Reformed Baptist Fellowship

A Word of Practical Advice to New Bi-Vocational Pastors

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on January 28, 2015 at 5:26 pm

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I’ve been bi-vocational for some time and I wish I had something positive to say about it. The reality is, you’re going to be put into impossible situations where you can’t possibly see to the needs of the church, your other occupation, and your family at the same time.

There will be times when you just can’t be there for the church and some people will be upset about this. There are times when the demands of the church will put a strain on your other employment. There are times when your wife and children just aren’t going to see you much. While we shouldn’t sacrifice our families to our work, we have to provide for them and you’ll have seasons where your occupations DEMAND every waking moment.

For example, a couple weeks ago, one of our breaker boxes went out and to get it fixed has required days sitting in government offices for permits and inspections (long story how it came to that). This has lead to me working from 7:00AM to 11:00PM (16 hour work days!) every day for the last week and a half to take care of all the obligations that are on me. Sometimes these sorts of things happen and there just isn’t going to be anyone who can help and it’s going to all fall upon you. In the above example, everyone else has jobs and can’t be available or can’t legally represent us with the county.

Now…what does a building’s electrical system have to do with our calling to preach the gospel? It doesn’t, but practically, as the only member on staff in the church you’re probably going to have to oversee many things that other men with jobs can’t (even though you have another job too!).

There is also likely to be a challenge with finances. When expenses come up for the church, and people say, “let’s just trust God with the money”, what that really means is YOU are going to have to trust God with the money because any shortfall is going to come out of your support check. What’s worse, I’ve seen people who say, “let’s trust God with the money”, pull up into the church parking lot in a brand new SUV right after my having received a substantial pay-cut. Trusting the Lord with church finances often means that only the pastor’s family is eating beanie weenies.

You may think that a man embittered in the ministry is writing this but I actually happen to pastor a wonderful little church. While my situation could be greatly improved if everyone would faithfully tithe (I’ve never seen that in any church), the people at CRC are very supportive and encouraging. I think in many ways, my situation is fairly optimal as a bi-vocational pastor.

What I am saying is…it is going to be HARD, especially as the years roll by and the bi-vocational situation remains. My advice is, KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GETTIN INTO! Discuss these matters with your wife. Lead her and pray that God grant her commitment to this as well as yourself. You are going to need her understanding and support and never forget that she is the most important congregant you need to shepherd. If the burdens become to great for her, it will likely cause you to need to step out of the ministry.

So…my number one bit of practical advice to the bi-vocational pastor, love your wife fervently, and lead her into the joys of Christ. I remain in the ministry today with all of the burdens it has placed upon my family in large part because my wife is supportive and on board with this calling. She is a wonderful, godly Christian woman and no doubt used by God in a powerful way to help me be much more the man than I could ever be without her. On my part, and more than ever as a bi-vocational pastor, I need to lead and encourage her in the faith.

Robert Truelove, Pastor
Christ Reformed Church
www.christreformedchurch.org

 


 

Whither Reformed Baptist? Part Two of Four

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on January 26, 2015 at 6:53 pm

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In the relatively short span of my lifetime the evangelical world has witnessed a resurgence of the doctrines of grace among Baptist in America and abroad. Among those who adhere to the five points of Calvinism has been a subset of churches who call themselves Particular Baptist, Confessional Baptists, or Reformed Baptist (I sometimes call them capital ‘R’ Reformed to showcase our confessionalism as opposed to “New Covenant Theology” Baptist who sometimes take the moniker reformed Baptist). When I speak of Reformed Baptist I am addressing those churches who hold in principal and in practice substantial agreement with the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. Over the past 25 years I’ve been pastoring, I have seen the Lord bless our little ‘tribe’. There was a time when I think I knew the name of every Reformed Baptist Church in the US and at least one of their pastors. There have been so many churches planted and so many churches embracing not just Calvinism, but Confessionalism that I can no longer keep up. With these blessings have also come some concerns. I have not only witnessed churches birthed, but churches die. I have seen prominent men fall from their positions of esteem through gross sin. I have seen pockets of division (which I will address in part four of this series) erect walls of suspicion among brethren who ought to walk together. I’ve also seen some questioning the doctrines and practices they once proclaimed with power.

In part one I discussed the issue of leadership and the need to see young men not only raised up with gifts and graces for gospel ministry but also men with the Confessional convictions which have marked Particular Baptists for centuries. In this blog I want to address the issue of second and third generation fatigue. I mean this both doctrinally and practically. Reformed Baptist Churches have not only been marked by doctrinal convictions, but they have been marked, by and large, with a serious practical commitment of churchmanship that was expressed in ways that are increasingly out of step with our contemporary evangelical and even Reformed setting.

This tendency to fatigue over doctrine and practice among a second or third generation is something addressed repeatedly in the scriptures. One generation fights ‘for the land’ and a second generation is raised in the land. The new generation doesn’t remember the war. They don’t bear the scars. They didn’t feel the cost of church planting or even moving so that you could be in a setting where you could worship according to your convictions–it’s all simply been given to them. I see second and third generation Reformed Baptist who have embraced Christ and have, thankfully, been desirous to stay within the ecclesiastical framework of their youth. They want not only to be disciples, but Reformed Baptist. I bless the Lord for this. I also desire to see the fervent conquering, giving, self denying spirit that marked the previous generation grip them as well. Though the foundations may have been laid and the walls built up by their parents and grandparents, there is still land to conquer, enemies to defeat, and advances to seek after. Though I realize that the commitment to all the stated meetings (on the Lord’s Day and gatherings for prayer) and to giving can devolve into legalism, I saw firsthand these commitments embraced with love, zeal, and passion. Will the rising generation embrace both the faith and practices that marked their parents? The zeal that planted churches? The zeal that meant folks turned down promotions for the sake of the church? The zeal that birthed family conferences and various associations of churches?

I close with this question to all who read these words: If everyone in your church had your level of commitment would your church thrive or fold? Or to put it another way, if my folks had my commitment, would this church ever be here in the first place?

Jim Savastio, Pastor
Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville
 
Whither Reformed Baptist (Part 1)
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What God Requires of the Church: Individualism vs. Christ

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on January 24, 2015 at 7:50 pm

We live in a time when God’s people are often very confused about what the church is and what it is supposed to do. What does it mean to be a devoted church member? What’s the role of the church in my walk with Christ? What should the church be doing? How do we know the answers to these questions? In today’s culture, many Christians have sought to give answers to the questions above based on personal ideals and preferences.

American Individualism and Consumerism

McDonaldsWhen Christians in our culture look for churches, they sometimes ask, “Does this church satisfy the needs of my life and family?,” “Do I feel like I’ve encountered God at this church?,” “Will this church help me achieve my goals?,” “Do I like the people at the church?,” “Does the church’s schedule fit with my personal schedule?,” “Did I feel moved by the worship music?,” and so on. Notice how each of these questions is centered on the individual, not on the Bible, or the community of faith.

Even more inexcusably, church leaders often design church ministries and programs with questions in mind that cater to this same Western individualistic mindset: “Will this program meet the felt needs of the people?,” “Have we successfully avoided things people don’t want?,” “What innovative methods can we design to keep people interested?,” “How many people will be attracted to this ministry?,” “Will this help us attract more people?,” and so on. By asking such questions, church leaders have perpetuated the problem of American individualism. They have fostered the idea that individual preferences should determine what is done in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, rather than Christ speaking through His Word.

Clearly, many Christians are asking the wrong questions about church. All of the above questions are about what people want, not what God wants. The questions of individualism and American consumerism make people the reigning authority in the church, rather than God Himself. The most important question we should all be asking is “What does God require of His churches in His Word?”

Paul wrote to Timothy in order to teach him what God requires in the church. Paul said, “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:15, emphasis added). God wants us to consult His Word for answers about how the church is to conduct itself.

Christ’s Authority Over the Church

Morningview-Baptist-Church1The church is not a democracy. It is a monarchy, ruled by the King (Rev 19:16). He divides His rule with no one. “None can stay His hand or say to Him ‘What have you done?’” (Dan 4:35) The Lord Jesus Christ is the church’s Sovereign, and He requires those in His kingdom to submit themselves to His revealed will in the Bible.

Ephesians 1:22-23 says, “And He put all things under [Christ’s] feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

Philippians 2:9-11 says, “God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Colossians 1:1-17 says, “And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent.”

This isn’t to say that people’s thoughts and feelings don’t matter. Christ’s good kingdom is also a family. Our thoughts and feelings matter because God is not only a King, but He’s also a Father. God the Father wants to persuade, comfort, and encourage all of His children by His promises of life in Christ. Our Father never runs roughshod over His children. Jesus says, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). But the thoughts and feelings of God’s children have no final ruling authority in Christ’s kingdom. Jesus alone is King. The Father alone has final authority. Church members, deacons, and pastors are all Christ’s subjects, bound to obey Him in faith, love, joy, and gratitude. The church, therefore, has no right authoritatively to require things Christ has not commanded or to neglect things that Christ has commanded.

In future posts, we’ll consider some of the things the Lord Jesus Christ clearly teaches the church should do.

Pastor Tom Hicks

Morningview Baptist Church

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