I Don’t Feel Like I Should be Revered

October 11, 2010

This past Sunday was my ordination. This was a moment in my ministry life that I have been looking forward to for many years. Having served in the ministry in a number of capacities over the last years I always felt it was difficult to be serving in the Gospel ministry when I had never been “set apart” for the Gospel ministry. Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand I can do ministry without being ordained, but it always felt funny being a pastor and never being ordained. In fact, during my Q&A when I came to Tunkhannock Baptist Church, some people wondered why I had not been ordained. I remember the words “don’t people usually get sent ordained already?” I sometimes felt like I was missing a crucial component. I always wondered what it would be like as an ordained pastor.

So, once the US government finally approved me to work in the US the church decided I should pursue ordination. So, I planned accordingly. I set a date to hold a council, invited area churches to take part, revised my personal doctrinal statement, invited people key to my life and ministry to come to preach the following Lord’s Day when the church would act on the ordination council recommendation, and planned the days events. One of my professors from seminary flew in from Wisconsin to preach and my father drove from Canada to do the same. It was an exciting time as the council grilled me on both theological and character issues in my life. The council in the end unanimously recommended to the church to ordain me and this past Sunday, the church unanimously agreed to ordain me. I then knelt and had hands laid upon me and was prayed over.

But I had already been serving this church as pastor since last year. What changed here? What was being evaluated that the church hadn’t already done when they hired me? What was the point of this ordaining in the end? Just so I can have a certificate to hang on my wall? Just so I can call myself “reverend?” In Pennsylvania I don’t even need to have that do do weddings! So, what was the point.

As I’ve been thinking about this today, I have come to grasp the wonder of ordination as a wonder of the grace of God. Let me explain…

What I realized, in preparation for the council, the answers I was able to give, the influence of the men who came to preach on the Lord’s Day, the recognition of the council of my calling, and the confirmation of the council on my calling is that it is all by God’s grace. What ordination confirms in my mind, is that none of this that I do as pastor of Tunkhannock Baptist Church is of of me. It is all of Christ. It is through Christ I came to faith, that I was called to the ministry, that I pursued seminary, that I searched out a church to pastor, that the church called me to be their pastor. All these things are of the grace of Christ. From whence I have come, to where I am at, to where I am going, there through it all, is the direct work of Christ in my life. And what the council and the church has done is not recognized me, they have recognized Christ in my life and calling. That is humbling!

My ordination will forever remind me that I have come this far not of my own effort. It wasn’t the hours I spent reading theology, years studying Greek and Hebrew, days preparing sermons, it was all the grace of Christ that has brought me to be a minister of the Gospel. Like Paul I echo 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” I may have worked harder than some, but it was all of Christ.

Over the years ahead that I serve Christ at Tunkhannock Baptist Church, I will remember October 10, 2010 as the date that my local church confirmed the grace of God in my life. Without that grace, I would be dead in my trespasses and sins. With that grace, I am a redeemed servant of Christ and have the privilege of being His undershepherd. My ordination will forever be the public confirmation of God’s grace in my life. I don’t feel like I should be revered, but I revere Christ all the more for the grace of God in my life. Praise God for His grace!

Now I Feel Like a Pastor…

January 18, 2010

Sitting here at Dunkin’ Donuts in Tunkhannock using the Wi-Fi, reading the local newspaper, setting up meetings, before I head into the church. I feel like a pastor now! So thankful to be here today in Tunkhannock serving my church during the week, not just on Sundays! Praise the Lord!

A Noble Task

December 30, 2009

“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Tim 3:1), ESV.

December 27, 2009 became my first Sunday in a row of many Sundays to come as Senior Pastor of Tunkhannock Baptist Church. Through many ups and downs and much patience (and still more patience demanded) I find myself in the most difficult, most dangerous, and most noble task a man could ask for. Jesus Christ has entrusted me to serve as an under-shepherd in His body. I am entrusted with the esteemed task of preaching and teaching the Word of God and pastoring a small portion of the greater flock of Jesus Christ.

Since high school I have wanted to serve in this noble calling. Paul tells us that one who desires to serve as an overseer desires a noble task. Paul does not say that one should not seek the office of overseer. The desire of this office is seen as a good thing. It is noted this is a noble task and one that men should seek if they feel the Lord calling them to it. What a great privilege it is to communicate week in and week out the riches of the Word of God? What a privilege it is to love and to lead a flock of people into full maturity in Jesus Christ? It is indeed a noble task, in fact probably the most noble. It is a task that comes often with little thanks or appreciation. It rarely causes one to be rich in the worlds eyes, but the one who serves Christ by serving the church as pastor, is truly rich.

Yet, it comes with much fear and trepidation. What follows Paul’s statement about a man desiring a noble task is a great and heavy passage regarding the qualifications of an elder. Paul goes on in vv. 2-7:

Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,  sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

When I see these words I tremble. For I look at qualifications I do not feel I have? Am I above reproach? Can someone rightly accuse me of sin in my life? Do I manage my household well or do I fail to lead my wife rightly? Do I control myself? Am I sober-minded? At times, perhaps, at others, I cringe to think of myself. Like Paul I find myself to be the worst of sinners…

but by the grace of God…

The thing is, that while I feel that I do not measure up to the standard that Paul lays out here, I know someone did measure up to it, the Lord Jesus Christ. He obeyed the Law perfectly so that when I do not, the Father sees His obedience not mine. No pastor is perfect in any way. We will fail constantly and continually. In fact, to the chagrin of our congregations, we will frequently make the same mistakes! But like every believer in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven and are justified in Jesus Christ. So, through Jesus Christ my Saviour I can do anything. I have the power through Him to conquer sin in my life and pursue purity so I can be a worthy example for my flock to follow.

The pastorate is a noble task. But it is one to also be feared. If we do not fear for our own souls or the souls of our congregations we do not understand the sacredness and importance of our duty. But, if through the recognition of our own weakness we realize we can do nothing apart from Christ and everything through Him we will serve as the best of all ministers of the Gospel. We will be blood-bought and forgiven men, just as we year for all within our reach to also be. And we will be able to point people not to us or our success but through our failure and weakness to Jesus Christ and His success.

I pray that through the many years of Sundays I will be with Tunkhannock Baptist Church I will be able to say with Paul, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor 4:5), ESV.

Flexing the Pastoral Muscles

October 5, 2009

“It really doesn’t matter how many sheep we gather if we don’t intend to feed them” (Stan Toler, “Leading from the Pulpit,” Preaching [Sept/Oct 2009], 17).

This past Sunday I was able to be with my flock again at Tunkhannock Baptist Church in Tunkhannock, PA. It is painful to “pop in” and “pop out” like this as we wait for my work visa so we can set roots down full-time and begin serving Christ’s flock that He has entrusted to us. But, I love to have the opportunity to begin to develop relationships with my sheep and to seek to feed them from the Word of God. One of the blessings I have is beginning to lead them in a study of What is a Healthy Church? in our Sunday PM series. This week we talked about Expository Preaching being a defining mark of a healthy church.

I tried to articulate that expository preaching (preaching that takes as its main point the main point of the Scripture that is being preached upon) is defended in the Bible itself, and tried to articulate both the benefits of it for the pastor and for the church. One of the things I noted was that a good thing sometimes takes a lot of effort. It is in expository preaching that we really flex our pastoral muscles.

Often it seems that many in our churches expect that we can feed them from the Word of God without actually preparing for it. This is both a crime for the preacher and for the congregation.

I have a friend, Heinz Dschankilic, who is a wonderful servant of Christ and Executive Director of Sola Scriptura Ministries International, who offers an excellent analogy about sermon preparation. He explains that there is quite the difference between a microwave dinner and Thanksgiving dinner. The microwave dinner is quick but rarely tasty and frankly, far from filling. Thanksgiving dinner though is delicious and highly filling, but it takes substantial time. For a shepherd to effectively feed his flock, he needs to take time to prepare the feast for the flock. Isn’t a feast better than a Hungryman TV dinner?

In the recent issue of Preaching magazine Stan Toler has an excellent article called “Leading from the Pulpit.” He offers the story of Pastor W. A. Criswell of First Baptist Church in Dallas, TX and the importance of study in preparation of Sunday. He writes that Criswell,

… used to stay away from the “office” during the weekday morning hours. He was home in his study–pouring over the Scriptures, seeking the Spirit’s leadership in putting the menu together for a sheep-feeding the following Sunday. Criswell said in his autobiography, Standing on the Promises, “If you want to succeed in ministry… keep your heart fixed on Jesus and your mind centered on God’s Word.” His afternoons were given to the church business, but his mornings we devoted to Bible study.”

It is important as shepherds to feed our flocks. If we want our flocks to be healthy and to live according to the glory of God, we need to feed them what they need, a steady diet of the Word of God. And before we can feed them, we need to prepare the feast. This takes time and effort on behalf of the preacher, but the rewards for both the pastor and the flock are extraordinary.

So, for my flock at TBC, know that I want the best for you and I intend to prepare feasts for you each week from the Word of God. This means that it will take me time each week to prepare the meal for Sunday. It means I need dedicated time to study the Scriptures, to apply them to my own life, so I can proclaim them to you. But in the end, this dedicated time of study will pay off as you are able to experience a steady diet of the Word of God. I intend to feed you and feed you well. So, I must prepare the meal well!

Pastors, love your flock so much that you spend time deep in study in the Word of God to prepare the feast of the Word of God for them each Sunday. Flex those pastoral muscles! Remember, it really doesnt’ matter how many sheep we gather if we don’t intend to feed them. And I would add, feed them well.

New Ministry!

July 27, 2009

Many of my readers will know that my wife Tracy and I have been seeking the Lord’s will when it came to our next step of ministry. The Lord had directed us out of our last place of ministry and we have been out of work ever since. Yesterday, the Lord provided His next place for us. The people at Tunkhannock Baptist Church in Tunkahnnock, Pennsylvania voted for me to become their new pastor. Tracy and I have accepted this offer and hope to begin soon this next stage of life and ministry.

Please continue to pray for us as we seek housing in the Tunkhannock area as well as to secure a work visa so I can work in the US. Pray for the congregation that their hearts will be prepared for a new pastor. Pray for me that I would be loving, kind, and gracious with my new charge and that I would faithfully preach the Word, equip the saints, and lead the flock. Pray for the community of Tunkhannock that the Holy Spirit would begin working in people’s hearts and preparing them to come into the Kingdom.

This is an exciting time for our family so please continue to pray for a smooth transition and many years of fruitful service to Christ with the body of Christ at Tunkhannock!