A Word Fitly Spoken: 11 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor

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I hope you have the blessing of sitting under good, biblical preaching at your church. I do. I’m always so thankful to hear God’s word beautifully preached in my own church, and I’m thankful for the all of the other godly men out there laboring faithfully each week to proclaim the truth of the gospel to the sheep God has entrusted to them.

Are you thankful for your pastor and a church that rightly handles God’s word? Are you telling anybody you’re thankful? Are you telling your pastor?

The ministry is a tough job, and pastors need all the encouragement they can get. Sometimes it’s the little things you say and do that can be a blessing to your pastor and make his job easier and more joyful. Proverbs 25:11 says:

Here are eleven ways you can encourage your pastor (and don’t forget your associate pastor, minister of music, youth pastor, etc.!)

1.

Pray for your pastor

Some specifics you can pray for:

💭 His wife and children

💭 His stress level, and for peace

💭 His finances and provision

💭 His marriage, and that he will be a good father

💭 That God will grow him in his understanding and handling of Scripture

💭 That God will grow him in discernment, and guard him from being influenced by false teachers/doctrine

💭 That God will protect him from temptation and lead him to repentance when he sins

💭 And here are even more ways to pray for your pastor.

Remember to tell your pastor you’re praying for him, and ask him if there’s anything in particular you can pray for him about.

2.
Show Up

First of all, Scripture says you’re supposed to be a faithful, active member of your local church. Second, it’s very discouraging to pastors when church members who are perfectly able to attend faithfully simply choose to let other, non-essential things take precedence.

3.
Be Present

Pay attention, be engaged, and have a pleasant look on your face during the sermon. If you’ve ever stood in front of a group of people, you know how easy it is to tell who’s “with you” and who’s not. And the more “with yous” there are out there, the more encouraging it is.

4.
A Word of Thanks

Just say thank you. Thank you for being my pastor, for being faithful to the Word, for encouraging me, for working so hard, for studying well…

5.
Submit to His Leadership

Take Hebrews 13:17-18 seriously:


Yes, there are abusive pastors out there. Yes, there are pastors who are flagrantly disobedient to Scripture in their leadership. If that’s your pastor, leave that church and find a pastor you can trust (yes, I know it’s hard), and whose leadership you can submit to. Don’t be the constantly complaining, argumentative, nit picky thorn in your pastor’s side.

6.
Don’t Major on the Minors

If you do need to speak to your pastor about something you disagree with him about, whenever possible, try to make sure it’s a biblical issue rather than an issue of preference, and make sure you do it in love and kindness, not in an attacking way.

7.
Wait, Mr. Postman…

Isn’t it nice to open your mail or e-mail and find something besides bills and bad news? Send your pastor a note, card, or e-mail of encouragement.

8.
C is for Cookie (and Calories)

Think before you bake. When I want to send someone a little token of encouragement, my first instinct is always to bake something. But a lot of pastors, like everyone else these days, are dieting, so use wisdom. Maybe a gift card to his favorite store or restaurant, a book by his favorite author, or a service he needs performed would be better. Here are some more ideas if you want to give your pastor a token of appreciation.

9.
A Word Fitly Spoken

Tell your pastor something you learned from the sermon or how God has been growing you through his preaching. Let him know how your Sunday school class is maturing. Tell him about the good progress that’s being made in the committee you serve on or the ministry you serve in.

10.
Perfect Timing

Do not pull your pastor aside right before the service to discuss anything that could wait until later. He needs to be focused on preaching and worship. And don’t detain him for long after the service, either. He’s probably hungry, tired, has to go to the bathroom, and wants to get home to his family. Make an appointment during the week.

11.
Nobody’s Perfect

Remember that your pastor is human. He’s going to sin. He’s going to get things wrong. Don’t assume he knows why you’re upset with him. Don’t hold a grudge. Extend the same grace you would to anyone else, and forgive.

What are some other ways we can encourage our pastors?

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Road Trip!

I’m on the road with my family today, traveling to speak at a women’s conference in the Memphis area tomorrow, and then on to visit loved ones. Your prayers are much appreciated.

Lots of great content coming your way over the next several days, so stick around. Lord willing, I’ll be back late next week.

Throwback Thursday ~ I Can’t Sit Down, Shut Up, and Play Nice

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Originally published November 6, 2015

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“She’s at it again, going off the deep end about some church or Christian celebrity who does things just a little differently. She’s so nit picky, judgmental, and divisive. Why doesn’t she just shut up and be nice?”

That’s what I imagine most of my friends on my (personal) Facebook page are thinking whenever I post something about the latest false doctrine or false teacher. Maybe that’s what you think, too. “Ugh. One of those dreaded discernment bloggers.”

I don’t consider myself a discernment blogger, but rather a discipleship blogger. Discernment (warning against false teachers and false doctrine) is part of discipleship, but so is missions and evangelism, Bible study, and assorted “Christian living” topics, all of which I try to cover in balance.

Nobody seems to mind those latter topics, but a lot of people get their noses out of joint when I call attention to a false teacher, an unbiblical doctrine or practice, or an apostate “church.” I have been asked why I hate women. I’ve been told I’m what’s wrong with Christianity. And, I’ve been called every name in between for pointing out “Christian” teachers, doctrines, and “churches” that behave and teach in ways which directly contradict Scripture.

Who needs that? Who needs the hassle and emotional stress of being attacked, especially when you’re not even getting paid for it? Why don’t I just drop the discernment portion of my blog and social media and blow rainbows and unicorns up everybody’s skirt? It’s certainly a formula that works for other bloggers who choose to go that route, and everybody would be happier.

Well, let me tell you a little story.

I recently shared the gospel with someone who claimed to be a Christian. Why would I do that? If she says she’s a Christian, she must be one, right? Wrong. Before I shared the gospel with her, I asked her to explain her understanding of the gospel to me. Instead of talking about repenting of her sin and placing her faith in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection to save her from her sin, she gave me a laundry list of ways she was a good church member and all the activities she had ever participated in at her church. The name of Jesus did not come up once, nor did the cross, sin, nor repentance.

In case she had misunderstood my question, I then gave a very simple, biblical explanation of the gospel. She proceeded to tell me how wrong that was according to the teachings of her church. You see, all her life, this lady has belonged to an apostate church that teaches a false gospel of works righteousness (your own good works make you righteous before God, instead of Christ’s work on the cross).

This is a very real lady who really believes she’s a Christian who’s going to spend a very real eternity in Hell unless she repents and believes what the Bible says about salvation. Which is not what her so-called church is teaching her.

That’s why I do discernment work. Because real people’s eternities are at stake. False doctrine is not some trivial little difference of opinion over nothing issues in the church like pews versus chairs or what color the sanctuary carpet is. I’m not being judgmental or hateful over unimportant preferences.

People are dying and going to Hell forever
because they’ve been taught false doctrine. 

And sometimes I wonder if anybody gets that.

So, if that’s what’s so important, why don’t I limit myself to writing about “first tier” issues like works righteousness or the deity of Christ which directly affect a person’s salvation? Does it really matter if churches allow practicing homosexuals to be church leaders or allow women to preach to, teach, and exercise authority over men?

Yeah, it does. Because if you take a look at churches that have their first tier issues wrong, they took their initial steps down the road to that destination by compromising and disobeying Scripture on issues, such as homosexuality and female usurpation, which are indirectly related to salvation. In other words, by the time the cancer has metastasized, it’s too late. Early detection, early cure.

Galatians 5 and 1 Corinthians 5 put it like this:

A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

In the same way that a couple of teaspoons of yeast leaven my entire batch of dough and a few cancer cells will grow and spread throughout the whole body, so, a little false doctrine, if left unchecked, will spread throughout the local Body of Christ and eventually kill it.

I care about y’all. I care about your churches. I don’t want to see a single person damned or church turn apostate. It absolutely breaks my heart when I encounter women who don’t know the gospel or have a complete misunderstanding of Scripture simply because that’s what they’ve been taught by a so-called church or a “Christian” celebrity that they trusted. These things should not be. Christ loves you and wants you to have a right relationship with Him and a right understanding of Him and His word. And I couldn’t live with myself – or Him – if I didn’t tell you that.

My voice and my platform are small. I don’t reach the millions of people the false teachers on the shelf at your local Christian bookstore reach. I am flawed and far from perfect. But I will continue to do everything I can, as biblically as I can, where I am and with what God has given me, to reach the women God places in my path in real life an on line with the glorious truth of His word.

Eternities are at stake. The church is at stake. I can’t sit down, shut up, and play nice.

The Women of Genesis: Lesson 12- Sarah and Hagar

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

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Read Genesis 16

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Questions to Consider

1. Briefly review lesson 11 (link above) since it is basically part 1 of the lesson on chapter 16. Refresh your memory on Sarah’s “trust issues” with God.

2. Read verses 1-6 from Hagar’s perspective. What was Hagar’s station in life? (1) The ESV renders Hagar’s position as “servant”, but to our 21st century mindset, it might be more helpful to use the NIV and CSB’s rendering of “slave”.

3. As a slave, what rights would Hagar have had over her personhood? Over her own body? Was Hagar asked if she wanted to sleep with Abraham or serve as a surrogate? Examine Genesis 30:1-8. In a “surrogacy by slave” situation, the baby was considered by society and the family to be whose child, the slave’s or the wife’s? Did Hagar have any rights to her own son? What are some thoughts or emotions Hagar may have experienced as she went through this situation?

4. When we read a story like this one, it’s very important that we understand the culture of the time. Imagine hearing this story on tomorrow night’s newscast. A man and his wife buy a female slave. The wife gives the slave to the husband for him to forcibly impregnate, with the plan that the resulting child will belong to the couple. It sounds like a TV crime drama on human trafficking, and, indeed, if this happened today in America, the husband and wife would both be criminally liable for their actions. In what ways can viewing this story through our current worldview help us to see the sin involved in what Abraham and Sarah did to Hagar? In what ways can a 21st century perspective lead us to misunderstand this story? How does understanding Abraham’s, Sarah’s, and Hagar’s culture, and the way it would have viewed slavery and slave surrogacy, help us to understand this story correctly? Does culture or era change whether or not something is a sin?

5. In Sarah’s and Hagar’s culture, the main way women achieved status, and were viewed as blessed and successful by society, was by bearing children, particularly sons. How does this piece of cultural information help you understand both Sarah’s and Hagar’s reactions in verses 4-6?

6. In lesson 11, we looked at how Abraham, as a godly husband, should have responded in verse 2. Did Abraham lead his wife in a godly way in verse 6? How could he have led her in a godly way? How did Hagar react to Sarah’s harsh treatment? (6)

7. Read verses 7-16. How many times is the phrase “angel of the Lord” used? Who is the angel of the Lord? Many theologians consider this appearance of the angel of the Lord to be a Christophany. What evidence do you see in this passage that might point to that conclusion?

8. What character trait did Hagar seem to be lacking in verse 4? How might her obedience to God’s instruction to her in verse 9 have grown her in that aspect of her character? Compare verses 9-10 to James 4:10.

9. Examine the end of verse 11 and the footnote. What does the name Ishmael mean? Compare this with what Hagar calls God in verse 13, and the name of the well in verse 14 (see footnotes). What would all of these descriptions of the character of God have meant in Hagar’s life? What does it mean in your life that God hears and sees you?

10. Compare and contrast Hagar’s trust and obedience to the Lord in 7-16 to Sarah’s distrust and disobedience to the Lord in 1-6.

11. Compare verses 7-16 with Luke 1:26-38, and make a list of any similarities you see. How does Hagar’s story point us ahead to Christ?


Homework

Read my article 5 Ways to Face Tests and Trials Biblically and apply it to either Sarah’s or Hagar’s (or both) situation in chapter 16. What was God’s purpose for the test she went through? What were some opportunities she had to obey God in her situation? What would her words and actions have been like if she had trusted God more?


Suggested Memory Verse

So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”
Genesis 16:13

Testimony Tuesday: “God Used a Discernment Ministry in My Life”

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Recently, there’s been a lot of pushback against online discernment ministries. There’s no question that some of them are vile and ungodly, and the perpetrators of these sites, in many cases, should face discipline from their home churches. But that doesn’t mean that all online ministries that do discernment work are bad or should be banished. I’d like to share with you the testimonies of some sisters
who have been helped by discernment ministries.


If it wasn’t for online discernment ministries I would still be a Beth Moore groupie, a tossed salad Christian who accepted everything and everyone that called themselves “Christian”.

I just want to say if it wasn’t for women who teach about discernment, I know I would be so lost believing false teachers because I did follow [a false teacher]. I’m so grateful I found out about this person and will not follow that person anymore. I thank you for your how you have helped me see the truth and set me free.

If it wasn’t for discernment ministries I would still be in the Assemblies of God church that has gone Emergent, and I wouldn’t have known about the New Apostolic Reformation movement that my Foursquare Church embraced in the 90’s and almost messed up my theology and eschatology. My spirit was bearing witness and I was alone…. [Discernment] ministries explained and named the names with real research and quotes and videos and the abundance of SCRIPTURE to help me “armor up”!!

For two years I adored Priscilla Shirer and felt like I got to know God better. My fire for His Word did come alive…but after seeing that she belongs to the false teachers “club”, and with your encouragement to just TAKE THE BIBLE AND STUDY IT – I AM doing it! My heart was sad and upset and frustrated that I might have been led astray from true Bible study principles for too long and too far, but this morning God led me to Philippians 1:18: “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,”. It removed my guilt and anger… I am thankful for the circumstances that He used to get my attention and get me back to His Word, and I am excited to do it the RIGHT way this time!

I just want to let you know that your site has been a tremendous blessing to me. I’ve been praying for a long time and my prayer has been, “Lord lead me and guide me into Your truth. Direct my path. I want Your truth. I want teachers and pastors who teach Your truth.”

For the last 10+ years, I was a regular attendee of [churches I now know were] Word of Faith/prosperity/positive speaking and thinking churches and I just couldn’t understand why I was continuing to die spiritually. I had faith. I tithed faithfully and I still couldn’t understand why I had no “real” visible victory in my life. Although I had seen, heard and experienced strange things, I remained because I did not want to church hop. But then things took a real dive and I could not remain any longer under those teachings.

I did several Google searches seeking biblically sound churches in my area; what and who false teachers are (I never expected to find lists naming people); biblically sound teachers/pastors, etc. Your website came up in the search along with a few others and a site for finding a biblically sound church. I am now at a church where expository teaching is done (first I knew anything about such; the pastor is a Master’s Seminary grad). I’ve watched many of Justin Peters’ and John MacArthur’s YouTube videos and from your site, I’ve discovered good women teachers to follow.

Step by step, I’m letting go of the false and wrong teachings and beliefs that were a part of my learning. I love how Justin Peters says (and I’m paraphrasing) “If you want to know God’s will, read the Bible. If you want to hear Him speak, read the Bible out loud.” WHAT??? That right there blew my mind in overdrive. You mean there’s no deep mystery, going deeper, secret prayer, speaking it into existence, secret handshake or sowing of seeds that I need to perform or do to know what God’s will is?

It’s really unlearning a lot of the wrong/false/bad teachings and learning God’s word for myself.


Ladies, God is still at work in the hearts and lives of His people, including yours! Would you like to share a testimony of how God saved you, how He has blessed you, convicted you, taught you something from His word, brought you out from under false doctrine, placed you in a good church or done something otherwise awesome in your life? Private/direct message me on social media, e-mail me (MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com), or comment below. Try to be brief (3-4 paragraphs or less) if possible. I’ll select a few to share on the blog another time. Let’s encourage one another with God’s work in our lives!

The Mailbag: I Have to Preach Because No Man Will Step Up

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I’ve recently met a woman who is a “pastor” of a church. When asked why she is preaching to men, her response was this:

“Men will not teach. None will stand up. We started as a congregation of women and slowly some husbands came, as well as their sons. But none will take responsibility. So if I do not speak truth and stand up, who will?”

This was in another country I recently visited where men do not take authority, nor do they desire it. Women are primary in every area.

This is a difficult situation to be in, and I do sympathize. I’ve been in church and family situations in which men were not being the godly leaders they were supposed to be. It’s very frustrating. Even more so in the case of your friend, because Scripture prohibits women from stepping in and taking over when a man will not lead the church.

But in addition to the fact that the Bible is very clear that your friend is not to preach to men, she’s doing a terrible job as “pastor” on several other counts:

✢ She doesn’t believe God’s Word.

✢ She doesn’t trust God enough to obey His Word.

✢ She doesn’t fear God enough to obey His Word.

✢ She doesn’t believe in the necessity of prayer, or in God’s provision, enough to ask Him to provide a pastor.

✢ She’s not teaching her “congregation” to cry out to the Lord and trust Him to provide. Instead, she’s teaching them to take matters into their own hands when they need something, even if it means disobeying God’s Word. (Kind of like Sarah did.)

✢ She’s teaching her “congregation” that they it’s OK to disobey God if it’s difficult or inconvenient to obey Him.

✢ She’s teaching the women that they don’t have to submit to God’s design for biblical womanhood.

✢ She’s teaching the men to continue to be lazy and shirk their God-given duty to lead. Why should they when a woman is all too willing to step in and do the work for them?

She asks, “If I do not speak truth and stand up, who will?”. My answer to that question is, “That’s God’s business to take care of, not yours.” Her business is to obey Him and trust Him to work out everything else. And besides, she’s not “standing up and speaking truth”, she’s standing up and speaking or demonstrating all the untruths I enumerated above.

My counsel to this woman would be to immediately step down as “pastor,” stop preaching to and instructing the men, and publicly repent to God and to everyone in the church for her sins of disobeying God’s Word and setting a bad example for the church. She should inform them that she will no longer be preaching but that she will be praying for God to raise up a pastor, either from among the men of the church or from outside the church.

The men and women can, and should, meet to pray and sing together every Sunday. One of the other women (the former “pastor” needs to sit out of leadership for a while) can certainly teach a women’s Bible study class. But if the men want a Bible teacher or pastor, one of them is going to have to step up and do it. And the women need to be sure they’re holding their ground and refusing to step into that role. What a godly testimony of obedience they will be to the men! Hopefully, it will shame the men over their own disobedience.

God doesn’t give anyone permission to disobey Him just because it’s hard or inconvenient. It was the hardest thing in the world for Jesus to go to the cross, but He did it anyway because He was obedient to His Father. He was willing to die rather than disobey. That is the example she needs to follow.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
Hebrews 12:4

In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:6

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
Psalm 37:5

When we face tests of our faith, it is not time to take the easy way out and sin, it is God stretching us and giving us an opportunity to trust and obey Him so He can use that situation as a vehicle for growing us to greater maturity and Christlikeness.

This lady, and the rest of the church, has the opportunity here to cry out fervently to God to provide them with a pastor and then trust Him to act on their behalf.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:7-11

Which would bring more glory to God and be more of a testimony to His greatness: for this lady to have taken matters into her own hands and sinned, or for her and the rest of the women to obey God, for everyone to pray and trust God for a pastor, and then to have the awesome experience of God answering that prayer?

There’s nothing amazing, especially in that culture, about men being lazy and women stepping in and picking up the slack. Why have a Christian church that is supposed to be following the all powerful God of the universe be just one more example of that? Instead, they could have an incredible testimony of God providing a pastor and changing the hearts of the men of the church to take responsibility and lead. What kind of an impact would that have on the surrounding culture? How many doors might that open for that church to share the gospel?


Additional Resources

Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit

Basic Training: Obedience: 8 Ways to Stop Making Excuses and Start Obeying Scripture

Basic Training: 5 Ways to Face Tests and Trials Biblically


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Guest Post: Building a Biblically Healthy Women’s Ministry (by a pastor, for pastors)

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If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com,
and let’s chat about it.

 

Building a Biblically Healthy Women’s Ministry
(by a pastor, for pastors)

by Pastor John Chester

It is no secret that I am not a fan of discernment ministries, and that I think the concept of Biblical discernment is grossly misunderstood by many. But that in no way means that I don’t think telling truth from error and sound theology from errant (or even heretical) theology is unimportant.

And nowhere is it more important than in women’s ministry. The reason I say that is simple, more than 50% of the people in our churches are either women or they are growing into women. According to The Pew Research Center 55% of those attending Evangelical churches are women. 

Yet women’s ministry is often not thought of much by us pastors, I think because we view “women’s ministry” as a thing or program, rather than ministry to women who make up more than half of the congregation we are charged to shepherd. And so we spin it off to someone else or put it on our benign neglect list so that we can concentrate on “more important” things. But nothing is more important than the souls of the women of the church. And practically speaking, any error introduced in a women’s Bible study will work its way through whole families and infect the whole church.

With that in mind, let me offer some tips to guard against error in your church’s women’s ministry.

Preach The Bible

The pulpit sets the tone for the church and everything that the church does, or at least it should. The good news is that even the smallest church with the least talented preacher can have a strong pulpit, because the strength of the pulpit depends on what is preached, not the preacher. What the church needs is a healthy dose of Bible. And by a healthy dose, I mean all that should be preached is the Bible.

It is the Scripture that is inspired and the Word of God that is living and active, and it is the word of God that makes your pulpit strong, not your ability. No one needs your ten tips on having a more productive quiet time or your five steps toward a healthy marriage even if you sprinkle them with a few verses. The people the Lord has entrusted to you need to hear from Him, not you. Your job as a preacher is to decrease while the whole counsel of God is declared. By all means, illustrate, explain, introduce, conclude and apply the text, just stick to the text!

Why this is so important for women’s ministry and guarding the women of your church from error is that it will trickle down in to the church’s Bible studies. If on Sunday (and whenever else you preach) the women of the church get a strong dose of God’s truth, they are going to be better able to spot error and less susceptible to it. And when they see that you have a high view of Scripture, they will develop a high view of Scripture too. When they see you are a Berean who evaluates everything in light of what Scripture says, they will be more likely too as well.

And as a corollary, when you’re preaching the Bible, use it as an opportunity to teach the church, women included, how to think about and interpret the Bible. I’m not saying that the pulpit is a place for a discourse on the grammatico-historic hermeneutic, but it is a place to (often) say things like “this would have meant to the original readers” or “context determines meaning” or “Whenever you see a ‘therefore,’ ask yourself, ‘What is the ‘therefore’ there for?’.” These may be throwaway phrases to you, but they teach the congregation, including the women, how to approach Scripture.

Pay Attention

This seems very basic but it needs to be said, you need to know what is going on, what is being taught and what materials are being used. And you need to read any material being used in any class or study. Read, not skim, not look up on the internet, not ask your seminary alumni group on Facebook, but actually read. Need I remind you that you will give an account for how you cared for the souls the Lord entrusts to you? When you stand before God to give an account, “Well, I Googled it,” is not going to be good enough.

You need to pay attention to what is popular in the world of women’s ministry too. The women in your church buy and read more books than the men. Pay attention to what is out there, and don’t be afraid to address any errors that are gaining traction in churchianity”.

Be The Bad Guy

What I mean by that is be willing to be the one to take the heat. Be willing to veto a book, a curriculum, or even a topic that the women’s Bible study wants to use, and be willing to have the leader lay the blame for the veto on you. I would much rather have someone say to me, “We wanted to use ________ book. Why did you say to use ________ instead?” than have a bad book used, or quash the joy of the women’s Bible study leader if she became an object of scorn. And quite frankly (and this actually happened to me) I would rather have the women’s Bible study leader mad at me, than to have the women be taught something that is wrong.

Invest In Your Leaders

I am genuinely baffled by the lack of investment in women’s leaders. We pastors will often go out of our way to invest both time and treasure in a young man we think might one day have a significant ministry in our church (or dare we hope and pray) or even go into pastoral ministry themselves.. But we often fail to invest our time and treasure in women who have a significant ministry in our churches right now. Might I suggest that the bare minimum you should do for every Bible study leader (man or woman) is to provide basic instruction in hermeneutics. A great resource is Grasping God’s Word by Scott Duvall and Daniel Hays, and there is an excellent companion workbook that makes teaching basic hermeneutics a snap. I promise you that if you teach the teachers of the women in your church how to approach Scripture, it will rub off.

Invest time and invest treasure too. Provide at your (or the church’s) expense good reliable resources for deeper study to leaders of your church’s women’s Bible study. If the women are going through a book of the Bible (with an approved curriculum as the guide) provide reliable (and accessible) commentaries on that book. If the women’s Bible study is topical or using a topical book as a guide, provide some other good books for deeper study and reading. 

Be Approachable

The women of your church need to feel comfortable sending you an email, shooting you a text or even Facebook messaging you with a question. They should even feel OK picking up the phone and calling you if need be. I get the wisdom in erecting hedges and being careful how you interact with women. But you can’t shepherd effectively if you treat over half of your congregation as walking third rails. Rest assured the women of the church will pick up on your reluctance to interact with them and they will be reluctant to approach you with any questions, doctrinal or otherwise.

If you are married, this is one area where your wife can really help you. Her saying “you should ask my husband” will go a long way. And as a corollary one of the worst things that can come out of your mouth when a woman from your church asks you a theological question is “you should ask my wife.”

If you are like me you will have to work at this. The one thing I can say that always gets a laugh from my wife is, “I’m a people person.” It’s not that I don’t love people, it’s that I tend toward shyness, and I’m not super outgoing. So I work at being an accessible resource for the women of the church, and you can too. And who knows, you may one day be rewarded with a call where a newer believer asks “Is it true that the Israelites ate the scapegoat?”. (That is a real question I got from a real woman in the church and why it is so important that women feel like they can pick up the phone and call you.)

Write

Your pulpit ministry and other teaching at the church is not enough. You need need to be regularly writing. As Al Mohler observed, “Leadership is about communication, and much of that communication is necessarily written…leaders must learn to write and to set time aside for writing.

But you say you don’t have time. Mohler, one of the busiest men on the planet offers this helpful bit of advice, “You do what you have to do.” I contribute to a group blog with other pastors and a couple of former seminary professors. We all write with an audience in mind – our own church. Why? For two reasons, it builds a resource library that they can access, and it allows us to address issues that we may not get to address in a systematic fashion from the pulpit. I’ve covered topics like the various approaches to apologetics, what goes into a worldview, basic pneumatology, basic anthropology, how to bring Scripture to bear on anxiety, the sanctifying power of suffering, and much more. And yes I have written some things that would fall into the broad category of discernment, like why our church isn’t charismatic, the danger of letting a prolife social gospel supplant the biblical gospel and the respect for life that flows from it, why assisted suicide is unbiblical and even why events like Together 2016 (which for the record took place in our proverbial back yard) should be avoided. I write because I want to educate the church, especially the women of the church, who as a rule read more, about these issues.

Be willing to Sacrifice

Whatever cherished activity or ministry is keeping you from being all in on your church’s ministry to the women of the church, give it up! Let me give you an example. I love our men’s Bible study, so much so that I had the next three topics for the study preplanned. But currently there is no overlap in our church between the women qualified to lead a women’s Bible study and the women with the desire and time to do so. So the Wednesday night Men’s Bible study I have taught since the church opened has been tabled and replaced with a coed midweek Bible study. Sure, I had planned on going through the topics covered in Men Counseling Men edited by John Street, but instead I am teaching an Old Testament survey course geared to Christians of both genders. Truth be told I’d rather be with the guys, but that is not the best thing for the church, and as pastors we should lead in counting others (including the women of the church) as more significant than ourselves.

I could go on and on, but I’ll close with this; it breaks my heart that Michelle asked me to write this guest post. When she asked me to write this post she said that multiple women had contacted her and asked if there was anything about how important it is to help church ladies tell truth from error that they could print out and give to their pastors. For shame! No one should be more concerned with the spiritual well being and growth of the women in the church than their pastors. That in some places and in some cases that is not true is a blight on our brotherhood. This is a profound failure to fulfill the charge of 1 Peter 5:1-4, and there is no excuse for it. As the Apostle said:

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.


John Chester is the pastor of Piedmont Bible Church, a Grace Advance church plant in Haymarket, Virginia. Prior to ministry John worked as a lacrosse coach, a pizza maker, a writer, a marketing executive, and just about everything in between. He hails from The City of Champions: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is blessed to be married to his wife Cassandra. Read John’s blog articles at ParkingSpace23.


Note from Michelle: I first had the pleasure of “meeting” John when I read and responded to this excellent article of his on ParkingSpace23. While he and I have a couple of differences on discernment ministry, I think the world of him as a brother in Christ, pastor, and fellow blogger. I literally teared up when I first read this guest post, because I wish every church could have a pastor like John.


ALTHOUGH I DO MY BEST TO THOROUGHLY VET THE THEOLOGY OF THE BLOGGERS WHO SUBMIT GUEST POSTS, IT IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE FOR THINGS TO SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS. PLEASE MAKE SURE ANY BLOGGER YOU FOLLOW, INCLUDING ME, RIGHTLY AND FAITHFULLY HANDLES GOD’S WORD AND HOLDS TO SOUND BIBLICAL DOCTRINE.

Throwback Thursday ~ Disney, Dalai, or Divangelista?

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Originally published February 26, 2016.

disney dalai divangelista1Social media and the internet are a gold mine for inspirational quotes, and today’s most popular divangelistas post a lot of them. But, does inspirational always equal biblical? Shouldn’t you be able to tell the difference between a line from a Disney movie, a platitude from the Dalai Lama, and biblical truth from a Christian leader? In homage to Tim Challies’ Joel Osteen or Fortune Cookie? I give you Disney, Dalai, or Divangelista?. Try to guess who said it, then click on the link below the quote to see if you were right.

1. All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness. The important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.

Disney, Dalai, or Divangelista?

2. Compassion naturally creates a positive atmosphere, and as a result you feel peaceful and content.

Disney, Dalai, or Divangelista?

3. Venture outside your comfort zone. The rewards are worth it.

Disney, Dalai, or Divangelista?

4. Patience to wait does not come from suffering long for what we lack but from sitting long in what we have.

Disney, Dalai, or Divangelista?

5. Today is a new day, and every day you can be one step closer to conquering your fears!

Disney, Dalai, or Divangelista?

6. You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

Disney, Dalai, or Divangelista?

7. In our struggle for freedom, truth is the only weapon we possess.

Disney, Dalai, or Divangelista?

8. In every situation, in every interaction, in every day, be a noticer of the good.

Disney, Dalai, or Divangelista?

9.  All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.

Disney, Dalai, or Divangelista?

10. When we stop fearing failure, we start being artists.

Disney, Dalai, or Divangelista?

11. Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.

Disney, Dalai, or Divangelista?

12. Our fate lives within us. You only have to be brave enough to see it.

Disney, Dalai, or Divangelista?

13. You must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul.

Disney, Dalai, or Divangelista?

14. If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

Disney, Dalai, or Divangelista?

15. It is useless to compare yourself to someone else. That person has a completely different path to follow.

Disney, Dalai, or Divangelista?


What was your score?
0-3:
You spend waaaay too much time reading your Bible and listening to sermon podcasts to keep up with the latest fluff from divangelistas or to get out and see a movie. The Dalai Lama? Is that the Thursday special at that Asian restaurant down the street?

4-10:
Cut back on the “inspirational” Pinterest boards and trade out your kids’ DVD of Frozen for an Awana CD. Read some books by the old dead guys like Spurgeon or Ryle, and learn how different (and how much better) Christian doctrine is from Buddhism.

11-15:
Would you consider yourself a good person?
(I kid! I kid! You probably just have a photographic memory!)

The Women of Genesis: Lesson 11- Sarah and Hagar

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

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Read Genesis 16:1-6

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Questions to Consider

1. Briefly review lessons 9 and 10 (links above) about Sarah and what brought her to this place in her life in chapter 16. Compare and contrast Sarah’s position in life to Hagar’s position in life.

2. How old was Abraham when God first called him and promised to make him a great nation? How old was he when Ishmael was born? So, approximately how many years had he and Sarah been trying to conceive? (3)

3. What do Sarah’s words in verse 2, “the Lord has prevented me from bearing children” tell us about her belief in God’s sovereignty and control over her situation? What do her actions in the remainder of verse 2 and 3 tell us about her belief in God’s sovereignty and control over her situation? Whose sovereignty did she really trust, God’s or her own? If Sarah trusted that God was the One who had closed her womb, why did she not trust that God would open it?

4. Think back to the promises of offspring God made to Abraham, of which Sarah was aware. Note the repeated phrase, “I will…” in all of God’s promises. Did God, at any time, ask Sarah or Abraham for their help in accomplishing these things? Did God know about Sarah’s barrenness? Did He ever suggest a surrogate mother for the offspring He promised? Whose idea was using Hagar as a surrogate? Was this an idea Sarah got from God or from her surrounding culture?

5. Think about Sarah’s relationship with God and her response to His promises. How did Sarah’s actions demonstrate that she did not believe God’s word, trust God’s character to keep His promise, nor accept and submit to God’s timetable?

6. Compare Sarah’s plan to give Hagar to Abraham, and the problems that resulted, to Genesis 2:24. Has plural marriage or fathering children through adultery ever been pleasing to God? As a godly husband, how should Abraham have responded to Sarah’s plan? How did he respond? (2,4)

7. Compare and contrast the influence Sarah had over Abraham (2-4) with the influence Eve had over Adam (Genesis 3:6-12). Was either woman, in these two incidents, a good steward of the influence God gave her? Why or why not? Was either man a good steward of the headship of his home God gave him? Why or why not?

8. What were some of the negative consequences of Sarah’s actions for herself, for Abraham, and for Hagar? (4-6) Would these things have happened if Sarah had obediently trusted God to keep His promise instead of taking matters into her own hands?

9. How does the story of God promising a long awaited son to a woman unable to conceive foreshadow the incarnation of Christ? What are some things that might have happened if Mary had taken matters into her own hands instead of trusting and obeying God?


Homework

Sarah’s words told one story about her belief in God’s sovereignty, but her actions told another story. Think about the situations in your life right now. Do you believe God’s Word, trust God’s character to keep His promises in His Word, and accept and submit to God’s timetable? Write down one way your actions could better line up with what you profess to believe, and implement it over the next week.


Suggested Memory Verse

So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”
Genesis 16:13

40 Things to Give Up for Lent

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Originally published March 3, 2017

40-lent

Although, as a Louisiana girl, I’ve had a decades long love affair with king cake, and I totally support the increased availability of fish entrées at local restaurants and getting a few days off school or work, I’m not a big fan of Mardi Gras and Lent.

The intrinsic philosophy behind Mardi Gras – a day of revelry, indulgence, and debauchery to get it all out of your system before you have to start “being good” for Lent – is patently unbiblical.

The practice of Lent often is, as well. Lent is the forty day period, beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Easter Sunday, observed by Catholics and some Protestants. Originally, it was simply a time of fasting, prayer, and worship in anticipation of Easter, and for Christians who continue to observe it this way, it can be a valuable and meaningful time of respite and renewal with the Lord.

For many, however, Lent – particularly the aspect of giving something up for Lent in an act of self-denial – is nothing more than an empty religious ritual, or worse, works righteousness. Giving something up for Lent because, “I’m Catholic and that’s what good Catholics do,” or to atone for your sins, or to curry favor with God, or to flaunt your self-righteousness flies in the face of grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone biblical Christianity.

If you give something up for Lent, why do you do so? If it’s for one of the aforementioned unbiblical reasons (or others), or even if you don’t observe Lent at all, I’d like to challenge us all to give up the things below for Lent:

1. Give up Lent for Lent.

2. Give up attending any church that requires the observance of Lent in a sacramental way and find a doctrinally sound one.

3. Give up thinking your good behavior earns you right standing with God.

4. Give up the idea that there’s any such thing as truly good behavior.

5. Give up thinking your good deeds could ever outweigh your sins.

6. Give up willfully indulging in sin as long as you “make up for it” later.

7. Give up the notion that penance or self-denial can pay for your sins.

8. Give up thinking that penance or self-denial curries favor with God.

9. Give up the idea that repentance and obedience belong to a certain season on the calendar. We are to walk in repentance every day.

10. Give up the concept that Christmas and Easter are Christian “high holy days.” We celebrate Christ’s incarnation and resurrection every Sunday, and should prepare ourselves all during the week. Every Sunday is a high holy day for the Christian.

11. Give up rote participation in church rituals. Search the Scriptures and see if they’re biblical first.

12. Give up thinking God concerns Himself strictly with your external behavior rather than the condition of your heart.

13. Give up “sounding a trumpet before you” with humblebrags on social media and in real life about giving things up for Lent, fasting, giving offerings, or any other good works you might do. You just lost your reward, baby.

14. Give up approaching church attendance as punching the time clock for God. The Christian’s entire life, our very beings, belong to Christ, not just a couple of hours on Sunday.

15. Give up the delusion that you’re basically a good person. You’re not.

16. Give up biblical ignorance and become a good student of God’s word.

17. Give up forsaking the assembly and become a faithful, serving member of your local church.

18. Give up thinking that everyone and everything that calls itself “Christian” actually is.

19. Give up the desire to have your itching ears scratched and long for the truth of God’s word. Even when it’s hard to hear.

20. Give up neglecting the daily study of God’s word.

21. Give up rejecting parts of the Bible you don’t agree with. We don’t sit in judgment over Scripture. Scripture sits in judgment over us.

22. Give up neglecting your prayer life.

23. Give up making excuses for failing to memorize Scripture. You can do it!

24. Give up being a non-serving member of your church.

25. Give up being a non-giving member of your church.

26. Give up thinking you’re hearing God speak to you. If you want to hear God speak to you, open your Bible and study it. God has spoken in His word and many are largely ignoring what He has already said.

27. Give up following false teachers and be a good Berean.

28. Give up being afraid to share the gospel and just do it.

29. Give up thinking you can please God apart from faith in Christ.

30. Give up basing your doctrine and beliefs on your own (or anyone else’s) opinions, experiences, and feelings, and base them on correctly handled Scripture instead.

31. Give up following your wicked and deceitful heart, take up your cross daily, and follow Christ.

32. Give up thinking you have to do big things for God in order for Him to be pleased with you and “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.”

33. Give up worrying and trust God.

34. Give up neglecting to fear God’s wrath if you don’t know Christ.

35. Give up fearing God’s wrath if you do know Christ.

36. Give up the idea that “God is love” means God is a pushover who won’t judge you.

37. Give up thinking you’ve been so bad that God could never forgive you.

38. Give up thinking you’re so good that you don’t need God to forgive you.

39. Give up refusing to forgive others when Christ has forgiven you so much.

40. Give up everything and be saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and walk in His ways, all the days of your life, to the glory of God alone.

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