baby being dabbedAs the pastor of a Baptist church I frequently encounter this recurring couplet of questions posed by prospective members:

“Since I was baptized as an infant, and then later (in my denomination’s confirmation ceremony) confirmed publically that I trust Jesus as my Lord and Savior, why do you believe I should be re-baptized? Is this re-baptism not a renouncing of my previous confirmation ceremony, which to me was a precious and public expression of my personal trust in Jesus?”

Here is the essence of a letter I recently wrote to answer the question. Let’s call the inquirer something that rhymes with dunking.

Dear Duncan,

Your questions are good and show a commendable desire to reconcile what you have been taught with what you are learning now. Here are four handrails for our thoughts to grip as we wade through the issue.

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“Not that we lord it over your faith . . .”
– 2 Corinthians 1:24 –

Heavy HandednessSecond Corinthians is a book about ministry. Many commentators call it the fourth pastoral epistle, adding it to First and Second Timothy and Titus, because it focuses so much on the true character of Christian ministry. And it teaches us the lessons that it does by looking at the life of the Apostle Paul, the archetype of the minister of the Gospel.

In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul explains why he had delayed coming to them after promising another visit. The false apostles were using his change of plans as fodder for slandering him (2 Cor 1:15–17). But he affirms to the Corinthians that it was out of consideration for them; he postponed his visit in order to spare them the pain of judgment (2 Cor 1:23). But he knows that his opponents will seize on that confession of love and consideration, and twist it to suit their own ends. “It was to spare you that he didn’t come?” they would ask incredulously. “That’s nothing more than a veiled threat! He might as well say, ‘Don’t make me come and destroy you!’ Don’t you see what a tyrant this Paul is?!”

So to make sure that he’s not misunderstood, he adds this qualification: “Not that we lord it over your faith.”

In this phrase is a lesson for all those in ministry: the faithful minister of the Gospel is a servant. There is a wholesale repudiation of a domineering spirit. The truly loving shepherd of Christ’s sheep renounces all forms of despotism, domineering, and dictatorial power. Paul has absolutely no interest in lording his apostolic authority over the Corinthians. He has no desire to micromanage and domineer and control people’s thinking and behavior.

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Historically, churches have not had what we call today “counseling pastors” (or for that matter, youth pastors, assimilation pastors, etc.). But today many larger churches have pastors that specialize in counseling. Why? What historical trends brought about the ecclesiological necessity for pastors specifically trained in counseling?

David Powlison’s 2010 book, The Biblical Counseling Movement—History and Context answers that question. In what was actually his PhD dissertation from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996, and New Growth Press has updated it to include more modern developments, as well as to make it readable for a broader audience.   Continue Reading…

art and scienceIf you live in a snowy place, you know that snowman-making is both an art and a science. On the art side, things like rocks, charcoal, and sticks creatively transform the burly snow boulders into a grinning, black-teethed happy man with the arms of Jack the Pumpkin king and the body of Santa Claus. But there is also a science to it all.

One of the most critical steps in snowman-making is the big, round base upon which the torso and head of that frosty hominid will rest. We might call that base, the “core” of the snowman-creation process. It starts with one small clump of snow. That snow is then rolled around the yard with the hope that additional snow will adhere and unite with the clump. Sometimes an armful of snow is brought from another portion of the yard and carefully combined to enlarge and strengthen that snowman core.

In the process of strengthening and growing that core-mass, things can get messy. Attempts to adhere other snow to it are not always successful. Not all of the snow sticks. Sometimes things break apart. Sometimes a little added substance like water is needed to create cohesion. Sometimes a firm, but carefully-calculated tamping is necessary at different angles in order to accomplish a measure of adhering and strengthening so that the additional snowman-chunks can be piled on.

strong coreGathering and strengthening a core team for planting and revitalizing churches is not that different. It typically starts small. Especially early on, the core team size and strength may fluctuate. Additional individuals might be added with the hope of genuine and lasting cohesion. It can get messy though. Not all individuals will quickly “stick.” Fractures might develop here and there. It’s all fairly normal. It’s also fairly taxing.

Consequently, building that core team, like the snowman, is going to require a measure of strategy. Bringing about a measure of both cohesion and strength is needed in order to solidify that core team so that it can stand underneath the weight of the church planting and revitalization process. Core teams need a degree of strength themselves so that a healthy church can grow from them.

Often the responsibility to do all of this is laid solely upon the lead planter or revitalizer. He certainly plays a major role. But core team members also have a major responsibility and play a critical part in the process.

Last week, we begin a series looking at the different ways in which core team members in church plants and revitalizations can be as faithful and fruitful as possible in their glorious undertaking. Today, we will conclude the series by looking at six additional ways for church plant and revitalization core teams to be strengthened for their work:

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Inerrancy_Summit_Faculty_SeminarsI published this yesterday over at Preachers & Preaching. I’m re-posting it here for any Cripplegate readers who may not have seen it there.

Last week, MP3 audio of the TMS faculty breakout sessions from the 2015 Summit on Biblical Inerrancy was put on the The Master’s Seminary media page.

These seminar sessions were in addition to the main sessions, which can be found at this link.

The seminars are listed below in alphabetical order of the speaker.

William D. BarrickTough Texts and Problem Passages: Evaluating Alleged Contradictions on the Pages of Scripture

Nathan BusenitzThe Ground and Pillar of the Faith: The Pre-Reformation Witness to the Doctrine of Sola Scriptura 

Abner ChouWhere Old Meets New: Inerrancy in Light of the New Testament Writers’ Use of the Old Testament 

Austin DuncanWhat’s Missing from Your Church Service? Recovering One of the Most Neglected Components of Public Worship

F. David FarnellThe Danger Within: What Happens When Evangelicals Redefine Inerrancy 

Michael GrisantiUnearthing the Truth: How Modern Archaeology Affirms the Bible 

Brad KlassenHas God Really Said? Divine Clarity and the Doctrine of Inspiration 

Steven J. LawsonGod’s Fugitive: The Daring Mission of William Tyndale

Richard MayhueThe Final Word: The Inseparable Link between Inerrancy and Biblical Authority

Michael J. VlachLetting the Lion Out of Its Cage: The Primacy of Scripture in Presuppositional Apologetics

Matt WaymeyerMen Moved by God: Dual Authorship and the Doctrine of Inerrancy

March 23, 2015

Financing the Lie

by Clint Archer

financeI have come to suspect that there is a disconcerting mercantile imbalance in the spiritual war between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. Our side sometimes seems to be underfunded.

If an economic discrepancy is observed, surely it would be in our favor? Our army of missionaries and evangelists and church planters is fighting for the fame and sovereignty and dominion of the One who owns all the cattle on a thousand hills and to whom all the silver and gold in existence belongs. And yet, the inexplicable reality  apparent to any casual observer is that too many of the skirmishes seem to be more lavishly supported on the enemy’s side.

I’m convinced the reason for this economic discrepancy is due to a subtle sabotage of our supply lines. The problem is not the paucity of recourses to which our people have access. It can’t possibly be that Satan has deeper pockets than God. The issue must be that our supply line is starved by our own tight-fistedness.

To put it bluntly: Satan always finances the lie; but God’s funding of his cause gets mismanaged by his stewards.

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About three and a half years ago, I posted the following sample prayer plan to serve as a guide for those who were looking to add some structure to their times of personal worship. Over the past few weeks, a number of people have happened to mention that this was helpful to them. I’ve also had occasion recently to refer to it in some pastoral counseling contexts. With it on my mind, I figured I’d re-post it for those who missed it the first time. As always, I pray it’s a benefit to you.

In his classic, Desiring God, John Piper diagnoses that a main hindrance to prayer is our lack of planning. He tells us,

Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the main reasons so many of God’s children don’t have a significant life of prayer is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to. If you want to take a four-week vacation, you don’t just get up one summer morning and say, “Hey, let’s go today!” You won’t have anything ready. You won’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned.

But that is how many of us treat prayer. We get up day after day and realize that significant times of prayer should be a part of our life, but nothing’s ever ready. We don’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned. No time. No place. No procedure.

And we all know that the opposite of planning is not a wonderful flow of deep, spontaneous experiences in prayer. The opposite of planning is the rut. If you don’t plan a vacation, you will probably stay home and watch TV. The natural, unplanned flow of spiritual life sinks to the lowest ebb of vitality. There is a race to be run and a fight to be fought. If you want renewal in your life of prayer, you must plan to see it.

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Little_country_church_Cedar_Valley_near_Winona,_MNIn my first five years of pastoral ministry, I can look back at a lot of different situations that shock or surprise me. Some people had far more spiritual depth than I thought and others were as shallow as a shower. But one of the simple, surprising blessings in my life is the opportunity to preach the Word of God weekly and to never miss a Sunday gathering.

As a pastor of a smaller church, I don’t get to sleep in, call in sick or take a quick family vacation over the weekend. I’ve heard people say, “it’s your job” or “you get paid to do this.” I understand that, but I want to communicate to them what an awesome blessing it is to be, in a sense, “forced” to go to church week in and week out. I want to encourage other pastors and people to embrace the monotony of weekly attendance by looking at some of the grace that rubs off on us.
shower-head

Fellowship

Each week Christians gather to worship God and celebrate the gospel the first day of the week through prayer, music, giving, the preaching of the Word, baptism and the Lord’s Table. But there are many other benefits that we get by “not forsaking the assembling” (Heb 10:25).

One of those is fellowship. We are forced to spend time with other people. In a culture saturated by social media, electronic devices and sixty-hour workweeks, church is often one of the few places of fellowship that people have throughout the week. We need other Christians to sharpen us spiritually (Prov 27:17), hold us accountable and practice the one another’s of Scripture. Just as marriage is sanctifying because of my wife’s influence on me, so the church is sanctifying for each member as they interact with one another. This can be through the positive acts of serving and helping others or through significant challenges or disagreements. Different people bring out different parts of each person, the best and the worst, and both help us grow in our relationship with Christ. Continue Reading…

coreIn just about every physical fitness plan these days there is talk of one’s core. Trainers talk about needing to strengthen your core. They often attribute various physical weaknesses to the core. Pour posture or back issues often are due to an issue with one’s core. Good balance often comes back to core strength.

The same can be said of church planting and revitalization. The faithfulness and fruitfulness therein will often come down to the strength of the core team which sets out to plant or revitalize.

In church planting and revitalization, the core team is the seed which must grow into a healthy sapling, bear fruit, and so set the tone for a disciple-making, one-anothering church for years to come. So, destabilization within the core team will typically prove to be a major hindrance to planting or revitalizing a healthy church.

Gods-graceIf one were to gather 100 church planters in a room and interview them, a similar story would be heard. It would involve a battle; multiple battles, actually. But among the majority, there would be a theme common to all of the battles: a battle involving the core team.

Whether disunity with the lead planter, disunity among one another, an ill-equipped core team, wrong expectations about the church planting process, or simply the hard work involved as the core, battles involving the core teams are one of the more common contributors to destabilization in church planting and revitalization processes.

For those reasons, the core team needs to be sufficiently equipped for the normal battles involved in their glorious and privileged work. They cannot take their task lightly. After all, they are placing themselves in the pioneering work of the most important organization on the planet: the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So, what are some things I ought to consider as a member of a core team? How can I faithfully and fruitfully play my part on the core team? This study will attempt to answer those questions by looking at ten ways for church plant and revitalization core teams to be strengthened for their work:

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Preachers_Logo

Earlier this month, The Master’s Seminary launched a new blog named Preachers & PreachingIf the name sounds familiar, it is an intentional hat tip to D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ famous work Preaching and Preachers. Since TMS exists to train future pastors with a specific emphasis on expository preaching, it seems appropriate that the seminary’s new blog would point back to the legacy of one of recent history’s most distinguished expositors.

But the articles on Preachers & Preaching are not just for pastors and seminary students. They are intended to benefit and encourage the church at large, not just those in church leadership. Continue Reading…