…Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13 ESV)
The character and object of a man’s hope determines almost everything that’s important about him. But look at what the apostle Peter says about our hope:
- Notice the verb he uses. Our hope is something that we must “set”. It’s not a passive process, but we must actively choose to locate our hope and place it in something.
- Our hope can be set to greater or lesser degrees. It can be “fully” set on something or it can be set half-heartedly.
- Hope looks to something we don’t have right now but that will be brought to us, namely, the fullness of grace (the amazing blessings!) that will be brought when Jesus is revealed.
Pastoral ministry and the Christian life in general are often marked by (a sometimes holy) discontent. We are constantly aware of deficiencies, problems, and things that need to be fixed in our lives and in the lives of our congregation. And it’s easy to place our hope in the immediate solution to those problems, whether it’s some church program or strategy for personal growth. But Peter reminds us that only one thing is worthy of our full hope: the sure promise that we will have everything our hearts have longed for and more than we can ever imagine when Jesus is revealed.
So, what’s your hope set on? What difference would it make if you set it (fully!) on the grace that’s going to be yours perfectly one day? What problems would not feel so overwhelming? What sins would not seem so attractive?
A few months back, an elderly woman in our congregation came up to me after of our Sunday meeting. She had tears in her eyes as she thanked me for the sermon, which had been about the darkness that surrounded Jesus at the cross. It wasn’t a great sermon, but it was a great subject.
Something this older saint said blew me away. She said, “Thank you for that sermon. I am so glad that I learned that about Jesus before I died.”
Who talks like that? Who has such affection for Jesus that their greatest joy in life is to know him just a little better before their time is up?
We make being a Christian about so many things, and perhaps they all have their place. But it’s so easy to lose sight of the most basic principles: he loved us and we love him.
Though you have not seen him, you love him. -- 1 Peter 1:8
- An offense occurs.
- A biased view of the offense is shared with friends.
- Friends take up the offense.
- Sides begin to form.
- Suspicion on both sides develop.
- Each side looks for evidence to confirm their suspicion. You can be sure they will find it.
- Exaggerated statements are made.
- In the heat of conflict those involved hear things that were never said and say things they wish they had never said.
- Third parties, no matter how well intentioned, can never accurately transfer information from one offended party to the other.
- Past offenses unrelated to the original offense surface.
- Integrity is challenged.
- People call each other liars.
- Those who try to solve the problem (e.g., church leadership) are blamed for not following the proper procedure and become the new focus.
- Many are hurt.
- First, that is pretty much spot-on with what I've observed in a number of churches. I wish it weren't so, but it's the truth.
- Second, it seems that once you get to step #5, it's pretty hard to pull out of the nose-dive.
- Third, conflict in the church makes me long for Jesus to come back soon.
A few weekends back I participated in two events at local churches:
- Stay the Course: At Reston Bible Church pastor Mike Minter hosted approximately fifty local pastors for a one-day seminar. Over the course of the day Mike shared the big lessons that he’s learned over the course of forty years in ministry. I found the sessions on building a staff team and handling conflict in the church to be very helpful, the kind of things you don’t hear a lot.
- 9Marks Weekender: At Capitol Hill Baptist Church, an army of volunteers hosted seventy-five pastors from all over the world for a peak behind the curtain at the life of one local church.
There is a lot to be commended when churches and pastors invest themselves in others like this. Both churches sacrificed money, time (staff and volunteer), and the use of their facilities for no other purpose than serving other pastors.
But what I especially appreciate is the humility of putting yourself forward as an example. It’s counter-intuitive; you normally think that it might be proud to hold up your hand and say, “Look at me!”
But it actually takes a lot of humility to say, “Hey, our church isn’t perfect but by God’s grace we’ve learned a few things that we think might be helpful to you.” It makes you vulnerable; you open yourself to criticism of the “Who does that guy think he is? He’s not that great!” variety.
So I wonder if you might be able to do the same thing. Maybe you can’t pull off a full-scale weekend conference. But if you’re a pastor who has been down the road a little ways, maybe you could look around your area and see how you could serve the other pastors in your area.
I’m on sabbatical this summer. My main goal is to get some writing done, but the freedom in my schedule is also allowing me to do other things for which I normally don’t have enough time. A couple of observations from the first week off the grind:
1. After a week at 9Marks Caribbean Headquarters (aka Thabiti’s crib), I’m no closer to understanding this song... well, I guess I understand it. I just don't "get" it.
2. Reading Dickens’ Little Dorrit on a tropical beach is a strange experience. It’s tough to conjure up the grime of 19th century London with palm trees overhead. Unexpected discovery of adulthood: Dickens is actually pretty funny.
3. G.K. Chesterton is an amazing writer. I know everyone already knows that, but I am just finding out. I want to be able to do write like that. A sample: Through all this ordeal his root horror had been isolation, and there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one. That is why, in spite of a hundred disadvantages, the world will always return to monogamy. (From The Man Who Was Thursday)
4. When my wife and I travel, we each choose a book that we read together. I chose The Great Gatsby; the lovely Mrs. McKinley chose this book. It is an American mother’s look at Parisian parenting styles. Stunning discoveries include: we should set firm boundaries, you shouldn’t worship your kids, don’t freak out about everything. But I was more fascinated by the author’s take on American parenting. So much of the neurotic, guilt-motivated “ambition parenting” that the book describes has worked its way into the church with a Biblical patina.
5. This documentary about sex trafficking in the United States is gut wrenching. But anyone ministering in an urban context (and anyone with daughters) should think about watching it. I don’t know how you make sense of the incredible evil, crippling shame, and even the selfless heroism of some people without the Bible.
This email was sent in to the 9Marks International Headquarters last week:
Hello… I am a young preacher looking to build a good library. I am in need of experienced advice on what a minister’s library ought to look like. If you have any suggestions I would be very grateful to you for them. Thank you very much.
Well, that’s a huge question. The Masters’ College has a pretty comprehensive look at the topic, but it’s a bit overwhelming.
Looking around my library, here are the categories of books that get the most use week in and week out (a few authors I use a lot or specific kinds of books in parentheses):
- Systematic Theology (Bavinck, Berkhof, Frame, Piper)
- Biblical Theology (Vos, Ridderbos, Goldsworthy)
- Bible Reference (NT and OT Introductions, Bible Dictionaries, Atlases)
- Commentaries (Both scholarly, one-volume and popular are useful)
- Greek and Hebrew Reference (Books, but also Accordance)
- Practical Theology (Keller, Tim Chester, Jack Miller)
- Ecclesiology (I’m brand loyal - only 9Marks authors allowed!)
- History/Biography (Pelikan, Vidler, Trueman)
- Sermons/Collected Works (Edwards, Calvin, Spurgeon, Owens)
- Current Events/Cultural Analysis (Wells, Mohler)
When you’re first starting to build your library, you should probably stick with authors you can trust (my first buys would be Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics and Vos’ Biblical Theology). Theological sparring partners can be useful, but they are a luxury.
So what say you, experienced pastors out there? If you have suggestions for our young pastor friend, feel free to make them in the comments!
Mark Dever has had a topic stuck in his craw lately. Every time I turn around he's talking about it with groups of pastors. "I want to add something to your job description," I've heard him say. "I want you to start looking for ways to pray for and seek the good of other churches in your area."
The phrase we have been using to capture this burden is "apostolic pastors." We devoted the latest 9Marks Journal to it.
Even though you have a primary responsibility to your own local church, pastor, you should also be intested in how the gospel is fairing in other churches in your area. After all, we are all playing for the same team, right? One Lord, faith, baptism, and remission of sins?
If you are familiar with 9Marks, you know this is a long standing theme. It is why our whole organization emphasizes revitalizing churches in addition to planting them. It is why our tagline is "building healthy churches."
Get the big picture in Mark's article of why we are looking for apostolic pastors.
Consider the biblical challenge in Bobby Jamieson's excellent piece.
Let Andy teach you to pray for revival in the other guy's church.
And then enjoy the several testimonies of brothers who have pursued this kind of apostolic ministry.
Crossway, who has been a faithful not-for-profit publisher for several decades now, relies in part upon donor money. They have an good fundraising opportunity that they would love for you to know about.
As you think of where to give money above and beyond your own local church, I do believe this is a good ministry, worthy of your support. Christian publishers sometimes transition to "for profit," which often changes the scope of their ministry. They can begin to prioritize "what sells," rather than what's true.
Be sure to thank God for the faithfulness of Crossway and publishers like them which prioritize fidelity to Scripture. Ask God to continue blessing them, that they might continue to play their role in encouraging and equipping the saints with good resources.
Learn more here.
When Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile in 1954, he opened up new possibilities and shattered standard ways of thinking. That happened to me last year, only it wasn’t Bannister, it was Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. And it wasn’t a four-minute mile that was broken, it was a multiple-service mentality.
ONE CHURCH IN TWO LOCATIONS WITH THREE SERVICES
We planted our church a decade ago. For five years we had one gathering consisting primarily of college students and singles, which met in a local sanctuary on Sunday evenings. To reach families, we felt the need to have a morning service, which we eventually started in a local movie theater. At the same time, we kept an evening service for students near the local university. I preached the same message morning and evening. As more attended the theater location, we started a second morning service. We said we were “one church in two locations with three services.”
A NEW MINDSET
Then, in the fall of 2011, our leadership attended a 9Marks Weekender at Capitol Hill Baptist Church and we were impacted in ways I hadn’t expected.
We were struck by the number of university students who were at a membership class on a Friday evening, hungry for more information as they moved toward joining the church. On Sunday morning, we were impacted by the many students who were thoroughly integrated into the Core Seminar classes and engaged in the worship service.
As a result, our elders returned home and immediately planned to end the college service and more fully integrate our students into the whole of our church life.
Previously, I had personally championed the college service, believing that it was essential for reaching students. However, we quickly developed new convictions. We now believe that:
- It is much healthier for students to experience the intergenerational life of the body of Christ than to have their own service in isolation. Experiencing the whole ministry of a church while in college, not just a customized slice, better prepares students for a lifetime of church involvement.
- It is best for the rest of our congregation to draw on the passion and enthusiasm of these student-saints, as well as for these students to gain from the wisdom and discipleship of older believers.
So, we brought our evening service to an end and started this year with our two morning services. While there are some who would prefer to return to a student-centered service, we love having our college students mixing in worship and small groups with the rest of the church as well as volunteering in our children and youth ministries.
Next, our goal is to be all together in a single service. I respect many pastors who’ve led their churches to multiple services and sites, and I am not saying that those are wrong approaches. However, our ideal is gathering together as a local church in a single assembly.
SOMETHING HEALTHY AND UNIFYING ABOUT BEING TOGETHER
“One church in two locations with three services” sounds so fractured to me now. We want our people to be exposed to one another and to each of our elders. That is increasingly difficult with multiple services and, obviously, with multiple sites. There is something healthy and unifying about being in the same room at the same time, worshiping the same God through the same songs and the same message led by the same leaders.
WHAT IF THE BUILDING GETS FULL? SEND MORE
“But what if the building is getting full and you still want to reach more people?” Certainly, we should not pursue one priority (community) at the expense of another (evangelism).
So, as we seek space that enables us to assemble together as well as reach more people, we must also be giving much prayer and thought to how God might have us send our people out. For a church to aggressively seek the lost with only one assembly requires that church to be vigilant in developing disciples and sending them out to start new churches and strengthen hurting churches. And as hard as it will be to part with people we dearly love, our elders see that very sending as a measure of the success of our disciple-making.
Kyle Cheatham is preaching pastor of Terranova Church in Georgetown, Texas (www.tnova.org).
We pray thee, assist us in all the religious services of this thine own holy day. Go along with us to the solemn assembly, for if thy presence go not up with us, wherefore should we go up? Give us to draw nigh to thee with a true heart, with a free heart, with a fixed heart, and in full assurance of faith. Meet us with a blessing: Grace thine own ordinances with thy presence, that special presence of thine which thou hast promised where two or three are gathered together in thy name. Help us against our manifold infirmities, and the sins that do most easily beset us in our attendance upon thee; let thy word come with life and power to our souls, and be as good seed sown in good soil, taking root, and bringing forth fruit to thy praise; and let our prayers and praises be spiritual sacrifices, acceptable in thy sight, through Christ Jesus.
-- From Matthew Henry’s “A Family Prayer for Lord’s Day Morning” in A Method For Prayer