Thursday, October 26, 2006
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
It generally sounds strange to our ears to read of Baxter quizzing households on the catechism and such, then giving homework assignments to be completed by his next visit. Most of us are just happy to actually get behind the front door of someone’s home!
But this type of closely applied ministry is necessary – and probably the one area I personally struggle with the most. The cultural sea in which we are adrift makes teaching someone who is not paying for it seem like a blatant display of high-handed authoritarianism! But we must get past this misconception.
Members under our pastoral care need us, at times, to give specific instruction. This teaching must be:
Biblical – we do not instruct in areas the Bible does not give explicit instruction. We might offer some Proverbs-immersed advice in these areas, but we must tenaciously guard against any forms of power abuse.
Comprehensible – What good are directions in Chinese when all you can read is English? Our teaching needs to be simple, direct, forthright and we must question the member to see if they understand it.
Applicable – There is no point teaching on election if the current issue is marital unfaithfulness. (I can hear all you Calvinists scurrying about trying to demonstrate a way that election would be the perfect matter to teach on! Relax now. You know what I mean!)
So, if you meet with a couple and in the course of that night they ask for prayer for their marriage since they are both working 65+ hours per week – you may find yourself with a teaching opportunity!
This means that pastors need to know the Book, and know it well. A good doctor does not tell his patients to go home so he can think of a cure. His mind is at the ready with what he believes will be the best treatment. So, in the case above, wise instruction might mean a slow walk through Luke 12 or some wise counsel from 1 Timothy 6. If we take the time to really understand our sheep, trust the Holy Spirit to help us and force our minds to constantly be asking, “What does the Bible say about this?” – then we won’t go far wrong.
Bob Kauflin offers some wise advice on iPod usage.
"1. Only isolate yourself when you should be isolated. Don’t use your music to escape serving or interacting with others.
2. Limit the amount of time you use your iPod. Silence is a profitable state that is fast becoming a relic of the past.
3. Seek to listen to a broad spectrum of musical styles.
4. Consider how to bless others through your music choices, rather than yourself."
I bought one of the really cheap shuffles a while back, thinking I could listen to some of the podcasts becoming available. But I have found the only time I can listen to the thing is when I am on the treadmill or rowing machine. And since that has been rather intermittent, (shall we say?) of late - the shuffle has not had a lot of use.
It does amaze me though to see so many heads, young and old, plugged into little electronic devices. If I am out and about I almost always try to engage phones-wearing folk in conversation. I think they need to get out of their heads more!
Monday, October 23, 2006
I take it for granted that one of the many duties of a local church’s pastor is to pray for the sheep. But prayer is difficult when you don’t know what is needed. By “needed” I am not referring to what people want for a birthday present, but what spiritual growth is necessary in their particular situation.
This growth might include stopping some things and starting other things. It may mean a wholesale shift in worldview. It may be something as simple as learning how to handle conflict more effectively. The common denominator in all this real change is that it requires real prayer if it is really going to happen.
Thus, as mentioned in my last post, when we go to visit one of our primary goals is to complete what we refer to as data-gathering. We are out to get as much information as possible about the Christians under our care. And the first thing this information does is allow us to pray in specifics for the individual.
A Dad that is struggling to maintain family devotions – he may need a little instruction and encouragement on how to do this, but more powerful than this will be intercessory prayer on his behalf. A mom that demonstrates she is not in control of life but is being controlled by it – we can pray that God would have mercy on her, drawing her closer to Himself, filling her life more fully with His Spirit so that the promised fruit of self-control would grow in her day-to-day existence.
These are just a couple of made-up examples, but you see the point. How can we pray for folks we do not know? Sure we can pray in general ways... and we can always pray the Scriptures for our flock (which ought to be handled in another post!). But there is much to be said for praying in specifics.
It is a great encouragement to your church member when you are able to say to him that you have been praying for something in specific. Once they see the work of God in answering this prayer, their faith will be bolstered.
I think the one aspect of pastoral ministry I enjoy most is watching God change a man. The more you pray for this kind of real change, the more you will see God at work and the more your delight in Him will increase! So, meet with your sheep in order to pray for them more deliberately and specifically.
In the next post I hope to deal with some of the ways you might practically instruct your members during pastoral visits.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
The Fighter Jet will be manning the fort at Grace Fellowship Church this morning as I am off to Binbrook Baptist Church to preach for their 167th anniversary. Julian has a great set of quotes that I have linked to here on the battle against our flesh. I highly recommend them!
Tonight I will be back at GFC to hear of the work of Marco Vandermerwe - really looking forward to that!
Have a glorious day in the presence of God with His people!
Delight in Him!