Pastor

You Might be a False Teacher

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This is the fifth post in a series of reflections based on Jared Wilson’s book “The Pastor’s Justification.”


Pastoral ministry is dangerous.

Being in front of a captive audience each week strokes the ego. Knowing that the majority of the people will believe what you say due to your authority as “pastor” can cause you to subtly build your own platform and diffuse your “majestic” ideas.

Combine this potential hazard with the unending pressure to increase attendance and giving numbers and it will create the perfect ministerial storm. Preaching will slowly drift from Gospel-centered proclamation to sharing helpful advice that is grounded in pop-psychology – this is where many churches find themselves today.

Jared Wilson makes this powerful observation about the role of Scripture in our preaching:
“Because the Bible is the only infallible authority over our lives, it is pastoral malpractice to treat it as a supporting document for our own good ideas. Our words ought to stand under Scripture, not vice-versa. When we come to the biblical text, it is meant to shape us; we are not to shape it. We are the ones to be malleable, not the Bible.”

I’m afraid that many pastors no longer tremble at the Word of God. Instead, we use it to proof-text our clever ideas in an attempt to generate an audience. Below is the main indicator that your preaching is driven by your creativity rather than Scripture.

You practice “Eisegesis” and call it relevance.

Now you are wondering how you practice something you have never heard of! When it comes to teaching the Bible, the proper way to preach is through exegesis. Exegesis literally means to “lead out of.” In other words, you allow the passage you are studying to determine the main point of your message. You seek to understand how the Spirit is speaking through His Word (this can be done in both topical preaching and verse-by-verse preaching).

Eisegesis is unbiblical, unhelpful, and ungodly. Eisegesis literally means to “lead into.” We practice eisegesis when we inject the poison of our opinions into the text and force the passage to bend to our meaning and will. We place ourselves in the position of God and twist Scripture to our own destruction (2 Peter 3:14-18).

For example, many pastors utilize Eisegesis when studying the narrative of David and Goliath. Rather than beginning in the text, the pastor will try to think of a giant that faces us as Christians – for example striving to have a good marriage. The pastor will then think of some “advice” on how to have a better marriage and package it as “Five Stones to Defeat Divorce.”

The pastor will then inject his meaning into the narrative by explaining that Goliath stands for the giant of divorce. He will continue to inject his meaning into the stones by labeling them:
1. Have a date night.
2. Express your love to each other.
3. Buy each other gifts.
4. (Helpful advice)
5. (Helpful advice)

The original text has absolutely nothing to do with marriage or defeating the giant of “divorce.” In an effort to generate an audience and appear relevant, the pastor will twist the text to meet his own agenda.

“But Tyler! All those things are good advice that Christians should practice!”

Good advice doesn’t save people, only the Gospel does that. Paul does not tell Timothy to preach good advice… he tells him to preach the word (2 Timothy 4:2)! In the last days, people will gather around them false teachers that will share all the “good advice” that their itching hears long to listen to (2 Timothy 4:3). Many pastors have fallen into this category without even realizing it!

It’s time for judgment to begin with the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). It’s time for judgment to begin with the leaders in the church. Those of us that teach are judged with greater strictness and will gave an account for every empty word; especially our words which twist the Scriptures to support our own agenda (James 3:1).

I long for the day that Christians in the Western world exercise the noble character of the Bereans:
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)

Don’t take my word for anything I say. Examine the Scriptures to see if it’s true. This goes for every pastor and teacher that shares from the Bible.


Why do you think so many pastors inject their opinions into the Bible when they preach? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know by leaving a comment! 

 

 

 

The #1 Key to Spiritual Growth

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This is the fourth post in a series of reflections based on Jared Wilson’s book “The Pastor’s Justification.”


I remember the first megachurch I ever experienced. I was at a church conference in Texas and was speechless at the size of the church building as we approached it. It seemed as if multiple shopping malls joined together and somebody added “Christian” to the name!

Each night of the conference we had a church service that was open to the public. Thousands upon thousands of people flooded into this facility to sing songs and listen to people preach. At times it felt like I was in the midst of a rock concert with bright lights, smoke on the stage, and an incredible sound system.

Many people would write this church off as “worldly” due to its methodology. Truthfully, this is the same temptation that I fall into. I enjoy knowing the names, stories, and families of those around me in worship which is nearly impossible at a megachurch.

Does that mean they are wrong?

No.

Churches should strive for health, not size. There ARE unhealthy megachurches… but there’s also unhealthy small churches!

There is a movement within the church that began in the 1980s called the “Church Growth Movement.” This movement (usually) encourages churches to study their communities in order to ascertain who the “customers” are. Then each church should formulate non-threatening programs that meet a felt-need. The assumption behind this approach is the more programs & classes that a seeker is involved in, the more that person will grow spiritually.

Willow Creek Community Church, led by a pastor I highly admire (Bill Hybels), realized this assumption was deeply flawed. They decided to test the results of their programs through the REVEAL study.

With deep integrity, Willow Creek released the results of this study with an introduction by Bill Hybels honestly wrestling with the results:
You can imagine my reaction when three people whose counsel I value told me that the local church I’ve been the pastor of for more than three decades was not doing as well as we thought when it came to spiritual growth. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they said this wasn’t just their opinion. It was based on scientific research. Ouch.

Jarred Wilson, another pastor who was deeply influenced by the church growth movement, explains the results of the study, “Willow revealed what they discovered to be the number one catalyst for spiritual growth – Bible study.

Sometimes simple conclusions are the most challenging. Studying the Bible has taken secondary importance while brand management, building campaigns, and creative programs demand the attention of church leaders (in small and big churches!)

We can no longer neglect the Scriptures. One of the greatest ways we neglect the Bible is through the methods we use to preach. In my next post, I will share specifically what this looks like.


What are some ways our churches can prioritize the Bible over other demands? I’d love to hear from you – let me know by leaving a comment!

The Idol of “Success.”

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This is the third post in a series of reflections based on Jared Wilson’s book “The Pastor’s Justification.”


I had the honor of helping launch the Garretson Campus of The Rescue Church in October of 2014. I immediately had dreams of outgrowing our building in a week and breaking ground on a new facility. I assumed that people would come to our services, give their lives to Jesus, and become powerful missionaries in the community and abroad.

In our opening service we had 75 people join us. This may not seem like a lot depending on your context but we were planting this campus in a town of 1,200 people. On our first Sunday, we ran out of room due to the high attendance! My dream of becoming an influential and successful minister was finally coming to fruition.

A few months later we moved from Sunday night services to Sunday morning services. Our goal is that we would see how many people were going to stay with us as a “real” church and how many others were simply visiting from other churches.

We decreased in attendance to an average of 14 people.

I remember one Sunday morning when the only people that came to the service were those that were scheduled to serve in different areas. I stood outside to greet all the people that were flocking to my “successful” ministry and I welcomed no one.

I was crushed.

Jared Wilson, in his book The Pastor’s Justification has this to say, “Whatever God gives you in your ministry, accept as his wise allotment to you, not as unjust or unbecoming your awesomeness. Will you accept good from God and not trouble?

Without realizing it I had elevated worldly forms of success and tied them to God’s view of my ministry. I forgot that God measured success not through attendance numbers, increased giving, or larger buildings. Rather, He demands faithfulness and obedience; we are called to leave the results in His hands. He is the one who gives the growth!

I’d love to say I no longer struggle with this… the truth is I do. Some days we have 80+ people in our service and I begin to stroke my ego; assuming that people are coming due to my awesomeness. Other Sundays we have 40 people and a horrible offering – it is extremely easy to find my identity in the roller-coaster of attendance numbers!

Friends, I say all of this to encourage you. Our evil nature longs for us to find our identity in something or someone other than Jesus. When our circumstances have the power to crush our joy, we are worshiping a false god.

Allow this passage to encourage you in your day of despair:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – Hebrews 12:1-3

Fix your eyes on Jesus.

Family Over Ministry

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This is a second post in a series of reflections based on Jared Wilson’s book “The Pastor’s Justification.”


Pastor’s kids are notorious for rejecting the tenets of Christianity. Although pastors are not always at blame for this phenomenon, we need to consider the role we have played.

The truth is many pastors sacrifice their families on the altar of ministry and then wonder why their children hate the church!

Sure, we dress it up in religious language but the core reason is idolatry. We have found our identity in our ministry activity rather than the finished work of the cross. This has forced us to perform for the masses in an effort to receive our justification from the applause of our congregants rather than the affirmation of the Father.

Many pastors miss the entirety of their son’s or daughter’s childhood because they spent the majority of their time in church meetings. This has been the failure of pastors throughout history – some even placed their kids in orphanages so that they wouldn’t be a distraction from the ministry!

This is what Jared Wilson has to add to this conversation:
“One cannot even be allowed to pastor a church if he cannot or will not pastor his family.”

Here’s the truth: Your church can have a multitude of pastors but your kids only get one dad and your wife gets one husband. WHY THE HECK do we throw away our families pursuing the idol of ministry “success”?!

Why does the church become a mistress that our families must compete with?

God has gifted Ashley & I with a beautiful daughter named Ava – she is currently a little older than 6 months old. When she was born I made a commitment before God and my wife: If ministry ever causes my family to love Jesus or the church less I will walk away completely.

I really mean it.

I have arranged my schedule so that I am home virtually every evening during the week so that I do not miss out on Ava’s childhood. I work 6 days a week and take Tuesdays off to be with my family. I intentionally work a full day on Saturdays and use these days to meet with people for counseling, discipleship, and meetings. I once did all of these things in the evenings but now my schedule has been freed up to engage my family rather than burn myself out through nightly meetings!

This is a problem for more than just pastors – it is a symptom of the toxic busyness evangelicals embrace without discernment.

Here’s my question for you today: Are you sacrificing your family on the altar of work? success? promotions? income? church? ministry?

Be honest.

What practical changes do YOU need make to your schedule to love, serve, support, and prioritize your family above every other human relationship and endeavor?

I Meet With a Therapist.

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I am utterly weak and unqualified to be a pastor.

My leadership is ruled more by timidity than boldness. My actions often derive from a desire to please people rather than God. The motivation behind my preaching springs from a desire for the praise of man rather than the affirmations of the Father… far more than I’d like to admit.

I stress the need for community while drowning in isolation. I proclaim the importance of confession while remaining silent about my own sin. Each Sunday, I exhort people with the message that God loves broken people… while practically denying the same message for my own life.

In short, I am broken.

In my own mind, sin is often a greater delicacy than the glory of God. I sink my teeth into this disgusting, mold-covered appetizer while believing the lie that it offers a greater freedom than obedience to Jesus.

I shared some of these realities with my church recently. I’ve always thought only weak, needy, and emotionally sick people need to see a professional counselor on a regular basis.

I still believe this.

I just realized that I also fall into this category.

I have started meeting with a professional Christian therapist at Sioux Falls Psychological Services in order to pursue Christ-centered wholeness. I debated whether or not to share this with people because it would reveal the illusion of my perfection. It was into this internal argument that the Holy Spirit resounded the paradoxical words of the Apostle Paul:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

I don’t have all the answers. People come to me on a regular basis expecting counseling… not realizing that I am utterly aware of how inadequate I am to provide it for them.

Pastor – the Gospel you proclaim is for you.

Our identity isn’t found in the mask of perfection we wear on Sundays. Our righteousness doesn’t flow from the weekly attendance or yearly budget at our churches. Jesus – the only Perfect One to ever live – willingly subjected Himself to brutal torture and crucifixion for the wrath that we justly deserve. This same Jesus resurrected from the grave – offering eternal life, forgiveness, and a foreign righteousness to all who come to Him by faith.

Jesus lived the perfect life we could not live… died the death we deserve to die… and rose from the dead for our justification.

There is a Great Physician that skillfully applies healing salve to the wounds of his people – even pastors. It’s okay to not be okay. 

Pastor… Where’s Your Passion?

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This post is based on the book The Democratization of American Christianity by Nathan O. Hatch. Hatch outlines the influence of Christianity in the early United States. 


I recently had the honor of preaching at an outdoor church service in Garretson, SD. The main point of my message was “Religion without relationship brings destruction.” In other words, if we practice cold religion without an encounter with the Living God, we will deceive ourselves about our relationship with God.

As I was teaching through the text, I noticed an elderly couple close to the front row. I could tell that they were very religious; I thought they may have been offended by my message.

After the service, this elderly couple approached me. I was preparing myself to be scolded for the harshness of my message towards dead religion. I noticed their countenance was one of joy, not anger. With an almost prophetic pronouncement, they quietly told me, “I wish every pastor had as much passion as you do when they preach! Most pastors seem almost bored!”

It didn’t always use to be this way. There was a time when pastors were passionate about the Gospel and zealous to make converts… especially in the early U.S.

Nathan O. Hatch explains why this passion faded, “The allure of respectability dampened the original fire of the religious populist.”

Pastor, you are NOT called to be a professional. Ministry is not a career with the purpose of advancing to the next big church… it is a calling from God! In the name of “respectability” many ministers have drenched their passion in the freezing water of professionalism. Rather than heralding the glorious truths of Scripture, pastors trudge through a text without it first interfering in their own lives. The result is clear; our pulpits are filled with men and women who are too cowardly to boldly proclaim the Gospel. They are content with hanging pieces of paper with faded ink on their walls to demonstrate their calling to ministry.

THIS IS RIDICULOUS!

The Bible is the most incredible work of literature ever written! All of Scripture is “inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).”

If you put people to sleep when you teach the Bible… please stop.

If you view ministry as a profession rather than a calling… please stop.

If you seek the praise of man rather than the approval of God… please stop.

If you have no passion for this INCREDIBLE message called the Gospel… please stop.

Friends, we do not need more professionals. We need more preachers who will teach the whole counsel of God’s Word and call His people to repentance, forgiveness, and grace. We don’t need churches which are monuments of the 1950s – we need communities of believers, filled with the Holy Spirit, bringing renewal to the utter brokenness around them. We NEED Christians, who are no longer content living a Christianized version of the American Dream, to take up their cross and actually follow Jesus… EVEN if it means ridicule, death, and persecution.

Do you disagree with me? Does Paul’s description of himself and the other leaders of the early church seem professional?

“For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.” – 1 Cor. 4:9-13

Your Church NEEDS to Change in Three Ways!

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The future is often stuck in a perpetual replay of the past. The events and attitudes of yesterday mold and shape tomorrow. Studying history can be incredibly prophetic in understanding the landscape of the 21st century.

One of the books I am reading for seminary is called The Democratization of American Christianity by Nathan Hatch. Before you close out of my blog and assume that this has no relevance in your context since it is academic, STOP! Hatch gives a vivid view of how the Revolution influenced Christianity in the early republic… and it has DIRECT relevance for churches today!

Don’t believe me? Consider this reflection by Nathan Hatch:
“With the rise of fierce religious competition, movements that employed more aggressive measures prospered. Churches reluctant to compete on the same terms declined.”

The churches which were most effective in reaching lost people with the Gospel were those which employed radical means to make disciples. These aggressive churches were criticized by the established churches as being too progressive and radical in their outreach… sound familiar?

Churches in the 21st century MUST embrace change. Don’t get me wrong. I believe the message needs to continually come directly from Scripture and exalt the person and work of Jesus Christ. Our message CANNOT change… but these THREE things should!

1. We need to harness the power of media!
One of the revolutionary things these radical churches did was utilize the power of mass media. The established churches refused to distribute pamphlets and speak in a “common” language… hence they did not reach the average American!

This is still true in the western world. Churches need to harness the incredible power of media – ESPECIALLY social media! 78% of Americans have a social media account. In light of this statistic, there are MANY churches who refuse to establish a presence on social media. There is an audience waiting to connect with your church and you NEED to learn the basics of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the sake of the Gospel!

2. We need to strive for excellence in preaching!
The pastors which excelled in reaching the lost in the early Republic were those that displayed passion in their preaching! Far too many pastors are content with delivering a dry lecture with no emotion when they enter into the pulpit.

Pastor, eternity literally hangs in the balance every time you open the Scriptures before your people.

I do not understand how many pastors put people to sleep when sharing the INCREDIBLE story of God’s love for people! DO NOT get in the pulpit if you aren’t willing to be passionate about Jesus Christ. Dry lectures and intellectual language does not change people… the simple message of the Gospel does!

3. We need to empower the church for ministry!
One of the criticisms lobbied at these aggressive churches was against the abundance of “common” people involved in the ministry. READ EPHESIANS 4:12. Pastors are given to the church to EQUIP people for the work of ministry! If the people in your church are content with sitting in a pew while paid “professionals” do the work of the ministry, your church will die!

God has gifted your church with incredible men, women, and children called to the ministry! Each Christian in your church is part of the Body of Christ and the entire Body needs to work together in order to advance the Gospel. You need to train the people in your church to see themselves as ministers… not religious consumers!


What are some other ways the church needs to change in order to reach lost people? Let me know by leaving a comment!