Video is now online of Jeff Purswell’s message “The Pastor’s Teaching
,” recorded at our 2009 Pastors Conference in April.
Teaching from 2 Timothy 2:15, Jeff said, “The governing priority for the faithful pastor is devotion to the teaching of God’s Word.” One implication of this governing priority is the important connection between the pastor’s teaching and the pastor’s leadership of a church.
What follows is the video and an outline of the message (with timestamps).
The Pastor's Teaching from Sovereign Grace Ministries on Vimeo.
“The governing priority for the faithful pastor is devotion to the teaching of God’s Word” [11:52]
Three characteristics that should mark the life of the one whose governing priority is the teaching of God’s Word:
1. Diligent labor [21:18]
2. Divine awareness [31:03]
3. Careful exposition [37:55]
“Your teaching is the primary expression of your leadership.” [44:53]
Correct meaning and clear communication [48:54]
Minimum standard requirements for rightly handling the Word:
A. Is the biblical text providing the substance for my preaching, teaching, and leadership? [51:33]
B. Am I using individual texts in a way that is consistent with their intended purpose? [53:04]
C. Am I accurately understanding and faithfully communicating the meaning of texts? [53:54]
D. Am I accurately and compellingly impressing upon people the appropriate response to texts of Scripture? [56:53]
First, let us set out to create on our pastoral teams a company of expositors. [60:42]
Second, we must preserve the preaching of the Word as the pinnacle of our Sunday meetings. [64:46]
Third, look across the landscape of your church and ask: Is every sphere and ministry receiving regular pastoral leadership in the form of teaching? [66:00]
The other day I saw a sign that captured my attention—and deeply concerned me. It said—
“Don’t go to church. Be the church.”
Now, despite the element of truth (God’s people are
the church), there are all kinds of things wrong with this statement. But behind the words is obviously someone’s disappointment (and possibly disillusionment) with organized Christianity. And although I’d guess that many Christians would reject this false choice, their attitude to Sunday gatherings of the church may reveal a similar apathy.
To fight such apathy, we all need a biblical perspective on what is taking place on Sunday—a perspective that can transform our attitude toward “going to church.” And it’s this perspective that the writer of Hebrews gives us when he describes the ongoing worship service we join when we gather to worship each Sunday.
Mount Sinai and Mount Zion
In Hebrews the writer presents a striking contrast between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion, between the experience of the people of God under the old covenant and their experience under the new covenant.
In verses 18–21 the writer recounts the gathering at Mount Sinai (as recorded in Exodus 19). After their deliverance from Egypt, God gathered his people and made a covenant with them. He constituted them as a nation, his very own people.
For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”
Now look at the gathering at Mount Zion described in verses 22–24:
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
What a contrast.
At Mount Sinai everything served to emphasize the chasm between God and these people. At Mount Zion everything encourages us to come boldly into God’s presence. There, at Mount Sinai, the scene itself is frightening—fire, darkness, gloom. Here, at Mount Zion, is a gleaming city, the New Jerusalem, the place where God dwells with his covenant people.
At Mount Sinai the sounds are frightening—whirlwind, trumpet blast, unutterable words. At Mount Zion is the sound of exuberant and celebratory praise.
At Mount Sinai was a solemn gathering filled with fear. Here at Mount Zion is a joyful assembly of those whose names are forever written in the Lamb’s book of life.
There at Mount Sinai was a picture of the unapproachability of God’s holy presence. But here at Mount Zion is a picture of full access into the presence of God through the mediator Jesus Christ.
Now think about your church. Think about the people with whom you serve, live, and worship. Have you fully grasped just what your local church is and what it’s doing on a Sunday morning? Your local church is one authentic, visible manifestation of the entire people of God for all time. It is a part of the heavenly throng that even now is worshiping before the throne of God. And we get to be part of that!
Think about this gathering, which includes—
Angels. We are worshiping with creatures before whom we would be tempted to fall down in terror and worship, if we could see them.
The spirits of the righteous-made-perfect. Here are the heroes from Hebrews 11—Abraham, Moses, Samuel, and David—mighty men of God, mighty prophets who trusted God, so endued with power that they stopped lion’s mouths and put foreign armies to flight. We are worshiping with them.
Faithful saints. These men and women endured torture and refused deliverance if it meant compromise. They chose a stoning pit or a chopping block before they would deny Jesus. And if they survived, they joyfully embraced poverty, deprivation, and persecution. They feared God and they feared sinning more than they feared man—all so that they might receive something better. And when we worship, we join them before the throne of God, who remains “a consuming fire” (v. 29).
We come to Jesus. He is there, our mediator, whose sprinkled blood cleanses us from sin. His blood “speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (v. 24). Abel’s blood cried out for judgment, but Jesus’s blood cries out for mercy.
So back to your home church this upcoming Sunday. When you enter and the music begins, what are you more aware of? Is it the song set? the musicians? the mix? Does the worship band wow you? Does the routine bore you?
Or do you perceive something beyond all this?
Your church is one authentic manifestation of the entire people of God that right now is worshiping before the throne of God. That is the reality of new covenant worship. And when we begin to wrap our minds around that, there springs to mind a thousand reasons to rejoice, to praise, and to sing; and to renounce flippancy, self-display, selfishness, superficiality, sloppiness, and thoughtlessness.
Before the God who is a consuming fire, we don’t shuffle in casually. We don’t demand our artistic preferences. We don’t merely gather with our friends. We don’t merely sing together. As the people of God, we enter into the very presence of God. Encountering God in this way is the very nature of the church. By definition, to be the church is to gather in God’s presence and to worship God together. And when we begin singing, we join the glorious worship that takes place unceasingly before the throne of God.
This is true regardless of how we feel, who leads worship, what songs we sing, or how we think worship went. There is something incredible happening on Sunday morning!
Be the church and go to church. Something eternal is going on in there. Don’t miss it.
Jeff Purswell serves as the Dean of the Sovereign Grace Pastors College and a pastor at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD.
November 17, 2009 by Tony Reinke
One of the winners in our ESV Study Bible giveaway
was Vanessa. How could we not give her a new Bible in light of her original entry?
Hi, my name is Vanessa and I would love to win this for my husband. He left his ESVSB on top of his car on his way to men's study. Not knowing he had done this I left the house and drove over his Bible. He called me later to tell me he thought he had left his Bible on top of his car and at that moment I knew what I ran over. On the way home I picked it up off of the road and, well, let’s just say it was broken. So I hope I can win one for him.
Haltom City, TX
Last week C.J. chose Vanessa’s entry as one of the ten contest winners. Upon hearing that she had won (despite not writing anything about her pastors or church) she was eager to share a second story.
We were so deeply moved by her follow-up email that we wanted to post it so you could read for yourself the important role her church and pastors played during a critical season in her life.
I'm so excited I won even though I entered wrong. I had no clue I had done that until I saw the video, which made me laugh really hard. This is also perfect timing as my husband's birthday is tomorrow.
I don't want to miss the opportunity to honor my pastors. They have been such a huge blessing in our lives. We had been attending our church for a little over a year when we discovered that I was 19 weeks pregnant with conjoined twin girls. We learned that our girls were facing each other, joined from the chest to the stomach. They shared one liver and one heart (which had only one ventricle). They had a zero chance of survival. In fact my doctor believed I would miscarry.
We continued with the pregnancy knowing that is was God who was forming Melody and Madison in my womb. He created them and He would decide when they left this earth. I am so thankful for our pastors because they taught us the hard truths of God's word. Because of their teaching we were not scared that Satan was controlling our lives but rested knowing that God was sovereign over our babies' lives and my life. Everything that was happening God was allowing for His glory and our good.
I ended up going into labor when I was 32 weeks pregnant on November 11, 2008 and—glory to God!—our daughters were born alive and lived for one hour. We were able to spend that time with them and we have a ton of pictures. The mourning process has been hard but a blessing at the same time. God has used our pastors to encourage us and stand alongside us during this most difficult time in our lives. I don't know what we would have done without them. Thanks for the opportunity to honor these men that God has placed in our lives.
To our pastors, Jay and Emilio, we love you guys and praise God for allowing us to sit under your teaching.
I am now 27 weeks pregnant with a healthy baby and we continue to praise God and give Him all the glory!
Haltom City, TX
November 12, 2009 by Dave Harvey
Categories: Church planting
If you could buy stock in church planting, this would be a bull market. I’m serious. Church planting is white-hot right now. I think that’s terrific. But to keep it from simply becoming trendy, we must anchor it in something eternal. That’s where the Great Commission comes in.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)
What makes the Great Commission so great? Is it the great sacrifices it calls for…or the great places we’re called to go? How about the great people it calls into action? I don’t think so. Our commission is great because it ignites church planting.
But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. The Great Commission is not great simply because it results in the church. It’s great, first and foremost, because it originates from the finished work of Christ.
The Gospel: The Point and Power behind Church Planting
Read it again. The Great Commission starts with the gospel. It fixes us on what the cross secured for Christ —“all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (v. 18). Right out of the gate, God invites us to look at the fields of our community, the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, Africa, and Asia with a new sense of confidence. Why? Because…and get ready for this…the contract is inked, the rights reserved, the deal sealed. The authority to put the gospel into circulation is secured by the substitutionary death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Think about it. The reality of that authority now forms the foundation for all local evangelism, church planting, and missions. Authorized for action, Christians can now serve God’s warrant to the world. We get to tell lost souls they are loved…and wanted
by the Savior. That’s a jaw-dropper.
That’s why we can’t get all hyped up on the latest way to do missions, the latest research, the latest means and methods of doing ministry. Because nothing we can concoct will ever prepackage the power of the gospel. Church planting shouldn’t start with techniques, technology or talking to territorial spirits, often the launching point for church planting in certain parts of the world. It must begin with our confidence in the explosive message embodied in Christ and entrusted to us in Matthew 28. It’s the one message that makes all the difference. And we’re the megaphone.
But we have to remember that it’s not a static message that we just share when we have time. It’s not content we load into our cutting-edge curriculum. The gospel is a dynamic, unstoppable force that God has unleashed in creation through the cross. Dwight Moody once likened the gospel to a lion. Just pop open the cage and stand clear!
The apostle Paul was supremely confident in the power of the gospel. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Are you starting to see it? Our commission is great because the founder guarantees the fruit (Ephesians 2:10). Yep, the Great Commission is stamped with “results guaranteed!” How cool is that? And we know that a king’s edict, closed countries, recessions, wars, natural disasters, cultural opposition or indifference, even the failures of the workers, won’t stall the commission. Going forth with the message of God in the power of God means we are entrusted with a message that never stops. It is an unstoppable commission.
If you’re like me, just thinking about this stuff gets the blood pumping. To think that we have a job to do and success is guaranteed because of the finished work of Christ is thrilling. We serve a great Savior who has established our call upon his great work—it must be a Great Commission!
Tune in next time, when we’ll discover how the church and church planting are embedded in the Great Commission.
leads international expansion and church planting for Sovereign Grace
Ministries and is based in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. For more
information about the Sovereign Grace church-planting process, click here.
November 6, 2009 by Tony Reinke
Thanks to everyone who submitted a note of appreciation and entered the ESV Study Bible giveaway. The giveaway generated 200 entries, and this stack of entries represents a bunch of fruitful churches, faithful pastors, and grateful members like you. C.J. selected the winners, choosing four entries to read and randomly selecting another seven winners. To see if you’re one of the winners, watch this 8-minute video:
ESV Study Bible Giveaway from Sovereign Grace Ministries on Vimeo.
Each winner will be notified via email.
Thanks again for entering the giveaway!
I am no musician. I play no part in a choir or a musical team. I do love words, and as a sidebar to my job I get to participate in editing worship song lyrics. But there you reach the limits of my musical gifting.
Even so, my friend Bob Kauflin recently invited me to speak at the WorshipGod09 conference and to address an audience populated by faithful servants engaged in leading worship, singing, and serving musically in diverse ways. These are gifted people and we benefit from their example, leadership, and service each Sunday in our local churches.
But as much as I appreciate what they do, I told them the following: What you do each Sunday is important, but it’s not most important.
Musical worship is inspiring, informative, and a wonderful privilege, but there is nothing more central to Christian worship than the preaching of God’s Word. Notice I did not say preaching is a great and necessary follow-up to worship, or that preaching is an optional extra in worship. Preaching is central to worship each Sunday.
Let me illustrate this point through a few great worship services in your Bible.
Think of Mount Sinai where God rescues and gathers his people specifically. He says, “Let my people go so that they may worship me.” So in that gathering to worship, what is the climax? It is the giving of the Law.
A few books later, in Deuteronomy, the people are gathered beside the Jordan. Their wanderings are finally at an end. They are on the cusp of the Promised Land, and Moses renews the covenant with the next generation. What is at the heart, what is the substance of this gathering? It is the reiteration of the Law of Moses, and we read page after page of preaching, explanation, application, and exposition.
When Joshua brings the people finally into the land, he gathers them together (Joshua 8). What was the climax of that gathering? Was it the singing? No. He read the Law to the “assembly.” (The Hebrew term is regularly translated in the Greek as “church”—the church is the assembly, the gathering of the people of God.) Joshua read the Law to the gathered assembly. And he read it all: “there was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them” (Joshua 8:35). Let’s not miss a thing. Let’s not miss a word. Let’s not miss a stroke.
After the return from exile, Nehemiah gathers the people into a great assembly. What do they do? Ezra reads the Law and then explains it—he exposits it to give the sense of message.
And we could go on through the Bible…
Throughout salvation history, all the way into the new covenant, God’s Word is at the center of worship. The early church devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and every church was nourished on God’s Word, all the way down to the last chapter of the last book that Paul wrote, where he tells Timothy to preach the Word “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2).
Why? Why so much preaching? Why all this talking? Because the primary way we encounter God in worship is through the preaching of the Word of God.
Think about it this way. Normally, in what we call “worship,” we spend significant time—perhaps the whole time—addressing God, singing to him, praising him, extolling him, praying to him. Wonderful! But in preaching we are no longer addressing God; he is addressing us. Nothing is more important than this moment. And this is why the most important worship leader in your church is your pastor.
That really gets to the heart of preaching. The Bible is not simply a book that we talk about. When God’s Word is faithfully preached, God is addressing us. God is speaking. We hear not merely a man’s voice. We hear the voice of God.
And when God addresses us, what is the appropriate response? We respond with glad and reverent hearts, with voices that proclaim his praise, and with lives that increasingly reflect his character.
God addresses us with a saving Word. We respond to him with faith, praise, and obedience. That is the rhythm of worship.
Jeff Purswell serves as the Dean of the Sovereign Grace Pastors College and a pastor at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD.
November 3, 2009 by C.J. Mahaney
My friend Mark Dever recently sat down with two musically gifted, and theologically informed, hip hop artists—shai linne and Curtis Allen (aka Voice). I am a fan of both of shai and Curtis.
Curtis graduated from the Sovereign Grace Pastors College, served as a pastoral intern at Covenant Life Church, and currently pastors at Solid Rock Church. Curt’s albums include The Crucible, Progression, and a Theist.
shai linne is an artist out of Philadelphia, where he serves as a lay leader in his local church, Epiphany Fellowship. There he leads the prayer ministry, writes worship songs, leads a monthly outreach, teaches a men’s group, and occasionally preaches. shai’s albums include Storiez, The Atonement, and The Solus Christus Project.
In the recent interview, Curtis and shai talk about their personal testimonies and a diversity of topics related to music. You can download and listen to the 72-minute interview here: “Christian Rap with Shai Linne and Voice” (10/01/09).