HT: Justin Taylor
I just ran across three important articles about pastoral leadership by Sam Storms. I found them instructive and insightful – and I think the wisdom here serves pastors well.
The first post is an article about Pastoral Bullies. It is a warning against domineering over those in your care. Pastor bullies domineer in many ways, and none of them are healthy. For example, a pastoral bully “domineers whenever he exploits the natural tendency people have to elevate their spiritual leaders above the average Christian.” And he domineers when “he reinforces in them the false belief that he has a degree of access to God which they don’t.” In the end, the pastor is leading by cult of personality and not by the principles of Scripture. Read the whole thing – well worth the 5 minutes it might take.
The second article is related, but goes deeper. Pastoral Bullies are Bullies because they are personally insecure and their domineering is their way of compensating. That is helpful, because it goes beyond the heavy-handed domineering to the heart issue.
Storms demonstrates that pastoral insecurity can be easily identified. For example, pastors who are personally insecure do not receive criticism well (at all!). Storms writes that constructive criticism “is rather perceived as a threat or outright rejection.” He goes on to observe that a pastor who is insecure is often controlling, given to micro management, resistant to those who genuinely want to help him in his spiritual walk, etc. Thus, an insecure pastor will stunt his own spiritual growth (which complicate things further). Helpfully, Storms points out that this insecurity is patently a fruit of the sin of pride. A lot of good meat to chew on. You can read the whole thing here.
Finally, and on the positive side, Sam Storms gives Some Words of Counsel for Pastors; advice that he has gleaned in 40+ years of pastoral ministry. Like the other two, this short post is also worth reading (for everyone who loves the church, not just pastors).
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
November 19, 1863
There are many things about Western culture that I really like, but Halloween is not one of them. I do not relish this particular tradition, and have never paid it much more than a passing glance. And here are the reasons why:
- I have lived and worked among people who are dominated and terrorized by real-life animism. I have seen, first-hand, how the fear of demons and dark magic and all-things evil bind and blind people in fearful darkness. I have been with people groups who make false windows and doors on their houses, and who keep secret the names of their newborns in order to fool harassing demons. I have seen desperate mothers pay shamans large sums of borrowed money to appease demons so that they would leave their kids alone. I have seen dark things and how darkness affects people. So I have no desire to treat the subject lightheartedly and flippantly, as if it were all make-believe for the sake of fun and tradition. I think C.S. Lewis nailed it when he said that the key to success for the demonic in our material world is to make modern man think that demons and ghosts are all make-believe. Halloween is the time when we celebrate those make-believe things that are so very real.
- I take fear seriously, and refuse to treat it as a play thing. Most of the world lives in fear. By the grace of God in Christ, I have not been given that spirit. So I don’t hide behind doors to spook and scare my children, and I don’t tell them scary stories. I don’t use dark kinds of fear to manipulate them into obeying me (Stay out of there; there are monsters that will eat you!). That kind of fear is patently unhealthy. So that pretty much rules out a trip to the nearest Haunted House or a “kid-friendly” scary movie.
- I don’t see how celebrating Halloween opens the door to reach out in a meaningful way to my neighbors during Halloween night. The good people at The Resurgence disagree, and that is fine. I hope they are successful in their efforts to be missional and to redeem Halloween. I just can’t think of a way that my participation does anything to share Christ.
- I think the money spent on Halloween is a crazy waste, and I hate wasting money. But that is just me. And I do know that there are creative ways to do Halloween without spending the big bucks.
So those are the reasons why I do not get into the “Halloween spirit”. My family loves traditions, and we probably go a bit overboard in how we celebrate the Fall. Just come by our house (or Maya’s blog) and you will see. We are into all-things apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkins. We drive and take walks to see the leaves change colors. We rejoice in the harvest and love Fall Festivals and Harvest Celebrations. We go all out for Thanksgiving. But Halloween… not so much.
Finally, here is the big disclaimer: these are the convictions that Maya and I have come to after carefully thinking through the issues, and we are fully convinced that this is right for us based on the reasons that I outlined above. Even so, we do not look down our noses on those who lead their families differently. My advice to Christians is to seriously think through things like these in order to arrive at biblically-informed convictions, and then to be fully-convinced and even bold in those convictions. So if you have landed somewhere else on this, don’t feel judged, because I am not judging you.
Please try to afford me that same courtesy.
I absolutely love preaching, perhaps more than anything else I do (even better than bowhunting - and I like bowhunting a lot). Most, who have never seriously engaged in preaching, have no idea how much work preaching requires. But, of course, it is also incredibly rewarding. Like most types of work, preaching necessitates tools. Here are five of the most useful tools I have for preaching.
Every preacher needs a good set of books – a pastor’s library. I think Logos Bible Software offers the best value for building and maintaining a good usable library. Logos is not cheap, but neither are printed books. And the time-saving value of being able to quickly search everything that can be searched tips the scales in favor of a digital library. For example, I can quickly search my huge library of theological journals for every article on Colossians 2.6, and then, in a matter of seconds, bookmark what the Church Fathers had to say about the passage. A few clicks later, and I have every Greek resource opened to the entries and articles covering every significant word of the text. It is a great tool. (For more on Logos, see Tim Challies’ great article about Logos. Tim’s is not ready to go there yet, but he will be soon. I have made the leap and doubt I will ever look back.)
During the preparation process, I need a good system to take notes, think on paper, and file and save illustrative materials. For that, I turn to Evernote. One great thing about Evernote is that your file system is cloud-based. So if an idea hits you while walking down the road, you can jot it down with the Evernote App on your Android or iPhone device. It syncs across your platforms so you have everything all the time. I use Evernote extensively and all throughout the study process. And it comes in handy for my other types of filing needs too – from keeping the notes of counseling sessions (Evernote has decent security, and is probably more secure than paper files in an office to which more than one person has a key) to scratching out To-Do lists for your Saturday projects. It is an incredibly helpful tool.
3. Google/Google Drive
Google is obviously very useful for research, and that is why the product has become a household verb (just google it to confirm that!). Between Logos Bible Software, Google and Evernote, I am able to search massive information and file it intelligently for later use. And with Google Drive I can store my finished manuscripts along with the ones in progress. That way, I can access them anywhere and work on them from any location and across multiple devices.
I unashamedly admit that I like Open Office Writer mostly because it is free. But also because it outputs to PDF without an extension and is as easy to use as any word-processor can be. Another advantage is that it is not made by Microsoft. I have been using it for years now, and even wrote many academic papers with it (getting the Turabian Style setup is a headache with any word processor). I write all of my sermons out manuscript-style, and I do that using Writer.
5. iPad and the Kindle iPad App
Last, but not least, is the iPad and the Kindle App for iPad. After writing the manuscript, I go through to highlight and make notes a day or two before delivery. Then I set a larger font and output it to PDF, send it to my Kindle App, and that becomes my teaching notes for Sunday. Of course, the iPad is useful across the board for pastoral ministry, from reading the Puritans to jotting notes (in Evernote, of course) to sending/receiving email to Skyping missionaries on other continents. It is just a great tool for the pastor to have.
And there you have it, the top-five tools I use for the joyful work of preaching. Now I need to get on with it; Sunday is coming.