Why Preach? (Part 1)

Recently I was speaking with a minister here in London who suggested that preaching is old-fashioned and doesn’t connect to the current generation. I will concede that preaching styles do change over generations as the same message is contextualized into our various contexts. The purpose of this post is to give a biblical defense of preaching. The Greek word for preaching (kerusso) means to proclaim or herald. The idea goes back to antiquity of a town crier who would shout out the relevant news to the townsfolk. The business of the herald was to communicate news. If the herald didn’t speak, the townsfolk didn’t know what was going on.

Scripture teaches us that the content of our preaching is the gospel (good news) delivered to us through Scripture. There are many voices claiming that since the culture in which we live is biblically illiterate, we should make the content of our messages something other than the word of God. And many in our culture consider preaching (the idea of proclaiming with authority) too strong, and we are admonished to tone down our message from delivering the message, to delivering our own personal interpretation of a message that may or may not hold any relevance for the hearer. However, God’s word in preaching can’t be excused. To preach without God’s word is to fill an empty void with more emptiness.

In part 1 of this 2-part post, I want to focus on the Purpose of Preaching and the Command to Preach.

1. Purpose of Preaching

In order to consider this, we must ask the question: what is the purpose of preaching? I would argue that preaching is ordained by God to extend the gospel to both believers and non-believers. This takes place by means of understanding being given, by the means of proclamation, through the power of God’s Spirit, leading to salvation for non-believers and sanctification for believers.

1.1. Giving Gospel Understanding

Scriptural record shows us that gospel understanding is given through preaching. If the Gospel is God’s good news, then the good news necessitates the preaching of God’s word for it to be revealed. At the birth of the church at Pentecost, Peter used Scripture in his message to explain what bystanders were seeing (Acts 2:16). This turns to the gospel being given and 3,000 people being converted (Acts 2:37-41). In the chapter immediately following this, Peter is again preaching, explaining to people the basis for a healing that’s taken place in their midst (Acts 3:12). As he is preaching he calls them to stop acting in ignorance (Acts 3:17), further signifying that understanding is being imparted through preaching. But this understanding isn’t in a general sense, but rather an understanding of God. Later Paul in Athens points out that the Athenians were worshiping God in ignorance and that it was time for them to know who God is (Acts 17:23-31). Paul underlines this great need in 1 Timothy 2:4,  when he says God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” In fact, Paul stresses this purpose summing up the entirety of his three years of Ephesian ministry when he tells the elders that he declared the whole counsel of God to them (Acts 20:27), which was to their profit (Acts 20:20). Essentially preaching brings God’s plan to light. Paul speaking again to the Ephesian church (Ephesians 3:8-10) said that he preached to “bring to light… the plan of the mystery.”

1.1.1. Salvation

Understanding the gospel contained in Scripture enlightens the heart of the hearer. As mentioned already, when Peter preached at Pentecost, the understanding that 3,000 souls received caused them to trust in Christ. Paul writing to the Romans rhetorically asks how people will believe without hearing preaching (Romans 10:14-16). The word of God is something that is heard, and by responding to that word, we believe (Acts 4:4). Timothy was a partaker of this great salvation when the Scriptures were delivered to him (2 Timothy 3:15). We see in James 1:21-22, that preaching extends to the hearers the “word, which is able to save your souls.”

1.1.2. Sanctification

The gospel word preached is always relevant, for we need it not only for salvation, but the life-long process of sanctification. It is this word that profits the believer in making him both competent and equipped for Christian living (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Paul tells Titus to teach the church about the doctrine of God so that the hearer’s sanctification will adorn the doctrine of God (Titus 2:1-10). In Thessalonica, the church was known for its life-change (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10), as a response to hearing the word of God preached (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

1.2. Bringing God’s Judgment

It is also worthy of note, that at times the purpose of preaching is actually a means whereby God brings judgment. The prophet Isaiah’s ministry was defined by this aspect of preaching where God says to him in Isaiah 6:10 that his preaching will, “Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” Later, Jesus quotes this passage in Isaiah citing the reason he speaks in parables (Matthew 13:13-15). It isn’t for us to determine how God will use His preached Word, but to trust that God himself will determine its purpose (Isaiah 55:10-11). Thus, we must be faithful to Scripture and seek to be clear in our communication, regardless as to whether people respond positively or not.

2. Command to Preach

Preaching the word is an imperative in Scripture (2 Timothy 4:1). If God’s word is not the substance of our preaching, then our preaching is in disobedience to this Scriptural imperative. Earlier in Paul’s letter to Timothy he commands his disciple to continue the pattern of raising up preachers when he says in 2 Timothy 2:2, “what you heard from me… entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” This wasn’t simply a Pauline command as Jesus also made disciples intending them to preach as we see in Mark 3:14, “He appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach” (italics mine). Preaching the word isn’t simply good practice, it’s good obedience.

In my next post we will look at Preaching under Fire, the fact that God’s Word has Power and Authority, and the Stewardship of Preaching.

Doing The Next Thing

I was recently blessed with getting to spend some time with Pastor and Author Eugene Petersen. Like so many Evangelicals, I first heard of him when his paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, came out. Every time I heard his name, he was being verbally crucified for his ‘liberal’ translation. So like many young Christians, I just avoided anything with his name on it. Not realizing that he has written some of the most compelling books on pastoral ministry in the history of Christianity. It was about four years ago that I decided that I was going to start reading his writings. I have never been let down by the depth, clarity and Christocentricity of what he writes. He is not teaching the technique of pastoring. Instead he is revealing the heart of a shepherd. And I, for one, have been greatly challenged by what he is led to pen.

So in the beginning of June, he came to our area for a Pastor’s Appreciation breakfast. I knew the person who was putting on the breakfast and he made sure I got some time with Eugene. We got to speak for awhile about a great many things. It was casual, fun, deep and at times, profound in simplicity.

I asked him about moving from education to the pastorate to the professorship to retirement, with the writing of The Message and other books threaded through it all. It was something that I had been pondering as I thought about all of the changes that have happened in my own personal ministry.

Dr. Peterson answered quite simply, “I simply did the next thing.” I must have looked a bit bewildered. So he followed up with, “I really was not trying to do something new. I just did what came next”. I think what I loved the most about his comments were the total lack of self focus in his thinking. He was not consciously making strategic decisions for expedient reasons. He was simply taking the next step in the process. In the weeks since I heard this, I have thought much about this conversation. I thought of Jesus saying, “Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” I realized that Dr. Peterson was onto something that I still don’t understand. But I like it!

When Transfer Growth is Healthy

Sometimes we are overly-simplistic in our criticisms and cautions. That’s just part of being human. Still, accuracy and balance (if biblical and true) is something to pursue. And one area in which I think pastors particularly get a little overly-simplistic is that of transfer growth. Transfer growth occurs when someone who is already a follower of Jesus (or at least professes to be so) switches from attending one local church to another.

There is a status quo regarding transfer growth that is understandable, often legitimate, but sometimes overboard. It is frankly taboo to appear to be at peace with Christians coming to your church or church-plant from another local church. As such, pastors who don’t want to be filleted don’t talk openly about it, no matter what the reason someone may have transferred to their church may be. My belief is that, while much of the time (perhaps most) transfer growth is due to unhealthy thinking or behavior, sometime’s it is not. And what I hope to do is shed some light on reasons why sometimes transfer growth can even be a godly, wise, and needed reality.

Let me be clear upfront that I don’t think intentionally pillaging the members of a gospel-centered, God-ordained church is ok. The leaders of the church I serve have, and will continue to tell people at times that they need to return to the church they came from when they desire to come to our fellowship in an unhealthy way, with selfish and sinful motivations. But I’ve also seen people come through our doors from other places who I will never tell to go back to where they came from. Here are some reasons why:

 1. The Gospel must be preached

Not all churches that have the gospel correct on their doctrinal statement actually preach the gospel. Some churches are so focused on speaking to people’s felt needs and emotional struggles that they forget to be clear on the problem of sin and how Jesus solved it for us in His death, burial, and resurrection. And in case we forgot, the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16-17), nothing else. Sometimes people come to my church from another, maybe visiting with a friend or something, and they hear the gospel clearly proclaimed, and God convicts them of sin, brings them to faith in the gospel and regenerates them. And as we counsel with them we discover that though they’ve been at a church that has the right gospel on paper, they’ve never heard it preached before. But now they understand it, are broken over it, and put their trust in Jesus in light of it.

The deal is, if you don’t understand and believe the true and simple gospel, you are not born-again. You are not saved from hell. So, for me, when I meet this kind of person at Refuge that last thing I’m going to do is tell them, “Well I’m sorry, but you need to go back where you came from.” I’m going to love them and make sure they have the opportunity to get the discipleship they’ve never had.

 2. Heresy is real

This ties in with the last point, but not every church that names Christ actually preaches Christ. Churches get into weird crap. That’s the bottom line. I remember learning that a local Episcopal church in a town where I used to pastor had started encouraging their Moms of Preschoolers (MOPS) group to start using the Quran and Book of Mormon for their studies in addition to the Bible. Because of that kind of thing, I was more than happy to welcome a few transfers to our church who knew there was something wrong with that. They voiced their concerns, called for a change and repentance, and were unheard. So, I was happy to welcome them to a place they could not only be discipled, but invite moms to, knowing that they’d be getting the living water of God’s word instead of the poisonous waters of pluralism.

 3. Seasons in Life Change

We also need to allow for people to grow or transition into different seasons of life. If I were simply looking for a church to plug my family into in a non-vocational ministry sense today, I wouldn’t go to the churches I attended in the past. This isn’t because they are evil or wrong. They’re just not a good fit for where our family is at right now in our relationship with Jesus theologically and philosophically.

4. Sometimes Churches Really do Hurt People

One of the most tragic reasons I’ve seen transfer growth is when people are truly hurt by leaders and churches. A couple years ago a pastor in my area was found to have been having affairs with underage girls in the youth groups he was leading. Part of the fallout from that was that people transferred from that church to other churches, including ours. We welcomed these people to our church as a hospital where they could be cared for and encouraged.

 5. Sharing the lowest theological common denominator isn’t always enough

Generally speaking, if we have the gospel in common with another church I love to promote unity between us. But there are some churches that are involved in things that are just weird enough for me to understand why people would leave them. For instance I know of a church not far from us that began promoting the idea that certain crystals used in worship services can encapsulate the praises of God’s people and project them into the cosmos. This church was encouraging people to give their money and tithes to the people taking these crystals around and doing presentations with them. Then there is the whole prosperity preaching issue that was prevalent. Still other churches who have that “come to us if you don’t want to be held accountable for your sin, in the name of grace” reputation are a problem in our area too. Some of these churches claim (or really do) believe in the same Jesus and gospel we do. But that lowest common denominator isn’t always enough. I would never tell someone they need to go back to that kind of environment because of the way people over-generalize the problem with transfer growth.

I hate unnecessary, flippant, consumeranity, transfer growth. I want people to get saved through Refuge Church. But I also don’t want to be so naïve as to act as if there are no legitimate reasons people may transfer into, or out of the church I lead. So am I saying that all transfer growth is good? No! I’m just saying we need to not be overly-simplistic in the way we talk about the issue.

A Final Exhortation

Having a good relationship with the other pastors in your community is vitally important for handling transfer growth in a way that keeps the gospel witness in tact in your area. If the pastors in your area lob grenades at each other behind one another’s back without having face-to-face interaction, we turn into a bunch of squabbling church people. And most lost people don’t want any part of that. Communicate with the pastors in your community about transfer growth. Ask their advice on how to handle it, and follow-up with each other. The witness of the gospel depends upon it.

168 Hours

Making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:16

A couple of weeks ago, Kellen posted “Plan or Die” on the Cross Connection Network.  It struck an area in my life that God has been at major work on–time management.  One of the transitions I struggled with as I moved from life as a SEAL to life as a pastor was managing my time.  In the Navy I had no use of a personal calendar.  But as I transitioned to the pastorate, I quickly learned that I needed a calendar to keep straight the many meetings, appointments, and various events I was now juggling to keep.  This was my main struggle that forced me to make the leap from the flip-phone to a smart phone as paper pocket-calendar served me no purpose as I wouldn’t keep it in my possesion.

With my new smart-phone, a Palm Treo (this was before my iPhone conversion), I was now able to fill my schedule and keep up with everything.  It was sweet.  I was living out (misinterpreted and applied) my favorite verse, “…making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16) by filling it packed full.  This went on for years, until (well, it’s still a struggle technically) I preached on the parable of the soil found in Luke 8.  The verse that really convicted me was Luke 8:14, “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.”  This verse continued to convict me following the message…which is rare as I am normally convicted during my study time leading up to the message!  I felt like the Lord was telling me to examine my schedule.

That Sunday night I laid my schedule for the upcoming week out on my desk.  I felt like I was to check my hours of the upcoming week to see what things were choking me out.  Although, I felt safe doing this as I thought I had a “light week” ahead and I though it would reveal a reasonable workload.  As I went through my calendar seeking to tally the running hours for the week, I was shocked to discover that this “light week” was really a 50+ hour work week!  The Lord clearly made His point with me–this was not what He expected of me and nor was it good for me or the church.

Kairos, not Chronos Back to Ephesians 5:16, “…making the most of your time.”  Whether or not I misunderstood the Greek here, my life certainly misapplied the intention this verse.  I applied this verse by understanding “time” as chronos meaning to fill up my calendar with as many things as possible.  This is wrong as the word is actually kairos meaning “to take full advantage of every opportunity” (Louw-Nida).  It may just be me, but this changes everything concerning how I view planning out my week because it forces me to prioritize things which, in turn, forces me to eliminate things (from the schedule of course)!

“Plan your dive, dive your plan.”  This was a saying we used in the SEAL teams concerning our dive plans.  The concept is pretty simple.  Plan your dive carefully.  Then carry out the plan.  To deviate from the plan would certainly result in major problems and failures along the way.  How does this apply for me concerning my schedule today?  Did you catch the title of this post?  That’s how many hours we have each week.  No more, no less.  We will never get them back once they pass, but how we use them will play forward in eternity for good or bad.

Coming up with a plan.  First, I confess, I have been slacking on planning my week.  I could give you a bunch of good excuses, but I won’t.  Typically what I try to do is account for every hour of the week.  I plan out things like: a day off, family time, exercise, sermon prep, writing, and people time.  As I plot these out, I am careful to keep a running tally of the work hours that have accumulated.  My goal is to land somewhere between 40-50 hours of work and then as the week plays out I will note unforeseen events in my calendar.

Flexibility of the plan.  If you are a pastor, you must be flexible and available.  As I write out my week, I understand that I have to be flexible.  Crisis’ come every week and I have purposed in my heart to be available as much as possible to my people.  By mapping out my week and the joy of a smart-phone, I can make mid-course corrections as they come.  Simply realizing how much time goes out has caused me to be more careful in saying “yes” to things and guarding things like family time that could so easily be stolen away.  Simply being aware of the running tally has unveiled my ignorance concerning the use of the time God has given to me.

Benefits of the plan.  The first thing I noticed was exactly what Kellen said in his blog, “I have more free time.”  I was shocked!  I simply became more efficient during my appointed times because I knew what the whole week looked like.  I have spent more time with the family on Saturdays than I ever did before.

The second thing I noticed was a clearer conscience.  The pastorate is an odd calling.  It is not like other professions.  We don’t produce a product per se, we are never really finished.  I think because of this many pastors burn the candle at both ends the the expense of their personal health and the health of their family.  We go and go and say “Yes”, “Sure”, and “No problem” (Jesus would, right?) when we are really burning ourselves out.  By keeping a running tally of weekly hours I see how much time I put into things.  Ultimately this helps me not to feel bad to turn off my phone and to play with the family.

I think Kellen’s title, “Plan or Die” is really appropriate when it comes to going the distance in the ministry.  Our families need us to plan our weeks and then to abide by our plan.  How are you utilizing the 168 hours that God is giving you this week?

Pastoral Ministry Practice #4

I was keeping them in Your Name…I guarded them   John 17:12

This is the fourth essential practice of the pastoral ministry – to guard the flock.

Jesus said to His Father, “I was keeping them in Your Name…”  One of the meanings of the word ‘keep’ is to guard a prisoner to prevent escape.  The prisoner is put somewhere and is meant to remain there.  It is someone’s job to guarantee the prisoner stays put.  Jesus had made a revelation of the Name of God to His disciples, and they had seen and learned and appropriated something of God’s Name as they accompanied Jesus.  They had desires which developed into characteristics of personal godliness as they remained with Jesus and obeyed His Word. In short, they were transformed by being with Jesus.  In a similar fashion, whatever the Holy Spirit works into us to remain with us.  The Lord doesn’t want to see the work of the Holy Spirit escape or diminish through neglect and lack of faith.

The transforming work of the Holy Spirit is meant to be a permanent work and not a transient one.  The changes we experience by being with Jesus are not meant to be weekend wonders and mountaintop miracles, but permanent possessions in the valley.  Jesus is laboring to keep you in His beauty – the beauty of holiness.  He is directing you to Christlike responses in the circumstances and challenges of life.  We know how the correctional officer keeps the prisoner – bars and guns, handcuffs and barbed wire.  How does Jesus keep the believer in the Name of the Father?

Jesus keeps us in the name of the Father in the same manner as He kept His disciple – He guards us.  James and John wanted to call fire down upon a Samaritan village because they weren’t gracious to Jesus and the apostolic band (Luke 9:51-56).  The ungracious snub of the Samaritans was met by the unmerciful request of James and John.  Jesus had been a living example of the grace of God toward sinners and the patience of God toward His enemies.  How He longed for these two men to remain in the name of the God of grace and mercy – to extend mercy to those who would do them wrong.  When they spoke this unmerciful word, Jesus rebuked them, saying,  “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”

Please note how Jesus kept them in His name – He rebuked them and He reminded them.  He rebuked them not merely for what they said, He got to the heart of the matter.  James and John not only had a bad choice of words, they gave expression to a bad spirit.  “You don’t know what spirit you are of,” Jesus said.  Christ came to save, but the thief comes to kill, steal, and destroy.  Jesus doesn’t destroy, the devil does.  They were giving expression to the spirit of the devil and not the Spirit of Christ.  Jesus had said elsewhere, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”.  In the rebuke is a revelation – Jesus revealed their judgmental hearts to them.  They saw how far from Christ their hearts were in what they said.  Following the rebuke there is a reminder and in the reminder there is a revelation of the heart of Christ: “…for the Son of God did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”  In the rebuke there is a revelation of the heart of man and in the reminder there is a revelation of the heart of God.

In this fourth essential practice of ministry of Jesus He examples a methodology for keeping believers in the name of God – rebuke and reminder – revealing their hearts in contrast to the heart of God.

The Lord’s guarding ministry is seen throughout the Bible –

Peter pulled out his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus, the high priest’s servant, when Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus tells him to put his sword away.  “Don’t go there, Peter”, is essentially what He meant.  We don’t fight against flesh and blood and Jesus doesn’t want Peter to do battle in that realm.  How easy it is to think that people, and not spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places are our enemy.

David wanted to take out his anger on Nabal, a man who had shown disrespect toward him.  Nabal had refused to give David food and drink so that his men could enjoy one of Israel’s feast days.  This angered David because he and his men had been guarding Nabal and the farmers and ranchers from the marauding bands that would steal from them.  David and his men mounted up and were riding to kill Nabal and every male in his home when Abigail, Nabal’s wife, heard of what was unfolding.  She quickly went to intercept David and persuaded him not to shed innocent blood and not to seek vengeance on those who had wronged him.  Abigail says:

…the LORD will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the LORD, and evil will not be found in you all your days.  1 Samuel 25:28

She reminded David that the Lord was fighting for him and that he was not to take his own revenge.  David was guarded from making a horrible mistake.  Here’s how David responded to Abigail.

Then David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed and from avenging myself by my own hand. “Nevertheless, as the LORD God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from harming you, unless you had come quickly to meet me, surely there would not have been left to Nabal until the morning light as much as one male.”  1 Samuel 25:32-34

As Jesus rebuked Peter in order to keep him from a sinful course of action, and as Abigail reminded David of truth in order to keep him from a sinful course of action, you and I are to rebuke and remind those the Lord has given us to care for – we are to keep them in the Name.


Not only does a prison guard keep the inmates from breaking out, he also keeps outsiders from breaking in.  After Jesus had fed the 5,000, the crowd wanted to make Jesus king and so Jesus removed His disciples from the scene so they wouldn’t be swept away and caught up with the crowd.  He told them to get into a boat and go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.

Satan demanded permission to sift Peter like wheat – Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would stand firm.  He prayed that the devil, while breaking upon Peter, wouldn’t break in to Peter.

At Women’s Conference my wife attended, one of the speakers had a word of knowledge that someone was thinking about suicide.  15 women stood to receive prayer.  Jesus was preventing a break-in!

In addition to rebuking and reminding, you guard by the three pastoral practices already mentioned: manifesting His Name, declaring His Word, and praying for the Body of Christ.  As pastors, we need to discern who needs personal attention.  Close encounters of the pastoral kind are often called for.  Sometimes, someone needing personal attention can be contacted via e-mail.  At others times, e-mail won’t do it and a phone call is in order.  Often, an e-mail or phone call aren’t enough and a face to face is necessary.  If you haven’t seen someone for a few weeks, an e-mail can communicate that you are concerned.  If a brother or a sister has incurred some loss, a phone call can bring the comfort of Christ.  I have found that when the sorrow or the sin is at a certain level, a pastoral visit is necessary.  The purpose of all this: to keep them in the Name, the love, and the care of God.

Jesus said to the Father, “I guarded them.”  May we be able to say the same thing.


Your Word IS Truth

Sanctify them by your truth, your word is truth.

— John 17:17

This is one of the first Bible verses I can remember memorizing. For a dyslexic (which, by the way, is a terribly hard word for dyslexics to figure out how to spell) teenager it was relatively easy, and thankfully 17 years (+/- a few) later I still remember it. It came to the forefront of my mind the other day when I was confronted [again] with the reality that our current culture seems to consider it our pass-time to question the veracity of truth.

It is interesting to me that within hours of this prayer Jesus was asked of Pontius Pilate “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Western culture seems enamored with this question, thus I am thankful that Jesus, in His prayer, presents us with His standard for truth.

Truth is that which conforms with fact or reality. Therefore, the Word of God is that which agrees with what is real and right. Jesus, of course, is the Word became flesh (John 1:14) and He refers to Himself as “the truth” in John 14. He—both who He is and what He said/taught—is the truth which sanctifies.

I recognize that for many of our readers this is essentially “preaching to the choir,” but I bring it up as I am more and more convinced that in an environment such as ours, that questions truth at every turn, it is increasingly important for us to clearly articulate the truth revealed by God in His Word (i.e. in Jesus and in Scripture, which is God breathed). Whether people agree with Jesus or not—that the Word is truth—is another issue entirely. But their belief, or lack there of, does not diminish the veracity of who Jesus is, what Jesus said, or His ability cleanse and consecrate by His Word.

With this in mind I’ve been considering recently some of that which is exposed as error by the truth of God’s Word. Our culture esteems abortion is the hight of a woman’s freedom of choice; the Word reveals life to be a sacred creation of God. Many hold as true the proposition that man is inherently good; the Word exposes the deep-seated depravity of the human heart. I often meet people in and out of the church who question the existence of evil; the Word identifies evil and the source of it. I regularly challenge the false premise, held by many in the church, that contact with sinners will somehow make one unholy or unclean; the Word reveals that it is not what goes into a man that defiles.

As a result of the fall, our minds and hearts exude foolishness and error. The transforming power of God’s Word in renewing our minds is only evident if we actually allow ourselves to be washed by the water of it.

Father, cleanse and consecrate us by the truth of Your Word.



By The way – Thank you to those of you that take the  time daily to check-in with us at CrossConnection.  This week we celebrated our 1st birthday, and we are greatly blessed by what we’ve seen God do this last year.

The Art of Spiritual Guidance

I have been sharing a series with our staff on spiritual formation. At our staff meeting this week, I spoke about spiritual guidance or spiritual direction. This is a lost art in contemporary evangelicalism. The role of pastor can be spiritual direction in a sense. But classically, spiritual guidance happens in a one on one setting. Spiritual direction is not about Biblical information but about heart transformation. I encouraged our staff to both avail themselves to spiritual guidance as a receiver and as a giver. To seek a mentor and to be a mentor. When I got to ‘be a mentor’ time, I shared six simple principles for the art of spiritual guidance. One of our pastors jotted down some notes about it and then forwarded it to me. So here they are. Obviously this is not exhaustive by any means but it is practical and helpful. Definitely not the final word on the subject but some important ideas just the same.

1) Focus on Gods kingdom and design instead my plans for that person.
What is God’s will for this person? How has he designed them? How
can I help them down that road?

2) Keep your advice founded in the Bible. From the Book outward instead
of the opposite of that. Most of the issues with historical and contemporary spiritual guidance comes when it is divorced from the heart of God in the Word of God.

3) Founded on care and concern. Love them with the concern of Christ. Care and concern will always (with the exception of intercessory prayer) translate into time spent together. So you must figure out how to make time for that person.

4) Have a listening ear. Eugene Peterson said, “Show up an then shut up.”
Let people express their hearts. Where they are at. Do not jump in. Wait
and see where they are coming from before you put in your .02. Give
them an opportunity to express themselves. Then pick your words wisely and
choose carefully what you are going to say.

5) Be humble. The people who walk with the Lord the longest and the
closest recognize their neediness for God the most. Lead with
humility not pride. When you are addressing them, do not forget that you have a plank in your own eye!

6) Lead with the premise that you are going to reproduce yourself
, whether good or bad. It is a great responsibility. Is our
own walk where we want it to be? People we disciple will take on many
of our characteristics. Things we do and say will show up in their
lives because we are encouraging them to walk down the road with us.


Life is busy. Ministry life is even busier. Something I figured out in the first six months of being in pastoral ministry was that I was going to have to plan my week well, or die. And as my ministry load has steadily and dramatically increased over the years I’m more convinced than ever that having a “plan or die” mentality is essential to survival and effectiveness in the ministry. I’m so convinced of this that I not only plan out my schedule to the minute as much as possible every few months, but I also require all pastoral trainees at the church I lead to do the same in cooperation with their family when they start the training process. I figure it is better to learn early to plan by instruction than to figure it out through burnout and floundering ministry endeavors.

Below is a copy of one of my old daily schedules:


Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
6-7AM: Morning Routine


7-8AM: Sermon Prep


8:30-2PM: Church


2:30- Evening: Family Time


Morning Routine



Family Day/Daddy Date



6-7AM: Morning Routine





7:30-8:15AM: Sermon Prep


8:15-6PM: Solitude






6-7AM: Morning Routine


7-7:30AM: Worship/Prayer


7:30-8AM: Exercise


8:15- 10:15: Sermon Prep/Writing


10:15-11:45: Admin/Systems


12-1PM: Lunch


1-6PM: Leader Follow-up

6-7AM: Morning Routine


7-7:30AM: Worship/Prayer


7:30-8AM: Exercise


8:15- 10:15: Sermon Prep/Writing


10:15-11:45: Admin/Systems


12-1PM: Lunch


1-4PM: Counseling Apps


4-6PM: Leadership Meeting/Fellowship



6-7AM: Morning Routine


7-7:30AM: Worship/Prayer


7:30-8AM: Exercise


8:15- 10:15: Sermon Prep/Writing


10:15-11:45: Admin/Systems


12-1PM: Lunch


1-6PM: Counseling Apps



Morning Routine



Family Time



House Chores


12-1: Lunch



Family Time




Some will look at that schedule and think I’m too loose with planning. Others will think I’m too extreme.

Here are a few benefits I’ve experienced from learning to plan my schedule this way:

 1. Stuff gets done

If I just try to swing at things “when I get around to it” I frequently find that I never really get around to it. I have to plan for the needed stuff to happen, or it won’t happen. But conversely, if most everything has a spot on the schedule, it gets done.

 2. I have more free time

That’s right, MORE free time. The counterintuitive thing I’ve learned about intensely detailed planning is that having a solid plan actually frees you instead of restricting you. The reason for this is that if I work on everything when I’m supposed to, for as long as I’m supposed to, I end up getting things done much quicker and more efficiently than I would if I did those same things when I felt I had a spare moment. For example, I have 7 hours and 45 minutes scheduled for sermon preparation time because that is an extremely important part of my job. But the reality is that it usually only takes me 2 to 4 hours to completely prepare for a sermon. So as I work diligently on my sermon during schedule times I end up getting it done, and the remaining sermon prep slots become free time to do other things. That is how detailed planning gives me more time instead of restricting me.

 3. My family is informed

The last benefit I’ll mention (though there are many more) is that planning this way blesses my family because it makes it easy for us to be on the same page day-to-day. Generally, my wife knows exactly what I’m doing and when I’m doing it if she wants. And my family knows that when dad’s working, he’s working. But they trust me with the busy times because they know I’m making scheduled times in which we invest in our family which are just for us a priority as well.

The truth is that our need/desire to plan comes from our being made in the image of God. Our God is an ordered God of planning. Jesus came to earth when “the fullness of time had come.”[1] God is not the author of confusion and chaos, but peace, rhythm, and harmony.[2] No wonder life is draining and unproductive when we approach it chaotically, without plan or intentionality. If you feel like you’re suffocating under the weight of responsibilities and lack of direction in what to do, that alarm in your mind might be the Holy Spirit exhorting you to plan or die.

[1] Gal. 4:4 NKJV

[2] 1 Cor. 14:33

The Folly of Self Sufficiency

“Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice. For he went from prison to the throne, though in his own kingdom he had been born poor.” (Ecclesiastes 4:13, ESV)

In this proverb, the young guy who is nothing and who has nothing but wisdom is better than an old guy who has everything but can’t learn anything. The old king’s problem? He’d forgotten his own roots. He too had grown up poor, but now that he had power and influence, his dependent attitude went bye-bye, only to be replaced with prideful self sufficiency.

I almost laughed when I read about the old and foolish king. It reminded me of myself at times in my own ministry. During one particular season, I had lost the willingness to receive input from others, especially from those outside of our fellowship. I became somewhat isolated, and my relational circle drew ever tighter.

Early in the ministry, when I’d only been at it for about two years, I remember one seasoned CC pastor coming through our area as he traveled in his RV with his wife. He was essentially offering himself as a servant to a young pastor. Looking back, I wish I’d welcomed him with open arms, invited him to our home, allowed him to look at the church and what we were doing (and not doing), but I did not. Looking back, I realize I missed a huge opportunity to grow. I was too young and dumb to know that at the time. But now that I’m old and dumb I’ve been able to at least figure that out. I blew it.

It’s possible that in the fellowship of churches I’ve been involved with for 38 years that a similar thing has happened. Many Calvary Chapel pastors went from prison to the throne. Meaning, many were in deep trouble, the Lord rescued them when they had nothing and were nothing, but His anointing upon their lives has brought much “success,” as one might view it from the outside. It’s a dangerous place to be in. It’s easy to become like the old king who no longer knew how to take advice.

In my ministry with Poimen Ministries (a ministry that helps senior pastors in whatever ways they need and want it — www.poimenministries.com), I have seen how hard and risky a thing it can be for pastors to ask for input, and to receive it. Even when it’s safe.

I hope that I can be open as I continue to get older. And I also hope that my peers in ministry … older and younger … can be the same.

The only Person in the universe that can’t learn anything or doesn’t need to learn anything is God Himself. All of the rest of us are students until the day we die. Even then, there will still be learning in heaven.

The Minister and His Money

If you want to make a bunch of pastors uncomfortable start to talk personal finances. Immediately the conversation will go to how little they are paid by their church or what major financial obstacle they are trying to overcome. It saddens me because what I have found is that pastors are some of the worst stewards of their own money. This has little to do with how much they get paid or what financial challenge they are facing but more to do with how they spend what they do have.

I am shocked at how many pastors still rent even though they have lived in the same city they are ministering for close to 20 years. I talked to one pastor who has moved 19 times in the 20 years he has been a pastor in his town. His excuse was that he couldn’t afford a home in his city. If you do the simple math and add up all the deposits he put down on all those rentals along with the costs to turn on and turn off utilities, not to mention the sheer cost of moving all of those times he would’ve had more than enough money for a good deposit on a home. Add to that conversation the fact that the typical pastor has the latest technological gadget, an impressive wardrobe, and fairly regularly frequents restaurants and entertainment and you start to see why so many pastors are in bad financial shape.

We are called to be good stewards of our money. That starts with not being afraid of money or mastered by it. We need to stop the excuses face the facts. Too many pastors have resigned themselves to the fact that they will never be able to get ahead and so they proceed to go and spend every dime (and then some) of expendable money they have on frivolous things. I am talking about more than just a starbucks addiction here. We’ve developed a lust for almost anything new.

Let me give you a few suggestions:

  1. Start in the Pulpit: Calvary Chapel pastors pride themselves on teaching verse by verse and only talk about money when it comes up in the scripture. I’ve heard this refrain since well before I joined on as a pastor. It comes from a reaction to the tele-evangelists of the early 1990’s always asking for money. Unfortunately when money does come up in scripture we spend a good deal of the sermon apologizing that it’s there. We make assurances that we don’t know who gives what and what they do with their money is between them and God. All of this is okay but there are people in the congregation who are dying to know what the Bible says about how They should use their money and we are not giving it to them. When the Word of God talks about money PREACH IT! Don’t be ashamed that the Bible tells us to give. Don’t be afraid to ask. Most of all do not worry about the finances of the people in the pews. We need to stop making excuses for how bad people have it. The Bible tells us that if we trust God with our money He will supply all of our needs and more.
  2. Stop Starving Yourself: 2 Timothy 2:6 says “It’s the hard working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.” Pastor make sure that the church pays you. Stop sacrificing your family for everything else the church is doing. You are a priority for the church and need to stop taking a backseat to every whim and waffle. Your wife wants to know that the family is going to be secure and provided for. She is not asking for much, just that the basics needs to provided for. You should have the tough discussion with your elders that once all the basic expenses of the church are paid you come next. If your church is running short on that then I refer you back to step one.
  3. Stewardship Starts at Home: You have already read my diatribe above. Stop frivolously spending your money. How can you expect your church to have its house in order if yours isn’t. It goes beyond how you spend your money. Do you have plan, budget, or dream? Your money should be a servant to these not the other way around. When I started out I made $18,000 a year had $20,000 in school debt and a car payment. Owning a house wasn’t even a pipe dream. Then I got married and my wife had higher expectations for our family. We paid down our debt, saved up enough for a down payment, and bought a house by year four of our marriage. We were frugal (nice way of saying we didn’t spend any money) and we were faithful with our giving. God provided. Pastor get your financial house in order.

I know this is a lot and some of it vague but my heart hurts for those who are breaking under the pressure of finances. I recommend using Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. It’s the best book out there. Too many times in the stress and frustration of ministry we use spending money as an outlet of stress. Buying something or doing something that costs is shown to produce a chemical reaction in our brains. Problem is that feeling  goes away quickly and just like a drug we need more and more to produce the same effect. Don’t be mastered by your money. It is a neutral tool that God has given us to accomplish His purposes.