Monday, February 16, 2009

An Exemplary Pastor

When I was an impressionable tween, my home church (First Baptist Church, Lake City, Arkansas) lost one beloved pastor and gained a new one. As many pastoral transitions are, the period was somewhat tumultuous. The pastor whom we called became a cherished mentor, and his sons became my dear and lifelong friends. He served at FBC Lake City throughout my Junior High and High School years, and well into my further education.

He had taken a cut in pay to come to FBC Lake City, but came anyway because he believed that God had called him there. He worked hard. During his ministry at the church, a heavy snowfall caused structural damage leading to the condemnation of the sanctuary. This man hammered more nails, cut more boards, and hung more sheet rock on the new facility than did anyone in the congregation. He visited the sick. He witnessed to the lost. He kindled a warm fellowship at the church. He worked hard at preaching and teaching.

After his tenure at Lake City came to an end, he moved back to Mississippi, where he continues to this day (far past retirement age) to serve as a pastor of tiny country churches. If he has uttered a curse word in the past thirty years, I didn't hear it (even if I knew some people in the church worthy of one or two such syllables!). He never embarrassed the church. He never caused anyone to doubt his morality. If people ever criticized him, they did so to suggest that he was too good, too cautious not to offend or to cause anyone to cast aspersions on the Lord and His church. He has spent a lifetime living cautiously and wisely.

But, God never called him to a large church.

Pastor Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle has been the focus of Southern Baptist headlines this week. If Pastor Driscoll has made mistakes, we ought to be gracious about them. I have faults. You have faults. We all make mistakes. If unwholesome words come out of his mouth, we ought to be gracious about that. If his church's web site will lead you to pornography in three or four clicks, then we ought to realize that they may not realize that—that they don't create the content of the sites to which they link. Clearly this is a man who wants to proclaim the gospel to people, and like all of us, he meets that task with personal foibles intact and in the way.

But here's the thing: A great many Southern Baptists and some of our institutions have come to the conclusion that people like Pastor Driscoll are exemplary pastors, while my former home pastor is not. This conclusion is put on display by the fact that Driscoll is invited to speak at seminary conferences, is featured in media coverage, is extolled by SBC trendsetters, etc., ad nauseum. My former home pastor and the thousands like him never were and never will be.

How big your church is and how "cool" you are—that's what some segments of our convention value. Respectfully, I wish to submit that these are the wrong values. And thus, the question before us is not whether Pastor Driscoll ought to be tarred and feathered. He shouldn't be. But neither should we be putting him up before ministers-in-training as an exemplary pastor. The line of people more qualified than he for that honor is far too long, and far too many of them have gone completely unrecognized.

36 comments:

John Daly said...

"The line of people more qualified than he for that honor is far too long, and far too many of them have gone completely unrecognized."

-Amen. I'm looking at the line and I fail to even see him.

Anonymous said...

Great blog and thanks for pointing this out. God gives different amounts of grace to pastors in different ways. I don't know why some pastor large churches and some don't. Some have great business and management skills. Some may simply be great speakers and leaders who people want to be around. But I just want to be humble and faithful to what God gives me to do. This is my biggest battle and struggle.

Bill Pfister
Brevard, NC

Tim G said...

Bart,
You are CORRECT! Great word concerning the issues being discussed and GREAT word for each of us in the calling that God has given. Being FAITHFUL is it - regardless of how large a church is or how small.

Thank you!

Bob Cleveland said...

Bart,

You make a terrific point.

Dave Samples said...

Bart, We all know men of God who have served well and of course many who are still serving. Though celebrity sometimes creeps its way into our circles--it is not now nor has it ever really been about celebrity. Matthew 6 might have some application--at least I want to think that it does. "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven." The "noticed" perhaps cannot keep the celebrity away any more easily than the rest of us can find it, if we were to look. My own father never pastored a church larger than 100 people and yet his work has kingdom significance. I believe that my dad will be eternally rewarded for his work in the hard places just like the "noticed" have received rewards in this life. The goal is not to try to be noticed--and it is not to try to remain hidden. The goal is to be obedient to the cause of Christ, whether hidden or revealed! We are after all just clay jars...

Anonymous said...

Bart,
Once or twice a semester, wouldn’t it be great to have guys like your former home pastor to preach in chapel at our Baptist universities and seminaries?
David R. Brumbelow

Anonymous said...

Good word Bart - I would echo all of your previous commenters.

I like David's idea - and this goes right along with Less and his small church pastor's conference

Jim Champion

Sean Crowe said...

Thanks Dr. Barber. Us little guys needed to hear that. I too think we ought not look down upon Mark Driscoll, but neither should we look up to him to an unhealthy degree. Somehow, success in ministry has come to be measured by how controversial you are, how big of an internet-presence your church has, and how many tv interviews you have been featured in. I have benefited to some degree from Driscoll's ministry, but not nearly as much as from stories such as that of Tom Carson,
and the Pastor of which you spoke in this post.

Anonymous said...

Bart:

Great point.

I have always loved to listen to W.A. Criswell, Adrian Rogers, Charles Stanley, and the well known pastors of other prominent Baptist churches.

But we often worship at the feet of "big" in Baptist circles.

The only thing that has changed are the styles and names of the new generation of pastors of big churches.

Many of these guys are super gifted, so there is a reason they have succeeded. God's blessing with talent, opportunity and the moving of the spirit. There is much we can learn from such people.

However, I believe that we should do everything that we can to remind ourselves that most churches through history and today are served by capable, humble servants such as the pastor you had growing up. The super big or super cool churches are few and far between. Most of the work is being done by mules, and not show horses.

Most Baptists know this instinctively. But reiterating this value in an institutional or convention wide way is a most difficult thing.

Nevertheless, we should be intentional in honoring all of the men and women who serve in difficult places, regardless of how "famous" they may be or how "cool" the church or place in which they serve.

That was an aspect of the NAMB report last year at the convention that I loved. It highlighted how God was using some really neat people in great ways, in areas that will never be famous.

This is a great topic that deserves more attention.

Thanks, also, for keeping an "Anonymous" option under the "Choose an identity" section for commenters. That's how I comment on blogs, and I have had to give up commenting on some blogs that have eliminated that option.

I am not upset about that. If I had a blog, I might do that, too.

I am just glad that you have left "Anonymous" as an option.

Louis

bapticus hereticus said...

i prefer a smaller congregation to a larger one, and prefer the smaller ones for the greater degree of shared responsibility that is usually manifested. a place for both, of course, in being faithful to the gospel, but too often the small church is seen as a problem, as some would say, to be "fixed" rather than celebrated for a structural ability to quickly adapt, notwithstanding the anecdotal evidence of congregations we have heard tale.

Grosey's Messages said...

well said.. and well commented by the common tators! :)
Steve

Jeff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Young said...

Bart,
Good post. Some of the best pastors and preachers I know, not many others know. Another post the other day mentioned Benny Delmar of Wyoming who directly and indirectly influenced the starting of Baptist Churches in Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas. He was responsible for 100's of churches being planted. Not many know the name of Benny Delmar. I remember an Associational meeting with a panel made up of pastors from all diffrent size churches. Dale Thompson of FBC Fort Smith was on the panel. He looked down the line at one of the pastors of a single staff church and remarked "He has a much bigger job than I do."

One thing to remember. And Bart you did not say it, but some seem to almost say that big is bad. I realize that was not your point, but hope others don't go there, either. We are called to faithfully serve where God puts us. If He puts us in a small church, serve faithfully. If He puts us in a large and prestigious church, serve faithfully there.

Les Puryear said...

Bart,

Good words. I couldn't agree with you more about pastors of small churches.

Les

Ecygtheow said...

Brothers, I am saddened but not shocked by the flawed logic and contempt displayed in this blog. I am a young Southern Baptist who grew up in the convention the son of a small church pastor. My membership is in a church that is dually alligned with Acts 29 and the SBC. The reason I have been drawn to the Acts 29 movement is because of their passion to preach the gospel, rather than the Pharisaical craving for honored places at banquet tables, trusteeships, and chapel rosters, that I so often see here. I have seen the injustices and "good old boy" isms first hand, and that does not appeal to me in the slightest.

I do not have time to debate methodology. Scott Thomas's post says it well. http://acts29network.org/acts-29-blog/lets-move-on/

Suffice it to say, faithfulness is not a competition. This is a world of 6,000,000,000 people and I should like to think that people all over the world are coming to Jesus. I praise God for Godly men like your home pastor, I praise God for the Godly African and Asian pastors who just a few short years ago would not have been welcomed in many Sou. Baptist churches, and I thank God for Pastor Mark Driscoll, who has taught me so much (indirectly, mostly) about what Gospel mission means, and the sacrifices Gospel mission takes.

Bart Barber said...

Thanks to all for stopping by. We're in the middle of a conference at the church (more about that on a later post) that is meeting every night, so I've been really pressed for time and unable to comment much.

What's missing today is an application of biblical standards for evaluating churches and elders/pastors/overseers. We grade according to wordly, material standards. There are biblical standards; we just ignore them. Churches draft "job descriptions" for jobs already described in the Bible, and do so with little or no reference to those biblical materials.

Character is not measured; performance is. This is, in my study of the Bible, a flawed and carnal approach. The implications are far-reaching.

One person commenting has taken me to task, as though I am suggesting that faithfulness is a competition. Yet he misreads the post. My point is simply this: Who we hold up as examples tells the world (and ourselves if we are willing to look at ourselves) something about what we value. Mark Driscoll is not among the pastors with the best character in the SBC. The vast majority of his defenders in the past two weeks have employed argumentation along the lines of "Well, we know that he has some problems with his behavior and character, but look at all that he accomplishes in Seattle!"

So, I'm saying that holding up Mark Driscoll as an exemplary pastor and using this line of argumentation to justify it—well, again, it speaks volumes about how we prioritize character and performance in relationship to one another when it comes to pastoral ministry.

Bart Barber said...

...WHOM we hold up as examples...

Sorry about that grammatical slip.

Ecygtheow said...

Hey, Bart. Sorry if I came across as an anonymous "sock." (My name is Paul.)

My main contention is with the fact that all of this does seem to come down as character assassination of Mark. I think he's a man of exemplary character, a faithful preacher and pastor. Obviously much of what I "know" of him comes from a distance, but I see much more honesty and humility in Mark than I see in many of the "usual suspects" Sou. Baptist denominational leaders. My contention is that he does not have any more problems with his behavior or character than I or any other "strong" Christian does. He's a faithful husband & a loving father. The accusations against him as being vulgar (i.e. the lamentable BP article), are ludicrous.

CB Scott said...

Paul,

You say:

"Obviously much of what I "know" of him comes from a distance,...."

OK, that is fair and understandable.

Then you say:

"....but I see much more honesty and humility in Mark than I see in many of the "usual suspects" Sou. Baptist denominational leaders."

That might not be so OK. For the fairness may not be so evident in that statement. Because....,

Paul, how well and at what "distance" do you actually know the "usual suspects" among SB denominational leaders?

Lastly, what would be vulgar to you? Please do not actually answer that question. Just think about it.

cb

Ecygtheow said...

As to "vulgar," I think many people are bothered by the recent Song of Songs series. I quote Ed Stetzer:

"And, yes, some people won't like frank talk about sexuality (or they will think it is too frank). And for them, that in itself is sinful. And that is a fair conversation.

However, I think frank talk on sexuality is essential. I am not going to defend everything Mark says about it, or how he says it, but I definitely believe most of our churches need to teach more on the subject."

This is obviously not a forum to discuss this issue. Suffice it to say that I believe frank talk about sexuality is essential in this sex crazed culture that has turned a good created thing into an idol."

Ed's post in its entirety is a good rejoinder to the BP article. Especially when he notes how Driscoll has changed over the past few years. Plese read the post. Stetzer knows Driscoll as a friend.http://blogs.lifeway.com/blog/edstetzer/2009/02/friday-is-for-friends-16.html

As to SB Leaders, point taken. I do not feel that it would be right to go into further detail here. I do not wish to mindlessly attack character and reputation, even though I have grounds for some of my thoughts.

I'll leave off my defense of Driscoll at this point. When I met Ed Stetzer at the 2008 SBC in Indy, I told him that he was one of the few reasons I remain Southern Baptist. (Practically, the #1 reason is my church is SBC.) He encouraged me to not give up hope and to hold on.

I hope that my uninvited intrusion has given some opportunity to reconsider (through the links provided, not my words) the issue at hand. Christ is not divided, brothers.

bapticus hereticus said...

Bart: What's missing today is an application of biblical standards for evaluating churches and elders/pastors/overseers. We grade according to wordly, material standards. There are biblical standards; we just ignore them. Churches draft "job descriptions" for jobs already described in the Bible, and do so with little or no reference to those biblical materials. Character is not measured; performance is. This is, in my study of the Bible, a flawed and carnal approach. The implications are far-reaching.

bapticus hereticus: you raise an interesting question to which addressing the problem is as difficult as the question is important. to have a standard, e.g., love, is one thing, but to measure it is another. how would love be operationalized? moreover, character, like love, is not a "thing" that may be seen or directly measured, but would be inferred by a set of manifest indicators (e.g., behaviors) that are believed to be driven by said theoretical construct. thus, what must be measured is performance, that is, the performance of character, which is operationalized in a particular manner.

what is far-reaching to me is that we often talk about the relationship among theoretical constructs (e.g., love, character) when we might not be on firm enough footing to ensure the thing in relationship is the thing at all. thus decisions may have little beyond anecdotal evidence to recommend them. that is, it makes little sense to talk, empirically, about relationships among things until we can reasonably justify the thing itself. of course, when metaphysical concepts are introduced, the nature of the conversation changes from science to faith.

i don't fault churches for developing job descriptions, and i don't see Bart doing such, either, but i hope job descriptions are based on rigorous job analyses, otherwise the basis for the description and the subsequent performance appraisal system may be based on turtles (but the older i get, the more turtles i see, even with and in our best efforts) and, then, have little or attenuated validity and efficacy for: 1) helping a congregation select better ministerial candidates and, 2) rewarding them appropriately for their [you name it].

CB Scott said...

Beloved Heretic said:

"love, is one thing, but to measure it is another. how would love be operationalized? moreover, character, like love, is not a "thing" that may be seen or directly measured, but would be inferred by a set of manifest indicators"

Well, Jesus has measured love and told us of it.

We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We know we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren.

Character is measured also; We are to be holy as God our Father is holy. We are to be sanctified. We are to have the mind of Christ.

Those are biblical concepts. Those who have been born again understand those measurements.

Our Beloved Heretic has not yet repented of sin and cried our for mercy and forgiveness before God, asking Jesus to saved him from the penalty of his sin.

Therefore he can only speak of love and character as subjective qualities.

cb

kws said...

Bart,

Thanks for honoring my Dad with this post. I can tell you that he would rather die than do something to dishonor his Lord, his church, his office or his family. He will be 73 on his birthday and wants to pastor until he is 80 (DV). He calls often to let me know he is praying for my family and me. I can testify to the truthfulness of James 5:16 having been the beneficiary of those prayers for 37 years. Blessings

bapticus hereticus said...

CB: We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We know we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren. Character is measured also; We are to be holy as God our Father is holy. We are to be sanctified. We are to have the mind of Christ.

bapticus hereticus: thanks for your post, CB; i'll work with the relevant parts of it.

in the context of pastoral ministry, what does it mean to love your neighbor? will doing such mean the congregation will sufficiently understand the manifested behaviors? could it be in a discharge of loving the neighbor that a minister would be misunderstood by the congregation, and instead of perceived as being faithful to one's calling, he or she would be criticized?

in the context of ministerial responsibilities, what does it mean to be holy? are there behavioral symbols expected of professional ministers that are not expected of the non-professionals, so to speak?

what does it mean to have the mind of Christ? one thing that comes to mind is humility. how is humility manifested in ministry? that is, the mind of Christ may be thought of as being a second-order construct that underlies many sub-constructs, which themselves drive various behaviors.

the standards raised are very good, but we need to think through them for behavioral implications when we seek to assess the effectiveness and/or character of our ministers and ourselves.

having said that, we are more than our behaviors (or values and attitudes for that matter), which, for most of us, are typically inconsistent with the best values and attitudes that we hold, but we often hold our ministers to higher and more consistent expressions of such (while often forgetting our own struggles with consistency).

CB Scott said...

My Beloved Heretic,

It will be impossible for you to actually "think through" anything relating to the nature of a child of God until you become one.

My only response to you in any question is to take the question and direct you toward the fact that you must recognize you are a sinner before God without excuse or hope and urge you to repent and believe on Jesus to save your soul.

Upon doing so many of the questions you now ask will be immediately answered for you by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, who will baptize you and seal you unrtro the day of the coming of the Lord.

cb

bapticus hereticus said...

CB: My Beloved Heretic, It will be impossible for you to actually "think through" anything relating to the nature of a child of God until you become one. My only response to you in any question is to take the question and direct you toward the fact that you must recognize you are a sinner before God without excuse or hope and urge you to repent and believe on Jesus to save your soul. Upon doing so many of the questions you now ask will be immediately answered for you by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, who will baptize you and seal you unrtro the day of the coming of the Lord.

bapticus hereticus: actually, CB, such is done, or rather "not done," annually via ministerial performance appraisals, with the senior pastor appraised by the personnel committee and the staff ministers by the senior pastor. stories are varied but many have a common theme: "i am doing what I was called to do yet it is not adequately perceived and i am sometimes criticized for doing it." while a particular standard may be agreed upon, its various manifestations may not be as widely agreed upon.

john said...

Bart,

This was a good and timely post. Well said.

John

CB Scott said...

Beloved Heretic,

John 3:7-21

cb

bapticus hereticus said...

CB: Beloved Heretic, John 3:7-21[.]

bapticus hereticus: CB, i'll take your response as not being serious about the multidimensional topic, at least with me, raised by Bart, which is encountered by ministers on a regular basis.

CB Scott said...

Beloved Heretic,

I am serious in saying you cannot "think through" anything relating to the nature of a child of God until you become one."

There is nothing on this earth I can be more serious about relating to you and anything you may say.

Therefore the request that you read John 3:7-21

cb

Alan Stoddard said...

Good morning Bart,

Alan Stoddard here. I met you at the SBTC Evangelism Conference 09 on Tuesday. I work for Dwight. remember?

I'm going to take you up on the lunch soon.

Listen, I appreciate this post. It helps me stay in the middle and remember important things on both ends.

Mark Driscoll's approach to ministry is nothing short God sent. What I mean is he is reaching the lost for Christ. Yes, he has his issues. But he's tapping into "forms" that connect with unchurched people. I have wondered if he applies what I often say I believe. I don't mind him being up front, but I get what your saying about an taking things too far. It's a good caution.

On the other end, I do believe this about God. I think in heaven, when every knee bows and rewards are giving out, the most honored pastors will be from remote Latin America or Africa or Asia. Pastor's who served 20-40 people for a long time. BUT, of those 20, there was a first. I'm talking about those who didn't reach a lot, but reached an unreached people group. I believe those no-name pastors will be those who are highlighted before eternity. Or at least, maybe, they will be the first.

I'm going to continue to listen to Driscoll. He has a lot to say. I'm also going to remember the small, the few are what Jesus focused on.

God Bless!

Rebecca Illingworth said...

One of the most moving sermons I've heard was a few months ago in my church. Forgiveness was the topic. My pastor used a powerful example from his own life . . . and that of his family when he lost his brother. Although my pastor has no formal education, and, like your mentor Bro. Bart, will never be asked to speak at the conferences he attends, the message God placed on his heart that day moved our congregation with encouragement about forgiveness.

bapticus hereticus said...

CB: Beloved Heretic, I am serious in saying you cannot "think through" anything relating to the nature of a child of God until you become one." There is nothing on this earth I can be more serious about relating to you and anything you may say. Therefore the request that you read John 3:7-21[.]

bapticus hereticus: allow me to review our conversation for a moment. i have raised serious issues related to the evaluation of ministerial/pastoral performance (which will differ according to the mission and size of the church [and other structural and micro contingency variables, too {but it is not my intention to make this an organization theory, organizational behavior, and industrial-organizational psychology seminar, of which said topics are taught in seminaries to those wishing to improve their effectiveness as church and/or denominational leaders}]), which every church and minister faces both formally and informally, and you have nothing to contribute to the discussion because you think i am not child of God. do note that the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), one of the major accrediting agencies that lends credibility to the seminary degree, i assume, you have earned, devotes much attention to these issues realizing such has various levels of importance to the development of seminary curricula and administration of processes to deliver such.

even if you think that i am not a child of God, such has no bearing on the outline of my comments; that is, many of the standards of behavior found in scripture may be manifested many ways and sometimes these manifestations are misunderstood. but that does not preclude, however, the following: sometimes a manifested behavior is not driven by the standard that one may think is responsible for one's actions. that is, while one may think he or she is being loving, they could, by being a jerk and insensitive to the moment, actually demonstrate something other than love, even if the intention is to be loving. as i stated earlier, we are more than our behaviors (and attitudes and values [for intentions see the work of Fishbein and Ajzen]), thank God, as was also Paul's response after his lament of his and our existential natures.

thus, in your desire to win me over to Jesus, a need of mine you have ascertained by reading my posts (which have been more civil and generous than yours, by the way [recall a person on this blog around Christmas that took you to task for inappropriate behavior toward another]), but never having met me to gain first-hand knowledge of my being (which a few days ago on this blog you took one to task for making evaluative comments without having such knowledge), you are failing miserably. you will get no where with me if you do not engage me as one capable of a meaningful conversation. to date your tact with me is that until i become a Christian my place is to listen to you (e.g., Beloved Heretic, read John 3 [and for some reason you won't even address me by my preferred moniker/name, bapticus hereticus {even as such has been previously brought to your attention. OK, but in not doing so, drop the "Beloved" for it comes across as deeply insincere and pejorative}]), not for you to consider my thoughts. the relationship that you apparently wish to establish is asymmetrical and laden with power; it will not and does not communicate concern and humility, as is likely desired by yourself. i don't know how effective such a witnessing approach would be to others, but i would think that those that value being a thinking-feeling individual it would be terribly deficient. there are serious concepts on the table, CB, which influence the functioning of ministers and their churches, to which, in turn, have implications for how the world perceives Christians living out the gospel. i invite you to engage in a conversation that may bring greater understanding of and to them.

Colin McGahey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Bart,

I couldn't agree more that God has richly blessed the Body with many committed and mature small church pastors. I am happy to sit and serve under such a man who, though he may never be invited to speak at conferences, is a dedicated and qualified shepherd. It doesn't matter that many people do not know him. What matters is that God knows Him and he that he serves God. I have been blessed to go to many conferences and hear many excellent preaching, but for my money, there is nothing better than being in my home church hearing my own pastor preach the word! Nothing against all the wonderful men who preach at conferences. I suspect they would agree with my sentiments.

Adam Groza

Rob Ayers said...

Bart,

Thank you so much for this post. There is so much that can be learned from the humble man of God who takes the gift of ministry seriously in order to portray the Lord in a worthy manner with integrity. I too have been remiss many times in being that role model that give God glory. I pray that despite my foibles, that God will allow His Son to shine through me.

I have studied for sometime the paradigm that Mark Driscoll and others are attempting to "fit into" in order to be acceptable in the current culture. The culture we live in has become shallow in both social communities and relationships. The intertwining of individualism and social convention has allowed this creeping in of a certain "casualness" in the greater culture, i.e. rampant casual sexuality, "living together", rejection of "institutions", casual dress, etc. Mars Hill (and others like them) are attempting to fit within this paradigm by becoming casual themselves - to the point that it wears on them - literally.

Do people really desire shallow social connections and casual indifference to social "goodness"? Is God accepting of those shallow type connections as the result of His Son being sacrificed on the Cross? It seems to me that God told Moses to "take off His sandals" - the social norm of His day was not good enough - God demanded His standard of acceptance. Surely the example of your beloved Pastor is the model that exemplifies the Love and humility of the Master - rather than the foul mouthed arrogance of some of His current day servants. Just my opinion.

Rob