Transition – Time for Pondering Anew

Any time the Lord gifts me with the privilege of attending a pastor’s conference, especially the Desiring God one in Minneapolis each February, I always pray the same thing. Lord, speak. Let me hear your voice. Show me what you require.

Once again He has not failed me as I reach the end of day two of this particular event entitled, Brothers, We Are Still Not Professionals.

This morning Pastor John Piper introduced his replacement at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Pastor Jason Meyer. Ever since I heard about this young man having to step into such humongous ministerial shoes I have asked myself, who in the world would want to follow John Piper? I learned this morning as no surprise at all that this man has felt much the same thing. In fact, when first queried about the possibility of taking over Bethlehem’s reins by Piper himself, Meyer responded quite vulnerably, “Nothing scares me more than that.” To which the retiring mentor replied, “Well, that’s not a no.” The rest, as they say, is history.

In his talk entitled Pastoral Transition After a 32-Year Ministry: Strategy and the Supernatural, Meyer went on to do two things. He told the story of how the whole surprising and, in some ways, unlikely appointment to such an imposing post came about. And then he offered four lessons from the process for our edification. You can listen to the entire message here. Consider it a worthy use of your valuable time. You won’t be disappointed.

Bethlehem’s “Joshua” transitioning into her treasured “Moses” role as shepherd of this congregation, fashioned his talk around phrases from two great hymns of the faith – Praise to the Lord the Almighty and To God Be  the Glory. The phrase from the first was this: Ponder anew what the Almighty can do. There is where the Lord spoke to me in the way the man linked that timeless exhortation of the hymn writer to the challenge of change in any ministry. Transitions are not to be feared; they are opportunities  from God to ponder anew what He can do.

Truth be told I can get scared when I think of losing Greg & Christina this summer to his church planting apprenticeship. How will our rich music ministry continue? Where will help for pastoral demands come from? Who will take care of the seemingly endless number of administrative details Greg handles in a given week? These questions and more can keep any pastor awake at night.

God knows. I say it again. God knows.

So ponder anew with  me what the Almighty will do as we wait on Him for His provision. Pray with me and the elders that we will plan and execute a God-centered strategy that profits Orlando Grace nearly as much as the one these dear folks in Minnesota employed to arrive at a replacement for someone of Piper’s stature.

Let us not fear transitions, but God who unfailingly leads His people through one change after another.

Then we will sing once again, “To God be the glory, great things He has done.”

How to Get the Most Out of Your Pastor’s Preaching

Nancy Leigh DeMoss has written a helpful blog post for those who regularly submit themselves to the means of grace that is the preached word.

I particularly appreciated this pre-service exhortation at the top of her list:

Pray for your pastor as he prepares for Sunday. Pray that his schedule would be free from unnecessary distractions. Pray that God will give him understanding into the meaning of the Word. Pray that God will speak to him personally through the Word and that he will respond in humility and obedience. Pray that God will help him to communicate the truth with clarity, freedom, passion, and power.

I don’t know any preacher worth his salt that wouldn’t salivate over the prospect of a people who did half the things this sister advises, especially that kind of prayer.

You can read the entire piece here.

Camping in Tampa for OGC's & My Joy

I know what some of you are thinking. Camping and joy don’t belong in the same sentence. I’ve had some of those experiences. I feel your pain.

My post comes from Tampa this evening. Camp Logos brought me here. That’s what Libronix calls it. Two days of intensive seminar training on the lastest version of their Bible study software, Logos 4. You know, the package I purchased in Minneapolis a few weeks ago spurred on by the promise of doing exegesis 10,000 times faster!

So this is camping of a different kind. Frankly, I’m nestled in at a cost effective hotel near the training site, getting ready to retire soon in hopes of awaking fresh tomorrow morning for another go around of mastering this incredible computer resource.

Why do this? What’s the point? Always a good question. Answer? Our mutual joy. Everything comes down to that when it comes to a pastor’s job description, if I read 2 Cor. 1:24 right.

Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith (emphasis added).

I’ve actually got the software up and running as I write this piece. The literal Greek reads: sunergoi we are of your faith. We get our word synergy from the Greek word. It’s a noun, not a verb. Spiritual leaders are workers together with their people (this is synergy at the highest level) for their mutual joy in Jesus. Another way of saying it is that we work together for that which brings us the greatest pleasure. Who would argue with the notion that joy comes as a direct result of the experience of pleasure?

Where might we find greater pleasure than at the right hand of God (Psalm 16:11)? What reveals the God who gives such extreme pleasure more than the Scriptures (Psalm 19:7-11)?

I read today in my devotions a segment of J. C. Ryle’s book, Holiness, with this thought about pleasure:

Millions live for pleasure. Hedonism is the great spirit that knows no boundaries, whether economical, social, political or cultural—pleasure is an idol enslaving the great majority of the world. The schoolboy looks for pleasure in his summer vacation, the young man in independence and business; the small business owner looks for it in retirement, and the poor man in the small comforts of home. Pleasure and fresh excitement in politics, travel, amusement, in company, in books, in several vices too dark to mention, pleasure is the shadow which all alike are hunting; each, perhaps, pretending to despise his neighbor for seeking it, each in his own way seeking it for himself, each wondering why he does not find it, each firmly persuaded that somewhere or other it is to be found.

Oh my, it is indeed to be found and nowhere more intensely than at God’s right hand in His word. I’m camping out in Tampa these two days in hopes of gaining greater proficiency in my study of the Bible for our mutually exceeding joy and intense pleasure.

The Need for My Pastoral Best

Apparently I need to do better at ducking snowballs. We woke up to the white stuff this morning. Before Bible study we slipped outside for some fun and frolic. One of the sheep got a little frisky and pelted me in the noggin. Good thing I had my hat on.

But I’m not referring to my need to move with greater quickness in this post. Rather I have a far more serious matter of required excellence in mind as it pertains to the role of the pastor of a local church. Paul speaks to it in 2 Timothy 2:15.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

The Lord brought this verse to mind this morning as I heard yet another teacher here at Urbana handle the Scriptures in a less-than-tidy manner. Frankly, it has alarmed me how loose so many have been in their handling of their presenting duties. We have heard good things (this morning’s presentation of the gospel hit a doctrinally sound home run), but some of the ways the text has been manipulated at times to serve a foisted agenda in this conference has left me shivering in my already cold boots.

At that moment this morning I quietly heard the Lord say, not audibly, but intuitively, Curt, do your best as a teacher. Work hard in the study. When you stand in the pulpit for Me, do so prepared to drive a straight furrow through the field of any given text that I might may be glorified and each listener may have joy.

Lord, you make me want to be a better pastor.