There is one occupational hazard of a calling into the ministry, especially that of being a pastor, that seems to hurt more and grate at ministers more than any other—having to endure criticism. It is one of the necessary pieces of territory that comes with holding a public place in ministry. Even though it is painful to endure and it is understood that we have to deal with it, it has the capacity to create overwhelming waves of discouragement and free-falls into the abyss of despair. No matter how faithful a man may be or how diligent he is in his work ethic, criticism is coming to a local church near you. If you are district official, it is coming to district near you and there is nothing we can do to make us protected from it.
Increasingly I am much encouraged by some of the conversations that I am having with various Pentecostal pastors around the nation. It is becoming more and more common that I am finding men who are paying the price with discipline and diligence to really dig into the Word so that their preaching has taken a different direction. This direction change is coming because of the challenges that we are facing in our culture and the deep moral depravity that is assaulting the church. We also have to contend more and more with the onward advancement of various world religions that are making inroads to the United States. Our preaching has to change to meet those challenges for we can no longer afford to simply preach to the moment so that people get out of their seats and flutter about for a little while to satisfy some shallow emotional need they need to feel better about.
I have been revisiting some of my journal scribblings from the last four years or so and have found a variety of thoughts I had written down. Some of those scribblings had to do with little mental or spiritual stimulations that I thought I would put on this blog. This post comes about from three different entries that I have merged together. The first one was from Eugene Peterson’s very fine memoir, The Pastor and the other two were blog entries that Thom Rainer had written which dealt with pastoral ministry. Peterson’s angle was that pastors have fallen into the trap of being turned into church growth gurus and it has cost them the priority of their own spiritual life of prayer, personal Bible reading/study (you would be shocked how many pastors don’t read the Bible on a regular basis), and the practice of spiritual disciplines which include the previous two and a host of others. His fear was that pastors are being turned into executive automatons who can drive cattle about on a range but have lost the art of leading sheep through still pastures. Rainer wrote about the dilemmas pastors face in the church which contribute to great dilemmas in the soul of the pastor. The best way to describe it would be to say that the little foxes have gained an entrance and they are spoiling a harvest.
Several weeks ago I had a very thought provoking discussion with my brother about Pentecostal preaching. In 1992 my parents gave Mark a new Thompson Chain reference Bible for Christmas. It wasn’t too long after that he began to use this Bible as his primary Bible as his everyday carry. He used it for devotional matters, he used it at Texas Bible College in the classroom, and he also used it to preach. One of the other things he did with this Bible was underline every sermon he heard during a twenty-year period. After retiring this Bible in 2012, he discovered something very interesting about this Bible. He went back and looked at all of the Scriptures that he had underlined when he was listening to preachers. He noted that during that twenty-year time period that he had heard approximately 3,500 messages. This came from a variety of places. Obviously the bulk of these came from the local churches where he had attended during that twenty-year time period. There were other unique places where he had listened to preaching. He had been in multiple chapel services at TBC, he had gone to several of the larger Pentecostal churches in the Houston area, and he had been to various conferences although he had not attended as many as I have through the years.
Yesterday, I shared with you the conversation that I enjoyed with the UPCI General Superintendent, David Bernard. This blog is going to cover the gist of several conversations that I had with UPCI Assistant General Superintendent (Eastern Zone) Paul Mooney.
I have known Brother Mooney for quite a number of years. I suppose the first time I officially met him was around 2004 or so at an Alabama District Men’s Conference. Since that time he has preached at several camp meetings in Alabama in addition to a district conference. He is one of the most uniquely brilliant men I have ever met! He has a very gifted mind and you find that to be very obvious when you begin to interact with him because all of the times you spend with him there isn’t an ounce of wasted energy or time. He also serves dual role as the pastor at the historic CalvaryTabernacle in Indianapolis and as the president of Indiana Bible College. If ever there was an ardent supporter of apostolic doctrine and identity in this generation, he certainly falls into that category.
At our General Conference this past fall, I was shocked with surprise when my District Superintendent, Rev. Stan Davidson, notified me that my name had been nominated for the Southeastern Regional Executive Presbyter. I was even more surprised and honored to be voted into the two-year term which officially began in January. One of the first assignments that I had to fulfill in this position was to attend the Executive Board meeting in St. Louis beginning this past Monday night (3/2/15). This was followed by two days of General Board meetings all day Tuesday and Wednesday (3/3-4/15). The General Board meetings went very well with the high point being on Tuesday night when the Spirit of the Lord moved into the N. A. Urshan Board Room. A massive prayer meeting broke out among the leaders of the UPCI with the gifts of the Spirit in operation and lasting right at an hour. I believe the entire constituency of the UPCI would have been greatly encouraged to have witnessed this. There were leaders praying with and for each other and followed by some very powerful testimonies of what God is doing in our fellowship. There is a lot of momentum and unity among us. I heard several men who have been on the General Board for 30-40 years say they have never witnessed or experienced anything like this in all of their years of service.
I have a few more thoughts to add to the idea of this challenge that comes with being “apt to teach.” As I revisited this passage again in 1 Timothy 3, it is important to point out that this is the only skill or practice that Paul notes is specific to the church. He very well could and must be a teacher to his family but the overarching purpose of being apt to teach is that he provides instruction to the church. We also must give consideration to the idea that all of the character traits that Paul lists; blameless, husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, not given to wine, no striker (not violent), not greedy of filthy lucre, patient, not a brawler, covetous, ruling his own house well, having his children in subjection, not a novice, and having a good report of those that are around him; that all of these matters will have a great impact on his ability to teach. If these matters are compromised, his public ministry of teaching will be publically ignored and privately mocked and scorned. This matter of character in apostolic ministry has far more reaching boundaries than most of us who are in public ministry grasp and understand. You cannot separate your life and practice from your doctrine.