A Pastor’s Call to Defend the Gospel

I wonder if Paul were to have written his letter to Titus today if it would make it into Preaching magazine.

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Paul told Titus to do some very strong things in it. Some of the imperative verbs deal with the manner with which Titus should live and teach, but most of the imperative verbs are things Titus should do to or for the people he was pastoring. Just note how strong some of these are:

  • Rebuke (1:13)
  • Urge (2:6)
  • Declare (2:15)
  • Exhort (2:15)
  • Rebuke (2:15)
  • Let no one disregard you (2:15)
  • Insist on these things (3:8)
  • After warning him once (3:10)

When a pastor is faced with a situation where people are misunderstanding the gospel, not living in light of the gospel, rejecting the gospel, or perverting it, Paul’s call to pastors is to strongly defend its truth. This is not being hateful. It’s being intensely truthful. Strong verbs reflect the serious nature about which Titus was dealing.

You rarely hear Paul telling Titus (or Timothy for that matter) when defending the gospel to do things to and for their people like: coddle, stroke their egos, waffle, roll over, apologize, tip-toe. Can you imagine Paul writing a letter to a pastor today where the gospel was being threatened and saying something like, “Now, whatever you do, make sure no one is offended by this and absolutely everyone agrees with it before you teach it with any kind of authority. In fact, under no circumstances are you to make anyone feel like they are wrong–even if what they’re saying is absolute heresy! If anyone preaches a gospel contrary to the one I’ve taught you–no biggie!”

I’m not talking about a pastor beating his people up so he can get his way about the color of the carpet. There are wise and unwise ways to deal with those kinds of issues. But Paul’s admonition to Titus and Timothy and young pastors out there like you and me are very clear when it comes to defending the gospel: you do it strongly, clearly, without apology, and you do not let anyone get in the way of its truth. There will be people who do not like it, and who do not like you as a result. Those are scars you must be willing to bear. If my memory serves me right, there was another one who was willing to bear scars for the same cause.

The truth of the gospel is the only legitimate reason anyone has for living–the only true hope anyone has at all! In fact, if it’s not true and held as such, then your church is no longer a church and you are no longer a pastor. If we lose it, someone just go ahead and set off atomic bombs across the world and end this thing for us all. But because its true, you, pastor, must fight for it with your life. Be flexible about your philosophy, your preferences, and your style, but do not bend when the gospel is at stake. Be irrepressibly rigid.

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A Danger for Church Revitalizers

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. Proverbs 21:5

red_rectangle_danger_sign_lRevitalizing a church carries certain dangers, especially for a rookie pastor. One that keeps creeping up on me is the need to look for a magic bullet. I feel the urgency and burden of needing to see our church change, but the rate of change doesn’t match my level of urgency. So I look for that program. That volunteer. That amount of money. That style of music. That new purchase. That new design. “There has to be something pastors in the past haven’t thought of yet that will fix everything,” I think.

I’m sure there is something to be said for these kinds of things, but there is also something very unhealthy and dangerous about being hasty when it comes to church revitalization.

If a church is like a ship, then trying to turn too sharply will actually lead to capsizing the vessel instead of moving in a different direction. So too will being hasty in decisions.

There are things to change. There are old habits that need to die. There are new things God is doing in hearts. But the hasty do not see these things happen. The diligent do.

And so I remind myself of God’s Word on this. Then we turn the wheel not sharply, but slightly, looking to where God is moving us, trusting Him to be enough when the burden of ministry isn’t satisfied by circumstance.