Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Elite Quarterbacks" and "Elite Pastors"

The other day on ESPN, they were discussing whether or not a certain NFL quarterback was to be given "elite" status. For one of the commentators, the defining element to receive the "elite" status from the gods of the sports world was winning the Super Bowl. While the long-enduring faithfulness and steadiness of solid performances week after week leading the team to some victories and obviously enduring some losses, in-season & off-season, played a minor role in the discussion, the tenor of the conversation among the commentators was whether or not the "quarterback" won the Super Bowl.

(Sounds like a weird conversation especially since there are 10 other players on the field at any given time who must know their role and play it well just as much as the quarterback must play his. Anyway, I digress.)

As I listened to the conversation, the subject turned to coaches as well. Coaches were being fired left and right after 1 or 2 seasons, some after 5 seasons having not won the Super Bowl even though they "led" their team to winning seasons, the playoffs, and were a solid & steady & faithful captain along the way.

Then, the thought hit me: have we done the same thing in the "pastoral ministry" world? I know the overall & current pastoral system and church structure in my denomination is broken. But, the message that seems to be sent (probably unintentionally) by Christendom's culture gods is that to obtain "elite pastor" status in this world, one must "grow" your church to a certain "super bowl" size. Poor Jeremiah (never had a convert, never had a backslider repent). And, the unintended consequences for the "peons" out there? Pressure----because we do want our churches to grow, we do want more people introduced to Jesus and follow him faithfully. Pressure----because church members see this stuff and some begin to think, "if we get 'superpastor', our church can be like that". Pressure----temptations are triggered toward jealousy and envy.

Back in seminary I was privileged to read "Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome" by Kent & Barbara Hughes. And, it still stares at me everyday I walk into my study reminding me that faithfulness to Jesus, His gospel, His mission, and His people in feeding them, leading them, and loving them over the long haul is the definition of success in pastoral ministry.

Those are my ramblings for today.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"Read the Bible for Life" by George Guthrie - Summary, Chapter 1

At our church on Wednesday nights, we are studying through George Guthrie's book Read the Bible for Life. Each week, I'll be posting a summary of one chapter of the book along with a few comments from me.

Read the Bible for Life, Chapter 1
Reading the Bible as a Guide for Life
Interview with David Dockery, President of Union University

Note: February, 2008 an F4 tornado devastated their campus; rebuilt dorms in approximately 6 months; news people from major networks thought they would find people in despair, but rather found people with hope; Dr. Dockery credited this to the students and faculty of Union University’s lives being “oriented” to and “centered” on the bible

Primary passage of scripture: Psalm 25
  • Key verses: 25:4-5 - “make me, teach me, lead me”
  • Reading the bible as a guide for life is about following a person, the one who is the way, the truth, and the life------Jesus
  • Parallel: John 14:6

Chapter Summary
  • “To read the bible as a guide for life, we must first embrace the Bible’s view of reality”
  • “Reading the Bible as a guide for life is not primarily about methodology but rather an approach to living all of life from the standpoint of a biblical view of the world”
  • “They are reference points by which we understand life and the things that go on around us.”
    • the gospel
    • Cf. “The Chair” by Frank Perretti
  • “We learn to interpret the bible, but we also learn to let the bible interpret us in light of what it says is true about the world”
  • “The Bible really is at the center, providing an orientation to life, which directs us in all we do and helps us face the challenges of life”

“How can we cultivate a life oriented to the bible?”
  • “Develop a habit of reading the bible on a regular basis, reading it with an openness to what God would say to us”
  • “reading the bible with a view of studying it more seriously”
    • Hebrews 5:11-14, exhortation to all Christians
    • article: “Being Discipled” by James Emery White, not a passive lifestyle

“Problems to Avoid”
  • Mistakes in interpretation (author’s intended meaning)
  • Mistakes in application
  • Reading out of context (different kinds of literature in the bible)
  • Forgetting the big picture & our part in it

JA Bengel - “Apply yourself wholly to the scriptures, and apply the scriptures wholly to yourself”

Reading the bible as a guide for life is “really a lifestyle, lived in relationship with the Lord by his Spirit, lived out with other people in the community” of believers.

“the bible-oriented building of lives over time, lives oriented to the Bible’s way of seeing and responding to life”

  • What is the area in which you need God’s guidance the most right now in life?
  • In what difficult situation or important life decision has the bible been helpful to you or someone you know?
  • What do you think are the 3 most important truths in a biblical worldview and why would you point to those three?

Monday, January 21, 2013

"Make me, teach me, lead me"

Psalm 25 is a prayer of the psalmist filled with a variety of requests and offering declarations of God's goodness and grace and mercy. Two significant verses in this Psalm are vv. 4-5. There are 3 requests in these two verses, and there are two corresponding reasons why the psalmist believes those requests will be answered based upon the character of God.

First, he says, "make me to know your ways, O Lord." The psalmist desires to know the ways of God, how God works in the world, particularly in his life. Second, he requests that the Lord "teach me your paths." The psalmist desires to know the path, the road that God is taking him down in life, how to follow God through life. Third, the psalmist requests that the Lord "lead me in your truth". He desires to know the truth, that which corresponds to reality. But, his request is not for intellectual knowledge of facts, but that he might follow and live according to the truth of God that is revealed to him, hence the word "lead". It is the truth of God that provides the framework for decision-making and obedience to what God has revealed.

Now, there are two corresponding reasons why the psalmist believes the Lord will answer these requests. First, the Lord will answer because "you are God of my salvation". All of the psalmist's hope is in the Lord. In v. 1 of this Psalm, he declares, "to you, O Lord, I life up my soul. O my God, in you I trust." Then, because his hope is in the Lord, he believes the Lord will answer because he "waits all day long" on the Lord. It is in the Lord that he hopes and waits because the Lord is always faithful to come through. Both of these declarations are evidence of faith.

There is an interesting thing to notice about these two verses. They have a parallel in the New Testament. That parallel is found in Jesus' words in John 14:6. There, Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life". Knowing the ways of the Lord, learning the paths of the Lord, and being led in the truth of the Lord is really about following a person; that person being Jesus, the one who is our teacher, guide, and our leader, the one who is the way of the Lord, who is the truth of the Lord, and who is the life of God in us.