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

Our "local" #giftedcommunicator will not do hospital visits or funerals…

Perry Noble, self-proclaimed #giftedcommunicator, will not do hospital visits or funerals for his church members owners. You may think it is because he is too busy researching pop-culture references for his sermons or because his congregation is too large being spread across all of South Carolina…but it is more of a historical and theological decision for Noble. He accuses those who would ask him to conduct a funeral of being rapers of the Bride of Christ. Interpreting such a request as proof that someone hasn’t come to Christ, he insists that they either “get saved or get out.” See it for yourself…

There is much that could be said about each and every sentence of Perry Noble’s godless rant…but here’s one… Any pastor who has done more than five minutes of ministry understands that hospital visits and funerals are the best times for fruitful ministry. As men and women contemplate their mortality—whether they are suffering in their own body in the hospital or putting a loved one in the ground to await the resurrection—they are often sufficiently humble for the first time in their lives: “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Hospital visits and funerals require pastoral sensitivity and wisdom…real world, hand-holding, grieving with those who grieve sensitivity…not made for TV, safe, distant, cool t-shirt, you are on my turf, hireling sensitivity.

The end justifies the means (our "local" #giftedcommunicator, part 2)…

NewSpringBuildingThe numbers-obsessed evangelical church will do anything to produce results—and those results are understood to be only and always the blessing of God. Stephen Furtick, pastor of Charlotte’s Elevation Church, revealed the magic behind the massive number of “spontaneous” baptisms at his church: put 15 planted people in the audience who quickly rise up just after he gives a call for people to come forward during the service. Here’s the plan of attack, outlined in “Spontaneous Baptisms How-To Guide“:

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 8.56.36 AMWhen this came to light was Furtick ashamed or repentant? Of course not. Out came the explanations (denials and indignation)…

When they started talking this week on the news about our baptisms, I got hot. Yes, sir. I got hot. They were saying that we manipulate our baptisms, that we have people planted in the audience who pretend to go get baptized. For the record, we have never planted anybody in our church to pretend to be baptized. I am too scared of God to do something like that. Please. Please. … And to take the fact that we have volunteers who get up and lead the way so that people know where to go and to act as if they were pretending to be baptized and to negate the sincere faith decision of precious people who had one of the most meaningful experiences of their life, that’s just sick.

Essentially what he is saying is that none of the 15 plants were actually baptized. They certainly did make people think they were going forward to get baptized. It’s manipulation and Elevation Church continues to practice and promote it. It results in people having “one of the most meaningful experiences of their life” and so a little dishonesty is not so bad. The end justifies the means.

Then there is this which is worse… Continue reading

Calvin's Prayer of Illumination…

Let us call upon our God and Father, beseeching Him, since all fullness of wisdom and light is found in Him, mercifully to enlighten us by His Holy Spirit in the true understanding of His word, and to give us grace to receive it in true fear and humility. May we be taught by His word to place our trust only in Him and to serve and honor Him as we ought, so that we may glorify His holy name in all our living and edify our neighbor by our good example, rendering to God the love and the obedience which faithful servants owe their masters, and children, their parents, since it has pleased Him graciously to receive us among the number of His servants and children.*

-from Songs of the Nativity: Selected Sermons on Luke 1 & 2 by John Calvin, translated by Robert White.

*Note on above text: “The Genevan liturgy of 1542 allowed, in the Sunday services, for a prayer of illumination to be said by the minister immediately before the sermon, but prescribed no set form of words. Calvin’s practice was to use a prayer which he had already employed in the French church in Strasbourg, and which was modeled on Bucer’s German liturgy. Text in CO 23.741-42; cf. OS 2.19-20.”

Politics, Fatherhood, Education, Money, Church Leadership, Evangelism, Missions…

My friends at Clearnote Church in Bloomington recorded the following videos last week. I don’t know Pastor Walker, but I was deeply encouraged and challenged by his faith. Set aside an hour and watch the two videos below…

Matthew Walker Part 1 from Clearnote Church.

Matthew Walker Part 2 from Clearnote Church.

Academic barrenness and RTS's little "thank you"…

And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them (Mark 10:13-16).

I received an invitation in the church mail box for the inauguration of Dr. Michael J. Kruger. He will be the fourth president of Reformed Theological Seminary Charlotte. Near the bottom of that invitation is a little statement, a “thank you” to those who will not do something: “Thank you for not bringing children to this adult only worship service.”

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Now, I do not know what sort of seating is available at Uptown Church. Perhaps the Board of Trustees is concerned that adults (donors) have seats. But, really, they could have chosen a number of venues in Charlotte that would have ample seating. There is a large PCA church in town. That can’t be what’s motivating the Board of Trustees to give you thanks for complying.

What little children require are nursery workers and cry rooms and air fresheners…and, worst of all, they make noise, bless their hearts. On the solemn occasion of a doctor being inaugurated to the pinnacle of this particular parachurch ministry, noise of children would be a solemnity-breaker, a terrible interruption, a most unwelcome intrusion. The fragile solemnity of the occasion is being held together by a few threads of academic gowns, transitional silence, and classical subtlety. A child crying could quickly sever those threads…

Though there may be a whole host of pragmatic reasons for this request to leave your children at home, it stands as a testimony to academic barrenness. Presidents of seminaries are inaugurated at child-free, squeaky-clean, adult-only worship services. Contrast that to the strong solemnity of the installation of pastors in a local body of believers. They are ordained and installed in worship services with families strewn across the pews, children crying during the prayers (God-ordained strength: Psalm 8:2), mothers and fathers roaming about the back of the sanctuary bouncing infants, cheerios being crushed into the carpet, sons and daughters learning something deeply significant as the fathers of the church press their weight on the shoulders of the new shepherd.

Which more resembles the ministry of Jesus?

In this decision to forbid children at a worship service, The Board of Trustees of RTS has given the first class to current students on the orthodoxy of barrenness.

I’m tempted to load up the Ford E-350 and see what happens…

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Living for the glory of others…

I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do (John 17:4).

The result of Jesus’s living for the glory of His Father is amazing fruit. Though the world tells us to live for our own glory—to “reach for the stars,” to “be true to ourselves,” to “be all that you can be,”—all those pursuits will ultimately end in barrenness. Jesus found glory in living for His Father’s glory. We too will find glory when we die to self and live for Jesus. As Jesus lived for the Father, so we live for Jesus. As the fruit of Jesus living for the Father resulted in our eternal salvation, so our living for Jesus will result in fruitfulness in those around us.

Preaching: "…to make men do…"

It will be evident that both the interrogative and the imperative are invaluable to the preacher in the crucial yet often neglected area of the application of the Word of God.

In some Reformed pulpits, as in the case of certain preachers of the redemptive-historical school, this lack of application is deliberate and a matter of principle; in other Reformed pulpits, this lack of application is inadvertent and a matter of neglect. But whether it is deliberate or inadvertent, such lack of application always constitutes a serious deficiency and a serious failure on the part of the preacher.

Dabney quite correctly insists that the great aim and end of the preaching of the Word of God is ‘to produce a definite, practical volition in the hearer’; it is to ‘to make men do’. The interrogative and the imperative are of inestimable value to the preacher as he seeks, by the power of God’s Spirit, to probe the conscience and to impel the will.

The Imperative of Preaching: A Theology of Sacred Rhetoric, John Carrick, 149

One comment on the above generally good point. To talk of inadvertent lack of application is foolish; it is never inadvertent. Lack of application arises from a lack of courage and the forsaking of a man’s calling. A pastor is a minister of God’s Word, a steward of the mysteries of God, not a hired masseuse. He is to be an authoritative, courageous, loving father, not an abdicating, cowardly, unloving filler of space.

Be nice (idiot)…

The PCA needs a John the Baptist—a Camel smoking, Hostess Oatmeal Pie eating man who speaks Biblical truth with “untimely” zeal. Or a Paul, a repentant PhD who understood his training to be crap, told the Athenians they were ignorant, opposed the Apostle Peter to his face, and didn’t consult his BCO before he had Timothy circumcised. We need men who love and, therefore, speak the truth. The lawyers have long kept things decent and orderly. As a result, even child sacrifice itself (or that Allah is Yahweh) wouldn’t be opposed if it were not approached with the proper procedure. Instead, we concern ourselves with the ambiance of the room and rhetoric and process and…straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.

Sermon after sermon, seminar after seminar, publication after publication, Keller v. Duncan and Duncan v. Keller boil down to “Be nice!” Men protect themselves in process and incessantly navel-gaze (“Who are we in the PCA?”–always asked, never meant to be answered) to give the appearance of humility and self-analysis and enlightened circumspection. I know this temptation to soften distinctions; it is the way I go when I want to sanctify my own cowardice and hypocrisy. Case in point…

Loving Communication
Seminar Speakers: Dr. Mike Ross, Senior Pastor, Christ Covenant Presbyterian, Matthews, NC
Dr. George Robertson, Senior Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, GA
Rev. James Kessler, Associate Pastor, Northwest Presbyterian Church, Dublin, OH

Three generations of PCA pastors will discuss how to implement “The Law of Love” in the life of our Church. Mike Ross, George Robertson and James Kessler will discuss the issues of civility, generational differences, communication, and how to make the PCA a safer and more civil place. Each man will speak for about 15 minutes, leaving plenty of time for questions and dialogue. The seminar will be divided into three parts:
1. How We Got to Where We Are (Mike Ross)
2. A Word to the Older Men (George Robertson)
3. An Exhortation to the Younger Men (James Kessler)
This seminar will be rooted in Paul’s command of Romans 12:9-10: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

As we are exhorted by Ross, Robertson, and Kessler to “Be nice!”, don’t forget that they formed a secretive partnership in order to recast the PCA after their own image. Borrowing from the sophisticated playbook of the liberal politician, these men know they must protect their project by publicly projecting their image as the ones calling for unity and safety and civility. “We don’t have a secretive agenda, bless your heart. Didn’t you go to our seminar on love, peace, unity, safety, civility, and plenty of time for questions and dialogue?”

Until the PCA is willing to fight the issues and principles, we’ll protect our cowardice with a militant adherence to procedure, seminars on genuine love while not genuinely loving, publicly postured humility and back-room bravado, constant recommitments on what should be settled issues, and General Assemblies suffused with the BCO rather than the light of Scripture and the fear of God.

Listen to the sermons of Martyn Lloyd-Jones…

Maybe I’m late to the show, but I just stumbled upon the revamped Martyn Lloyd-Jones Trust website where 1600 audio files of MLJ sermons are posted. And they are free. I’ve recommended the ministry of Lloyd-Jones before and encourage you to take a moment to listen to a few of these sermons. You’ll quickly get used to his voice…

A few recommendations:

Series on Spiritual Depression

232 Sermons on Ephesians (…and you thought I was going slowly through Colossians…)

His Friday night lectures on Romans

Preaching and Preachers (lecture to students at Westminster Theological Seminary in 1969)