Steps to ministry

Many years ago, when I was just dreaming of entering the ministry (still in college), I got to meet Dr Edmund Clowney. He kindly autographed a book on ministry for me (the first one on the subject I ever read). He was a kind, godly man who took time for me — and left a good impression. (More recently, his IVP book on THE CHURCH has been very useful.).

Click on the photo for a TRIBUTE page for Dr Clowney (1917-2005).

Today I spotted this quote attributed to him. It’s right on the mark.

“The stairway to the ministry is not a grand staircase but a back stairwell that leads down to the servants quarters.”
Edmund Clowney

A Pastor’s heart

The Pastor Emeritus of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois — Kent Hughes — has always been a help to me when I’ve heard him speak or read his many books and commentaries. He shares an insight about ministry which I have found to be true, but could not express nearly so well…


“To be a true minister to men is always to accept new happiness and new distress…The man who gives himself to other men can never be a wholly sad man; but no more can he be a man of unclouded gladness. To him shall come with every deeper consecration a before untested joy, but in the same cup shall be mixed a sorrow that it was beyond his power to feel before.”

Philip Brookes
(quoted in R Kent Hughes, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome)

Love the church…

Dr Derek Thomas recently wrote of his love for the church – I couldn’t agree more! Ponder his warm, even passionate words…

“Love me, love my dog,” they say, and my poor dog has been sick all summer and continues to be in bad shape. But it is not dogs I am writing about here; it is the church. Jesus seems to say, again and again: “Love me, love my church.”

Something is terribly wrong when professing Christians do not identify with the church and love being a part of her. Something is wrong when professing Christians fail to be passionate about every aspect of the church and long to invest themselves in her, taking all that the church represents and does to heart. Listen, for example, 1187054_hdr_churchto the way Paul instructs the Ephesians: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27).

I fell in love with the church the moment I was converted as a freshman in college in 1971. Having never attended any church until then, I discovered a community that was, to me, like a family: caring, loving, and nourishing. The church I found was able to tell me that I was wrong about some things without driving me away. I knew that I was loved. The church showed me acts of kindness and fellowship that I recall with affection to this day. I was introduced to expository preaching from the start – a style of preaching that puts the Bible above the personality and idiosyncrasies of the preacher. I discovered communal prayer times, and joyful singing, all of which have been the mainstay of my Christian life ever since. True, I have had my share of worship wars, when Christians disagree over important things and sometimes trivial things; but for all that, I have taken delight in her rituals of song and sacrament, prayer and proclamation, more times than I can relate. I love the church. I fully endorse Calvin’s way of putting it (and the shadow of Cyprian that lies behind it): “For there is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, nourish us at her breast, and lastly, unless she keep us under her care and guidance until, putting off mortal flesh, we become like the angels” (Inst. 4.1.4). In the church, I have discovered saints and angels (though not, as far as I know, real angels). I have witnessed deeds of extraordinary kindness done to myself and to others, and I have been the beneficiary of kindnesses done to me by those who remained anonymous.

Yes, there is a dark side to the church as there is to all things in this fallen world. The church is not perfect. It has her share of malcontents and killjoys, her energy-sapping attention-getters and despondent hearts. Adullam’s cave has nothing on some churches I have seen, but none of this robs me of my love for the church. Even at her most eccentric – the King James Version’s rendition of 1 Peter 2:9 as “ye are … a peculiar people” is painfully accurate, if quaint — she is still Christ’s body. “Love me, love my church” is what Jesus seems to say in the Bible. I would not have it any other way. Would you?

Jonah & His Big God…

Adrian Warnock reports & summarizes a message by Liam Goligher on Jonah 1, delivered in the UK around April 5. You know the story, but should be refreshed by these excerpts from Liam (via Adrian)….


This is a very familiar story. Some people say its an allegory or parable. But parables are usually basic. The story itself has historical and geographical elements. Whoever wrote it seemed to want us to believe that this was a real event. It assumes historical correctness. Jesus likens himself to Jonah and spoke of the people of Ninevah as real people who really repented. Jesus took it seriously, so if we want to follow him so should we.

Salvation is of the Lord. God’s sovereingty is stressed here. God appointed the wind, the ship, the whale. There is a commission, and a recommission, and the sailors are saved, and the ninevites are saved. There are two prayers of Jonah – one greatful for his own salvation, one bitter when the foreigners were saved. Its beautifully structured, full of humour irony, etc. Jonah is a ridiculous figure. He is like a skulky, pouting, spotty teenager. Continue reading

Advice I’m finding helpful…

Today (my day off, when I do most of my blog-reading and blog writing for the week) I cam across two little gems on doing pastoral ministry — and one for you, the pastor’s audience. I found all three at a site called CHURCH MATTERS, run by the 9Marks ministry of Mark Dever.

Gem #1 for Pastors
The keys to an effective pastorate (normally):
Preach and Pray, Love and Stay
(by Michael Mckinley)

Gem #2 for Pastors (young and older, I hope):
Young men tend to overestimate how much they can accomplish in the short term, but underestimate how much they can accomplish in the long term.
(from an older saint, reported by Michael Mckinley)

Gem #3 for you….
Few things are more discouraging or dishonoring to such men than a congregation inattentive to the Word of God. Faithful men flourish at the fertile reception of the preached Word. They’re made all the more bold when their people give ear to the Lord’s voice and give evidence of being shaped by it. As church members, we can care for our pastors and teacher and help to prevent unnecessary discouragement and fatigue by cultivating the habit of expositional listening.
(from Thabiti Anyabwile’s book What Is a Healthy Church Member?)

Let’s all keep the main things in the right place.

Day Three (Thurs. AM) at the Banner

There were four sessions on this final day of the conference. First was the second address by Rick Philips, this time Continue reading

Day Two (Wed. PM) at The Banner Conference


After some time for fellowship (and helping a brother try to repair a laptop), the Wednesday afternoon sessions began … with something rather different. At 3:15 PM Pastor Mark Johnston (a Trustee of the Banner of Truth, a pastor from the UK) spoke for 15 minutes on Continue reading