A Pastor Must be Educated and Capable

bible

Read the series so far.

When most Christians consider “qualification” for a Pastor, they usually turn to 1 Timothy 3 or Titus 1. These are good places to go, to be sure. But, there’s more. This little series looks at what core competencies a congregation ought to expect of its Pastor, from the Apostle Paul’s second letter to his protege, Timothy. In that letter, the Apostle wrote this:

guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us (2 Tim 1:14).

There is a “rule of faith,” a core content to the Christian message.[1] There always has been. Even here, sometime in the early to mid 60s A.D., Paul warned Timothy to guard and protect that faith, which has content. He wanted Timothy to guard against false teaching and false teachers who sought to corrupt that faith for their own ends.

The Bible letters is full of warnings about false teaching. Moses warned against it repeatedly. The prophets warned against it over and over. John the Baptist fought against it. Jesus taught against it. Paul wrote against it (e.g. Galatians). Peter wrote against it (see 2 Peter). Jude wrote against it. Just read the letter of 1 John!

There have always been people, from within and without, who have sought to pervert, “transform” and reinterpret the Christian faith into “another Gospel:”

  • In the Old Testament, the prophets continually rebuked Israel and Judah (and their leaders) for going through the outward show of devotion to Yahweh, while hurrying away to sacrifice to pagan gods on mountaintops (see, for example, Amos 4-6). They wanted to have a foot in both camps, and were often angry when the prophets confronted them.
  • In the time period between the Old and New Covenants (that is, between Malachi and Matthew!), legalism and works righteousness were a terrible problem. This is what John the Baptist and Jesus railed against the apostate Jewish leaders about (see, for example, Mark 7).
  • In the early apostolic era, in the decades after Jesus returned to heaven, they dealt with pre-gnostic influences. These were folks who denied the resurrection or Jesus’ death, and who believed what was done “in the flesh” had no moral meaning (see, for example, the entire book of 1 John).
  • In the post-apostolic era, there was a great controversy about whether Jesus was a created being, or co-eternal with God the Father. This dispute culminated in the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.), and continued to simmer for decades afterwards as Arian bishops fell in and out of favor with Roman emperors (both in the East and West).[2]
  • Some people today (and way back when, too) believe Jesus was a normal man, who was somehow “adopted” as Son by the Father.
  • In some corners of Church of Christ denominations, they believe water baptism is the agent that regenerates and saves you, along with repentance and faith. This is a works salvation.
  • Also, consider the false, Roman Catholic scheme of justification, where God brings you into a state of grace, and gives you the grace to merit and earn good works for yourself, and you have no final assurance of salvation.

The various flavors of heresy might change, but the song remain the same – people will try to pervert the pattern of sound words we find in Scripture. What does all this have to do with a Pastor? Two implications:

  1. he has to be an educated guy, and
  2. he has to be capable and competent guy

You expect your doctor to be a competent guy, and you expect him to have formal training to prepare him for his job. The same with police officers, accountants, teachers, firemen, pilots, air-traffic controllers, engineers, architects, construction men, administrators in organizations, and in local, state and federal government, etc. We expect both:

  1. competence, and
  2. an education that prepare these professionals to do their jobs

I’ve been in law enforcement and investigations for nearly 16 years, in addition to my professional training and experience in pastoral ministry. I’m the manager of a state-wide investigations unit, for a state agency. People expect me to have the education and competence to do my job. In fact, I testified in a formal judicial hearing just today. What do you suppose the subject’s attorney chose to attack first? I’ll tell you; my education, credentials, and competence. And, good for her for trying (too bad she failed, but that’s another story … !).

You should expect the same thing from a Pastor, or else he can’t “guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us,” (2 Tim 2:14). What, exactly, do I mean by “educated” and “capable,” then?

Education

The man must have some kind of formal theological training; a BA from a respectable institution should be a minimum requirement. A graduate degree would be better. This degree doesn’t have to be from an accredited institution; there are many good, unaccredited programs out there (e.g. Telos Biblical Institute, Tyndale Theological Seminary, Reformed Baptist Seminary, Whitefield Theological Seminary, etc.). But, to be sure, formal education in a professional field isn’t necessarily about teaching you everything you need to know. Education is about providing you a solid foundation to stand on, giving you the tools you need to do your business and “educating you” about the lay of the land, so you’ll be equipped to sharpen those tools and use them for the rest of your professional career.

This means you’re pushed hard to consider points of view you don’t like, and you’re forced to explain and defend what you believe, and why.

This means an educated and competent pastor:

  1. Won’t be shocked when he encounters someone who thinks Jesus never actually existed; he dealt with this at school.
  2. He won’t stammer when someone tells him we can’t trust the Bible, because the New Testament has been corrupted throughout the years, as copies of manuscripts were transmitted from person to person; he’s you’ve seen this before!
  3. He’ll laugh when someone tells him the Greek text in John 1:1 doesn’t teach that Jesus has eternally existed; he’s studied the original languages and knows this is ridiculous!

An educated Pastor has the foundation and tools to guard the Gospel, protect his congregation, and help Christians who might be confused or led astray by some of the heretical madness out there.

Capable

How many of you have known people with degrees who were about as sharp as butter knives, and who were completely incompetent at their jobs? It’s a fact that some people are promoted beyond their abilities. It doesn’t mean they aren’t wonderful, nice people – it just means they have no business in that position; it’s bad for everybody!

Guess what? The pastorate isn’t any different; a degree doesn’t guarantee anything. A capable pastor wants to keep learning more, because he loves God and His Word, and can actually do the job (i.e. teach, preach, counsel, lead, have spiritual discernment, use the tools he gained at university and Seminary, etc.).

A doctor who graduated from medical school in 1985, and hasn’t attended any continuing education seminars since the day he graduated, hasn’t cracked open a medical journal, and hasn’t kept up with his field is a worthless and unprepared doctor! I actually had a Pastor on my ordination council who boasted that he hadn’t read any theological works since he graduated from Bible College in 1975!

“Capability” means a commitment to continuous learning, and the ability to actually use the tools he received at school to become a better Christians and a better Pastor. Paul told Timothy he had to “guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us,” (2 Tim 1:14)

How can an overweight, out of shape guy guard anything if he doesn’t know how to do his job, and isn’t capable of doing his job? That’s a simple metaphor, but the plain fact is that Timothy can’t guard the faith unless he’s been formally trained and equipped to know what that faith is, and he’s competent and capable enough to actually use those tools to help he and his congregation to grow in the faith, and fulfill their mission to reach its community with the Gospel.

Notes

[1] For a short survey of the earliest creeds and confessions, as well as the concept of a “rule of faith” in the early patristic era, see David Beale, Historical Theology In-Depth: Themes and Contexts of Doctrinal Development Since the First Century, 2 vols. (Greenville, SC: BJU Press, 2013), 1:207-222.

[2] For an outstanding discussion of the Council of Nicea and its context, see Beale (Historical Theology, 1:231 – 260).

A Pastor Must Follow the Bible

bibleRead the series so far.

What on earth should a congregation look for in a Pastor? A hip haircut? A charismatic personality? A minimum number of FaceBook followers? A guy who posts cliched Instagram pictures of his open Bible and a cup of coffee, just like this one? A man who looks “relevant” and “edgy,” like this guy? A man who’s “woke,” as they say?

Is that what we need in our churches? A “woke,” hip, relevant man-child, aged 50-ish, who dresses like this guy (yes, that man is a pastor – no joke)? A guy like Ignatius, the awesome Youth Pastor?

No.

Let’s return to reality for a moment or two; a safe space where the bistro table pulpits are donated to Goodwill, the pathetic posturing is dropped, the virtue signaling ends, and the weird, hipster clothes are burned in a pyre, just like Darth Vader.

Let’s return to the real world, where we need real Pastors who provide real leadership to real people who face real problems, in the real world.

Let’s do the most un-“woke” thing possible to answer this question. Let’s go to the Bible …

Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 1:13)

Paul taught Timothy everything he knows, with a bit of help from his mother and grandmother along the way. He told Timothy to follow his example about “sound words.” Now, brace yourselves, but Paul is dead.

Yes, it’s true.

He didn’t leave any YouTube videos or mp3 recordings behind for us to find, and Nero deleted Paul’s FaceBook page once he had him executed. This means the only place we’ll find Paul’s words, so we can follow them, is in the preserved Word of God – the Bible

The Bible was written by over 40 men, over the course of 1500 years, and we believe God moved each of those men to record and write exactly what He wanted them to write. As one Baptist confession puts it:

We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction; that it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter; that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us; and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried (1833 NHCF, Article 1)

God then preserved these books (through the thousands of copies and their mass distribution, and the reverence God’s people have always had for them) down through the centuries so we could have them on our laps, phones, or tablets today.

So, Paul is telling us a Pastor has to be a guy who’s completely committed to following what the Bible says. This might seem obvious, but it isn’t so obvious. Just consider the four “big questions” I mentioned in the last article; how can you answer any of these questions unless you’re committed to interpreting and following God’s Word, in God’s way?

Creation: how did we get here?

Were Adam and Eve real people, or just story figures created by a writer to make a point? Are men and women really the highest of all God’s creations, and made in His image, with all the implications for human dignity, value and worth this implies? Did God actually create the world, or did it somehow come into being out of nothing? Is our world designed by an intelligent Creator, or the product of random chance?

There are people who claim to be Christian today who deny every one of these things, and some of them even claim to be conservative!

If you believe God’s Word speaks today, and is relevant, then you’ll be laughed at by the world – if a man can’t handle that, and isn’t prepared to have a conversation about why God’s right and the scoffers are wrong (more on that in a moment!), then he can’t be a Pastor

Fall: why are things the way they are? Why do bad things happen?

Does Satan actually exist? Does God have laws, rules, and the power, authority and jurisdiction to hold His creatures accountable for them? Are men and women really ruined by sin, born as children of wrath who are under the power and control of Satan, whom Paul calls the prince of the power of the air? Hurricanes, floods, famines, tsunamis, murders, rapes, domestic abuse, child abuse, robbery, death itself – is all this the way God made the world? Is this what He desires for the world?

There are people who call themselves Christians today, who claim to love and follow God’s Word, who couldn’t answer those questions in a straightforward way

Redemption: how can things be fixed? How can they be set right?

Did Jesus actually exist? For over 100 years, some alleged Christians have argued that we don’t know who the “real Jesus” actually is[1]. Did God really send Jesus to willingly and voluntarily die in our place, as our divine substitute, for God’s wrath to be satisfied, to atone and pay for sins, and to reconcile us to Him?

Some Christians hate the idea of substitutionary atonement, calling it “divine child sacrifice.” Did Jesus really obey God’s law perfectly, because we can’t? Did Jesus really rise from the dead, to destroy Satan’s power over men and women, “and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage,” (Heb 2:15)?

Was He really seen by hundreds of eyewitnesses, and then ascend back to the Father’s side in heaven, to intercede and be the eternal advocate and High Priest for everyone who repents and believes in His message of eternal forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation?

Some “Christians” believe the miracles in the Bible are just “stories,”

Restoration: will things ever be fixed?

Is Jesus coming back to defeat Satan and set things right? Will there be an eternal state, where Satan is in hell, everything is made new and “good” again, and Father and Son rule and reign together, and there is peace on earth? Will there be a final judgment, where everyone will stand before Jesus Christ, Lord of Lords, and give an account for whether He’s obeyed or rejected the command to repent and believe the Gospel?

Implications

So, when Paul says “follow the pattern of sound words,” he means Timothy has to commit himself to preaching and teaching the same message Jesus taught, and Jesus’ message is grounded in the Old Testament and all the precious promises it contains!

The Pastor can’t be a slave to church traditions that are unbiblical. He also can’t be an innovator who wants to “update” the Gospel for today’s culture, because we allegedly “know more” than Paul, Peter, John and Jesus did.

Instead, he must be committed to follow the pattern of sound words we find in the Bible:

  1. A Creation that was made perfect in the beginning, to glorify and honor God;
  2. The rebellion that ruined everything in the world, including us;
  3. God’s plan to redeem and remake Creation, and to save some of us from ourselves along the way by way of His eternal son, who lived a perfect life for us in our place and willingly died for our sins, in our place, as our substitute, and rose from the dead to defeat Satan and the curses of sin and death;
  4. And, he must be committed to and believe the promise that Jesus is coming back one day to defeat all enemies, establish His kingdom, and rule over a new and better creation, and all of us who repent and believe in the Good News will be there with Him, to worship and serve Him for eternity.

In short, the Pastor has to be committed to following the Bible!

This series is based on three sermons I recently preached. The audio is below. Here are the sermon notes for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Audio Part 1 – 

Audio Part 2 – 

Audio Part 3 – 

Notes

[1] The various quests for the “historical Jesus” are complicated. I commend folks who spend their scholarly careers interacting with these revisionists, but I don’t feel the need to offer a “nuanced” view of this controversy here.

A Pastor Must be a Leader, Not a Coward

lionRead the rest of the series.

Paul tells Timothy something very important, and it’s so obvious and so clear that we sometimes take it for granted – a pastor must be a leader, not a coward. In 2 Timothy 1:1-7, Paul reminds Timothy to “rekindle” the pastoral gifts he had, which God had given him through the Holy Spirit. In other words, don’t be depressed. Don’t despair. Don’t give up your fight for the Gospel. Don’t give in to laziness. Let your love of Christ and His Gospel burst into “flames” of enthusiasm, and serve the Lord with passion!

Why was this reminder even necessary? Why did Paul tell this to Timothy? Because it’s natural for a guy to become timid, to slink back, to tuck his head into his shell like a timid little turtle, to start treading lightly as the storm clouds of persecution began to crash out against Christians in the Roman Empire. Remember the apostles immediately after Jesus’ execution!

But, the point here is that God didn’t give Timothy (or any Christian) a spirit of timidity, of cowardice, of fearful fright. Instead, he gave him power. The power of the Spirit, to aid us when we’re afraid. The power of direct access to the Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord, the captain of our salvation who blazed that trail for us, right through the compartments of tabernacle, past that torn and obsolete curtain, right to the very throne of grace.

God gave Timothy love. This means love for one another, love for the Gospel, love for the Father, love for His eternal Son Jesus Christ, and love for the Spirit who gives us spiritual life and draws us to salvation.

He also gave us discipline or self-control. The self-control to do what’s right, no matter what pressures are brought to bear by the Accuser. The discipline to lead a congregation to follow and worship the Lord in spirit and truth, no matter what the culture says.

Paul continues …

Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control (2 Tim 1:6-7)

Let me be as plain as vanilla ice cream right now, and tell you straight-out:

  • A Pastor can’t be a coward!
  • A Pastor can’t be timid!
  • A Pastor can’t be afraid to stand for the truth!
  • A Pastor can’t be afraid of people, including Christians!

This is what Paul told Timothy. These are critical times for Christians, and we need leaders in our churches who:

  • care about the Gospel,
  • and have the spirit of power,
  • and have a love for God
  • and the discipline to be fearless, persuasive, winsome and passionate ambassadors for the Good News of Jesus Christ

You can’t do that if you’re terrified about what people think about you or the Gospel. If you love God, you’ll want to defend Him and proclaim Him to the world. Make no mistake, organizations across this entire land (secular and Christian) are filled with so-called leaders who are cowards. You’ve worked for some in the past. You may even work for some right now. You know what I’m talking about. Christians can be very skilled at spiritualizing incompetence, because we want to be loving and kind.

  • A man might not be able to teach his way out of a wet paper bag,
  • might not know Augustine from Anselm,
  • might have a spine as stiff as a soggy spaghetti noodle,
  • but if he’s a nice guy who loves the Lord, some congregations are willing to make him their Pastor

Don’t do it – a Pastor can’t be a coward, not with the pressures and challenges he faces every day. He must be a leader. That’s exactly what Paul turns to next:

Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel in the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago, and now has manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, and therefore I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me (2 Tim 1:8-12)

Folks, a Pastor can’t be a wilting flower of a guy. He must be mentally tough. He needs to be willing to never be ashamed of the Gospel, and its implications for every single facet of your life.

The Christian life is a worldview, an inter-related network of beliefs and convictions that combine together to inform how we view this world – the Christian faith is a picture and story that interprets reality; that explains “the way things are:”[1]

  1. Creation: how did we get here?
  2. Fall: why are things the way they are? Why do bad things happen?
  3. Redemption: how can this be fixed? How can things be set right?
  4. Restoration: will things ever be fixed?

Every worldview, every religion (yes, atheism and scientific naturalism is a religion; I’m also tempted to believe politics are a religion for some people, too! 😊) has a set of beliefs that seek to explain these four, most basic concepts and, together, they form the skeleton you use to interpret and understand the world around you.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ answers each of these four “big questions” in a way no others can (because it’s the only truth😊), and this message has implications that should echo and reverberate throughout every nook, cranny, corner and closet of your life. If your local church doesn’t have a leader who is willing to understand that, and can’t lead your congregation individually and corporately to impact your community, friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and enemies with this picture of reality (the only true picture of reality), then he’s not fit to be a leader of a Christian church.

The Pastor must be a leader – his job is too important.

I preached two sermons on these and eight other “marks of a good pastor.” The notes are here (Part 1) and here (Part 2), and the audio is below:

Audio – Part 1

Audio – Part 2 

Notes

[1] These days, there are plenty of books which discuss the idea of a Christian worldview. One of the most helpful, I believe, is Gregory Koukl’s book The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How it Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017). His book is really a description of the Christian “story” for seekers; that is, unbelievers who are interested in finding out what Christianity is about. It’s a wonderful book to give to someone who fits this description.

My description of the Christian worldview as a “picture” or “story of reality,” along with the four “big questions,” are taken from his book. Again, I’ve heard and read this all before, but Koukl did a masterful job of distilling these concepts here.

Marks of a Good Pastor (Part 1)

marksWhat should a congregation look for when considering a Pastor? What are the requirements? What are the marks of a good and faithful Pastor?

Nice hair? A hip personality? Someone who’s “cool” and “relevant?” A guy who’s 50, but dresses like a confused teenager? Someone who ditches a pulpit for a bistro table, and looks like he’s wearing his wife’s jeans? The truth is much more serious than that.

Many Christians instinctively turn to 1 Timothy 3, and Titus 1 to answer this question. That’s nice, but I’m not gonna go there. Instead, I’m going to work my way through 2 Timothy 1-2, and look for some answers. Here’s what I have so far:

  1. A Pastor must to be a leader, not a coward
  2. A Pastor must be committed to the Bible
  3. A Pastor must be educated, capable and competent

The sermon notes are here, and the sermon audio is below. There’ll be more in next week’s sermon …