03 June 2008

The hardest aspect of pastoral ministry (part three)

by Dan Phillips

In part one I contrasted pastoral ministry with every other "job"; in part two, I raised the stakes, framed the issue in more specifically Biblical terms, and heightened the tension. Here I mean to provide such answers as I have.
But first, a brief disclaimer. Both the first meta and the second contained some excellent responses. Read them! Here I aim to state the central issue, then focus on a couple of specific implications and applications. I will fight the temptation to write a dissertation.
At the risk of incurring my own condemnation of sounding simplistic, the right pastoral frame of mind is found in 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 —
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
This is an orientation Paul shares with all Christians — but with the pastor, it relates more specifically to his life-work than (say) with the trucker or the five-star general.

First
, note that Paul explicitly contrasts walking by faith with walking by sight. The essence of walking with God is in the realm of the unseen, not of the visible and tangible. It is the "assurance of things hoped for," and therefore not in present possession; it is "the conviction of things not seen," so not capable of quantification (Hebrews 11:1; cf. Romans 8:24). And remember that, to Paul, faith is not a happy, optimistic feeling he worked up. Rather, it is a wholehearted embrace of an explicit word from God (cf. Romans 1:16; 4:3; 10:17; Colossians 2:7; 2 Timothy 3:14-17).

So: be pleased if you see visible results — but also, be surprised, and don't get attached to them. What we deal with is far greater than what can be seen (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Then note that Paul's overarching, all-controlling aim is to be pleasing to God. He does not aim at popularity, power, or prestige. Paul is radically God-centered in his life, and his ministry is an outflow of that orientation. In fact, pleasing God sometimes would require displeasing men (Galatians 1:10; 2 Timothy 3:12).

Finally, note that the final and ultimate reality standing over and against all is the judgment seat of Christ, which is where Paul's life and ministry will be finally assessed. Only then will Paul's life and ministry come to full review, and receive its final assessment; and the Assessor will be — not Paul, nor the church, nor the world, but — the Lord Jesus Christ.

Put it all together, and this is the picture with which we're left:
  1. One must aim above all to please God...
  2. ...which can only be done by responding to His Word in obedient faith...
  3. ...and which will produce a life and ministry that will only have its final assessment at the judgment seat of Christ.
The pastor, then, is like a pilot who is flying by instruments. He can see nothing out of the window. He can't chart his course by sight nor feel. "I do not even judge myself," Paul says (1 Corinthians 4:3). He has to go by what the instruments tell him. In the pastor's case, the "instruments" are the Word of God. The pastor must beg God's humbling instruction through His Word and commit himself to all of it (1 Timothy 5:21), he must attend constantly to that Word (cf. 2 Timothy 2:7), he must grow in his grasp of (and "graspedness" by) it (1 Timothy 4:15-16) — and he must, in the final analysis, defer the final assessment of his ministry to the judgment of God on that Day (1 Corinthians 4:1-5).

Now, drawing to a close, I'll confess three things to you:
  1. This conclusion makes me very uncomfortable
  2. But I just have to live with it.
  3. And so do you — whichever side of the pulpit you occupy.
It makes me uncomfortable because I have known pastors who, frankly, were jerks. Far worse, and God forgive me, I've been a pastor who was a jerk. I've known pastors who do foolish, selfish, peculiar things, and "play the God-card" to justify it. And here's a humbling fact: many of the things I've done and now regret, I did because that's how I saw the Word at the time. And I'm sure a goodly truckload of you are nodding — more of you, perhaps, in criticism of other pastors than in self-criticism, but some in each category.

However, in the final analysis, I must ask two questions. They are not, "Do you like this?" and "Is this the majority opinion?" No, they are: (1) What does the Word say? and (2) What better system would you propose?

Should a man make full evaluation of his ministry by majority-vote? Should he not make Scripture the map and chart of his priorities in ministry? Should he not look to the judgment seat of Christ as his final court of appeal? I can't think that anyone who knows and believes the Bible would seriously suggest such man-centered, God-sidelining course.

But then I hasten to say that, if a man makes a grasp of all of Scripture his real touchstone, it will leave him open to instruction and correction. What he learns in his study will send him out of his study. Because he will read in that Scripture that "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool" (Proverbs 28:26a), that "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice" (Proverbs 12:15), and that "Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but one who hates correction is stupid" (Proverbs 12:1).

The pastor who takes this counsel to heart will want to please God by being the humble, teachable, wise man who assumes that he still has much to learn and need of growth (Proverbs 9:8b-9). He will avoid becoming the stone-eared fool who is inseparable from his folly (Proverbs 27:22), and who consequently makes the same foolish mistakes over and over and over again (Proverbs 26:11).

In other words, while he will not be the slave of others' opinions, he equally will not be fool enough to consider himself above and beyond the touch of the counsel of wise friends and teachers.

So there you have it. How does the pastor measure success? Not like any human business or employment. The singleminded focus of the pastor must be to please God. But there is only one way he can tell whether he is pleasing God: if he is ministering out of faith and love, and in compliance with the revealed will and priorities and guidelines of God as given in Scripture alone.

Thus doing, you can cherish the prayerful hope that, at the end, you will be able to say in good conscience:
I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.
Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteous judge,
will award to me on that Day,
and not only to me
but also to all who have loved his appearing.
(2 Timothy 4:7-8)

Dan Phillips's signature

42 comments:

DJP said...

Occurs to me I could cheat, and sneak into the meta all the verses I'd have talked about if I weren't fighting the temptation to write a fourteen volume set. Like —

"This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me" (1 Corinthians 4:1-4)

And...

"If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. ...16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Timothy 4:6, 16)

And...

"Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching" (1 Timothy 5:17)

And...

"As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry" (2 Timothy 4:5)

Ahh, there. I feel better.

Penn Tomassetti said...

Wow. That is wise counsel. Helps me know what to pray for those that labor in preaching and teaching.

Thank you for this study.

Tim Pauley said...

This has been a tremendously encouraging series. I serve in a ministry where it can be very difficult to measure success by outward results.

A group of us who meet together regularly are reading and discussing Kent Hughes book, Delivering Ministry from the Success Syndrome. This, combined with your posts, has challenged me to me to renew my commitment to faithfully seek to please God, and trust Him for the results and the rewards.

Johnny Dialectic said...

It looks like you're doing pull ups on your sword. Ouch.

What a great series, Dan. Thanks for all the thought you put into it.

I just got the complete Tozer from Logos, and have been dipping into it. I found a section where he spoke of times of discouragement in his ministry, and how it led him to his knees (or, more, his face on the floor).

I'm glad Tozer remained faithful. Your series is a great encouragement for all of us, especially pastors, to strive to do the same.

Frank Turk said...

My opinion is that pastors should read the whole Bible every year, and the letters to Timothy and Titus once a quarter -- maybe once a week for the extremely intransigent.

This is a great series, Dan. I really wish I had written it, but I am glad you have since you're the pastor and I'm merely the guy with a blog.

Mike said...

"Far worse, and God forgive me, I've been a pastor who was a jerk."

Yep, you've been not a jerk, exactly, but a character with closed eyes.

"And here's a humbling fact: many of the things I've done and now regret, I did because that's how I saw the Word at the time. And I'm sure a goodly truckload of you are nodding..."

Yeah, me, too.

"...more of you, perhaps, in criticism of other pastors than in self-criticism, but some in each category."

I've never criticized any pastor, even you. As for my pastor, I've never criticized him. I did make him mad once, not intentionally though. ;) "Love does not..." do those things in 1 Co 13. No wonder you're a member of Pyromaniacs... (James 3:16) That's not criticism.

Hey... if you're uncomfortable, you're humble. Hurts your pride, doesn't it? That's healthy.

I agree with most of the post, but...

"The pastor, then, is like a pilot who is flying by instruments. He can see nothing out of the window."

The Lord can see, so He should be the pilot, not the pastor. The pastor is the co-pilot. This is where the Holy Ghost comes in.

Good post.

Mike said...

James 3:16 was a typo. I meant James 3:6.

Hayden said...

Dan,

Excellent series. Thanks for encouraging this pastor.

A wise pastor asid thsi to me once

"You can do the RIGHT thing in the WRONG way" which is just a summary of the last section of your blog entry. This piece of wisdom has helped me tremendously and reminded me not to play the 'God card'

The Spokesman said...

So there you have it. How does the pastor measure success? Not like any human business or employment. The singleminded focus of the pastor must be to please God. But there is only one way he can tell whether he is pleasing God: if he is ministering out of faith and love, and in compliance with the revealed will and priorities and guidelines of God as given in Scripture alone.

Amen Dan! And in this the pastor has to be very patient, gentle, and able to teach. His service to his Lord based on his firm stand on the Word can bring accusations of "Bible-worshiper", "dictator", and "unloving."

I have been pastoring for seven years at the same church and have been called all of those things. Many left the church as I started preaching systematically through God's Word and refusing to compromise with God's requirements for leadership in the church and its God-ordained purpose of equipping the saints.

Today, many who at one time opposed (but didn't leave) have come to the knowledge of the truth and now see that what I did was necessary to please God; was in obedience to God's Word; and was an act of love not only for God but for the saints.

Just the other day I shared a clip from YouTube where Rick Warren stated that religious pluralism was necessary to fight the problems of the world and compared that with 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, showing that the man is false. One lady who opposed severely in the past spoke up and said, "If we hadn't been taught from God's Word we would hear something like that and think that it is right. My heart goes out to the people in churches that don't have a pastor that will teach them the truth."

Pastors very well may be accused of all sorts of evil - but as long as those things are not true and are for Jesus' name's sake - he can fight the good fight and keep the faith knowing that his toil is not in vain in the Lord.

Mike said...

johnny, The Tozer books are all great. I like 'em and I recommend them.

Connie said...

Thanks for this series, it has been a great example of a pastor encouraging and building up other pastors--nice example of 2 Cor. 1:3-4.

ezekiel said...

Dan,

The thing about this series that really irks me is that the theme seems to be to set apart or differentiate the pastor from the flock. Pastors have been doing that for ever. Any time a human does this it leads to pride and frankly a search or desire for glory that only belongs to God. It too often leads to little gods in the pulpit and flocks of misguided idol worshippers in the pew.

Scripture is full of planting, growing and plowing examples or parables. (1 Cor 3:6-7). If born again, truly part of the kingdom, then we are all servants. Fellow laborers, planters, harvesters, waterers. (Luke 17:7-10) Show me a busy harvester and I will point you back to a busy planter and waterer. We are all part of the body and told repeatedly to function as a body. What about that Holy Priesthood stuff. Fact or fiction?

Now this really gets me.

“So there you have it. How does the pastor measure success? Not like any human business or employment. The singleminded focus of the pastor must be to please God. But there is only one way he can tell whether he is pleasing God: if he is ministering out of faith and love, and in compliance with the revealed will and priorities and guidelines of God as given in Scripture alone.”

I would argue that EVERYONE regardless of occupation if desiring to measure success, should measure the exact same way. A man walking in the flesh can’t please God. ( Romans 8:8) Shouldn’t my single minded focus be to please God? So a man measuring success in terms of his business or his employment is not going to please God either. All that will be burned up some day, wood hay and stubble.

Then we have Frank saying this,

“My opinion is that pastors should read the whole Bible every year, and the letters to Timothy and Titus once a quarter -- maybe once a week for the extremely intransigent.”

What about the rest of us Frank? Do we not need to study to be approved workmen, to be able to preach the WORD in season and out of season, to be able to answer a question any time, or do we just need to show up on Sundays, throw a little coin in the plate and let that preacher feed us? Can you show me where I should abide in the WORD any less than my pastor?

Either the veil was torn in two and all of us are part of the priesthood, part of the body and accountable to the same requirements (walk humbly before God) or we are just simply not any different from the misguided multitudes in Jerusalem.


Success????

Romans 8: 12So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Future Glory

~Mark said...

Thanks for an excellent series that really takes us all back to basics. I try to remind others (and in the mirror, myself) that circumstances aren't the measure of your standing with God no matter if they are good or bad.

We just need to keep our eyes on pleasing Him and let that be our reward.

Being eternally grateful that He knows our "dust frames" are just pleased as punch with the occasional outward reward!

Mike said...
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Mike said...
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The Spokesman said...

ezekiel: The thing about this series that really irks me is that the theme seems to be to set apart or differentiate the pastor from the flock. Pastors have been doing that for ever.

We are all part of the body and told repeatedly to function as a body.

Your argument breaks down with your own scriptural logic. Each member of the body has different functions. Each member is important to the body. However there is a differentiation between body members - your head is not your feet and your feet are not your head and your hands are not your nose and so on.

Therefore, not every member of the body has the same God-given abilities and the body is in trouble and cannot function properly if other members are doing their own thing or nothing at all. On the one hand you would have arms and hands and legs and feet out of control which would be a form of spasm. On the other hand you would have arms and hands and legs and feet doing nothing which would be a form of paralysis.

Despising the God-given design and function of the body is nothing short of the sin and rebellion of Korah (see Numbers 16:1-3 and Jude 11). Despising pastoral leadership falls into this category.

Frank is right. The letters to Timothy and Titus are pastoral letters. Those letters have great benefit not only to pastors but also to other members of the body. They not only show the pastor what God expects of him but also they show other members what God expects of pastors. There wouldn't be nearly as many churches "accumulating teachers in accordance to their own desires" if they read the pastoral epistles to see not only what God expects of pastors but also what they should expect.

ezekiel said...

Mike,

True enough, "not hearers but doers will be justified". I tend to look at it more as a tree and root system grounded in the river bank though. Psalms 1:1-3 and Jer 17:7-8

The real question we ought to ask though is how do we become doers in the first place if we don't know what He tells us to do? What does "abide in me, and I will abide in you" really mean? How do we "abide" without reading the WORD for ourselves.

Given the history of the priests in the OT and knowing the nature of man, do we simply follow whatever the preacher says and neglect the cleaner water from the spring? Drink from the tank?

As far as application, I would suggest that on some level, we are all guilty of trying to judge our success. I know I am.

The point though is if it applies to my pastor, it applies to me.

Solameanie said...

I love the emphasis on Scripture. In fact, here's a good question to ask oneself routinely -- whether you are a pastor or a layperson.

How much in love am I with God's Word? When I preach, do I find within its pages what I need to teach, edify, and admonish my flock, or do I need to go to some outside source?

As someone listening to my pastor, do I love it when he opens the Word and digs in deeply, or do I get more out of the little asides, jokes and illustrative anecdotes? Do my eyes glaze over when God's Word is read and preached?

The answers to those questions are very revealing. I am personally convicted about spending less time in the Bible these days. "Lack of time" is no excuse. Perhaps I need to make time.

ezekiel said...

The spokesman,

As far as I know, there is only one Head though.

When you start down the path of using your pastoral authority, you follow in the footsteps of a religous system similar in organization to that in Jerusalem. Where were they leading and where do they lead today? Where does most of the persecution of the christians come from today? Inside the church or outside?

Certainly, each has his own position and function within the body. The real problem starts when we start trying to say that the arm is more important than the leg, or the finger more important than the toe. Jesus warns us not to do that.

Luke 22:24-30

The question is, do you serve your congregation in your capacity of leader or do you exercise lordship? I don't expect that anyone here would have trouble being able to determine the difference, but then, most of the folks here probably read the WORD.


If we look at the letters to the churches in Rev, they were written to the Body of the church. No address to the pastor that I can find.

Unfortunately, in a lot of churches today, the janitor is probably much closer to the kingdom than the pastor is. Nothing new with that though.

Hayden said...

Ezekiel,

Is there not differentiation in roles within the church? Are not some called to lead? (Hint read the Pastoral letters as well as James 3:1-3)

You are right, this can be said of all Christians that we are to be like the Bereans of Acts 17. As a pastor, I would love it if the people went home on Sunday and talked about the sermon and also studied relevant passages. That would be 'success' :)

Don't get irked, Dan was writing this series about pastors. Just because we are all a part of the priesthood of believers does not mean that there is no differentiation among the members. (1 Cor 12) Also read 1 Thess 5:12-13; Heb 13:17,18; 1 Tim 5:17. What do these mean if there is no differentiation of roles my brother?

Hayden said...

Ezekiel,

By the way, in the letters to the churches in Revelation the phrase 'to the angel of the church' is seen by many as a reference to the pastoral leader of the church.

Just because someone is given the responsibility to lead the congregation (see above) does not make them authoritarian. The reason the veil was torn was not to get rid of all authority in the church but to get rid of the abuse of authority that the Pharisees and Sadducees had.

I appreciate your zeal my brother. I wish more people were as passionate about the Word.

ezekiel said...

hayden,

There certainly are different roles for different members, different gifting so on. That is not my argument.

What I have been saying (I think) is that the way the door greeter gauges success should be the same way the pastor does. And that is

“So there you have it. How does the pastor measure success? Not like any human business or employment. The singleminded focus of the pastor must be to please God. But there is only one way he can tell whether he is pleasing God: if he is ministering out of faith and love, and in compliance with the revealed will and priorities and guidelines of God as given in Scripture alone.”

You can add SS teacher, cook, janitor, window washer, flower detail, music minister and anyone else you can think of so none...not one.... is left out.

Any way you stack it, the pastor ain't special for doing what God gifted and called him to do. (Luke 17, he doesnt come in from the field and get another servant to cook his meal) At least not any more special than any one else or any other part of the body.

greglong said...

Ezekiel,

No, the pastor ain't special. But he does desire a noble task (1 Tim. 3:1). And he is held to a higher level of accountability than other church goers (1 Tim. 3:1-7). (Notice I did not say a higher level of RESPONSIBILITY, but rather a higher level of ACCOUNTABILITY. All Christians should strive to be "above reproach", etc., but a man can't be a pastor unless he meets these requirements.)

And do you dispute Dan's main point that "success" for a pastor is harder to determine than it is for many other career choices? That's primarily what he's saying...not that other workers in the church should focus on anything less than faithfulness to God and His Word.

ezekiel said...

Hayden,

Angel of the church simply reads, to me anyway, "the messenger" to the church. There are a lot of angels in the Bible that were not pastors. But that is just the way I read it. Others can be just as firm in reading it their way.

I can't reconcile the angel to the pastor because we are told that we are higher than angels, we will judge angels, as sons that is, so if my pastor is a brother, he isn't an angel...

Passion for the WORD. That is what it all boils down to. Passion for Christ. If one has it, the hunger and thirst is put there by Him and the seat at the table is reserved. Permanently. I don't know how it is going to work, but I can't help but think the seating arrangment is going to shake a lot of folks.

Can you imagine what a local church could do if they got the pastor and the pew pulling together, with a hunger for Christ and cooperation of all the parts?

Blessing to you brother.

Dave .... said...

I love triplets:
1) the pastorate is a faith-guided endeavor,
2) the pastorate is a God_pleasing endeavor, and
3) the pastorate is an eschtologically-measured endeavor.
That would preach, but not "sell". Would that we be found faithful.

You have done a good thing, Dan. Grace and peace.

Dave .... said...

I love triplets:
1) the pastorate is a faith-guided endeavor,
2) the pastorate is a God_pleasing endeavor, and
3) the pastorate is an eschtologically-measured endeavor.
That would preach, but not "sell". Would that we be found faithful.

You have done a good thing, Dan. Grace and peace.

ezekiel said...

Greglong,

5What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

What and Who' success are you measuring? Do you measure success by the number of seed you plant? Do you measure success by the number of plants you water? In the parable of the sower, your seed fall on all types of ground. How can you take credit for that? How do you measure that?

Or do you measure success by the amount of growth? If you do, you are measuring God's productivity, not yours. What authority do you have to measure His productivity?

Maybe the whole problem is with the terminology of "career choice". That really irks me as well.

Was it a calling or was it a choice? If the answer is choice, it would indicate a hireling rather than a disciple.

DJP said...

Ezekiel — at times I'm forced to referee a bit, including when the discussion has bogged down, or someone seems stuck. You seem stuck, so I'm stepping in.

You began by confessing that you have issues with what the Bible says about authority and structure in the church. A lot of folks have to work through such issues when they become Christian; it isn't in our nature to accept any authority. "You shall be as God" appeals to us all.

But when we accept the Lordship of Christ, we can then deal better with authorities established by God (Romans 13:1ff.). We all have to deal with those issues at one point or another.

A few decades ago, some concerted efforts were made to take apart what the Bible says about order within the church, and to mutate the church into an unstructured non-organization. Now we're sort of in been-there / done-that / let's-not-go-there-again mode.

So, to move on, here's where we've been:

1. You floated the "we're all priests" line. It was swiftly pointed out to you that Korah tried that same approach, and it had nothing to do with authority or leadership then, nor does it now. All Christians are priests; not all Christians are pastors.

2. Then the "the pastor's no different" line resurfaced — which really does give the impression you didn't read either of the preceding posts very well — but were reminded that it has been explained at some length that the pastor is in quite a different position (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:14).

3. You've been reminded that the Bible frequently and clearly assigns to the pastor a different function than other church members. People like you (and I, at the moment) are commanded by God to submit ourselves to the pastor(s) of our local church (e.g. 1 Corinthians 16:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; Hebrews 13:7, 17) — whereas, conversely, pastors are never told to subordinate themselves to us. By contrast, pastors' work is set aside from others' (1 Timothy 3:1), they are subjected to distinctive requirements (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9), told to assert their leadership seriously and decisively and as effectively as possible (1 Timothy 1:3; 4:11; Titus 2:15, etc.).

And as to your remaining issues about "career choice" and all, I would myself again point you to the preceding two points, which already explained what's under discussion in this series.

You also do a lot of, "Boy, if we say ABC, then X%@ will follow!" We all need to remember not to oppose our judgment to God's, as expressed in His Word. Also, we must beware extracting a concept, developing it our own way, and then using it to bludgeon specific Biblical texts into fitting our schemes.

As I said, when I see someone repeating himself, rehearsing issues already answered as if they hadn't been responded to adequately, I just have to say it's time to move on. You seem to be starting to do that. It's time to move on.

Chris Brauns said...

Thanks. I plan to pass along to our leaders.

Lisa Nunley said...

One of my favorite series.

Sarah L. said...

"Our Master has never promised us success. He demands obedience. He expects faithfulness. Results are His concern, not ours. And our reputation is a matter of no consequence at all."

"There have been times of late when I have had to hold on to one text with all my might, "It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful." Praise God it does not say 'successful'!"

- Amy Carmichael





-Carmichael

Sharon said...

My pastor wrote an excellent page on "Success vs. Excellence." Sarah's comment brought it to mine. IMO, it's worth the length to post it here.

I suggest that you pursue a commitment to personal excellence rather than success, based on your own God-given potential. Success and excellence are often competing ideals. Being successful does not necessarily mean you will be excellent, and being excellent does not necessarily mean you will be successful. Success is attaining or achieving cultural goals, which elevates one’s importance in the society in which he lives. Excellence is the pursuit of quality in one’s work and effort, whether the culture recognizes it or not.

Success seeks status, power, prestige, wealth, and privilege. Excellence is internal—seeking satisfaction in having done your best. Success is external—how you have done in comparison to others. Excellence is how you have done in relation to your own potential. For me, success seeks to please men, but excellence seeks to please God.

Success grants its rewards to a few, but is the dream of the multitudes. Excellence is available to all, but is accepted only by a few. Success engenders a fantasy and a compulsive groping for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Excellence brings us down to a reality with a deep gratitude for the promise of joy when we do our best. Excellence cultivates principles, character, and integrity. Success may be cheap, and you can take shortcuts to get there. You will pay the full price for excellence; it is never discounted. Excellence will always cost you everything, but it is the most lasting and rewarding ideal. What drives you—success or excellence?


A Musician by Grace

ezekiel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ezekiel said...

DJP,

Having thought about this a bit, I am having trouble moving on. I hope you can see fit to grant me a bit of grace and bear with me a bit more.

Following is a response to your last post. It is lengthy, but the only way that I know how to do it without giving you and others the idea that I cant read your post or the scripture you use for support. Your comments are highlighted, mine in regular text.

You began by confessing that you have issues with what the Bible says about authority and structure in the church. A lot of folks have to work through such issues when they become Christian; it isn't in our nature to accept any authority. "You shall be as God" appeals to us all.

I don’t so much have issues with what the bible says about authority and structure in the church but I do have issues with what some preachers tell me the bible says about authority and structure in the church.



But when we accept the Lordship of Christ, we can then deal better with authorities established by God (Romans 13:1ff.). We all have to deal with those issues at one point or another.

I think if you follow all the tsk references to the first verse that you will find Pilate and Nebuchadnezzar among the “governing authorities”. Priests are mentioned in one reference but (Hebrews 10:19-21) makes it clear that we don’t need earthly priests to intercede for us anymore.

Hayden said “The reason the veil was torn was not to get rid of all authority in the church but to get rid of the abuse of authority that the Pharisees and Sadducees had.” Actually, we see from Hebrews 10:19-21

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. That is me and you. Us. The Body.

That leaves governing authorities, civil authorities, kings and rulers. I don’t see a pastor there anywhere. In fact, if a pastor is a disciple (I think he is) then we have this straight from the mouth of Jesus.

“25 And he said to them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”



A few decades ago, some concerted efforts were made to take apart what the Bible says about order within the church, and to mutate the church into an unstructured non-organization. Now we're sort of in been-there / done-that / let's-not-go-there-again mode.


Forgive me, but I wasn’t too interested in these events and don’t have the background to comment. I am not trying to mutate the church. Or despise authority.


So, to move on, here's where we've been:



1. You floated the "we're all priests" line. It was swiftly pointed out to you that Korah tried that same approach, and it had nothing to do with authority or leadership then, nor does it now. All Christians are priests; not all Christians are pastors.

Korah’s sin was that he sought the priesthood also.(Numbers 16:10) We see him connected to Cain and Balaam in Jude. One might say that he sought to exalt himself. Balaam, I think, prophesied for money and Cain killed Able because he was jealous of the better sacrifice that Able made. Now does this sound more like the pew trying to conquer the pulpit or the pastor doing what some do today?



2. Then the "the pastor's no different" line resurfaced — which really does give the impression you didn't read either of the preceding posts very well — but were reminded that it has been explained at some length that the pastor is in quite a different position (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:14).

See also 9:15ff.

Especially 9:19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.

That doesn’t sound too much like a ruler or an authority exercising lordship over the pew.....Now if we really take Luke 22:25-26 seriously and we consider ourselves disciples then servant is a better position for all of us, including the pastor.



3. You've been reminded that the Bible frequently and clearly assigns to the pastor a different function than other church members. People like you (and I, at the moment) are commanded by God to submit ourselves to the pastor(s) of our local church (e.g. 1 Corinthians 16:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; Hebrews 13:7, 17) — whereas, conversely, pastors are never told to subordinate themselves to us. By contrast, pastors' work is set aside from others' (1 Timothy 3:1), they are subjected to distinctive requirements (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9), told to assert their leadership seriously and decisively and as effectively as possible (1 Timothy 1:3; 4:11; Titus 2:15, etc.).

The same can be said about apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers. (Ephesians 4:11) I don't see the clear line of authority given to them either, unless you want to include them in "elders", "leaders" or those over us in Christ

Then “16:16. be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer.”

Now if we follow the tsk references, we find among fellow workers Phil 4:3“Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” A similar reference indicating mutual submission is found in Ephesians 5:21, Romans 16:3, 3 Jo 1:8

Then 1 Thes 5:12 “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.”

I don’t so much see pastoral authority here either. What I do see is brothers, one over the other in the Lord. One older, one younger, one on milk the other on meat. Sort of like you and me. You are not my pastor but I do consider you “over me in the Lord” and I do respect you!

Then Hebrews. Ok, leaders. Notice that is plural. “Those who spoke to you the word of God” In many churches today, that has become decidedly singular in use. And if we continue on, we see “Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith”
Today, this is more often “obey your pastor and submit to him” never mind the way he conducts himself outside the pulpit.

Then “ whereas, conversely, pastors are never told to subordinate themselves to us.” I don’t really know how you handle 1 Cor 12:24-25 or any of the rest of it for that matter. But it doesn’t line up with your statement in my opinion. Neither does 1 Peter 5:3, Ephesians 5:21 or Ephesians 4:1.

We are told to be imitators of Christ. Pew and pulpit. It continues to amaze me how a pastor can exalt himself over his congregation and present himself as a ruler and an authority yet claim to be an under shepherd at the same time. Christ humbled himself(John 1:14) and repeatedly throughout his walk to the Cross. If we do indeed claim to be imitators then we will humble ourselves, (Ephesians 5:1) and again (1 Cor 9:19).

And as to your remaining issues about "career choice" and all, I would myself again point you to the preceding two points, which already explained what's under discussion in this series.

You also do a lot of, "Boy, if we say ABC, then X%@ will follow!" We all need to remember not to oppose our judgment to God's, as expressed in His Word. Also, we must beware extracting a concept, developing it our own way, and then using it to bludgeon specific Biblical texts into fitting our schemes.

That just may be the understatement of the day. Thanks for the (WE)!



As I said, when I see someone repeating himself, rehearsing issues already answered as if they hadn't been responded to adequately, I just have to say it's time to move on. You seem to be starting to do that. It's time to move on.

And you are correct again. I am moving on.

Peace Brother.

ezekiel said...

the spokesman,

One more thing. The next time you endeavor to use the Moses/Korah example to lord it over your flock and beat them into submission, I would leave you with one thought.

When you do that, you place yourself in the postion of Moses and put the congregation in the place of Korah.

See Matthew 23 for what Jesus thinks of that.

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. 13 But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

The Spokesman said...

ezekiel,

I have never used the Moses/Korah example to lord it over my flock and beat them into submission. Even when I shared it with you it was to serve as a warning of the dangerous path on which you were trodding - not to lord it over or beat you into submission.

Korah's despising Moses' God-given authority (although Moses didn't lord it over) and accusing Moses of lording it over - ("They assembled together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, 'You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?") - is given as an example in the New Testament to show one of the characteristics of ungodly, unregenerate, counterfeit-Christians.

Your argument mirrors Korah's! You would even accuse me of lording it over my congregation when you don't have a single shred of evidence of such. You are welcome to contact my church at www.devcobaptist.org and see if any of your accusations are true. You can also listen to many of my sermons online at www.sermonaudio.com/olanstrickland and see if you can find any evidence there.

DJP said...

Ezekiel, I was afraid I had erred on the side of generosity in letting your diversion stand, giving you the benefit of the doubt, and offering some Biblical correction.

And now you've done again as you have in the past: a 1550+ word response which amounts to, "I really hate what the Bible says on that topic, but here are a bunch of irrelevant verses to make it sound as if I don't."

Since you've not dealt honestly with the texts, there's not much more to say. You are indeed doing exactly what Korah and company did, in committing a category error. What's more, it is exactly the same argument as that made by folks who hate what the Bible says about women: same value = same function. But, as has been pointed out to you, your position is anti-Biblical.

And then, after saying you were done, you went back on your word by attacking The Spokesman.

You are done. That's official.

And to all: no more on this diversion. Don't feed the troll. I'll let The Spokesman's response stand. No others. If you're a Biblical Christian 40 years old or more, you've seen this nonsense already, and seen through it. If you haven't, learn from someone who has.

Back to the topic of the post, no re-invention of the wheel or extended arguments about whether it's round or not.

StoneCry said...

The wheel is round, the wheel is round... :-)

I don't disagree with the abundant amount of encouragement given to pastors within this series, especially while they (you) serve in an office that has little to no tangible metrics to identify success. But I'm still struggling with the notion, mine taken from the writing, that pastors are an esoteric group where scriptural admonitions clearly marked as "to the church" (even in the article's quoting) have special meaning for pastors.

My difficulty is related to the sacred vs. the secular split. I see through the whole council of scripture that we are all to employ ourselves with the same heart, that is to say, with our treasures in heaven. So whether a truck driver or a pastor, my first and foremost desire should be to glorify God, not get the truck load in on time.

I'm having a difficult time expressing my concern, and I fear being aligned in the same camp as the previous poster (this is not an "authority" discussion), because I don't understand why the author has established pastors, as discussed in the article, as being having an especially difficult 'walk' because they are unable to track progress of their serving.

There seems, in the church, to be many Christians who treat their faith as a 1600 ~ 0800 and a Saturday and Sunday faith. IF this style of "faith" was intended by God, I could understand the article more, but the Bible teaches all of us that we are sojourners, strangers in a strange land, etc. That we are all to live as pilgrims in this land, not storing our treasures in this world, but in heaven.

With that, the truck driver, while needing to labor to maintain an income, is really laboring for the Lord and should, in his laboring, do so as if he is accountable to God 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Not just with driving, but with what he does while driving. I've seen often that today's American Christian tradition is to consider the secular position, just that, secular and not a part of one's faith. This isn't taught from the pulpit, but this norm is accepted by our American Christian ethos.

I understand the pastoral position is a difficult one, as I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm not a pastor, but have friends who serve in that office. They have shared with me some of the struggles that you have mentioned here. It seems however, that the struggle isn't so much one where your labors cannot be measured easily, but one where the pastor is in the spotlight more than the truck driver. That the truck driver can sin and get away with it (technically), but the pastor has to be careful to not only, "not sin," but to look good in the spot light in front of his congregation and the local community. To always look good! Isn't that more of a difference than secular vs. sacred?

I look forward to your thoughts.

In His Mighty Grip,
Rich

StoneCry said...

I think my last paragraph or so didn't vet my question properly (didn't see a way to edit). I'm not saying that pastors are worrying about being in the spot light, but that they are indeed, by reason of the office, in the spot light. Thereby, everything they do, whether sinful or God driven is examined by the congregation and community, and with that examination, vulnerable to judgment - in this case, a greater judgment than the truck driver sitting in the congregation. However, so as not to confuse my question, if the truck driver is living faithfully for God, his employment may also be jeopardized by the judgment of his trucking line who desire their drivers to speed and keep double books (should he refuse) or to be quiet about their faith in Jesus.

DJP said...

Glad we agree about the wheel. As to you waiting for my thoughts, I'm sorry, but I just have to refer you to the three posts I just wrote which exactly answer your question, and in so many words. Beyond repeating myself, I don't have new thoughts. Sorry I didn't reach you. Grateful I seemed to have reached the pastors who come by, and many others.

DJP said...

Wait, I can't help myself. One last try, though I fear I'll regret it.

Your trucker. He got his load there intact and on time. He knows he did his job. Period.

My pastor. His church is small. He's struggling to pay bills. Why is it small? Is it because he did something wrong? Is it because he did something right? He doesn't know. He does know that the size of his church isn't a sign of God's blessing — because there are no such signs. Unlike other fulltime endeavors. It threatens to tear him apart. How does he make peace with that?

I just wrote three posts to frame and attempt an answer at (a broader form of) that question.

StoneCry said...

Thanks for not passing over my comments. I understood your desire to encourage those who serve as pastors and laborers full time. Reaching me wasn't an issue, I don't think we are so very far apart.

In His Might Grip,
Rich