Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Call

We have all heard it many, many times. They didn’t want to do it, but God was going to make them. They fought with God. They resisted as long as they could possibly bear. Then, finally, they surrendered.  With “Just as I Am” playing they went forward, fell on their face and cried. The call to the ministry was dramatic. It was epic.

That has not been my experience. My desire for ministry as a vocation did not culminate with the throwing of a stick into a fire, or breaking down in tears at the altar, or on the side of some road.  I’m not trying to discredit those experiences. God certainly used Moses in spite of his protests. Some may very well have those experiences--though, admittingly, I have some concerns about people entering the ministry who have resist God in that way. One Old Testament prophet resisted God's call and he ended up getting puked out by a giant fish. Certainly, that is nobody's ideal for a ministerial candidate.  In this post, I'm reflecting on my own calling. I’m sharing a less explosive call to the ministry, and correcting thinking that the call must flare with the dramatic; and that there is dignity to all vocation.

For me, the call to the ministry was more of an impression. I had always wanted to help people. As a child, I wanted to be a doctor. During high school, my walk with God really began to take foot. Romans changed my life. Paul answered so many questions that I had.  I couldn’t stop reading.  I got to know God--actually know Him. Stunning, though it was the Creator, the Sustainer, the All-Mighty was not some distant Being dictating the universe. He was present with me. He became my friend.  In high school, I was exposed to A.W. Tozer, whose works, more than any other author, formed my thinking about God. The Knowledge of the Holy and The Pursuit of God rocked my world. I feasted on those books. In high school, I felt the joy of knowing God. I could affirm with David that in His presence there is “fullness of joy,” and at His right hand “pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).  Later, I discovered John Piper and through his rich communication of Scripture I realized that this is how one’s walk with God should be. Desiring God was monumental in my life.

As I grew closer to God, I knew I had to be in the ministry. I didn’t fight it. I didn’t argue with God. I actually wanted to do it. I longed for it. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else with my life. It was a matter of finding God’s will for my life. Finding God’s will is not hard. It’s very simple. David put it plainly in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” As we walk with God, He changes us. When the Spirit is leading, our desires become His desires. In a beautifully, delicate, strange way, we are divinely-charged to do what we want. That’s His will.  In high school, God took my desire to help people and showed me the joy of knowing Him. He had gifted me with certain gifts, like the ability to comprehend and communicate Scripture. With my hand in His, He gently showed me that those gifts, wed with my desires and His direction was what I was meant to be.

That was my “call.” It was not sudden, it was not explosive. It became clearer as my relationship with God became more intimate. My experience should not be limited to the ministry call alone.  It is true, I believe, that my purpose in life is to be a pastor, a shepherd. However, in no way is the call to ministry any more sacred than the call to a secular vocation. Jeremiah’s experience with God is true for all of us. He “formed” us in the womb, He “consecrated” or set us apart, He appointed us to a task (Jer. 1:5). God has created all of us for a purpose to edify the Body of Christ and reach a dying world. The call to the ministry is no more noble than the call to law, or medicine, or to the oilfield. When it’s God’s desire, it’s sacred. Let us, then, put away the man-exalting esteem we pour on those going into ministry. Instead, we should build up and hold up the plumber, and the restaurant server, and the lawyer alike. All our dignified by God’s call. They all sing the beautiful song of God’s diversity.

"God Appears to Moses in Burning Bush" taken from http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burning_bush#/image/File:Moses_Pluchart.jpg

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Reconsidering Homosexuality

Different and the Same
My perspective on same sex attraction has changed. What hasn't changed is that I still believe that the Bible clearly teaches homosexual practice as sinful. This is not a post that will defend that statement, although one day I may pursue that. Where I have changed, however, is in my perspective of and interaction with people who have same sex attraction.

Marriage, State, and the Trinity
Politically, I'm a comfortable conservative with libertarian itchings. It is true that I am opposed to same sex marriage in America.  I do recognize some accompanying issues with the redefining of marriage as something other than the union of a man and woman. But even with that recognition of potential issues, my opposition of same sex marriage is not primarily political. It's theological. The culture we are immersed in provides much context in our formative understanding. When we read of Christ's loving the church as His bride (Eph. 5:25) and of the great Wedding Feast uniting the Divine Groom to His Bride (Rev. 19:6-9) our assumed understanding is of the uniting of two distinct peoples.

Proper Christian theology teaches that God exists in a Trinitarian relationship. Yet, the Bible also describes God as one:"“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one" (Deut. 6:4). Although three distinct Persons with three distinct personalities, God as Trinity is one. The underlying Hebrew word for one is ehad. This is also the same word used to describe the marital relationship between Adam and Eve. Speaking of the pattern of marriage, Genesis records that "man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). Just like the Trinity is distinct but one, so is a man and woman in becoming one flesh. Men and women are different-both physically and emotionally. But in marriage they are joined together-distinct, differing genders-as one flesh. Marriage is an invitation to mirror the ehad, the oneness in diversity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

It is inevitable that same sex marriage will be the law of the land all across the United States. And that's ok. Public recognition of same sex marriage, although damaging to a theological understanding of marriage, will not doom the United States.

America and Rome
America's embrace of homosexual marriage, preachers say, will be the cause of its downfall. And here the comparisons to Rome are made. It's an understatement to say that comparisons to Rome are misleading. With Constantinople's rise to prominence, Rome became less central to a divided Empire. In 410, Rome was initially sacked. In 455, Rome was sacked again. Rome's decline cannot be attributed to one cultural, economic, or political factor. Disease, decay, lack of natural resources, and invasion all played a hand in Rome's fall. It was a culmination of events that took place over several hundred years. Even with Rome's fall, the remaining Roman Empire transformed and thrived as The Byzantine Empire and lasted for another 1,000 years. 

In 400 B.C. Rome was far more culturally debauched before and during its rise to greatness than in its Christianized state of A.D. 400 when it began to decline. There is no correlation between the morality of the Empire and its success. Conservatives who are quick to point out the similarities between America's increasingly progressive culture and Roman debauchery neglect to mention these factors.

We're All Abnormal
One of the basic truths about the Gospel is its clear proclamation that all of humanity is depraved. Every person that has ever lived, Jesus Himself the sole exception (2 Cor. 5:21), is a lost sinner (Rom. 3:10-12). Not one of us is as he should be. We are all abnormal. When faced with our faults we often say, "we're only human." The truth, however, is that we aren't human enough. Adam was most fully human when he was free from sin, walking in the presence of his Creator. Adam, Paul tells us, "was a type of the one who was to come" (Rom. 5:14). Man, in his perfect state, is but a type, or a forerunner of the True Human. This Man would take the title, "Son of Man." Humanity, ironically, has its fullest expression in the Divine Son, Jesus.He is the most fully human being that has ever existed.  There isn't one of us, saint or sinner, straight or gay who can stake a claim to normal humanity. That distinction belongs to Jesus alone.  

When we view and speak of people with same sex attraction as abnormal we dehumanize them. Though fallen, like us, they still bear God's image, like us. Consequently, our engagement with them will be seriously twisted. Heterosexual sins are not any cleaner than homosexual sins. It is God, after all, who says: 
"Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it"~Ezekiel 16:49-50
This devastating proclamation does not negate the sin of Sodom's homosexuality (Jd. 7). What it does do, however, is reveal God's perspective. In God's eyes, pride and ignoring the poor and needy is just as damning as homosexual activity.

One day while walking back from class with my friend Sean, we were discussing a grotesque crime that was current in the news. "What an animal," I said of the criminal. "If not for the grace of God, what kind of people would we be, Josh?" Sean replied. He had rebuked me, and he was right. In my pride, I was actually offended at the what Sean said to me. Although I had believed what Sean said, I wasn't living it. When we in our pride look down on disgust at people with same sex attraction, we are sinning-and our sin is just as wicked as their practice.

It was one summer a few years ago that I returned to New Mexico from school and a young man sought my help in his personal struggles--same sex attraction among them. We talked about the Gospel, sanctification and satisfaction in Christ. I shared with him how as our relationship with Jesus satisfies us far more than sin ever could. And then I asked him if he had "victory over his same sex attraction." He said that he had. Our conversation then moved on. I cringe now when I think of that conversation and the counsel I gave him. While I believe I was correct in pointing him to relationship with Jesus and telling him how that satisfies us more than sin can, I did give him a false expectation. The impression I gave is that he could experience a complete freedom from the pull of same sex attraction. That's just not reality, for any Christian. Sin's seduction is never fully vanquished in this life. Paul himself struggled with this Christian living experience (Rom. 7:15). I've been saved for many years, and I still feel the pull of my own sins. These sins still compete with my joy in Christ. When counseling that young man, I painted an unbiblical, destructive, hopeless picture of sanctification for him.

My perspective at that time was that individuals struggling with same sex attraction are abnormal. Though I would never have said it, in my heart I truly believed same sex attraction to be a far more grotesque, wicked sin than others. During that time, if I saw a same sex couple I would have been disgusted and offended. That perspective seriously crippled my counsel to that young man. If I were to do it all over again, I would explain to him that although our sins are different, we are ultimately really the same. We're both struggling sinners desperately in need of God's grace.

I have finally reached the point in my life where I no longer view individuals with same sex attraction that way. I finally see them as people-magnificent, image bearers of Christ broken by sin just like me. They aren't the enemy. Their sin is no worse than mine. They need Jesus as much as I need Jesus.

Christians, 0f all people, should love and care most for people with same sex attraction. We, who have experienced Gospel power, should not view people with same sex attraction with disgust. We should not resent them. We should give them the Gospel not in word only, but in action. We must remember that we're all abnormal and that the Gospel is for all of us.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sinful, Yet Righteous

Our world is complex: beautiful and lethal, hot and cold, dry and wet. There are mountains and valleys, deserts and oceans.  Our lives are also complex. They are filled with glee and agony, love and hate, life and death. Solomon recognized the complexity of the human experience in his beloved poem:

 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
 a time to be born, and a time to die;
 a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
 a time to break down, and a time to build up;
 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
 a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
 a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
 a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
 a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
 a time to love, and a time to hate;
 a time for war, and a time for peace.
        ~Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Life, then, is filled with seasons. Complex seasons with complex living. In the Christian life, complexity abounds. There is no such thing as a clean black and white. Life swims in a gray ocean. Though redeemed, we still sin.

Righteousness and Sinfulness
In our Christian experience we long to be rid of sin, and to be fully immersed in the ocean of satisfaction. Though we have tasted God's goodness and experienced His joy, we feel ourselves pulled back down to our sins. Sin, though pleasurable,  falls far short of the happy life in Christ. "Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly," Solomon observes (Prov. 26:11).  We are offered the joy of satisfaction and we refuse it preferring fleeting, unfulfilling pleasure. Speaking of Israel, God exclaimed, "Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water" (Jer. 2:12-13). It was shocking to God that His people refused His infinite bliss for finite, unsatisfying living.

Sound Christian theology teaches what the theologians call the imputed righteousness of Christ. Speaking of Christ, Paul writes "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21).  Just as God imputed our sin to Christ on the cross, He imputes Christ's righteousness to us. Because of Christ's work we are treated by God as righteous. 
We are commanded to by holy like God is holy (1 Pt. 1:16), but we fail. It is easy to become discouraged. Paul felt inner soul tension. "I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate," the apostle confessed to the Church at Rome (Rom. 7:15).

Christianity and Perfectionism
Many times, Christianity's focus is not on an individual's heart or relationship with God. Instead, what is important is the external: his dress, his entertainment, even the church he attends. The Holy Spirit is not trusted to conform that person to His likeness. In this Christianity, there is an unsaid expectation of perfect, neat, clean lives. There isn't room the reality of a messy existence. Perfect, neat lives however, do not conform to our experiences. Nor are they recorded for us in Scripture. All of humanity is grotesquely marred by sin, even Christians. 

Heroes in the Bible were fallen. Moses committed murder. David, a man after God's own heart, had an affair with Bathsheba and ordered the murder of her husband. Solomon, the wise king, was a polygamist and worshiped other gods. When He needed their companionship most, the disciples deserted Christ. Peter denied Him. 

As Protestants, it's easy to paint a target on Catholicism's history with its crusades and inquisitions. But our heroes, our theological giants, were deeply flawed as well. Martin Luther was anti-Semantic. John Calvin played a role in the execution of Michael Servetus. While in his fifties, John Knox married a teenage girl. Jonathan Edwards owned slaves. John Wesley failed miserably as a husband. 

Life is unendingly complex. Navigating through its calm and rough waters is no easy task. It's a messy thing to be living person. It's a messy thing to be a Christian. We can bask in the bliss of satisfaction in Christ and we can roll in the mud of sin. No one, however close to God, has it all together. No one has arrived. A Christianity that looks down on struggling people is self deceived Christianity. We are all struggling because we are all deeply flawed. 

So we are faced with a tension. We live as people marred by sin but redeemed by Christ. Although righteous, we still sin. We still fall short. But, there is refreshing, life charging, energizing grace. We should strive for holiness in our lives. But our striving should be accompanied by the acknowledgement that even the righteous sin. Our treatment of other Christians must also be seriously guided by that reality. When we sin and are faced with despair, we must remember the truth of the Gospel: "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross" (Col. 2:13-14). All our sins, He nailed to the cross. Beautiful, life giving words. Even after this redemption, Even as righteous, we sin.  Again, we turn to Solomon, "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins" (Eccl. 7:20). Solomon's wisdom, mirroring our own complex lives, leaves us in tension. And that's ok.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Thoughts on Godzilla

Back to Boyhood
A couple of years ago Comic Con brought whispers of a new Godzilla movie. Pacific Rim unleashed excitement about Kaiju's on the big screen again, setting the stage for the King of the Monster's return. I've always loved Godzilla. I grew up watching Toho's Godzilla with my dad who also grew up loving Godzilla. The moment I heard that a new Godzilla was in production I was both excited and nervous. Excited, because Godzilla is totally awesome. Nervous, because the last time Americans attempted a Godzilla movie it was a total disaster (GODZILLA, 1998). But more than anything, I felt myself reverting back to boyhood. Boyhood, back when girls had cooties and the Dallas Cowboys were winning super bowls--good times for sure. Godzilla was a boyhood favorite and I could not wait to see him return to the big screen.

America Redeems Itself
In Godzilla, Director Gareth Edwards made an installment worthy of the name, redeeming America of the '98 mistake. Roland Emmerich's GODZILLA was a joke, having Ferris Bueller face off against a giant mutated, pregnant iguana in cliched New York City. Even though Toho's Godzilla had been reduced to predictable, cheesy, B movies, they were still much better than Emmerich's Godzilla. As a little jab at Emmerich's Godzilla, Toho took  "Godzilla" renamed it Zilla and faced it up against the real Godzilla in Godzilla:Final Wars. Their fight, lasting all of fifteen seconds, is the shortest match up in the entire Godzilla franchise.  Below, is the fight between Godzilla and Zilla from Godzilla: Final Wars.

****Spoilers Below****


Angelina Jolie
Wait, Angelina Jolie isn't in Godzilla! You are right. She isn't. But she did harm my long anticipated Godzilla experience. I waited for a long time to see Godzilla. I wanted nothing less than to see Godzilla in an IMAX theater. Tragically, sseeing Godzilla smack around other monsters on that huge screen didn't happen. Just two days before I made the trip down to Albuqurque to see Godzilla in IMAX glory, it was suddenly out of the theater. Angelina Jolie and her Maleficent were to blame for that. For spearing my Godzilla dreams on her pointy fairy horns, I'm boycotting Angelina Jolie for life. And I won't watch Maleficent. Ever. Because of her, I had to watch Godzilla at the Allen 8 with a significantly smaller screen than IMAX, surrounded by crying kids, slurping sodas, loud popcorn munchers and the glow of cell phones. Thanks, Angelina. 

Everyone Not Named Bryan Cranston
Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays Ford Brody, a very boring character with little depth and lacking of an engaging portrayl. Elizabeth Olsen, sister of famed Olsen twins, plays his wife. She is even more forgettable than her husband and somehow survives the epic fight between Godzilla and the MUTOs. Of all the main cast not named Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanbe portrays the most believable character. The problem with Watanbe's character, however, is he is not a vital character in the movie and doesn't have all that much screen time. The movie teases us with Cranston as Joe Brody but actually focuses on his son Ford Brody and his journey home to San Francisco. 

Godzilla,himself, was awesome. I'll talk about him more in the "The Good" section below. Here, my complaint is that he wasn't in the film nearly as much as he deserved. I knew Godzilla wasn't a mindless action movie. I knew it was a deeply human drama in the midst of Kaiju combat chaos. I just wish I would have seen more of him. I also wish that the movie would have focused less on boring Ford Brody and more on the stomping, roaring, Godzilla. Gareth Edwards certainly did a great job building up the tension leading to Godzilla's arrival. He didn't immediately reveal all of Godzilla, we saw spikes here and a tail there. That was excellent. What wasn't excellent, however, was the inevitable cut away to Brody or his wife when the action began between Godzilla and the MUTOs. You have to wait almost the entire movie before having sustained focus on Godzilla himself. Even then, though awesome, Godzilla's final fight is far too short. 


Bryan Cranston
Best known as Malcom's dad and drug king Heisenberg, Bryan Cranston is the biggest star in Godzilla. Cranston's acting is superb, the best in the entire movie. He plays Joe Brody, a supervisor of a nuclear plant in Japan. From the very beginning with Brody's wife's tragic death, Cranston delivers. His performance was so gripping, I found myself tearing up. Tears in a Godzilla movie? Possible with Cranston. Unfortunately, Cranston's screen time does not reflect his appearance in the movie's trailers. In a surprise twist, reminiscent of Ned Stark, Cranston's character dies fairly early on. Although necessary to the plot and laying the groundwork for the movie's true hero, I would have loved to have seen more Cranston in Godzilla. Maybe he'll be a major player in Better Call Saul. I can dream right?

All of the movie's trailers and promotional images promised a showdown between Heisenberg and Godzilla or Godzilla and Heisenberg vs. some Kaiju.With the early death of Bryan Cranston's character, a gaping void is left.  Who will emerge as the central hero of the movie? With humanity's failure to stop the MUTOs, it becomes very clear who that hero is. Godzilla, The King of the Monsters, dramatically rises from the Pacific Ocean as the movie's hero. He majestically battles and defeats the MUTOs.

Not only is he the movie's hero, he looks and sounds amazing. Long gone are the days of a guy in a rubber suit. This Godzilla is fully CGI, some of the finest CGI I've ever seen. Designed in cooperation with Toho, Godzilla looks incredible. His roar is a slightly modified version of his iconic Toho roar. He is a far cry from the iguana mistake of '98. 

I had high expectations for Godzilla. Even though I wish Bryan Cranston had more time in the movie and that Godzilla's fight sequences were longer, Godzilla delivered. In my opinion, this Godzilla bypassed the cheesiness that has largely characterized the franchise. Its the fullest expression of any Godzilla movie I've seen. It's realistic (as realistic as a giant monster fighting other monsters can be), and it's a serious movie. In many ways it is a throwback to the original Godzilla or Gojira. I'm excited that this is first of a planned trilogy with Edwards as director. I may have missed Godzilla on the IMAX, but that won't happen next time. The King of the Monster's next return to the big screen deserves the big, big screen. My anticipation is already rising.

Godzilla gets four, hot Hatch Green Chilis out of five:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Two Mothers

Comparison and Contrast
Two stories rolled across my Facebook news feed today. Both concerned mothers. Both concerned the life of their unborn child. Up to that point, the two were comparable. What they chose to do with their child, however, made all the difference in the world. One mother chose life for her child. The other chose to murder her child. The decision they made reveals a tragic contrast.

A Mother's Self Sacrificing Love
Elizabeth Joice and baby Lily
Having endured surgery and chemotherapy for cancer, Elizabeth Joice was facing the reality that she would never be able to give birth to a child. Her doctors told her that she would never be able to get pregnant. Amazingly, though, she did became pregnant. One month after this miraculous, joyful news the cancerous tumor returned. Even though doctors removed the tumor, the pregnancy prevented full body scans that would reveal if her cancer had spread. She was faced with either aborting her child to save her life or jeopardize her life for her baby. She chose her baby's life. Her daughter Lily was born via  C-section in January. Elizabeth died in March. She gave her life so that her daughter could live--an incredible story of a mother's self sacrificing love.1

Josie Cunningham
A Mother's Self Promoting Murder
Josie Cunningham is a 23 year old British model, escort girl and aspiring celebrity. She made headlines when she revealed her plans to abort her child. At 18 weeks pregnant, Cunningham views her pregnancy as being a hindrance to her career. No one wants to see a pregnant model, after all. Cunningham reached her decision after fearing that her pregnancy would interfere with her chances of being on the show Big Brother. “An abortion will further my career. This time next year I won’t have a baby. Instead, I’ll be famous, driving a bright pink Range Rover and buying a big house. Nothing will get in my way,”she said.2 

Josie's Brutal Honesty
The response to Josie's abortion motivation has been outrage. Although thousands of children are murdered every year because their lives are inconvenient, Josie's public statements have caused a furor.  Some people, however, are calling for Josie's defense. In his piece in The Guardian, Martin Robbins provides some enlightening, honest commentary. For Robbins, Josie's dilemma doesn't concern the life of the unborn child, but the convenience of the mother. He writes, 
Like many British women, model and celebrity-wannabe Josie Cunningham had a decision to make about her pregnancy. She could have had the baby she didn't want, by a man she didn't love, and abandoned the career she craved; or she could put her career first, gain financial security, and think about adding to her family later, when she was ready. She chose the latter, and for that she's been vilified by the nation's press, condemned by leading public figures, and subjected to trial by hate mob. A woman exercises her reproductive rights, and Twitter burns. Like many British women, model and celebrity-wannabe Josie Cunningham had a decision to make about her pregnancy. She could have had the baby she didn't want, by a man she didn't love, and abandoned the career she craved; or she could put her career first, gain financial security, and think about adding to her family later, when she was ready. She chose the latter, and for that she's been vilified by the nation's press, condemned by leading public figures, and subjected to trial by hate mob. A woman exercises her reproductive rights, and Twitter burns.
 The outcry against her, says Robbins, comes down "to basic snobbery." He continues:

In reality, her actions are no different from those of thousands of women who exercise their reproductive rights in order to make informed choices about their future careers and families, yet because she uses the wrong language, because she talks "common", and wants to be on Big Brother instead of working in a call centre, she has been subjected to a torrent of vile abuse and bullying
He comments on how Josie's case affects individual rights: 
This sudden backlash against abortion highlights just how fragile women's rights remain in Britain, and how easily sentiment can shift. It comes as the result of another disturbing trend, an increasing acceptance of the idea that only certain people deserve human rights.
He concludes his piece by stating that if Cunningham's rights aren't protected, it's only a matter of time before the rights of other people are not protected.   The irony of Robbins' piece is obvious. Individual rights violations aren't on the horizon. They are here. Millions of babies have had their rights ignored in abortion. While crying foul over the injustice of not protecting the rights of all people, Robbins doesn't acknowledge the rights that are violated every time a child is murdered in abortion.

The Value of Life
The reaction to Josie's decision for abortion reveals dishonesty in pro-choice rhetoric. Abortion exists for the rights of women, pro-choice advocates tell us. In Josie they seemingly have a champion of women's rights. Or at least they should, if they were being honest. She has made clear that her pregnancy is getting in the way of her career. This is pro-choice argumentation fleshed out. Cunningham is  honest enough to articulate it. Like Robbins pointed out: she is just doing what thousands of other women do, her problem is the wrong language in expressing her motivation. If pro-choice advocates are honest and consistent, they would celebrate Josie not berate her. She is simply putting into practice her rights over her body. 

Of course it's possible she made these comments as a publicity stunt. Even so, the reaction against her reveals society's feelings towards abortion. The ugly truth is that abortion is acceptable for the right reasons. Of course right reasons vary from woman to woman. Without submission to God, a God who values infant life, every person determines their own standard of morality. What's right for me may not be right for you.  In that morality, who is to say she is wrong? Robbins would be right a negative view of Cunningham's abortion is nothing more than snobbery.  Apparently a desire to be rich and famous is not a good enough reason for abortion in the eyes of society at large.
The issue ultimately boils down to how one values human life. In existential morality the self determines right and wrong. The value of life is subjective. In a Christian worldview, all of life is valuable, including the unborn. Right and wrong are determined by God. 

Elizabeth Joice valued the life of her unborn child, but Josie Cunningham does not. Elizabeth's desire to give birth to her daughter cost her everything. Josie's desire to be rich and famous will cost her child everything. These contrasting perspectives on the value of the lives of the unborn is absolutely terrifying. Bone chilling. Deadly. 

1 Kate Briquelet, "A Mom's Terrible Choice: Her Life or Her Child's." The New York Post, March 30, 2014, ( http://nypost.com/2014/03/30/a-moms-terrible-choice-her-life-or-her-childs/ )

2 Gemma Aldridge, "NHS boob job girl Josie Cunningham plans to have abortion so she can star on BIG BROTHER." The Daily Mirror, April 20, 2014, ( http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/video-josie-cunningham-plans-abortion-3434350 ) 

3 Martin Robbins, "Why we must defend Josie Cunningham's right to an abortion." The Guardian, April 23, 2014 ( http://www.theguardian.com/science/the-lay-scientist/2014/apr/23/1 )

Friday, February 14, 2014

Shattered Hearts: The Sad Love Life of John Wesley

Wesley the Lover
It's hard to overstate John Wesley's impact on the history of Christianity. Wesley's quest for real, authentic, Christianity furthered an awakening and ignited the Methodist denomination. Wesley's preaching was powerful, his writing prolific and his theology widespread. His influence is so significant that it has been stated "Since Wesley, we are all Arminians." He is a giant among giants.

Wesley the preacher heralded the Gospel. Wesley the theologian emanated passionate brilliance. Wesley the leader super humanly organized Methodism . Wesley the lover, however, did not rise above the rest of us mortals. From tragic relationships to his disastrous marriage, John Wesley the lover was painfully human. 

Forbidden Love: Sally Kirkham
John Wesley was a ladies' man. He was in tune with his heart, compassionate, and tender. Wesley would visit Sally at the Stanton rectory. They played games together, danced and discussed literature, theology and spirituality. It is likely that Sally played a significant role in Wesley's spiritual development in pursuing holiness. Wesley was fond of Sally. Their relationship was flirtatious, but it never reached anything more than that

Wesley never asked Sally to marry him and in 1725 she married John Chapone. Wesley continued to write to her even after she was married. Kenneth J. Collins recounts an evening meeting between John Wesley and the married Sally Chapone:
[Wesley] took the liberty to hold her hand while she laid his head gently on her breast. Moved with affection, Sally expressed her ongoing care for John: "If my husband should ever resent our freedom, which I am satisfied he never will; such an accident as this would make it necessary in some measure to restrain the appeareance of the esteem I have to you, but the esteem as it is founded on reason and virtue and entirely agreeble to us both, no circumstance will ever make alter." Again, Sally professed that she loved Wesley "more than all mankind except her father and her busband."1 
Their ongoing writing to each other troubled Wesley's mother Susanna. Collins, again, records that:
Sally Chapone, in considering the appropriateness of her ongoing relationship with Wesley exclaimed, "I can't think it expedient, nor indeed lawful, to break off that acquaintance which is one of the strongest incentives I have to virtue."Nevertheless, Susanna Wesley was not impressed with such professions of high-mindedness, and she feared that Sally--or her son--might soon desire things other than virtue. In fact, the correspondence between Wesley and this married woman outright alarmed Susanna: "The more I think of it, the less I approve it."2
In Sally Kirkham, Wesley missed an opportunity. In Sally Chapone, Wesley faced forbidden love. Sally presented with him two different types of relationship woe, both terribly sad. But, for John Wesley, the heartbreak love brought was just beginning.

Georgia Tragedy: Sophia Hopkey
John Wesley's missed opportunity with Sally could not compare with the explosive drama that was his relationship with Sophia Hopkey. Early on in Wesley's brief ministry in Georgia, he met Sophia Hopkey.Wesley had come from England to Georgia to minister to the natives but, instead found himself ministering as a pastor. In 1736, Sophia was Wesley's nurse when he became ill. She cared for him and sat by his bed reading prayers to him. Wesley was smitten, completely charmed by this young woman. His pursuit of her would play a hand in the downfall of his short lived ministry to the natives. 

Sophia Hopkey was the niece of the Chief Magistrate of Savannah, Thomas Causton. James Oglethrope, governor of Georgia, thought that Wesley should have a wife. In October of 1736, Oglethrope arranged for Wesley and Sophia to travel together on a boat from Frederica to Savannah. This trip sent Wesley into a turmoil as he was confronted with his own resolution to remain single so that he could minister to the natives, and his own heart's desire for Sophia. He also presumed that celibacy was Sophia's desire as well. It was on this voyage, that Wesley discovered Sophia was engaged to Tom Mellichamp. Mellichamp was a cruel and violent man. Kenneth Collins records Wesley's inquiry of her relationship with Mellichamp:

"I have promised either to marry him or marry no one at all," Miss Hopkey immediately burst into tears and whimpered, "I am every way unhappy, I wont have Tommy for he is a bad man. And I can't have none else." She then cautioned Wesley not to speak any longer on this subject, for he did not realize the danger he was in, and the two ended their conversation with a Psalm.3
The trip with Sophia and the revelation of her sad engagement to Mellichamp did not deter Wesley from spending time with her. He spent private time counseling her and tutoring her in French. Wesley's resolve to remain single was crumbling as he expressed his affections to her, wrapping his arm around her waist and kissing her. As his relationship with Sophia grew, so did his inward struggle. He sought the advice of a Moravian pastor who, to Wesley's surprise encouraged him to marry Sophia.

Eventually, Wesley revealed to Sophia his conflict of wanting her but also wanting to minister. She responded by telling him she would not longer would go to breakfast with him, or spend time alone with him at his home. The next day she informed him that she no longer desired to be tutored in French by him. A heartbroken Wesley then decided to return to England.

When she learned about a week later that he was planning on returning to England soon, she "changed color several times" and exclaimed "What! Are you going to England? Then I have no tie to America left." When Wesley asked her about these words later, she responded in tears, "You are the best friend I ever had in this world."4
Like thousands of other men have experienced, John Wesley had been friend-zoned by Sophia. She cared enough for him that she did not want want him to leave, but she didn't express a romantic love to him.  She had both expressed a desire for and against a relationship with him, as he had done with her. The two of them continued to spend time together, not at Wesley's home but hers. Wesley loved Sophia and was completely taken by her beauty. He would take her hand, kiss her, and longed to spend time with her. They were two young lovers, lovers that could never be.

On March 9th, 1737 everything changed. Sophia revealed to Wesley that she had given permission to a man named Williamson to marry her. Williamson was not known for his godliness. She told Wesley that she would marry Williamson unless Wesley had an objection. Wesley took her engagement to Williamson as a slight and was completely devastated. On March 12th, 1737 Sophia Hopkey married Williamson.

Wesley's perspective of Sophia immediately changed. No longer was she the sweet beauty in whom he could see no wrong. For Wesley, Sophia's shortcomings became stunningly clear. He even began look for them. He noticed she had missed the Lord's Supper and he believed her to be a liar. He confronted her and was attempting to build a case against her.

On August 7, 1737 John Wesley barred her from receiving the Lord's Supper. It this public humiliation that upset her uncle, Savannah's Chief Magistrate, Thomas Causton. Causton demanded to know why Wesley would subject his niece to such embarrassment. Wesley responded by saying Sophia had wrongs to correct. Causton then started a rumor that Wesley barred Sophia from the Lord's Supper because he had been rejected of her so she could marry Williamson. Wesley, indeed, had begun his campaign against Sophia after she married Williamson.

Wesley very quickly lost favor with the public and on December 2, 1737 he began on a journey back to England. Wesley came to America to minister to the natives but instead served as a pastor. He fell wildly in love only to be ultimately rejected. Sophia had Wesley's heart and that troubled him immensely. He had not cared for a girl like he cared for Sophia. He was in love and love's course dragged him down into the depths of bitter heart ache. Who knows what would have happened had Wesley objected to her marriage to Williamson. Perhaps she was giving him an ultimatum of sorts. What is known for sure, however, is that John Wesley's ministry and love life in Georgia were both complete failures. 

Betrayal: Grace Murray
Wesley once again found himself sick and being nursed back to health by a woman he would fall for.  In 1748, he was under the care of Grace Murray, a Methodist class leader and orphan housekeeper. Wesley was impressed with her and proposed to her not long after meeting her. She went with him as he journeyed south, and he left her in Chinley with fellow minister and friend John Bennet. This would prove to be a disastrous mistake.

In the Summer of 1749 while the two ministered together in Ireland, Wesley and Grace entered into a betrothal contract. It was during the return journey back to England that Wesley discovered a startling truth about John Bennet. Grace had developed feelings for him when Wesley had left her in his care at Chinley. She still had feelings for him even after she had entered engagement with Wesley. Wesley was distraught. She said she had feelings for Bennet but still pronounced her love to Wesley. He asked her who she would choose. She responded that she loved him and wanted him to marry her immediately. Wesley would not accept her request until he could clear the air with Bennet and revive some advice. Charles, Wesley's brother, heard the gossip about the Wesley/Murray/Bennet love triangle and saw a potential scandal in the making. He traveled to Newcastle and urged Grace to marry Bennet. And she did. 

Wesley felt betrayed on several fronts. The woman he loved and wanted still had feelings for his friend and fellow minister, Bennet. Bennet had betrayed his trust and confidence by moving in on Grace. Charles, meaning well, had hurt him deeply by encouraging Bennet and Grace to marry. Wesley's  relationship with his brother was strained. His friendship with Bennet imploded, with Wesley publicly attacking Bennet. His attacks were veiled in theological disagreement much like he had done years earlier when denying Sophia Hopkey the Lord's Supper.

Wesley had failed dramatically so far in his love life. Understandably, his views on loving women and marriage were very negative. Soon, though, Wesley again found himself in another mess of a relationship. 

Marriage Misery: Mary Vazielle
In Mary Vazielle, Wesley saw an opportunity for a marriage. Mary was a wealthy widow past the age of child bearing.  Wesley saw the potential for a family without children as freeing him for the work of the ministry.  In February 1751, Wesley and Mary married. Wesley was often gone but wrote his wife regularly. At the beginning of their marriage, they seemed to be a happy couple. But, things would soon change. 

Wesley gave his wife permission to open his mail and she was shocked to find that he was writing to several women. One of the women Wesley wrote was Sarah Ryan. Sarah had gone through three failed marriages and under Wesley's ministry was converted. Mary grew jealous of Sarah and the attention her husband gave her. One evening at a conference dinner where Ryan was serving, Mary Wesley stormed in, making a public scene, and called Sarah a whore. 

As if this outburst of rage wasn't enough to further their tempest of a marriage, Mary found a letter inside of Wesley's pocket from Sarah where she expressed deep affection to him. After finding the letter, Mary Wesley left her husband. Though she returned a few days letter, her leaving him would be a sad pattern of their married life. Mary was married to a husband who so busied himself with the work of the ministry that he neglected her. He didn't have time for her, but he somehow found time to write Sarah Ryan. She was understandably and rightly upset. 

After 23 years of a miserable marriage with an inattentive husband, Mary left Wesley for the final time in 1774. Though they did communicate through letters, their marriage relationship was far past repair. On October 8, 1781, Mary Wesley died. John Wesley wasn't notified of her death right away and did not attend her funeral. 

Of God and Women
For Wesley, love of God and love of a woman were competing affections. The young Wesley was torn with their competition. He loved God and loved women. But he would not allow any love with a woman, no matter how pure, compete with his love for his God. His heart was for God alone. Kenneth J. Collins observes that:
This was a pattern that Wesley not only continued through his life, but one that also caused him considerable difficulty. It emerged in the wake of his understanding of entire dedication to God not in an inclusive, embracing way, but in a nearly exclusive way, that God must not only be highest love, but also, in a real sense his only love.5 
The older Wesley married out of necessity and it was miserable disaster. He neglected his wife, who should have been his first true ministry. Instead of showing her affection, Wesley gave affection to several other women. He failed her in dramatic fashion. John Wesley may have succeeded as a preacher, theologian, and Methodist founder, but he failed as a husband. Wesley's love life is a stain on his otherwise exceptionally, exemplary life. 

1 Kenneth J. Collins, A Real Christian: The Life of John Wesley (Nashville: Abingdon, 1999), 34.
2 Ibid., 34.
3 Ibid., 45.
4 Ibid., 57.
5 Ibid., 35.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Affirming and Encouraging to the Ministry

Affirmation and Encouragement
"If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task," Paul said to Timothy (1 Tim. 3:1). When a church has within its congregation a young man pursuing pastoral ministry, it is a good thing. It is a visible confirmation that God is working in its midst. He is pursuing men from its flock to work in the shepherding ministry. It's a healthy sign.

Every man entering the ministry of the Gospel receives an internal call. These calls are not necessarily dramatic narratives climaxing in surrender. This call is often portrayed in the called one fighting with God and finally relenting in tears on the side of a country road. In my own experience, the internal call did not involve a campfire, a surrendering to the Lord, or even a near breakdown. As my relationship with God deepened, so did my desire to be in the ministry. It was a steady, quiet, growth. 

The internal call, though vital, should not be alone. With the internal call comes the church's affirmation of his calling in the external call. Far too often, the local assembly of believers, the church passes the young man off to the seminary to receive education and training. It serves as a poor substitute for the church's affirmation. Al Mohler has identified this as a serious problem for the church.
"I emphatically believe that the best and most proper place for the education and preparation of pastors is in the local church. We should be ashamed that churches fail miserably in their responsibility to train future pastors. Established pastors should be ashamed if they are not pouring themselves into the lives of young men whom God has called into the teaching and leadership ministry of the church."1
There are many ways a church can affirm and encourage a young man into ministry. Below are some things that came to my mind as I have thought about church affirmation. These are so ways you can affirm, support, and encourage a young man from your church who is pursuing the ministry. 

Read His Blog
Just kidding. But, I'm glad you're here!  :-)

Be Patient With Him
He is young. He is inexperienced. He is going to make mistakes. He is probably going to do or say something really stupid. Even seasoned pastors do and say extraordinarily stupid things. We have all made mistakes, some serious. When you have a young man in your congregation aspiring for the pastorate, show him some patience. We all have room to grow in our various stages of life.

Realize He Isn't Jr. High Anymore 
When you have known a young person the entire course of their life its easy to dismiss their adulthood. Sometimes, its hard to not see the child. We've all had distant relatives squeeze our seventeen year old cheeks and make remarks about how big we've gotten. Or, our relatives have treated us like we were still children. In the church, this happens easily. When you have changed someone's diaper in the nursery and seen them in their awkward, immature Jr. High days, its easy to not take them very seriously. 

People, however, change. The seminary student, or college student, or high school student is not the same person as the Jr. High runt. They've grown. They've matured. It wouldn't be fair to treat them like someone they are not. For some, it may be hard to accept that the troublesome Jr. Higher is now an adult, an adult who has received a theological education. 

Youth brings a fresh perspective. As with anything in life, fresh perspective could really be beneficial. Don't miss out on what a young person may bring to the table.   

Give Him Preaching Opportunities 
Much of the pastor's primary public ministry will be the communication and explanation of a Biblical text. A young man looking to be a life long herald of the Lord, needs opportunities to teach. These opportunities should not be restricted to children and retirement homes. He must learn to communicate to all ages. He must learn to communicate and explain passages in front of a diverse group in the regular meeting of a congregation. Those men pursuing the pastorate burn within with the desire to communicate the Word of God. Its an intense desire that burns as he is being nourished by the Word of God through the Spirit of God.

Like all developed skills, preaching requires practice. When a church does not give him the opportunity to preach, they are hindering his growth. Reading a book about preaching and actually preaching are two entirely different things. That is not to say that books about preaching shouldn't be read. They are vital. Nothing, however, can actually replace the crafting of preaching skill.

Critique His Preaching 
Ive heard many, many bad sermons in my lifetime. From wild hollering to subtle heresy, I've heard some crazy things from the pulpit. I can't help but think that for some of these well meaning men, feedback early on in their preaching career would have been very helpful. One of the things I hated but needed most was evaluation of my preaching. In both undergraduate and graduate Homiletics, I received critical feedback from my peers and professors. It was hard to stand there as the mob gave it to me. Hard, but so valuable. From distracting mannerisms to my Jerry Garcia ties to unclear communication, everything was up for grabs.

When a young man preaches in front of the congregation, it doesn't help him to give him false praise. If his delivery is distracting from the message, tell him. If he completely missed the point of the passage, he needs to know it. It was at this exact point that esteemed expositor John MacArthur was corrected. As a second year seminary student, his professor criticized him for entirely missing the point of the passage. He reflects that: 
"it was the deepest single impression I ever received in seminary. Never miss the point of the passage. To this day, when I come to the text each week and begin to study its richness and depth, I can still hear Dr. Feinberg’s heartfelt admonition ringing in my ears. If you don’t have the meaning of Scripture, you do not have the Word of God at all. If you miss the true sense of what God has said, you are not actually preaching God’s Word! That reality has compelled me for more than forty years of preaching."2
Critical feedback was essential to John MacArthur's development. It will be essential to the development of the young preacher. You don't have to be nasty in feedback, but you should be giving feedback. 

Hire Him 
Ministerial experience under the correcting care of a veteran pastor is monumental. 
The seminary should never replace the local church. Far too often, the church sends a kid off to college or to seminary and trusts their ability to train him. Seminary education is important, but it is supplemental. Seminary education should educate him in homiletics and theology, and Bible exposition. It cannot provide for him specifics of pastoral practice that can only be experienced in the heat of actual ministry.  Seminary education cannot prepare him for specific situations in specific cultural contexts. Instruction in practical ministry in Grenville, South Carolina will not be that all helpful in Farmington, New Mexico. There are few similarities between the Bible Belt and the rugged Southwest. 

Having a prolonged exposure to ministry is essential for effective training. That's why internships are so helpful. Outside, or even after an internship, hiring on a young man from your congregation to your pastoral staff would be an incredible joy to him. It gives him a taste of the vocation God has called him to. My summer internship at Victory Baptist Church in Montrose, Colorado was a highlight in my young life. I had the opportunity to experience all areas of pastoral ministry. It was in Montrose that I had opportunity to preach or teach in some capacity weekly. I grew immensely. Victory was patient with me, and so very encouraging. The significance of those months in Colorado for my own development cannot be overstated. 

Pastors, Take Him Under Your Wing 
Pastors, like most people, have many responsibilities. Central to pastoring, shepherding, is discipleship. The pastor is not a CEO and the church is not his corporation. The pastor is a shepherd. He is to feed his sheep. He is to care for his sheep. Discipleship is so much more than the preached Word. Essential to discipleship is the lived word. 

Steve Timmis and Tim Chester make some enlightening statements regarding how discipleship, real discipleship fleshes out in real life:
"We should be teaching one another the Bible as we are out walking, driving in the car,  or washing the dishes. People should learn the truth of justification not only in an exposition of Romans 5 but as they see us resting on Christ's finished work instead of anxiously trying to justify ourselves. They should understand the nature of Christian hope not only as they listen to a talk on Romans 8 but as they see us groaning in response to suffering as we wait for glory. They should understand the sovereignty of God not only from a sermon series on Isaiah but as they see us respond to trials with "pure joy" (James 1:2). We have found in our context that most learning and training takes place not through programmed teaching or training courses but in unplanned conversations--talking about life, talking about ministry, talking about problems."3
If real life with its highs and lows is the best place for discipleship to happen, shouldn't this also be the context of pastoral training? Chester,again, writes:
 "Having caught a glimpse of the benefits of mentoring when I was much younger, I made the decision early in my ministry to provide a number of young people with the opportunity to work alongside me. The aim was to see lives changed by the gospel and people equipped for  gospel ministry. Integral to the process has always been relationship. These young people not only worked for me, they worked alongside me. They witnessed firsthand both how i conducted myself in public and how I related to my family. It was a life-to-life thing--close, intimate, and demanding."4
Living life together: this was the practice of Jesus, and His disciples, and Paul, and Barnabas, and Titus. Jesus called out His disciples and walked with them. They experienced  life together. Paul surrounded himself with people. He interacted with and had many people around him as revealed in his letters to churches. He poured his life into Timothy. Barnabas took John Mark under his wing and groomed him (Acts 15:36-40). Titus appointed elders at Paul's urging (Tit. 1:5). 

Shepherds shepherding shepherds is a Biblical model. Pastors, don't waste this unique opportunity. It's an immense privilege. I'm so grateful in my own life especially for my youth pastor, Dave Deets and the pastor I interned under, Jim Welch. These men have invested their lives in me. They have engaged me in conversation, kept up with me, challenged me and served me. They have been my ministerial mentors, and I'm all the richer for it.

Consider Him for the Future
There is great risk in bringing someone outside of your church in to serve in a leadership role. Knowledge of his ministry and his character is minimal. There just has not been much exposure to him. In contrast, however, there is tremendous benefits to selecting a pastor from your own congregation. As a church you have invested in him, affirmed him, seen him grow, and know his character. As he has been an integral member of the church, he has seen the church's weakness and has a vision for its future. If, as a church, you have affirmed him into gospel ministry, why not consider him for the future of your church?

A Personal Reflection
These are not my grand philosophizing. They are reflections from from my own experience, for good and for bad. In some areas, my own church has supported and affirmed me. In some areas, it has not. I have been both helped and hurt. At various times I have been given valuable pastoral experience and some limited preaching opportunities. In reality, most of those preaching opportunities and ministerial experiences occurred in youth group under the tutelage of my youth pastor. I've had less opportunities to preach in seminary than I had  in high school. While in Seminary, I've also been overlooked for internship and pastoral staff opportunities, as well. I cannot express the deep pain I have experienced from my own church's failure to encourage and affirm me in Gospel ministry. A church's failure to affirm, encourage and embrace young men in the ministry has a tearing impact on his soul. There is always that soft bark, the faint whisper, "if your own church doesn't affirm you, who will?"

There is something unimpressive about the familiar. That was the case with Jesus in His own hometown Nazareth:
He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching (Mark 6:1-6).
"A Prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household," Jesus said. The people who watched Jesus grow from a child into a man, these people of all people should have been the people to embrace Him. Instead, they rejected Him, minimized Him, and even took offense at Him. These are tragic words. My friends, if you have experienced rejection from your friends, family, or even your church you are in good company. The only good, perfect human to live was rejected by those who knew Him best. 

When I'm a pastor, I don't want to be a CEO. I want to be a shepherd. I don't want young men sensing God's calling them into ministry to not have affirmation from the body. I hope I pastor a church that is eager to nurture the call of God on young men from their flock. I hope that the church I pastor sees men of God called out, trained, and affirmed.

What I've written is not an attack on my church. I love it. I'm passionate for it. I want God to use it to reach thousands of people in the furthering of His Kingdom. The congregation has shown me love. Friends from my church are among my dearest relationships. I'm the person I am today because of my incredible church.

I'm writing this post because I agree with Al Mohler and see the church's (universally speaking) failure to embrace, affirm and encourage young men pursuing ministry as a serious problem. I know from the lives of my own pastor and youth pastor, that they too experienced this problem. Young men, young pastors should not have to go into exile or disappear from the scene of their home churches for five or ten or fifteen years before they can come back and play a significant role in its ministry. This process is a major problem that pastors I admire and look up to have overcome. And I too, hope to overcome it as well. It's a problem that shouldn't exist. 

Affirming and encouraging young men into the ministry is huge. A church can be a great support or an immense disappointment. Don't miss out on such a monumental joy. 

1 "Interview with Al Mohler" (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/adrianwarnock/2006/11/interview-dr-albert-mohler-radio-host-and-theologian/)

2 John MacArthur, "Missing the Point" (http://www.gty.org/blog/B140106)

3 Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2008), 117-118.

4 Ibid., 120.