Finding the Missing Gifts

Some years ago A.W. Tozer preached a sermon entitled Tragedy in the Church: The Missing Gifts. This later became the opening sermon in a book of his transcribed sermons. It is a tragedy that many of the spiritual gifts are underutilized and underrecognized in the modern evangelical church, even where in churches and denominations which do not believe that the gifts have ceased from the church.

Some years ago I was the pastor of a Christian and Missionary Alliance church where the previous pastor and a number of the current members and attenders had some Pentecostal leanings. I came up with the following teaching statement as a way to bring everyone together on what the scriptures had to say about the public exercise of spiritual gifts. I offer it here as a possible basis for public exercise of the gifts in churches and denominations where they do not believe that the gifts have ceased from the church but do not want to go to unscriptural extremes.


1. We affirm the inspiration and sufficiency of the Word of God to teach, correct, instruct and train in righteousness, and that it alone is sufficient to equip believers for every good work (II Timothy 3;16-17). We affirm the high place of preaching and teaching of the Word of God after the practice of the Lord Jesus and the apostles (Acts 2:42, I Timothy 4:13, II Timothy 4:12). We repudiate any additional revelation to the Biblical canon (Revelation 22:18-19, Deuteronomy 4:2, Proverbs 3:6), and any message or expression of spiritual gifts that would contradict or add to the written Word of God.

2. We affirm the reality of all the gifts of the Spirit for today (Romans 12:3-8, I Corinthians 12:8-10, 27-30, Ephesians 4:11-16, I Peter 4:10-11). We affirm that the gifts of the Spirit are good for the church.

3. We affirm the policy of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in regard to tongues, that they are not to be sought as the evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit nor are they to be forbidden as not being given for today.

4. We affirm that the trust test of the filling and presence of the Holy Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and that the earthly goal of the Holy Spirit is to transform believers into the moral likeness of Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 3:18). We affirm that the Holy Spirit comes to glorify Jesus Christ (John 16:13-14) and not to exalt his own ministries. We affirm that love is greater than any spiritual gift (I Corinthians 13:1-3). We repudiate any spiritual pride, rebellion against church leadership, or role reversal in Christian marriages on account of spiritual gifts as contrary to the nature of the Holy Spirit.

5. We affirm that spiritual gifts are given to the church for the edification of all, by the will of God, for the good of the entire body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:7, 11). We affirm that all gifts are necessary and good. We recognize that the more visible and sometimes spectacular sign gifts are no more valid than any other gifts, and repudiate any rivalry on the basis of gifts.

6. We affirm the scriptural guidelines for the public exercise of spiritual gifts of prophecy and tongues (I Corinthians 14:26-33). We counsel each member of the fellowship to be sensitive to the others and to seek and receive edification through the use of spiritual gifts. We counsel that the less formal services on Sunday evening and Wednesday evening are more appropriate times for the use of these (of prophecy in a non preaching mode and tongues with interpretation), as a practice followed even in mainstream Pentecostal denominations such as the Assemblies of God, due to the possible presence of unbelievers and immature believers in the Sunday morning services. We repudiate any practice which tends to self exaltation rather than edification, or to confusion and disorder in the worship services.

7. We recognize the possibility of human imitations and demonic counterfeits of spiritual gifts, especially of tongues and prophecy. We affirm the right of the church and individual believers to discern the source of all such manifestations, and recognize the same as a scriptural responsibility (I Corinthians 12:1-3, I Thessalonians 5:19-20, I John 4:1-3). We recognize that the enemy and his servants will masquerade as servants of righteousness, and repudiate any test of spiritual gifts according to the attractive personality of the possessor or the beauty or excitement of the experience (II Corinthians 11:13-15).

A. Testing of the gift of prophecy: We affirm the presence of the scriptural gift of prophecy in the church today, but recognize that not everything that claims to be a message from the Lord is to be received as such. We recognize that the genuine gift of prophecy will expose sin (I Corinthians 12:24-25), and will operate so that believers will be strengthened, encouraged and comforted (I Corinthians 14:3). We affirm that the true gift of prophecy will always be in accord with the teaching and spirit of scripture (Romans 12:6). We repudiate as false prophecy what might arise from a person’s own thoughts and ideas (Jeremiah 23:16, 21, Ezekiel 13:2-3, 17), whatever would tend to lead a person away from God and obedience to his Word (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, Jeremiah 23:17-18, 22), and whatever predictions fail to come true (Deuteronomy 18:20). We also recognize and repudiate any prophecy as false which is found to originate from a demonic source (I  Timothy 4:1). We affirm the right of the church and its leadership to correct and discipline its membership for false prophecy. We encourage believers to avoid any attempt to correct another believer through purported prophecy or words of the Lord and instead to follow the procedures of private and gentle rebuke as outlined in Matthew 18:15-17 and Galatians 6:1, and to be patient and forbearing with differing fellow believers on nonscriptural matters (Ephesians 4:1-3).

B. Testing of the gift of tongues: We affirm the presence of the gift of tongues today in the church of Jesus Christ. We deny that the gift is separable into a gift of tongues for public use and a private prayer language, since scripture recognizes one gift of tongues (I Corinthians 12:10), with different uses, whether in public exercise with interpretation (I Corinthians 14:13), or as a private prayer language (I Corinthians 14:14-15, 28), or, in cases perhaps most rare, in evangelism to those whose native language is different than that of the speaker (Acts 2:4, 8-12). According to the scriptural descriptions the content of tongues when interpreted would be prayer, praise and thanksgiving (I Corinthians 14:13-17), and we would counsel great caution when interpretations take a prophetic form, as being possibly out of order and even false prophecy. We encourage that with love and gentleness for the speaker that tongues be tested by the repeated use of the word of command of the authority of the Lord to the spiritual source to reveal whether it acknowledges the authority of the Lord Jesus and that he has come in the flesh (I Corinthians 12:3, I John 4:2-3). We encourage this especially in the case of an experience that has been a factor in backsliding, lack of church attendance or involvement, indulgence of sin, rebellion against church leadership, role reversal in the marriage, lack of peace and lovelessness toward brothers and sisters in Christ, and neglect of prayer and God’s Word, and where there has been occult or spiritistic influence in the background.

8. We recognize the possibility of false miracles today (Matthew 24:11, 24, II Thessalonians 2:9-12), and that as the return of the Lord Jesus grows closer, the possibility of their increase. We repudiate as false any which are done by sleight of hand to deceive and any from a demonstrably demonic source. We counsel all believers to note the fruits of any worker of miracles (Matthew 7:15-23).

9. We utterly repudiate any occultic or spiritistic practice as being contrary to scripture and a source of demonic oppression and bondage (Deuteronomy 18:9-13). We call upon all believers to avoid utterly all such practices. We encourage the confession and renunciation of such practices as in accord with scripture (Acts 19:18-19).


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Responsibilities and Preparation of Church Elders

Updated!

Often, especially in small churches, men come to positions of being elected elder and then have no idea what the responsibilities of an elder are. Some seem to think that it’s being part of a pastoral oversight committee, and attempt to micromanage the ministry of a pastor. Others seem to think that eldership is an opportunity to talk big, boss other believers in the church around, interfere in the lives of others, and promote the people they like and denigrate others that they do not like. The scriptural qualifications are primarily character qualifications, and someone who fulfills the scriptural qualifications will avoid those previously mentioned aberrations. But they might still be at a loss as to what eldership means. There are several indications in scripture.

Eldership means oversight of the church before God.

I Timothy 3:5, 5:17, and I Peter 5:2-4 all talk about the elders having authority to oversee and guide the church; the I Peter passage is especially pointed as to the manner that this leadership is to take, in Christlike servanthood and not in self serving tyranny, exploitation and hypocrisy.

In most congregations, this will mean serving on the Governing Board of a church. The Governing Board is also the legal board of directors for a church as a non profit religious corporation in many areas of the world, but its legal status is secondary, since the church board is not so much a body to make business decisions but to guide the church in a spiritual manner. This will, though, mean making business decisions according to Biblical wisdom and according to legal and ethical guidelines many times.

Serving on the board with integrity will mean:

  • Reading the reports where given and preparing the reports where assigned.
  • Taking the time to pray and study the Bible about the direction of the church.
  • Praying personally and with others about the direction of the church.
  • Acting in accordance with the guidance of the scriptures and the prayers that were offered.
  • Giving financial oversight to the church treasurer (rather than the other way around).
  • Making sure that business decisions are according to secular law and at least ethical according to the secular culture.
  • Offering well considered opinions in meetings in the spirit of love and scriptural wisdom – and in accord with Robert’s Rules of Order if these are legislated in the church’s constitution or bylaws as the rules of deliberation.
  • Giving feedback with courage if it’s felt that the feedback may not be readily accepted, even though it is in line with carefully considered scripture.

Eldership means watching for and contradicting false doctrine and hidden but scandalous sins.

This responsibility comes from Titus 1:9, and it means being deep enough in orthodox Christian doctrine to be able to spot heresy and false teaching. It will mean being able to spot and deal scripturally with hidden and scandalous sins. It will mean having scriptural convictions and scriptural courage, since many times what the church needs to confront will be what is tolerated or even celebrated in the surrounding culture.

It’s reasonable for elders to understand and adhere to the doctrinal statement of faith of the church and the denomination. It’s also essential for them to have an understanding of and adherence what constitutes Biblical saving truth about the nature of God, of Christ and of salvation, so as to be able to recognize and refute false doctrine. It’s reasonable to see how many from evangelical churches fall into doctrinal error, following cults and occult teachings, when church elders do not provide suitable counsel and instruction about sound Biblical teaching.

Eldership means participating in teaching ministries of the church.

Many elders never or rarely participate in the teaching ministries of the church. Yet the Bible says that elders must be ‘apt to teach’ (I Timothy 3:2).

It’s reasonable for elders to teach a Sunday School class once every year or two, or to have an ongoing ministry as part of the Sunday School. Even more, it’s possible to take the ‘apt to teach’ qualification alongside the ‘hospitable’ (also in I Timothy 3:2) qualification, and to see an elder hosting and leading a small group discipleship or growth group in his home. Another good application of this qualification a contemporary church structure is to have one or more elders involved with the Sunday School as a Governing Board liaison, or as the Sunday School Superintendent or Assistant Superintendent. For an elder (or pastor, in a multiple staff church) to oversee Christian education and discipleship groups is a very reasonable application of these scriptural qualifications.

Eldership means praying for the sick with the anointing of oil.

Some churches and denominations do not believe in the continuing healing power of God in the church since the time of the apostles, and this point is not addressed to them. In many churches, though, praying for the sick is a kind of a routine and a tradition at prayer meetings, and some people make a great point of bringing up every ailment that they can think of for prayer. This hoary routine is sometimes pursued in ignorance of the scriptural pattern.

In the scripture, rather, the apostles prayed for and anointed the sick with oil as part of the authority given to them by Jesus for outreach (Mark 6:13). James the brother of Jesus extended this authority to the church elders in James 5:15-16. Here’s how this needs to be exercised:

  • With gentle inquiry about possible sins and God’s discipline through sickness – though sickness and injury are not necessarily the result of sins that have been committed – and with an opportunity for confession and restitution.
  • Without any show or flamboyance, since prayer for healing and recovery is to be made with faith in God for healing. Someone who acts as if he is trying to prove something about himself in the way that he prays should rather be concerned about the will and the glory of God.
  • Privately and confidentially if the sickness or injury which is being prayed about is sensitive or embarrassing in any way.

Eldership means exercising authority over the powers of darkness with the authority of the name of Jesus.

Churches and church leaders do at times need to deal with the powers of darkness as they manifest themselves. Sometimes even people with multiple possessions come to churches and demonic manifestations occur with harsh blasphemies and profanity. At other times the manifestation are not as blatant but still may be just as real.

In Luke 10:19 Jesus gave authority to the seventy that he had sent out over demons. This verse can be applied both to the average believer and to the elders of the church, since it looks like Jesus chose the number seventy as being symbolic of the elders of Israel (Numbers 11:16). Certainly elders need to be able to step forward, to be able to pray, fast and exercise the authority over the demonic delegated by the Lord Jesus Christ when churches are faced with outright spiritual warfare.


It’s usually a good idea for men new to the office of elder or in preparation for the office of elder to be given much more training and guidance than they are usually given. One more resource I would suggest is Servants in Charge with Study Guide: A Training Manual for Elders and Deacons by Keith Bailey. This would also work well for someone who has been serving as elder as an on the job training refresher. I would advise not simply handing the book to a prospective, new or used elder, but going over the book one on one or in a small group. The goal is to put the lessons into practice rather than get some new ideas. A small group Bible study with elders and prospective leaders on I and II Timothy and Titus will also do much to give them a scriptural understanding of eldership and ministry.

I believe that the pastor of a church needs to give much more attention to guiding, training and supporting the elders in his church than many do. An elder who is either at a loss as to how to fulfill his responsibilities, or, worse, abusing his office in his conduct of his office, is an indicator that the pastor has been inattentive to the needs of the elders for guidance, training and support.


A question comes up on what churches should do about men who come to eldership who do not fulfill the scriptural requirements for elders. Here are some ideas.

  • Nominating committees need to consider the scriptural requirements for elder when considering those eligible for the office. It’s a good idea to print out the relevant scriptures, and look at them beside each name. There needs to be sensitivity if someone feels that someone is not qualified. Expression of doubts could be held confidential and specifics avoided in the meeting minutes.
  • An elder can experience deterioration in his walk with Christ and in his manner of dealing with others. This can be addressed through a policy of church discipline. Removal from office should be on the basis of two witnesses.
  • Elders need to be especially sensitive to personal reproof and correction. A mark of godliness is that if a person tells the elder that he is overstepping his bounds beyond scriptural authority or offers correction to his conduct, the elder apologizes and does not repeat the matter. Denial, minimizing and outright dismissal and defiance of scripturally administered correction should be sufficient evidence for an elder not to be re-elected to office, or, if it becomes a recurring pattern, referral to counseling or removal from office. 

Elders are often not involved in evangelistic ministries of the church, and sometimes even oppose these same ministries. I can remember hearing how a prominent evangelical church had two elders leave the Governing Board after a majority of the Board voted that they all should undergo Evangelism Explosion training. Their refusal to participate revealed on later experience their motives were more to wield power in the church. It’s reasonable that an elder should be able to share the gospel with others, and be able to minister to many problems one on one with other believers. In many churches where invitations are given regularly at the conclusion of a sermon, the elders are usually expected to be among those who offer scriptural encouragement, counsel and prayer to those who come forward.


One last thought: historically, and especially in Reformed churches, the role of the pastor has been defined as a ‘teaching elder.’ This is one reason why pastors are given financial compensation (one meaning of honor in I Timothy 5:17). It should go without saying that a pastor should fulfill both the character qualifications for elder and the scriptural responsibilities. Yet it’s often sad to see how much a subjective experience of a call to be a pastor (often based on what I have come to believe is an unwarranted application of the scriptural narrative call of an Old Testament prophet such as Jeremiah to a New Testament pastor) and fitting a cultural or subjective image of what a pastor should be takes precedence over what scripture says about being a teaching elder.

Open Air Preaching and Tracts in the Internet Age

Updated!

Many people in evangelical churches are embarrassed by open air preaching and tract evangelism. Often, it is for good reason. Here are several reasons that I know of.

  • Deliberate obnoxiousness in open air evangelism: In my college days, there was an open air evangelist that would visit our campus on regular intervals. His way of getting attention was to call passersby with insulting names. Frequently the people he would pick out and insult from a distance would be fellow believers. Many believers felt that his deliberate obnoxiousness was doing more harm than good. I’ve also seen this same approach in some downtown business districts by others as well. It’s possible, through the love of Christ, to deal with unbelievers on the scriptural facts of sin and eternal judgment without using cutting, reckless and obnoxious words.
  • “Gotcha” Tracts: These tract purport on the outside to be something they are not, such as a unit of money or something else. I, as well as many other believers, grew to view these as less than honest.
  • Comic book tracts and bigoted tracts: Some tract publishers in the past put out comic book tracts. These tended to be well read by less literate people, but the messages over time became more and more strange and sometimes incorporated a lot of bigotry as well. Deliberate twisting of facts about denominations and non-Christian religions, or ignorant repetition of falsehoods reported by others in tracts discredit the message in the tracts.

Many believers sense that these methods are dishonest and misleading, and detract from the love, respect and honesty of Christ. I personally could not use these methods after a while once I spent some time meditating on what the Bible says in II Corinthians 4:2: “Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”

Here are some alternatives:

  • Combine open air preaching with outdoor celebratory services. Combine enthusiastic praise by a fellowship of believers with a message. An outdoor gospel service might attract many to give a hearing to the gospel. I’ve attended open air services with some Pentecostal groups where I’ve had friends where this has worked beautifully to display joyful Christian lives alongside the Biblical gospel.
  • Combine open air evangelism with visual aids. Several of my friends who have served with World Evangelization Crusade (WEC) trained with Open Air Campaigners and spoke quite highly of their methods. Here is the link to their USA website: Open Air Campaigners USA. Their approach makes use of visual aids, and appeals quite strongly to curious passersby, without being unloving and deliberately obnoxious.
  • Find tracts which are Biblical, truthful and positive in their message, loving and scriptural even when they mention sin and judgment, and visually attractive and which avoid bigotry, sensationalism and exaggeration. If you cannot find satisfactory tracts, write and publish your own with desktop publishing. Rosalind Rinker discusses this in her book, You Can Witness With Confidence.
  • Provide passersby with a link to a website where they can find out more and a form on the website or a generic email address where they can request more information. Several web pages of information which can be easily read can increase the amount of information to available to the person who is wanting to know more about Christ and the way of salvation. Even more, more information can be added on how to start out in the Christian life and guidance on how to start reading the Bible and how to find a good Bible believing church.

People I’ve Met, Wisdom I’ve Received

Here I will give some reminiscences of both good friends and slight acquaintances. I must warn you that there will be nothing here that is not as positive as I can make it! Sorry, there is no dirt to be found here!

  • Rich Mullins

    Rich Mullins was a significant figure in contemporary Christian music throughout the 1980’s. I believe that it was he with whom I traded a number of jokes while waiting for a bus at a Christian retreat in the spring of 1980. Here is a summary of his life and influence: Rich Mullins – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  • Ravi Zacharias

    Ravi was one of my professors at Alliance Theological Seminary, and I house-sat for him briefly during the summer of 1981 when I was recovering from a knee operation. Here is the link to his ministry’s website: Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM)

  • Norman Geisler

    Norman Geisler has been one of the leading Christian philosophers and apologists for the past generation. He gave the Pippert Lectures at Alliance Theological Seminary in the fall of 1981. He noticed me going through my Greek references for a paper, and traded some friendly banter with me. The lessons on the use of elementary logic as part of demonstrating the coherence of the Christian faith are still with me. Here is the link to his personal website: Norman Geisler.com

  • John Fischer

    John Fischer performed as part of the Pippert Lectures in the fall of 1980 at Alliance Theological Seminary. His mixture of humility, compassion and witness touched many. Here is the link to his website: The Fischtank – a think tank operated by John Fischer.

  • John Perkins

    John Perkins spoke in the fall of 1976 for Christian Student Fellowship at Miami University, and those of us who lived in the CSF house at that time were privileged to share a meal with him. Here is where to find more information on his significant ministry: John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation and Development, Inc.

  • Edith Edman

    Edith Edman was the wife of V. Raymond Edman. They served at Wheaton College during the 1940’s, and were helpful to a young aspiring pastor named Billy Graham during those years. I met her in the fall of 1982 when I was in Salem, Oregon. I remember especially her devotion to prayer, her concern for revival in our churches, and her concern with the carnality of many worship services in our churches.

  • Ramesh Richard

    Ramesh Richard taught our class on cults briefly during my third year of seminary. His humor and knowledge were quite infectious. Here is the link to his personal website: Ramesh Richard.com

  • Edwin Yamauchi

    Edwin Yamauchi taught the classes on ancient history which I took at Miami University in the 1970’s. His breadth and depth of scholarly knowledge and fair presentation of the issues were matched only by the depth and reality of his Christian commitment. Here is more on him personally: Brief Biography
    Jesus, Zoraster, Buddha, Socrates & Muhammad: The Life, Death and Teaching of Jesus Compared with Other Great Religious Figures

  • Max McLean

    The Christian actor Max McLean was a classmate of mine during my third year of seminary. It was at that time that he began his extraordinary public performance of the Gospel of Mark. Here is more information on him:
    Interview with Max McLean
    An Interview with Max McLean

  • Al "Bubba" Baker

    Al Baker was a part of the very popular Cleveland Browns teams of the 1980’s.

  • Dave Puzzuoli

    Dave was also a member of the the very popular Cleveland Browns teams of the 1980’s. He is, to me, the epitome of the expression, ‘gentle giant.’ One of the great plays that I remember from that time is when he sacked the Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway in a crucial game.

  • Ralph and Lou Sutera

    Ralph and Lou were instrumental in the Canadian Revival of 1973-1974. I met and spoke with Lou briefly when I attended a conference for the Canadian Revival Fellowship: Canadian Revival Fellowship: Ralph and Lou Sutera

  • Rex Humbard

    I ran into him briefly when I was working for his ministry in the summer of 1978.
    Rex Humbard Ministry
    Rex Humbard From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  • Tom Netherton

    I ran into him when he appeared at the Cathedral of Tomorrow in 1978. He is as tall as he appears on camera!

  • The past presidents of my denomination — Louis L. King, David Rambo, Paul Bubna and Peter Nanfelt.

  • James Doohan

    I saw him briefly at the only Star Trek convention that I ever attended.

  • Archibald Hart

    He has appeared often on James Dobson’s "Focus on the Family" broadcast. He taught a seminar on ‘The Emotional Hazards of the Ministry’ in the fall of 1982 which I attended during my ministry internship in Salem, Oregon. Here is the way to his home page: Dr. Archibald D. Hart – Home

  • Lisa Hullinger

    Lisa might not be a person whose name is familiar with many people. She was a friend of mine in college, and she was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in September 1978 while she was in Germany. Her parents then formed the organization Parents of Murdered Children.
    Robert and Charlotte Hullinger fondly recall their daughter Lisa
    Ex-Librarian Guilty of Murder

  • Darrell and Cheryl Phenicie

    Darrell and Cheryl serve as missionaries with the Christian and Missionary Alliance in the Middle East. They are both among the finest people that I have ever met.
    Evangelicals Flock Into Iraq on a Mission of Faith
    Missionaries will find pain precedes unity

  • Captain Penny

    Captain Penny was the host of a local cartoon program, whom I and my brother met briefly when we were children. His kindness in speaking with children is one thing that I continue to remember as an adult. His real name was Ron Penfound: Children’s Show Hosts: Captain Penny

  • Big Chuck and Lil’ John

    Big Chuck and Lil’ John are local hosts for horror and science fiction movies. I met them while they were on a personal appearance at a local video store. They were both gracious and humorous.

  • Thomas Stebbins

    Thomas Stebbins was a past missionary to Vietnam and Executive Vice President of Evangelism Explosion International. I first met him in 1979, when he came to my home church of Stow Alliance Fellowship for the Home Bible Study Seminar. It was then that I heard his thrilling story of how he escaped the fall of Saigon by leaping from the roof of the US Embassy to a helicopter that was just lifting off. I next met him as he taught the Evangelism Teacher Training Seminary in the summer of 1972.

  • Biswanath Halder

    Biswanath Halder was the man who went on a shooting spree at Case Western Reserve University in 2003. I believe that I met Halder back in the fall of 1999 when I was taking a software development course at Case; if he’s the person I’m thinking of, I believe that he was actually one of the more helpful people in the computer lab at that time. Here is the record on his conviction: Former student convicted in university rampage

Things I’ve Done And Experienced

  • I’ve played trombone in a college marching band that performed at a major college football bowl game (1975 Tangerine Bowl) and at Disney World, and hugged a pom pom girl after my team won.

  • I’ve played trombone with my high school marching band as then President Richard Nixon drove by and stopped to shake hands.

  • I’ve been awakened a few times by coyotes howling outside my window in suburban Cleveland, Ohio.

  • I’ve fired a number of classic World War II pistols and rifles such as the M1 Garand, 1903A1 Springfield, 1911 Browning .45, the British Enfield and the Swedish version of the German Mauser. (I don’t own any of them, but my brother does.)

  • I’ve dated a girl from Paris, France (a long, long time ago).

  • I’ve dated a former high school homecoming queen and queen of her senior class (a long, long time ago).

  • I’ve taken two and three girls simultaneously on dates and have been accused of having ‘harems’ at least three times (a long, long time ago).

  • I’ve been aboard the museum ships U.S.S. New Jersey, U.S.S. Olympia, U.S.S. Little Rock, U.S.S. The Sullivans, the U.S.S. Cod and two other World War II submarines.

  • Among other places, I’ve visited the Cleveland, Toledo and Cincinnati Art Museums, the U.S. Air Force Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, the New York and Cleveland Museums of Natural History, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Washington Monument, the John F. Kennedy graveside and the Gettysburg and Antietam battlefields.

  • I’ve listened to a number of my favorite trombonists in person : Urbie Green, Jim Pugh (when he was with the Woody Herman orchestra), Slide Hampton, Steve Davis, David Taylor, Doug Wright and Bill Watrous.

  • I’ve watched history made on TV as I watched John Glenn on his first orbital flight, the first moon landing with Apollo 11, the first shuttle launch and both the Challenger and Columbia disasters while they were happening, several JFK news conferences, the JFK and Ronald Reagan funeral processions, the Vietnam War and both Gulf Wars, most of the presidential debates since the Gerald Ford/Jimmy Carter debates in 1976, among all the reporting of history as it is happening to us today.

  • I’ve been challenged as I left my workplace by a Secret Service agent — then Vice President Al Gore was half a block away during his 2000 presidential campaign.

  • I’ve started at least four novels and have a few short stories also sitting around.

  • I’ve had the privilege of preaching the Word of God at least 500 times.

  • I’ve had the privilege of leading at least 500 people through a prayer to receive Christ as Lord and Savior.

  • I’ve read through the Iliad and the Odyssey a number of times in the original language. Other classical works I’ve read in the original language include the Odes of Horace, the poems of Catullus, Plato’s Gorgias, and portions of Aristophanes, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripedes, Sappho, Archilochos, Herodotus, the Aeneid of Virgil, and the Republic of Plato.

  • I read through the New Testament several times a year in the original language.

  • I’ve read through most of the Old Testament in the original language.

  • I’ve touched a Super Bowl ring.

  • I’ve touched an SR-71 Blackbird.

  • I’ve run six minute miles and bench pressed over 250 pounds throughout my late thirties and forties.

  • I’ve interviewed with NASA to program software for the space shuttle.

  • I’ve handled one of the ceramic thermal tiles from one of the space shuttles. The tiles are about five inches square, feel like fiberglass or styrofoam, and have a hard black surface on one side.

  • I’ve talked several people out of committing suicide.

  • I’ve turned Cicero’s First Oration Against Catiline into Cicero’s First Oration against the Latin Teacher on Exam Day – which the teacher loved.

  • I’ve been part of at least one medical study.

  • I’ve created a set of costume Roman armor from memory and worn it in front of a church congregation of over 1000.

  • I’ve been on the local TV news both after the June 18, 2002 fire which hit my apartment building and before and during the my victim witness statement at the trial of the arsonist.

  • I’ve taken a number of standard psychological tests which demonstrated my sanity — which proves that you can’t always go by standard psychological tests ;-).

  • I’ve performed several weddings although I’ve never been married myself.

  • I’ve been an alternate juror on a murder trial where the death penalty was requested.

  • I’ve attended a poetry reading by the US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser and had the opportunity to meet him and hear his opinions on literature and poetry.

  • The Pastor and Personal Ministry

    Updated!

    It seems to me that many pastors are much more comfortable preaching and teaching in front of a group than in dealing with a single person about a problem or concern. Yet personal, one on one ministry, is definitely part of pastoral responsibilities, and too often seminaries and Bible colleges do not mention much about it. Here are some guidelines:

    • Live and minister as a servant of Christ trusting God for the sufficiency of Christ.

    “Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter, but of the Spirit ; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life . . . For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (II Corinthians 3:4-6, 4:5). Whatever your personal shortcomings, trust in God for his sufficiency for the situations that you will face, and go forth to serve with that trust.

    • Develop a confident, caring manner in dealing with people one on one and in groups of two and three.

    One of the problems that I found when working with pastors on Evangelism Explosion teams was to get them to tone down their approach. Some started out loudly, like they were starting a sermon without a microphone. “WE’RE HERE FROM <some> CHURCH!” Dealing with people one on one calls for a more soft spoken, conversational approach, and is not delivering a sermon. This kind of ministry is the place to “ . . . clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). Some pastors also try to act so tough and macho that they show very little of the attitude of Christ, who said he was, “ . . . gentle and humble in heart . . .” (Matthew 11:29). It is absolutely horrible that some pastors and elders consider Christlikeness to be weakness and ‘wimpiness,’ and take on a gruff bossiness, a stiff pride and an unbending aloofness to others in deep pain which is so unlike the Savior. Yet a gentle, caring and confident manner demonstrates Biblical Christlikeness, and is a mark of someone who has been ordained not so much by the hands of a committee but by the hands scarred by Roman nails.

    • Be prepared to ask questions and listen before offering answers.

    Pontification, offering solutions before you have heard the entire story and jumping to conclusions about a matter on the basis of half explanations and offhand remarks results in ministry malpractice. I think that this tends to happen when a pastor wants to present himself as pastor who has things together and has boatloads of scriptural advice for all sorts of situations. Rather, listen, ask for clarification where necessary and seek to understand as much as possible before offering answers.

    • Always be there with the caring and comfort of Christ for the major, life altering crises.

    This is true whether the person who has had the crisis occur is a church member, regular or occasional attendee. This is especially true for the death of an immediate family member: father, mother, brother, sister, or child. Be there to pray and offer comfort. No one expects you to have all the answers, but the Biblical responsibility is “. . . mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). And then, let other people in the church know and encourage them to offer their support over the coming weeks. Mourning the loss of a family member takes some time, and it will often be months of adjustment for the family as well.

    There will be major, life altering crises that happen. Be there as soon as possible and as long as it takes to minister to the need. Don’t let a person suffer in silence. Be less fearful that the person who receives ministry will become a ‘black hole’ of need and dependency and rather more concerned that Jesus might say to you in this situation, “ . . . whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:45). I’m convinced that not only do many churches lose people who feel abandoned in the hour of crisis and in their suffering, but that churches stagnate because of those who attend and sit in pews with broken and bleeding hearts, because “if one part [of the body] suffers, every part suffers with it” (I Corinthians 12:26). Advice to ‘tough it out, ‘suck it up’ and ‘get over it’ may apply better to minor hardships, disagreements, annoyances, slights and offenses, but not to situations like the loss of a job, a life threatening or even a terminal illness, an abusive marriage or workplace situation, becoming the victim of a crime against person, property or reputation, or the loss of an immediate family member or close friend. For more information, see my previous post on Care First.

    • Pray with people in faith for their needs.

    Ask if the person would be comfortable with allowing you to pray for him or her, and then pray quietly and reverently. Ask God for his solutions and his wisdom. Look for the glory of God here, and don’t let it be an attempt at a show of eloquence.

    • Give scriptural counsel.

    Let the Bible be the source and center of all counsel given. Demonstrate faith in the power of God’s Word to change lives. The memorization of scriptures that speak to common problems will give you a wonderful basis to speak to hurting people throughout your ministry.

    A pocket New Testament or a small Bible that you can carry with you can be one of your best friends where you know of a place where Scripture speaks but you do not have the passage memorized. One of the advantages of speaking to people either in their homes or in the hospital is that there is often a Bible to which you can refer them. Many people will continue to look at the scriptures that you point out after you have gone!

    Make sure that counsel is scriptural. Avoid sharing personal experiences as a resolution to someone else’s problem. Too many believers already canonize their experiences and things that they hear from others as the scriptures that they use in practice instead of the Bible. Rather, use personal experiences where they illustrate lessons learned from scripture and ways in which to apply scripture. Moreover, I’ve also seen some get caught up so caught up in their own experiences when starting out to share what happened to them to sympathize that the whole point of ministry to the other person got lost in the conversation. Moreover, avoid the kinds of hoary, unscriptural and often childish platitudes so cheaply thrown out such as, “Don’t pray for patience because that will only make things worse,” but point to what scripture actually says.

    • Keep confidences.

    Lots of things can be shared in the course of ministry to people that should be kept in confidence: medical needs, personal problems, and besetting sins may be some of them. There are always people in a congregation that are prone to gossip, who have overactive imaginations and uncontrolled tongues, and who are overly curious about these things and much less attentive to their own problems. It’s your responsibility as a pastor to make sure that they don’t learn about them through you. A loose tongue and the betrayal of confidences can go a long way to proving to a congregation that their pastor is untrustworthy with any confidences, and will destroy his ability to minister to them one on one.

    • Don’t get caught in conflicts between people but be a peacemaker.

    Someone will often try to share his or her ‘concerns’ about other people or a particular person with a pastor. It’s your responsibility to make sure that your ear is not open to slander and gossip, nor that you are drawn to one side in disagreements and conflicts. Rather, urge forgiveness and reconciliation as much as possible.

    • Invite elders, other church leaders and potential church leaders along for prayer, assistance and on the job training.

    Many elders and other church leaders come to positions in the church with very little, if any, training in ministry to others, aside from one or more long forgotten personal evangelism training courses. Many of them do not know where to go in the scriptures to deal with the problems that they may face if they engage in one on one actual ministry to people and conversations. One of the best ways to open their eyes to the needs of others and how to minister to them is to bring them along.

    • Carry along a bottle of anointing oil for prayer for healing.

    Many churches believe in and practice James 5:14-15, such as my own denomination, on the anointing of the sick with oil and prayer for healing. I’ve been on pastoral visits where the sick person has been in the hospital and at home and requested the anointing with oil with prayer. Carrying along a very small pocket size bottle enabled me to minister to this request on the spot.

    • Make sure that you know how to present the gospel both briefly and in more depth.

    When dealing with a person one on one, you will occasionally find someone who is a part of a church fellowship but has never really come to saving faith in Christ. This can be a wonderful opportunity to speak to this person about his or her eternal need. Do this gently and lovingly, and you may be more likely to find that person trusting Christ for his or her eternal salvation.

    All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers

    Your Human Value

    One of the distortions in many people’s understanding of themselves and others is the estimation of personal value and significance upon the wrong basis. This has led to errors in:

    Modern ethics:

    • abortion on demand
    • "euthanasia" and "mercy killing"
    • denigration of capital punishment upon inadequate basis

    Personal self awareness, self perceptions, self estimation and personal relationships, by the confusion of personal value and significance with:

    • personal achievements and recognition
    • personal appearance
    • personal affluence and prosperity
    • physical health and vitality.

    The Biblical view is, though, that each human being already has value and significance in himself or herself in being created in the image of God. Therefore each person can find an objective and unchanging understanding of his or her eternal value and significance in this fact.

    1. All mankind — each and every person — arose by the creation of God.

    This means that all human beings have the same value and significance no matter their race, gender or physical or mental capacity. There is only one human race, and each human being is a valuable member.

    The Biblical meaning of mankind as the creation in the image of God begins to unfold in the account of the creation of man and woman in the book of Genesis:

    "Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatues that move along the ground. ‘ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:26-27).

    "When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them ‘man’" (Genesis 5:1-2).

    This the Bible teaches that mankind began as the special creation of God himself. The Bible is clear that the first human couple were created through special miracles of God himself (Genesis 2:7, 22).

    This contradicts:

    • humanism: the philosophy of human self sufficiency. God made man, and mankind remains dependent upon the providential order of the world designed and sustained by God.
    • evolution: insofar as it teaches man arose by development from the animal creation. Man is a part of creation, with extensive similarities of physiological design and biochemical process to the animal creation. Nevertheless, the scientific evidence for human evolution is extremely fragmentary so as to be insufficient to overthrow the Biblical teaching. In fact, most of the reconstructions of prehistoric human skeletons rely upon premises which are known to be fallacious in dealing with modern human skeletons (e.g., it is impossible to infer intelligence and brain function from the capacity and shape of a human cranium). It is entirely possible, in view of all of the evidence and statements of some of the evolutionary scientists themselves, that the more apelike members of the proposed, hypothetical series of human evolution were simply an extinct breed of ape. Certainly the evidence is that the specimens which are undoubtedly human were different from human beings of the present simply in having a less developed technology.

    Man is different from the animals:

    • In his being made in the image of God and capacity for personal relationship with God
    • In his authority over the earthly and animal creation:

    " . . . what is man that you are mindful of him,
    the son of man that you care for him?
    You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
    You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under his feet:
    all flocks and herds,
    and the beasts of the field,
    the birds of the air,
    and the fish of the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the sea"

    (Psalm 8:4-8).

    • In his awareness of eternity and desire for eternal life: "He has also set eternity in the hearts of men" (Ecclesiastes 4:11).

    Each of these intertwined philosophies of humanism and human evolutionism actually and ultimately degrades those people who, consciously or unconsciously, ascribes to them:

    • through subversion of the God given moral sense of people
    • through devaluation of human life
    • through undue elevation of animals and the rest of the brute creation.

    2. God providentially superintends the existence of each human being.

    Each human being since the beginning has come into existence by the providential design of God through the process of human reproduction and thus ultimately through the sovereign design and superintendence of God. In some cases God has supernaturally aided this process (as in the case of Abraham and Sarah conceiving Isaac) and in one absolutely unique case he bypassed the normal process entirely, in the virgin birth of Christ. His intention was that every child be born of a marital union, but one of the consequences of sex outside of marriage is the children conceived of this union. The former case may be said to be in accord with his design, the latter allowed by his sovereign permission. But in both cases the child is equally the creation of God and made in his image.

    "For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
    I praise you because I m fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
    My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.
    When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
    your eyes saw my unformed body.
    All the days ordained for me
    were written for me in your book
    before one of them came to be"

    (Psalm 139:13-16).

    No matter what the circumstances of your conception and birth, therefore praise God for your life. Praise him also for the way in which he made you, for everything about yourself that you find likeable and the things about yourself that you find annoying or difficult to bear.

    Whatever you find difficult to accept about your physical being — a lack of physical beauty, a disability, etc. — happened by the sovereign permission of God: "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?"(Exodus 4:11). All these things are not a mark of God’s punishment or displeasure, however difficult they may be to bear. Consider all these things in the light of the statement of Jesus about the blindness of the blind man: "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life" (John 9:3). Offer your condition back to God, as part of making your body a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1), and seek that his will and his glory may be displayed through your physical body.

    Though it is not truly a physical defect, many have had difficulty in dealing with a sense of a lack of physical beauty. Such areas as diet, exercise, cleanliness, courtesy and tact, and an inner joy and tranquillity have much more to do with the qualities of physical attraction than the artificial enhancements of makeup, etc. These aspects need attention first in dealing with this self estimation. In addition, it needs to be noted that the attraction of Jesus himself was by no means physically based:

    "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him"

    (Isaiah 53:2).

    A reading of the gospels would seem to indicate that Jesus was so average looking that it was impossible to pick him out of a crowd!

    No matter what physical potential one has been given, be it great or small, any man or woman who is a believer in Christ can have the true attraction of Christlikeness. A concentration on these qualities is more advisable for a courtship and marriage both godly and satisfying. Then, too, a deep insecurity about one’s appearance can lead to an envious, resentful, vindictive and manipulative character which may be a more effective sabotage of personal relationships than any lack in the area of personal appearance.

    3. God made man like him in some way of resemblance so as to be called in his image and likeness.

    What does ‘the image of God’ mean? Generally the image of God is divided into personality (the quality of personhood) and character (moral capability).

    • Personality remains in the power of rational thought, communication and action.
    • Sin has corrupted the moral character of man. Nevertheless people retain a sense of moral direction, judgment and responsibility (Romans 2:14-15), which shows an intuitive understanding of the moral law of God. This general understanding of morality often reflects the Ten Commandments and has been the basis of human civil law where in ages and cultures without the Bible.

    Family Order and the Image of God

    Both men and women share in the image of God though the order of creation (I Corinthians 11:7-9 and I Timothy 2:13) has significance for family order.

    Civil Justice and the Image of God

    1. "And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting . . . And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man" (Genesis 9:5-6).

    The image of God in man makes the premeditated and hostile killing of man by man murder that amounts to a crime against God himself. This is the Biblical justification for capital punishment in the case of murder.

    • What does this then say about the act and consequences of abortion of the unborn? With all the mention of the consequences to the child and the mother, what does it amount to in regard to God himself?
    • Thus being prolife in the sense of being against abortion does not have thus to entail being against capital punishment. Abortion may thus be considered the murder of the innocent, while capital punishment would be the punishment of the guilty.

    Verbal abuse and the image of God

    "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness" (James 3:9).

    This shows how slander, demeaning and derisive talk about others, verbal abuse etc. can amount to a denigration leveled against God himself, and gives the Biblical basis for restraint of such talk. This should give us all a new incentive to consider how we speak of others in the hearing of God himself.

    All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers