Thursday, June 18, 2009

More on rewards

Just read this post from Rick Phillips and, in light of last Sunday's message, thought it might be encouraging further reading.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Worship or Emulation: Can we be biblical about this?

Just wanted to draw your attention to this article by John Piper. Whether within our local church or the universal, I'm confident we all need to think carefully and biblically about our reasons for putting others (or ourselves) forward as examples. So although this isn't about 1 Tim. 4:12, it's connected, as well as having other implications for sermon-listening, book-recommending, and blog-linking.
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Monday, June 08, 2009

1 Tim. 4:12: Speech

Youthfulness in pastors can be toxic. It can invade the Body, eroding confidence in leadership and breaking down respect and submission. Without trustworthy leadership, the Church of Jesus Christ is doomed to frustrating immaturity in her members and halting progress in her mission. Christ’s antidote for pastoral youthfulness is not found in age or experience. Instead, it’s in exemplary living. Paul ordered young Timothy to set the standard for all the believers of his church. Paul detailed specific areas where young pastors must be example setters, and his very first was in speech.

Paul begins with the tongue, which is another inspired piece of Divine intentionality. Matters of speech mark and plague youth. While Christians of every age must guard their tongues, it seems a symptom of youth to use words with careless flippancy, characteristic thoughtlessness, and clever hubris. Combined with the public and verbal nature of the pastoral ministry, immature speech can be an instant cause of disdain for young pastors.

To cite a common example from the many available, consider Mark Driscoll. If you’re unfamiliar with his name or the brouhaha surrounding him, even a cursory internet search will give you more than ample proof that “controversy” is a mild description of what’s been going on.

(For what it’s worth, I think this sermon by my former pastor, Phil Johnson, is the best exegetical treatment of language from the pulpit I’ve heard to date. I’ve yet to see any substantive argument against his exegesis. In my use of the word, “substantive argument” does not equal “But I really like Mark” or “But he’s doing incredibly effective ministry in an incredibly pagan environment.” And if you want to read what I feel is a very helpful and non-pejorative critique, check out this article at My Two Cents.)

Without adding any more fuel to that fire, I bring up Driscoll for a reason. If nothing else (and there should be “else), the debate focusing on him should plainly warn all young pastors that speech matters. The words we use will be used to judge our youthfulness. And that’s entirely appropriate because God made it that way. If young pastors don’t want to be marginalized or disdained, they must set the standard for speech in public and private. If young pastors want to make much of Christ and the glory of the Gospel, they must consistently muzzle youthful speech and model biblical communication. If young pastors want believers to take them and their leadership seriously, their speech must not only meet but also set the biblical ideal.

At this point it is critical for us to examine the biblical standard for speech. If Timothy was to be an example, he had to know what the model was. Tradition is no basis for determining a standard. Culture, generational preferences, and family tendencies are all unsafe guides for evaluating the speech of young pastors. Exemplary speech is not about following traditional norms for levity or gravity. It’s not about determining the preferences of a culture or subculture and then meeting them. It’s not about avoiding pop words that make older people frown or employing cool lingo that impresses high schoolers.

The standard for exemplary speech is found in our only rule for faith and practice, the entirely authoritative and sufficient Scriptures. Not only does God’s Word dogmatically determine the boundaries for exemplary speech, it also provides all the boundaries needed for pastors living in the 21st century. With just a modicum of wisdom, young pastors should be able to evaluate language in their contemporary setting and successfully apply biblical principles. In the next post, I’d like to share just a few of those principles for exemplary speech.
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Monday, June 01, 2009

Young pastors and 1 Timothy 4:12

There’s no escaping it. Your pastors are young. No amount of pretending, facial hair, or new birthdays can hide what is plain to see. We’re young. If we can count on any reaction when we’re first introduced as pastors, specifically as pastors at Grace, it’s that we’ll get a quick look-over followed by the inevitable, “Wow, you’re so young.” And we neither deny that nor resent it.

Our confidence in the Word of God drives us as young pastors. If ministry goals, priorities, and success were left up to us, we’d be some very frustrated young men. If wisdom depended on age and experience, we’d be some very ineffective young men. If pastoring were only for the veteran and aged, we’d be some very unqualified young men. To God’s glory, however, the Bible is a sure and solid word for pastors regardless of age.

Precisely because of our awareness of our own age, several biblical passages hit very close to home. We treasure these passages, feed on them, depend on them. Specifically, Paul’s pastoral letters to young Timothy are a constant treasure trove of encouragement, conviction, and instruction. Over the next few posts, I’d like to consider with you some very personal and practical implications of 1 Timothy 4:12.

1 Timothy 4:12 opens with an extremely pointed command. Paul orders Timothy, “Let no one despise you for your youth.” Paul was aware of the distinct possibility that people might look down at Timothy with disdain, ridicule, and rejection. Paul targets Timothy’s “youth” as the object of that disdain. I don’t think that Paul is suggesting people would look down on Timothy merely because of his age. Implied is the host of immature baggage that attends youthfulness, as seen in the contrast that will complete the verse.

For all the good energy, idealism, and promise that come with young leaders, there are undeniable hazards as well. “Youth” can mean lack of testing. Young pastors have not gone through the crucible of day-in, day-out ministry and come out proven as faithful. “Youth” can mean lack of maturity. It can mean rash impetuousness, selfish pleasure seeking, reckless energy, and shortsighted living. But it does not have to.

Paul does not tell Timothy to live in paranoid fear of man’s opinion, constantly focusing on every raised eyebrow and condescending “You’ll know better when you’re older.” He does not leave Timothy with the impossible task of controlling the thoughts and attitudes of others. Instead, he gives him a clear personal responsibility that will stop others from despising his youth. Paul says young Timothy should be a stellar example.

Notice Paul does not tell Timothy to wait until he is older and wiser to pastor, or to find an aged mentor, or to get some more experience under his belt (all of which can be helpful). Paul’s concern with youthfulness is not about experience. It’s about example. If we as young pastors are to keep others from despising our youthfulness, then we should live as model biblical men.

The Holy Spirit intentionally chose five key areas where young pastors must clearly shine. Ever wonder why these five? There are a plethora of biblical commands and characteristics young pastors are just as responsible for as these. But I’m convinced that these five areas were particular challenges for Timothy and continue to be so for every other young pastor. The components of speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity pose unique dangers to the weaknesses and hence reputations of young pastors. In following posts, we’ll explore a more detailed look at all five of these crucial character priorities. Without being examples in these areas, your young pastors are doomed to be despised for their youth.
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