What Constitutes a “Good Pastor”?

by Jim Fowler

What constitutes a “good preacher/pastor?” When Jesus was called a “good teacher,” He explained that “no one is good apart from God” (Lk. 18:18). A good pastor-teacher is one who knows God, not just theology about God, but has a genuine personal and intimate knowing- relationship with God through the indwelling presence and union with the Spirit of Christ, and allows his life and ministry to be empowered by the dynamic of the Holy Spirit.

The objective of a pastor/ preacher is to preach the living Jesus he personally knows. “We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord” (ll Cor. 4:5). “We preach Christ crucified” (I Cor. 1:23]. If the preacher’s message does not assist the congregation to understand how the risen and living Lord Jesus relates to their daily lives, then it is not Christian preaching. The purpose of preaching is not merely the recitation of historical details of scripture, nor is it theological explanations of factual data. I recall hearing a sermon that did not mention the name of Jesus even once until the obligatory closing prayer ended, “in Jesus name.”

Preachers, pastors, ministers must be humble enough to recognize that they are just human beings like everyone else. They are not celebrities to be revered. Though expected to be models of spiritual maturity, and sometimes occupying an elevated pulpit that looks down on the “laity,” the preacher must be honest and transparent. Admission of personal faults, failures and weaknesses, allows the people to identify with their shepherd. Warned not to “lord it over” the flock (1 Pet. 5:3), pastors must avoid “pastoral authority” and attempts to dictate, intimidate or manipulate. The objective is simply to share JESUS in one’s proclamation and life.

Jim Fowler, Focusing ion Jesus: Daily Christ-centered Thoughts (CIY Publishing). Copyrighted, 2019; used with permission. www.Christinyou.net

The Secret of Our Identity

During this season of unprecedented changes and stressors, Christian leaders need more than ever to model stability and security in Christ. Society, health risks and policies for public meetings may change, but the believer’s identity in Christ and his.her ultimate Source of living transcends these challenges. Dr. Ray Stedman’s daily devotions convey this biblical, grace perspective. Here is a contemplation on John 14:15-20:


Here Jesus tells us the secret of our identity as believers. The most fundamental fact of our life as Christians is there: Jesus says that He is not going to leave His disciples desolate or as orphans. These men are frightened. They know that He is going away. They remember the intimations He has given that it will be by violence, by being taken and beaten and ultimately crucified. And they are fearful–not only for Him but for themselves. But now He reassures them: “I’m not going to leave you orphans; I’m not going to abandon you. I will come to you.”

He is not talking here about His second coming. His reference to that is in verse 3 where He has said that He will come again and take them to Himself. At his second coming, John tells us, “Every eye will see him” (Revelation 1:7). But here is a way of coming that the world will not see, but in which the disciples will not only see Him but live by Him: “Because I live, you will live also.” That is more than merely a reference to His resurrection and the promise of our resurrection some day. It is really a reference to His coming by the Spirit, the result of which will be “you in Me, and I in you.” And that is to be the secret of our lives, as His relationship with the Father was the secret of His life.

I find Christians all over this country who do not understand this truth about their new life in Christ. The truth from which they get their identity is this fact: Jesus is in them and lives in them. It is to this fact that they should return whenever there are pressures and problems and demands made upon them, because it is from this fact that the secret of life will flow to them.

The day of the Spirit began on the Day of Pentecost, when suddenly the Spirit of God was poured out upon these believers, and they became changed people. And that day is still with us. It began over two thousand years ago, and it hasn’t ended yet. In fact, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter stood up and bracketed its extremes–the events that would mark the beginning and the end of the day of the Spirit. It begins with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, as prophesied by the prophet Joel. Peter quotes that prophecy. He says, “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16), this pouring out of the Spirit upon people. And it ends, he says, when, “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord” (Acts 2:20).

“Lord, what a privilege to live in this new day when the Spirit has been poured out and even makes His home in me! Teach me to reckon on this profound reality today.”

Life Application

What is the ultimate secret of our lives? How can we know this is the truth? How is our identity related to our reality?


A two year cycle is searchable at www.RayStedman.org / Daily Devotions. Excerpted with permission from The Power of His Presence, © [July / John 14:15-20] by Ray Stedman Ministries. All rights reserved. Visit RayStedman.org for the complete library of Ray Stedman material. Please direct any questions to webmaster@RayStedman.org.

The Cost of Spiritual Leadership

“Love suffers long and is kind…” (1 Cor. 13:4). “The price of leadership remains high and hard; it may be cheap and easy for the dictator, for the hireling, but never for the shepherd. The dictator dominates; the hireling flees; but the good shepherd loves his sheep and is loved by them. He lays down his life for the sheep. True spiritual leadership involves this principle: ‘Death working in me works life in you’ (2 Cor. 4:12, Cony.).”- Miles Stanford

“It is the quality of leaders that they can bear to be sat on, absorb shocks, act as a buffer, bear being much plagued. Moses put up with the complaints and the waywardness and revolt of the people. He pursued a steady course, enduring as seeing Him who is invisible [Heb. 11:23-28]. The wear and tear and the continual friction and trials which come to the servants of God are a great test of character.” -F.M.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith[b] into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:1-5).

“Bridge the gaps! A bridge means something—generally a life laid down. The very simplest bridge, a plank thrown across a stream, was once part of a tree standing erect, sapping life from the earth, and beautifying all the area around it. [“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” 1 John 3:16]. Now it is dead, but perhaps saves other lives; anyway it helps to make others useful, and is content to push others on, unnoticed, unthanked. ‘Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not,’ [Jer. 45:5] just be a bridge. It is so simple. See that others are placed on the right track with God through the Lord Jesus. When they get there, they will not thank you, will never look back probably at the bridge; but the Great Architect will know and love and care.” -E.W.

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5)

http://www.abideabove.com/hungry-heart/day/2020/03/18/
Some Scriptures and references added

Finding Relationship in Christ

The audio podcast “Ed Stetzer Live “helps you live out the truth of the gospel in a rapidly changing world.” His January 4, 2020 broadcast featured an interview about personal and church renewal based on the Abiding Life. “As believers, we try hard to live the Christian life, doing good works, sharing the gospel and maintaining a moral code. But sometimes the list of do’s and don’ts can feel exhausting and overwhelming. In examining Jesus’ life in the gospels, Las Vegas Pastor Vance Pitman says he’s found some spiritual truths that have set him free from some of his burdens… and helped him rediscover the joy of the love relationship that Jesus provides.”

A recurring theme in the interview is our Lord’s invitation for grace-based salvation and discipleship: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30).

This Moody Radio episode as available on Apple Podcasts and online here:
Finding Relationship in Christ
https://www.moodyradio.org/programs/ed-stetzer-live/2020/01/finding-relationship-in-christ/

Charles Stanley: Crucified with Christ

The January 20, 2020 broadcast of In Touch Radio featured an excellent message by Dr. Charles Stanley on the Galatians 2:20 theme: “Crucified with Christ.”  This is a clear and motivational exposition of Romans 6; it’s the essential message for personal revitalization. Dr. Solomon (Grace Fellowship) and Dr. and Mrs. Gillham (Lifetime Guarantee) taught these profound truths in their conferences at First Baptist Atlanta in the early ’80’s and has been central to their pastoral and lay counseling ministry over the decades. (Check out GFI podcast interviews with Dr. Al Scardino about this.) This message can be downloaded and shared via In Touch here: www.intouch.org/listen/featured/crucified-with-christ

The J Curve

World Magazine’s Dec 7, 2019 issue awards J-Curve: Dying and Rising With Jesus in Everyday Life, by Paul Miller “ACCESIBLE THEOLOGY BOOK OF THE YEAR.”

Marvin Olasky summarizes,

 

Paul Miller shows how the Bible teaches a pattern of dying and rising in the form of a J: We need to go down to come up. His message challenges the part of American evangelicalism that values winning and defines success much as the broader culture does, with adulation of celebrities and equation of suffering with failure. Miller shows through many examples that being born again often means the death of some previous ambitions, but the J-Curve is not a one-time experience: Miller calls the J-Curve “the spine of sanctification” and “dying and rising with Christ the normal Christian life.”

Miller is the son of seminary professor, Jack Miller who piloted The Sonship Course. That notebook and audio series was inspired by his grace awakeing through meditating on the Epistle to the Galatians, such as:

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Gal. 4:4-7)

The Sonship Course contains a helpful emphasis on grace, sanctification by faith and the believers identity in Christ. All of these themes are essential to revitalization.

World Magazine’s interview with Paul Miller is here: “Curving Heavenward.”

Another Pastor Finds Relief

Here is part of the spiritual journey testimony of Mark McKeehan who serves as Senior pastor of Chilhowee Hills Baptist Church in Knoxville, TN


My journey to the cross of total surrender was hard; in May of 2003, I was in Sherman, Texas, for Passion One-Day, which is a Christian conference designed for College students… That day as I finished praying, I could hear the song from Chris Tomlin called “Enough.” Part of the lyrics say, “All of you, is more than enough for all of me.” I realized Jesus is enough! He is enough when times are good and when times are not. That day, I began to understand and learn about total surrender. It was also the time I began to live open-handed. If I own nothing, then nothing can be taken from me!

I moved back to Knoxville, TN in April of 2006. For three years I was the Student Pastor at Chilhowee Hills Baptist Church. After three years, I was asked to transition to Lead Pastor. During the transition from student pastor to lead pastor I became close with a man named Blaine Anderson. Blaine quickly became a spiritual father to me, and he began using a term I had never heard before. The term was “spiritual world.” Blaine began to disciple me in the works of Holy Spirit and my spiritual eyes and ears were awakened even more. Finally, I had found someone who could explain to me what I wanted to learn so many years earlier. I began to meet with Blaine to talk about Holy Spirit and what he called the Spirit World. For the first time in my life, Holy Spirit became less of a mystery and I began to interact with Him as a person, as God.

Yet, about five years ago I was on the edge of burnout. The ministry at the church wasn’t bad, but the finances, people, ministry, staff and all the counseling sessions became too much for me. I felt like I was drowning with no lifeline. I wanted to quit, but I knew that would not honor nor glorify the name of Jesus. My identity was focused in temporal and wrong things. I would come in on Mondays and if our offering was good then I thought I was a good pastor. However, if the offerings were bad then I was a bad pastor. I also began to evaluate myself through the way I preached. If people responded, I thought I was doing well but if they didn’t then I thought I was failing. My identity was wrong, so therefore I was “feeling” things and thinking they were true when in fact they were just “feelings.”

I asked the deacons first, then the church, if I could take a one-month sabbatical. During my sabbatical I was introduced to GFI. I had heard of them before, but honestly, I never took the time to really listen. Now, feeling I was at the bottom, I started to listen to [the Church’s Discipleship Counselor] Hans Haun who had tried so many times before to reach out to me… After my sabbatical, I realized I needed boundaries or what I call “guardrails” in my life. One of those guardrails was to meet regularly with Hans.

At our first meeting, my life was changed! I sat in my office as I watched Hans draw out the wheel and line diagrams. As he explained the “Exchanged Life” to me I sat there thinking, “This is why I do what I do. This is why I react in emotion and I feel like a failure!” My identity is wrong, and self is leading my life. That day I began praying the “selfers” prayer of total surrender. I began to ponder Dr. Solomon’s statement, “We learn to be in experience who we already are in position.” I am seated with Christ in heavenly places. My identity is no longer in offerings or sermons. In Christ, I am chosen, I am called, I am beloved, and I am complete.

Now, I reckon myself dead unto sin and alive unto God (Romans 6). I understand that one of my greatest enemies is my flesh and daily I need to reckon that, in Christ, my flesh has been crucified with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). My identity isn’t in what I do, what I fail at, or even how I feel. My identity isn’t in what others think or say about me; good or bad. My identity is in Christ and I am who He says I am. He called and chose me before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4), which means He chose me before I could do anything to earn it or to do anything that would disqualify me from receiving it. He loves me not because of who I am, but because of who He is! I am complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10) and this means I lack nothing. I am deficient in nothing. I can no longer say, “If I had more grace or mercy then I would be a better pastor.” I have all of the grace and mercy I need because I have Holy Spirit in me. The power that has raised the dead, (Romans 8), is in me. Christ in me is the key that changes everything. So, Galatians 2:20 isn’t just a verse to memorize; it is my life. I died, I was buried, but I was also raised to walk in newness of life! My goal is to live surrendered to Jesus, walking with and being led by Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16). As I abide in Christ, then He can work through me and the works He does are perfect, just and good!…