Archive for the ‘Ministry’ Category

Are you available to serve Christ’s church online from home?

I received the following email recently, and wanted to pass it along to anyone who might be interested…

Greetings from MNA SecondCareer!

As you may know, the purpose of our ministry is to match PCA church plants, churches, and other PCA ministries that have limited resources with adult PCA volunteers of all ages.  A year ago we sent an email to PCA churches across the country to recruit skilled volunteers who could serve via the Internet.  Many volunteers responded, but more are needed.  Would you please consider putting the following special announcement in your church newsletter or bulletin?  Or you could forward this email to someone in your congregation you think may be interested in serving.  Thank you.

 

Skilled Volunteers Needed to Serve PCA Ministries Via the Internet

Do you have a heart to serve and a specific skill that could be helpful to a PCA church planter, church, or other PCA ministry? Mission to North America’s SecondCareer Ministry is seeking adult volunteers of all ages to serve via the Internet.  The following are types of assistance frequently requested:

Admin assistance                                             Publicity/Marketing

Accounting                                                         Architect

Graphic Design                                                  Demographic Site Profiling

Website Development                                  Social Media

 

If you are interested in more information about serving with your skills via the Internet, please contact Barbara Campbell, MNA SecondCareer Facilitator, bcampbell@pcanet.org, 804-339-5005.

 

 

Ministers, never forget that piety must be at the foundation of any long continued & cheap usefulness in the church.

So said William Swan Plumer in a sermon on the call to the ministry (found in Princeton and the Work of the Christian Ministry, edited by James Garretson). But what does he mean by “cheap” usefulness? 

He explains: “The phrase ‘cheap usefulness’ is not employed without design. For it is not impossible for a man without piety, and under the influence of ambition, or false zeal, to be useful to some extent; but it will be at a tremendous expense. In compassing some good, he will create a world of mischief. At least his good, which perhaps first appears, will be followed by a train of evils, that may not cease their operation on earth in a century. Indeed, men of some real piety may do this in many ways; and how much more, men without it!”

May the Lord daily grant me and all His ministers a cheap usefulness!

Encouragement for pastors who are trying to turn a ship, with little success

The 19th century New Orleans Presbyterian pastor Benjamin Morgan Palmer, in a letter to a younger pastor, gives some great words of counsel to those who are discouraged by the pace and impact of their labors:

Can it be you have forgotten that we have God, and time and truth upon our side, and that we can afford to be patient? We belong to a system which is eternal, and which sweeps in cycles that utterly baffle all human comprehension. ‘One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day;’ and though this is far from being true of us, it is true of that divine scheme to which we have consecrated our lives, our hearts and our labors. It would be pleasant indeed to be permitted to move the church over an entire semicircle, or some larger segment still; but it is a matter of profound thanksgiving if we are used in pushing it forward but a single inch. If God allows ages to elapse in the erection of that splendid temple in which his praise is to be sung through all of a future eternity, it is perhaps enough for you and me to put but a single brick or stone into the glorious structure. Be sure, that in due season it will go up; and ‘the headstone be brought forth with shoutings, grace, grace unto it.’ — The Life and Letters of Benjamin Morgan Palmer, 143-144

The Posture of Christians to Homosexuality and Homosexuals

Last week I had the privilege of teaching on the subject of homosexuality and how Christians should think about and respond to it Biblically. If you haven’t read The Gospel and Sexual Orientation (the study committee report of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America) or The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (the conversion story of Rosaria Butterfield) or God and the Gay Christian? (Al Mohler’s response to Matthew Vines’ book claiming one can be a Christian and believe in/be in same sex relationships), I highly recommend you do so. There are other good resources out there, but these are a great place to start.

In this post, I want to think briefly about what the posture of Christians should be toward homosexuality and avowed homosexuals. Four things come to mind:

1. Humility – Paul writes in I Corinthians 6:9-11, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” This passage reminds us that homosexuality is a sin, but also that it is not the unforgivable sin – nor is it the only sin! To be sure, Paul in Romans 1 is clear that homosexuality is unnatural – that is, contrary to the way God designed humans to have sex by nature, one man and one woman. But all sin is unnatural in that it is contrary to the way God created us to live. All of us have sinned and continue to fall short of the glory of God. The Christian is one who has been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of Jesus and in the Spirit of God. We were enslaved to sin just like the unrepentant homosexual is enslaved to sin, just like the unrepentant greedy man or drunkard is enslaved to sin. And God rescued us by His grace. Of what do we have to boast, if salvation is by grace through faith in Christ alone? It is so easy for Christians to fall into the trap of the prideful Pharisee in Luke 18 – “At least I’m not as bad as those homosexuals.” Yet we were, Paul is saying, and it’s only by the grace of God that we are no longer found in the category of the “unrighteous.” The Scriptures are also clear that even as Christians, though we are forgiven and justified and regenerated, we continue to struggle with sin. By nature we are as bad as the worst sinner; the seeds of every sin are found in our heart, and it is only by the grace of God that we do not commit as much sin as we might. The temptations homosexuals face and embrace, though perhaps different than ours, are not foreign to our heart. So we take a posture of humility, not pride; apprehension, not condescension.

2. Compassion and Love – In Mark 10:21, we read that Jesus looked at the rich young ruler in all his sinful, idolatrous pride, and loved him – even though He knew the man would reject His call to sell all he had, give it to the poor, and follow Him. In Matthew 9:36-37, Jesus looked at the crowds, harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, and He had compassion for them. Ought not this same love and compassion mark the followers of Christ, as we see people rejecting Him, as we see people enslaved and damaged by their sin and the misery it brings into their lives? It is easy to grow belligerent and hostile toward homosexuals, especially when one sees the cultural conquest the homosexual community has achieved. Christians feel attacked, and tend to lash out on the defensive. Yet even when we are called to defend the truth as it is found in Scripture, we must do it with gentleness and reverence/respect (I Peter. 3:15). We must speak loving words, perform loving actions, think loving thoughts, feel compassion for those who might even hate us. Certainly it is how our Savior would treat them.

3. Fearlessness – Even as we humbly and lovingly approach those who believe that sex between two men or two women (or even between more than two people, or with animals, etc.), we must fearlessly and boldly proclaim the truth of God’s word and the standard of sexuality that He has declared there and placed into our very humanity. Too often Christians equate humility with docility, compassion with fear or quietness. But we must not be afraid to speak the truth in love. We must not fear to be persecuted for standing up for the Bible. We must boldly engage in conversations, relationships, discussions, arguments for the sake of Christ and the salvation of the lost. How many Christians even have a homosexual friend? Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty in ministry, even if it takes time and effort and costs you much. Jesus is with you, fear not!

4. Distress and Torment – One passage that is often unknown or overlooked in this whole discussion is II Peter 2:6-10, “If He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds),  then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.” We increasingly live in the world righteous Lot inhabited, and we ought to take a cue from righteous Lot’s response to the immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah: oppressed/distressed and torment. I think sometimes we believe such responses are not right or good or worthy of a Christian. Yet Peter tells us that being distressed and feeling oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men, feeling our soul tormented by lawless deeds, is a mark of the righteous man or woman. If/as homosexuality becomes the norm in America, and the Christian stance becomes unwelcome and blameworthy and even punishable by law, we should feel much distress and torment. Yet we must also know and believe what Peter teaches, that God knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment. Judgment belongs to the Lord. “What do I have to do with judging outsiders?…God judges those outside” (I Corinthians 5:12).

This fourfold posture is an awkward one to be sure – humility, love, boldness, torment. We are to hold ourselves in different directions, it seems. Yet by the grace of Christ we will be able to maintain this posture, as individuals, as families, and as the church, for His glory, the salvation of the lost, and the edification of His people.

Piety is Neccesary for Cheap Usefulness

William Swan Plumer, in his discussion of the qualifications for a call to gospel ministry, mentions first the necessity of piety. This piety must be real and not feigned; practical and consistent; somewhat matured; and unimpeached by the world. He states provocatively, “Piety must be at the foundation of any long continued and cheap usefulness in the church. The phrase ‘cheap usefulness’ is not employed without design. For it is not impossible for a man without piety, and under the influence of ambition, or false zeal, to be useful to some extent; but it will be at a tremendous expense. In compassing some good, he will create a world of mischief. At least his good, which perhaps first appears, will be followed by a train of evils, that may not cease their operation on earth in a century. Indeed, men of some real piety may do this in many ways; and how much more, men without it!”

May the Lord give us cheap usefulness all our days.

SDG,
Ezra

William Plumer on the Nature of a Call to the Gospel Ministry

Dr. Plumer begins his reflections on the Scripture doctrine of a call to the ministry by offering a few general comments, and by examining the nature of a call, i.e., what is a call to the ministry? He notes, first, that Jesus called the first disciples in order to prepare them for the ministry, not to minister per se. Perhaps it is not without some significance that most seminary courses are three years in duration, as this was the amount of time that Jesus spent with His disciples before sending them out alone to gather and pastor His sheep. Second, many pious men are “apt to be deterred from all thoughts of entering the ministry…while many others of doubtful piety, having in their compositions a spice of self-conceit and a dash of forwardness,” rush headlong into an office to which they are, in fact, not called. Third, he gives three answers to the query, “Who ought to study the question, ‘Am I called?'” 1) No person who is without piety need give the matter his attention; 2) No female is bound to study this subject for personal decision and action (I Tim. 2:12); and 3) It may be a safe rule for every male member of the church to inquire, “Am I called?” Obviously, Plumer notes, some will be able to answer the question in the negative in a matter of minutes; but they should ask the question nonetheless.

Dr. Plumer makes a couple of distinctions as he turns to consider the nature of a call to the ministry. First, he distinguishes between an extraordinary call and an ordinary call. The former is “one given under such circumstances as, in a marvellous and clear manner, show the will of God.” By its very nature, an extraordinary call is restricted to “days of miracles.” An ordinary call, on the contrary, is what has been given since the apostles departed from the scene; it is discovered by the “usual course of which duty becomes known, without any supernatural or marvellous indications of the will of God.” It may as clear as an extraordinary call, but “it must require more patience and longer time to ascertain it.”

The second distinction Dr. Plumer gives us is between two types of ordinary call: a general call and a special call. A general call is what every pious man or woman hears, calling them to “hold forth the word of life,” and to invite and command the lost to come to Jesus. It stems from the necessities of a world dead in sin, and requires every Christian to do what he or she is able to do. But the general call, “determines nothing as to the particular method, by the adoption of which, each one shall serve.” A special call, on the other hand, “is such a concurrence of qualities and events on an individual, as, if explained by the principles of the Bible and of common sense, will make it manifest that the will of God is that he, on whom the concurrence is, should enter the ministry.” Both the word of God and the providence of God speak to a man to call him to the gospel ministry, as every true gospel minister can affirm.

Of what that concurrence of qualities and events consists is the topic for a future post.

SDG,
Ezra

The Spirit in Which One Should Consider Whether One Is Called to Gospel Ministry

William Plumer, in his sermon, “The Scripture Doctrine of a Call to the Ministry,” reminds us that if we study “any subject involving moral truth, religious duty, and solemn responsibility” in an improper spirit, then that question “most probably will be determined sinfully.” Since the question of whether God is calling us to the ministry in His church is such a weighty one (for us and for the church!), what is the spirit with which we ought to approach the question? Dr. Plumer lists four characteristics that mark the pious inquirer:

1. We must approach it seriously, solemnly, reverentially. “He who jests, he who trifles, he who feels no solemn awe, when considering this matter, may well doubt not only his fitness for the ministry, but the reality of his piety.” The ministry is so serious a vocation, that we must not dare approach the question of whether we are called with anything less than the utmost reverence. If Moses had to take off his shoes, how much more do we need to tread lightly and carefully on this holy ground?

2. We must approach it in a spirit of “patient waiting on God, producing caution and deliberation.” The Bible speaks of people waiting on God whenever there is doubt, darkness, or difficulties, and certainly the question of whether we are called is often shrouded in these. Thus we must beware a spirit of haste. Plumer notes, “A man who acts without due deliberation is also guilty for so doing, even though his decision be materially right, and carried into effect.” How much more guilty, when our decision be wrong? We’ve all seen examples of how decisions that are hastily made are either foolish, or hastily abandoned. “He who hurries his footsteps, sins” (Prov. 19:2). So move slowly.

3. We must approach it with humility, producing candour. That is, we must have a just estimation of our abilities and lack thereof. “He who has real piety and much knowledge of himself must have genuine and deep humility, when he contemplates such an undertaking as that of a herald of the cross.” Wee must recognize our strengths as well as our weaknesses: “Neither will a disposition to deny one’s gifts and graces be any less dangerous than an extravagant self-conceit.” We should “think so as to have sound judgment” (Rom. 12:3).

4. We must approach it with docility – “a deep sense of the folly of mere human wisdom; a spirit of hearty prayer to God for the teaching of the Holy Ghost; a strong desire to know the truth, and an entire willingness to act upon the truth when known.” Study the examples of Samuel and Saul of Tarsus to learn more in this regard.

Plumer’s closing plea is still apropos: “Dear youthful Reader! if you have not the spirit just described, read no further, until you look to God through Christ for the influence of the Holy Ghost, to make you solemn, reverential, humble, candid, deliberate, docile, wise, and holy, in your aims and purposes.”