Friday, February 09, 2007

More On Spiritual Birthline

Between Two Worlds: An Interview with Stephen Smallman

Stephen Smallman, who seems like a really great guy, was interviewed by JT on his blog yesterday. I appreciated the interview and some of the explanations Smallman gave, but I remain wary of the "birthline" model that he proposes.
I wrote a review of the book here if you are interested to which Smallman kindly replied in the comments. We agree to disagree on the matter.

2007 Pastors Conference :: Desiring God

2007 Pastors Conference :: Desiring God

All the sermons from the Desiring God Conference for Pastors are now available for free online!

HT: Dan

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Mozambique Christian Book Ministry Fund

The Goal: To purchase a building in downtown Nampula, Mozambique to house one of the country’s only Christian Bookstores.

Since 1999, Dr. Charles Woodrow (a church-planting, medical missionary (surgeon) supported by Grace Fellowship Church) has teamed with Editora FIEL (Faithful Publisher) of Brazil and missionary Karl Peterson of Maputo to provide Reformed Christian literature in the Portuguese language to Mozambican pastors and church workers.

Seven annual Pastors' Conferences have been held in Nampula with enthusiastic participation from local church workers. Each year 85-150 leaders have come from eight of the country's ten provinces, representing over 40 denominational and para-church groups. Gifted international speakers are brought in to lead the three to four day meetings. The purpose is three-fold: to refresh and encourage Mozambican pastors in their labors for Christ, to better equip them for pastoral ministry, and to acquaint them with the doctrines of grace and the rich legacy left the church by the Reformation fathers. Many of these leaders have participated in the Pastor's Library program of Editora FIEL, receiving one new book each month for three years.

Christian literature is almost impossible to obtain in Mozambique, so at these conferences thousands of books are imported for sale at one-sixth to one-third their normal cost. In 2004 Grace Missions in conjunction with Editora FIEL opened a bookstore and reading room in downtown Nampula. It is the only Christian bookstore to our knowledge in the northern half of the country.

Reporting on the last FIEL Pastor’s Conference held this past fall, Charles Woodrow writes:

“Grace Missions purchased twenty-five thousand dollars-worth of books (including freight) which FIEL provided us for only $10,000 and which we sell at the conference and in our bookstore at half that cost. As in the previous six years, Richard Denham, founder of Editora FIEL, Karl Peterson, and I rejoice to sink our personal finances as well as our ministry funds into the Annual FIEL Pastors' Conference because like many of our participants, we believe it is vital to the churches in Mozambique. Please join us in this ministry, as additional funds would enable us to expand its influence even further. Even though the books we supply are sold at a fraction of their normal cost in Brazil, they are still out of reach of most of our men... Additional book subsidies would get this fine literature into the hands of many more pastors.”

Grace Fellowship Church is attempting to purchase the building that houses the book ministry; a building that is currently rented by Dr. Woodrow. The building’s owner is anxious to sell and it is located in a strategic area of downtown. It would serve as a base for the Pastor’s Conference, the Pastor’s Library Ministry, a lending library and not-for-profit Christian bookstore (all the books are sold for one-sixth of their cost).

So far we have raised $15,190 (1/21/07) toward our goal of $35,000 (the purchase price). $1270 of this was raised by 8 kids who read Books for Mozambique. But you can see we have a long way to go - another $19,810.

If you feel that the Lord would be pleased to have you contribute to this ministry, please make your cheques payable to Grace Fellowship Church and in the Memo line write: Mozambique Books. You will be receipted by the church for the tax year in which you give. We plan to accept donations for this ministry until May 31, 2007. You can mail cheques to: Grace Fellowship Church, c/o Timothy Christian School, 28 Elmhurst Dr., Toronto, ON, M9W 2J5 CANADA.


There are no administrative costs to this project. Every dollar collected will go directly toward the purchase price of the building.

Here is a post on Dr. Charles Woodrow.

Here is an earlier post on the Book Fund that includes a link to Dr. Woodrow's sermon preached at GFC. If you get to the sermonaudio page, you can link to other sermons by Dr. Woodrow. I highly commend this one!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Superbowl Thoughts

The NFL was making a lot of their community service acts in the 10 minutes of pre-game banter I watched yesterday.

Then I read this in the Miami Herald from a few days ago:

"Two years ago, turf farmers in Riddleville, Ga., spread 40 pounds of grass seed over five acres. The crop was nurtured and pampered, its growers plucking any weeds and keeping a sharp eye out for armyworms and mole crickets.

Two days ago, the first sod was cut, rolled, placed in trucks and driven overnight from Georgia to Dolphin Stadium.

The grass for Super Bowl XLI is not your everyday lawn. The specially hybridized turf, with its $500,000 price tag, has been under turf farmer Phillip Jennings' care since 2005."

One half of one million dollars because "you have athletes who make $5 million and $10 million a year . . . and they want beautiful fields and fields that will hold up.''

One half of one million dollars would do a lot for the poor in Mozambique. I am not out to knock the kind things the NFL has done for inner-city youth and the like. I just find the contrast so sad - where our treasure is, there our heart is also.

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.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Enter Through the Narrow Door

This is real door of a real house in St. John, New Brunswick. Perry Edwards and I were exploring this quaint city last weekend while I was down there to preach and I yelled, "Stop the car!" when I saw this. Just had to get a picture. I had to bend over to reach the door knob! I kind of wish now that I had just stood up straight and tall, for the door frame was lower than my shoulders!

People was small way back when!
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Spurgeon on Your Church's Meeting for Prayer

It is no statement of mine, suggested by unreasonable zeal, but it is the result of long-continued observation when I assert that the condition of a Church may be very accurately gauged by its Prayer Meetings. If the spirit of prayer is not with the people, the minister may preach like an angel, but he cannot expect success. If there is not the spirit of prayer in a Church there may be wealth, there may be talent, there may be a measure of effort, there may be an extensive machinery, but the Lord is not there. It is a sure evidence of the Presence of God that men pray as the rising of the thermometer is an evidence of the increase of the temperature.

As the Nilometer measures the rising of the water in the Nile, and so foretells the amount of harvest in Egypt, so is the Prayer Meeting a “Graceometer,” and from it we may judge of the amount of Divine working among a people. If God is near a Church it must pray. And if He is not there, one of the first tokens of His absence will be slothfulness in prayer. God’s people, by their saying one to another, “Let us go speedily to pray,” manifest that they have a sense of their needs—they feel that they need much, much that Nature cannot yield them—they feel their need of Divine Grace, their need of quickening, their need of God’s help if sinners are to be converted. They feel their need of His help if even those who are saved are to be steadfast—their need of the Holy Spirit that they may grow in Grace and glorify God. He who never prays surely does not know his own needs and how can he be taught of the Lord at all? God’s people are a people sensible of their needs and therefore the absence of a sense of poverty is a sad token.

Moreover, the love which God’s people have for prayer shows their desire after heavenly things. Those who frequently meet together for importunate, wrestling prayer, practically show that they desire to see the Lord’s Kingdom come. They are not so taken up with their own business that they cannot afford time to think of God’s business. They are not so occupied with the world’s pleasures that they take no pleasure in the things of God. Believers in a right state of heart value the prosperity of the Church and, seeing that it can only be promoted by God’s own hand, they cry mightily unto the Lord of Hosts to stretch out His hand of mercy and to be favorable to His Church and cause.

Church members who never pray for the good of the Church have no love for it. If they do not plead for sinners they have no love for the Savior and how can they be truly converted persons? Such as habitually forsake the assembling of themselves together for prayer may well suspect the genuine character of their piety. I am not, of course, alluding to those who are debarred by circumstances, but I allude to those who, from frivolous excuses, absent themselves from the praying assemblies. How dwells the love of God in them? Are they not dead branches of the vine? May they not expect to be taken away before long? Earnest meetings for prayer, indeed, not only prove our sense of need and our desire for spiritual blessings, but they manifest most our faith in the living God, and our belief that He hears prayer, for men will not continue in supplication if they do not believe that God hears them. Sensible men would soon cease their prayers if they were not convinced that there is an ear which hears their petitions. Who would persevere in a vain exercise?

Our united prayers prove that we know that God is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. We know that the Lord is able to work according to our desires and that He is willing to be entreated of us. I have never known a thirsty man by a well who would not use the bucket which was there ready to hand unless, indeed, he was of the opinion that the well was dry. I have never known a man who wanted wealth and had a good trade, who would not exercise his trade. And so I have never known a man who believed prayer to be really effectual and felt his great needs who did not engage in prayer.

It is an ill token to any community of Christians when prayer is at a low ebb, for it is clear evidence that they do not know their own needs, they are not anxious about spiritual things and neither do they believe that God will enrich them in answer to their petitions. Beloved, may we never, as a Church, deserve censure for neglecting prayer! Our meetings for prayer have excited general astonishment by their number, but they are not all they might be. I shall put it to the conscience of each one to say whether you are as prayerful as you should be. Did you ever hear of a Church member who had not attended a Prayer Meeting for a month? Do you know of Church members who never assemble with the Brethren so much as once in a quarter of a year? Do you know of any who have not been to a Prayer Meeting in this place for the last six months? Do you know such?

I will not say I know any such. I will do no more than hint that such people may exist. But if you know them will you give them my Christian love and say that nothing depresses the pastor’s spirit like the absence of Church members from the public assemblies of prayer, and that if anything could make him strong in the Lord, and give him courage to go forward in the Lord’s work, it would be if all of you were to make the prayer meeting your special delight? I shall be satisfied when I see our prayer meetings as crowded as the services for preaching. And it strikes me if ever we are fully baptized into God’s Spirit, we shall arrive at that point. A vastly larger amount of prayer ought to be among us than at present and if the Lord visits us graciously He will set us praying without ceasing.