Back To Basics

January 18 is a special date for me. On this date, twelve years ago, I was ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament within the Presbyterian Church in Canada. This year, more than any of my other ordination anniversaries, I reflected on the kind of minister I’ve become. There are some areas where I am pleased with my growth and progress. But there are also areas where I lament my inability to push forward and improve.

God is gracious. I sense His carefulness as He reveals these areas where I still need much growth. And, to keep me from despair, He also provides moments of encouragement—often in subtle, but always in meaningful ways. I recognize that God is continually shaping me—using ‘the good’ and ‘the bad’ to help me become that which He intends for me (Romans 8:28; 2Corinthians 12:7-10).

As I reflect over the past twelve years, I note different emphases within my ministry. Early on, it was my passion for Reformed Theology—as expressed through the Reformer, John Calvin, the 17th Century Puritans, Jonathan Edwards and, in our day, through the likes of R.C. Sproul and James Montgomery Boice.

In 1999, I heard a sermon that has profoundly marked my messages and my ministry ever since. At the Moody Bible Institute Pastors’ Conference, John Piper delivered a message that was entitled, “Stop Serving Jesus!” (as though He needed us). As the result of this message, duty no longer drives my ministry efforts, delight does (recommended reading: “Desiring God” by John Piper).

In my early years at St. Giles Kingsway, the principle of “Contagious Christianity” (Bill Hybels) directed our evangelistic efforts. In recent years it was “Simple Church” by Thom Rainer & Eric Geiger that compelled me to tweak our ministry trajectory. The thesis of Simple Church is that less is more—simplicity of vision and programs helps congregations to preserve their vibrancy.

This past year I read a book that I count among my top ten, in terms of its impact upon my life. “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan was written “for those who want more of Jesus”. A light goes on in my head. Yes, I still subscribe to Reformed Theology. Yes, the Supremacy of Jesus in all things remains central to my ministry. Contagious Christianity continues to provide a helpful track for evangelism. Simple Church remains a much needed model for ordering a ministry. But Francis Chan struck a particular chord in my conscience. The reason I enrolled in seminary, the reason I became a minister, is because I wanted more of Jesus…and I wanted others to have more of Him too.

Some might say that my ministry has evolved over the last twelve years, and there’s evidence of that. But I think it might be more accurate to say that it has come full circle. I’m back to  basics: wanting more of Jesus for myself and for the congregation I serve. As the hymn writer, Horatius Bonar, well puts it:

I came to Jesus and I drank of that life giving stream; my thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in Him.

Watering Down The Word? – Part II

I received some great comments to my recent post ‘Watering Down The Word?‘ and figured a follow-up post was warranted (might be helpful). Those familiar with my ministry know that I don’t have it in me to preach anything less than the Bible (2 Timothy 4:2). I don’t have it in me to preach anything less than Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). I’m also mindful of how my choice of words (vocabulary) hugely affects how my message is heard. I’m convinced that a communicator’s manner of delivery has the ability to attract or repel the hearer. Yes, God is sovereign. I rely on this! I will not, however, use God’s sovereignty as an excuse to preach without any thought of form and manner of delivery. I see value in being attentive to the mindset of those I’m speaking to. I see value in anticipating their objections and questions. I see value in in speaking sensitively and sensibly to them. Having done that, I leave it to God to soften hearts and to seal the message that Jesus is LORD.

I commend to the readers of this blog the following video from Desiring God Ministries. Thank-you Cliff Cline for locating this for me. Our new ministry, The Well, may not use a traditional pulpit, but John Piper’s message, ‘Don’t Waste Your Pulpit’ still applies. Keep those comments coming!

Alistair Begg Defends Preaching

I came across this gem of a message while surfing on youtube.com. This audio is provided by desiringgod.org, delivered by Alistair Begg in 1998 at the Desiring God Conference for Pastors. Quite frankly, Begg is my favourite preacher. If I aspire to preach like any man, it is him. I have attended the annual pastors’ conference held at Parkside Church, where Begg pastors, every year since 2002. I have registered for this year’s conference (May12-14). Have a listen–I’d like to hear what you think (although you might want to get a bowl of popcorn or something to help you settle in, the message is an hour+ long!).

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