The Great Commission Is Bigger Than Your Church, by Bobby Jamieson

Because each of our churches is engaged in a mission that is bigger than any of them, we should proactively partner with other churches in order to fulfill it. Many churches’ denominational ties aim at this kind of partnership. But I’d like to suggest that the great commission should form in us, and in pastors in particular, a more pervasive posture of partnering with other churches to fulfill the great commission.

In other words, pastor, don’t consider your denominational affiliation or the money you give to missions to be your only, or even primary, means of fulfilling the great commission beyond the confines of your church. Instead, I’d argue that Scripture would also have you cultivate a posture of building partnerships with other pastors and churches in order to promote the gospel in your region and around the world.

For the whole article, go here.

Owen Strachan Articles on New England

I, along with two other brothers and our families, will be moving to Boston in September to church plant.  So anything New England is interesting to me:

“Ghosts of New England: A God-Expectant Place” — Go here.

“An Interview with Owen Strachan” at the Gospel Alliance of New England blog — Go here.

“Why the City is a Wonderful Place to Raise Children”

By Kathy Keller.  Go here.

May God Be So Gracious To Us

Long it has been an excuse for many how their decline in Christian ministry is due to their advancement of their age.  It is as if the long lives of many imminent saints, biblical and historical, are akin to eclipses that are exceptional when they occur though that occurrence be seldom.  I will not argue that gospel ministry should increase as one grows older, for aging and the limitations of both body and mind are the terrible consequences of sin.  Nevertheless, I would seek to encourage not only the elderly saints but all saints by God’s preservation of Moses.

In Deuteronomy 34.7b, it is written that though Moses was 120 years old when he died, yet his eye was kept undimmed and his vigor unabated.  That struck me sweetly a few days ago and the fragrance of it has stayed with me.  Moses, of course, was a minister of God and the great but imperfect mediator between God and the people of Israel.  His congregation was a most difficult lot.  The vast majority of the “congregants” were unregenerate people.  Only Caleb and his children, and Joshua and his family, and the children of that present evil generation of Israelites, would enter into the Promised Land.  They were stubborn, stiff-necked, rebellious.  They grumbled against his preaching, spat upon his leadership, and fornicated with other gods and peoples.  While he is up in the glory of communion with God, they are falsely worshipping a golden calf made with their own hands.  Moreover, Moses did not have the benefit of a well-structured church facility.  He did not have a beautiful pulpit, or a choir loft, or church programs.  He did not have a church van or a skilled softball team.  Many of the things that we clamor for as necessary and essential to the task of ministry, Moses did without, only he had personal communion, intimate fellowship with God, talking with God face to face.  And, that was more than enough.

But this is about God’s gracious preservation of Moses’ physical and ministerial vigor.  In spite of the difficulties that marked his tenure and stewardship, and the divine knowledge that this people would break covenant with God, and that they would be cast off into exile; in spite of his wilderness wanderings and the many heartbreaks of ministry (see Korah, Aaron and Miriam, his own misguided action, etc.), yet God preserved him for the task that God had called him to.

Brothers and sisters, as you are saints, so you are being equipped to do the work of ministry until the whole church comes into the full maturity of Jesus Christ.  We all have a gospel ministry, a heavenly stewardship.  I would urge upon us all the ideal of increased ministry as the years do pass so quickly by.  And, I would urge upon us this initiative in prayer to God: “Oh, God, would that You who called me by Your own Name and the glory of Christ, would that You also preserve me for gospel ministry, would you graciously uphold the light of my eyes and the vigor necessary for the task that You have assigned for me.  As time does pass, I trust that You will help me to know You and see more of Your glory, and I ask that, if it be so, You would match that increase in sight of You with an increase in zeal and vigor and love for the work of the ministry which bears the Name of Christ Jesus.”

Moses was 120 years old when he died, yet his eye was undimmed and his vigor unabated.  May God be so gracious to us . . . for His own glory and Name’s sake.

Holy Oil or Earthly Ambition?

What is the motivation behind your study of the Bible pastor?  Seminarian? Christian?  John Owen, dubbed the Prince of Puritans, was known throughout his life for his genius, the immensity of his learning, and his intense passion for biblical study and theological writing.  One of his biographers, Andrew Thomson, comments on Owen’s struggle for purity in study, and his words are good for us to consider and take to heart:

Of Owen:

He was wont to confess with a far more profound sorrow, not unmixed with shame, that no holy oil at this time fed his midnight lamp.  Instead the great motive which had borne him up, during those days and nights of consuming toil, was an ambition to rise to distinction and power in the church.

Of course, by God’s steadfast love to Owen and to us (for we do reap greatly from his holy motivation), John Owen was converted and pricked of conscience, and this birth and prick did lend itself to a forsaking of all earthly ambition for the sake of Christ and the holiness that is pleasing to Him.  Owen burnt brightly of holy oil, and so did his zeal for study.  Let us follow his example, praying to God that nothing but holy oil would feed our midnight lamps, that is, that we would have no other aim in study but the personal and corporate practice of the holiness without which no one will see God.  Earthly ambition only tends to destroy both holiness and the soul’s joy in God, and thus is fit for none but the self-deceived, hypocritical, fearers of men, and the unbelieving.  Why strive for a high place on earth when we, by grace, may have the sight of God in heaven?  Let your fire in the midnight hours, then, be fueled by humble improvement in holiness.

How Will He Care for God’s Church?

The title is a quote from the apostle Paul, 1 Tim 3.5b.  The context of the quote concerns the qualifications for those men gifted by God and set apart by the church for the noble task of overseer (elder/pastor).  The most immediate context is that qualification that deals with the management of one’s own home.  “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?”  Simply put, if he knows not how to manage his own household, he is not fit to care for God’s household whom He has so graciously adopted to Himself through Jesus Christ.

Much has been said and written concerning the professionalization of the ministry.  We have listened to many sermons, read John Piper’s book, and given an attentive presence to the echoes of well-meaning professors, and yet many still go comatose to a passage such as the stated above as soon as they receive a ministerial degree; as if their call to gospel ministry were through the seminary rather than the local church with whom the live and serve and worship.  Gospel ministry is no job in the sense that any other job in all the world is a job.  No degree qualifies any man for this stewardship.  God has divinely specified qualifications for the men that would aspire to shepherd His flock.

The greatest barometer for the pastoral ministry is God’s Word and the people among whom you live out the gospel.  Thus, the most pertinent and natural person(s) with whom an aspiring pastor has to do, God excepted, is his wife and children.  The issue is as simple and potentially difficult as this: ask your wife and children, “Do I pastor you well and with all dignity?”  I say simple because it is that simple.  And, I say potentially difficult because our pride might not like what we hear in response.  It is because your life is so constantly on display to them, both the grace of God and the failings of your flesh, the gold that He is refining and the black eyes of your mismanagement, that it is to them that we must preeminently attend to and shepherd with persistent humility, prayer, and a quick willingness to confess sin with pleadings for forgiveness.

The church may witness our doctored teaching, pristine preaching, earnest serving, and zealous leadership, but they will not observe our quick temper, or our irritability, or our stumbling into sin, or our functional gods in the same way or to the same degree that Jenny or Luke most certainly will mine.  Thus, God makes the godly management of the home prerequisite to the pious care of His church, because by dealing in reality with them, we are left naked, we are laid to bare before God and those most intimately aware of who we are in private and in public.  By their accountability the conscience is kept soft, the heart repentant, the aspiring shepherd holy where and when it matters most.  If a man will be holy in private with his family, he will be holy in public with God’s elect.

So this divine qualification prevents us from any pretense of self-deception, and it protects God’s family from careless shepherds who for the time being are not yet ripened enough on the Vine of Christ Jesus.  Let us not then take the noble office nonchalantly as if any man would suffice to lead Christ’s people to Him and to everlasting glory.  Let us be quick to God’s Word.  Let us take care to move at the pace of His requirements, applying them diligently and prayerfully, and coming to them time and again for a heavenly appraisal.  And, let us, brothers, beg of God to help us manage, care for and shepherd our wives and children with grace, dignity, faithfulness, and preeminence.  Then, by God’s mercy, we shall be qualified by Him to care for His church.

“Humility is the Key to Following Christ”

This is a sermon preached by Pastor Ryan Fullerton.  A challenge to comfort Christianity, and frankly, to me as I continually battle to do that which Christ called me (and us) to do most fundamentally, viz., “count the cost.”  Listen with an attentive heart as Pastor Ryan opens up the worthiness of Christ by the knobs of Paul’s Christ-constrained life and gospel ministry . . . to which he bids us “imitate.”