I think that there are people who enjoy Bible study the same way that other people enjoy filling out crossword puzzles. Get all the parts and get the thing completed – they find satisfaction. I think there are people that study the Bible that way. They can see how it relates to its context and how its details work to get across the concept. But if it never gets into your life, if it never really touches your experience, I doubt seriously that you can call it a study of biblical truth, because I think God’s truth is always designed to challenge and change us. – Haddon Robinson (Michael Duduit, Preaching with Power, pp. 155-56)
The McChurch has replaced the traditional church and its relational values. Fast-food Christians pull up to ecclesiastical drive-through windows, order the McGroups, consume the experience and then drive off, discarding relationships like burger wrappers on the highway of life. Savvy church growth pastors quickly learned that significant growth can occur if a church learns how to market it burgers to capture the appetite of this roving crowd. In some instances merely producing an interesting alternative to the status quo can lead to significant church disaffections. – William Chadwick, Stealing Sheep, p. 20
Transfer growth, by definition, creates no numerical growth in the kingdom of God. In fact the term is an oxymoron, and grossly misleading, for its net result is simply much ado about nothing. There are no new converts, no baptisms, no expansion of knowledge of God in the world, and no salvation fruit from this labor. Arguably – and contrary to popular belief – there is no known purely positive kingdom benefit from a benefit change! – Chadwick, Sheep, p. 30
Conversion growth, in general, graphs poorly. Even with the investment of considerable resources in evangelistic programs, conversion growth is slow growth. By its nature it requires the decision of one person at a time. Each of them needs to have the gospel presented in a fashion that they can understand, and often this requires the building of relational bridges to their world. – Chadwick, Sheep, p. 95
We have attractive carpets, nicely arranged bulletins, cleanly painted walls and deep subculture norms. The unchurched do not fit into this world. When the middle age of life sets in, church people can become upset with the headaches of having newborns in the house; we are past that stage of life. We desire to plan our retirement and find ways of increasing our spiritual and physical comfort levels. The “not like us” gain the disfavor of an unwanted pregnancy and can, in many subtle ways, be aborted. – Chadwick, Sheep, p. 141
Healthy transfer growth is about rescuing sheep. In some cases they are rescued from a church where salvation is not articulated. In other cases they are rescued from a setting where false teaching and heresy occur. And some sheep need to be rescued from abusive church settings. – Chadwick, Sheep, p. 157
Have you noticed how people refer to the singing in church as “worship time,” as if the other parts of the service are not part of our worship? This is troubling, because Christians should recognize that prayer, saying the creeds, giving, and especially the sermon, are all part of our worship of God. But I wonder if one of the reasons why people do not know this is that preachers have forgotten to worship God when they preach. We may deliver carefully crafted sermons, but if we ourselves are worshiping God when we do, then that element will be lost on the people as well. On the other hand, when we are preaching primarily for the glory and pleasure of God, we can draw the rest of the congregation into worship with us. In fact, that is just what the best preaching does. – Harry L. Reeder III (with David Swavely), From Embers to a Flame: How God Can Revitalize Your Church, pp. 110-11
It struck me one day in a Christian bookstore that most of the “church growth” books I picked up in that store were not books on vision but on image. They hadn’t been published to help me see the world in a particular way but to help the world see me – were I a megachurch pastor – in a particular way. They were books that enticed the pastor of limited self-image to be like somebody else the world admired. What a cul-de-sac of emotional poverty this is. These books were published to serve the idolatries of megapastor wannabes. – Calvin Miller, O Shepherd Where Art Thou?, p. 4
Ministers aren’t kidding when they talk of troubles. It’s the truth. Pick any ministry you want, and there will be enough problems in it to occasionally jerk the most optimistic person down off his toes. Ministries are few and far between that have no troublesome concerns stalking in the wings. More than likely, the best church you know about could be destroyed overnight if the right person made the wrong move. Even the best situation is fragile. Whether we know it or not, churches live on the brink. Something could go wrong at any time.
If you are going to survive in the ministry, you have to decide to see the good and give it a major portion of your time. Much of the spark of ministry is lost because we, being very human, focus too long on the problem and too little on the progress. It’s so easy to glance at God and gave at the Goliaths. Along comes a troublesome issue or a cantankerous person, and before we know it, we are zeroing in so intently on the problem that worry muscles in and closes off our view of the steady progress that is still passing us by on the other side.
- Joseph Seaborn, Jr., A Celebration of Ministry, p. 21
Here are several personal resolutions made by the late Dr. Robert G. Lee (1927-1960) that every minister should consider. For that matter, every Christian should embrace these resolutions.
I will be joyful that life may give me wings.
I will be courageous that there shall be no binding fears.
I will be balanced that neither work, nor play, nor rest, nor worship shall lose its proper share.
I will be self-restraint that thoughts of failure shall not hold me back.
I will be self-controlled that emotions shall not be dominant.
I will be intelligent that straight thinking and knowledge shall direct all actions.
I will be healthy that my body shall not fail to respond.
I will be clean in spirit, mind, and action that there shall be no shame.
I will be good-tempered that annoyance shall not irritate.
I will be patient that discouragement shall not seem final.
I will be persistent that the will may carry throught to completion.
I will be prepared that emergency shall not find me in confusion.
Roger G. Lee, Robert G. Lee’s Sourcebook of 500 Illustrations, p 105
In the footnotes of a commentary, I recently found out that Herschel Hobbs wrote a commentary on the Epistles of John. It arrived in the mail several weeks ago.
As I was studying 1 John 3:4-10, I ran into an interesting paragraph. It really had nothing to do with anything. It seems that a grammatical point caused Hobbs to reminisce about his Greek professor, A.T. Robertson, author of the popular Word Pictures in the New Testament.
Here’s what Hobbs wrote…
Despite the fact that he was one of the leading Greek scholars of his time, A.T. Robertson repeatedly refused to make a translation of the New Testament. He reasoned that it is impossible to do so without losing something in the translation. He finally relented, but died unexpectedly before he could complete his work. I was in his class when he had the stroke which took his life an hour and a half later. An enterprising student took pictures of some of the last thing he did, such as Greek words written on the blackboard. One picture was of his desk. Right in the middle of his desk lay his green eyeshade on the pages of this not-to-be finished translation. – Herschel H. Hobbs, The Epistles of John, p. 83
Why? Why do we do what we do? What is our ultimate goal? Why do we dress as we dress? Why do we allot time as we do in our services? Why do we preach as we preach? Why do we sing, and why do we sing it the way we do? Do we care about what the world will think of our activities? Where is God in all this? Do we seek to meet Him in His truth, begging the Spirit to use the word to reveal to us the depths of our on hearts so that we may be changed and made better servants of His? Do we think He is lucky to have us around, or do we tremble at the thought of approaching Him, not out of fear of retribution or wrath (being in Christ), but because we stand in awe of his glory, His power, His condescension, His grace? Are we more concerned about making a misstep in our performance for the audience, or about the purity of the motives of our hearts before the God with whom we have to do? These are the questions that separate worship from entertainment? – James R. White, Pulpit Crimes: The Criminal Mishandling of God’s Word, pp. 93-94
The late Dr. James David Grey was the pastor of First Baptist Church of New Orleans for 35 years and president of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention in 1951-52. At forty-four, he was the youngest person ever elected to the SBC presidency.
Beyond that, he apparently went by initials. Way cool.
Early in the Epitaphs, Grey quotes an anonymous piece called “Pertinent Precepts for Pastors” about the activities and appearance of the preacher.
Here it is…
Pray every night and shave every morning.
Keep your conscience clean, and your linen.
Let your light shine and shine your shoes.
Press your advantages, your opportunities, and your trousers.
Brush the cobwebs from your brain and the dandruff from your collar.
A delinquent debt in a parish is like an addled egg in an omelet.
Be poor in spirit but not in vocabulary.
You can’t put fire in your sermons unless there is fire in your heart.
It is better to lose a good fight than to win a bad one.
Call in the homes of men if you would have men call in the House of God.
The approval of God is more to be desired than the patronage of a rich, unscrupulous pewholder.
Always be content with what you have but never with what you are.
J.D. Grey, Epitaphs for Eager Preachers, pp. 20-21
Once when Swiss theologian Karl Barth was asked what he thought was the most important word in the New Testament, he asnwered, “Huper.” Huper is a preposition meaning “on behalf of” or “in place of.” So when Barth called huper the most important word, he meant that the most important of all truths is that in salvation Jesus takes our place to bear the punishment for our sins so that “in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). – James Montgomery Boice, Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?, p. 102