Thanks for posting this very good question. It's a very important question for the reasons the writer identifies--a certain amount of agreement is necessary for the teaching ministry to make the same sound and for the unity to be deep and unshakeable. But how much unity and in what things? That's the rub.
A few quick reactions to what really deserves a series of posts from a more senior pastor than myself. But here goes:
This past Lord's Day, I had the privilege of preaching 1 Timothy 5:17-20. "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, 'Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,' and 'The worker deserves his wages.' Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning."
Brothers, that's the question I'm left asking as I prepare for Bible study tonight. We're considering 1 Corinthians 5:1-2:
"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you."
I've heard it said that pastors cannot have friends inside the church they serve. I've even heard seminarians recount how professors discouraged them from developing friendships with their people once they're in the pastorate. They were told that such friendships weren't possible or that they were bad ideas.
That's not been my experience in any of the churches I've had the honor of serving, either as an elder or main preaching pastor. The Lord has kindly given me friendships in the church--in fact, my main friendships.
Recently I dusted off my copy of Jonathan Edwards' The Surprising Work of God, an account of the revivals in New England in the 1730s. I've been freshly stirred by Edwards' recounting of the Lord's work in that spiritual awakening. Consider how he described the affect on the daily life of the people:
Dee, thanks for the recommendation on anxiety. Looks like a good resource to have.If you're looking for material for discipling others, I'd also have to recommend Joshua Harris' new book, Dug Down Deep. I did a summary/review at Pure Church today. The punchline for me:Dug Down Deep is Knowing God in blue jeans and a shaved head. That is to say, it’s a book of classic truth and worth, written for our day. It’s instantly in my top two or three reads so far in 2010. The blend of autobiography and exploration of big systematic categories was helpful for (a) taking any fear out of "theology" or "doctrine;" (b) thereby making those truths accessible for people who may never have read a systematic; and (c) illustrating what it looks like to live the truths we believe. Awesome read.
Mark Lauterbach has a great series of posts going on things he's learned from the sheep. Typical to Mark, the posts are humble and insightful. Bleatings from the SheepOne of the great temptations of pastoral ministry is to treat the congregation, the members, as "stupid". We may not use those words, but we act like either they are slow to grasp truth and need constant prodding or nagging, or they are children and we pastors are fathers who must care for them. Both bear bad fruit -- both create a clergy/laity division which, it turns out, is not just a Catholic problem. Both can lead to a spirit of distrust and excessive carefulness in how pastors shepherd their flock. Bleatings from the Sheep: OUCH!I have a "clever" side. I once liked to preach in a way that debunks myths people believe. In my first year as a pastor I did a series of messages on prayer. There are lots of prayer myths -- slogans that I found as easy targets for my brilliant critique. Each message was a shot at wrong thinking and a declaration of truth. I took down some major myths and applauded myself for prophetic courage.About a year later a member of the church asked to come see me. It was clear that she was full of fears in doing so. I assumed she had some personal problems. Read the entire post.Bleatings from the Sheep: Slow to ChangeOne of the most godly people to enter our pastoral world was a woman in the church named Helga. She was 20 years our senior but far more our senior in maturity in Christ. I had all the seminary degrees. She knew God and knew herself before God. Read the entire post.Bleatings from the Sheep: ToneCreating downhill paths to the pastor's office and heart is critical. By downhill, I mean easy easily traveled. My office, my most visible role behind the pulpit, and the call to be submissive create for my people large obstacles and a steep path to travel to my heart. It takes intentional effort to hear what they have to say.But there are observations that are overheard as much as heard. These are worth mining, as what is overheard is as significant as what is heard. Read the entire post.Bleatings from the Sheep: Birthday CardsOne of the marks of arrogance is viewing all of life through my eyes, not considering how others see things. I find it all too easy to assume that my perspective, my abilities, my limits are the truth for all. It is not so! I am not the center of the cosmos. Read the entire post.