Soft Candidates in Geneva…

The Company of Pastors in Geneva during Calvin’s time had three requirements for men entering the pastorate: a sound knowledge of God’s Word, an ability to communicate, and a life that was above reproach. A man could be dismissed from pursuing the pastorate if any of those areas was deficient. Scott Manetsch in his book Calvin’s Company of Pastors, describes some of those rejections:

Candidates were routinely dismissed because they were poor preachers or unable to answer basic theological questions. Men of timid bearing or weak voice could also be disqualified. Occasionally, men were rejected because of concerns about their moral character, as seen in one candidate who was sent away when it was discovered that he had been party to a usurious business deal. Sometimes the Company of Pastors approved a candidate but with stated reservations. Though Leonard Constant was judged very knowledgeable in theology, he was “still not trained or fashioned in preaching” and was thus “not yet ready to step into the pulpit”; the ministers decided to give him a trial period of one month in the parish of Satigny before assigning him permanently to the church.

I’ve witnessed candidates being challenged or delayed for their theological knowledge, their Gospel-less preaching, but less so their moral character…and never for their “timid bearing or weak voice.” We could chalk up the necessity of strong voice to a lack of amplification, but what about that “timid bearing”? Continue reading

Raising our children to be those of whom the world was not worthy (part 2)…

If we believe the coming generation will face more hostility from our pagan culture, how do we switch gears from raising them for worldly success—as we have been doing, let’s be honest—to raising them for warfare, suffering, and loss? (We should have been doing that all along!) Here’s my list (Add others in the comments, please):

1. Discipline your children with the rod and with the Word. Proverbs 22:15, 23:13, 29:15. Love them through discipline (Prov. 13:24). Want them to have a right regard for authority?—one where they know that the ultimate authority is God whose throne is in heaven? Show your children your own fear of God and submission to His will in this task. Rebuke them and train them with the Word. Spank and speak. Give the no and the yes. Punish for sin and go to God’s Word to show them the right path.

Remember, we are no longer training them for success in the world, we are training them for success in battle… Continue reading

Sing to the Lord a new song…

Psalm 149 commands us to “sing to the LORD a new song.” Such songs require a commitment appropriate to the glory of the one we sing to, a gladness and joy so deep that our normally comatose Presbyterian bodies move: “Let the sons of Zion rejoice in their King. Let them praise His name with dancing” (Ps. 149:2-3). God commands us to sing a faith-filled war-cry: “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations…” (Ps. 149:6-7).

Faith in God pushes us in that zealous direction, helped along by the emotional power God has vested in music. Below is an example that should help you worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness. The greatness of Almighty God is not adequately expressed by flutes and violins and the hushed tones of a reedy organ stop. The weight of drums and amplification explain the text of Psalm 46 appropriately. Your sensibilities may be offended but stop and consider whether the offense comes because of your elitist, gentlemanly, safe, effeminate view, not of musical instrumentation and compositional style, but of God Himself. Our sin causes us to do that calf-making kind of work. God’s presence will one day cause men to call for the mountains and the rocks to fall on them that they may be hidden from the presence of “Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:15). When was the last time the music you sing in worship led to such God-glorifying contemplation?

 

Empower your church with our yard signs and t-shirts…

As I was traveling back to the church office after meeting with a pastor friend I noticed two churches, from different denominations, excitedly promoting National Back to Church Sunday. Apparently the third Sunday of September is NBTCS. Did you know!?! My first thought was that this event was a gentle (passive) way for the shepherds of those churches to encourage all those wayward sheep that had departed from the flock over the past year or so to return. Sort of an ecclesiastical “get out of jail free” card. A visit to their website passionately informed me that that was not the case. NBTCS is an exciting nationwide initiative to make it comfortable, easy…perhaps even cool…for you to invite your neighbors, friends, and co-workers to your church. You can purchase 2-minute videos ($20), and t-shirts ($6.99!), and invitation cards ($14.99), and door hangers ($14.99), and posters ($24.95), and postcards ($14.99), and roll-up banners ($149.99), and yard signs ($200, “…empower your members to promote your church on their lawns or at their personal businesses [check local zoning laws first!]”), and welcome flags ($129), and more. The t-shirts are powerful (“…themed T-shirts can be used…to start conversations with friends and people in your community. No matter how you feel about church, you are sure to notice this shirt!”).

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You can send an invitation to your friends via email, too. Your pastor doesn’t even have to write his sermon for this Sunday…they supply those for free. I suggest you pop your pastor a FB message and suggest which one of those sermons will “touch the hearts” of your friends. If you act quickly and pay the nominal fee, you can get the Gospel Blimp to blanket your neighborhood with a thick coat of snazzy promotional materials (jk!). The videos are so slick, the fonts are so modern, the haircuts are so fashionable, the pamphlets are so glossy, there is no need to mention the work of the Holy Spirit on the website. Said one participant in last year’s NBTCS, “To have one Saturday evening in 52 when I can invite my fraternity brothers or my mom to church is wonderful. And the most wonderful part of it…my t-shirt ministered to my homies with such power! Amazing grace!”

A simple comparison…

Typical modern praise song:

“I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” by Delirious?

Over the mountains and the sea
Your river runs with love for me
And I will open up my heart
And let the Healer set me free
I’m happy to be in the truth
And I will daily lift my hands
For I will always sing
Of when Your love came down

I could sing
I could sing of your love forever

Over the mountains and the sea
Your river runs with love for me
And I will open up my heart
And let the Healer set me free
I’m happy to be in the truth
And I will daily lift my hands
For I will always sing
Of when Your love came down

I could sing of Your love forever
I could sing of Your love forever
I could sing of Your love forever
I could sing of Your love forever

Oh I feel like dancing
It’s foolishness I know
But when the world has seen the light
They will dance with joy like we’re dancing now

I could sing of Your love forever
I could sing of Your love forever
I could sing of Your love forever
I could sing of Your love forever

Typical Scripture praise song:

Psa. 58:0 For the choir director; set to Al-tashheth. A Mikhtam of David.
 
1 Do you indeed speak righteousness, O gods?
Do you judge uprightly, O sons of men?
2 No, in heart you work unrighteousness;
On earth you weigh out the violence of your hands.
3 The wicked are estranged from the womb;
These who speak lies go astray from birth.
4 They have venom like the venom of a serpent;
Like a deaf cobra that stops up its ear,
5 So that it does not hear the voice of charmers,
Or a skillful caster of spells.
 
6 O God, shatter their teeth in their mouth;
Break out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD.
7 Let them flow away like water that runs off;
When he aims his arrows, let them be as headless shafts.
8 Let them be as a snail which melts away as it goes along,
Like the miscarriages of a woman which never see the sun.
9 Before your pots can feel the fire of thorns
He will sweep them away with a whirlwind, the green and the burning alike.
 
10 The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance;
He will wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.
11 And men will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
Surely there is a God who judges on earth!”