Today, the Lord called us to Las Vegas!
I’ll have the privilege of serving as the Lead Teaching Pastor at Twin Lakes Baptist Church ministering in the heart of this Send City. Retiring Pastor Norman Lourenco and the Twin Lakes family have been proclaiming the life-giving message of Jesus for decades and we cannot wait to join hands with this loving church. Today, the Lord turned the page.
The journey to this point has been one of a thousand small steps toward God. Perhaps, at some distant point, we will pen a reflection. But for now, the best posture is one leaning toward the future with a heightened expectation of God’s favor. God has given us a new start, and for that we are eternally grateful!
Before stepping into this new future, Heather and I can’t help but express our deepest gratitude to those who have walked through this time with us. You know who you are. More importantly, the Lord knows who you are. Your prayers, phone calls, text messages, notes of encouragement, cards, and gifts helped buoy us this past year. My dear friends, you were an agent of the Lord in our lives. Thank you for believing in us, praying for us, and putting legs to your prayers in practical ways. Blessed are you who have shown mercy, for mercy will be shown to you.
For those that have watched our journey from afar, let me invite you to be a part of what God is doing here in Las Vegas. If you’re interested in knowing more about how you can impact the frontier for Christ, please drop me a note in the comments section or on social media. The fields are ripe and you can be a part of the harvest!
Here, on 11 October 2020, we raise our Ebenezer. An Ebenezer marking the end of our waiting. An Ebenezer commencing the next phase of our ministry. An Ebenezer declaring the victory of God in our lives. It’s by His help we’ve come. And we hope, by His good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.
[Photo by Guido Coppa]
*Repost from July 2017
*Repost from August 2018
*Originally Posted June 2017
*Reposted from August 20, 2017
Photo by Jack Sharp
In his book, Pastoral Ministry, Deron Biles posits Ezekiel 34 as the quintessential guidebook for the Shepherding functions of the Pastor. Biles reminds the pastor that preaching is only one of his important duties. He writes, “One can feed en masse from a distance, but one only strengthens up close and one at a time.”
The call to pastoral care is fundamentally an incarnational task. Internet sermons and blog posts can achieve only so much. And when rightly understood, caring is an obligation for every Christian, not just the pastor. While pastoral care in the 20th century suffered from an entanglement with the secular healing sciences, a renewed effort has arisen to recapture pastoral care as was practiced for centuries. Namely, bringing the truths of God’s Word to bear on the lives of fellow saints–a true love of Christian neighbor.
As we begin to emerge from the cocoons we’ve erected during this Coronavirus pandemic, I pray we will once again lean into the up close and personal ministry of pastoral care. I pray we will find the scriptures sufficient to address the problems of our day and the sin that encumbers our witness. I pray the church once scattered-in-place may become the church now gathered in worship.
“Pastoral Care has been viewed mistakenly in the past as superficial do-goodism; as a crutch for life’s cripples; as God’s psychiatry aimed at ‘peace of mind’; or as a form of faith healing that might save us from suffering, fear, and death.” –C.W. Brister in Pastoral Care in the Church
“Freudian psychoanalysis turns out to be an archeological expedition back into the past in which a search is made for others on whom to pin the blame for the patient’s behavior. D. Elton Trueblood’s indictment does not seem too strong: ‘The entire basis of human responsibility is undermined.’” –Jay Adams in Competent to Counsel
“Before Freud, the study of the soul was thought of as a spiritual discipline. In other words, it was inherently associated with religion. Freud’s chief contribution was to define the human soul and the study of human behavior in wholly secular terms. He utterly divorced anthropology (the study of human beings) from the spiritual realm and thus made way for atheistic, humanistic, and rationalistic theories about human behavior.” –John MacArthur in Counseling
“Today clients in swelling numbers seek therapy not because they feel bad but because they do not feel good.” –William Clebsch in Pastoral Care in Historical Perspective
On the interaction between psychotherapy and the cure of souls – “The empiricist has no meager service to render, but the religious guide has no reason to go into retirement.” –John McNeill in A History of the Cure of Souls
“God’s truths turn man’s wisdom upside down.” –John Babler in Counseling by the Book
“But for the attainment of full health of personality, man must find a harmonious relationship in the realm of spiritual values. The primary obstacle to his entrance into this realm is what the Bible calls sin.” –John McNeill in A History of the Cure of Souls
“We see here [The New Testament] more vividly than elsewhere that the cure of souls is never merely a method, even a method derived from a doctrine, or a task for certain hours in the week, but that it involves both the faith we live by and all our daily activities and contacts.” –John McNeill in A History of the Cure of Souls
“Humanity’s true identification resides in the heart of God and was reflected in the face of Jesus Christ.” –C.W. Brister in Pastoral Care in the Church
“The Christian preacher’s goal is to challenge boldly all of human life with the truth of God’s Word.” –C.W. Brister in Pastoral Care in the Church
“Christian pastoral care is the mutual concern of Christians for each other and for those persons for whom Christ died.” –C.W. Brister in Pastoral Care in the Church
“The faithful ministers of Christ must not lightly give up on anyone.” –Martin Bucer in Concerning the True Care of Souls
Mutual Edification and Fraternal Correction as a characteristic of Protestantism “has often been erroneously interpreted as religious individualism.” –John McNeill in A History of the Cure of Souls
“…our Lord Jesus, now in his heavenly nature, is with us and rules and feeds us from heaven; this rule and feeding, that is, the work of our salvation, he exercises among us through his ministers, who he calls, ordains and uses for that purpose.” –Martin Bucer in Concerning the True Care of Souls
“Timeless, in this case as in many others, is a reward for taking the past seriously.” –William Clebsch in Pastoral Care in Historical Perspective
“The deliberate absence of symbols” in marriage vows or creedal statements “does not dispel the demands symbolized” –William Clebsch in Pastoral Care in Historical Perspective
“The more you are detached from ignorance, the more you are attached to willful disobedience. It is nothing but willful disobedience which destroys the fear of God.” –Tertullian
“Public offenses require public repentance” –John Knox
“The difficulties of discipline have led to its too easy surrender by the churches.” –John McNeill in A History of the Cure of Souls
“The weight of Ministerial responsibilities renders the work apparently more fitting to the shoulders of angels than of men.”  –Augustine
The work is daunting, the reward minimal, and the weight eternal. The Pastor’s only hope is to have an awe of God, a rock-solid sense of His calling, and the empowerment of the His Holy Spirit. Previous posts have emphasized the practices of Pastoral Ministry and Leadership. This post features quotes from the field of Pastoral Theology—the Pastor’s relationship with God and ministry on His behalf.
Perhaps the practical too often supersedes the relational. The machinery of ministry encroaches at the expense of divine intimacy. The attempts to work for God are done in one’s own strength. The anecdote for all that ails is a fresh view of God. Allow these quotes to pierce your soul and awaken your thirst for Christ. Minister in the days ahead out of an overflow of gratitude and a renewed filling of the Holy Spirit.
“Seduced by the lure of modernity (‘whatever is latest is best’), we find ourselves awash on the sea of pragmatism (‘whatever works is right’), indifference, and theological vacuity. The results are all about us: Church rolls stuffed with so-called ‘inactive members’ no one has seen or heard from in years, trendy sermons which lack both biblical depth and spiritual power, a generation of young people uninstructed in the rudiments of the faith, fractious controversies which sap our strength and strain our fellowship, shallow worship services geared more to the applause of men than the praise of God, a slackening interest in evangelism and missions, all amidst a hurried activism steeped in this-worldly priorities.” –Timothy George in Theologians of the Baptist Tradition
“In our postmodern culture which is TV dominated, image sensitive, and morally vacuous, personality is everything and character is increasingly irrelevant.” –David Wells in No Place for Truth
“It is a palpable error of some ministers, who make such a disproportion between their preaching and their living; who study hard to preach exactly, and study little or not at all to live exactly.” – Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor
“Leave me as I am; for the one who enables me to endure the fire will also enable me to remain on the pyre without moving, even without the sense of security that you get from the nails.” –Polycarp’s Prayer cited in The Apostolic Fathers
“Study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow.” – Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor
“Make careful choice of the books which you read: let the holy Scriptures ever have the preeminence. Let Scripture be first and most in your hearts and hands and other books be used as subservient to it.” – Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor
“The loss of center in Christian education is arguably due to a serious default of pastoral leadership; when the teaching elder does not teach, the effect is felt throughout the entire Christian congregation.” –Thomas Oden in Pastoral Theology
“To live among such excellent helps as our libraries afford, to have so many silent wise companions whenever we please.” – Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor
“Every generation brings forth a company of Stalwart Champions who assume that they alone are the true custodians of truth, and who by a blustering manner and a swaggering rhetoric induce the undiscerning to accept them as special agents of heaven.” –Charles Jefferson in The Minister as Shepherd
“Lay siege to your sins, and starve them out by keeping away the food and fuel which is their maintenance and life.” – Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor
“Let no man think to kill sin with few, easy, or gentle strokes. He who hath once smitten a serpent, if he follow not on his blow until it be slain, may repent that ever he began the quarrel. And so he who undertakes to deal with sin, and pursues it not constantly to the death.” – Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor
“I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.” – Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor
“Alas! can we think that the reformation is wrought, when we cast out a few ceremonies, and changed some vestures, and gestures, and forms! Oh no, sirs’! it is the converting and saving of souls that is our business. That is the chiefest part of reformation, that doth most good, and tendeth most to the salvation of the people.” – Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor
“Protestants now recognize that the Reformation itself had deeply pastoral roots. The concern was not for the reformation of doctrine and the church as such, but for the care of people in their lives before God, with the realization that thinking wrongly about God leads us to live wrongly.” –Andrew Purves in Pastoral Theology in the Classical Tradition
“Be no respector of persons in reproving a man who is in fault, for riches can have no power with the Lord, nor does the Lord give more honor to dignities, nor has beauty any advantage, but there is equality of all these things with Him.” –Translated from the Syriac The Didascalia Apostolorum
“The power of example remains one of the most potent influences in men’s lives and is of crucial significance for the work of the pastor.” –Derek Tidball in Skillful Shepherds
Referring to Titus 2:13 and 3:6 – “The theology of mission intimated here is a rich one and parallels the teachings in the acknowledged Paulines: God is the initiator of mission and Jesus Christ is the agent of his redemptive plan. There is a historical and a future perspective in the message of the gospel; we proclaim the saving work of Christ as a historical event and hold up Christ’s future appearing and the promise of eternal life as the hope of every believer.” –Chiao Ek Ho in Entrusted with the Gospel edited by Wilder and Köstenberger
 Augustine, Onus Angelicis Humeris Formidandum
I’m privileged to serve on the Board of Trustees at Hannibal-LaGrange University (HLGU). HLG is a Christian University affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Convention and located in Hannibal, Missouri. The school is a wonderful place to bring a distinctly Christian worldview to bear on degree programs from Nursing to Business Administration. If you are interested in Christian higher education, let me encourage you to consider HLG.
Today, we held our Spring Trustee meeting and I was afforded the opportunity to bring a word of devotional. I’ve included that devotion below in the hopes it would encourage you. As always, thank you for your continued prayers and encouragement. The devotional begins with a passage from God’s Word:
“I called to the Lord in my distress, and he answered me.
I cried out for help from deep inside Sheol; you heard my voice.
When you threw me into the depths, into the heart of the seas,
the current overcame me. All your breakers and your billows swept over me.
And I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight,
yet I will look once more toward your holy temple.’
The water engulfed me up to the neck; the watery depths overcame me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
I sank to the foundations of the mountains, the earth’s gates shut behind me forever!
Then you raised my life from the Pit, Lord my God!
As my life was fading away, I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to you, to your holy temple.
Those who cherish worthless idols abandon their faithful love,
but as for me, I will sacrifice to you with a voice of thanksgiving.
I will fulfill what I have vowed. Salvation belongs to the Lord.”
Perhaps when you heard the words of that prayer, you might be inclined to think it came from one of the great psalms of the Psalter. Perhaps a prayer from David at the end of his rope. Or maybe even Moses interceding on behalf of a disobedient people. But, in fact, the prayer you just heard was breathed by the prophet Jonah and found in his second chapter.
Jonah is no hero. He hated the people he preached to. He is an anti-hero and accidental prophet. However, Jonah is proof that God can use a crooked stick to hit a perfect lick.
Perhaps the prayer of Jonah’s desperation smacks of a familiar desperation in your own prayer life. You find yourself in uncharted waters, ministering through the seas of a pandemic which are causing the boat of your life to rock. You’re not sure which news is fake news and you’re not sure what life will look like on the other side of this crisis, much less next week. You seek to operate is God’s wisdom, but you can’t find a verse of scripture to give explicit instruction for pandemics. Your spiritual disciplines and daily routines have been reconfigured. Perhaps, it’s even possible, your routine and productivity have been exposed as the idols they were all along. Then to you my friend, let me say: “Salvation belongs to the LORD.”
Have you ever considered that the very thing representing immanent death might actually be God’s deliverance? For Jonah, in any other circumstance, the great fish swallowing him would have been his doom. If the water didn’t get him, the compression of the fish’s jaws or the acidic composition of its digestive tract certainly would have. But the very thing that represented certain death actually served to move him from a stormy sea, to a cry of desperation, and finally to dry land. Instead of Death, there was Deliverance.
Perhaps the pandemic is the great fish in your existence. The thing which looms and represents catastrophe is the very thing God is using to bring deliverance. To bring deliverance from ministry idols. To bring deliverance from overcrowded calendars with no margin for family or margin for friendships with lost people. To bring deliverance from programs and ministries that were sacred cows instead of sanctified service. Perhaps this pandemic and God’s sure deliverance isn’t even about you, but about getting the gospel to the people of your Nineveh.
The great fish of 2020 will be used by God to work all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes. So, in this moment of seeming crisis, when your world has been upended and tossed into the sea, let me remind you that God can use even you—crooked stick. He will use your imperfection to convey his message. That as Sovereign, He has appropriated you to aid him in reigning over His Kingdom.
So, don’t allow yourself to be held captive by what you don’t know; what you can’t do; what you’re not able to discern. Allow the Holy Spirit to work thru you to be a light to a dark world that is seeking to understand their own mortality. Demonstrate to them the hope that is in Christ Jesus and the love that He promises; the Love that He is. The perfect love that casts out all fear.
For I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more;
But the Master of the sea, Heard my despairing cry,
From the Waters lifted me, now safe am I.
Love lifted me! Love Lifted me!
When nothing else could help, Love Lifted me!
 “Love Lifted Me” by James Rowe
Photo: William “Iron Mike” Leftwich at the Marine Corps Basic School, Quantico, VA
Christian leadership is the antithesis of secular leadership.
The transition from military to pastoral leadership has been the gradual reformation of my leadership paradigm. I’ve written about some of that reformation here. While judgment, moral courage, and self-discipline serve as assets in the spiritual arena, their application is markedly different. The motifs of shepherd, servant, and slave seem so counterintuitive to a military where rank has its privileges. To this day, I am confronted with military leadership instincts which lead down the wrong ministerial path. This truth, as I’ve experienced it, is why pastoral leadership models that lean heavily on secular principles are often doing it all wrong. Brothers, we are not flag officers.
Not all pastoral leadership books are created equal. Instinctually, I tend to discount anything written within recent memory. After all, leadership is validated over the long haul and not in a conceptual test tube. But it wouldn’t be fair to discount everything based on youth or validate solely based on tenure.
You’ll notice many leadership books are written by wonderful Christians who serve in parachurch or academic ministries. In fact, many of the quotes below are from such men. Yet, let me encourage you to pay special attention to the counsel of men who serve in the pastorate. Leading a church is like pushing a rope; it’s an organism, not an organization. The men who lead churches are acutely aware of this reality and speak from an overflow of having undertaken this difficult task.
The quotes below represent the surface of an ever-growing bibliography of pastoral leadership sources. I hope you enjoy as you reflect on the ministry of Pastoral Leadership.
“If Christians around the world were to suddenly renounce their personal agendas, their life goals and their aspirations, and begin responding in radical obedience to everything God showed them. the world would be turned upside down. How do we know? Because that’s what first century Christians did, and the world is still talking about it.” – Blackaby in Spiritual Leadership
“the most powerful leaders among us are the teachers among us.” – Gary Bredfeldt in Great Leader Great Teacher
To help readers in “becoming the leader God intends me to be rather than doing the leading God intends me to do.” – Jeff Iorg in The Character of Leadership
“Success is the breeding ground for pride.” – Jeff Iorg in The Character of Leadership
“The last fruit of the Spirit is self-control. Self-discipline refers to the self as the object of discipline rather than its source.” – Jeff Iorg in The Character of Leadership
“It is reprehensible for any Christian leader to expect discipled behavior from the unconverted.” – Jeff Iorg in The Character of Leadership
“God would rather demonstrate his presence through a humble leader than through a thousand cathedrals we might build to house him.” – Jeff Iorg in The Character of Leadership
“Christian leadership and worldly leadership are markedly different. They are not the same, never have been the same, and stand in stark contrast to each other.” – Jeff Iorg in The Character of Leadership
“But the issue, the key issue, is motive. The aroma surrounding our actions—the unmistakable aroma of Jesus Christ—is what marks real servant leaders.” – Jeff Iorg in The Character of Leadership
“Leaders enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations.” – Jim Kouzes in Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge
Ministry is: “about preaching the historic Jesus, who is both Lord and Messiah, in words and actions, enabling people to respond to his message, enter his kingdom, and grow in appreciation of this gospel, its depth and its implications, and grow to maturity in Christ, in the new community of which he is head, whatever circumstances they face, by people who are qualified in gift, understanding and holiness, working together with others, for the glory of God’s name” – Derek Tidball in Ministry by the Book
“Here is one of the rich ironies in the history of salvation: the heavenly Jerusalem, it turns out, was all along as much anticipated by the deserts and dispersions of the community’s journey as by the earthly city bearing its name. In both experiences the Shepherd-Lamb was teaching them to follow him to their real home.” – Tim Laniak in Shepherd’s After My Own Heart
“The greatest crisis in the world today is a crisis of leadership, and the greatest crisis of leadership is a crisis of character.” – Aubrey Malphurs in Being Leaders
“The ability to see faults is a cheap and common gift” – Gene Edwards
Commenting on James 4:15 – “What James warns us about is that our freedom to make plans is not a license to live free from God.” – Haddon Robinson in Decision-Making by the Book
“Spiritual goals can be achieved only by spiritual people who use spiritual methods” – J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership
“True Greatness, true leadership, is found in giving yourself in service to others, not in coaxing or inducing others to serve you. True Service is never without cost. Often it comes with a painful baptism of suffering.” – J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership
“We can lead others only as far along the road as we ourselves have traveled. Merely pointing the way is not enough. If we are not walking, then no one can be following, and we are not leading anyone.” – J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership
“The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight; But they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.” – J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership
“A Vision without a task makes a visionary. A task without a vision makes drudgery. A Vision with a task makes a missionary.” – J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership
“If knowledge is the accumulation of facts, and intelligence the development of reason, wisdom is heavenly discernment.” – J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership
“The spiritual leader must outpace the rest in prayer.” – J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership
“Our problem is not too little time, but making better use of the time we have.” – J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership
“Disciples are not manufactured wholesale. They are produced one by one, because someone has taken the pains to discipline, to instruct and enlighten, to nurture and to train one that is spiritually younger.” – J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership
“Prayer moves the arm that moves the world to bring deliverance down.” – Unknown
“Give me a man of God–one man, one mighty prophet of the Lord, And I will give you peace on earth, Bought with a prayer and not a sword.” –George Liddell
“God’s work done God’s way will never lack God’s Support” – Hudson Taylor
“Every church needs to grow warmer through fellowship, deeper through discipleship, stronger through through worship, and larger through evangelism.” – Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Church
“A long pastorate does not guarantee a church will grow, but changing pastors every few years guarantees a church won’t grow.” – Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Church
“Ministry must be both faithful and fruitful. God expects both from us.” – Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Church
“You only believe the part of the Bible that you do.” – Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Church
“Transformation will not happen by chance.” – Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Church
“People give to vision, not to need.” – Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Church
“There is no method, program, or technology that can make up for a lack of love for unbelievers.” – Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Church
“Reading makes a broad man, but writing makes an exact man.” – Francis Bacon