Monday, February 05, 2007

The Pastor as Leader - Part 4 (Final)

This is a four part series. Click here for the introduction to what this panel was about and who the participants were. To read part two of the discussion, click here. For part three you can go here.

How do you implement change in a congregation to a plurality of elders if they’re not accustomed to that model?

K: (jokingly) Start a new church!

C: This applies to any question of change. How do you do it? One thing you don’t do is go in with two guns blazing. You teach them from the Bible whether it’s this or that. You teach, you love and you gain their trust. There are certain things that are going to be tough and you get to know them. You discover their fears and concerns and patiently bring them along or else it will end up in WWIII. You need to pick your battles wisely.

D: Expository preaching goes a long way. Just preach a few years with them. If you’re a hobby-horse type person they’ll see that. If you’re applying Scripture well they will trust how you’re using the Word and trust if you’re moving in a different direction from what they’re used to. If you’re new to a situation, people at first don’t trust you.

P: It’s great to let people know that you’ve been changed personally by the Word yourself. You want to cultivate a foundation that you live according to the Word and create an atmosphere within your church that is subservient to Scripture. If someone has an idea, help them think in biblical terms. Let people know that you’re a person who is guided by Scripture and that you’re growing in your own study of the Word.

K: Combined with that, we have to be careful that we don’t expound the Scriptures only from the pulpit. You have to be willing to face people one-on-one. For example, you can do it through a men’s meeting or with individual men. You can’t just hide behind the pulpit. You cannot just say things behind the pulpit that you’re not willing to say to people face to face outside of the church context. Take the time to get to know people.

Are there one or two experiences that have really shaped you as a pastor?

P: In college, I remember a meeting with John MacArthur and his pastoral staff where he rebuked them for focusing on program at the expense of people.

D: I’ve learned to be quiet and listen more than talk. It’s easy to get tired, frustrated and cynical in ministry.

K: You come out of Bible school thinking that you know all the answers. Don’t put too much stock in expository preaching. It is God who saves people. There is no technique in saving people. You need to be patient with people and get real with people. Visiting people in hospitals really shaped my ministry.

P: Planting a church has been a significant challenge for me.

D: There are many times when Satan will attack you and your ministry if you’re doing the right thing. Don’t let depression take control of you because it’s so self-focused.

K: Beware of talking about certain things with people you love at certain times. Beware of checking e-mails at certain times. Beware of answering certain phone calls.

P: You have to guard your heart.

C: Suffering is going to shape you.

P: Don’t think you’re the best thing that ever came along.

C: Get rest.

How do you stay relevant in preaching?

K: I read the Word while keeping in mind that you’re living in the world. I’m a news junkie so I have an idea of what is going on in different areas of life. I try to imagine myself preaching to an intelligent 8 year old.

C: You have to know people and be willing to serve the church. Know the Word of God.

D: I don’t think the question is being relevant but being biblical and then ask how you can make the Bible relevant.

P: Relevancy is just being genuine. If you’re genuine with people and in your preaching then people will relate to you. Baxter talks about studying people and listening. Get inside people’s heads and discern the disconnection between truth and life. How are you going to reach into people’s hearts? Understand what people’s motivations are. If you’re thinking in these terms then you will reach into the hearts of people. If you’re an irrelevant person, you will have an irrelevant ministry and an irrelevant church.

C: If you’re really studying the Word and you’re going through life with people, you will be astounded by how much it applies to all areas of life. There are a million principles there that you can use in real life situations, so much so that you need to hold back. It is an enormous privilege.

D: There was a story of a lady who didn’t feel judged because of the love from members of the church.

How important do you think it is for a pastor to be relevant to the people of the congregation, if they come from a different culture?

P: It’s the same thing with being relevant in preaching. Love the people. Love the Word.

C: Get to know people. Ask questions. You need to be quiet sometimes. You need to have fun with them sometimes. You get to know people better through real life experiences.

Ideally, what should the process look like for someone wanting to enter into the pastorate in the local church? Is there a difference between ordaining a pastor and ordaining an elder?

D: In our church, we’re lacking elders. We’re doing a ‘Timothy’ program where leaders are trained into eldership. You give them opportunities to serve in the easier situations first. If someone does desire to be an elder, sit down and have a long talk with that person and really question their motives for entering into the pulpit. Church and seminary must work hand in hand.

C: I agree. If you have the opportunity to work with mature men, take it. I was in the ministry at 22. I started in a small church. I had an opportunity to work with an older man, my predecessor at Trinity. I wish I had that earlier.

D: There is no rush to get into the ministry.

C: The world is not holding their breath for you to enter.

D: Men who rush into the ministry get burned out easily. Get involved in a church and make it known that that is your goal.

Is there distinction between ordaining an elder and a pastor?

D: I think pastors are ordained, but not elders. Although all elders are equal, a pastor has a distinct role of teaching the church so should be set apart. You need to have an ordination council in that case. With regard to elders, their ordination exam is based on voting within their church.

C: I don’t see the notion of ordination in Scripture at all. Sometimes ordination councils are all hype and improperly focused.

P: I would differ from David. Our view is that every elder is ordained in the same way. There is no distinction between elder and pastor. The process would be the same for both. You go through the list of qualifications from 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1. Then the church is called upon to examine him. If needed, an outside council is called in to appoint elders.

D: One huge benefit with ordination councils is the interdependence of churches in that process.

C: I agree with the idea of interdependence. We have 8 elders at Trinity, but I have no authority over them. You have to be careful that you don’t overburden them.

How do you keep meetings short?

D: Excellent question. Be in control. Put time limits on your agenda. Cut off conversations if you have to. Stick to what is important. You have to be pleasant in how you do it. Have a clear beginning and end.

C: There is a matter of balance. There are some people who want to move on and there are certain things which must be discussed thoroughly, so you need wisdom.

(To David) How did your upbringing as a PK (Pastor’s Kid) influence you?

D: My parents protected us from a lot. My parents did not have unrealistic expectations. It was a loving environment. My parents were normal. There was a consistency between the pulpit and the home. If you’re preaching love but screaming at everyone at home, people will see through that. There were certain privileges. I would travel with my dad to ordination councils. You sleep over at people’s houses. There were a number of church splits but my father protected me from that. My father had a lot of passion.

The panel discussion ended here with a time of personal discussion between students and panel members.