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Archive for September, 2009


In the past few years I’ve had far too many interviews.  Sadly, I’m not alone.  One of the things that I heard on the radio some time ago has stuck with me.  The talk radio host (sports radio no less) was talking about the book From Good to Great.  He mentioned that there is the guy who is good at getting the job, and the guy who is great at the job.  Often they are not the same guy.  Some people are really good at interviewing, but not very good at doing the job.  Some are not so good at interviewing, but quite good at the job.  I can identify with that thought.

I’ve often thought that looking for a new pastoral position was a lot like dating.  Some guys are good at getting girls, but not so good at being a husband.  Many guys are not good at getting girls, but good at keeping them and are good husbands.  This much is clear from the movie Swingers.  Mikey was not so good at getting the girls.  But he was much better at relationships than his friend who only knew how to pick them up.

I’ve come to believe there are a number of guys who are good at getting pastoral positions.  They are witty, charming and creating the illusion of intimacy.  But they are not wired for the long haul, of building true intimacy and pastoring a church.  I fear that too many search committees are not good at telling the difference.  This would explain, in part, why so many pastors don’t stay long at their positions.

Churches can often act like insecure women, wanting the guy who will gush over them rather than making an honest, balanced assessment.  It is as if they expect every applicant to “feel called” to be their pastor.  That expectation sets men up for emotional devastation each time they are rejected.  It is hard enough to deal with the rejection, but to build such an emotional attachment is unhealthy in the long run.

When I write my book to assist search committees, I’m going to mention this as an important factor to finding a new pastor.  References from people whom they have pastored and with whom they are served are possibly more important than the interview.  They will let you know if the applicant can build meaningful relationships, the relationships necessary to being a good pastor in most churches.

I was the guy who wasn’t good at getting the girl.  CavWife will probably tell you that I’m much better at being a husband than I was wooing her.  I often feel the same way with churches.  To spend 9 years someplace you have to have made relationships for the long haul.  I wonder if some of the churches I’ve applied to have passed on guys good at the job to call a guy who is merely good at getting the job.

Am I wrong about this (big picture, not Cavman-specific)?  What have you observed in pastoral searches?  I’d like to know, and you might even end up in my book.

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I could have sworn I covered the Calvin and Servetus situation in a post somewhere.  But aside from passing references, I have not.  This is one of the things people point to in an effort to discredit John Calvin and his theology.  Similarly, some people point to various American Calvinists who owned slaves.

Something people overlook is that all of these men, Calvin, Edwards, Dabney and more, were sinners.  Each time and culture has sinful practices to which their members, often godly in many other ways, can’t see.  We see their sin much more clearly than we see our own sin.  We, too, can be captive to cultural sins.  And we are!

Were I do have done a fully thought out post on the issue of Calvin & Servetus, it could be no better than the thoughts of J.I. Packer on the subject as posted by Justin Taylor.

The anti-Trinitarian campaigner Servetus was burned at Geneva in 1553, and this is often seen as a blot on Calvin’s reputation. But weigh these facts:

  1. The belief that denial of the Trinity and/or Incarnation should be viewed as a capital crime in a Christian state was part of Calvin’s and Geneva’s medieval inheritance; Calvin did not invent it.
  2. Anti-Trinitarian heretics were burned in other places beside Geneva in Calvin’s time, and indeed later–two in England, for instance, as late as 1612.
  3. The Roman Inquisition had already set a price on Servetus’ head.
  4. (more…)

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New cover means higher price

New cover means higher price

Just finished the first part of The Goldsworthy Trilogy, Gospel and the Kingdom.  In many ways this is an introduction covered in his books According to Plan and Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics. He works through how we should go about interpreting and applying the OT appropriately.  To do this he introduces biblical theology and hermeneutics (AtP & G-CH respectively).

“As Christians we will always be looking at the Old Testament from the standpoint of the New Testament- from the framework of the gospel which is the goal of the Old Testament.”

In many ways this is a great starting point for laypeople and young pastors unfamiliar with the ideas.  In so doing he also explores the objective reality of the gospel which must be grasped to subjectively experience it.  He points out some insufficient and woefully inadequate ways of handling OT texts.  Instead he stresses the unity of the Bible, and the cohesiveness of its message.

“… any supposition of unity in the given book means that knowledge of the whole and knowledge of the parts are inseparable. … Any given text is more meaningful when related not only to its immediate context, but also to the entire plan of redemption revealed in the whole Bible.”

The process he outlines goes like this: exegesis => hermeneutics => homiletics.  In other words, explaining the text to interpreting the text thru biblical theology to applying the text to the hearers.  This is pretty much Richard Pratt’s process in He Gave Us Stories.  The overarching story he uses to understand biblical is the kingdom.  I really like how he expands this:

God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule

He traces this from Creation beyond the Fall and into the various covenants which are ultimately fulfilled in Christ.  He focuses on the reality of the gospel in all of this.

“Nowhere are law and gospel more clearly related than they are in Deuteronomy 6:20-25.  The child asks, ‘What does the law mean, what is it all about?’, and the answer is given in terms of ‘gospel’, that is, in terms of what God did in history to save his people.”

Love that quote!  Interestingly I just heard a sermon on Deuteronomy 6 that kept the law in its proper context in just this way.  The Mosaic covenant understands the law following redemption, rather than issuing in salvation.

Goldsworthy concludes by first showing how the kingdom is revealed in Christ, and then showing some examples of how to interpret OT texts in light of biblical theology.  This is a very readable book that includes an appendix with study or group questions to help people work through the material together.  It would be a good book to study as a group since it is short (the chapters are not very long), understandable  and meaningful.

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In a recent interview I was asked about the influence of these times on ministry and life.  I talked about how people are over-committed and have very little free time in their schedules to pursue maturity in Christ and the concerns of the kingdom.

Then I got an e-mail about Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families by Ann Kroeker.  I thought I should give it a read.  I had never heard of her before, but I was pleasantly surprised by this book.  It was easy to read, but covered significant material in a meaningful way.  It’s short chapters were written with the overly-busy in mind.  Each chapter ends with Slow Notes which are suggestions for slowing down your life in keeping with the material covered in the chapter, and Live From the Slow Zone in which friends of hers share some of their stories about slowing down life.  Additionally, I found the book referring to Christ and the gospel often.  This is not a book about trying harder, or loading you with false guilt.  It is very gracious, honest and does not think this will look the same in every family’s life

” To live slower requires buy-in from the entire family.”

The basic premise is that we move too fast.  We commit ourselves to too many opportunities for ourselves and our kids.  We move from one event to another, stressed out in between, and somehow think that more is better. We are also saturating ourselves on entertainment & information as we sit in front of our TVs, video games and computers.

“To be safe, we need to anchor our choices in a person– Jesus Christ- and we need to weigh them against His Word.”

Little do we know the price we are paying for these hectic, over-stuffed lives we lead.  We suffer spiritually, having little to know time to delight in His Word, chewing on it (see Psalm 1, I’m preparing a sermon on it).  We suffer relationally, having little time to know each other.  As a result we suffer emotionally, having little/no resources to cope with the overload we experience.  We are also, as she covers in various chapters, too fast to care (for others), rest, to pray, to worship, enjoy creation, or create.  She draws on a number of studies to illustrate her points, providing some objectivity.  She also has a chapter which covers some of the “good” reasons we do this to ourselves, and helps you sort through your own reasons for pursuing this unsustainable life.

“When we understand the driving force(s) behind our current choices, we can go with humility to the Lord and seek His wisdom, direction, and instruction for how to live according to His principles and in obedience to His Word.”

(more…)

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Two years ago (June 2007), I began a series on “church killers” after someone asked me why churches close (lack of prayer, evangelism & love).  This morning I pondered such matters again.  Perhaps it is because a sister church is closing this month.  I was reminded of a number of seemingly unrelated situations that had a common thread.  That thread was fear- the great “what if?”

In many ways our congregation was in bondage to that question.  It blocked attempts at outreach.  It blocked attempts to “think big” and plan for the future.  People were often afraid we’d be sued because of this, that or the other thing.  Ideas were shut down, and no alternative ideas were offered.

The reasons were sometimes dressed up in spiritual garb- “we cannot test God”.  This was used to try to keep us from trusting and applying God’s Word to our particular context.

We often misunderstand what it means to test God.  The Israelites tested God through their sin- grumbling.  They essentially tested God’s unfailing love by denying He loved them to justify their sin.  Satan wanted Jesus to put Himself in mortal danger, and Jesus responded with this command from Deuteronomy.

We were not putting ourselves in mortal danger, or certain danger.  Expanding the budget is not the same as jumping off a cliff unless the increases are too great a percentage of the current budget.

Fear actually does test God by thinking He won’t help us to obey Him or protect us when we obey Him (Jesus would have been obeying Satan, not the Father had He jumped).  We tested God by thinking He’s sustain us in our disobedience to the Great Commission (among other things).

Fear kills churches by stifling faith.  This lack of faith limits giving & budgets, outreach & evangelism, discipleship, church discipline and more.  The congregation in bondage to fear doesn’t do anything because of the “what if” (what if someone gets hurt, what if someone gets mad, what if someone leaves the church, ….).

In some ways, I also lived in fear- the fear of losing my job if I ticked off enough people by challenging their lack of faith and exposing their fear for what it was.  See, there was a silent conspiracy of fear operating to slowly, silently kill the church.

Fear is one of the leading causes of church deaths in America today.

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I was puzzled when Coral Ridge decided to call Tully Tchividjian to be their new pastor.  The merger of the 2 congregations didn’t make sense to me- they were far too different.

Additionally, Coral Ridge just lost its long-time pastor, the only Sr. pastor they’d every had.  Often the replacement gets pummeled for not being just like the long-time pastor.  The congregation needs to grieve and adjust, but they are so focused on getting a pastor now(!) that they are amazingly surprised that the new guy isn’t the old guy.  More than that, they are actually mad he isn’t.

I’ve been there.  I replaced a founding pastor.  Though he was essentially removed from ministry, some people were frustrated that I wasn’t more like him.  They had to decide whether or not to embrace me and labor with me instead of against me.

It didn’t take too long at Coral Ridge.  Tully is not D. James Kennedy (nor is he his famous grandfather, as some narrow-minded people think).  There were some traditions that Tully didn’t embrace, and this has drawn the ire of a group of long-time congregants including one of D. James’ daughters.

There are 2 sides of this that should be examined.

First, in keeping with 1 Corinthians 9 there are some traditions that Tully should have considered keeping.  To Coral Ridge he should have become like Coral Ridge to win some of Coral Ridge.  There are things he could have done to at least initially gain an opening to preach the gospel to them.  If he had to wear robes to do that … so what.

Second, have the people of Coral Ridge substituted the traditions of men for the commands of God?  Tully also had to see which of their traditions got in the way of the gospel and break with them.  One example I can think of is the political sermons.  This was one issue I had with Dr. Kennedy- the gospel was often obscured by his political & cultural concern sermons.  Those issues can be addressed, but should be in light of the gospel- in connection with the gospel.  Tully was godly & wise to not keep this tradition.

Any errors Tully may have made do not excuse the actions of the infamous 6.  To employ worldly weapons against your pastor, duly called and installed, is a great wickedness.  They attacked him via mass mailings and eventually the media for the great non-sin of failing to meet their expectations.

And now there will be a congregational meeting to determine whether or not Tully still has the confidence of enough of the congregation.  Perhaps he won over enough hearts with the gospel.  Perhaps he was too great a shock to the system for most of Coral Ridge.  We will see Sunday.

But this I do know, this hampers the cause of Christ in many ways.  It will clarify things for some, but for many outside (and inside) it is just another reason not to go to church with all those unruly people who can’t pursue peace together.  It also may have destroyed 2 congregations.  Afterall, they merged.  Do they go their separate ways?  Do they split and start over again?  That will be incredibly painful at this point.  It will be like a divorce (which is why I would have said, “Tully, don’t go!”  Like Tonto, he got the snot kicked out of him).

Or do they stay together with Tully and his staff moving on to new fields of service?

See, there is no good outcome apart from the repentance of those who have unmet expectations and some minor adjustments on the staff’s part.  I long for God to restore peace through repentance, mutual respect and love.  All for the honor the King Jesus and the praise of His glorious grace.

You can read Tully’s very good op-ed piece about this.

Updated: Coral Ridge voted down the motion to remove Tully as Sr. Pastor.

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Heading into this season, many people were worried about the Red Sox offense.  I was not one of them.  While watching the game on ESPN, I decided to see how they were doing with 19 games left in the season.

Runs Scored- 757, 3rd in baseball.  The Yankees have an amazing 838.

Hits- 1309 for 10th in baseball.  Not impressive, but you see they haven’t wasted hits, but have been productive.  The Yankees & Angels remained 1st & 2nd.  So 7 teams had more hits and fewer runs than the Red Sox.

OPS- .804 second only to … the Yankees.

HR-186 for 4th behind …. the Yankees, Rangers and Phillies.

Hits- 2223 for 3rd behind the Yankees & Rangers.  The Phillies had 2222.

BA- .268 for 8th in baseball.  Proof, again, that while their hitting hasn’t been great, it has been productive.

In other words, the offense did what it is supposed to do- score runs.

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