Character in Ministry

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A Call to the Higher Standard

In mentoring his son in the ministry, Paul challenged young Timothy with these words, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12, ESV). Throughout his Holy Spirit-inspired counsel to this young man in the ministry, Paul stressed the need for a transparent character, an excellent reputation, a humble integrity which would allow others to see Christ in and through him.

In his Lectures to My Students, Charles Spurgeon left virtually no stone unturned while impressing the need for private integrity which leads to public credibility upon his college students. From prayer to “keeping the tools sharp,” to the work of the Holy Spirit, to the ways in which a pastor/teacher might use his voice, Spurgeon understood and emphasized that ministry leads us to a total investment of ourselves into the work of the ministry.
fishbowlWith that in mind and with a significant degree of trepidation lest he be found wanting in any of these areas personally, this author will raise some areas for consideration and even discussion in regard to the need for a high standard in personal conduct among ministers of the Gospel. Most readers would readily agree that certain issues of morality, ethics, and character are “no brainers.” Adultery is (or should be) a ministry-ender. A past history of financial impropriety and padding a resume also fits that bill as the newly-selected pastor of the First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach recently discovered. But there are other matters of personal character that should also be considered and guarded.

Often in ministry, one will hear the private lamentations that pastors and their families are required to live in “Goldfish Bowls.” This clichéd analogy that creates the suggestion that those in the ministry are subject to unusual and uncomfortable levels of scrutiny is not entirely without basis. Neither is it unique to the ministry. Politicians, celebrities, the wealthy, and a plethora of other leaders and high-profile individuals have faced the same fate. It’s what makes The National Enquirer “America’s Most-Read Weekly.”
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In Defense of the Gospel: Martuneac Responds to Wood's Review

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The Original Review by Todd Wood
CounterPointBecause we are talking about the gospel, a major doctrine of our faith, and men’s differing interpretation of it, this can be a source for inflamed and emotional debate. I took the time to carefully write, reflect on, and edit this reply so as not to appear emotional or enflame passions. Much more could have been written, but In Defense of the Gospel is my definitive, comprehensive answer to the Lordship Salvation debate.

The debate primarily revolves around the way a man is born again, how he is justified, how he receives eternal life. It is the reception of the gospel, not the results of the gospel, that is the primary area of the debate.

Pastor Scott Markle posted the following in the thread that followed Pastor Wood’s review of my book, “As I continue to follow this discussion, there appears to be two main realms of controversy. The first seems to concern the definition of the ‘saving faith’ that is necessary for justification/eternal salvation. The second seems to concern the results of this ‘saving faith’ in the progressive sanctification of the believer (that is — in the daily walk of the believer).”

I like how Pastor Markle framed and divided the essentials in the Lordship debate. When you read my book, keep this in mind: It is the gospel, the way a man receives eternal life, which is the central theme of debate in my book.

As I begin to address Pastor Wood’s review I want to mention that several of his comments and questions are clearly and satisfactorily answered when addressed in the broader context of my book. In several instances below, I quote from portions of my book to provide clarity. Other times I simply refer Pastor Wood, and those of you reading this reply, back to my book. There are three of Pastor Wood’s twenty questions where I refer back to the book. With that said, let’s dive in.

Often authors will provide humble but shameless support for their own books. But I don’t know if I have ever read a personal endorsement that compares to the magnitude of Lou Martuneac’s verdict on his own book, In Defense of the Gospel, when he writes, “In my opinion there is not a single work on the market that brings as comprehensive and balanced an answer to the Lordship position as my book does” (p. 25).
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The Primacy of the Local Church

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Note: This article was originally posted December 16, 2005.

A man skips church because he and his co-workers receive free tickets to an NFL game. A Sunday school teacher runs in a marathon rather than teaching his class. Both of these are real situations. Both men graduated from fundamental colleges. Are they right or wrong? Certain segments of Fundamentalism criticize other segments for not being “big on the local church.” Although much of this criticism is due to petty differences over the doctrine of the universal church, some of this criticism is well-deserved. Sometimes those who lift up Christ and the fundamentals are guilty of slighting the local church.

The word church literally means “called-out assembly.” “Called-out” teaches separation from the world and its sinful system. Second Corinthians 6:17-18 says,

Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

The church gives believers an opportunity to physically practice this principle on the Lord’s Day and at other times during the week. “Called out” also signifies being drafted into the work of the Great Commission. Jesus says in John 20:21, “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” He prophesies in Acts 1:8:

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

The church is to be the hub of evangelism and discipleship. Whether people are involved in Sunday school, the youth program, visitation, or some other ministry, they ought to channel their energies through the local church.

“Assembly” speaks of a group of believers encouraging one another in the Christian faith. Hebrews 11:24,25 describes this “assembly” and encourages believers to come together:
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What Does Worldly Look Like? Part 3

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The goal of these articles (Part 1, Part 2) is to challenge misconceptions about the world and worldliness by taking a fresh look at our authority, the Scriptures themselves. I’ve argued that the biblical concept of worldliness encompasses much more than the matters of fashion, entertainment, and material possessions that we fundamentalists tend to focus on when we use the term.

The Study So Far

Part 1 in the series focused on select passages that suggest worldliness encompasses all of the sinful attitudes and actions of our unregenerate past. Romans 12:2 contrasts two conditions, conformity to “this world” [1] and transformation through mind renewal. Believers are in the conformed condition to the extent that we are not yet in the transformed condition. “Worldly” here is the opposite of “transformed.” In 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, Paul links the untransformed condition to immaturity and fleshliness and cites envy, strife, and divisions as evidence of that immaturity. Finally, James 3:14-15 associates contentious, self-seeking attitudes and sensuality with wisdom that is worldly (“earthly”). [2] Together, these passages alert us against a host of ungodly attitudes we seldom think of as worldly.

Part 2 emphasized the importance of understanding what “the world” is in order to understand what “worldly” means. We found that Scripture sometimes uses “world” very broadly (the created order of earth and/or all its people) but sometimes uses the word negatively in reference to a flawed subset of that order. Furthermore, some references to “world” are strongly negative in tone and identify an even smaller subset of the whole, a world within a world, within a world. This purely sinister sense of “world” is clearly an enemy believers must shun at all costs, but how do we identify what truly belongs to that world? What is its defining characteristic?

A Time-honored but Inadequate View

Part 2 concluded that the defining characteristic cannot be association with unbelievers or even popularity among unbelievers. Whatever we say “the world” of Romans 12:2, 1 John 2:15, and James 4:4 is, total nonpartcipation and nonconformity are required. Though many groups have claimed that “unbelievers and their ways” are what’s in view in Romans 12:2, none have actually lived that interpretation. They have always chosen to allow conformity of one sort or another. Read more about What Does Worldly Look Like? Part 3

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Albert Mohler on Doctrinal Triage: A Response

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In The Nick Of TimeBP News is the official press of the Southern Baptist Convention. In a recent “First‐Person” article (August 23, 2006), Albert Mohler issued “A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity.” The article, which has been posted twice on Mohler’s own blog, reiterates an argument that he has repeated in several venues. It is an important argument, and Mohler expresses it thoughtfully.

Mohler’s thesis is that theological issues vary in importance, and that the level of importance affects the levels at which Christian fellowship is possible. Most important are “first‐order” doctrines. These teachings are the “most central and essential to the Christian faith.” They represent the “most fundamental truths of the Christian faith.” Indeed, “a denial of these doctrines represents nothing less than an eventual denial of Christianity itself.” Among them, Mohler lists “the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture.”
Second‐order doctrines involve issues that create significant boundaries among believers, but that do not keep them from recognizing each other as Christians. Mohler believes that the debate between pedobaptists and credobaptists is an example, as are questions about the ordination of women. He notes, “Many of the most heated disagreements among serious believers take place at the second‐order level, for these issues frame our understanding of the church and its ordering by the Word of God.”

Third‐order doctrines are those over which Christians may disagree while remaining in close fellowship. Mohler names the debate over the timing of events surrounding the Lord’s return as an example of a third‐order dispute. Differences over such doctrines should not prevent believers from accepting one another “without compromise,” even in local church membership.

These three categories provide Mohler with a neat taxonomy for questions of fellowship. Third‐order disagreements should never affect Christian fellowship or cooperation. Second‐order differences may block cooperation at some levels, but should not bar Christians from expressing mutual recognition. Differences over first‐order doctrines—well, Mohler does not express an opinion here.
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Book Review: Alone With God

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Alone With GodI dislike “legalese” in any context, but for this review a disclaimer is in order. I have served with Jason Jason for over five years on the staff of South Sheridan Baptist, now Red Rocks Baptist. When I first volunteered to review his book, Alone With God, I realized there could be some discomfort if I had to make negative comments. But I also knew that was a remote possibility since Jason and I had co-authored a discipleship manual, God And My Life. I recognized then his quality of thought, breadth of reading, and an ability to express himself well. I found this book no different, but now to the review.

I recall an experience related by Dr. Howard Hendricks in a Dallas Seminary class regarding his first experience at a devotional life. A brand-new believer, he had heard that we should read the Bible regularly, but he had no guidance. He did begin a reading program but let his personal like for knowing the end of the story first direct him. Turning to the end, he wasn’t far into Revelation before he realized he must have missed something along the way. So he turned to the middle and landed in the early chapters of Ezekiel. After several paragraphs of “sci-fi” multi-faced creatures, whirling windstorms, and a man eating his own writings, he decided the Bible was not understandable, at least for him. He put it down and did not pick it up again for over three years. Desire wasn’t the issue; not having a helpful plan was.

Alone With God endeavors to overcome that barrier along with others that might block a believer’s path to meaningful personal devotions. Without guidance there probably will be no progress. But why another book on the devotional life? Isn’t Dallas Willard, Brennan Manning, or Our Daily Bread enough? Jason noted in his perusal of available resources a lack of practicality, although there were some that adequately addressed Bible study and a passionate walk with God. The deficiencies seemed more in areas of prayer and a meditation emphasis. So the author did not start out to write a book; rather, it grew out of a perceived need in youth he ministered to and questions raised in classes at various colleges and camps.
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