February 2013

The Pastor’s Home-pt.2

Last post, we introduced the requirement, mandate really, of the pastor being proven and qualified by the condition of his home. We considered that the godliness of the people in the household qualifies a man for ministry because it is in the home wherein all the other qualifications play out and are demonstrated. If a man is above reproach, truly, it will be first and foremost demonstrated in the home. His wife and children will be able to testify and validate the temperance, faithfulness, and soundness of theology in the private times of the household. Again, a man can “flip the switch” and turn on godliness in public. But what he is in private is really him. His passions, his desires, his direction, his interests, all testify of the singular focus of that man’s leadership.

The impetus for this series was my observation of a number of situations over the years that were made known to me concerning the household’s of pastors. I have either observed, or heard of, a number of situations in which a pastor’s home had completely fallen apart. However, this is not simply in a divorce, or wayward child, or the like. This is also in a wife who is bitter about the ministry her husband is in. Or, a child who, although when younger appeared well-trained and on the right path, once older has decided that the world had more to offer than the church, or Christ. Or, a man who privately, repeatedly, committed adultery while in the pulpit. These are all stories that are far too common in the church, in pastor’s homes.

My intent in this series is not to point out all the failures of pastors. My real intention is: 1) to establish the fact that if a man cannot lead his household, he cannot lead God’s household. 2) to admonish that if a man is not leading his household properly, according to the instructions of the Word of God, he must either be taking steps to remedy the situation immediately, or step away from his ministry so that another man can take the leadership of the church. 3) to call churches to realize that they must hold their pastor or pastors to the standard that God has laid out in Scripture. This is not to beat him up, or seek to destroy his effectiveness. It is to increase it. The bottom line in this discussion is simply that man is not the head of the church. Jesus Christ is. As such, the Lord, who is glorious, holy, and exalted, is to be served by those whom He has qualified for that position. It is not a matter of making a man like that as it is identifying him. God makes the man.

I also want to add that I don’t have a wide readership. However, I do hope that those who do read these blogs will not be offended, or simply scoff at what is written. Rather, I am held to this same standard as will be outlined in this series and I would ask that the Word of God be taken seriously. I realize that it is hard to shepherd God’s people and raise a family and maintain a marriage all at the same time. There are so many pitfalls, temptations, lack of information, as well as the sin in our children, wives, and ourselves that keep us busy. However, men, that is exactly what God is calling us to. We must take up the challenge of leading in all these areas with holiness, godliness, righteousness, and capability. That is why I say that a man needs to be willing to humble himself and learn what is required of him, where he is not meeting those requirements, and be willing to admit that maybe God did not qualify him for ministry.

Given that, let’s review some basics about pastoral leadership.

First, our responsibility is a calling from Jesus Christ. When I use the word “calling,” I am using it in the sense of stewardship for which a person will be held accountable for faithfulness to the One calling him. Jesus taught this fact of stewardship in Matthew 25:14-30. In that parable, the emphasis is that the man who went away, after depositing varying amounts of money with his three slaves, will return and expect something for His investments. Two of the three slaves were faithful to make the most of the money and gain the praise of their master. The assumption is that the master expected that to happen and the slaves were faithful to do what they would expect their master to do. The third slave did nothing with his share, and received the punishment of the master. After all, he was a hard man (v.24). Essentially, the two slaves were faithful, the third, lazy. The two, as slaves, did their jobs according to their own ability (v.15). The third, had no ability by virtue of the fact that he did not do what his master would have expected with the money.

This really is a picture of many things which God has given to people. It does not mean to limit the parable to only one kind of work or person. The point is that God expects something from His slaves, and those who refuse to obey will be punished. Pastoral ministry was not created by man. It is a position of slavery to God created by Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ Himself said, "

Matthew 23:34–35

“Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

Paul taught us that when Christ ascended, sent the Holy Spirit, He assigned certain men to positions of work by reason of their gifting.

Ephesians 4:7–8

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,

“When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.”

When we talk of pastoral ministry, very often it is full of the trappings that accompany the office in our day. We immediately think about counseling, preaching, taxes, conferences, and the like. However, for a faithful slave, there is only one thing on the forefront of his mind: “What does my Master expect? What does it take to get it done?” It is very common for pastors of our day to never have that kind of thought even enter their minds. Afterall, there are so many pressing needs in the church. Yet, according to the parable, those men who did not take what they were given and use it accordingly, all the while concerned about the Master’s will, are the unfaithful slaves who will never know the praise of the Master.

Second, since we are given our task by Christ, we represent Him. This truth is crucial. As a slave, your will is no longer in existence. You are subject to a Master. He determines where you go, what you do, and how you do it. And, in the end, he will reward you or not. His expectations, His instructions, and His “money” all express His person. It is to be used wisely.

I am afraid that many pastors think that they are the church. I was watching a man preach the other day in a typical Baptist church. This man makes his rounds in Evangelical, Bible-believing churches and is a big name in the one of a thousand movements in modern Christianity. As I watched this man, who said he was about 50 years old, and yet was obviously physically fit and spends a fair amount of time in the gym, I watched him “pose” as he was preaching. Flinging his arms, exposing his physique, and simply in general, drawing all attention to himself. It was deplorable. On top of that, what he was preaching was not worthy of “preaching” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). The slave does not exist, except to serve his master. For a slave to replace his master is treason.

Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, were offering “strange fire” one day and God killed both of them on the spot. Why? Because they were not performing their “service” according to the instructions of the Master (v.1). Therefore, God punished them. The statement from Moses reminding their father, Aaron, is important to hear. He said,

Leviticus 10:3

Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored.’ ” So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.

Aaron’s response was apt-he kept silent. What could he say? His sons were disobedient, and may have even been drinking (v.9). Aaron could say nothing. Men, realize that every Sunday, or under any other venue, when you ascend the lectern to preach God’s holy Word, you represent God, the same God who incinerated Nadab and Abihu and could do the same to you for offering “strange fire…which [God has] not commanded.” If for no other reason than that, take the money from the Master and use it accordingly.

Third, your homes represent the Lord as well. The condition of our homes, marriages, children and their submission to Christ, as well as finances, home orderliness, and a myriad of other things, are all meant to reflect the glory and beauty of God. As I mentioned before, most men can “flip the switch” in the pulpit and no one would ever know that he just had a knock-down, drag-out fight with his wife before church. However, that man who has done that really should not even “open the book” until he repents. Personally speaking, preaching is a very good way for me to not hang on to sin. I cannot preach unless I know that I have repented from any sins of that time prior to entering the pulpit. Sometimes, it is just a matter of confessing it in my heart and turning from it. Sometimes, it involves speaking with someone before service, or at home, asking for forgiveness. Whatever it is, I cannot preach in good conscience knowing that I have sinned against the God whom I am supposed to represent in the pulpit.

As we will see in our next post, the purity, wholesomeness, righteousness of our households, or the lack thereof, are the proofs of able-bodied, godly leadership in the home, or not. That is the man who has been qualified by God for leadership in His church.

The Pastor’s Home: A Prerequisite For Service-pt.1

A man cannot enter war without first being trained. We would not allow a doctor to perform surgery without extensive experience and training. We would not want a man to lead our nation who is not fully capable to do so. However, for most, the thought of having a pastor without adequate training, equipping, and qualification is okay. Some see training in preparation for ministry as negligible and nonessential. Some even deride those who pursue training in preparation for pastoral ministry saying that they are not filled with the Spirit (insinuating that they are). In the day of the pride of ignorance, many consider learning and exerting mental discipline almost a waste of time. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a person praise his pastor because he doesn’t prepare for his sermons. He simply gets up and lets the spirit speak through him. They say this to me with a very proud grin full of adoration for such a display of godliness. However, in my mind, I know that that man ought to be ashamed of himself. The Apostle Paul wrote,

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”  2 Timothy 2:15

It is a shameful thing to enter into anything unprepared. It is not unlike the proverb that says, “Every prudent man acts with knowledge, but a fool displays folly” (Proverbs 13:16). That is to say, the prudent man learns how to do that for which he is accountable. The fool does not and simply displays to everyone what little he knows.

An often overlooked (and undervalued) side of preparation for ministry is a man’s home. By “home” I think the Scripture primarily means the people who are under his care, and then, secondarily, the house in which they live. His home is the determining factor in his qualification for ministry. Why do I say that? As we will see in 1 Timothy 3, it is the place where the reality of his righteousness is displayed, and verified. It is easy for a man to “flip the switch” in public and act as if everything is fine at home, when in fact it is not. We fear the public disgrace of looking like we do not have control. But, it is altogether different when no one is looking. It is altogether different in the day-in and day-out realities of raising children and our relationship with our wives. Men in general have to learn how to faithfully lead his home. Unfortunately, some men never realize that. They often go from one distraction to another until the children are gone and then wipe their brow and think to themselves, “Whew, I am glad they are gone.” At that point, typically, they rationalize to themselves that the decisions their children make in the lives as they are on their own are not the parent’s responsibility. However, that is not true. The lives our children live in their own marriages and in their own homes demonstrate the capability of our leadership in the home. Or, to say it another way, the fruit of godly leadership in the home does not bear itself out until our children are no longer under our care. We may be able to suppress the rebellion of our children while they are in the home, and get by. But, the real question is, “What do our children do when they are one their own? What decisions do they make? Where is their heart?”

To begin this series, we need to establish the fact that raising children in a godly manner is crucial, necessary, for the qualification of a man to ministry. However, the condition of our home is only the fruit of the man’s leadership, not the definition of it. The sanctification of his wife, the godliness (not worldliness) of his children, his own level of holiness (especially when no one else is looking) all demonstrate the Lord’s qualification of that man.

A New Covenant ministry is unlike anything else that has gone before. One day, Jesus was speaking with the people and some disciples of John came to Jesus and asked Him if He truly was the Messiah (Luke 7:18-23). Jesus gave them instructions as to the proof of His ministry, as outlined in Isaiah 35 and 61. The messengers went back to John. Jesus took the opportunity to commend John before the people (vv.24-30). He spoke of John as the greatest of the prophets (v.28). He was the messenger in the vein of Malachi 3:1 (v.27). However, the Pharisees rejected John’s baptism of repentance and thus demonstrated that they were not interested in God’s purpose for them.

The Lord then gives a parable, that is apropos to us at this point. There were children in the marketplace and one group was calling out to the rest of the children. The first group of children played a flute, but the rest did not dance. They then proceeded to sing a funeral song, and the other children did not mourn. The point is, Jesus and John did not perform their ministries according to the expectations of the Pharisees and lawyers, and they did not like it. But the Lord makes a profound statement that we all need to consider. He said,

"Yet, wisdom is vindicated by all her children” – Luke 7:35

Jesus is speaking of the comparison of wisdom-His and John’s (ultimately, God’s) versus the Pharisees and the lawyers. In order to determine the quality of wisdom, look at what is being produced and compare that against righteousness. Then you will be able to comprehend wisdom. Or, to quote another teaching,

“A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:18–20

The “offspring” of God’s work are those submissive to God’s purposes. Those who reject those purposes, like the Pharisees and lawyers, are not wise. Therefore, look at what people produce in order to determine the quality, or qualification, of the wisdom used. Thus, it is a basic fact of like, a principle for everything-if you want to know the quality of a teaching, ideal, or leader, look at what is produced.

Paul takes that truism and establishes it in the life of the church. In the next post, we will begin to examine 1 Timothy 3:4-5. In the meantime, consider what the author of Hebrews 13:7 wrote,

“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.”

If you want to know the viability of a ministry, elder, pastor, or church, do not look at what it boasts, teaches, or claims. Look at what that ministry, elder, pastor, or church produces. Consider (examine, scrutinize) the result of their conduct, and then imitate their faith.

Pastor or elder, how are you doing? What are you producing? What does your home life look like? My attempt here is not to set up an impossible standard built upon a contrived self-righteousness which only I can meet. My goal here is to understand what pleases God in the homes of the men called to lead God’s flock, and expect that from them. As with any job, there are standards, whether it is a sales quota, production quota, or some other standard of qualification for the work. How much more, then, the standards of representing the Lord Jesus Christ before His people (Leviticus 10:3; cf. Exodus 19:22).

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