From the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, circa the late 1970s. Enjoy!
Mark Dever gives a needed talk at Together for the Gospel 2016 on “Endurance Needed: Strength for a Slow Reformation and the Dangerous Allure of Speed.” This was the talk that meant the most to me. We pastors face pressure from without and within to turn people into projects to reach our own desired goals in order for folks to look at us and say, “Ooh!” Reform can be slow, but the process is a beautiful journey with people you love and treasure in your local church.
Here were some quick takes from this talk:
- Pastoring, like parenting, is urgent work but not quick.
- God gives unending provision because we have an unending commission!
- God alone, not a goal set, is our ministry.
- You need a godly joy to sustain you!
He outlined ten joys of the elder’s chair:
- Joy of resting in the sufficiency of Scripture.
- Joy of seeing people converted.
- Joy of knowing the congregation well enough to see lives changed.
- Joy of singing God’s praises.
- Joy of knowing the state of your members is more important than numbers. Know how your members are.
- Joy of hearing others preach better sermons than you.
- Joy of being more excited at God’s work than your own.
- Joy of knowing the weight of the world is on God’s shoulders, not ours.
- Joy of longing for heaven together.
- Joy of waiting together on the promises of a faithful God.
- It’s God’s Word, not ours. His Word is enough!
- Be prayerful for your people!
- Recognize who you are–conduits of God’s grace to show that Jesus is enough!
My associate pastor and I fly out today to Louisville (via a four hour layover in Atlanta) to attend a conference called Together for the Gospel (you can take a look at the speakers here). I joked that this is our “Post-Easter Recharge.” In reality, it’s getting us ready for a busy summer ahead.
Pastors need to hear the Word as badly as they need to preach the Word. Some preach the Word because it’s like a hobby–something they love to do. When they speak of preaching, they almost speak of it as to how it exclusively benefits them personally. And to be fair, the privilege of studying God’s Word is as special as it gets. Yet, I’m always uneasy whenever I hear someone speak of preaching in terms personal benefits.
A long time ago, I heard someone say, “You are not called to preach the Bible, you’re called to preach to people the Bible.” Yes! We must always have God’s heart, our hearts, our people’s hearts, and our neighbors’ hearts before us. God’s heart in order to rightly divide His Word (2 Timothy 2:15), our hearts to make sure we lack nothing in and out of the pulpit (2 Timothy 3:16), our people’s hearts so they will move forward in His authority (Matthew 28:18-20) , and our neighbors’ hearts so our world will see that Christ is enough (Matthew 22:37-40).
Pray that God would work in our hearts, connecting us to His heart, so that we can minister to your hearts as you share and go and minister to your neighbors’ hearts. May God align all of us together to His will and way.
My hope is to blog or tweet various morsels that come from the banquet feast that’s ahead. So check in here each morning or head to my Twitter feed (@drmattperry) throughout the day.
When churches and church leaders begin studying methods and techniques of our culture rather than what God has laid out in His Word, even the best intentioned leaders will find themselves straying from God’s will–even when the numbers and results say otherwise.
I grew up on the tail end of a revivalism era where many evangelists would come into a church to conduct “revival services” asking those to “admit they were sinners” and to “come to Jesus” so you will “go to heaven.” Laced with tear-jerking stories and sparse exposition of Scriptures (which the Bible says in Hebrews 4:12 is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword), many would be emotionally moved. Revival services were considered great successes when great numbers would come.
I wonder how many who subscribe to this would look at Jesus’ evangelism techniques and say, “Wow, Jesus really missed it this time.” I am thinking of the story of the Rich Young Ruler in Matthew 19:16-30. Notice a number of things:
1. Jesus had a willing seeker. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Matthew 20:16). If that’s not a willing seeker, I don’t know what is! He clearly had a concern about his spiritual status before God. Jesus had someone ready.
2. Jesus had an influential seeker. This was a rich ruler, meaning he was part of the Sanhedrin, a.k.a. the Jewish Supreme Court. For many in our day, to have such an influential inquirer would be considered a great blessing. To those with questionable motives, this man needs to get into a church and learn the importance of giving to the Lord’s work!
3. Having such a convert would help make some in-roads into the Scribes and Pharisees world. No doubt that this would cause a stir.
But notice what Jesus does:
1. While many would be ready to bring them into the Kingdom right away, Jesus puts up roadblocks! “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 20:17 ).
Two things to notice here. First, he puts the inquirer on his heels by questioning his notion of ‘goodness.’ Only God is good, and only God can save. In essence, Jesus is saying, “Are you approaching me because I am good or say good things? Are you attributing to me the trait of being able to give life? Are you saying I am the Son of God — because only God and His Son can do this?”
2. He puts up the barrier of the commandments. “Keep the commandments,” Jesus tells him. If you want life, obey God to the fullest extent! Yet, the ruler questioned which commandments he should obey! Jesus lists off the Second Tablet commandments: “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
What are the significance of these? These are relational commandments — how one deals with another human being. The Scribes and Pharisees struggled with this. They loved obeying the minutiae of the law, but felt themselves morally superior to the common folk of the day. These were serious issues, given how they were God’s covenant priests who represented Him.
The rich young ruler felt himself capable of entering the Kingdom due to his adequate keeping of the commandments. In other words, he did not see himself as “falling short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). He did not see himself as a sinner in need of a Savior. He saw himself as a good man in need of vindication of his good works.
3. Jesus dug deep to the true obstacle of his heart. “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 20:21). Whereas many preachers and evangelists call for an easy-believism, Jesus rejected this notion and told the young man to come face-to-face with the core problem/sin that is the obstacle for eternal life. His possessions were his god — if he is not willing to give up his god, he cannot receive eternal life. If he wants the treasure of eternal life in heaven, yet will not give up the treasure here on earth, he cannot be a part of the Kingdom.
Many in our churches would never say that Jesus’ evangelism techniques were poor, but given how so few model him in showing how inquirers should count the cost of denying themselves and taking up their cross, we wonder why so few who say they are Christians really look very much like everyone else.
Right before dcTalk’s great song from 1995 called “What If I Stumble?”, a preacher (I believe it was Brennan Manning) spoke this:
The greatest single cause of atheism today is Christians, who mouth Jesus with their lips but deny him by their lifestyle. That’s what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.
Maybe its because many Christians have not learned the lesson of denying self and taking up the cross of Christ daily.
May that not be said of us!