How To Be the Church When the Pastor Can’t Be the Pastor


Just Jawful

Ever since my jaw fracture forced me to the pastoral sidelines, I’ve given some thought to this question. How can a pastor’s extended absence from his church result in their greater good? In hopes the saints at OGC might actually thrive, not just survive, my health hiatus, I offer these Scripture verses as essential principles for being the church when the pastor can’t be the pastor:

  1. Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases (Psalm 115:3). Stay anchored in the sovereignty of God. My mandible misery is no accident. His plan for His church to soldier on for the time being without me is precisely that–His plan.
  2. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28). This season–8 hour surgery, week-long hospital stay, and all the rest of it–abounds with good in it for me, my bride, as well as my church. For example, some things God can only do in his servant by laying him out. He can get your attention on the bench in ways you never realize in the game. The benefits of the trial accumulate by the day for me. Keep your eyes open similarly for yourself.
  3. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Pet. 2:25). Just like I remind everybody on day one of each Discover OGC membership class–I am NOT the senior pastor; Jesus is. Only one pastor holds the title “Chief Shepherd.” And He has promised never to leave us or forsake us. Church, you always have Jesus.
  4. So I exhort the elders among you (1 Pet. 5:1a, emphasis added). This balances number 3. God does give to His church pastors and teachers to shepherd them (1 Pet. 5:2-3). Sometimes we need Jesus with skin on. But in wisdom He rests the pastoral load on a plurality of elders. You almost always find the word in the plural form in the New Testament. No church benefits by relying excessively on one leader. God has plans through my leave both to grow our other elders in their ministries and increase your legitimate reliance on their pastoral role in your life.
  5. And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-12). This piggybacks on number 4. Pastors don’t exist just to tend the saints’ spiritual needs; they have a calling to equip the saints for spiritual ministry. Church, the body of OGC needs every single one of you more than ever! Are you in the game or riding the pines on the sideline (assuming you have a choice)? Where are you bringing your spiritual gift(s) to bear on others in community (1 Pet. 4:10-11)? When you see a need in the body, are you asking the Lord how you possibly might be the one to meet it?
  6. For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance (Phil. 1:19). I can think of no better place to end. My circumstances differ from Paul’s to be sure. But my need for your prayers and Jesus’ help doesn’t. May our heightened sense of need in this hard providence at the outset of 2016 cause us to seek His face like never before.

Lord willing, Jesus plans to restore me to the work at Orlando Grace before too long.

I look forward to coming back with a better-than-ever jaw and church to go with it. And that largely because you have been the church when this pastor could not be your pastor.

Ride or Shove


I read this today from Oswald Chamber’s Baffled to Fight Better: Job and the Problem of Suffering:

The majority of us prefer to get up and ride rather than to “get out and shove.” It is only the people who “get out and shove” who really make things go. The men who are up against things just now and who are determined to get at reality at all costs, and will not accept a thing on the religious line unless that line states reality–these are the men who are paying the price for the next generation.

Tomorrow at 9:30 AM in the auditorium, the covenant members of OGC get to do Q&A with a man prepared “to get out and shove” as a new elder in our church. I am extremely thankful to God for raising up James Harvey to join our team. Here are twenty questions I hope our people will pose to him (or at least some of them):

  1. Why do you aspire to the office of overseer in Christ’s church?
  2. Where have you served in the past and how did God confirm your ministry in those contexts?
  3. What are your spiritual gifts?
  4. When the Bible says that elders must be “able to teach,” what does that look like in terms of the way you do ministry?
  5. How do you assess your personal strengths?
  6. How do you assess your personal weaknesses?
  7. What does your family think of you becoming an elder, especially your wife?
  8. What are the four “Gs” of biblical peacemaking? Note: he’d better know these!
  9. How is your reputation with those outside the Christian community, particularly in your vocation?
  10. What exceptions, if any, do you take to our confession of faith and why?
  11. Where would you like to see OGC grow and improve in its ministry in the future?
  12. What, if anything, gives you pause about becoming an elder?
  13. Just how “Reformed” are you?
  14. What do you believe are among the greatest threats to the church in our times?
  15. Who are your personal heroes?
  16. What two or three books other than the Bible have made the greatest impact on you and why?
  17. Why did you think God wanted you and your family at OGC in the first place?
  18. How do you do personal evangelism?
  19. How are you involved in disciple-making?
  20. What unique contribution might you make to the leadership team at OGC?

I can hardly think of a more important task for covenant members to embrace than the constructive scrutinizing of a potential addition to the elder team. He will pay the price for the next generation. I trust as many of you as possible will join us for the congregational meeting tomorrow. Non-members are welcome to observe, but again, we would ask that you leave the question asking to our covenant members only. See you soon, Lord willing!

How to Question Officer Candidates

This Sunday evening at 6 PM at the SDA we will have a very important congregational meeting. Open to members and attendees alike, in this 90 minute gathering we will engage our three officer candidates in Q & A about their nomination for church leadership positions.

This is no small thing. Our bylaws require confirmation of all candidates by no-less than 75% vote of the assembled membership. That vote, Lord willing, will occur after the worship service on January 8, 2012. In order to be able to affirm or deny responsibly depends on having at least some knowledge of these men.

We have already sent out copies of their testimonies to everyone concerned, so unless you have some point of clarification on any of their stories, there is no need to question them about how they came to Christ. Where we must focus our attention in questioning each prayerfully, humbly, and respectfully is in terms of how God judges a man’s fitness for office, namely, character (including family life), doctrine, and philosophy of church ministry/leadership.

For those who find posing questions in a public forum in front of a microphone a bit intimidating but still would like to do so, feel free to email me your submission to me at and the elders will do our best to take it into account. Child care will be provided for the little ones.

Hope to see you there!

Officer Candidate Process Update

This Saturday is a big day. A number of our current elders and deacons will meet with our three candidates for office from 8 AM to 3 PM at the church office. Each of the three, two for elder and one for deacon, have completed their written exams. We will meet with them, one at a time, for 90 minutes each on Saturday to follow up with an oral exam.

The oral exam covers questions related to each candidate’s personal testimony, his fitness for office given the qualifications in First Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and his doctrine and philosophy of ministry particularly with respect to leadership. Following each interview and the dismissal of the candidate, we will debrief for thirty minutes to share our initial impressions from the interview and commit to any follow up communication or action steps we deem necessary.

As soon as we possibly can after this Saturday we will announce to the congregation who we intend to put forth as candidates for office. A date and time will be included for the congregational Q & A of each one. This is a rigorous process overall, for everyone concerned, especially this Saturday for those who will examine all three candidates. We would covet your prayers both for the candidates and us as officers as we continue to steward this most important aspect of our ministry.

Next Step for Potential Officers

Check out this week’s enews for an update on the officer nomination process ongoing in 2011.

The three men remaining on this demanding journey will meet with representatives of our leadership this Saturday morning for a debrief from their near two month self-study process of officer training.

Here are the kinds of questions we will put before them:

  1. What issues, questions, key insights, and/or concerns surfaced as a result of your reading of your Strauch book?
  2. How would you assess your familiarity with the doctrines of grace and an overall Reformed view of theology? Where, if at all, might you take exception to our confession of faith?
  3. To what extent do you feel the gospel governs your own heart’s desires and how prepared do you feel to engage the people we serve and shepherd in “scuba diving” into the depths of their hearts?
  4. When you grapple with the biblical qualifications of church officers in terms of your own testimony, how do you feel you measure up by God’s grace?
  5. How would you imagine yourself reacting to participating in a church discipline case within OGC that resulted in excommunication? How equipped do you feel in the realm of biblical peacemaking for all levels of restorative discipline within the body of Christ?
  6. What questions do you have about the role of elder? If a candidate on this score, how prepared do you feel you are to step into the office and function in a God-glorifying way?
  7. What questions do you have about the role of deacon? If a candidate on this score, how prepared do you feel you are to step into the office and function in a God-glorifying way?
  8. Where, if at all, do you have concern that you lack preparation for office and how might we assist you in addressing that?
  9. What questions do you have about where you will proceed from here should God give you liberty to continue to pursue answering your nomination call?
  10. How would you suggest we might improve the overall process thus far in setting apart future leaders for OGC?

Please continue to pray for these men and their discernment about the will of God for their future with respect to service on the leadership team at OGC. And don’t forget to check out the update this Thursday!