Category Archives: Pastoral Theology

The Pastor’s Clothing

How should a pastor dress, particularly for preaching and leading worship? I grew up in the Reformed Church of America in west Michigan, among very traditional Dutch people. On Sunday mornings and evenings it was the norm to see our pastors wear either black preHB Charlesaching robes or traditional suits. The exception was in the hottest part of summer where our pastors would wear short sleeve dress shirts with a tie. We did not have air conditioning in our church, and the heat was just too much for a suit some Sundays. The congregation accepted that and also knew that when more comfortable temperatures returned the suits would be back.

When I began pastoring in 1998 (in a very different denomination) I followed the same pattern of wearing a suit to preach on Sunday mornings. Why? For three reasons: (1) I was only 27 years old and I needed to convey to the congregation that I was taking my work seriously and that worship and preaching itself was serious business. If I did not convey that, then I knew they would not take “that kid pastor” seriously. I needed to earn respect. And since liturgical vestments are rarely used in my denomination, I could not vest without raising unnecessary controversy. (2) My most influential professors in seminary and my pastor in seminary all dressed traditionally in suits for teaching and leading worship, though one was committed to wearing liturgical vestments for worship whenever possible. As Professor Donald Boyd said to me, “Dress so appropriately that people do not think much about what you are wearing.” (3) The influence of my pastors during my growing-up years was (and is) still with me.

Pastor H.B. Charles, who is known for wearing black suits, wrote in a blog post last month about his experience which turns out was much the same as mine when he started pastoring, yet he was even younger:

I was a boy preacher, starting my first pastorate at the age of seventeen. I needed people to take me seriously. And I did not want my attire to be a reason mature people despised my youth.

But why has he continued to wear suits for preaching? Charles wrote,

This is how I want to mount the pulpit. I want my appearance, demeanor, and conduct to show I am on kingdom business. I want to stand up to preach like a herald for the King, not a pimp, clown, or entertainer.

I don’t have any biblical, theological, or religious reasons for wearing black suits all the time. But it is my quiet protest against the lack of respect for the dignity of the pulpit. We need preachers who look and talk and act like preachers – not fitness coaches, talk show hosts, or GQ models.

The designer jeans look is not necessarily easier or cheaper. What is cool has to be kept up with, afforded, and pulled off well. Don’t tell me that pastors who go this route do not care about their appearance – they work hard to have just the right look – and have to update it regularly. A good,traditional suit stays in style a lot longer than designer jeans.

The point is that how we dress as pastors sends messages to a congregation and triggers various responses. A preacher in cool designer jeans and an equally cool untucked shirt sends one kind of message while a suit sends another. What do I want to convey about ppastor casualastoral ministry, the worship of God, and the importance of God’s people? I want to convey reverence for God, the authority of preached Word, and the dignity of the pastoral office, and respect for mature believers. I recognize not all contexts are the same, but suits work for were I have served and do serve now.

 

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Filed under Pastoral Reflections, Pastoral Theology, Sermons / Homiletics

How Pastors Relate to People Teaches Them About God

Just Taylor shared a link that I share with you now about leadership. These eight questions struck me about the impact that pastors have on their congregations and beyond simply by how they relate. Indeed, pastors are to embody spiritual maturity and model the highest in biblical ethics and the fruit of the Spirit (1 Tim. 4:12). This is essential because we lead through example as much as we lead through words. When parishioners see their pastor live out the fruit of the Spirit as he interacts with people, they are left with impressions that stand in stark contrast to how the world operates. Pastors ought to be a bit “otherworldly” or something of a “Holy Man” in the sense that when you interact with one the effect of Jesus is evident upon them, that there is a “holy aroma” about them because of total consecration to the Lord. While “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ ” (1 Cor. 11:1, ESV) is something I have heard so many pastors shy away from, the fact remains that congregations need their pastor to be an outstanding example of sanctification. When I think of pastors who have had a profound impact on me in my formative years, I do not think merely of ones who were good preachers, but of men whose very way of being impacted me.

8 Questions to Diagnose Your Leadership

In his booklet, Leadership: How to Guide Others with Integrity, Stephen Viars asks these instructive, recalibrating questions:

  1. Do people understand more of God’s mercy because of the way I respond to their mistakes?
  2. Do people understand more of God’s holiness because of my high ethical standards?
  3. Do people understand more of God’s patience because of the time I give to grow and develop?
  4. Do people understand more of God’s truthfulness because of the way I communicate honestly?
  5. Do people understand more of God’s faithfulness because they see me keep my promises?
  6. Do people understand more of God’s kindness because of the tone of my voice?
  7. Do people understand more of God’s love because I go out of my way to help and serve them as I lead?
  8. Do people understand more of God’s grace because I avoid being harsh and unreasonably demanding?

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Filed under Pastoral Reflections, Pastoral Theology

Witherington on Preaching

Dr. Ben Witherington III of Asbury Theological Seminary, has written several interesting posts about preaching on his blog. Witherington is a New Testament scholar at Asbury Theological Seminary and is a respected evangelical scholar. These posts come from the perspective of a man who is an academic, churchman, and former pastor. He holds a high standard for preaching and I resonate with several of his points.

Here are a couple of excerpts from The Problem of Preaching – Part Three:

The preacher who wants to be a responsible interpreter of the Bible for his or her people then must either: 1) learn the original languages that God decided were suitable for his Word to be expressed in, and 2) commit himself or herself to doing homework— studying the Word of God with the help of good commentaries, studying to find himself approved, committing himself or herself to life long learning of and about that Word. If 1) is simply impossible, then this means one must do an even better job with 2). It does not mean that one just reads some English translation and then brain storms. The contexts of the Word of God are in many ways very different from ours, and if one reads the Bible without contextual study one will read it anachronistically— reading into the text modern notions, and one’s own opinions and ideas. Frankly God’s Word deserve more respect than that. If it is the most important book in the world for the world’s salvation then it deserves careful and prayerful detailed study of it. It deserves everything we can invest in understanding it and conveying its meaning to others.

And:

I once had a student approach me in frustration. He came from the more pentecostal end of the spectrum and he was one of those people who actually considered too much learning about and of the Bible and its contexts as possibly getting in the way of being a good preacher. He said to me “I don’t know why I need to learn all this stuff, I can just get up into the pulpit and the Spirit will give me utterance.”

My response was “yes you can do that, but it’s a shame you are not giving the Holy Spirit more to work with. Don’t use the Holy Spirit as a labor saving device.

What Witherington has to say above is very true. The work required of good, biblical preaching is significant, scholarly, and time-consuming. That is why many preachers, even ones who have graduated from a good seminary where they were taught exegetical skills, rarely develop expository sermons. But the motivation to learn the skills, build the library, and put in the time for such sermons comes with a high view of biblical inspiration. If the preacher is convinced that God has spoken in His Word, continues to speak through his Word, and wants to convey to the congregation the specifics of that Word that are only revealed to the preacher through serious study, then expository preaching and the work it requires is an accepted burden of the preacher. Wrapped up with this high view of biblical inspiration is also the understanding that what God has revealed MUST be heard. Therefore the preacher must study, understand, unpack, and then organize and deliver the truths of a text for listeners.

Many preachers say that they have a high view of the Bible, but their preaching does not back up their words.

 

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Filed under Pastoral Theology, Sermons / Homiletics, Theology

An All-New Faster Unto Thee

After years of sporadically blogging on another platform and after taking a break for almost a year, I have decided to build a new blog and start all over. This new blog, even though it has the same title as my old one, will be more focused than the previous one. This one will focus on the ideas that are shaping my own pastoral theology and practice as I strive to become a better pastor. Look for new posts starting the second week of July, which is one week after I move to a new pastorate. As you can imagine, I am very busy packing and transitioning from my present pastorate of ten (good and happy) years.

I have ideas for posts that involve reflections on readings related to pastoral work, book reviews, devotional content, practical theology, and the occasional post on systematic theology, which is an interest of mine. Of course, I will post a bit about catechesis in general and about my book, Classic Catechism, in particular.

For now, visit one of my favorite blogs: Bible Design Blog. This blog inspired me to order my very own ESV Pitt Minion which is coming next month! I can’t  wait to hold it, use it, and review it right here.

Also, visit my friend Billy Birch’s new blog, Will and Graced.

Links to both these blogs are in the sidebar.

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Filed under Classic Catechism, Pastoral Theology, Uncategorized