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September 26, 2016

This sponsored post was provided by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

MBTS

The call to ministry is indeed a subjective thing. We use phrases like “feeling called” and “sensing a call.” Sometimes we may talk about “discerning” a call or “wrestling with” a call. If you are in one of those categories of thinking, how can you get beyond such internal deliberation and get more objective about ministry aspirations? If you’re discerning a call to ministry, the following ten questions may help you re-locate a “gut feeling” to one of mind and heart. 

1. Do you desire the ministry?
This question should go without saying, but many mistake a sense of begrudging ministry for humility. A man being asked about eldership says “I just don’t know if I’m ready” or “I just don’t know if I’m qualified” or “I just don’t know if I should be in that kind of position,” and some read this uncertainty as the kind of meekness that would preclude pastoral arrogance or authoritarianism. Perhaps so. But it may also work against his fitness for ministry in the first place. Some people are suspicious of men who seem especially desirous of ministry. And yet in 1 Timothy 3:1, Paul says that anybody who aspires to pastoral ministry desires something noble. The apostle Peter says that pastors should shepherd eagerly (1 Pet. 5:2). If you find yourself unsure of what you want to do with your life, pastoral ministry may not be for you. Those who are genuinely called usually genuinely desire the ministry.

2. Does your character meet God’s expectations?
It is of course not enough to “feel called.” It is not enough to desire to be in ministry. The biblical qualifications for pastors are clear, and they are set quite high. Review the lists of qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-5. Do you fall significantly short of any of these? Would a rigorous examination of your life and true accountability find that your life reflects accurately these standards?

3. Is your household in order?
Embedded in the list of qualifications for ministry is the faithfulness of a man to his wife and children (provided he has them). Some men who feel called are so zealous for professional ministry they have already neglected their home life. Are your wife and children flourishing under your care? Do you lead sacrificially and humbly at home? If not, these circumstances will not improve if you were to add shepherding a flock to your life.

4. Has God gifted you to preach and teach his word?
This can be a tricky qualification to discern, because many men mistake their ability to talk with a gift for preaching and teaching God’s word. The qualification for elders—distinguishing it from the qualifications for deacons—is not primarily for eloquence, however, but for the work of “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) and giving instruction in sound doctrine (Titus 1:9).  The “gift of gab” is not the same thing.

5. Does your church affirm your calling?
Here is another glaring omission in many aspiring ministers’ sense of calling. There really is no such thing as an autonomous feeling for ministry. If you are not currently a part of a Christian community that can affirm your gifts and qualifications, not a member of a church that could effectively “send you out,” you really have no business seeking to shepherd a flock. The question is not so much “Do you feel called?” but “Do your elders think you’re called?” or “Does your pastor encourage your aspiration to ministry?”

6. Do you love the people of God?
Ministry is not about platform-building. It is not about realizing your personal dreams. It is not primarily about “building something.” The Lord in his restoration of the apostle Peter connected love for himself with loving the sheep. “Feed my lambs,” he says to Peter. “Tend my sheep.” If you do not have a genuine love for people, you should take your entrepreneurial aspirations into another vocation.

7. Are you passionate about the gospel and the Great Commission?
This is non-negotiable. You may believe that “Without vision the people will perish,” but the vision in Proverbs 29:18 is not a pastor’s personal vision, but the prophetic vision of the glory of God, which is brought to us through the gospel, which is brought to people through the mission of the Church. If you find the gospel incidental to your calling, you are not called. If you do not see the lost with compassion, as Jesus did, as harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd, you are not called.

8. Are you engaged in fruitful ministry?
As in question 5, if you do not presently serve well the church in the capacity available to you, there is no experiential basis on which to expect you will serve the church well when given more responsibility. If you cannot be faithful in little, why should you expect the Lord to give you more?

9. Are you ready to defend the faith?
Perhaps more than ever before in the west, the evangelical pastor must be a man of courage and absolute confidence in the word of God. The temptations of worldliness, idolatry, and cultural hostility toward the things of God will only become worse in the days ahead. If you are not prepared to lead a flock through valleys of wolves, if you feel you may shrink back or be overly timid, ministry probably isn’t for you.

10. Are you willing to surrender?
Will you go anywhere? Will you serve anyone? If you feel called, do you feel called to go wherever God would send you? If your sense of calling has strings attached or is so tied to a specific vision that you would turn up your nose at something seen as “lesser” or beneath your gifts, you probably aren’t called to ministry. Pastoral ministry is no place for narcissists or personal kingdom builders.

Answering these questions provide a good start for discerning your sense of calling to ministry. You may also want to take some next steps in training and affirmation, including mentoring and discipling from seasoned pastors at your church or in your community. Bible college or seminary education can equip you further and help ready you to embrace your calling. 

Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri offers numerous programs, including our flagship degree program for ministry training – the Master of Divinity – that help fulfill our vision to exist For The Church. Our shared goal with you is to see the local church strengthened and supplied with faithful gospel ministers. And if you apply to Midwestern Seminary or College by December 31, you’ll receive a free copy of President Jason K. Allen’s book Discerning Your Call to Ministry, which further elaborates on these 10 key questions.

Apply Now

September 19, 2016

This sponsored post was provided by Chris Castaldo and Gregg Allison, authors of the new book The Unfinished Reformation: What Unites and Divides Catholics after 500 years. As it happens, I reviewed it on September 13.

The Reformation is not finished.

The Unfinished ReformationFundamental differences of doctrine continue to separate Catholics and Protestants. These include views on Scripture and Tradition, justification, the nature and role of the church/Church, the sacraments, the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Mary and the saints, merits, indulgences, and purgatory. If theological truth is of any importance, we must take these doctrinal differences seriously. Moreover, there is the ongoing problem of multitudes of Catholics who don’t appear to have the foggiest idea of what Scripture means by the word “gospel.” In the words of Catholic scholar Peter Kreeft:

There are still many who do not know the data, the gospel. Most of my Catholic students at Boston College have never heard it. They do not even know how to get to heaven. When I ask them what they would say to God if they died tonight and God asked them why he should take them into heaven, nine out of ten do not even mention Jesus Christ. Most of them say they have been good or kind or sincere or did their best. So I seriously doubt God will undo the Reformation until he sees to it that Luther’s reminder of Paul’s gospel has been heard throughout the church.1

In view of the obscurity surrounding the gospel in the Catholic tradition, it is of great importance for evangelicals to elucidate the message of salvation. We realize, of course, that Catholics come in all shapes and sizes. Some are the traditional pre-Vatican II variety. Others are more nominal, claiming to be Catholic as a function of their cultural/ethnic background. And there are some who may be described as charismatic or progressive, identifying as Catholic while holding ideas that are in fact closer to the values of Protestantism. It is our relationship to this last group that we would like to consider.

A Historical Precedent

When people living in Catholic nations during the sixteenth century (e.g., Italy, France, Spain) supported the Reformation, they often faced a life-and-death choice. Depending upon their response to Catholic authorities during the Inquisition (a Catholic Church tribunal aimed at combating Protestantism), they may have been tortured, executed, or forced to flee into exile.2 “Nicodemism” was applied to yet another option, the decision to keep one’s Reformation convictions contained quietly and safely in the privacy of one’s own heart without public expression.

John Calvin is commonly recognized as the one who popularized the term, using “Nicodemism” to describe external conformity on the part of reformed-minded Christians living in Catholic territories. Faced with the threat of oppression at the hands of Catholic authorities, such individuals chose silence over persecution. The covert nature of this approach is responsible for its clever name, as one historian explains: “The name is suggested by the biblical character of Nicodemus, who came to visit Jesus by night, under the cover of darkness, thus suggesting a piety of simulation based on the fear of persecution.”3

According to most Protestant Reformers, Nicodemism was an unacceptable option. It was regarded as infidelity to Christ and a compromise of one’s integrity. For example, Peter Martyr Vermigli explained to his congregation in Lucca, Italy, the reason why he fled north of the Alps instead of becoming a Nicodemite: “[You] are hardly unaware of the tortures which tormented my conscience because of the way of life which I was following. I had to live with countless superstitions every day [such as pilgrimages and the veneration of relics, that is, the remains of a saint]; not only did I have to perform [these] superstitious rites, but also I had to demand harshly that others do many things which were contrary to what I was thinking and teaching.”4

Serving Quasi-Catholics

How can Nicodemism possibly have relevance today when religious inquisitions are a thing of the past? The “new Nicodemism” is found among Catholics who study the Bible for themselves and whose beliefs are in fact more Protestant than Catholic. Even though such people read Scripture apart from the Magisterium (the official teaching office of the Catholic Church), no longer believe in such doctrines as purgatory, and are increasingly bothered by the Catholic emphasis on Mary, they nevertheless remain in the Catholic fold. 

Why is this so? There are all sorts of reasons, but it commonly comes down to one’s commitment to his ethnic or cultural background, a Catholic family member, or relationship to a local parish. Whatever the reason, we have the privilege of serving such friends with the gospel. How?  We share the good news—what the Reformers expressed in the phrase solo Christo—that “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Learn more about The Unfinished Reformation here.

Gregg Allison (PhD) is Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky where he teaches systematic theology.  Previously he served on Cru staff at the University of Notre Dame and overseas in Italy and the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland. He is a pastor of Sojourn Community Church, and is the theological strategist for Sojourn Network, a church planting network of about thirty churches. He is the author of Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine and several other titles.

Chris Castaldo (PhD) was raised on Long Island, New York, as a Roman Catholic and worked full-time in the Catholic Church for several years. After eight years as pastor of outreach and church planting at College Church (Wheaton, Ill.), followed by three years as Director of the Ministry of Gospel Renewal at Wheaton College, Chris currently serves as Lead Pastor of New Covenant Church in Naperville, IL.  He is the author of Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic and Talking with Catholics about the Gospel: A Guide for Evangelicals. Chris blogs at www.chriscastaldo.com.

1. Peter Kreeft, “Ecumenical Jihad,” in Reclaiming The Great Tradition, ed. James S. Cutsinger (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1997), 27.
2. Roland Bainton, Women of the Reformation in Germany and Italy (Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg, 1971), 167.
3.  Timothy George, “Nicodemism,” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, ed. Hans Hillerbrand, 4 vols. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 3:144. His biblical reference is John 3:2.
4.  Joseph C. McLelland, “Valdés and Vermigli: Spirituality and the Degrees of Reform,” in Peter Martyr Vermigli and the European Reformations: Semper Reformanda, ed. Frank A. James, III (Leiden: Brill, 2004), 238–250 (248).

 

September 12, 2016

This sponsored post was prepared by Jon Nielson, author of Faith That Lasts.

Millennials

That generation we call the “millennials” – individuals born between 1980 and 2000 – has been the subject of millions of words written in the recent years…particularly words written by Christians. How do we reach this generation? What are they looking for in churches? Why do so many of them, even those raised in Christian homes, seem disillusioned and frustrated with the local church? My newest book with CLC Publications, Faith That Lasts, speaks on this matter, pulling from the perspective of students who have maintained their faith. Let me throw a few of my recent observations about ministry to millennials into the mix:

  1. They really do care about content more than style.
    My peers, and the college students and young adults I pastor and lead, are much less concerned with the musical style, fashion sense, and perceived “coolness” of any particular local church than they are with the content of the preaching and the seriousness and warmth of the worship and community. Thom Rainer, for example, makes a more narrow, yet similar, point about millennials and their preferences regarding church music styles in this little article: http://thomrainer.com/2014/04/worship-style-attracts-millennials/.  Content, now more than ever for Christian young adults, really does trump style.
  2. They are activists – in good ways and potentially dangerous ways.
    Larry Osborne, pastor of North Coast Church in California, calls this characteristic of the millennial generation the “Bono Factor.”  In other words, it’s the simple fact that they are always asking, of any given church, ministry, or individual Christian: “What are you doing to help somebody else?”  It’s this trait that can be dangerous; many well-intentioned young people have fled orthodox and theologically faithful churches that they perceive as stale and inward-focused to join churches that focus less on biblical teaching, but much more on serving the community.
  3. They have a “fake” detector that works within seconds.
    There’s a word that our students use seemingly constantly: “authenticity.”  If I’ve learned one thing in a few years of ministry to college students and young adults, it’s that they actually have a lot of grace and patience toward their spiritual leaders.  But, the minute they sniff out a lack of authenticity…you’re toast.  Any sense that you are posturing to gain approval from them, trying to be something you’re not, or putting forward a message about Jesus that you are not living out yourself, and the “fake” label is placed (and not easily erased).  The best way you can minister the gospel of Jesus Christ to millennials is to passionately love Jesus and seek him yourself.
  4. They can evade generalizations…just like any other generational grouping!
    We do face a danger, of course, when we attempt to group all individuals in a certain generation together using sweeping generalizations.  That danger is that we miss, first, the diversity of every generation; people are vastly different, and each person is unique. The bigger danger of generational generalizations, though, is not only missing the diversity of people, but missing the unchanging and consistent nature of the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ – from generation to generation.  We can change our methods; we must always trust the power of the gospel.

In the final chapters of Faith That Lasts, I spend some time thinking through how we as the church can thoughtfully, winsomely, and faithfully minister the gospel to the millennial generation.  My prayer is that this would be one more helpful step as we participate in the great gospel work to which we have been called, for the glory of our Lord and Savior.

September 06, 2016

This sponsored post was prepared by Wayne Grudem on behalf of Zondervan Academic Online Courses. Dr. Grudem’s mini-course, Introduction to the Bible: The Doctrine of Scripture, is available free for readers of Tim Challies’ blog this week only.

What is the Word of God?

GrudemThe Word of God actually refers to several different things in the Bible.

Sometimes the phrase “the Word of God” refers to the person of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of John, we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We find out later in the chapter that John is referring to Jesus Christ as the Word of God. There’s also a portion of Revelation 19 that refers to Jesus as the Word of God.

You may have found that when you talk about the Word of God as the Bible, people object: Wait a minute—we don’t want to spend as much time talking about the Bible as the Word of God. We’d rather talk about Jesus as the Word of God.

A couple things can be said in answer to that.

  1. First, we don’t know about Jesus except by reading what’s in the Bible. It’s true that there’s some evidence for Jesus historically outside the Bible, but not a lot—just for his existence, and not for many of the specifics of his teaching, his life, his death and resurrection. These are things we can know only from the Bible.
  2. Second, when the Bible talks about the Word of God it is almost always referring to other forms of the Word of God—particularly written forms.

So, although we recognize that in some cases the Word of God refers to Jesus, in many other cases, it refers to speech by God in different forms.

Let’s take a look at some of these forms.

1. God’s decrees

There’s the form of what we could call God’s decrees. That is, the words of God that cause something to happen.

We see this in the first chapter of the Bible. In Genesis 1:3, God says, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Or “Let the earth bring forth living creatures,” and there are living creatures.

God’s words have power. In fact, Psalm 33:6 summarizes this: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.”

So God’s words have so much power that through them he creates the world—the entire universe.

Let that sink in. It’s so different from our experience: our words may have impact on people, but there’s never been someone who has the ability to say, “Let there be a rabbit,” and there’s a rabbit. Our words just don’t work that way. Our words don’t have that kind of power.

Even more, in some places the Bible talks about God’s word sustaining the universe and carrying it along. Hebrews 1:3, in talking about Jesus, says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”

The Greek text here has the connotation of “carrying along.” This is what Jesus’ Word is doing with the entire universe—carrying it along. We don’t see or hear or perceive Jesus’ powerful word carrying along the universe, sustaining it, or keeping it in existence. But Hebrews 1:3 tells us that this is exactly what is happening. The Word of God is so powerful that it carries along and sustains the entire universe.

2. God’s words of personal address

There’s another form of the Word of God: the times when God speaks directly to people. We could call this God’s Word of personal address. It’s seen in the early chapters of Genesis when God spoke to Adam and Eve and walked with them in the Garden. It’s seen again in Exodus 20 when God speaks from Mount Sinai, and his voice thunders forth.

You can imagine how the people must have trembled and felt awe and reverence as God spoke to them with his own voice.

3. God’s speech through human lips

Then there’s another form God’s words take. This is the form of God speaking through human beings—through their lips, through their voice. This is what happens when God raises up prophets in the Old Testament. The prophets say, “Thus says the Lord…” and proceed to give God’s speech. 

4. God’s words in written form

Finally, we see God’s Words in written form in the Bible. We see throughout Scripture that God tells Moses to write his words down. He says the same thing to Joshua, Isaiah, and others.

Isaiah 30:8 says, “Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come, it may be an everlasting witness.” This is a great advantage for the people of God, because God’s words could be preserved in written form forever.

We see time and again that they can’t remember accurately—even the next day—everything God speaks from Mount Sanai or what God says through Moses or the prophets.

But once God’s words are written down, there is opportunity for repeated inspection, for copying, for access by many people who can read it and study it for themselves. There is clearly a great benefit to having God’s Word in written form.

We should hear all of Scripture as God’s Word. When we read Scripture, we should think of it as coming to us with the same force and power with which we might hear it as if God had been speaking to us at the foot of Mount Sanai, when his words thundered from the heavens.

Ask yourself: would you pay more attention if that were the case? If God spoke to you with a voice from heaven, or through a living prophet, like Moses, Elijah, or Isaiah?

The truth is that Scripture contains the words of God—just as powerful as the audible words God spoke. They have the power to change our minds and hearts, to penetrate deep inside our very being. They are unlike any other human words.

***

I have worked with Zondervan Academic to create a mini-course titled Introduction to the Bible: The Doctrine of Scripture. It includes video lectures and reading materials from the larger Systematic Theology online course. 

The best part is that you can get this course available for free—this week only.

Here is what you will learn in just the first two hours:

  • The different forms of the word of God
  • How we know the right books are in the Bible
  • How we know the Bible isn’t missing anything
  • How the Old and New Testaments were formed

The online course is free through the end of this week, so I encourage you to sign up now.

Grudem

August 29, 2016

“In hindsight, the signs were everywhere that Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace was going to be an epic disappointment.”

So wrote Rolling Stone when reporting on its readers’ poll of the twenty most disappointing movie sequels. The Phantom Menace came in top of the list.

So with epic disappointment a possibility even for the likes of George Lucas, why would anyone ever do a sequel? Of course the answer is often: money. Simply cashing in on the success of the original. 

 Order The Vine Project direct from Matthias Media in print or as an ebook. BONUS: Until September 30, Challies.com readers can use the coupon code ‘TVPCC’ in the Matthias Media shopping cart to receive a 15% discount off the price of this book.

In 2009, Tony Payne, Colin Marshall and Matthias Media had their own Star Wars moment. It was called The Trellis and the Vine, and for this little DownUnder publishing house it was what we’d call a ‘blockbuster’. It sold more copies than we ever dreamed. It also received a host of positive reviews from the likes of Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan and many others. 

Now we can’t honestly say a sequel never crossed our minds (“The Trellis Strikes Back”?). The lure of another sales boost was certainly there. 

But we had said what we wanted to say, and people seemed to be taking the ideas on board with a hearty ‘amen’. Job done.

Or so we thought. 

In the seven years since The Trellis and the Vine was published, a key issue has cropped up again and again. It goes something like this:

Look, I’ve read your book, and it expresses what I have always thought about Christian ministry. But as I kept reading, I had this sinking feeling that what actually happens in our church is still a long way from the kind of disciple-making ministry vision you outline and that I believe in. So my question is this: What can we do about it? How can we shape the whole culture of our church around disciple-making?

So in fact job not done. Ministry leaders wanted more help in making the principles of The Trellis and the Vine a living reality in a context where the culture of their ministry had drifted some way from the disciple-making goal.

That’s why we produced the sequel we didn’t expect to produce: The Vine Project.

The Vine ProjectThe Vine Project is a new resource that guides your ministry leadership team through a five-phase process for growth and change. Under God, this process will:

  • clarify and sharpen your convictions (Phase 1)
  • reform your own personal life to express these convictions (Phase 2)
  • honestly evaluate every aspect of your current church (or ministry) culture (Phase 3)
  • devise some key plans for change and put them into effect (Phase 4)
  • keep the momentum going and overcome obstacles (Phase 5).

So, having had our Star Wars moment, is this sequel our Phantom Menace? Not according to the recent 9Marks review

Sequels that don’t disappoint are few and far between, which makes The Vine Project something of a rarity… I hope that The Vine Project is read widely by churches, planters, pastors, and ministry leaders alike.

Like the 9Marks reviewer, we hope many will use The Vine Project to help shape their ministry culture around disciple-making, and we’re praying this sequel does even more good for the Kingdom of God than the original. 

Order The Vine Project direct from Matthias Media in print or as an ebook. BONUS: Until September 30, Challies.com readers can use the coupon code ‘TVPCC’ in the Matthias Media shopping cart to receive a 15% discount.

August 22, 2016

This sponsored post is provided by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

If you’ve been in church ministry for any length of time, you’ve probably discovered that one of the persistent challenges of your role is the apparent need to treat it like ten roles. While nearly every pastor is exceptionally gifted in one particular area or another, it is rare that our ministry context allows us to camp out in that one area. As churches grow in scale, it may become more necessary for pastors to serve as specialists, but in most churches, the pastor as “general practitioner” is still the order of the day.

In some evangelical corners, the pastor as generalist may not seem like a particularly cool concept, or even a particularly efficient one, but it certainly has biblical precedent. We have, of course, the various qualifications listed (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-4). These passages show us what every elder must be, but they shouldn’t be taken as a description of the ideal pastoral personality. Instead, they may show us, alongside the requisite gifting, the requisite pastoral persona—or personas, plural. For instance, in Paul’s letters, we learn that the pastor should be a faithful family man, a gracious host, a disciplined student, and a respected community member. Peter’s list adds the more general descriptor of shepherd. Both apostles of course emphasize that the pastor must be a faithful preacher of the word of truth.

But there’s more. In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Paul holds himself up as an example of pastoral versatility in reaching the lost for Christ. As our own cultural landscape continues to change, the faithful local church pastor will also find himself continually renewing his foundational commitment to the unchanging gospel of Jesus Christ while at the same time reevaluating his missional strategy for preaching and applying that gospel. Doing the work of an evangelist, Paul tells the young pastor in 2 Timothy 4:5, is one way to “fulfill your ministry.” In 1 Corinthians 9, then, he’s fleshing out what that might look like. It would seem that even in evangelism and mission, the pastor must “wear many hats.”

Of course, there is a fleshly way many pastors go about trying to “be all things to all people.” This is why the Mayo Clinic warns that those in “helping professions” are at high risk for burnout, because they “identify so strongly with their work that they lack a reasonable balance between work life and personal life and try to be everything to everyone.” Biblically speaking, we’d call this idolatry. 

And yet, there is a healthy, God-honoring way for ministers to embrace the call to be “all things to all people.” We could call this more formally the inter-disciplinary work of pastoral ministry. Or we could call it being a renaissance man! A renaissance man is of course, a man of multiple talents. He accesses a wider breadth of knowledge. The pastoral renaissance man, then, is one who gives his whole self to the whole word that he may be of whole use to the whole church.

Not to be confused with a dilettante, who simply dabbles in this and that according to personal whim and cultural fancy, the pastoral renaissance man is a committed exegete, a prayerful missiologist, and a longsuffering shepherd. While the dilettante is outsourcing his study, the renaissance man is a theologian. While the dilettante is scouring the blogs for the latest church growth techniques, the renaissance man is having coffee with his lost neighbor. While the dilettante is delegating away messy ministry to focus more on “vision,” the renaissance man is feeding the sheep.

Pastoral ministry is not theoretical. It’s not even something you can halfway do. 

How in the world can we pull all this off? Well, we can’t really. That’s one of the other lessons you learn from spending any length of time in ministry. None of us are Prophet, Priest, and King enough to “be Jesus” to our church and our neighborhood. The challenges of ministry are many and the bar is set high, but our capacities are limited and our reach is short..

All the more reason to lean into the fullness of Christ. Pursuit of him will improve our gifts, adoration of him will increase our holiness, and preaching of him will mitigate our weakness. It is a good to know as we fail constantly at “pastoral versatility” just how versatile the gospel of Jesus really is.

With this in mind, Midwestern Seminary has been laboring to meet the growing need for pastoral versatility. To this end, we have reevaluated and restructured our Master of Divinity (M.Div) degree to better equip church leaders for our rapidly changing ministry landscape. We’ve made the M.Div degree program leaner (81 hours), competitive in cost, and – with both residential and online options – more accessible than ever. M.Div students at Midwestern receive excellent equipping in courses like:

  • Pastoral Care and Counseling taught by Midwestern Seminary President Jason Allen
  • History of Christianity taught by Christian George
  • Life and Ministry of Jonathan Edwards taught by Owen Strachan
  • Principles of Leadership taught by Midwestern Seminary Vice President Charles Smith
  • Cross-Cultural Communication taught by missiologist Robin Hadaway

Our M.Div program also offers multiple concentrations to suit your particular calling and context, including Preaching and Pastoral Ministry, Biblical Languages, Counseling, Church Planting, Leadership, Worship Ministries, and more.

We take our vision to be For The Church seriously, and it’s this vision that drives our commitment to training the next generation of ministers in the robust truth of the gospel. Get more details about the M.Div program and discover more about the fastest-growing seminary in North America at mbts.edu/mdiv.

August 15, 2016

Join us for the 2017 G3 Conference | Reserve your seat(s) | Prices increase August 22nd

In 1521, just a few years after nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the castle door in Wittenberg, Martin Luther was called to assemble before the Diet of Worms in the city of Worms, Germany.  Luther arrived in a covered wagon, and the city was pulsating with intensity over the controversy.  Thousands of people were crowding the streets passionately trying to get a glimpse of the Augustinian monk.  No matter the cost, Luther was determined to enter the city of Worms and give a defense of the gospel.

The following day, the imperial herald led Luther to the place where he would stand trial before the leaders of the world.  The crowds were so large that he was led through a back alley to the bishop’s palace.  As Martin Luther stood before the royal leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and Europe, he was dressed in a humble monk’s attire.  When given an opportunity to speak, the emperor’s spokesman pointed to a collection of Luther’s books and asked if he would acknowledge his writings or would he be willing to recant of everything.

Luther spoke up with a soft voice and asked for additional time to consider his answer.  He was given until the following day to provide his decision publicly.  On the following day, when he was once again led to the bishop’s palace and asked to recant of everything he had written, Luther spoke up and said the following:

I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God.  I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience.  I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me. Amen.

After being escorted to his quarters, Luther turned to a friend and said, “If I had a thousand heads, I would rather have them all lopped off than abandon my gospel.”  The Reformation had begun, and the stakes could not have been higher.  It was a matter of life and death.  It was more than standing against the Roman Catholic Church.  It was about standing for the gospel of Christ.  Luther made his stand for the glory of God.

As we look back at Luther and the Reformers, we must be reminded that the Reformation continues in our day.  With the perversion of justification by faith alone still continuing to thunder from Rome and from liberal denominations, we must continue to stand.  Today the church in America is being tested in ways that she has never experienced.  With the recent LGBTQ decisions that continue to morph along with other cultural hurdles, we as Christians are faced with a Luther moment.  Will we continue to stand today?

Join us in January for the 2017 G3 Conference:  This will be more than a celebration of Martin Luther’s stand.  We will look at the importance of biblical preaching, prayer, and church leadership in a day of compromise.  If you want important updates from the G3 Conference, subscribe to our VIP list here.

Challies-In-Post-Graphic

Date:  January 19-21, 2017

Location:  Georgia International Convention Center — Atlanta, GA (see travel page for details)

Registration:  $179 (price increases August 22)

Ready to reserve your seat?  Register here.  *Discounts available for families and groups.

Breakout Sessions:  Customize your own conference experience.

Plenary Sessions:  Through singing and preaching – we will worship God together for three days as we commemorate the historic Reformation and prepare to stand firm as the Reformation continues.

Speakers:  20 speakers — 3 days — 1 location.

  • Paul Washer
  • Steven Lawson
  • D.A. Carson
  • Voddie Baucham
  • James White
  • Tim Challies
  • Conrad Mbewe
  • Phil Johnson
  • Josh Buice
  • David Miller
  • Rosaria Butterfield
  • David Hall
  • Todd Friel
  • John Crotts
  • Nathan Busenitz
  • Chip Thornton
  • Chris King
  • Anthony Mathenia
  • Scott Klusendorf

August 08, 2016

This sponsored post is provided by Zondervan and Nabeel Qureshi.

Islam is the world’s second-largest and fastest-growing religion, putting it on pace to surpass Christianity in its number of followers by the end of the century. Millions of our American neighbors are Muslim, yet the average American Christian knows little about Islam’s claims and the key differences between Islam and Christianity.

Those differences make all the difference in explaining the Christian faith in a relevant and persuasive way to Muslim believers.

How well do you know Islamic beliefs about Jesus and the countering evidence for Christianity? Could you explain your faith effectively to a Muslim? We teamed up with Nabeel Qureshi, author of the new book No God but One: Allah or Jesus?, to prepare a quiz that asks 10 important questions at the conflicted intersection between Islam and Christianity.

(Can't see the quiz? Click here.)

Additional Resources

Qureshi