Jesus “lost” none that were His, except Judas, doesn’t that
mean we can lose our salvation?
friend of a friend asked this and some related questions regarding
John 17:12, which reads, “While I was with them, I kept them in
your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one
of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the
Scripture might be fulfilled.”
I have a personal library of about 2,000 books. In the last 5 years I’ve often found myself thinking, “I remember reading about this topic in book X, and I’d like to footnote its discussion, and I know I own the book...now where is that book?” I look in the likely spots on my bookshelves without finding it, then tediously scan every bookshelf and pile of books, only to end up not finding the book. Frustrating.
When I worked under the Cataloger in the library at Westminster Theological Seminary, I found the solution. It was time to give up on constantly re-creating my own system of categories for ordering the books on my shelves and do what all academic libraries do: label the books with Library of Congress Call Numbers. It’s the best academic book categorization system in the world, period. Why invent my own categories when I can access the combined wisdom of many thousands of trained academic librarians? And the automation tools exist to make it relatively easy. What doesn’t exist is a description of the process for transforming bookshelves that hide your books from you into a refined, accessible personal library.
So, in the hope it will help you as much as it did me, I now unveil the process I use for labeling my books:
- Download Readerware ($40 or so) from www.readerware.com & install the program. - Buy a CueCat ($5 or so--a cheap bar code scanner; it doesn't matter whether you get the "modified" or "unmodified" kind; both kinds work fine) from eBay, and plug it in to your computer (the keyboard port). - Configure Readerware to store Library of Congress Call Numbers. - - First, rename the c:\Program Files\Readerware\scrapers\userexit_loc.py file to "userexit.py". - - Second, under "Edit - > Preferences," under the "User Columns" tab, set "Column 1" to "active," and give that column the title "LOC Call No" or something similar. - - Third, under the "Views" tab of this same window, you may want to define a "view" which displays only the following columns: Author, Title, ISBN, User1. That will make labeling the books go faster later. - Scan the barcodes from all your books into a plain text file (Windows Notepad works perfectly). For the sake of this explanation let's call the file "scanned_books.txt". - - If a book doesn't have a barcode, enter its ISBN or LCCN instead, each entry on its own separate line (press return after each ISBN). (Note that a LCCN is a Library of Congress CATALOG Number, and is NOT a Library of Congress CALL Number! You want to label your books with the CALL number, not the CATALOG number.) - - If a book doesn't have any such numbers, use Readerware's online search forms to find the book online (I find Amazon and the Library of Congress to be the two best places to search in this manner--Amazon has nicely-formatted titles, and the Library of Congress has the call numbers which you are seeking). (In Readerware, do this by using the menu entry named "Web - > Basic Search and Import...") Once you find a web page which describes this book, click on the small icon which is directly to the left of the URL in the URL bar at the top of your browser window, and drag that icon to the "Bull's eye" which is found at the top right of the Readerware window. Readerware will then automatically download the information for this book into its database. - - If you can't find the book's Library of Congress Call Number in the above ways, you can often find it in our library catalog at www.wts.edu. You have to enter it manually, but this is better than having no call number at all. - After scanning the barcodes (or entering ISBNs & LCCNs), go online and run Readerware's "Web - > Autocatalog" menu item. In the "ISBN/LCCN Input" screen, click on the "Load List" button, and select the "scanned_books.txt" file. Continue clicking "Next" and Readerware will automatically download the information you're looking for. - Once all book information is entered correctly into Readerware, export the book information by clicking on "File - > Export" and selecting the "CSV" option. - Open the CSV file which you just created. Open it in Microsoft Excel (or any other standard spreadsheet program.) - - If the file does not open and display properly, try adjusting the settings for how it interprets the CSV file, or try exporting the file from Readerware as a "TAB-delimited" file instead of a "CSV" file. - - Buy a package of Avery return address labels. I use Avery # 8167, 1/2" X 1 3/4". - - Buy a roll of clear packing tape (2" wide is good.) - - Sort the spreadsheet data alphabetically by book TITLE. If you don't sort by title now so that the labels are printed out alphabetized by title, later on it will be much harder to find the right label for the right book once the labels are printed out! - - Use Excel's special function for printing out labels. (I don't use Excel; I use OpenOffice, which is free and works very well. So I can only give general instructions here which may not be precisely accurate.) - - - Tell Excel that you are using Avery # 8167 labels (or the number of whatever other Avery labels you are using), and it will automatically format the size and margins of the labels for you. - - - Tell Excel which columns of data you want it to print on each label, and place that data in the locations where you want it to appear on each label. - - - - I prefer to place the Library of Congress Call Number at the top of the label, and the title of the book at the bottom of the label. - - - Print the labels. - Stick the labels on the books. - - I find that it works well to put the label vertically on all books regardless of whether they have skinny or wide spines, and to put them all about the same distance from the bottom edge of the spine. This makes it easier to scan across multiple labels on the shelf. - - If a book has a cover to which the label may not continue to stick for many years into the future (if the book's cover is dusty, rough cloth, or otherwise not very easy to stick to), then after putting the label on the book, I cover the label with clear tape to hold it on more securely.
That's all! I hope this idea is helpful to you! Once you use Readerware to label your books in this way, you can use it again in the future to find a book on the shelf by searching for its title or author (or other details) in Readerware, just like an electronic library catalog. You can also update the information about any book stored in Readerware, or add new books. You can record who borrows books and when those books are due to be returned in Readerware, too.
The main benefits for me of using Readerware in this way is that I now have a well-thought out method for organizing my books into logical categories (the Library of Congress has already done that thinking for me!), and I also have an easy way to find books quickly on the shelf when I need them.
You can also use Readerware in an identical fashion to label your books with their Dewey Decimal System numbers, and to organize them on the shelves using the Dewey Decimal System. So far as I understand, though, most academic libraries prefer the Library of Congress System, so that's what I've decided to use.
You may find that the academic footnoting/bibliography software called EndNote or Nota Bene could provide similar functionality.
Recently I reviewed R.C. Sproul's new book titled Truths We Confess: A Layman's Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, Volume 1: The Triune God for Modern Reformation. You can read the review here. Any further reviews of mine they may publish should be listed here.
As part of the process of seeking to be called as a pastor, in the OPC you are encouraged to fill out a "Ministerial Information Form" which the denomination can send out to congregations interested in calling a pastor, providing the congregation with information about you as a potential candidate. The section I consider suitable for posting here asks questions about my Christian faith and views on some key theological issues. Interested? Read on.
10. PERSONAL FAITH AND LIFE
A. Conversion and Call – Provide a statement of your faith in Christ and walk with the Lord, your call to the ministry and your devotional life. (Try to keep this under one page.)
God used the ordinary means of His church and my Christian family to bring me to saving faith in Jesus Christ. My parents were raised in the OPC and joined a CRC in Kennewick, WA before I was born. We had family devotions regularly and participated in all activities of the church. There through soundly biblical and reformed preaching and teaching I grew to know and understand the truth of the gospel—that salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is fully and freely offered to me—and through God’s call to repent and believe He graciously granted me faith in Christ as my Savior and Lord. In my early teen years, after taking the inquirer’s class, I made a sincere profession of faith and became a communicant member of the church.
The Lord caused me to grow in maturity through my continued and increasing study of His word and involvement in the life of the church. Sunday school classes increased my understanding of and commitment to Reformed theology. The youth group taught me to love my peers rather than ridicule them. An out of town service project and a month-long workshop in church ministry increased my desire to do Christian ministry. I decided the most important thing to which I could devote my life would be to help people come to salvation and resolve their personal and relational problems in accord with the gospel. I wanted to become a pastor or Christian counselor and so chose to major in Biblical Studies and Sociology at Covenant College, and to go to seminary following that.
The summer after my first year of college (1995) my family and I rejoined the OPC by helping found the mission work which is now Covenant OPC in Kennewick, WA. During college I attended Cornerstone OPC in Chattanooga, TN. I came under care of the Presbytery of the Northwest in 1996 and began to occasionally provide pulpit supply and teach Sunday School. I led a CRC Summer Workshop In Ministries (SWIM) team and went on a mission trip to Uganda in 1997, and was nominated for the eldership at Cornerstone soon before I was to leave for seminary in Philadelphia.
At Covenant College I grew to love the liberal arts in general—especially philosophy, theology, and Biblical studies—and my interest in Sociology waned. I learned to think, to study, to solve problems and provide answers in a distinctly Christian and Reformed way, which was the greatest of blessings to me. It strengthened my faith, and showed me a Christian way to use my academic gifts. I gained the greatest joy from studying God’s word and coming to understand it, and having opportunities to share that understanding with others for their spiritual edification. God also blessed me with godly, mature Christian friends at Covenant and immeasurable growth as a result. I came to see that the counseling I had wanted to do should be done primarily by pastors, and that my interest in the pastoral ministry was confirmed in my studies and ministry involvement. I also developed an interest in systematic theology which has led me to believe I should eventually pursue a Ph.D. in systematic theology in order to better serve the church as a pastor, presbyter, or theological professor.
Through these means the Lord led me to study in the M.Div. program at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia from 2000-2004. He used the coursework to greatly increase my ability to study and communicate God’s word, and to give me resources for carrying out the pastoral ministry. He used the expense of seminary to give me growth in diligence, patience, and humble trust in Him to provide. He has used my further opportunities to provide pulpit supply, teach Sunday School, and fulfill two pastoral internships to confirm my calling to the pastorate.
My desire is for the Lord to continue to use me for His glory in the service of His church.
B. Caring for Yourself and Your Family – Briefly respond to the following questions:
Describe how you nurture your own relationship with the Lord.
I attend my congregation’s worship services morning and evening every Sunday, and spend the whole day in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, and works of necessity and mercy. I seek to read and meditate on God’s word daily, and to pray daily. During my sermon and lesson preparation I regularly pray and seek to grow spiritually so that my teaching flows from my personal relationship with the Lord. At home my wife and I pray together before and after every meal, and regularly read a passage of scripture after the meal. We have family devotions using Tabletalk after dinner. During a meal or at other times we often discuss the meaning or application of our devotional, passage read, Sunday sermon, or a passage either of us has been studying. My wife and I both enjoy listening to and singing Christian songs, and praying brief prayers throughout the day. This past year I have led a Bible study in our home for the young adults in our church which has nurtured our growth in worship, fellowship, and service before the Lord.
Describe your prayer life.
As evident above, I pray regularly in public, family, and private worship. When I pray I express adoration for the Lord, confess my sins, express thanksgiving for His forgiveness and other blessings, and supplication for Him to bless the church, myself, my family, and others in authority, in my community, and throughout the world in matters both practical and spiritual. I pray in Jesus’ name, for God’s glory, and in accord with His revealed will.
If you are married, how do you seek to nourish and cherish your wife?
I seek to nourish my wife by leading her in worshiping the Lord and learning from His word in church and in our family, by praying together, discussing with her the details of our life and my ministry and seeking her input and help as appropriate, and teaching, correcting, and encouraging her as necessary. She does personal devotions regularly without needing encouragement to do so. We translated part of Ephesians from the Greek and discussed it together, read through and discussed part of a Christian book on preparing for marriage and another on raising children, went through marriage counseling before and after marriage, and are reading through a few novels together. I encourage her to use her gifts in service in the church. We occasionally go out for walks, bike rides, dinner, movies, or short trips and vacations to spend time together, talk, and be refreshed.
I seek to cherish my wife by expressing thanks and appreciation for her devotion to the Lord, character, help, support, and encouragement. I give thanks to the Lord for her, pray for her, and express my appreciation for her in cards, gifts, emails, regular hugs, in conversation with others, and by asking and giving forgiveness when we have sinned against each other. I rejoice in the wife of my youth, especially because she is committed to being the wife of noble character of which Prov. 31 speaks.
If you have young children in your household, what are you doing to bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord?
If there are older children (age 18 and older) in the household, how do you seek to nurture their relationship with the Lord?
We do not yet have any children.
C. Personal Views – Briefly respond to the following questions:
1. What is your view of the authority of the Bible in the church.
The Bible is the supreme authority in the church in all matters of faith and practice (2 Pet. 1:3-4; Rev. 22:18; Is. 8:20; WCF 1.2; 1.10; WLC 3). The Bible’s authority depends not on the testimony of any man or church, but wholly on God its author (1 Thess. 2:12; WCF 1.4); it is God’s word, necessary, sufficient, authoritative and clear, in all it teaches and touches, inspired as a whole and in all its parts, in every word it contains (Deut. 8:3; 2 Tim. 3:16). For this reason the church must proclaim and follow “the whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life.” (WCF 1.6)
2. How do you describe the work of the Holy Spirit in the church today?
In the New Testament the Spirit is given to God’s people in fuller abundance and power than in the OT (John 7:38-39; Acts 2:17-18; 2 Cor. 3:13-18 WCF 20.1), yet for individual believers performs the same essential work which He performed in the OT of revealing Christ and His word, and applying salvation to His elect.
In His revelatory work the Spirit works not apart from but with and by the word (Is. 59:21; John 16:13-14; 17:17; Rom. 10:14, 17; 1 Cor. 2:10-12; Gal. 3:2, 5; James 1:18; WCF 1.5), which was written down in the books of the New Testament by the apostles and prophets who have since died (John 20:30-31; Eph. 2:20; 3:5), so we should not expect new revelations beyond what is written in the Bible (1 Cor. 4:6; Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Thess. 2:2; Rev. 22:18-19).
In His saving work it is by the Spirit that Christ dwells in our hearts through faith (Eph. 3:16-17). The Spirit unites us to Christ in our effectual calling, grants us faith (2 Cor. 4:13; WCF 14.1; WSC 29; 30) and thereby all other benefits of union with Christ; especially, repentance, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification (Rom. 8:11, 14; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Cor. 6:11; 2 Cor. 3:6; Tit. 3:5). The Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8), assures us of our salvation (Rom. 8:15-16; Eph. 1:13-14; 1 John 4:13) and the truth of God’s word, and illumines our minds to understand it (1 Cor. 2:10-12; Eph. 1:17-18; WCF 1.5; 1.6). The Spirit enables us to worship and pray as we ought (John 4:23-24; Rom. 8:15-16, 26-27; Gal. 4:6; Jude 1:20). The most prominent work of the Holy Spirit is to make us holy in our sanctification. He causes us to obey God’s laws (Ezek. 36:27) and to bear the fruit of the Spirit in our character and actions (Gal. 5:22). The Spirit gives one or more gifts to every believer for the edification of the church (1 Cor. 12:7), but no longer gives the miraculous gifts of miracles and healing, as these have served their purpose of attesting to Christ (John 10:38; 12:37; 20:30-31; Acts 2:22; 4:30), His apostles (Acts 2:43; 5:12; Rom. 15:19; 2 Cor. 12:12), and His gospel (Acts 6:8; 8:6; 14:3; 15:12; Heb. 2:4), and in the present would distract our attention from observing the practical outworkings of the fruit of the Spirit as the proper evidence of His inward sanctifying work (Luke 17:20; cf. Matt. 24:24 & Mark 13:22; Gal. 5:21).
3. What is your personal approach to leadership as a pastor of a church?
I desire to carry out the work of a pastor as detailed in FOG 8 and DPW 6.2 in accord with the doctrine of the Westminster Standards and the practice of our BCO—to feed and tend God’s flock and with the other elders to lead them in the service of Christ. This involves:
A primary focus on leading the church’s public worship & teaching ministry by doing the following:
conduct public worship
pray for and with God’s people
publicly read and preach God’s word, and so teach, convince, reprove, exhort, comfort, evangelize, expound and apply scripture
administer the sacraments
bless the people from God
And a secondary focus on ministering God’s word according to the needs of groups, families, and individuals in the congregation by doing the following:
catechize youth and new believers
visit in homes
instruct and counsel individuals, and train members for service
minister to the poor, sick, afflicted, and dying
make known the gospel to the lost
The primary tasks above cannot be delegated or shared by a minister with other elders or members as much as can the secondary tasks above. I desire to keep those primary tasks my first priority.
The ministerial roles for which God gifts men in the church are those of evangelists, pastors, and teachers. My gifts are more in the area of pastoring and teaching than in the area of evangelism. I will evangelize, but as needed will seek for others’ gifts to supplement my own.
I love fellowship activities but prefer to delegate their planning to others.
Beyond these things I intend to be quite flexible as to the shape and details of my and the church’s ministry.
4. What are your goals in the ministry?
My goals are to minister God’s word to God’s people in a way that glorifies God, exalts Christ, edifies every member, and saves the lost. I desire thereby to promote “the work of the church,” which “is divine worship, mutual edification, and gospel witness.” (FOG 2.4) To best use my teaching gifts for the sake of the church I hope to pursue a Ph.D. in systematic theology in the future.
5. What is your personal approach to preaching and the types of sermons you usually prepare?
In accord with DPW 3.3 I am committed to the method of expository preaching, which means I read a passage clearly, explain the sense so that the people can understand, and explain its application, as Ezra did in Neh. 8:8ff. I believe the text’s original meaning is the message I must preach, and that its contemporary application flows from that original meaning. For that reason I carefully study the passage’s historical context, and its grammar and syntax in its original language, in order to discover its meaning. I seek to convey the meaning of the whole passage, and of each of its parts, and to relate the passage to its context within the paragraph, chapter, and book, and to the whole Bible. To that end I prefer to preach a series of sermons through a whole book at a time. In every sermon I seek to preach the gospel of Christ, by showing the doctrinal and historical connection of the passage at hand to the whole Bible’s presentation of the gospel. Because the Westminster Standards are a faithful summary of scripture’s teaching, I intentionally preach in accord with the traditionally Reformed doctrine expressed in the Standards.
A church that is looking for a pastor right now asked me the following questions, and I thought I'd post my answers for any who may benefit from them. Some of the abbreviations used are:
WCF - The Westminster Confession of Faith FOG - The OPC's Form of Government DPW - The OPC's Directory for Public Worship MIF - My answers on the OPC's Ministerial Information Form
Ministry and Church Life
What is your vision for the local church?
The local church should be committed to carrying out what we understand its work to be in FOG 2.4: "The work of the church, in fellowship with and obedience to Christ, is divine worship, mutual edification, and gospel witness." The church's first priority is to worship God, according to His word, in the special acts of worship on the Lord's Day and the general service we render to Him in all of our actions. Mutual edification is the heart of Christian fellowship, and is accomplished through mutual kindness and concern, and teaching and encouraging one another. Gospel witness is the chief function of the church toward those in the surrounding community (Matt. 28:19-20). It is through worship, fellowship, and witness that the church properly serves God, our fellow believers, and the lost in the world.
What is the role of mercy ministry with respect to vision and outreach?
The church should worship God, edify believers, and witness to the lost. As part of our general worship, and as a backdrop to our special worship, God requires us "to do justice, and to love mercy." (Micah 6:8) Likewise, to reap the fruit of eternal life among believers as well as unbelievers we must "do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith." (Gal. 6:10) These considerations mean that mercy ministry must be done first for God's glory, second for those in the church, and only third for those outside the church. It must be integral to the vision of the church.
But what is its role in outreach? Micah 6:8 teaches that showing mercy is so much a part of worshiping our merciful God that we may not cheapen it by considering it merely a means to buy a poor person's interest in the gospel. Mercy ministry is not dispensable, because God cares for the needy. But Matt. 28:19-20 teaches that mercy ministry must be done in service of the church's high calling of making disciples of every nation. It cannot take on a higher priority than outreach.
What is the role of elders in the church? What do you want elders to do?
Ruling elders must "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God." (Acts 20:28) In the words of FOG 10.3, "Ruling elders, individually and jointly with the pastor in the session, are to lead the church in the service of Christ. They are to watch diligently over the people committed to their charge to prevent corruption of doctrine or morals. Evils which they cannot correct by private admonition they should bring to the notice of the session. They should visit the people, especially the sick, instruct the ignorant, comfort the mourning, and nourish and guard the children of the covenant. They should pray with and for the people. They should have particular concern for the doctrine and conduct of the minister of the Word and help him in his labors." I want the elders to do these things.
The pastor is not the sole ordained leader in the church. The session leads the church. The pastor retains a prominence by virtue of his gifts and calling to teach, and the time he devotes to the ministry. But the pastor has no greater authority in the church than do his fellow elders. For these reasons it is good for the pastor to set the session's agenda, lead and moderate the meeting, but not to vote unless necessary.
Because elders should be "able to teach" (1 Tim. 3:2) I believe it is best for an elder at least occasionally to exercise that gift in public by leading a Bible study, teaching Sunday School, or leading in worship. I am willing for a ruling elder to "on occasion...exhort...the congregation as a part of public worship" (DPW 3.8) if there is no teaching elder available to do so. If a ruling elder desires to exhort regularly, he should seek to be ordained as a teaching elder.
What is the role of the pastor? See MIF.
How much time per week do you apportion among work, family, and play?
My aim right now is to work 40 hours on my responsibilities as stated supply for Trinity OPC, Novato, 5 hours as a web developer, and the rest with my wife taking care of our household or doing something recreational. We walk together for up to an hour 2-3 mornings per week, and go out for dinner, a movie, or a short trip about once a month.
How much time do you typically spend on sermon preparation? What is your approach to sermon preparation?
Presently I spend about 15 hours per sermon. My preparation time has decreased with practice, and I expect it will continue to do so.
I prefer to preach through one book of the Bible at a time, for the congregation's sake and mine. As the foundation of my preparation I read the whole book of the Bible within which the passage falls and pray for God's help to understand His message in that book as He conveyed it through the human author's words. Then I study outlines of the whole book given in study Bibles and commentaries, and in connection with reading those books' introductions to the Biblical book I make an outline of my own sufficiently detailed to teach a one hour Sunday School class on the book. This way I can divide up the sermon series into sub-series that can be introduced intelligibly. For example, in Novato we are beginning a four sermon series on having a Christian worldview from Colossians 2:8-23, which will be followed by two series on Christian character and Christian relationships from subsequent sections of Colossians. This also makes it possible to take a temporary "vacation" from a long book of the Bible to study a different book for a time.
After getting an idea of the general divisions of the book, following the literary structure of the book, I break the book down into passages short enough to cover in one sermon (10 verses or less for an epistle, a chapter for a narrative book), study each passage in the original language, read commentaries on it, make a discourse outline of the passage in the original language, summarize the point of each sub-section of the passage, and make those brief summaries my sermon points. Then I seek to summarize the point of the whole passage and make that the sermon's title. I am very concerned for my main points to be simply, plainly, and really the points the passage is making, so God's people are fed God's word, and not mine. Once I have come up with the sermon points, I write the sermon as an explanation of how the passage makes those points, often supporting the point with other scripture, sometimes illustrating its meaning, and always applying the point. I seek to write out every word of the sermon, but I avoid following the manuscript word for word when delivering the sermon, unless I simply cannot remember the point that needs to be made without reading a short portion of the sermon.
I am seeking to do some sermon preparation more than a week before a sermon's delivery. In the past I have spent parts of Tuesday through Thursday translating, reading commentaries, and outlining the passage, and Friday and Saturday writing the sermon. Jay Adams recommends outlining the passage 6 months ahead of time (!), and I am interested in (however feebly) heading in that direction.
After you preach a sermon, how should the congregation's understanding have changed?
Each individual in the congregation should know what the sermon text means, and have at least one idea of how it applies to them. They should know that the passage's message is part of the gospel, and because of its message they should see that they must believe on Christ and renew their obedience to Him.
Among well-known church leaders living today, which one(s) do you admire most and why?
No church leader is perfect, and we should be suspicious of anyone saying "I follow Apollos." I give far more of my attention to Christian authors and leaders who are no longer alive than to those alive today. That said, I admire Sinclair Ferguson for his sincere godliness and pastoral concern as a man, his careful research, biblical faithfulness, sound judgment, and clear presentation as a scholar and teacher, and his commitment to serving not merely the academy, but the church. I admire Richard Gaffin for the same reasons. Henry Krabbendam had a significant influence on my thinking in college for these reasons, as well. I appreciate R. C. Sproul for his work of broadly and influentially promoting biblical, Reformed Christianity in the face of Arminianism. I do not know leaders beyond the Reformed community well enough to say I strongly admire them, though I respect biblical faithfulness, Christian character and morality, good scholarship, etc., when I see it.
Do you prefer to preach topical sermons, work through a book of the bible, or a mix of both?
I prefer to work through a book of the Bible, but am willing to preach topical sermons.
What type of balance do you strike in your sermons between salvation as the free gift of God by grace through faith vs. the gravity of sin, and need for repentance?
I always preach both. We must know the gravity of our sin in order to know our need not only for repentance, but also for God's free grace. And we must receive God's free gift of grace by faith in order to repent of our sin. We need to avoid both antinomianism and legalism, and retain the perspective that the gospel truly is "good news."
What should the order be in a sermon – first on sin and repentance and if the church body responds, then explain grace, or vice a versa?
From my upbringing in the CRC and the Heidelberg Catechism's order of law-grace-gratitude, I tend to present the gospel in that order. But, I do not let a concern for the hearer's existential experience during the sermon, or a charismatic interest in observing the Spirit's work in myself or the congregation, set the agenda for the content of the sermon. God's word sets the agenda, and for that reason, I follow the outline of the passage. If the passage speaks of grace before it speaks of sin and repentance, I follow the order of the passage. God has good reason for the order of topics in His word!
Comment briefly on any of the following topics that you feel ought to be given special emphasis from the pulpit.
News or political events or topics
Insofar as the first six items are part of the whole counsel of scripture, and especially of the gospel, they each should be emphasized. The last item should only be mentioned as an illustration or application of the passage. Hobby horses don't belong in the pulpit.
Are there any issues (church, social, political, or whatever) that are of particular importance or interest to you?
If the concern of this question is to discover whether I would allow the ministry of the word of God to be subordinated to any church, social, or political agenda, the answer is no, I would not. I will oppose church politics of a partisan nature, and social and political agendas in the church. If the question is seeking to discover whether I would be willing for the church to encourage members in their function as salt and light in the world to help at an organization like a crisis pregnancy center that presents the gospel while providing practical help to unwed mothers, the answer is yes!
Are there any ministries, programs, or activities that you consider to be imperative in the life of the congregation? Please indicate whether you are strongly in favor of, opposed to, or neutral towards programs aimed at the following groups.
Youth – teen
Youth – pre-teen
I do not believe there are particular ministries, programs, or activities that are imperative in the church, beyond the work of the church in worship, mutual edification, and witness, and the particular work to which the pastor, elders, and deacons are called. I do believe many ministries, programs, and activities, including each mentioned above, are allowable in the church, and can serve the goals of worship, mutual edification, and witness. A church should be organized so that it utilizes the gifts of its members to carry out this work. The gifts, needs, and opportunities present differ from one congregation to another and from one year to the next, making it wise to have multiple committees, age-specific Bible study / fellowship groups, and midweek activities in one church, and no midweek activities in another.
What weekday activities of the church do you believe are important or essential? What should these activities focus on? (prayer, teaching, fellowship, etc)
Again, this depends on the church. If a congregation had no midweek activities, I would encourage members to visit one another and would seek to start a prayer meeting and/or Bible study before starting other activities.
What is your view on sermons recognizing Christmas,Easter, and/or cultural holidays such as Mother's Day?
Individual Christians and the church are not obligated by scripture to celebrate Christmas, Easter, or any other holiday, so I do not desire to encourage Christians to associate their Christianity too closely with our culture's holidays. But because scripture is relevant to all occasions, and sermons should meet people where they live, I'm willing occasionally on a Mother's Day to preach a biblically faithful sermon on honoring our mothers.
What are the parents' responsibilities in educating their children? Please describe your views on home, Christian, and secular schools.
The primary responsibility for educating a child lies on the shoulders of the parents, not the government, community, or school. But it is permissible for the work of educating one's children to be delegated, as is evidenced by the schooling of Moses, Esther, Daniel, and Paul, and even Paul's description of the law as a "schoolmaster." In that case, the parents remain responsible to ensure their children are brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
If parents are weak educators, or weak Christians, I prefer to see their children in a Christian school. If they are strong educators, I see homeschooling as a good option. If they are strong Christians, secular schools are not necessarily a bad choice.
How would you deal with outspoken visitors or members in the church -- for example:those who argue for adult baptism to the congregation?
If they were promoting a doctrinal error, I would invite them to my house or office to discuss the issue, and especially, to study the issue in scripture with me, and would seek to understand their concern, and convince them of scripture's teaching. I would encourage them not to teach their error in the church.
If they were promoting good doctrine with bad manners, or promoting their own opinions where scripture is silent, I would seek to show them the harm this can bring on the church and on themselves, and encourage them to change.
In any event, I would want them to understand my concern was for their and the church's spiritual welfare, and that, in the case of a believer's baptist, they could hold their position and remain a member of the church.
What would be your approach to theexamination of potential new members? Would you take different approaches for children, teens, and adults?
A potential new member from any age group would need to have a credible profession of faith—as evidenced in a correct understanding of the gospel, a reliance on Christ alone for salvation, and a commitment to lead a Christian life—and would need to answer the 4 membership questions affirmatively. I would not allow a child that did not meet these requirements to become a member, nor would I permit such a child to take communion, because of 1 Cor. 11:27-29. I would seek to determine if children had requisite maturity to profess faith, would encourage teens to make a profession of faith as part of their maturing into a Christian adult, and would encourage adults to be baptized and join the church with their whole family if possible.
At what age do you believe children should be admitted to the Lord's Table?
At whatever age they make a credible, and public, profession of faith. I would not expect a child younger than junior high age to be ready to take that step.
What is your belief with regard to voting rights for members? Should there be an age restriction on voting privileges?
The way to decide a person's voting rights to examine them for public profession of faith. If a potential member is not mature enough to vote in congregational meetings, the person is not mature enough to make a credible profession of faith. If the person is mature enough to make a credible profession of faith, they should be allowed to vote in congregational meetings.
What is your view of the use of email and the internet?
I work as a web developer to facilitate the ministries of Reformed churches and organizations. Just as the printing press and the recovery of the study of Greek and Hebrew during the Renaissance enabled the Bible to be translated into the common language and broadly distributed during the Reformation, so today computers and the internet can enable us to more efficiently conduct Christian ministry. It's better to adopt the best technology available and use it well than to be afraid of it and limit your ability to interact with believers and unbelievers alike. A church should have a website to fulfill the same outreach purposes a newspaper ad fulfilled 50 years ago. Prayer chains can be carried out more efficiently through email than by telephone. The OPC's adoption of ConstantContact.com's services for a denominational newsletter is a good idea.
But you have to use technology wisely. It is easy to waste time reading insignificant email or websites, so you have to learn to spend time reading and responding to only that which really matters. Interacting through a computer can never replace interaction in person, which is essential in the life and ministry of the church. The internet contains material that is morally corrupting, and while it involves fencing the law and is an imperfect solution, a church should install a content filtering or reporting service on its own internet connection for the moral, legal, and job security of its members and staff.
What value and role in the church is there in lay counseling?
Scripture teaches that lay members should teach, instruct, encourage, exhort, and warn other members. The foundation and authority of this counsel must always be the word of God. This is valuable for raising believers to maturity (Eph. 6:4, Titus 2:3-4), mutual edification in the life (Prov. 27:9, Rom. 15:14, Heb. 5:12) and worship (Col. 3:16) of the church, and protecting people from becoming hardened in sin (2 Thess. 3:15, Heb. 3:13) or even to save them from the fire of Hell (Jude 23).
Scripture lays the responsibility for giving this counsel most prominently on the pastor and elders of the church as those who are publicly and officially recognized as being called to give it. For this reason a lay counselor should not be given a prominence equal to that of the elders within the church, and the lay counselor's counsel must be overseen by and in submission to the counsel of the elders. I am comfortable with members giving one another counsel informally as they take part in Christian fellowship. I am only comfortable with formal lay counseling if it is implemented as a way of helping a member work out the details of their receiving the counsel given by the elders. Formal lay counseling amounts to teaching in the church, so a female counselor should not counsel adult men in this way.
Formal counseling that seeks to apply psychological theories or other ideas not derived from scripture should be clearly distinguished from biblical counsel that purely ministers the word of God. Psychology, sociology, and other fields do provide helpful insight into resolving human problems, and we should freely utilize their common grace insights into God's general revelation. But because general revelation must always be interpreted through the eyeglasses of scripture, and fallible—and especially secular and pagan—human theories must always be critically compared with the truth of scripture, any Christian counselor who uses such common grace insights should tell the person they are counseling when they are drawing on wisdom gained from a source other than God's word. Purely secular psychological counseling and psychiatric medicine do not have a place in the church, but can be of limited use to Christians in some cases, outside the church. Budget counseling, English as a second language classes, and the like can be utilized as part of the church's mercy ministry and outreach, but should not be seen as the center of the work of the church, which is spiritual in nature.
What does "equipping the saints" mean to you?
It means identifying members' gifts for ministry in the church, teaching them doctrine, encouraging their devotion to the Lord and commitment to serve Him individually, in their families, church, work, school, and community, giving them opportunities to serve in the church, and giving them help and training to carry out that service.
Do you see a mandate for Sunday School, Sunday evening service, or other church functions?
I only see a mandate for public worship on Sunday, and not for Sunday School, a Sunday evening service, or any other meeting. I believe the weight of scripture is in favor of a Sunday evening service, that Paul's example of teaching from house to house shows the wisdom of home Bible studies led by those in the church who are able to teach, and his preaching in the marketplace and the Areopagus gives warrant for many methods of evangelism. But these things are not mandated by Scripture.
What is your preferred approach to music in worship? Comment on special music, psalmody, hymns, contemporary Christian music.
Col. 3:16 teaches that scripture ("the word of Christ") should fill our singing, and should do so "richly." Our greatest concern in evaluating the music we use in worship should be to be sure its content is richly biblical. This rules out using some hymns and contemporary Christian music, not because of style, but because of content.
We must implement the "elements" of worship listed in WCF 21.5. The style of worship music is a "circumstance" of worship and so should be "ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word." (WCF 1.6) Because Col. 3:16 says our singing should be filled with all of scripture, the choice between singing a Psalm or a hymn is a choice between two equally biblical (what have historically been called) "forms" of worship.
I have found that the hymns in the hymnals of conservative Reformed churches are generally more richly biblical in their content than are the worship songs derived from contemporary Christian music. For this reason I tend to prefer a traditional style of worship. Yet I do love many praise songs I have learned along the way, and am not opposed to using them if they are faithfully biblical.
Congregational singing should be the norm. On the precedent of the OT choirs are permissible; they were not merely a ceremony. I believe special instrumental or vocal solos are suitable for offertories and as an aid to carrying out an element of worship, but I am uncomfortable with considering them a special contribution to the service that is deserving of special honor.
Members in the course of their lives can often have problems of various sorts. What would be your approach to ministering to members dealing with problems such as:
Death in the immediate family
Divorce or marriage problems
Teen problems – drugs
I would visit them, read scripture and pray with them, and seek to give them counsel and arrange for diaconal assistance as they had a need. I consider dealing with these things an integral part of a pastor's work.
Some who attend our congregation are single unmarried adults or are couples who have no or few children – what would be your advice to them regarding either marriage or children?
If those who are single desire to marry, I would encourage them to take part in fellowship with other Christian singles, primarily for the purpose of mutual edification, but also unashamedly as a means of finding a spouse. If they do not desire to marry, I would not encourage them to marry, but would want to know whether they had a sinful reason for not desiring to marry.
Those with no or few children who are still able to have children should desire to have children, because children are a blessing from the Lord. (Psalms 127 and 128) But in terms of Luke 14:28, parents must "consider the cost"—they must have good reason to believe they can adequately provide for and raise the number of children they decide to have—before having another child. The view that "We'll have as many children as the Lord gives us" does not properly consider the cost.
How much should you or the elders discuss confidential problems of members with wives? With their children?
Confidential problems should only be discussed on a "need to know" basis. If a wife or child does not need to know, they should not know about a member's confidential problem. This is what I practice with my wife, with her wise assent, and it relieves her of the difficulty of answering members' prying questions.
What is your interpretation of the creation account provided in Genesis 1 (e.g., literal 6 day, framework, etc.)?
I believe Gen. 1 speaks of a literal 6 days, so I hold that view. I share the Framework view's concern that God could have also employed created instrumentalities such as rain (Gen. 2:5-6) to bring about some of the events of the creation week, and for that reason am unwilling to oppose another man's ordination merely on the basis of his holding to the Framework view.
Why do you want to be a pastor? How did God call you to desire this task? [MIF 10.a] See MIF.
When and how did you come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? [MDF Question 10.A] See MIF.
What are some of your favorite books both Christian and secular?
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion. O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology. Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology. Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics. J. I. Packer, Knowing God. B. B. Warfield, The Plan of Salvation. John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Cornelius Van Til, Christian Apologetics. Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith. Cornelius Van Til, Systematic Theology. Jochem Douma, The Ten Commandments. Ken Sande, The Peacemaker. Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. Betty Lee Skinner, Daws: A Man Who Trusted God. C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia. Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy. William Shakespeare, Hamlet. Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose.
Which newspapers, periodicals, newsletters, and websites do you regularly read?
The New Horizons, the Westminster Theological Journal, the unofficial OPC email discussion list, eWeek.
How do you spend your leisure time? If you have any hobbies, what are they?
Reading, playing guitar, walking, biking, jogging, camping.
In your personal life and your public ministry, how do you balance ministry to believers and their children with ministry to those outside the church?
I'm not sure I understand the question. I don't seek to minister to those outside the church except through outreach.
How do you balance your professional ministry with your private/family life?
My wife and I take part in the activities of the church, so there is not a great disconnect between my family and the church. I seek to take one day per week off from working for the church, and so far have not filled up the majority of my evenings with church activities.
What is your position on fellowship with non-reformed churches in the community?
We should promote fellowship with Reformed churches in the community and in the presbytery first. But it is good to cooperate with other churches in running Christian schools, and to occasionally take the youth to broadly evangelical Christian festivals. Members should be free to attend conferences and camps hosted by non-reformed churches, but a better arrangement is to host a Reformed conference or camp and welcome Christians from other churches to attend.
Do you have any interest in participating in organizations in the community like Rotary? Why or why not?
I tend to think civic clubs take the place of the church, and so would not be interested in becoming a member of one. It is good for a pastor to know and be known by the leaders and members of the community, so I would take part in neighborhood and school activities, and perhaps join a health club.
Do you have any interest in participating in organizations like a local homeless shelter, the Salvation Army or a CrisisPregnancy Center?
Depending on the gifts and talents within the congregation, it could be good to help a homeless shelter or crisis pregnancy center. Because the Salvation Army is arguably a church, I would want to learn more about them before committing our congregation's resources to their work.
How frequently do you feel your compensation should be reviewed?
Yearly, by the session in its review of the budget during its annual planning meeting several months prior to the congregational meeting.
Do you believe in "merit" increases in compensation? If so – what does"merit" mean?
No. I haven't heard of this distinction before between "merit" and "necessity" raises for pastors. Elders who rule well are worthy of double honor, and the worker is worthy of his wages, but it appears to me the minister's compensation should be for the purpose of rendering him "free from worldly care and employment" (FOG 22.9), not for the purpose of respecting his ability, performance, academic degree, or years of service.
Do you believe in compensation increases "of necessity?" If so – what does "of necessity" mean?
Yes. As stated above, what is "necessary" is what is sufficient for the minister to be "free from worldly care and employment." For the purpose of ministering in the community and taking on the lifestyle of the members and of the community, the minister should be paid a salary similar to the average salary of the members and of the community. This should include regular "cost of living" increases.