Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On Hiatus

I've been blogging here for a little over four years (Since May, 2008).  When I started it was a nice outlet to write about my transition from one community to another.  I moved from being an Associate Pastor of a suburban church plant to a solo Pastor in a rural, established church.  Now, four years in, I am continually thankful for God's provision in our ministry together and in my family life.

It seems like a good time for a blogging break.  Four years is a nice chunk of time.  High School and College both take four years.  My Seminary experience was four years.  I cherished all of those times but I was glad when graduation rolled around and I could move on.

Also, my personal life has changed in four years.  Life is a lot different now that my son is older.  I'm also working on a Doctor of Ministry, and I feel like I'm writing all the time-- I have no need to add a blog post to the list.  My weekends are often spent sitting with my wife watching a soccer game, participating in Cub Scouts, walking with Brownie the Beagle, or getting away on my bicycle.  The times I've blogged about the ARP Church or Erskine were beneficial, but other resources have popped up that do a better job.

If you'd like to stay in touch, you can visit me on Facebook. I'm happy to meet you for a cupcake, too. You'll probably find me in a few places if your Googlin' is good...

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Psalms of Lament in Public Worship

I'm beginning work on a Psalms of Lament project soon as part of my Dissertation.  Here's a few thoughts from my Prospectus

Having the Psalms of Lament presented in public worship is a theological activity unmatched by any other experience in a congregant’s life.  They will not experience it elsewhere, and yet the Church is often silent on lament.  
Where else will they have the opportunity to read or sing the Psalmist’s poetry alongside a brother or sister in Christ?  Poetry can be read silently, but it is meant to be spoken.  Shakespeare can be studied, but it is meant to be enacted.  The Psalms are Scripture, but they are meant to be celebrated, internalized (and externalized), and presented in the context of corporate worship.  
The Psalms exist to unite the believer in a unique way, allowing one to sing the words of God back to God in praise of God.  In regard to the Psalms of Lament, we are singing back to God the very questions, concerns, and doubts that He himself has raised through David’s pen. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bono on Worship

I recently re-read this quote from Bono in Reggie Kidd's "With One Voice."  I had encountered it before but forgotten about it.  Put on your rock-star sunglasses and see what you think:
"Music is Worship; whether it's worship of women or their designer, the world or its destroyer, whether it comes from that ancient place we call soul or simply the spinal cortex, whether the prayers are on fire with a dumb rage or dove-like desire ... the smoke goes upwards ... to God or something you replace God with ... usually yourself."
The excerpt is originally from Bono's preface to a 1999 Book of Psalms.  You can read more here:

Monday, July 02, 2012

D. Min Update: "Thanks"

NOTE: I wrote the following in our church newsletter in the midst of finishing the last classroom portion of my Doctor of Ministry studies.  It was published in the April Newsletter.

If I'm timing this article correctly, you will be reading it two and a half days after my return from Erskine Seminary. It might be three days if your mail is like ours, arriving by lunchtime one day and well after sunset on another, in which case you'll be doing more important things by the time the newsletter is placed in your mailbox and then it will sit on your kitchen counter for a little while longer.  But I digress... my reason for writing this on the eve of my last class is to say, "Thank You."
I still have a ways to go-- in fact I have another year of work to do with my project and dissertation.  With this week, however, is my last official class in the Doctor of Ministry program.  I began in 2009 and I will finish in 2013 if the Lord is willing. I've been blessed to have your support as a church family.  
You've allowed me to take multiple trips to Due West and Columbia, you've been generous in assisting with my tuition, and you've prayed me safely from paper to paper and up and down I-20.  You could have just as easily thought of this as some irrelevant hobby of mine that I needed to fit in between every thing else (but you didn't).  You helped me when it was time to do a "space tour" of S. Irby St.  You participated in the "Daring to Draw Near" sermon series.  You've taken part in bringing Psalm singing back a few times a month.  Each of these things (as well as others) is part of the overall fruit of the D. Min program, and you and I have shared it together.
With this final class, I just wanted to say, “Thanks.”  Thank you for encouraging me and challenging me to keep going.  Thank you for being the workshop where all of this work is tended to and crafted.  Thank you for being my partner in this experience. 
In Him,
Pastor Brian
PS  If you’d like to take a look at some of the more recent work that has been a part of the program (papers, notes, presentations, etc.) you can visit:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Why Does God Test Us?

From The New American Commentary Genesis 11:27-50:26, Volume 1B
by Kenneth Matthews 

He tests to reveal obedience:
Then the LORD said...I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. Exodus 16:4 ESV 

He tests to grow our faith; piety: 
“...God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” Exodus 20:20 ESV

He tests to discover authenticity:
“...God has led you...that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.” Deuteronomy 8:2 ESV

[I suppose this is more a case of us discovering our own authenticity than Him discovering God already knows, right?]

He tests to help us “do good”
[God] fed you in the wilderness...that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.” Deuteronomy 8:16 ESV

His tests are not to prove our weakness or to make us fail. He tests us to reveal our strengths, to carry us further on our journey towards Him. Often the tests are small-- but significant.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wise in My Own Eyes

Proverbs 26:12 "Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him."

Recently, I finally decided to go for a checkup on my eyes and ask about new eyeglasses.  I had been putting it off for a while.  I think I'm pretty "wise" about my own eyes.  Shouldn't I know when I need new glasses? No one else should have to tell me.  But throughout the process, I was reminded of how limited my perspective could be. Consider the following dialogues, dramatically overstated for your enjoyment:

Scene 1 : A Kitchen Table
Me:  "Hello, Loving Wife, did you know I have an eye appointment tomorrow morning?"
Loving Wife: "Finally. I've been telling you to go for months now.  Your glasses look terrible and you're always complaining about them! Can you pass the 'I Can't Believe It's Not Butter?"

Scene 2: An Eye Doctor's Dimly Lit Exam Room
Eye Doctor: "How strange. It looks like the coating of your glasses is worn away.  That's unusual.  Only alcohol can take it off."
Me: "I guess I shouldn't have refilled the lens cleaner you gave me with rubbing alcohol then."
Eye Doctor: "No, you shouldn't have.  When did you do that?
Me: "About two years ago. I've been cleaning them every night after I take them off."

Scene 3: A Room Filled With Brightly Lit, Overpriced Eyewear
Me: (Upon receiving my new glasses) "Wow! It's amazing how clear everything is! No scratches or spots! I didn't realize how bad my other lenses had gotten! I am a new man!  Hello World!"
Helpful Assistant: "Yes, and with this new coating they should stay scratch free for a long time-- just don't clean them with alcohol..."
Me: "Yeah, so I've heard."

As I sat there looking at the world through fresh eyes and thinking about whether it would be sacrilegious to sing "...was blind, but now I see...," I realized that many of us face seasons in life when we think we're wise but in reality, are fools.  We think our vision is just fine when we're actually walking around blind.  I've picked up a few bad spiritual habits over the past few months.  I am "wise in my own eyes" before God, but I should be humbled.  He is the sole source of Wisdom, not me.  Whenever we think otherwise, we're not fools (look at the verse again) we're worse off than fools.  

"See" you later
Pastor Brian


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Greedy Pastors, Funny Jokes, & the ARP Payscale

That's a picture of Austen's sycophantic Mr. Collins to the right. Good preacher jokes are always funny, since they reveal a kernel of truth about ministry. The following was sent to me by two folks this week, so I guess it's making the "fwd:" rounds.
Three boys are in the school yard bragging about their fathers. The first boy says, 'My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a poem, they give him $50.' 
The second boy says, 'That's nothing. My Dad scribbles a few words on piece of paper, he calls it a song, they give him $100.' 
The third boy says, 'I got you both beat. My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a sermon, and it takes eight people to collect all the money!'
The Greedy Pastor.
Pastors and money can be bad company. I spoke with one minister who told me he published his church's tithe/offering records each week. He bragged about how giving in his church had gone up! But at what cost, I wondered? I saw him a year or so later, and he had moved in to secular work. "More money," he explained.

The stereotype of the greedy pastor is well-recognized. Why? Because there are plenty of folks who use God's pulpit to fill their pocketbooks. Elmer Gantry is a fictional pastor who sadly typifies too many in our calling.

Associate Reformed Presbyterian Pay.
One thing I like about the ARP is that it sets standards for pastoral pay. They've set a minimum payscale for full-time clergy, and provide a percentage increase each year to account for inflation. Some pastors make the minimum; some make more. The community makes a big impact--city living costs more while the country can cost less.

I'm not angling for a raise or trying to rise up to the cooperate ladder. Indeed, my current pay is very similar as a "Senior" Pastor as it was when I was an Associate. When I'm finished with my Doctorate, it will likely still be about the same. When the Church takes money out of the picture, pastors are free to serve to the best of their abilities wherever the Lord has put them-- there's no need to angle for a bigger, "better" church.

Naturally, there is a downside to this type of pay-scale. Some pastors lack ambition, since there is no monetary incentive for extra hours or projects. I suppose this says more about the pastor than the pay-scale, though. Also, churches that can't afford the minimum pay have to make alternate arrangements to provide for pastoral care--typically a bi-vocational pastor or a "yolked" pastorate wherein a pastor will serve more than one church.

By in large though, I think a pastor should be free to think more about his congregation than his bank account. If his spouse works, it should be by choice and not necessity. I'm thankful to have reliable transportation, a safe home, fresh Dockers on occasion, and lunch at Chick-Fil-A on Saturdays. God provides a lot that is not in the form of a paycheck.

Oh, and our church collects the offering before the sermon!

EDIT: May, 29, 2012-- A pastor in Florida Presbytery has alerted me that the standards for pastoral pay are unique to certain presbyteries and not denomination-wide. For example, Catawba Presbytery has these standards while Florida Presbytery does not.