Categories
The End of Many Books

Brothers, We Are Not Professionals

by John Piper

Those who sow spiritual things are allowed to reap material things; making one’s living “by the gospel” is biblical (1 Cor. 9:14). A paycheck for one’s vocation means one isn’t an amateur, doing the work just for the love of it. That sounds like being a “professional.”

And there are specific and significant qualifications for being an elder/pastor. A man must not be shoddy in his ability to teach, let alone shady in his character, faithfulness, dependability. There’s a way in which you want a “professional.”

Piper isn’t arguing against money or skillfulness, but he is arguing against being a suit, against trying to accomplish supernatural things through manual effort. That is tough in pastoral ministry.

When Brothers came out in 2002 it didn’t just scratch an itch for me, it scratched a full body rash. That’s sort of disgusting, but so is being the wrong kind of professional pastor. Since then I’ve read through the book a few times, and recently read it again on Sunday mornings while on the elliptical (a time spent trying to wake up my aching body and soul before assembling with the saints to worship). It’s not novel now, of course, and if I was assigning it to younger shepherds I might not assign all the chapters (and so I’m taking back a star this time around). But this book has much solid food for a minister to become more mature.

4 of 5 stars

Categories
The End of Many Books

The Shepherd’s Life

by James Rebanks

I share a job title with James Rebanks and yet we do very different work. He’s a shepherd, but the sheep he tends have four legs, and he did not intend this book for metaphoric application. 

Nevertheless, I read it a second time. I’m maybe just a bit less smitten with it than eight years ago, but the earthy, seasonal, relentless, and generational work parts continue to have good effect on my affections. I read it only on Sunday mornings while I got my body and blood moving to be ready for ministry to our assembled flock. 

Here are his three rules of shepherding:

“First rule of shepherding: it’s not about you, it’s about the sheep and the land. Second rule: you can’t win sometimes. Third rule: shut up, and go and do the work.”

He wouldn’t say it this way, but, that’ll preach.

5 of 5 stars

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Pastoral Attention

We’re at the time of year again when our elders/pastors (and our deacons) review their qualifications as overseers. We must answer if we think we are still meeting the character requirements (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9), if we still hold to or have developed new hesitations regarding “What We Believe,” if we are making progress in our spiritual lives that others can see, and if we can see fruit of God’s grace through our ministry work.

That’s just the first part of our annual affirmation process; it’s not biblical in that there is no explicit verse that provides a standard operating procedure for pastoral affirmation, but it is part of our attempt to apply the exhortation Paul gave to Timothy:

Keep a close watch (take heed – KJV, pay close attention – NASB) on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16 ESV)

It is hard to be honest, not because you want to put on a show, but because “close attention” always shows shortcomings, weaknesses, sins remaining to be killed, Christlike attributes needing to be pursued. It is a cause for humble rejoicing when someone says, “You’ve really grown in that area!” It is a cause for humble learning when someone says, “You really need to grow in that area.”

I bring this up for three reasons. First, Dave and Jim and Jonathan and Ryan and I are not satisfied, we do not think we’ve arrived, we press on (see Philippians 3:12-14). Second, please pray for Dave and Jim and Jonathan and Ryan and I as we seek to shepherd you for your progress and joy in the faith (Philippians 1:25). And third, shepherds are to be examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:3), and though your “teaching” may look different, you can still pay attention to yourselves. All believes ought to be able to answer similar questions as they pursue greater Christlikeness by faith.

Categories
The End of Many Books

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23

by Phillip Keller

If I’ve read this book before, I can’t remember when. I can remember thinking I should have read it before. Psalm 23 has to be one of the all-time top five songs of God’s people. And as a metaphorical shepherd, why wouldn’t I have wanted to see how the Lord shepherds His sheep?

The ladies at our church are in process of reading this for a couple upcoming discussions. So it was a good time for me to go through it, too.

As one who tries to be on the easy side of being edify-able, I was edified by the book. As one who is not a literal shepherd, I learned some things about the process and the dangers. As one who cares about exegesis, I was less satisfied; sometimes two things refer to the same thing, sometimes the same thing refers to multiple and even opposite things. And yet, the overall effect was one of increasing my thankfulness for the Lord as my Shepherd, and that’s what I want.

3 of 5 stars

Categories
The End of Many Books

The Care of Souls

I am glad I read this. I did also get tired of reading it numerous times. Some of the fatigue was due to repetition, some of it was all the Lutherany lingo. The author is Lutheran, so, it wasn’t unexpected, and there are ways in which hearing from different than usual perspective can be beneficial, sure. I appreciated the habitus emphasis, certainly over more technique and tips. I appreciated the concept of “baptismal therapy,” as in, a way of referring to our identity in Christ as crucial for our sanctification and consciences and comfort. And yet, I probably wouldn’t include this high on a list for new or old pastors to read. I’m thankful for it, and thankful I’m done.

3 of 5 stars

Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

Prosecute the Work

“The emphasis on LABOR [in 1 Corinthians 15:10] reminds us that difficulty and cost in Christian work, far from suggesting an absence of GOD’S GRACE, presupposes the gift of such grace to prosecute the work through all obstacles.”

—Anthony Thiselton
Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

An Ambitious Mission

“The pastor’s task is to guide the believer into a full and complete awareness of these infinite riches that have been bestowed on him by sheer grace, and to present that believer to God in full maturity. It is quite an ambitious spiritual mission, but it should be the mission of every pastor.”

—Douglas Wilson on pastoral care
Categories
Every Thumb's Width

Every Single Thing is Now Different

This is a challenging article by David Bahnsen, Every Single Thing is Now Different: The Kavanaugh moment is not done. It is just beginning.

I’m not actually as pessimistic as Bahnsen sounds (Kavanaugh was confirmed), and also Jesus talked about when others “utter all kinds of evil against you falsely,” which, whether that applies to Kavanaugh or not, at least shouldn’t surprise Christians. Regardless, the article is good, and near the end he makes a brutal (and sadly accurate) comment about how evangelical churches, and their pastors, are providing no support for those conservative Christians endeavoring to live courageously in the culture.

“The cultural pacifists that fill today’s pulpits lack the courage to even self-identify for the humanism-soaked sponges that they are.”

Ouch.

Categories
The End of Many Books

Reset

by David Murray

I give 5 stars when I really like a book (as is the Goodreads standard) but also when I would immediately start rereading the book. Such is Reset.

I did not want to like it. I am less impressed with guys who talk about taking a break and seek my encouragement from men who spend until they are broke. That said, this was the free ChristianAudio book a couple months ago, I started to listen, Mo also started to listen, and we realized that both have some work to do in the various repair garages as Murray refers to them.

My hard copy arrived last week and I plan to use it like a workbook over the next month or so.

5 of 5 stars

Categories
The End of Many Books

Why Ministers Must Be Men

by Douglas Wilson

Brief observations on the relevant Bible texts along with the implications of what corporate liturgy teaches about God’s nature and our relationship with Him. Plus, some inimitable Wilsonian jibes exhorting guys to put on their man pants.

4 of 5 stars