An Able and Faithful Ministry (4) – S.Miller

Able&Faithful Ministry-SMiller_Page_1In the past few weeks since the PRC Seminary opened its doors for another year of instruction, we have been examining the thoughts of Presbyterian pastor and Seminary professor (Princeton) Samuel Miller as contained in his address, “The Duty of the Church to Take Measures for Providing an Able and Faithful Ministry”. This sermon was delivered on August 12, 1812 on the occasion of the installation of Archibald Alexander as the first professor of the new Princeton Seminary.

Last time we noted that in his last point on what the church can and ought to do to ensure “an able and faithful ministry” (namely, start its own Seminary school specifically for training pastors) Miller included some additional ideas which relate to why the church ought to have its own minister school. We quoted from that first paragraph last week, and this week we quote from the next.

I find this part striking also because Miller points to the importance of a library accessible to all the Seminary students, as a significant element in their development and preparation for the ministry. Here’s what he has to say:

Again, when the church herself takes the instruction of her candidates into her own hands, she can furnish a more extensive, accurate, and complete course of instruction than can be supposed to be, ordinarily, within the reach of detached individuals. In erecting and endowing a seminary, she can select the best instructors out of her whole body. She can give her pupils the benefit of the whole time, and the undivided exertions, of these instructors. Instead of having all the branches of knowledge, to which the theological student applies himself, taught by a single master, she can divide the task of instruction among several competent teachers, in such a manner as to admit of each doing full justice both to his pupils and himself.

She can form one ample library, by which a given number of students may be much better accommodated, when collected together, and having access to it in common, than if the same amount of books were divided into a corresponding number of smaller libraries. And she can digest, and gradually improve a system of instruction, which shall be the result of combined wisdom, learning, and experience. Whereas those candidates for the sacred office who commit themselves to the care of individual ministers, selected according to the convenience of the caprice of each pupil, must, in many cases, at least, be under the guidance of instructors who have neither the talents, the learning, nor the leisure to do them justice – and who have not even a tolerable collection of books to supply the lack of their own furniture as teachers.

Parachurches and Podcast Pastors – September “Tabletalk”

Historical and Theological Foundations by Keith Mathison | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT - Sept2014As we noted here last week, the September issue of Tabletalk is devoted to the theme of “The Church and the Parachurch”, a significant subject, to be sure. Above I have linked you to the second main article on this theme, written by Dr.Keith Mathison, professor of systematic theology at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, FL.

You may not agree with Mathison’s historical and theological (Biblical) explanation for the rise of parachurch organizations, but it will make you think better about the relationship between the two and the purpose of them.

The article from which I wish to quote today, however, is John Piper’s, titled “The Podcast Pastor”. I will let you read his piece so that you may have an idea of what he refers to by this term, but pay attention to these words in defense of the traditional way to hear your pastor’s preaching – and appreciate him and the Word he brings each week!

Let me add two further considerations:

First, what we should desire from our pastor in his preaching is not mainly rhetorical or oratorical skill, but faithful explanation of God’s Word and application to our lives, especially the life we are living together right here in this church and city, making an impact on our specific community. So I say to every church member, value your pastor as the one who opens the Scriptures for you in your situation, in your community, in your web of relationships week in and week out. Support him in this.

Second, we need to acknowledge the huge importance of corporate worship, as a whole, in the life of a believer. Gathering with God’s people every week—gathering, not just putting on your headphones and listening to a worship song—to exalt Jesus together, and hear each other say great things about the One whom we love and cherish, is the way God means for us to thrive in relation to him. I have found this weekly rhythm of corporate communion with God essential to my faith over the last fifty years.

Preaching is essential to that corporate experience. Preaching is not after worship. It is worship. It is the pastor exulting over the truth of God’s Word. It is expository exultation. In other words, preaching is not an isolated moment of instruction, as if the service just switched from music to class. No, the service is worship from start to finish. We are going vertical from beginning to end, and we are connecting with God through prayers and communion and singing and giving and in the sermon. We are leaning on the pastor to draw us into his explanation and exultation over the Word of God as part of corporate worship. Podcasters cannot do this. If people only hear preaching outside the context of corporate worship, they are neglecting part of its life and its power.

An Able and Faithful Ministry (3) – S.Miller

Able&Faithful Ministry-SMiller_Page_1For the last two weeks we have been taking a special look at the church’s calling to prepare men for the gospel ministry. We have been doing so in connecti0n with a sermon Presbyterian  pastor and theologian Samuel Miller delivered on the occasion of the the founding of Princeton Seminary, when its first professor was installed – Archibald Alexander, on August 12, 1812.

In the second half of that sermon Miller addressed the church specifically, asking “What are the means which the church is bound to employ, for providing such a ministry (i.e., an able and faithful ministry, the description of which makes up of the first part of this sermon)? We have given the first two parts to Miller’s answer to this question, and now today we provide the third.

There will be more to come, because, as I kept reading in this third part to his answer, I noted that Miller had some great things to communicate to the church – things which are just as relevant now as they were 202 years ago.

So, bear with me – and benefit from these wise words from a godly church father in the Reformed camp:

3. A further means which the Church is bound to employ for providing an able and faithful ministry is furnishing a seminary in which the candidates for this office may receive the most appropriate and complete instruction which she has it in her power to give. In vain are young men of fervent piety, and the best talents, sought after and discovered; and in vain are funds provided for their support, while preparing for the ministry, unless pure and ample fountains of knowledge are opened to them, and unless competent guides are assigned to direct them in drinking at those fountains. This, however, is so plain, so self-evident, that I need not enlarge upon its proof.

But then Miller brings up the criticism that perhaps the church doesn’t need her own school for training pastors (theological school or Seminary) but can make use of private instructors. Miller’s answer is varied and to the point. We will begin quoting his answer to this objection today and continue it, D.V., in the weeks ahead.

First, when the Church herself provides a seminary for the instruction of her own candidates for the ministry, she can at all times inspect and regulate the course of their education; can see that it is sound, thorough, and faithful; can direct and control the instructors; can correct such errors, and make such improvements in her plans of instruction, as the counsels of the whole body may discover. Whereas, if all is left to individual discretion, the preparation for the service of the Church may be in the highest degree defective, or ill judged, not to say unsound, without the Church being able effectually to interpose her correcting hand.

 

An Able and Faithful Ministry (2) – S.Miller

Able&Faithful Ministry-SMiller_Page_1A week ago, on opening day of Seminary classes for this new semester, we began to take a look at a significant sermon Presbyterian pastor and professor (Princeton Seminary) Samuel Miller delivered back in August of 1812. I will not repeat all that was mentioned then by way of introduction (you will find the link to that post here), but will simply proceed to the second answer Miller gave to the question “What are the means which the Church is bound to employ, for providing such a ministry (that is, an “able and faithful ministry”)?

This answer too is noteworthy and profitable for our consideration.

2. The church is bound to provide funds for the partial or entire support of those who need this kind of aid, while they are preparing for the work of the ministry. ought to feel, can feel, no pain in receiving from the hand of parental affection. Some of the most promising candidates for this holy work have not the means of supporting themselves, while they withdraw from the world , and give up its emoluments, for the purpose of becoming qualified to serve God in the gospel of his Son. These persons must either abandon their sacred enterprise altogether, or receive (from some other source) adequate aid. And from what source can they so properly receive it, as from their moral parent, the Church? …The Church can never be weary, as long as ability is given her for her beloved children. The aid which individuals (as such) furnish may excite, in delicate minds, a painful sense of dependence; but children ought to feel, can feel, no pain in receiving from the hand of parental affection.

Nor is it any valid objection to the furnishing of this aid, that the objects of it may not always be found, when their character shall be completely developed, either ornaments to the church, or worthy of so much exertion and expenditure. As well might parents according to the flesh decline to provide for the support and education of their children, in early life, lest peradventure they might afterwards prove neither a comfort nor an honor to them. In this respect every faithful parent considers himself as bound, in duty and affection, to take all possible pains for promoting the welfare of his offspring, and having done so, to leave the event with God.

Neither ought the church to consider this provision as a burden, or imagine that, in making it, she confers a favor. It is as clearly her duty – a duty which she as really owes her Master and herself –  as the ordinary provision which she makes for the support of the word and ordinances. Or rather, it is to be lamented that she has not been accustomed always to consider it as an essential part of her ordinary provision for the maintenance of the means of grace.

We thank the Lord for the abundant means our churches have provided and do provide for the support of our Seminarians. Let us also keep before us the needs of the pre-Seminarians, as they too can suffer hardship for the sake of the gospel they pursue to proclaim, even in the early stages of their training.

Reading Parents and Ready (Seminary) Sons

As you may know, the Beacon Lights magazine (for PR Young People – and adults!) is currently doing a series of articles from our ministers (mainly our newer and younger ones) under the title “Called to the Ministry”. But did you know that such articles were also written in the past in the “BL”?

Rev_KorteringWhile continuing to sort through Rev.Gise Van Baren’s folders for the PRC archives yesterday, we found an old “BL” article (Vol.36, #9 – January, 1978) with the title “Called to the Ministry” written by Rev. Jason Kortering (pastor of Hope PRC, Redlands, CA at the time and now an emeritus minister in the PRC). In it he tells his story of how he was led into the ministry.

And what struck me was what he said not only about how his godly parents encouraged him and prayed for him with regard to the ministry, but also and especially how the enthusiastic reading of his father served as a powerful example and impetus for him to enter the ministry of the Word.

Here are a couple of portions from the article, the full version of which you may find here. I pray that this will inspire other godly fathers to show such zeal for the truth by reading, that it would spur your sons to consider the call to the ministry. Fathers and mothers, may you see what fruit your godly reading may have by the purpose and providence of God.

After a ten year absence they (Rev.Kortering’s parents) finally moved to Holland, Michigan and there settled down. The Lord provided a job at the Artic (sic) Ice Cream Co. While working there he met a fellow employee who was full of heavenly zeal. She had read a copy of the Standard Bearer and was impressed and wanted my father to read it. This initial contact with Revs. Hoeksema and Ophoff started my father to think and read. He purchased a subscription to the Standard Bearer and read all the literature he could get his hands on. It fell like water from heaven upon his parched soul.

…Seeing the truth was like a conversion experience for my father. He saw for the first time the real meaning of the sovereignty of God. It was more than a doctrine, it was a way of life! God owned everything and required obedience in all areas of life. This became the governing principle of his life: God was sovereign, grace was absolute. He couldn’t read enough and he was always reading. He sent to England for sovereign grace material. It came by the crates full. He sorted it out, saving the good Reformed material, burning the rest.

Through it all my father had one inner desire, that the Lord would call his son to the ministry. He could envision nothing more glorious than seeing his own son preach the gospel of the sovereign God….

If there ever is an example of a minister being influenced by parents to enter the ministry, it is in my life. Both parents earnestly desired this, encouraged me to study for it, prayed about it.

The Lord used my parents, especially my father, as the means to confront me with the serious consideration to become a minister.

…May the accounting of this remind us that God does use parents in influencing their children. It was not of them, it was of God. His will prevailed.

For that I give Him thanks.

No Greater Gospel: An Interview with Dave Furman

No Greater Gospel: An Interview with Dave Furman by Dave Furman | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

DFurman sketchPart of my Sunday reading also included this fascinating “TT” interview with Pastor David Furman, who pastors Redeemer Church in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

While there are many interesting insights in this interview about planting and maintaining a Reformed church in the heart of the Middle East, I truly appreciated the way Furman answered two questions in particular. I post them here, encouraging you to follow the link above to learn more about this church in Dubai.

TT: What aspects of the reformed tradition have most equipped you for ministry in Dubai?

DF: The first and biggest thing that came to mind when I read this question was the crystal-clear call of Christ. Jesus says: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16). It is hard to describe how encouraged I am by the Reformed doctrines of grace that describe how Christ assuredly calls His elect, that the elect respond, and that He keeps them forever. This strengthens my heart to endure hardship, to labor over expositional preaching, and to glorify Jesus when I see fruit or face rejection. Reformed doctrine has fueled our sharing of the gospel and emboldened us to be faithful to Christ in difficult times.

TT: What advice can you give Christians for sharing the gospel?

DF: Romans 1:16 says that the gospel is the power of God. There is no need to change it, distort it, add to it, or subtract from it. Indeed, we must not alter the gospel. If you add one drop of works to the gospel, you destroy it, change it, reverse it, and oppose it. Gospel revision always equals gospel reversal. I would tell all Christians to hold on to and herald the one true gospel. We’ve seen it change lives time and time again. I read in a biography of Charles Spurgeon a story about his grandfather preaching one night. The story goes that one night Charles Spurgeon, the great British preacher, was running late getting to the church, and by the time he got there, his grandfather had already started preaching. Young Spurgeon was already widely known at that time, and when he walked in, his grandfather paused his sermon and said something to this effect: “My grandson is here now; he may be a greater preacher than I, but he can’t preach a greater gospel.” All Christians are equipped with the same message. We need to hold out the gospel. There is no better message and no greater news.

A Passion for Preaching and A Long Line of Godly Men: An Interview with Steven J. Lawson

A Passion for Preaching: An Interview with Steven J. Lawson by Steven Lawson | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT_Interview_LawsonThis month’s Tabletalk (June 2014) included another interview feature, this time with pastor Steve Lawson, well-known preacher and author, who has begun a new ministry devoted to church reformation through expository preaching – OnePassion Ministries.

There are many good parts to this interview, but there are two sections in particular I will post here today: one on the great need of the church today and one on his series of books – “A Long Line of Godly Men.” I believe you too will find these interesting and profitable.

To read all of the interview, follow the Ligonier link above.

TT: Why have you focused so much of your attention to the practice of expository preaching and to helping both preachers and laypeople see its importance?

SL: I strongly believe that no church can rise any higher than its pulpit. As the pulpit goes, so goes the church. The deeper the preacher takes his flock into the Word of God, the higher they will rise in worship. The stronger they are in the Scripture, the stronger they will be in the pursuit of holiness. Likewise, strong preaching leads to sacrificial service in the Lord’s work. Strong exposition kindles hearts for the work of evangelism and the cause of worldwide missions. Every great movement of God in church history has been ushered in by a renewed commitment to solid preaching of the Word. If we are to see a spiritual awakening in our day, the church must recover the primacy of preaching. I desire to be used by God to help equip a new generation of preachers and laypeople in recognizing the importance of this primary means of grace.

TT: Why did you decide to establish the book series A Long Line of Godly Men, and what other men do you hope to profile individually in this series?

SL: The Long Line series was birthed in my teaching ministry at the church that I pastor. As I was teaching the men of my church sound doctrine from Scripture, I wanted them to see that what we believe in the doctrines of sovereign grace has been the mainline position by great men and movements down through the centuries. Out of this Friday morning teaching series has arisen these books so that these essential truths may be made available to a wider audience around the world. There is much instruction and inspiration to be drawn from this profile study. In the future, I need to write volume three of the larger books, which will move from John Knox to this present hour. In the smaller books, there are other key figures who I want to address such as William Tyndale, John Wycliff•e, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and, yes, R.C. Sproul.

Encouraging Our Spiritual Leaders (Especially Pastors) – Jared Wilson

Encourage Leaders with Faithful Graciousness by Jared Wilson | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-May2014Besides reading the last of the featured articles on this month’s Tabletalk theme (“Never Before Seen” by J.Mark Beach; see the cover to the left for the theme), I found the above-linked article important for us who profit from our faithful pastors and preachers each week. It is written by a pastor, but it is written for us who often take our pastor’s leadership for granted (and that includes elders) and who need to be reminded that these men (also weak and sinful as we are, and frequently discouraged) need our encouragement.

So read this article carefully and put into practice what it communicates. You and your pastor and elders will be better off because of it. I give you just a portion of it here; the rest may be found at the Ligonier link above.

Hebrews 13:17 reminds us that our leaders will have to give an account. Do we want them to have to bring to the Lord in prayer our selfish neediness, our unwilling submission, constant criticisms, and questions? Or do we want them to go to the Lord in great thanksgiving out of the joy of being our leaders? I want those in authority over me to be able to say, “Oh, Lord, thank you for the gift of Jared! What a great joy it is to lead him,” rather than “Oh, Lord, help me with this guy. He’s so difficult.”

In the short term, disregarding commands like Hebrews 13:17 is a great way to gets lots of attention and, perhaps, even lots of satisfaction. In the long run, however, it is spiritually dangerous. Giving your leaders cause for groaning is “no advantage to you.” In the end, obediently submitting to our leaders by living lives of faithful graciousness in the church is a commitment of faith in God because He has placed these leaders in your church. By submitting to God-appointed authorities, we submit to God. No, the pastor isn’t perfect. No, he doesn’t always get things right. Yes, he too is a sinner—just like you. But when we know this and submit anyway, we give God glory and our pastor grace. This is good for us. We may not be immediately interested in our leaders’ joy, but if we are interested in our own spiritual advantage, we will repent of our selfishness and seek our leaders’ joy.

Let it be a great joy to our pastors to have us as their sheep. Let us give them great cause to “boast of us” in Paul’s godly way (2 Cor. 8:241 Thess. 2:19). Your leaders probably won’t tell you to do this. They will fear that it will seem self-seeking or self-pitying. And this is all the more reason why you should obey and submit to them, encouraging them tremendously with your commitment to faithful graciousness.

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (6)

As we were coming home from our evening service at Faith PRC (Jenison, MI) last night, I said to my wife: “We are so blessed to have the preaching we do in our church and churches!” What a day of being fed by and of feasting on the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ! Our souls were filled with the good news of Christ crucified for sinners such as ourselves!

In the morning we attended a special family baptism event at Georgetown PRC in Hudsonville, MI and were richly fed by pastor Carl Haak’s message on Mary of Bethany’s act of anointing Jesus’ head (Mark 14:1-11). He is doing a series on significant events that took place during the days of the Passion week of Jesus, this sermon being the one for Wednesday, and titled “A Memorial Left Behind”. You will be able to find this sermon and others in the series at this link to Georgetown PRC’s Sermonaudio page.

Last night we were favored to have Rev.James Slopsema from our First PRC of Grand Rapids as our guest preacher. He is doing a series on the seven (7) cross words of Jesus and he preached on the middle one for us: “Forsaken by God”. It was another wonderful message, which brought us to the dust in the knowledge of our sin and lifted us up in the knowledge of what our Savior did for us on Calvary. You may find this message on Faith PRC’s website.

JesusKeepMeNear-NGuthrieWith these gospel messages in our hearts – and many more that you have heard, I am sure – we also hear again today from the book Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (ed. by Nancy Guthrie; Crossway, 2009). I plan to post something each day this week from this wonderful devotional. Today’s quote is from a piece by the Anglican J.C. (John Charles) Ryle. Titled “The Sufferings of Christ” and based on Matthew 27:27-44, it is taken from his familiar Expository Thoughts on the Gospels. May his thoughts also serve to humble us as well as lift us up through the knowledge of our deliverance from sin.

But we must not be content with a vague general belief that Christ’s sufferings on the cross were vicarious. We are intended to see this truth in every part of his passion. We may follow him all through, from the bar of Pilate to the minute of his death, and see him at every step as our mighty substitute, our representative, our head, our surety, our proxy – the divine friend who undertook to stand in our place and, by the priceless merit of his sufferings, to purchase our redemption. Was he flogged? It was done so that ‘by his wounds we are healed’ (Isa. 53:5). Was he condemned, though innocent? It was done so that we might be acquitted, though guilty. Did he wear a crown of thorns? It was done so that we might wear the crown of glory.  Was he stripped of his clothes? It was done so that we might be clothed in everlasting righteousness. Was he mocked and reviled? It was done so that we might be honored and blessed. Was he reckoned a criminal,a nd counted among those who have done wrong? It was done so that we might be reckoned innocent, and declared free from all sin. Was he declared unable to save himself? It was so that he might be able to save others to the uttermost. Did he die at last, and that the most painful and disgraceful death? It was done so that we might live forevermore, and be exalted to the highest glory.

Let us ponder these things well: they are worth remembering. The very key to peace is a right apprehension of the vicarious sufferings of Christ (pp.58-59)

Word Wednesday on Thursday – “Homiletics”

First, allow me to apologize for not posting my customary word items yesterday. The day got away from me and I had no time for posts! But the good news is we are doing it today! “Word Thursday” we will call it this week! :)

HomileticsLet’s tackle another good Seminary course word today. How about “homiletics”? You may have heard this word before but perhaps do not remember what it means or to what course it refers. Today we will help you better understand what “Homiletics” is all about.

If you go to the PRC Seminary catalog, you will discover that this word is at the top of the list under “Practical-Theological Studies” – and with good reason. Because “Homiletics” is the

“study of the history, principles, and methods of sermon preparation. Included is a study of the liturgical forms used in the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (treating their history, content, importance, and doctrinal teachings), as well as a study of the history of liturgy and the biblical principles and elements of Reformed worship”.

Homiletics, then, includes (at least in our Seminary) “Liturgics” (the study of worship – perhaps we can look at the origin and meaning of that word in the future), what Prof.B.Gritters is teaching this semester. But “homiletics” proper has to do with the making of sermons. And, as you know, this is at the heart of what is taught in our Seminary. Because the chief task of the minister of the gospel is to preach the Word. And preaching means crafting sermons, usually two per week for our pastors, and sometimes three.

So at the core of Seminary training is sermon making. The students are taught how to make “homilies”. And they start their first semester already. And they never stop learning to make sermons their whole way through. Nor when they are in the ministry. “Homiletics” is truly a lifetime course. Ask any of our pastors or professors.

But how did a course on sermon making get this fancy name? Dictionary.com will help us:

World English Dictionary
homiletics  (ˌhɒmɪˈlɛtɪks)
n
( functioning as singular ) the art of preaching or writing sermons
[C17: from Greek homilētikos  cordial, from homilein  to converse with; see homily ]

 

And under “homily” the entry is:

hom·i·ly

[hom-uh-lee]

noun, plural hom·i·lies.

1.

a sermon, usually on a Biblical topic and usually of a nondoctrinal nature. (But that’s not what we want, is it?! -cjt)
2.

an admonitory or moralizing discourse.
3.

an inspirational saying or cliché.
Origin:
1545–55;  < Late Latin homīlia  < Greek homīlía  assembly, sermon, equivalent to hómīl ( os ) crowd ( hom ( ) together + -īlos,  masculine combining form of ī́lē  (feminine) crowd) + -ia -y3 ; replacing Middle English omelie  < Middle French  < Latin,  as above

 

There, now you have learned another word and have another course in our Seminary down. I trust this is of interest to you. If it isn’t, it ought to be!

Last semester the first year students started putting some homilies together (more of a meditation) and delivering them in class. This semester they are doing even more – exegeting a passage and putting together their first sermons. It has been interesting watching them go through this process. Though they have heard many sermons, this is the first real one they have to make. They are meeting often with the professors to discuss the process of making this initial sermon. They are focused and taking this very seriously. Which is good and what we want.

Pray for them, that they may become good homiletes. Because good homiletes make good preachers. And that’s what the church needs!

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