A Concise Philosophy on the Person and Ministry of the Pastor

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Recently, I sat down for about an hour and jotted out a brief, rough philosophy on the biblical portrait of a pastor. It is not exhaustive or perfect, but I hope it helps both pastors and those they shepherd.

1. Upon his ascension, Jesus gave gifts to his church. These gifts were men who served in spiritual leadership (Eph. 4:8-11) and were given “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (12-15).

2. The term pastor simply means shepherd. That is exactly what a pastor is.

3. The New Testament uses the terms elder, overseer and pastor interchangeably as descriptors for the same office. An elder is a pastor is an overseer. The most common term used by far is elder, the least common being pastor. (1 Peter 5:1-2; Acts 20:17,28)

4. Elder probably refers to the spiritual maturity of the man. Overseer probably refers to the responsibility/authority of the man. Pastor probably refers to the task of the man.

5. Jesus is the “Senior Pastor” of the church. (1 Peter 5:4)

6. The biblical qualifications for a pastor are listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-11. These are not signs of the exceptional, super-spiritual man, but basic traits of a genuinely born-again, spiritually mature believer. In short, these qualifications state that a pastor must be truly converted and spiritually mature.

7. With the one exception of the the ability to teach, all other qualifications mentioned are character qualifications, not skills.

8. These biblical qualifications are not meant to suggest perfection or sinlessness in these areas, but maturity. The character of the man is such that these traits are the obvious patterns of his life.

9. I believe the primary qualification is “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3) and “blameless” (Titus 1), (both terms meaning the same thing) which is the overall character of the pastor. The following terms listed in those texts are descriptors and examples of what it means to be above reproach and blameless, and the list is probably not exhaustive, but simply illustrative.

10.In other words, the two most important qualifications of a pastor is the ability to effectively teach biblical truth (sound doctrine) and his character (sound living). These two are essential and equally important. Character is everything. Faithfulness to Scripture is also everything.

11.A pastor must first and foremost be the shepherd of his home. What is done in public ministry is simply from the overflow of his private shepherding ministry with his wife and children. A man who is not first a faithful husband and father is not qualified to shepherd a local church, regardless of his talent, charisma or success in public ministry.

12a.The nature of the life of the pastor is demanding and ever-changing. He must be intentional to make sufficient time to shepherd his own family. Quality time requires quantity time. His greatest mission field is his home.

12b. The pastor must also be intentional to walk with God, not just work for God. The one whose call is to be a spiritual shepherd must follow the example of the Good Shepherd and spend ample time in solitude with God for prayer, worship, meditation and intimacy with the Good Shepherd. For many pastors, the ideal place for this to happen is not in his office.

13.The role of the shepherd is to lead the flock, feed the flock, correct the flock and protect the flock. Thus he must be bold and humble. Tough and tender. Courageous and compassionate. He must love the Chief Shepherd and love his sheep. The good shepherd doesn’t run from danger, but lays his life down for the sheep. The shepherd must protect against false teaching and demonic division that derails the mission of the church and harms God’s precious people. He must “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction (2 Tim. 4:2).” He must love, and love takes guts, and love takes grace.

14.The pastor is a teacher and a leader. A man cannot teach what he does not know and he cannot lead where he will not go.

15.Jesus’ definition of a leader is a servant. Servant leadership is the ethos and the pathos of the biblical shepherd. He is not a politician and not a people-pleaser. He is a leader and a lover. He models leadership through humble, faithful service. He is first to be last. He becomes great by being small. He teaches through example, not words alone. He is as proficient with a mop and a towel as he is with a Bible and a rod.

16. The shepherd is a servant, not a service provider. He is an equipper, not an enabler. He does not promote codependency or consumerism, but helps produce Christlikeness. He lives to make disciples, not fans.

17.A pastor is a pastor, regardless of his specialization. If a man is biblically qualified and called as a pastor, he is a full pastor. Pastors can be either vocational, bivocational or volunteer. This has no bearing on their biblical qualifications. Even though there is structure within pastoral teams, every pastor is to be qualified, respected and held accountable as any other pastor. (*No one should be given counseling-teaching-shepherding responsibilities over minors if they are not fully qualified to shepherd adults. In fact, given Jesus’ instructions about caring for children and the current cultural crises concerning risk management, this is especially true in regards to those who minister to minors.)

18.The biblical norms of pastoral leadership in the New Testament is team leadership with a plurality of pastors. No one man can shepherd a church entirely by himself. Shared authority, shared accountability, shared encouragement and shared responsibility is the pattern of biblical leadership. Unity, love and mutual respect is essential among a team of pastors. Pastors need pastors. Shepherds need shepherding. A team of pastors is a band of brothers.

19.Pastors have derived authority delegated to them by the Chief Shepherd, to whom every pastor will give an account. That authority is not absolute or beyond question. It is qualified authority, lived out humbly and faithfully, not lorded or abused. Pastors “direct the affairs of the church” and “keep watch as men who must give an account.” When they do this faithfully and biblically, their leadership is to be honored, respected and followed (1 Tim. 5:17, Hebrews 13:7). When they willfully and unrepentantly neglect or abuse their office, they are to be publicly rebuked (1 Timothy 5:20). A pastor is not a master.

20.Pastors are to be examined, trained, equipped and mentored by other pastors over a substantial period of time. They are not to become pastors hastily (1 Timothy 5:22). I believe it is ideal for a local church to raise up its own leaders.

21.Biblical counseling is part of every pastor’s role of shepherding. Pastors must be as skilled at teaching, exhorting, encouraging, correcting and helping on a personal level as they are behind a pulpit. (Again, no one pastor can provide all the personal shepherding needs in a local church, and this is partially why an adequate team of biblically-qualified pastors is needed in a healthy church.)

22.Jesus has clearly given his church her mission and vision. It does not need to be improved upon. The role of the pastor is to equip the saints to fulfill that mission, not replace it with his own agenda. (The mission of the church is to make disciples that make disciples, in our neighborhoods and the nations.)

23.If a pastor teaches the text of Scripture expositionally and faithfully, he will address every relevant topic and felt need in the church. The pastor must not use the Bible as a diving board or as decorative patio furniture, but as the pool in which he swims as he teaches.

24.The church must be built on the person of Christ, not the personality of a pastor. The pastor’s aim must be “He must increase, I must decrease.”

25.The pastor’s ministry must be a gospel-driven, God-exalting, grace-saturated ministry. It is possible to grow a large religious organization through charisma, charm, creativity and consumerism. But only God can grow a church.

What Wolves Want Sheep to Think About Shepherds

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Ever wonder what a wolf would say to a sheep about its shepherds?

Pink Floyd, Sheep:

Harmlessly passing your time in the grassland away;
Only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air.
You better watch out,
There may be dogs about
I’ve looked over Jordan, and I have seen
Things are not what they seem.

What do you get for pretending the danger’s not real.
Meek and obedient you follow the leader
Down well trodden corridors into the valley of steel.
What a surprise!
A look of terminal shock in your eyes.
Now things are really what they seem.
No, this is no bad dream.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want
He makes me down to lie
Through pastures green He leadeth me the silent waters by.
With bright knives He releaseth my soul.
He maketh me to hang on hooks in high places.
He converteth me to lamb cutlets,
For lo, He hath great power, and great hunger.
When cometh the day we lowly ones,
Through quiet reflection, and great dedication
Master the art of karate,
Lo, we shall rise up,
And then we’ll make the bugger’s eyes water.

Bleating and babbling I fell on his neck with a scream.
Wave upon wave of demented avengers
March cheerfully out of obscurity into the dream.

Have you heard the news?
The dogs are dead!
You better stay home
And do as you’re told.
Get out of the road if you want to grow old.

Love Really Does Take Guts

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Speaking of the dangers of love in The Four Loves (New York, Harcourt, 1960), C.S. Lewis writes:

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

The Love of God

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The following words were found inscribed on the walls of an asylum after the patient who occupied the room had died and been carried to his grave. The poem was later adapted by Fredrick M. Lehman in 1917 and became the third stanza of the now famous hymn, The Love of God.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

His Ways Are Not Our Ways

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Ever struggle with the really big questions? Evil. Suffering. Sovereignty. Hell. These are some tough issues, and Francis Chan helps us to remember something we should never forget.

Let’s Have More Worship Wars

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When it comes to music and style in worship, Russell Moore argues that “we need more, and better, worship wars,” but in a Christian sort of way. Here’s an excerpt:

What if the war looked like this in your congregation? What if the young singles complained that the drums are too loud, that they’re distracting the senior adults? What if the elderly people complained that the church wasn’t paying attention to the new movements in songwriting or musical style?

When we seek the well-being of others in worship, it’s not just that we cringe through music we hate. As an act of love, this often causes us to appreciate, empathize, and even start to resonate with worship through musical forms we previously never considered.

This would signal a counting of others as more significant than ourselves (Phil 2:3), which comes from the Spirit of the humiliated, exalted King Jesus (Phil 2:5-11). It would mean an outdoing of one another, in order to serve and show honor to the other parts of the Body of Christ. And, however it turned out musically, it would rock.

Read the entire article here.

A Review of Act of Valor

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Hollywood has been invaded, and humbled, by the United States Navy. Act of Valor has accomplished what the entertainment industry alone never could: create a blockbuster, heart-pumping, breathtaking, tear-jerker film of this genre with a wholesome message and unmatched authenticity, all without the help of big-named professional actors.

The Bandito Brothers were invited by the military to make a movie featuring the elite Special Operations Forces (SOF) known as the Navy SEALs. They were given unprecedented access. All of the uniformed characters on screen are portrayed by active-duty operators. Even the families are not actors, but are the actual wives and children of the soldiers you see on screen. Filming took almost two years to complete due to deployment cycles. While considering casting as they researched the film and spent time observing the elite commandos, the producers realized that no one could capture the realism or portray the expertise and heart of a SEAL better than a SEAL.

Over ninety percent of the combat sequences were shot using live fire–a never-before feat attempted for any movie. All of the gear is authentic operational equipment. The producers were even given brief access to a nuclear Trident sub. A tiny film crew was embedded with the SEAL team and given coordinates on a grid where they met up with the vessel in a covert location. The sub surfaced for a four-hour window to shoot the scene, then disappeared beneath the water to continue on its mission.

You have never experienced authentic action like this in a movie. There were moments where gasps could be heard in the seats around you. The violence is realistic, but not gratuitous or overly graphic. Those who are very sensitive to scenes of violence may be disturbed by some of the images, but this is no Pulp Fiction. The language is sometimes salty as well (remember, realism was the goal), including a few F-bombs, but again, this is no Die Hard. I heard more F-bombs by teenagers at the theater before the movie than I did in the film, but it is worth considering if you are sensitive to such things. I am glad to say there is no degrading treatment of women (there is a scene where a female CIA operative is captured and tortured) and no sexuality other than a bikini-clad waitress serving a cocktail to a narcoterrorist. The R-rating is for strong violence and language.

What you may not expect from this movie is its message. If your idea of a SEAL is an Arnold Schwarzenegger character, you are in for a big surprise. These men are seen for what they are: warriors with wives, commandos with kids, heroes with homes, men with a mission, and brothers in arms. The message of this movie is not the combat capabilities of SEALs, it’s their Code. Their Code is their ethos. It is what drives them and what defines them. (See the SEAL Code at http://lifeofvalor.com/the-seal-code.)

In one scene, the operators are gathered with their team and families on a beach the night before a deployment. The Chief gathers the operators around a fire as their wives and children play in the background. He reminds the men how critical it is to do the duty of husband and father first, and to be sure things are right at home before they go on mission, not leaving matters undone or taking unfinished business onto the battlefield. In essence, it is a come-to-Jesus session. What many people don’t understand about the SEAL is that his heart is for home, and as one of the operators puts it, “Trust me, you’re always trying to get home.” In that sense, this is a great family movie.

Throughout the movie, the faithfulness, sacrifice and love of brotherhood is the metanarrative. In an age desperate for an understanding of masculine love, with plenty of cowards masquerading as men who know little of loyalty to family or brotherhood, this is a refreshing and penetrating message. I had the privilege of taking a friend, a twenty-year Navy veteran, to watch the screening with me. It was his birthday, and I was honored to sit beside a man of honor and faithfulness and watch this film together. But most of us have known men who’ve dressed in uniform, but whose life betrays the honor, faithfulness and courage it represents. It is not the uniform, but the heart, that makes the SEAL. And it is the heart that makes the man.

Many men will watch Act of Valor and be exhilarated by the action, and remain oblivious to the message. Like X-Box warriors whose lives are filled with jabber but vacant of valor, the language of courage, faithfulness and brotherly love will be lost on them to the pyrotechnics on the screen. SEALs live (and die) by their Code. Leading and being led. Respect for one another and authority. Integrity, responsibility for actions, and “Loyalty beyond reproach.” Honor on the battlefield and off. Devotion to team and teammate. A love that lays down its life for a friend. And, of course, a heart for home. These things will mock warrior-wannabes as they experience valor the only way they know how–vicariously, sitting in front of a flat screen or watching other men do what they simply refuse: live a life of faithfulness and honor.

Some men will see this movie with their buddies, grab some beers afterward while glorying in what they just watched on screen, and then go about wasting their lives. But a few will witness what is already wired in their hearts to do–answer the call to be the leader and lover he was created to be. That Christ died so they could be. A few will become that honorable man. A few will be that faithful brother. But only a few.

Clint Wagnon is a Christ-follower, husband, father, pastor, church planter, professor and author of “Love Takes Guts.” He lives in Orlando with his wife and four children. Follow Clint on Twitter at @clintwagnon and Facebook at facebook.com/clintonwagnon.

Is Local Church Membership Biblical?

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Ecclesiology (doctrine of the church) is important — Jesus died for his Tribe, and he has promised to build it, use it and come back for it. The question of whether or not local church membership is biblical, or even helpful, is especially relevant given the cultural backdrop of modern-day believers. Our friends over at 9 Marks (a ministry we love and commend to you) spend a lot of time focusing on what healthy New Testament churches look like, and what biblical ecclesiology is. The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Matt Chandler hosted at 9 Marks on the issue church membership:

When you begin to look at these texts it becomes clear that God’s plan for his church is that we would belong to a local covenant community of faith. This is for our own protection and maturation, and for the good of others.

If you view church as some sort of ecclesiological buffet, then you severely limit the likelihood of your growing into maturity. … But when church is just a place you attend without ever joining, like an ecclesiological buffet, you just might consider whether you’re always leaving whenever your heart begins to be exposed by the Spirit, and the real work is beginning to happen.

Read the entire article here.

What Kind of Friend are You?

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The following is an excerpt from a series on friendship by our friends over at the Acts 29 Network:

Godly Friends

Prov. 13:20 – “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”

Devoted Friends

Prov. 17:17 – “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Prov. 18:24 – “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Sanctifying Friends

Prov. 27:6 – “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”

Prov. 27:9 – “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.”

Fake Friends

Prov. 19:4 – “Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend.”

Prov. 19:6 – “Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts.”

Sinful Friends

Prov. 16:28 – “A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.”

Prov. 17:9 – “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.”

Prov. 22:24–25 – “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.”

Painful Friends

Prov. 25:17 – “Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you.”

Prov. 25:19 – “Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips.”

Prov. 25:20 – “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.”

A Word on Hell and Universalism

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There’s been a lot of talk about hell lately. When cable news channels like CNN and MSNBC join the conversation, you know it’s a hot topic. Thanks to a few “emergent” pastors who are putting a new face on an old topic, the conversation seems to be heating up.

So what about hell? Is it a metaphor for the suffering we create for ourselves on earth? Is it a temporary period of intense pruning? A long period of judgment that will eventually end in everyone being allowed entrance into heaven? Or is it a place of conscious torment that lasts forever?

What did Jesus really say? What did Jesus really mean?

Here’s my 2-part response called “Hereafter: What the Bible says about heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived.”

Part 1
Part 2