How an Unlikely Answer to Prayer Has Blessed the Church in Honduras

Paul Adams of Leadership Resources recently shared a ministry update at College Church in Wheaton, IL on our work training pastors in Honduras. Watch Paul share his story above or read below.

I have a friend named Omar, who’s a dear, humble pastor in the town of Zacapa, Honduras. He’s a small guy with the boyish face of a twenty-something-year-old, even though he’s in his 40’s – not necessarily the outward appearance of someone you’d think of with a lot of influence.

But influence was what Omar was praying for.

About 5 years ago, Omar was deeply concerned that pastors around him weren’t preaching the truth of God’s Word to their people. Incidentally, when Leadership Resources first began working in Honduras, one of our partner missionaries told us that the greatest challenge for the church there was the off-the-wall teaching coming out of the pulpits every Sunday. Omar saw something similar and prayed, asking God to somehow let him have an influence on the pastors around him. You see, he had been to seminary, but because that school wasn’t looked upon well by his denomination, Omar was largely marginalized by his fellow pastors.

Shortly after he began to pray, Omar got a phone call from the leader of the churches in his region. He said, “There’s going to be a training next week, and the denominational committee has asked us to find two representatives from each region to go. Do you want to go? Because nobody else wants to go.”

The next week Omar was a part of a group of about 14 pastors that was introduced to the training of Leadership Resources. How excited do you think Omar was when he found out that this was a 4-year program designed to equip pastors like him to train other pastors to understand and preach God’s Word faithfully? That week the group explored the book of Ruth, learning simple, transferable principles to help them discover the message of the book and to teach it faithfully to their people. Omar was so thankful to learn those simple tools he could pass on to others.

Soon after Omar returned home, he was invited to give the devotion at the next pastor’s meeting. In front of 67 pastors, Omar unfolded the beautiful message from Ruth of how God was working His plan of redemption, even in the spiritually dark time of the judges. When he was finished, all of the pastors clapped, and there was a total reversal in the leaders’ and pastors’ attitudes toward him. And there was a receptiveness to the training Omar had received as well.

That was just the beginning – though it wasn’t always easy.

At one of his first trainings, a pastor came who had been in ministry for more than 35 years. When he realized who would be leading the training, he said, “Omar? How is Omar is going to teach me? He’s just a child to me.” With God-given wisdom, Omar said to him, “No, it’s not going to be I who teaches you. It’s going to be the Lord speaking through His Word.”

When the training was over, the pastor came to Omar to ask for forgiveness. He said, “I see that I am like the child.” He even expressed regret over his years of ministry. He said, “I’ve really just been wasting my time, wasting 35 years of just preaching nothing.” Thankfully, that pastor continued on with Omar – not just in training but also in warm friendship.

A photo before Omar’s graduation with his training group.

After four years of training, it’s been amazing to hear how God has been using Omar and the rest of the group we trained in Honduras. At last count, Omar and 12 others had trained 260 pastors and church leaders throughout Honduras. And those 260 had passed the training on to more than 211 others. That’s a total of about 500 pastors and church leaders.

Do you think God answered Omar’s prayer?

Well, He continues to do so. Omar has 12 trainings lined up this year. And I’ll see him again in June as we continue to work more deeply with him and others, in hopes of seeing a movement begin – seeing pastors learning, discovering, preaching, and strengthening the church in Honduras – and beyond – with God’s life-giving Word.

Thank you, brothers and sisters, for giving me the privilege to get to know and work with precious brothers like Omar. Through your partnership and your investment in God’s kingdom through missions, you have a part of what God is doing all around the world through dear, humble servants like Omar.

PS: Your gift today will enable us to train more “Omars” in many nations to the Glory of God!

10 Subtle Ways to Abandon the Authority of Scripture in Our Lives (D.A. Carson)

D.A. Carson, Research Professor of the New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL recently shared 10 Subtle Ways to Abandon the Authority of Scripture in Our Lives. While his article has many valuable thoughts for the church and the academy, preachers should especially take note of the three ways listed below:

An Appeal to Selective Evidence

The most severe forms of this drift are well exemplified in the teaching and preaching of the HWPG—the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel. Link together some verses about God sending prosperity to the land with others that reflect on the significance of being a child of the King, and the case is made—provided, of course, that we ignore the many passages about taking up our cross, about suffering with Christ so that we may reign with him, about rejoicing because we are privileged to suffer for the name, and much more. These breaches are so egregious that they are easy to spot.

What I’m thinking of now is something subtler: the simple refusal to talk about disputed matters in order to sidestep controversy in the local church. For the sake of peace, we offer anodyne treatments of hot topics (poverty, racism, homosexual marriage, distinctions between men and women) in the forlorn hope that some of these topics will eventually go away. The sad reality is that if we do not try to shape our thinking on such topics under the authority of Scripture, the result is that many of us will simply pick up the culture’s thinking on them.

The best antidote is systematic expository preaching, for such preaching forces us to deal with texts as they come up. Topical preaching finds it easier to avoid the hard texts. Yet cultural blinders can easily afflict expositors, too. A Christian preacher I know in a major Muslim nation says he loves to preach evangelistically, especially around Christmas, from Matthew 1 and 2, because these chapters include no fewer than five reports of dreams and visions—and dreams and visions in the dominant culture of his country are commonly accorded great respect. When I have preached through Matthew 1 and 2, I have never focused on those five dreams and visions (though I haven’t entirely ignored them), precisely because such dreams and visions are not customarily accorded great credibility in my culture. In other words, ruthless self-examination of one’s motives and biases, so far as we are aware of them, can go a long way to mitigating this problem.

Heart Embarrassment before the Text

This is a more acute form of the first failure. Not infrequently preachers avoid certain topics, in part because those topics embarrass them. The embarrassment may arise from the preacher’s awareness that he has not yet sufficiently studied the topic so as to give him the confidence to tackle it (e.g., some elements of eschatology, transgenderism), or because of some general unease at the topic (e.g., predestination), or because the preacher knows his congregation is sharply divided on the topic (any number of possibilities), or because the preacher simply really does not like the subject even though it surfaces pretty often in the Bible (e.g., hell, eternal judgment). In its ugliest form, the preacher says something like this: “Our passage this morning, Luke 16:19–31, like quite a number of other passages drawn from the life of Jesus, depicts hell in some pretty shocking ways. Frankly, I wish I could avoid these passages. They leave me distinctly uncomfortable. But of course, I cannot ignore them entirely, for after all they are right here in the Bible.” The preacher has formally submitted to Scripture’s authority, while presenting himself as someone who is more compassionate or more sensitive than Jesus. This is as deceptive as it is wicked—and it is easy to multiply examples.

Contrast the apostle Paul: “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor 4:1–2).

Anything That Reduces Our Trembling before the Word of God

“These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word” (Isa 66:2). “‘All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.’ And this is the word that was preached to you” (1 Pet 1:24–25; cf. Isa 40:6–8).

The things that may sap our ability to tremble before God’s word are many. Common to all of them is arrogance, arrogance that blinds us to our need to keep reading and re-reading and meditating upon the Bible if we are truly to think God’s thoughts after him, for otherwise the endless hours of data input from the world around us swamp our minds, hearts, and imaginations. Moral decay will drive us away from the Bible: it is hard to imagine those who are awash in porn, or those who are nurturing sexual affairs, or those who are feeding bitter rivalry, to be spending much time reading the Bible, much less trembling before it. Moreover, our uncharitable conduct may undermine the practical authority of the Bible in the lives of those who observe us. Failure to press through in our studies until we have happily resolved some of the intellectual doubts that sometimes afflict us will also reduce the fear of the Lord in us, a subset of which, of course, is trembling before his Word.

Concluding Reflections

So that concludes our list of subtle ways to abandon the authority of Scripture in our lives. I’m sure these ten points could be grouped in other ways, and other points could usefully be added.

But I would be making a serious mistake if I did not draw attention to the fact that this list of warnings and dangers, an essentially negative list, implicitly invites us to a list of positive correlatives. For example, the first instance of subtle ways to trim the authority of Scripture was “an appeal to selective evidence”—which implicitly calls us to be as comprehensive as possible when we draw our theological and pastoral conclusions about what the Bible is saying on this or that point. If “heart embarrassment” before this or that text (the second example) reduces the authority of Scripture in my life, a hearty resolve to align my empathies and will with the lines of Scripture until I see more clearly how God looks at things from his sovereign and omniscient angle will mean I offer fewer apologies for the Bible, while spending more time making its stances coherent to a generation that finds the Bible profoundly foreign to contemporary axioms. It would be a godly exercise to work through all ten of the points so as to make clear what the positive correlative is in each case.

Read the full article on Themelios.

Should Every Sermon End With Christ?

Should Every Sermon End With Christ?

The Bible is one book with one story focusing on God’s work through Jesus Christ.

In the video below, Peter Adam, Andrew Reid, and Mike Raiter talk about biblical theology and preaching Christ. You will hear their thoughts on preaching Christ, ending sermons with Christ, and sharing the gospel.

A panel discussion on Christ-centred preaching, featuring Peter Adam, Andrew Reid and Mike Raiter. From the Centre for Biblical Preaching.

11 Marks of Finishing Well in Ministry

This article is adapted from Finishing Well in Life and Ministry: God’s Protection from Burnout by Bill Mills and Craig Parro. Subscribe to our blog and receive an eBook version of Finishing Well as our gift to you.

We are living in a day when many men and women are “beginning well” in the ministry but not many are “finishing well.”

So many of our brothers and our sisters began their work with a genuine call from God and a deep commitment to serve Him. Their faith was sincere and their love for God was sacrificial. Their highest desire was to give themselves for Christ and His kingdom, but along the way, the pressures, the pain, the disappointments and the failures of life have caused them to burn out, to lose heart, and to give up.

It was the fullness of Christ that enabled Paul to finish well. At the end of his third missionary journey, as he was on his way to Jerusalem, he stopped at Miletus and called for the elders at Ephesus to meet him there. He had ministered at Ephesus for three years, and this church was very dear to his heart. In his closing exhortation to the elders at Ephesus, we see the characteristics that enabled him to walk in the works that God had ordained for him from the foundation of the world and to fulfill the ministry that God had entrusted to him. It is these same character qualities, flowing out of the fullness of Christ, which will also enable you and me to “finish well” and to walk gloriously in the works that our Father has planned for us.

1. Integrity and Character

Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews;” (Acts 20:17-19)

Paul’s integrity and character were well known within the church at Ephesus. He said, “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you.” This confidence was the foundation for the message he now brought to the elders. The character and integrity which flows from us as godly men and women will be the foundation for our ministries as well. Are these qualities the first that we seek for those who would serve in God’s Church today? It seems that we often seek and even train first for proficiency of skills in preaching, leading or technology and then we hope that the integrity is there as well. For Paul, and for those who seek God’s glory in His Church, it is of first importance.

2. Humility

True humility is not seeing ourselves for less than what we are; rather, it is a confident affirmation of who God has made us to be in Christ and the ministry He has set before us.

Paul walked humbly before the Lord and before His people. Like John the Baptist, Paul had the grace to see himself through the eyes of God. John knew who he was and he knew who he wasn’t. John knew he was not the Christ, but he was the one sent to be a witness to the Light. True humility is not seeing ourselves for less than what we are; rather, it is a confident affirmation of who God has made us to be in Christ and the ministry He has set before us. We get into trouble when we see ourselves out of proportion—as more than who God says we are or as less than He sees us to be.

3. Intimate Relationships

…I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, (Acts 20:20)

Paul shared intimate relationships with his people. Earlier he said that he served with tears. Here he described the way he taught them publicly and from house to house. He was with the people and his heart went out to them and was open to them as well. Paul was knowable, touchable, available, and able to be moved deeply by their needs and their cries.

4. Message of Repentance and Faith

..testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21)

Paul’s message was repentance and faith. He called all hearers to turn from their sins and from any hope other than God’s work through His Son at Calvary and to turn to Christ in faith, placing all of their hopes in His blood shed on the cross.

5. Obedient to Death

And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. (Acts 20:22-23)

Paul was obedient to the point of death. He continued to follow the leading of God’s Spirit, knowing that afflictions, pain, persecutions, prison and even death were before him.

6. Endurance to the End

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. (Acts 20:24-25)

Paul endured to the end. Endurance may well be the most important character quality in ministry. Paul was committed to finishing his race whatever the cost. He did not bail out in the face of overwhelming obstacles because he knew God was there and was able to keep his heart.

7. Proclamation of God’s Whole Counsel

Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. (Acts 20:26-27)

Paul proclaimed the whole counsel of God. The basis of his innocence before the Lord was his faithfulness to the entire message God had entrusted to him. He did not preach pet themes or speak on interesting topics that he thought might draw an audience, or pull out a verse here or there that might serve as a reinforcement for an idea that gripped his fancy. He taught all of the Scriptures as a framework for the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the people of God.

8. A Watchman over His Heart

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, which he obtained with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)

Paul kept watch over his own heart. He guarded his attitudes, affections, motives and desires. Paul was not deceived by the enemy into thinking that he was above the things that caused others to fall. Many pastors and missionaries get into trouble when they start believing the good things that their people say about them. After months, or even years, of hearing, “You are so wonderful, so spiritual, so sensitive or so ‘whatever,’ ” we often begin to believe that foolishness. We love living on that pedestal, and soon we think we really are different than others and not vulnerable to falling into sexual or financial sin, or other things that would bring disgrace on the name of our Lord.

There is another side to this battle as well. Other pastors and leaders get into trouble when their people do not give them the respect that they deserve or do not affirm them or care for them financially. Perhaps we are compared to the great television or radio preachers, as we discussed earlier, and are found wanting in the eyes of our people. We need to guard our hearts from anger, jealousy, and bitterness in these times.

9. A Watchman over God’s Flock

We are called to guard the flock of God from the destroyers and the dividers.

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. (Acts 20:29-31)

Paul kept watch over the flock of God. We have been made overseers of God’s Church, His people purchased with His own blood. Savage wolves will come, even from within. There are those who distort the truth about God’s Word and even the truth about us and our ministries. Others try to draw followers to themselves. Paul urged the church at Ephesus to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Divisions in the Church are rampant today and a powerful tool of the enemy. Satan’s deceptions are incredibly powerful. More churches are split on the basis of “rightness” than on any other issue. Satan does not care who is right. He loves “rightness!” The Pharisees were the most “right” people in the world, but their hearts were far from God. We quickly forget that it is our love for one another which reveals that we have come from Jesus (John 13:34-35), and it is our unity which reveals that Jesus has been sent by the Father (John 17:23). We are called to guard the flock of God from the destroyers and the dividers.

10. Message—God’s Grace

And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32)

Paul’s message was the grace of God. Again, the ministry of God’s Word was preeminent in Paul’s heart, and these Scriptures bring us to an understanding of His grace. It is our Father’s loving, merciful, gracious giving which sets us free to walk in holiness. There is no religious structure or legalistic system that can bring the people of God to loving obedience. Only the freedom of His grace moves us to the service He desires.

11. A Servant’s Heart

I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:33-35)

In a world of users, takers, and consumers, God has raised us up to be givers, as we follow not only Jesus’ words but also His own example.

Paul modeled the heart of a servant. We are greatly in need of men and women whose ministries are filled with character and integrity. These are attitudes of the heart and are expressed in serving. These qualities are seen most vividly in our attitudes concerning finances. God has not called us to build our lives at the expense of the sheep but to build up His sheep even at the cost of our very lives. In a world of users, takers, and consumers, God has raised us up to be givers, as we follow not only Jesus’ words but also His own example.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

May God give us the grace to “finish well,” to persevere even to the end for the sake of His name and the building of His Church. Above all, may we hunger to hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” as we stand before His throne. May His glorious presence that kept us from day to day be our joy and delight for all eternity!

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Who is in the driver’s seat of your church? David Jackman on the Heart of Expository Preaching

We recently had a conversation with David Jackman of Proclamation Trust and the Cornhill Training Course on expository preaching, gospel ministry, Scripture’s authorial intent, and preaching the genres of the Bible (watch the full interview).

The video and transcript below share a highlight from the interview about the “heart” of expository ministry.

Todd Kelly of Leadership Resources: Can you explain what is at the heart of expository preaching? What is it intending to do?

David Jackman: Expository preaching takes the Bible seriously in it’s own terms. So, the expository preacher isn’t trying to do something with the Bible, he’s allowing the Bible to do something with him, which changes his mind and heart and then becomes the channel by which that message is passed on to others.

Lots of people will say, “I’m a Bible preacher”, and they certainly believe the Bible and will use the Bible. The analogy I use is to think about your church or ministry under the analogy of a car.

Where is the Bible in the car?

In some places, some churches, some Christians lives, the Bible is in the trunk of the car. It was put there a long time ago, nobody is quite sure what else is there; it got lost.

In some people and churches, the Bible is in the backseat of the car—and we all know how irritating backseat drives can be. They find the Bible more of an irritation than a help, because it says things they don’t want to hear.

In most evangelical churches, I would suggest, the Bible is often in the passenger seat of the car. It’s there to be consulted…it’s a map reader, you have a conversation with it like you might a passenger—but it is not driving the car.

In expository preaching, the Bible drives the sermon. The Bible is in the driving seat. Because the Bible is God’s Word, then Christ is in the driving seat of the church. If He isn’t in the driving seat, then I am in the driving seat. And I know that’s no good for the church. Expository preaching takes the Bible seriously as God’s inspired and inerrant Word and seeks to understand and explain it to drive the church and the Christian life and the ministry according to His truth.

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