Thursday, 14 April 2016

Author's Résumé Materials for Pastoral Ministry

    James M. Leonard

    Pastoral Ministry

    Résumé Materials

    (Notify me if any of these links are broken:

    Sermon recordings. These are more or less arbitrarily chosen, mostly recent. Most of my sermons are about 25 minutes in length.
    1. Detailed résumé, with my statement of faith (Doctrinal Statement): Résumé
    2. Powerpoint presentation of an overview of my ministry.
    3. Bulletin Order of Service
    4. Pastor's Detailed Order of Service for the Mar 6 service of Commissioning of Ministry Board Members (attached).
    5. Blog article on Baptist theology and worship
    6. Powerpoint presentation: Introduction Biblical Exegesis:!4606&authkey=!AC8xtwoV6H8pBvg&ithint=file%2cpptx This is a college level introduction which can be adapted either for church members or for graduate level teaching, when the actual lecture accompanies it; it is not a stand-alone presentation.
    7. Bulletin insert on my sermon series on Lament Psalms (Lenten Series).

    Wednesday, 23 March 2016

    Exegetical Overview of 2 Peter and Eternal Security: Forewarned Not to Fall from Your Secure Position

    Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position (2 Pet 3:17).

    Exegetical Overview of 2 Peter and Eternal Security: 
    Forewarned Not to Fall from Your Secure Position

    It is one of the great theological curiosities of our era that so many non-Calvinistic Baptists believe in eternal security (i.e., unconditional continuance in salvation). Two facts make the prevalence of eternal security among Baptists such a great curiosity. First, most Baptists have rejected the larger Calvinistic system in which eternal security is an integral doctrine. These “Majoritarian” Baptists are essentially Arminian who hold to eternal security in isolation from its Calvinist moorings, leaving the doctrine adrift in an incompatible system of beliefs, and making it logically vulnerable. Secondly, eternal security is a doctrine that is not sustained by a contextual reading of the Bible. Rather, Majoritarian Baptists base their doctrine of security on a hit-and-run list of scriptures that fleetingly touch on the issue without any substantial focus.  In so doing, they ignore several sustained discussions on continuance in faith which teach that believers can be at risk of forfeiting their salvation. In this article, I address one of those passages, the epistle of 2 Peter; it is one in a series (see also my articles on Hebrews and Jude).

    Preliminarily, I have argued elsewhere that Majoritarian Baptists proffer verses in support of eternal security that are characteristically extraneous “by the way” comments that occur in contexts that have little or nothing to do with continuance in salvation. For example, the larger discourse which contains Jesus’ famous statement about snatching sheep from his hand (John 10:29) otherwise lacks any reference to continuance; indeed, most Majoritarians cite the passage without having a clue about the polemics of its larger context. In contrast, Jesus’ warning that he will cut off every branch that does not bear fruit is part of a long discussion which counters eternal security, spoken to his closest disciples in an intimate setting (John 15:6). Passages which deal with the question of continuance in salvation in a sustained and focused way include John 15, the whole of the book of Hebrews, the letters of 2 Peter and Jude, and several passages in the letters to the churches in Rev 2-3. These passages seriously undermine the doctrine of eternal security since they warn believers to strengthen their faith, lest they forfeit their salvation; in contrast, no such passage of comparable length or focus give any hope of unconditional eternal security.

    Purpose in Writing
    The apostle leaves no room to wonder about his aim in composing 2 Peter. He explicates that he is writing to those who have received a faith as precious as his own (1:1), and that such recipients have everything they need for a godly life (1:3), so that they may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world (1:4). After an eloquent and powerful introduction, he urges them to “make every effort to add to [their] faith… (1:5), asserting that it is to this end that Christians have been given everything necessary for a godly life. He rounds out the introduction by explaining the letter’s purpose:

    “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (1:10).

    Thus, the letter was written to urge believers to grow in Christ so that they will not stumble, and so that they may successfully complete their pilgrimage to their eschatological reward. Of course, it would be wholly tautological to urge believers to make every effort to confirm their calling and election if they were, in fact, unconditionally secure therein. The introduction makes clear that the recipients are believers in possession of eternal security, yet assumes that present possession is no guaranty of a person’s final state.

    The apostle is duly courteous and not presumptuous: “So, I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory…” (1:12). Here and elsewhere, apostolic authors reflect a guarded optimism that believers will persevere, even as they warn that Satan is a roaring lion seeking to destroy them, and that there is a real possibility that they may “fall from [their] secure position” (3:17; cf. Luke 22:32; 1 Thes 3:5; Heb 6:4-6 with vv. 9-12; 10:19-38 with v. 39; 2 Pet 2:4-10). For these reasons, the apostle intends to keep reminding them to persevere for the rest of his life (1:14), and that his reminders will persist beyond his years since he has committed his warnings to holy writ (1:15). He affirms the validity of his gospel and warns that they “will do well to pay attention to it” and to persevere therein until the “day dawns and the morning star rises in [their] hearts” (1:19).

    Condemnation of The False Teachers
    The second chapter of 2 Peter focuses on the condemnation of the false teachers and their doctrine, but the author’s more immediate urgency is to warn believers against them. The false teachers and their doctrine posed a clear and present danger to the believers. They are particularly dangerous because “many will follow their depraved conduct,” and thus bring “the way of truth into disrepute” (2:2). He fears that these false teachers “will exploit you with fabricated stories” (2:3). The apostle’s tirade against the false teachers is sandwiched between his exhortation to grow in Christian virtue in chapter one, and his concluding exhortations to live holy and godly lives, and to make every effort to be found “spotless, blameless and at peace” with God in chapter three (vv. 11, 14). With these bookends, the apostle frames his warnings against the false teachers in chapter two: believers must grow in their faith so that they will withstand false doctrine. The intensity of the apostle’s warnings and their compositional framing defy any Majoritarian attempt to mitigate the danger by saying it is all merely hypothetical.

    The apostle cites God’s prior dealings with the fallen angels, with Noah and the flood, with Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot, and from them concludes that “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment” (2:4-10). This reinforces the earlier assertion that God has given believers everything that they need to live the godly life (1:3). Although the passage affirms a strong optimism that believers will overcome the trials that would defeat them, the import of the passage is to warn that God will certainly hold the unrighteous accountable (2:9).

    In Ephesus, the false teachers in 1 Timothy were actually fallen leaders who at one time were followers of Christ, but had since made shipwreck of their faith (1 Tim 1:18-20). In contrast with those church insiders, the false teachers here in 2 Peter seem to be newly arrived outsiders. Still, the apostle denotes that they had “left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam” (2:15), allowing the possibility that the false teachers themselves had once been believers. Balaam is judged by the apostle as being better than the false teachers, for at least he was responsive to the Lord’s rebuke (2:16).

    The Threat to the Church
    The apostle turns his attention to the more immediate threat from the false teachers. They entice people who are “just escaping from those who live in error” (2:18). The situation depicted is that the false teachers are adversely impacting new believers who do not yet know any better. To avert this crisis, the apostle issues the most chilling warning of the book. He writes,

    If [the new believers] have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning (2:20).
    The statement is clear enough. The apostle is discussing the fate of people who experienced salvation from sin through a saving knowledge of Jesus as Lord and Savior. If after their salvation such believers find themselves overcome by the entangling corruption of the world, then their final status is even worse than their initial state, despite having previously experienced salvation. Although the statement is clear enough, the warning is so dire that the apostle feels compelled to clarify further:

    It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them” (2:21).
    Here, again, the apostle elaborates the situation. He indicates that they had once “known the way of righteousness” but had since turned their backs on the gospel that was delivered to them. He laments that they would have been better off not experiencing salvation at all.

    To punctuate his pronouncement with all due emphasis, the apostle famously concludes his warning with illustrations of a dog returning to its vomit and of a washed sow returning to its mud wallowing. To their profound exegetical discredit, the most common rejoinder of so many Majoritarian Baptists is that believers are not pigs or dogs, but sheep. Rarely in the history theological debate do so many people attempt to dismiss and obfuscate so much with rhetoric so empty.

    What Kind of People Ought You to Be?
    The apostle begins the third chapter by countering those who scoff at the Lord’s coming (3:3-4). He affirms that the day of the Lord will come like a thief, prophesying the roaring disappearance of the heavens, and the fiery destruction of the very elements. This will lay bare the earth and everything done therein (3:10). The apostle then works his prophecy of world destruction into high exhortation:

    Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming (3:11).
    Thus, the opposition to the false teachers again serves as an opportunity to urge holy living. There is much judgment and destruction to avoid, even as believers look optimistically “to a new heaven and new earth” (3:13), which is all the more reason to “make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace” with God (3:14).

    The apostle concludes his letter with a theologically loaded “therefore” statement which implies even more skepticism about unconditional security:

    Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” (3:17-18).
    Clearly, the apostle thinks his readers’ secure position is potentially precarious. The Majoritarian simply cannot preach this message without speciously adding, “But of course we know that falling from your secure position could never happen.”  

    Hypothetically Not!
    Yet, securing their position by due diligence in spiritual growth is the whole purpose of the letter. The apostle has told them that God has given them everything they need to overcome trials and temptations, so that they will be able to live godly lives. Consequently, they desperately need to grow in grace, adding virtue to virtue. If they fail to add to these virtues in increasing measure, the apostle warns them that they will become ineffective, “nearsighted and blind, forgetting they have been cleansed from their past sins” (1:8, 9). Their growth in grace will serve to ward off false teaching that would otherwise entangle and overcome them and plunge them back into the corruption of the world, with the end result being worse than if they had never come to a saving knowledge of the truth to begin with.

    We see then that continuance in salvation is the major concern of 2 Peter, around which everything else is composed. In this letter, continuance in salvation is not just an isolated topic with unrelated “by the way” comments attached to other major concerns. We must pay all the more careful attention, then, to the warnings that we read in in 2 Peter, so that we do not drift away and, as seed sewn in thorny ground, become entangled once again and overcome by the corruption of the world.  Accordingly, these warnings against apostasy are less susceptible to proof-texting and theological manipulation than many texts otherwise proffered for consideration.

    We might be more inclined to take eternal security seriously if it were based on passages which have a comparable protracted focus on continuance. As it stands, Majoritarian commitment to eternal security is on shaky grounds. It lacks its native underpinnings of the Calvinistic theological system and it lacks sustained contextual support from holy writ. It is indeed quite the theological curiosity that so many Baptists think that eternal security is one of the clearest doctrines of the Christian faith. 

    Tuesday, 8 March 2016

    Baptist Worship: Redeeming Welcome and Announcements from the Pit and Making Them an Integral Part of Worship

    Boring Announcements
    PrologBaptist worship is not etched in stone as some denominational and other church liturgies are. In some traditions there is almost no flexibility in the order of service or even in selection of scriptures. Baptist views of local church autonomy (arising from core beliefs that emphasize the indwelling of the Spirit in every believer and the priesthood of every believer) allows each church to craft its own order of worship for every worship service. Regrettably, many Baptist church pastors give little or no attention to crafting an order of service with prayer and thoughtfulness, in conjunction with the sermon themes. The results of such lack of consideration are often undesirable.

    This blog article reflects deeply on Welcome and Announcements as an important and integral part of Christian worship in the local church.

    The Problem
    The Welcome and Announcement portion of a worship service is typically viewed as obtrusive and boring. We cannot, however, dispense with it because we otherwise view it as being important for various reasons. Here, I attempt to rescue Welcome and Announcements from its present state of deprecation to make it meaningful, lively, exhortational, and spiritual, and not merely functional.

    The Welcome and Announcements should flow very quickly, very naturally, without belaboring every point. They should be at least a little sermonic, a little exhortational, with occasional humor to help with the flow and keep the congregation focused. In my world, five minutes is enough to make the five elements of Welcome and Announcements effective.

    What I Try to Accomplish
    I include five elements in the Welcome and Announcements segment. I list them here, explaining what each element is meant to accomplish.

    1.      First Words. Example: “Praise the name of Jesus who leads us in joyful procession to the throne of grace” or “It is in the name of the resurrected Son of God that I welcome you to worship,” etc.
    a.       First Words should tap into a joyful exuberance that is altogether expected for those who worship the living Christ.
    b.      Note that First Words is a uniquely Christian greeting. A mundane “good morning” is not adequate for the grand purpose of Christian worship.
    c.       We worship Jesus as Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:11). Thus, First Words should reflect a Christocentric theology—it’s all about Christ.
    d.      Finally, First Words should help create a comfortable and expectant atmosphere.
    2.      Welcome of Visitors
    a.       The worship leader should express a warm welcome specifically toward visitors.
    b.      As a pastor, I fervently seek to connect with visitors, and this requires some contact information. Since some visitors are reluctant to provide contact information, the welcoming of visitors should include an appeal to give us their personal information.
    c.       The Welcome should contain an affirmation of the visitors’ decision to join us, including a prayer wish that God would especially bless them (e.g., “May God pour out his blessing on you today so that you experience his grace in a profound way.”)
    3.      Who We Are
    a.       Ostensibly, the Who We Are segment introduces ourselves to visitors, and involves reference to some select core values of the church.
    b.      The ultimate purpose of the Who We Are segment is to promote spiritual formation of the congregation by projecting our ideal identity.
    c.       The Who We Are segment consists of about four points that reinforce our ideal identity.
                                                                   i.      Two of the points recall the previous week’s sermonic emphasis
                                                                 ii.      Two of the points anticipate the current worship’s sermonic emphasis
    d.      Example: Here, the previous worship service emphasized lament and grief due to sin, while the present worship serviced emphasized lamenting and grieving in silence
    We are the people of God
    o   Who recognize that we are profoundly affected by sin
    o   Who have cried out to God for deliverance
    o    Who have put our hope in God who is our refuge and strength
    o   Who patiently wait in silence so that we may hear God speak to us in our time of trouble
    e.      These four or so points attempt a continuity in our worship life from week to week, although most won’t perceive it
    4.      Announcements: Announcements are characteristically promotional. They should be delivered with some enthusiasm and emphasis.
    a.       Announcements are meant to promote communications in congregational life.
    b.      They draw attention to special events, encouraging congregational participation.
    c.       They share special ministerial urgencies with the congregation, with the hope that the congregation will own these urgencies.
    d.      They constantly should inculcate a sensitivity to ministerial call.
    e.      Ultimately, announcements should encourage ministerial engagement.
    5.      Welcoming Prayer
    a.       This short prayer (about 30 seconds) reinforces that that announcements are proclamation and exhortation, and not merely an events list
    b.      The prayer should emphasize call to ministry for every congregant
    c.       Finally, the Welcoming Prayer should impress one or two current ministerial urgencies of the church on the minds of the congregation.

    Tuesday, 23 February 2016

    Worship Wars and Baptist Theological Distincitives

    Historically, Baptist worship is simple, not elaborate

    In the worship wars, so little has been said regarding what kinds of worship might flow out of a distinctively Baptist theology. This fact is strikingly incredible.

    A distinctively Baptist theology entails 1) a Believers’ church; 2) Priesthood of Every Believer; 3) Soul Competency (a corollary of the Priesthood of Every Believer; and 4) church autonomy AND associationalism.

    These four points should inform worship services of any given Baptist church. Unfortunately, however, I never ever hear these issues raised in the context of worship wars. Instead, we only discuss issues such what do our church members like and how can we use worship to appeal to new people. This article discusses how two of these doctrinal distinctives might impact Baptist worship.

    In the days when church and state were co-extensive, people were regularly baptized as infants and attended worship with the rest of the members of the community at the parish church. (Given its Catholic background, it’s no coincidence that the Louisiana’s civil districts are called parishes, rather than counties.) Baptists opposed this sort of cultural Christianity, and formed congregations based upon profession of the individual’s faith.
    Baptists baptize those who profess faith

    This emphasis on the Believers’ Church recognized that some people who attended worship were professing believers, but some were not. Such a distinction was hardly possible in those churches where all the town’s people were ordinarily baptized as infants. The distinction then allowed Baptist worship services to have a special opportunity to respond to the gospel. Thus, Baptist preachers would often preach persuasively and extend an invitation to make a public profession of faith.
    The invitation after the sermon, in Baptist worship then, arises out of Baptist theology.

    Baptists gave increasing emphasis to Priesthood of Every Believer. While this doctrinal emphasis is often noted in connection with church governance and the autonomy of the local church, it has also had a huge impact historically on Baptist worship. This doctrine prompted Baptists to give up vestments that distinguish clergy from laity. It also gives room to congregational participation in worship—even the “least maidservant” is welcome to speak a word to the church.

    From this doctrinal distinctive has flowed the Baptist worship tendency to include non-professionals in worship leading. For high church musical performances, one might attend a Lutheran, Anglican, or Presbyterian church. Baptists, however, usually feature their own congregants. One scholar likened Baptist worship as akin to hanging up your kids’ artwork on the refrigerator: no one else would frame the colorful scribbles to display in a great hall, but it is precious and meaningful to you. Moreover, Baptist worship ministry is about equipping congregants to lead in worship; in effect, we train musicians. Accordingly, we would rather have someone leading us in worship who has a vibrant Christian testimony than someone who is an expert musician.

    For these reasons, Baptists are inclined toward a simpler hymnody. They do enjoy higher church hymns with complex chordal sequences such as “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” but simpler hymns such as “I Must Tell Jesus” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” are favorite staples of Baptist hymnody. 

    Monday, 15 February 2016

    Neither Traditional nor Contemporary, but Engagement

    My understanding of worship styles does not assume the typical terminology of traditional vs. contemporary. For me, the issue is whether the worshiper is characteristically a participant or a spectator. More precisely, do we engage our congregation in worship? This approach of engagement affects the way we welcome the congregation, how we present our announcements, how we receive and respond to praises and prayer requests, how we order our services, and how we include others in worship leading. 

    In my present position, I meet with two other pastoral staff two hours a week to critique the previous week’s service, and to plan the upcoming week’s service, allowing healthy discussion of worship issues. I personally invest at least five hours weekly into our worship services, striving to hear the voice of God through worship planning, through interaction with our pastoral staff, and through congregational feedback. 

    Thus, worship planning is not a matter of filling out a template and printing the bulletin. Rather, we aspire to engage our congregants in meaningful worship that is 
    Baptists singing to one another in Sacred Harp style
    • biblically sound; 
    • attuned to Baptist theological urgencies, especially the indwelling of the Spirit and soul competency; 
    • personally transformative; 
    • culturally relevant; 
    • reflecting a continuity with the historic communion of the saints.
    Really, it's not about the composition date of the music. Besides, Amazing Grace was at one time one of those hymns that people hated to have to learn.

    Thursday, 4 February 2016

    Three Things Every Pastor Should Do on Monday

    Monday is the traditional day of rest for the typical pastor. Still, the pastoral task and the health of your church requires these three tasks to be done, with all diligence.

    1. Listen to your sermon. For the Western church, technology is so abundant that there really is no excuse for not reviewing an audio of your sermon--better still, a video. You will learn a great deal from playing it back. In many cases, you'll discover areas for improvement. You might even discover that you have speech habits that come across as slightly annoying to your congregation. Playing back the audio allows you to become a more effective communicator.
    2. Look at your membership/attendance roll. Effective pastoral care requires that you know who was in attendance and who was not. Some church members, who are otherwise regular, can easily miss two or even three Sundays without others in the congregation realizing it. You should have someone discretely record who is absent and who is present. On Monday, you need to review the attendance, making note of cards, phone calls, or visits that might be needed. 
    3. The review of attendance should be done prayerfully. I suggest that you review the attendance roll quietly, by yourself, in the sanctuary itself. As you read through the names, walk toward the pews where your congregants typically sit, and pray for each one, as the Spirit leads. This is good, basic pastoral care. It reminds you of the individual needs of your members. It also keeps their names fresh in your mind, so that you struggle less with remembering their names. I find prayer in an empty church sanctuary particularly moving.
    After you do these three things, you can kick your shoes off and relax for the rest of the day.

    Thursday, 14 January 2016

    Ministerial Outreach--The Way that Congregations Grow

    In my estimation, for what it’s worth, our congregation excels in most avenues of ministry, except in ministerial outreach. We give generously to outside causes, but we seem out of practice in intentionally reaching out to our friends and neighbors in order to connect them to our congregation.

    I’m no expert in ministerial outreach. I’m certainly not personally well-practiced in such endeavors, so I don’t want to come across as finger wagging, since I’m no model minister in outreach. Frankly, I need someone to help me learn how to be the conduit that connects outsiders with our congregation.

    But let’s try this for starters. Is there someone in your own mind that you have identified for connecting them with our church? Our congregational growth will be proportional to such thinking. If we don’t think of specific individuals or families from our own neighborhoods or workplace in the first place, we are likely not to bring them to our church.

    I think most of us want our congregation to grow. So, let’s each one consider this approach: Pause a minute to think of friends and acquaintances from your neighborhood, from your workplace, or even from your own family. If you don’t know them very well, make intentional efforts to engage them—enter into their world through acts of lavish love. Earn the right to speak to them as a genuine friend. Get yourself into a position with them that you can invite them to church. Better yet, be the Church’s personal representative to them.

    We’re blessed well enough that you can invite people to our worship without offering apologies like “The service is a little long, but it’s worth it,” or “The choir is not very good, but they do make a joyful noise to the Lord.” No, our services are very inviting and engaging. So, all you need to do is get into your neighbor’s or friend’s world through lavish love, and open your heart when the opportunity arises.

    People often ask, Why is that church over there growing? What are they doing to attract so many families? Most often the correct answer is that they know how to connect people to their congregation.

    Pastor Jim

    Think of a specific friend that you know from your neighborhood, or from the workplace, or in your own family.