The Fundamentals of Christian Leadership and Ministry


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“Fundamental to all Christian leadership and ministry is a humble personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, devotion to him expressed in daily prayer and love for him expressed in daily obedience. Without this, Christian ministry is impossible. In addition to this, being Christ’s subordinates, we are accountable to him for our service, for he is our Lord and our judge. This fact brings both comfort and challenge.”

—John Stott, Basic Christian Leadership, 101.

In his book Reordering the Trinity, theologian and church historian Rodrick Durst shares an observation about books that has stuck with me ever since I first read it. “I subscribe to the theory that good books have a few great pages. Great books have everyone else’s great pages on that subject” (25). These simple sentences have transformed the way I read books: I’m always on the lookout for a book’s great pages and evaluating whether a book is good or great by how many great pages it has (and how many great pages from other people’s books it has).

Page 101 is one of the great pages in John Stott’s Basic Christian Leadership. I love this discussion of the fundamentals of Christian leadership. If we attempt to lead in any capacity in the church without a humble personal relationship with Christ and if our devotion and obedience are sputtering or nonexistent, how can we expect to lead others and encourage them to do the very same things we ourselves neglect?

Alec Motyer emphasizes the same critical reality, counseling that “the minister must never cease to be an ‘ordinary believer’ humbly walking with God in the light of his word” (Preaching?, 123). You never graduate from the school of prayer. There is no promotion from the necessity of regular communion with Christ.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” —John 15:5 (ESV)

Let’s abide in the Vine. This isn’t a choice between effective ministry and less effective ministry, or an abundance of fruit versus slightly less fruit. It’s fruit or nothing. Possibility or impossibility. Apart from daily abiding, there is nothing for us.

But let’s not forget that this opportunity to abide in Christ is not a checklist to complete, a law to fulfill, or a way to earn anything from our Lord. This is not a guilt trip, it is an invitation! It is not another burden to shoulder on our own, it is a burden to relinquish and lay at Christ’s feet. Ministry leadership and ministry success depend on our abiding in Christ not because our abiding earns success but because it’s our admission that we can have no lasting success without coming to Jesus. So abide in Christ and walk humbly with him, letting him produce the fruit. Follow close in his footsteps, and others will naturally come along too.

 

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Quotable: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Who?


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Can we trust that the Gospels we have in the New Testament accurately represent the earliest of Christians’ beliefs about Jesus? What about claims that there were other Gospels or alternate views of Jesus that—if discovered—would change everything we thought we knew about the story of Christianity?

In a section on historical criticism of the Gospels, Craig Blomberg gives his take:

It is particularly misleading, therefore, to speak of lost Gospels or lost Christianities in ways that suggest that orthodoxy somehow suppressed viable Christian traditions or to claim that history is simply written by the winners….The apostolic tradition prevailed in large part because later, competing options never commanded widespread credibility.

—Craig Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group), 108.

 

Agree or disagree?

Quoteworthy: Calvin on Righteousness by Faith


Writing in his commentary on Galatians on Galatians 3:6 , Calvin clearly and succinctly lays out the start to finish of how we as Christians obtain the righteousness of God. Having brought up the question of whether or not faith is the cause of our righteousness, Calvin argues that having faith does not somehow earn or merit righteousness: righteousness is “enjoyed by faith only; and not even as a reward justly due to faith, but because we receive by faith what God freely gives.” Faith is more the mechanism through which we receive the free gift of righteousness than the proper cause of righteousness. Calvin continues:

Christ is our righteousness. The mercy of God is the cause of our righteousness. By the death and resurrection of Christ, righteousness has been procured for us. Righteousness is bestowed on us through the gospel. We obtain righteousness by faith. (emphasis added)

Beautiful.

Book Review: “Four Views on Hell: Second Edition”


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Hell: it’s not a comfortable subject to broach with others. We probably don’t spend much time talking about it and as a result probably don’t spend too much time thinking about it either.

Recently the topic of hell has generated a considerable firestorm (pun intentional) of controversy with Rob Bell’s book Love Wins and the many responses, such as Francis Chan and Preston Sprinke’s Erasing Hell.

Into and partly because of this ongoing discussion, Zondervan has recently released the second edition of Four Views on Hell. This volume is edited by Preston Sprinkle (Chan’s cowriter on Erasing Hell) and features contributions from Denny Burk, John G. Stackhouse Jr., Robin A. Parry, and Jerry L. Walls.

All four contributors are Evangelical but each champions a different Protestant interpretation of what the Bible has to say about hell. Burk defends the view that has historically been dominant in the church: eternal conscious torment (think Dante’s Inferno). Stackhouse proposes instead the idea of terminal punishment, or annihilation. Parry suggests a universalist view that all eventually are redeemed (through Christ, distinguishing it from broader universalism). Lastly Walls argues for the existence of Purgatory and the tenability of Protestants believing in it.

So what exactly do they each have to say about hell?

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Fellow-Workers in The Great Harvest: Baxter on Matthew 9:37-38


Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;
therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest
.”
—Matthew 9:37-38 (ESV)

The harvest is great, the labourers are few; the loiterers and hinderers are many, the souls of men are precious, the misery of sinners is great, and the everlasting misery to which they are near is greater, the joys of heaven are inconceivable, the comfort of a faithful minister is not small, the joy of extensive success will be a full reward. To be fellow-workers with God and his Spirit is no little honour; to subserve the blood-shedding of Christ for men’s salvation is not a light thing.

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—Richard Baxter, in The Reformed Pastor, p. 202.

Do we really believe this? And would we live differently, prioritize different things, and see different outcomes in our lives if so? Hard questions and much-needed exhortation from Baxter to us today.

Can Faith and Reason Truly Disagree?


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There can never be any real disagreement between faith and reason, since it is the same God who both reveals mysteries and infuses faith, and who has endowed the human mind with the light of reason. God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever be opposed to truth. The appearance of this kind of inane contradiction is chiefly due to the fact that either the dogmas of faith are not understood and explained…or that mere opinions are mistaken for the conclusions of reason.

-The First Vatican Council on Faith and Reason, The Christian Theology Reader, 31.

 

In your experience, have you encountered (both personally and with others) more misunderstanding of dogma or more opinions taken for reason?

Jesus: a Greater Savior


The unsearchable riches of Christ. —Ephesians 3:8

My Master has riches beyond the count of arithmetic, the measurement of reason, the dream of imagination, or the eloquence of words. They are “unsearchable”! You may look, study, and weigh, but Jesus is a greater Savior than you think He is when your thoughts are at their greatest. My Lord is more ready to pardon than you are to sin, more able to forgive than you are to transgress. My Master is more willing to supply your needs than you are to acknowledge them. Never tolerate low thoughts of my Lord Jesus…Lord, teach us more and more of Jesus, and we will tell the good news to others.

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—Charles Spurgeon, in Evening by Evening, p. 243.

What is Involved in Being a Christian


He who with his whole heart believes in Jesus as the Son of God is thereby committed to much else besides. He is committed to a view of God, to a view of man, to a view of sin, to a view of Redemption, to a view of the purpose of God in creation and history, to a view of human destiny found only in Christianity.

-James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World, 4 as quoted in Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 6.

Thou Shalt Not Kill (Planned or Unplanned)


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Could not help but think of the recent discussion on Planned Parenthood while I read Calvin’s exposition of the Sixth Commandment in the Institutes.

“To be clear of the crime of murder, it is not to enough to refrain from shedding man’s blood. If in act you perpetrate, if in endeavor you plot, if in wish and design you conceive what is adverse to another’s safety, you have the guilt of murder. On the other hand, if you do not according to your means and opportunity study to defend his safety, by that inhumanity you violate the law.” -Calvin

Lord, show us the means you have given us to protect life.

The Bible: A Perfect Treasure of Heavenly Instruction


We believe the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction;[1] that it has God for its author, salvation for its end,[2] and truth, without mixture of error, for its matter;[3] that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us;[4] and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union[5] and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds and opinions should be tried.[6]

New Hampshire Confession of Faith

The New Hampshire Confession of Faith, a Baptist confession of faith from the 19th Century, begins with this beautiful article on the Scriptures.

I love the phrase “God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without mixture of error, for its matter.” A perfect treasure indeed.

Also of interest is the last phrase: the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.

Do we try our opinion, conduct, and creeds by the Bible, or do we try the Scriptures by the standard of our opinions, our conduct, and our creeds?


[1] 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:21; 1 Sam. 23:2; Acts 1:16; 3:21; John 10:35; Luke 16:29-31; Psa. 119:11; Rom. 3:1-2

[2] 2 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 1:10-12; Acts 11:14; Rom. 1:16; Mark 16:16; John 5:38-39

[3] Prov. 30:5-6; John 17:17; Rev. 22:18-19; Rom. 3:4

[4] Rom. 2:12; John 12:47-48; 1 Cor. 4:3-4; Luke 10:10-16; 12:47-48

[5] Phil. 3:16; Eph. 4:3-6; Phil. 2:1-2; 1 Cor. 1:10; 1 Pet. 4:11

[6] 1 John 4:1; Isa. 8:20; 1 Thess. 5:21; 2 Cor. 8:5; Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:6; Jude 3:5; Eph. 6:17; Psa. 119:59-60; Phil. 1:9-11