Seven Traits of a Narcissistic Pastor

thinking environment depressed depression

Q. What hath narcissism to do with church ministry?

A. Absolutely. Nothing!

As far as the east is from the west, so self-seeking motives for ministry has nothing to do with genuine pastoral leadership. Yet, too often churches find in their leaders tendencies that can only be called narcissistic.

This problem is so great that Chuck DeGroat wrote an entire book about it, When Narcissism Comes to ChurchWhat follows is not dependent on his work, but is the result of watching churches and church leaders over the last few years. It is painful to watch shepherds fleece the flock they are leading, and so what follows is written with an eye to those churches who may be suffering from the effects of a narcissistic pastor.

(Apparently, I’m not alone in my observations. After drafting this list I found this article, Ten Ways Narcissistic Leaders Can Devastate a Church.)

Seven Traits of a Narcissistic Pastor

1. A Narcissistic Pastor habitually turns the conversation back to himself.

Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt. 12:48). Such is the case for all people. It is a principle of human nature: What we talk about reveals what we love, and what we love drives our conversation. And if we love ourselves, we will habitually draw conversations back to ourselves. Continue reading

Seven Pastoral Practices for Bringing Biblical Theology to Church

woman holding book

Yesterday, I gave seven pastoral cautions for bringing biblical theology to the church. And as advertised, here is the rest of the story: seven pastoral practices for bringing biblical theology to church.

This is list primarily for pastors and the role their preaching can play in helping their congregation value a unified reading Scripture that leads to Christ—for this is what the best biblical theology does. However, these encouragements may also serve any member of the church, as healthy congregational have more than biblical pulpits. They must also have members who long for and pray for the Word of God to grow in their midst.

Continue reading

Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Six Old Testament Lessons for the New Testament Church

jonathan-farber-_lpQA9ox6IA-unsplash.jpgWhen the Western tribes of Israel heard that Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh built an altar near the Jordan River, they were ready to go to war (Josh. 22:10–12). This altar threatened God’s favor on Israel, and the obedient sons of Israel were ready to act. Fortunately, before they took up swords against their brothers, they sent a delegation to inquire about this altar.

This peace-keeping mission is what Joshua 22:10–34 describes, and in these verses we find a tremendous model for peace-making in the church today.  In what follows, we will consider six priorities for genuine reconciliation.

Six Priorities for Peace-Making 

First, peace requires a faithful (high) priest.

When the Western tribes learned of the altar, they gathered at Shiloh to make war. Only before proceeding on that path, they sent a priest by the name of Phinehas. Phinehas is well-known to us because of his actions in Numbers 25. There, he atoned for the sins of the people by taking a spear in his own hand and killing Zimri and Cozbi. This appeased God, ended the plague brought on by Israel’s sexual immorality, and proved Phinehas’s faithfulness as a priest.

Now, following his lead, the delegation of Israel went to inquire of their brothers. What becomes apparent in this peace negotiation is that these brothers acted in faith and did not sin against God or them. Thus, a faithful priest was necessary for making peace. Only now with the split between the tribes of Israel, peace is made by putting the sword down and not going to war. The lesson in this is that faithful priests knew how to divide clean and unclean (Lev. 10:11). Phinehas excellence, therefore, is proved by his ability to make this decision.

At the same time, it is vital to see that a priest is still needed to make peace. In the new covenant, Christ is the peace of his people, one who has made peace by his cross and one who preaches peace to those far and near (Eph. 2:14–17). Moreover, Jesus lives to intercede for his brothers (Heb. 7:25). Thus, the unity of the church is preserved by Christ and his priesthood.

Likewise, Jesus as our great high priest also teaches God’s people how to be priests to one another. As Matthew 5:9 says, those who make peace prove themselves to sons of God, which is to say, they prove themselves to be faithful priests in God’s household. (Faithful sonship was always the source of true priesthood). Today, if the church has any unity, it is because Christ is the one who is mediating the new covenant and praying effectively for his people to become peace-makers. Continue reading

Six Lessons on Shepherding: A Pastoral Meditation on 1 Thessalonians 2

shepherdIn the Bible, leadership is likened to shepherding. In the Old Testament, God shepherded his people; he called shepherds like Moses and David to lead his people; and kings were often likened to shepherds. In the New Testament, the image continues. Elders are commanded to shepherd the people whom God gives them to oversee (1 Peter 5:1–4). And local churches are to recognize a plurality of Spirit-formed shepherds who will lead them and feed them with God’s word.

Additionally, the New Testament gives many examples of shepherding, and one of the best is Paul’s statement on his ministry in 1 Thessalonians 2. What follows are six lessons to be learned from his ministry and the way elders can shepherd well the people of God today. Take time to read Paul’s words in verses 1–16 and consider how Paul’s personal ministry demonstrates absolute commitment to preaching the undiluted word and constant attention to the people to whom he preaches.

May we who shepherd learn to do the same. Continue reading

How Sheep Can Shepherd Their Shepherd’s Lambs

ImageI am thankful to be at a church that loves our children and encourages me to spend time with them. I have members who ask about the time I am spending with them and have never received a complaint for the time I take with them or the times I bring them with me to ministry activities.

On that subject, the need for churches to care well for their pastor’s children, Chap Bettis has provided seven important exhortations for the way churches can shepherd their pastor’s children. Let me share them with you: 

  1. Give grace to the pastor’s children on Sunday.  
  2. If you have a concern, talk to your pastor about behavior that characterizes the children. But do so with an attitude of loving acceptance.   
  3. Be generous in your praise.  
  4. Limit church criticism and complaint to private conversations among adults.  
  5. Be brave and rebuke the critics. Unfortunately, not everyone in the congregation will follow this suggestion. When grumbling and faultfinding spill over in front of you, speak up.  
  6. Give your pastors room to deal with their children’s hearts. Older children will go through some spiritual ups and downs. How will you think about those bumps? With care and affection? Or self-righteous judgment?  
  7. Give your pastors margin to minister to their families. Children need their father. . . . Even as a church member, you can encourage your pastors to care for their families.

These seven guidelines and the explanations Chap provide come from twenty-five years of ministry with, by God’s grace, children who are not embittered towards the church. 

May God multiply Chap’s testimony, and give pastors church families that shepherd their children well, even as they shepherd their church.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss  

[photo credit: ThomRainer.com]

Extra- “Ordinary Pastors”

This week I had the privilege of spending four days with more than 1000 pastors at Moody’s Pastor’s Conference.  It was a joy to get to know just a couple of these faithful shepherds as I manned the SBTS booth and talked to brothers, young and old, about ministry and on-going equipping for ministry.

At the same time, in the off hours of the conference, I had the chance to read through D.A. Carson’s inspiring tribute to his father, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflection of Tom Carson. It was a fitting book to read at a pastor’s conference and it reminded me why no faithful pastor is ‘ordinary,’ and why the ‘ordinary pastors’ that I have come to know in my life are my heroes.  They are the ones I look at and say, “I want to be like them.”  “Ordinary pastors”  long to see Christ glorified at the expense of their own reputations; they sacrifice  time, money, personal leisure, and even ministerial advancement for the sake of soul-winning and commitment to their local flock; they put everything else down so they can pick up their cross and follow their savior.

Most pastors, like Tom Carson and the ones I met this week, will never be known in the world as great, powerful, respectable, or extraordinary, but at the day of judgment they will be the ones whom the Lord Christ honors as those who served his church well–with hearts filled with Christ-adoring faithfulness and not crowd-pleasing fanfare.  They will be the ones who will receive an unfading crown of glory when the chief Shepherd appears (1 Pet. 5:4).  Until then, they may be overshadowed, marginalized, and/or rejected by the men and machinations of this world, but when Christ comes and sets the record straight, any ordinariness will replaced with unreserved and undeserved glory–for the first will be last, and the last shall be first.  This point was brought home this week and gave me a greater appreciation for and desire to be an ordinary pastor.   Consider this moving quote and ask yourself how God might make you more faithful  as a servant of Christ (cf. Heb. 13:7),

Tom Carson never rose very far in denominational structures, but hundreds of people in the Outanouais and beyond testify how much he loved them.  He never wrote a book, but he loved the Book.  He was never wealthy or powerful, but he kept growing as a Christian: yesterday’s grace was never enough.  He was not a far-sighted visionary, but he looked forward to eternity.  He was not a gifted administrator, but there is no text that says, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you are good administrators.”  His journals have many, many entries bathed in tears of contrition, but his children and grandchildren remember his laughter.  Only rarely did be break through his pattern of reserve and speak deeply and intimately with his children, but he modeled Christian virtues to them.  He much preferred to avoid controversy than to stir things up, but his own commitments to historic confessionalism were unyielding, and in ethics he was a man of principle.  His own ecclesiastical circles were rather small and narrow, but his reading was correspondingly large and expansive.  He was not very good at putting people down, except on his prayer list (D.A. Carson, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor [Wheaton, IL: Crossway,  2008], 147-48).

Men like Tom Carson and the brothers I met with this week, challenge me to serve our Lord more faithfully and remind me what really matters in life–God, God’s Word, Christ’s church, and telling lost souls the Good News of Jesus Christ.  May we who are in or about to enter the ministry, aspire to such faithful service, and may those who are not called to pastoral ministry pray for their pastor that he would have such a zeal for souls, energy for service, and freedom from pleasing this world.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

How Do You Comfort a Family Whose Lost an Infant? Spurgeon on Infant Salvation

This week I am taking a class called Pastoral Ministry.  Its breadth of topics range from SBC life, to ministerial resumes, to the slow and but necessary process of cleaning up church roles. In the variety of topics, the issue of infant death came up, and the question was ask in earnest, “How do you comfort a grieving family in such a loss?”

Dr. Douglas Walker, the professor and one of Southern’s Senior VP’s, cited three passages of Scripture to answer the question: 2 Samuel 12, concerning David’s certainty that he would see his son again; Jeremiah 1, where it is said that YHWH consecrated Jeremiah while in the womb; and Luke 1, where John the Baptist it is recorded lept in the womb when the Holy Spirit filled him in the presence of the Lord, in utero.  His conclusion base on Scriptural inference and Spiritually renewed thinking was that pastors can and must assure grieving parents that their little children are with Jesus.  (For more on the subject, see Albert Mohler’s article.)

After considering these texts, the grace of God in salvation, and the sovereign righteousness of God to do right, Dr. Walker also cited a passage from C.H. Spurgeon concerning the gladdening thought that among the heavenly redeemed, there will be far more sheep than goats.  That in heaven and for all eternity, the saved will outnumber the lost.  And his rationale is that all those dead in infancy will be raised to new life in Christ.

The quotation comes from a sermon Spurgeon delivered on the subject, “Infant Salvation,” on September 29th, 1861 in the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Below I have included the pertinent section of his sermon. Consider his powerful argument and the overwhelming sense of victory that the Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ, will one day share with all who have believed in him.  On the cross, Jesus defeated sin, dethroned Satan, and setup the demise of death.  At the end of the age, death itself will be terminated for those in Christ, including all the infants whose lives were tragically ended in this age.  Hears Spurgeon’s inspiring words and rejoice with them.

Once again one of the strongest inferential arguments [for infant salvation] is to be found in the fact that Scripture positively states that the number of saved souls at the last will be very great. In the Revelation we read of a number that no man can number. The Psalmist speaks of them as numerous as dew drops from the womb of the morning. Many passages give to Abraham, as the father of the faithful, a seed as many as the stars of heaven, or as the sand on the sea shore. Christ is to see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; surely it is not a little that will satisfy him. The virtue of the precious redemption involves a great host who were redeemed. All Scripture seems to tenon that heaven will not be a narrow world, that its population will not be like a handful gleaned out of a vintage, but that Christ shall be glorified by ten thousand times ten thousand, whom he hath redeemed with his blood. Now where are they to come from? How small a part of the map could be called Christian! Look at it. Out of that part which could be called Christian, how small a portion of them would bear the name of believer! How few could be said to have even a nominal attachment to the Church of Christ? Out of this, how many are hypocrites, and know not the truth! I do not see it possible, unless indeed the millennium age should soon come, and then far exceed a thousand years, I do not see how it is possible that so vast a number should enter heaven, unless it be on the supposition that infant souls constitute the great majority. It is a sweet belief to my own mind that there will be more saved than lost, for in all things Christ is to have the pre-eminence, and why not in this? It was the thought of a great divine that perhaps at the last the number of the lost would not bear a greater proportion to the number of the saved, than do the number of criminals in gaols to those who are abroad in a properly-conducted state. I hope it may be found to be so. At any rate, it is not my business to be asking, “Lord, are there few that shall be saved?” The gate is strait, but the Lord knows how to bring thousands through it without making it any wider, and we ought not to seek to shut any out by seeking to make it narrower. Oh! I do know that Christ will have the victory, and that as he is followed by streaming hosts, the black prince of hell will never be able to count so many followers in his dreary train as Christ in his resplendent triumph. And if so we must have the children saved; yea, brethren, if not so, we must have them, because we feel anyhow they must be numbered with the blessed, and dwell with Christ hereafter.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss