Wednesday, November 30, 2011

David Calhoun Schaeffer interview

There's some guys at our church have come to be known as the "Schaeffer Boys".

See their website here.

Dr. David Calhoun, emeritus professor of Church History at Covenant Seminary recently preached and taught at Redeemer and the Schaeffer Boys interviewed him about his personal time with Schaeffer as well as thoughts about him.

It's a great interview.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

"Black Friday"

The Friday after Thanksgiving has come to be known as "Black Friday". On this day, most major retailers open extremely early, some as early as Midnight on Thursday or as early as 4 a.m. Friday morning. These same stores supposedly offer "great" deals on Black Friday.

Personally, the concept of Black Friday is both telling and distressing. The United States economy is based on consumption...probably more accurately- over consumption. We don't produce a whole lot any more, we just consume the world's products, in massive quantities. It's what keeps money changing hands. Black Friday shows how much we need to have our stuff, and right now.

Do we really need a special dispensation of time to buy more stuff a few hours earlier than usual? Give me a break.

Yesterday's "Black Friday" was highlighted by some crazy dude who pepper sprayed people waiting in line with him to buy stuff. Stories like this emerge every year. The video clips of hundreds of people packing the entrance of Target, or some other store, to buy more junk is pathetic.

Bluntly, I am embarrassed for my country, which is hopelessly in debt and generally given over to materialism and over consumption, when the "Black Friday" images parallel third world country villagers lining up at a humanitarian aid truck...only they are at Best Buy and Walmart.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Johnny Cash revelations from his son

I've always been appreciative of Johnny Cash, the man, and his music.

His son has recently penned a tribute to him, here's a couple excerpts I found enlightening-

I think a lot of people see him as a dark foreboding figure, and very cool. He was always cool, his charisma was powerful, but he was also a very gentle, loving, kind man. He was more focused on spiritual matters than I think a lot of people realize. His faith was paramount to him throughout his whole life, even when he was suffering from addiction, and what pulled him out when he was sick. He was not just a songwriter. He was a painter, a sketcher, a poet. He was a scholar; he studied the Bible more than anything.

The thing that mattered the most in his life was his relationship with his creator. He was educated and knew about it. He couldn’t have dealt with his addictions without it. That’s how he found redemption and peace, through prayer and connection to God.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Happy Birthday Jordan!

On this day, nine years ago, my youngest boy was born.

Here's my words of blessing to Jordy (from Psalm 127)-

Dearest Son,

The LORD will keep you from all harm— He will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Lifecycle of Pastors (personally considered)

Around 1998, about a year after coming to Redeemer

Our first sanctuary on the current property, the former Ogg residence converted in to a sanctuary (1996-2000), we still use it for our offices and youth area

I have been a pastor at Redeemer for almost 15 years. This month marks my tenth year as senior pastor. I can't believe how fast these years have passed. I am blessed to serve such a wonderful church.

I love ministry at Redeemer for a plethora of reasons, but first and foremost is the collective leadership commitment to the Doctrines of Grace and holding me accountable to preach God's Word.

Providentially, Thom Rainer just wrote an interesting post on the life cycle of pastors. I found it to be pretty close to my experience. I will paste his post below and offer my specific observations in yellow.

Almost twenty years ago, I began to note that the tenure of a pastor often follows a predictable pattern. Now, almost two decades later, I still see many of the same patterns, though I have refined the categories and time spans a bit.

I fully understand that these categories are not definitive, and there will certainly be exceptions to the rule. Nevertheless, I offer this lifecycle as a guide that I hope will prove useful to both pastors and congregations alike.

Honeymoon: Years 0 to 1

The new pastor is perceived to be the answer to all the needs and the problems of the church. He is often viewed as a hero because he is not his predecessor. Though some of his faults begin to show during this period, he is often given a pass. Expectations are high that he will be molded into the image that each congregant would like to have.

My transition to senior pastor from associate pastor was gradual as my predecessor left abruptly and I wasn't a candidate at first. In fact, I had informally started the process of considering other calls to solo pastor positions that were available. I agreed to stay on at Redeemer as the interim until they found a permanent senior pastor. I was 29 and not really ready to lead the church. Nevertheless, over a six-month period as interim, my heart and the Elder's hearts and thoughts changed and I became a candidate. In November of 2001 I was installed as the senior pastor and I did enjoy a little bit of a honeymoon, I suppose. My faults were pretty well known by this time as I had already served as an assistant/associate pastor for four years. I find it amazing they still called me to be the pastor.

Crisis: Years 1 to 3

It is now apparent that the pastor is fully human. He has not lived up to the precise expectations of many of the members. This phase includes a number of conflicts and struggles. Indeed it is the most common time that pastors choose to leave the church or they are force terminated. This single epoch of a pastoral tenure contributes more to short tenures than any other time.

I had very strong elders (and still do) who supported me and held me accountable. We (as a church) did have quite a few struggles in these years, some personal conflicts, others related to growing pains and the need for more leadership development. It seemed like every month we had a huge decision to make. The church started a school the year before I arrived as assistant pastor in 1997, so there was a heavy sense of responsibility about all the church was doing, yet we were still a pretty small church. Honestly, it was way too busy during these years to think about greener pastures. Early in to my first year, Nathan Currey came to be our assistant pastor which greatly helped us move through this epoch. Nathan was able to minister to people I am not as effective with (and he still is).

Realignment: Years 3 to 5

The number of crises begins to abate, though they do not disappear altogether. It is at this time that more and more new members come under the tenure of the new pastor. Some of the dissidents have left the church or the community. There is a realignment of loyalty and expectations of the pastor. Thus he is able to lead more effectively, and began to see some more productive years as pastor of the church.

I don't seems like there are always crises going on in church life, but I do think our overall leadership matured enough to navigate such challenges more wisely. Redeemer grew to a point of needing more space. With the concurrent growth of our school, we struggled to decide whether to build a sanctuary (we were in a "multipurpose" room that was needed for classroom expansion) or use the school gym for a while longer. I definitely felt many strains during this time frame and a heavy burden about all we were taking on weighed on me. I must say, however, I never felt alone at any time. Pastor Nathan, the Elders, and the Deacons shouldered much of the stress with me. I very much appreciate some of our more experienced elders constantly keeping us focused on prayer and consideration of God's Word in all our endeavors.

Growth: Years 5 to 10

Not all pastors have productive and joyous ministries in this period, but many do. It is not unusual for the congregation to begin to appreciate the pastor more and to follow his leadership with greater enthusiasm. Many of the battles have already been fought; and many of the conflicts have been resolved. The pastor and the entire congregation are ready to move forward in more productive ministry for the glory of God.

The beginning of this epoch was marked by the opening of our new sanctuary. The church grew quite a bit after the sanctuary was built, but still not exponentially. Redeemer isn't any kind of mega church. You might say we're the anti-mega church. At the same time, for a Reformed church with a liturgical worship style, we're probably pretty sizable. Pastor Brian came during this time frame giving us three ordained pastors. Our Session added a few more elders and the Diaconate grew as well. Our school expanded which called for quite a bit of pastoral involvement. Our school (Heritage Christian Academy) is a major ministry of the church- something built in to the DNA of Redeemer by the founding members and pastor), so our leadership is very much involved. With the church and school growing, this period has been much like Rainer describes. I do feel the congregation appreciates me, probably more than they should. There have certainly been people who have come and gone that found my ministry to them ineffective, which hurts to think about, but is reality. I think the diversity of pastoral leadership we have helps us minister to a wide range of people. If it were just me, there's no way Redeemer would be as effective as it is. Don't get me wrong, we have much to learn and many areas to improve, but the leadership is genuinely sensitive to this and always analyzing, thinking, and praying about being better shepherds. I guess a recurring theme for me at Redeemer is shared leadership with my fellow elders. That's why I have been here ten years (ten as senior pastor, 14 years total) and still love it.

Mystery: Years 10 and Beyond

There are relatively few pastors and congregations that continue their relationships beyond a period of one decade. Thus any perspective I have of long-term pastorates is inconclusive and limited. I am confident, however, that if we see more and more pastors entering their tenth year of ministry and beyond, we will see more productive and fruitful ministries in local churches across the nation.

I was kind of shocked by how infrequently pastors stay at a church for ten years. These ten years have ripped by for Shari and I. I presume nothing and know things can change quickly in church life, but I do feel like ministry is fruitful for me at Redeemer. Financial challenges have been taxing, but all churches are dealing with that these days. Even on that front I feel confident the people of God at Redeemer will answer the needs that arise in this arena and the leadership is doing a very responsible job stewarding the ministry. I can tell you honestly that any thought of Redeemer being a fruitful ministry never comes as a solo consideration. Our church is shepherded by twelve elders, not just one senior pastor. If God chooses to keep using Redeemer for His glory and the good of His people, it will be through the collection of shepherds He has appointed here, not because of me. That's why I love it here so much. That's why I can't imagine being anywhere else at this point in my life.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Jesus takes sinners by the hand...

Commenting on Jesus taking the blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26) by the hand before restoring his sight, John Gill wrote-

When the Lord Jesus takes sinners by the hand, he becomes their guide and leader. A better, and safer guide they cannot have. He brings them by a way they know not, and leads them in paths they had not known before; makes darkness light before them, and crooked things straight, and does not forsake them.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

All 202 Messi goals

We may well be witnessing the greatest soccer player in history.

Lionel Messi is not yet 25 and has already scored 202 goals for Barcelona.

Kent Hughes on asking God for spiritual growth

We may and must ask for spiritual growth. But we must not lay down guidelines as to how God ought to produce this. We must not, for example, ask God to develop our spiritual lives, and then when he pulls out the shears and begins to prune say, "No, Lord, you can't do it that way!" Do not ask the Lord to make you sensitive to others, and then resent the difficult person who crosses your life at work or in the Church. God often circumvents a proud, presumptuous spirit, whereas spiritual grace may be mediated by a friendship, a discipline, or a hardship.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The time has come...

I haven't been able to post as much lately because of a torrid Fall schedule...more so than any year I remember. I'll be posting more now that the varsity soccer season is over. Of course...I will be taking two weeks vacation (plus an assortment of mornings) to engage in my favorite pastime.