Tim Keller on The Country Parson

Tim Keller, the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, writes at The Gospel Coalition on why country ministry is a great first move for new pastors:

Young pastors or seminarians often ask me for advice on what kind of early ministry experience to seek in order to best grow in skill and wisdom as a pastor. They often are surprised when I tell them to consider being a ‘country parson’ — namely, the solo pastor of a small church, many or most of which are in non-urban settings. Let me quickly emphasize the word ‘consider.’ I would never insist that everyone must follow this path. Nevertheless, it is worth thinking about. It was great for me.

Many young leaders perceive that the ideal first ministry position would be a position on the staff of a large church with an older, mature pastor to mentor them. The limits of this model are several. You can’t teach a younger pastor much about things they aren’t actually doing. And in a large church they aren’t a) bearing the burden of being the main leader, b) leading a board of elders, c) fund-raising and bearing the final responsibility of having enough money to do ministry, d) and doing the gamut of counseling, shepherding, teaching, preaching. In a smaller church as a solo pastor you and only you visit the elderly, do all the weddings and funerals, sit by the bedside of

every dying parishioner, do all the marriage counseling, suspend and excommunicate, work with musicians, craft and lead worship, speak at every men’s retreat, women’s retreat, and youth retreat, write all the Bible studies and often Sunday School curriculum, train all the small group leaders, speak at the nursing home, work with your diaconate as they try to help families out of poverty, evangelize and welcome new visitors to the church, train volunteers to do some (but not all) of all of the above tasks, and deal with the once-a-month relational or financial crisis in the church.  No amount of mentoring can teach you what you learn from doing all those things.

Read the whole article at The Gospel Coalition

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Collision: Is Christianity Good for the World?

What would happen if one of the New Athiests and a proponent of Biblical Christianity went head to heat in no-holes-barred debate? Collision.

In May 2007, Christopher Hitchens and Pastor Doug Wilson began arguing the point “Is Christianity Good for the World?” in a series of articles published in Christianity Today and later published in the book Is Christianity Good for the World?: A Debate. This caught the eye of filmmaker Darren Doane, who filmed their exchanges, including public debates, while Hitchens and Wilson toured the east coast of the United States to promote their book.

The trailer for the film is below and other videos, including one of the first 13 minutes of the movie are available at www.collisionmovie.com. DVDs of the film can be ordered at Amazon.com.

What’s A Moderator For?

With a visit from the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, Rev Douglas Robertson, at the service in Wodonga and the meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria in Ballarat in just under a fortnight, I thought it would be a good time to think about the way the church is run. (You can read about Douglas’ other visits on his blog moderator08.wordpress.com).

Some churches believe that the ultimate expression of the church is the local congregation, so they vest all the power of decisionmaking with the local congregation. We call this Congregational church government.

Other churches believe that the ultimate expression of the church is the collection of all congregations under one head. In these cases, some decisions may be made by the local congregation, but the big concerns are decided by a bishop, archbishop, Pope or Patriarch. We call this Episcopal church government.

Presbyterianism is a system of church government, more so than a kind of theology, although the two usually go hand-in-hand. In Presbyterianism decisions are taken by elders or people whom the elders entrust with decision-making. In the local congregation, elders usually give responsibility for the buildings and physical needs of the congregation to a committee elected by the congregation. At the Presbytery and Assembly level committees are also appointed to investigate options, recommend actions and to carry out the decisions of the Presbytery or Assembly. These “courts” are not more important the higher you go, rather they are different courts that oversee different responsibilities shared by every congregation and coordinated at the most effective level.

Moderators do not call the shots, like a bishop does. In fact, his only responsibilities are to chair the General Assembly, chair a number of Assembly committees and visiting local congregations. One of the first meetings the Moderator chairs is the one that will choose his successor! The recently inducted Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in the State of New South Wales, Rev Chris Balzer, recently told their state newsletter The Presbyterian Pulse:

In the 19th century the Moderator of the NSW Assembly used to chair the Assembly then get on his horse and go home, and that’s the sort of role I think it ought to be.

The word Moderator means chairman. Yet the role seems to have become a year-long position requiring attendances as a figurehead and I think many Ministers have refused nomination in the recent past because of this ‘other role’ not specifically commanded by the  Assembly.

The Presbyterian Pulse July 2009, page 7.

I recommend the Wikipedia article on Presbyterian polity, which I had a large hand in rewriting. A very valuable resource is the Introduction to the Presbyterian Church of Australia (or pdf), published by the General Assembly of Australia Code Committee in 2004. It outlines in better detail how the different parts of the church are meant to operate. You can also read the Presbyterian Form of Church Government drawn up by the Westminster Assembly between 1643 and 1649. For a detailed list of regulations showing how the church runs, see the Presbyterian Church of Victoria Code and the Presbyterian Church of Australia Code.

A Slight Interuption to Your Regular Service

As I, your regular webmaster, am across the seas in Fiji on assignment,  there will be changes to our regular posting schedule. The Sunday sermon will still be recorded, but whether it makes it to the web before my return on 10 October will depend on others. Rest assured that they will appear here eventually.

Being at a distance from the gathering of God’s people which I usually attend makes me more interested in upholding your meetings together in prayer. Allow me to I encourage you to read the following links particularly related to praying for ministers and ask you to also pray for the Holy Spirit’s work of teaching and sanctifying in each other (both as you meet together and in your day to day lives).

Remembering you in prayer,

Stephen McDonald