) and teaching

Ephesians 4:11 and 12 says Jesus “gave some to be…pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry.” The Greek construction of “pastors and teachers” puts the words together; in English they could be hyphenated as pastor-teacher. Since pastor means “shepherd”, Ephesians 4:12 combines the pastor’s dual responsibility of shepherding and teaching. This has made me appreciate my church background…

I was saved in Calvary Chapel, which places a strong emphasis on teaching. 2 Timothy 3:17 says “Scripture equips the man of God for every good work.” If pastors are supposed to equip the saints, and saints are equipped with Scripture, it only makes sense pastors focus on teaching. As a result, I’m thankful for the emphasis on teaching I observed at CC; however, CC didn’t have membership and as a result didn’t seem to emphasize shepherding.

When I received a youth pastor position at Grace Baptist – which has membership – my pastor and mentor, Joe Gruchacz, placed a strong emphasis on shepherding: counseling, discipling, following up with people, etc. Basically he functioned as much as an overseer as a teacher. In Acts 20:28 Paul told the elders to, “Take heed…to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church.” Peter also told elders to, “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers” (1 Pet 5:2). Since pastors are supposed to oversee or shepherd in addition to teaching, I’m thankful for the example I learned from Pastor Joe.

The church backgrounds God afforded me allowed me to observe the dual roles pastors have teaching and shepherding (or overseeing). With Pastor Doug’s arrival the two of us have been able to split these responsibilities with me focusing on teaching and him focusing on shepherding.

In an effort to ensure we’re fulfilling our roles and serving the congregation well, we decided to use Sunday night’s Evening Service to provide  updates on a few individuals. We haven’t done this before, but we (the elders) see this as a good practice and one we expect to repeat in the future. Considering the number of verses in the New Testament discussing the responsibilities believers have to each other, we think the only way these commands can be fulfilled is by being aware of how others in the congregation are doing, how you can pray for them, and whether you need to reach out to them.

Pastors are Prophets???

Pastors are prophets

If someone asked me what verse I believe most accurately describes what it feels like when I’m studying the Bible (as opposed to simply reading it) I would say 1 Peter 1:10, which says regarding the Scriptures “the prophets have inquired (or investigated) and searched carefully (or intently or diligently) to understand the truth in them. The prophets are pictured as straining to see the truth contained in God’s Word; they’re striving to understand what God has written so they can proclaim it to the people. I’ve always thought of the prophets almost like individuals standing in a dark room with very little light trying to clearly see what’s on the other side.

I don’t consider myself a prophet (as it’s listed as a separate office in Ephesians 4:11); however, prophecy is still part of the preaching of God’s Word according to 1 Corinthians 14:3, which lists three things prophecy does: He who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. The Amplified adds, The one who prophesies [who interprets the divine will and purpose in inspired PREACHING AND TEACHING] speaks edification…” Unfortunately, we tend to think of prophecy as only predicting (foretelling) the future, but it’s much better to think of prophecy as proclaiming (forth telling) the Word of God.

This looks to one of the biggest changes to my preaching since coming to WCC almost four years ago: instead of focusing on simply explaining what verses mean (basically providing a running commentary), it wouldn’t be too much to say my greatest desire now is for people to feel like God is speaking to them through His Word during my sermons. Simply put, it’s my desire prophecy would be taking place. My prayer throughout the week is for people to hear from God through the Scriptures. Of all the feedback I could receive regarding sermons, nothing is more encouraging than, “I felt like God was speaking to me while you were preaching.”

My home fellowship and Sunday School messages will continue to be mostly verse-by-verse exposition, hoping to stir up discussion over what we’re covering, but for sermons my prayer throughout the week is always the same and it could be summarized as: “Father what do You want to say to Your people?”

Pastors (shepherds) and how they equip (feed) their flocks…

Last Sunday evening we discussed church government with a focus on the interchangeable nature of the terms elder, bishop (also translated as overseer) and pastor, learning that all three refer to the same office, with each providing a different emphasis: elder emphasizes who the man is, his office or title; bishop/overseer emphasizes what he does in overseeing the affairs of the church, and pastor (literally: shepherd) refers to an elder who’s uniquely given a heart to tend to, care for, and feed God’s flock. Here’s the message if you’re interested.

The Greek word for pastor is poimen, occurring eighteen times in the New Testament: seventeen times it’s translated as shepherd, and only one time translated as pastor in Ephesians 4:11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors (NOTE: despite the attention pastors receive, this is the only place they’re mentioned in the New Testament) and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. The Greek construction of the words pastors and teachers indicates the two terms go together; in English they could be hyphenated as pastor-teacher emphasizing the pastor’s ministry of shepherding and teaching. John MacArthur said, “The phrase is best understood in context as a single office of leadership with the word translated ‘and’ meaning ‘in particular.’ Since pastor means shepherd, the terms go together defining the shepherding teacher.  It’s related to 1 Timothy 5:17 where Paul says, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.” The word especially shows not all elders labor in teaching, but some will have that ministry separate from the other elders and that’s the pastor-teacher.

What I kept thinking about this week is the relationship between Ephesians 4:12 and 2 Timothy 3:17: pastor-teachers equip the saints for the work of the ministry and 2 Timothy 3:17 says Scripture equips the man of God for every good work. If pastors have the responsibility of equipping the saints, and Scripture is what they’re equipped with to do every good work God wants done, then it only makes sense that pastors would shepherd or feed God’s flock by teaching them Scripture. This explains why the one time pastors are mentioned in Scripture, they’re tied to or united with the word teaching: that is how pastors or shepherds, best tend to and care for God’s flock: feeding them God’s Word.