Establishing Transparent Ministry Teams

This is the final part of the transcript of a conversation on Preventing Disqualifying Sins in Ministry between Kevin Halloran and John Eichholz.



It’s important for us as individuals to think about, how we can we best prevent sin in our ministries, sin that could derail our ministry. How might we encourage a leadership team in a church or an organization to seek to protect one another? 

JH: I want to bring out our organization, Leadership Resources, as a good model. I find this mission organization a better environment than some churches I’ve served in just because there is a real openness that encourages guys to challenge one another. There is a culture of openness, of caring. There’s a freedom to be yourself but also to go to other people, whether there’s a need for confession of sin or confronting sin. Initially, I was a little off guard, because in other church situations I didn’t experience that same thing.

In any church or other Christian organization, two dynamics ought to be fostered. The first is that the higher leadership, say the pastoral team, ought to foster openness with one another. That is a challenge for anyone who might read this. If you don’t have openness or you serve with someone else who is not being accountable, you need to develop it. This is crucial to good leadership, because if leadership doesn’t do it, neither will anyone else in the body. The second thing is, strong godly leaders need to develop a desired culture and determine what that culture will look like. Again, this is something that LRI has done over the years. Our founder, Bill Mills, has been such a godly influence on the organization, and we have other leaders who have been raised up and are doing an equally good job at developing that culture.

Let me read four things that we work on regularly. We have a culture of love, a culture of humility, a culture of hope, and a culture of faith, and then under each one of those categories we describe what that culture looks like. We talk about those things. When we cultivate cultures where people are encouraged to be open in  expressing their struggles or their sins, and then a culture of love where we embrace those people, we encourage them. 

Most pastors are very aware of the “one another” Scriptures. There are many of them. Sometimes we don’t practice these in our church situations, whether in Bible Study or in larger groups. James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to one another.” Closely following that  is Colossians 3:1 which talks about “bearing with one another” and “forgiving each other.” Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another”; and then, of course, the most plentiful of the one-another Scriptures are the “love one anothers.” As we show true sacrificial love, that fosters a wonderful relationship and a wonderful spirit in the organization, knowing that other people have your best interest at heart and, in fact, they will sacrifice for you. There are several Scripture texts that talk about being subject to one another: Clothe yourself with humility, 1 Peter 5:5 tells us. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens,” and so on. Several of the one-anothers talk about honesty. You put those together and as a leadership team work hard to foster that. You have an environment where people feel conspicuous if they are fostering patterns of sin in their hearts. There is one thing that you can do as an individual believer, but praise God when you have a church or an organization that encourages you not to have those private things going on in your heart and encourages you to share your weaknesses when you stumble.

KH: Thank you so much for your time, John. I’m wondering if you’d close our time in prayer.

JE: It’d be my privilege.

Father, we thank you for calling us to be your children. What a high and holy privilege that is. Thank you for your gift of salvation. We realize that it was purchased through the blood of your precious Son. Father, help us, whether we’re in a church-leadership situation, a mission organization, or we are just a co-laborer with other people who want to exalt Christ in our community. Father, may we be free from sins that overwhelm and disqualify us from giving glory to You. I pray for our own organization. Thank you for what you’re doing and for the way it’s expanding. I pray that you would keep each leader and coworker growing in godliness and encouraging one another in that. Father, I pray today for pastors and leaders who are reading this. I pray that they would check their own hearts and lives. May this conversation be an encouragement to double-check with what’s going on in their lives or in their homes or in their churches. We pray for partners around the world. Lord, these are such days of opportunity. We simply pray that you would cause us to be so joyful in our relationship with Christ and so thankful for the gift of salvation that we would be disciplined. That we would be putting sin to death in our lives so that we can live fully for the glory of Your Son. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.


A Few Resources to Help Protect You and Your Church

Preventing Sin by Pursuing Faithfulness

This is Part Two of the transcript of a conversation on Preventing Disqualifying Sins in Ministry between Kevin Halloran and John Eichholz.



John, let’s think practically for a minute. We’ve seen some of the things that can lead to this type of sin, but what are some strategies that a pastor might implement to prevent this in his life?

JE: Kevin, I appreciate you asking that. I should mention there are many things out there, different ministries have lots of resources. There are books. So, there’s no excuse for a pastor or ministry leader not to read about and put into place safeguards in their lives. I think it really starts with your relationship with the Lord Jesus. You can have accountability, you can have other things in place, but I always like to ask men in ministry, “How is your walk? What kind of relationship do you have with your Lord? Are you growing?” Guys have different answers to that. You can put prayer, Bible reading, and other regular habits in your life and still have a disconnect in the Christian walk. It’s really about growing in your relationship with the Lord Jesus and then, out of that relationship, growing with other people. 

I like what John Piper says. “One reason lust reigns in so many of us is that Christ has so little appeal.” We default to deceit because we have little delight in Christ. I think for a pastor not to have that delight, not to savor that relationship, is a warning sign. If we don’t wake up in the morning and have joy in our salvation and want to meet with our Lord, spend time with Him, if we’re preparing messages and not finding joy, if we are not finding satisfaction in understanding the Scriptures and then preaching and teaching them to other people, we need to check ourselves. We need to ask people to pray for us.

“One reason lust reigns in so many of us is that Christ has so little appeal.” —John Piper

I am always astounded when I hear about or, in some cases, have seen pastors who preach day in and day out, every Sunday, midweek, and maybe for several years preach well, and yet something is going on in the background. There is a sinful relationship. I always ask, how can that disconnect take place? Men need to ask themselves, What is my relationship? What is my walk? It’s a lifelong commitment. We are called to follow Christ as disciples, which brings to mind Mark 8:34 where Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (NIV). Sometimes, when ministry becomes difficult, men look for an out, they look for a way to escape that’s not from the Lord. The Lord Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” and if we’re playing fast and loose with those small things, those “small” sins in our lives . . . that’s a warning sign. I love what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:20, “You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” A pastor should be able to tell if he’s really committed to his Lord through very difficult times, through the very joyful times, and if he’s not, he needs to ask some serious questions about what this does to his ministry or whether he needs help.

One other idea for those guys who are so confident that they don’t think that they can fall or stumble, is what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9–10: “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses,” and at the end of that phrase, “for when I am weak, then I am strong.” There are things we need to examine in the Scriptures about our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. It’s really all about Him, and there are the two commands, two overarching things we need to accomplish as believers in our life: to love God and to love one another.

The second idea, besides looking at our own life and our relationship with Christ is looking at relational safeguards. Do we have those key relationships in our lives? Most of us in ministry are married. How are we doing with our wives? Are we nurturing that relationship? Even when that relationship is not bringing me satisfaction, am I committed sacrificially to my wife? If we can answer, “No, I’m not”, then we need to check that relationship. We also need to have one or more key men in our lives who we can check in with us regularly. They don’t always have to be on the same spiritual leadership plane as we are.

I’ve talked with men in churches who can’t find someone in their church as a sounding board because they feel that other guys are not as spiritual as they are. Well, maybe there’s someone else in the community, or maybe they need to humble themselves a little bit and just find a guy who is very honest and can speak into their life. Check your relationship with Christ, your relational safeguard., Who are the key people in your life that you’re regularly asking, “How am I doing? What do you think?” Invite them to speak honestly to you.

KH: I appreciate what you said, John, about relationships being a key part of this. Obviously, first our relationship with the Lord, abiding in Christ. Everything flows from that, but relationships with our wives and other people in the church are crucial.

One of the warning signs we’ve mentioned is isolation. That brings to mind Proverbs 18:1: “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire, he breaks out against all sound judgment.” If we isolate ourselves, other sins can so easily creep in that other people may not be around to notice. Sin may be deceiving us, telling us that we’re okay. Douglas Wilson, author of Father Hunger, wrote, “Sins are like grapes; they come in bunches.” That’s his way of describing when we’re bearing the fruit of the flesh instead of the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:19–23). Having other people in your life who can speak God’s Word to you in an encouraging way but also when you need a rebuke is crucial. 

JE: There was one other Scripture text that is good to bring alongside what you’ve just said: the idea of disciplining yourself and the cravings, the desires we have. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul says he disciplines his body and keeps it under control so that he won’t be disqualified as a minister of the Word. Our culture encourages us to feed the flesh, to relax, enjoy ourselves, and not take life so seriously. Pastors, spiritual leaders, ought to discipline themselves for the sake of those around them.

KH: One other attitude that we need to cultivate is a hatred of sin. I know a pastor who says that he prays every single day that he would hate sin more and more. I think that’s kind of two sides of the same coin as we talk about loving Christ, loving what He’s done for us. I think of John Owen and his book The Mortification of Sin and his famous quote, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” [Hating sin should lead to] mortifying sin and not letting it grow—always trying to extinguish the presence and the appeal of sin in our hearts as soon as it comes up.

John, I think one of the tools that God gives us is what the Word says in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus  about qualifications for elders. How might a pastor use those passages to fight the good fight of faith?

JE: That’s a great question, and this is a good text for anyone who is a leader in any spiritual ministry. 1 Timothy 3:1–7 says,

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

I like the way this starts: There is an overarching characteristic that the pastor or overseer must be above reproach, and that doesn’t mean without sin but rather that there are no obvious patterns of sin in the person’s life. Sometimes men default in an are of something like anger, and our society or even in churches at times allows leaders to do that, to even have explosive or ungodly anger issues because they are so good in other areas. They’re gifted.

KH: Or, “The church is growing, so we’ll let this slide.”

JE: Yes, we look at their giftedness but not their godliness. First Timothy 3 gives a list of how a man ought to look overall. This is an overarching characteristic. I like that the book of Acts says leaders are chosen who are full of the Spirit (Acts 6:3). That doesn’t mean that just occasionally the Holy Spirit fills them, but that’s the character of their life. They’re producing fruit. They are given to relying on the Spirit in their life and ministry, and that’s a characteristic that comes out. That’s what you need to really fulfill these things, the help of the Holy Spirit. There are categories of these many qualities. Some list them as twenty, some list thirty or more between these two passages (from 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1) and others, but I like to think of just basic categories, like the husband of one wife or a one-woman man. That goes along with managing your house well. If you’re not doing well at home, then Scripture asks ow will you do in the church of God? Managing for Him?

There’s another characteristic among the two lists, free from addictions, free from the love of money. Uncontentious, gentle, not violent, those things go together. Another one: self-controlled. And finally, a good reputation outside the church. That’s a good test. Sometimes guys can be very good in their own church context but outside maybe in business dealings or just snubbing people. Maybe the way we drive in traffic, can be tell tale of something disqualifying in our life.

KH: Good. One more thing I’ll say about hating sin, and it’s really a practical way to cultivate that in our hearts. It’s meditating on the consequences of sin. Randy Alcorn wrote an article called “Deterring Immorality by Counting Its Cost.” In it he includes a long list of things what would happen if he were to have an affair, to fall morally. He meditates on that to cultivate a hatred and a seriousness in his heart about what sin could lead to. That’s something that has helped me think through my own life and develop a hatred of sin.


Stay tuned for the final part of this interview, Establishing Transparent Ministry Teams.

Preventing Disqualifying Sins in Ministry: A Conversation

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:16 to “watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (NIV). 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long to think of ministers who haven’t watched their lives or doctrine closely. Within the last couple of years, two high-profile pastors in the Chicago area have had their sin exposed publicly, even covered by news outlets like the Chicago Tribune.

Major sin by Christian leaders leads to great pain, not only in the ministers’ lives but also in their families and churches, and often can damage Christian witness in the community.

John Eichholz

So how can we think biblically about preventing sins that disqualify from ministry?

To answer that question, Kevin Halloran spoke with John Eichholz, a former pastor and current Field Director for our ministry. In our conversation, we discussed:

  • warning signs that someone is headed down a bad road;
  • attitudes and relationships we need in order to avoid disqualifying sins; and
  • how to establish healthy and transparent ministry teams.

In conversations like this it’s crucial that we define terms, so let me very broadly define “disqualifying sins” as any sin that would make a Christian leader violate the qualifications for elders as found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

We realize the seriousness of this conversation. We engage in it humbly and with much trepidation. Our prayer is that God would use this conversation to strengthen your walk with Him, to expose sin where it is needed, and also to encourage all of us by reminding us of all that God has given us in Christ to enable us to walk in holiness and in grace.



Read the transcript of the interview:

Warning Signs a Fall into Sin Could Be Imminent

This is Part One of the transcript of a conversation on Preventing Disqualifying Sins in Ministry between Kevin Halloran and John Eichholz.



John, this first question risks being obvious, but it’s an important one: Can you explain why preventing disqualifying sins is so important for pastors and ministry leaders?

JE: I’d be glad to comment on that. First of all, I think these kinds of sins really wreak havoc in ministry. We brought it up with our staff because our guys are traveling all the time, and there’s also heightened spiritual risk when an organization or a key leader is doing well. We need to be constantly alert and watchful. Also, Kevin, you had mentioned our current climate in the culture. . . . The Me Too movement – but even the Kavanaugh hearings – shows us that people are really sensitive to leadership overstepping its bounds. It’s hypocritical in the culture, but for Christians I think it’s an opportunity when we walk closely with the Lord and our life shows that we are following the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s a great testimony. When a leader defaults – and obviously when it ends up in the newspaper, as you’ve mentioned – it really causes shame on the name of Christ and the organization. I’ve seen many times in ministry that when someone defaults, it follows that leader for years. It affects those he has been shepherding. There often are devastating consequences. Sometimes people walk away from the faith for a time because of that leader’s hypocrisy.

KH: What you mentioned reminds me of 1 Peter 5:8, that says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (NIV). And those words, be sober minded and be watchful should always be on the mind of every Christian but, I think, especially of leaders, considering some of the things you just mentioned. 

JE: I appreciate your bringing that up. And 1 Peter 5 is in the context of Peter exhorting elders and undershepherds of the Lord Jesus and is very appropriate. 

KH: It’s easy to think that these types of sins sneak up on us. It’s easy to think, How could that have happened to that person? Often there’s a longer road that gradually leads to devastating sins. Can you explain what some of the warning signs might be in the life of a pastor, telling him that maybe he’s heading down a bad road?

JE: Sure. There are a number of those things, but there are basic categories of patterns. I think you’ve already mentioned one is being lax in a spiritual battle. The text that you already quoted talks about being sober minded, being watchful. That’s really the Christian life. I think we are in a spiritual battle; we need to be aware of what’s going on around our own lives, our families, our churches. I think sometimes we are lulled to sleep. Things are going well, there are no major problems, and we are not as diligent as we ought to be. 

I think it’s interesting that Christ is warning His disciples as they are following Him to Jerusalem, and they’re not heeding the warning. They’re not understanding where they’re going and what’s about to happen. Obviously, as He goes to prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, He tells them to watch and pray. That should be our stance at all times in the Christian life, when things are going well, and things are difficult. 

Also, the leaders I’ve worked with in the past, some who have defaulted from ministry, have  sometimes had a sense of self-sufficiency: I’m strong. I can do this. I’ve worked with men who also have a sense of independence. They don’t really want to cooperate closely or share their lives openly. There’s maybe not an accountability. There’s a lack of dependence on Christ because they feel strong and capable, but that self-sufficiency is a warning sign to me. Sometimes guys think, Sexual sins? I love my wife. We have a good relationship; that won’t happen to me. Yet they are feeding the flesh in other areas, maybe pornography or a subtle playing with things in the mind or a subtle relationship they’re coddling behind the scenes but are not dealing with.

KH: One of the scary things about this topic and the nature of sin, is just how deceitful sin can be. Hebrews 3:13 says, “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (NIV), and so often in these cases there is deceit. Maybe deceiving others, trying to hide certain actions or certain thoughts, but ultimately, sin deceives us. That’s scary, because we don’t realize we’re headed down a wrong path. We’re disobeying God, and it’s blinding us to reality. That’s something for every pastor and every Christian to be very careful about. Am I telling the truth about my personal life, about sin that may be in my life? Am I rationalizing it? Or am I holding up God’s Word as a mirror, looking into it, and being honest with myself?

John, some of what you said reminded me of a study that Howard Hendricks did. He studied 246 men who had disqualified themselves. After interviewing them, he found four characteristics that seemed to sum up just about everybody. 

  • None of the men were involved with any kind of personal accountability. They were isolated.
  • Each of the men had all but ceased having a daily time of private prayer and Bible reading.
  • More than 80 percent of the men became sexually involved with other women after spending significant time with them, often in counseling situations.
  • Each of the men, without exception, had been convinced that this sort of fall “would never happen to me.”

That points to what you said about self-sufficiency in the life of a pastor: “Hey, this can’t happen to me.” But we must remember what Scripture says: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (see James 4:6; Proverbs 3:34) and pride comes before a fall (see Proverbs 16:18).


Read the next portion of the interview.

How can we equip exponentially more?

How was Leadership Resources able to increase the number of training groups from around 100 in 2013 to over 600 today?

Two words: mentor trainers.

Mentor trainers (MTs) are the key graduates who share our passion for training others and long to see God’s Word move powerfully in their country and beyond. They also continue to receive training from LRI to strengthen them for their work.

Let’s look at a recent training for mentor trainers in Ecuador to see how we invest in our MTs for their vital work. December’s training time had three main focuses: 

1. Word Work – This group studied Paul’s letter to the Philippians, not only for more practice interpreting a book with LRI’s principles of interpretation, but also to consider a major theme of Philippians and our work: gospel partnership.


Ecuadorian MTers join LRI’s Kevin Halloran (top left) and Patricio Paredes (top middle)


2. Program Work – In addition to evaluating how a recent training went, the Ecuador team conducted a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) of our work in Ecuador. The exercise helped our team clarify their present reality as well as give fodder for praise and prayer. LRI staff also coached the team on raising funds to make their own training ministry self-sustaining. On LRI’s last day in the country, the Ecuadorian team even presented a funding proposal to a potential partner.


The Ecuador team working through the SWOT analysis.


3. Team Building – The Ecuadorian MTs are from two different cities with two very different cultures. To lead a movement of the Word together, it’s vital for them to trust each other and be comfortable relationally. Thankfully, activities like sharing meals, swapping stories, and playing sports help with team bonding. And of course, prayer is vital for strengthening team relationships.

By God’s grace, it’s through mentor training teams like this one that God’s Word is able to impact exponentially more pastors and leaders – all for the glory of God.


After a tiring game of 2-on-2 basketball, Moises, Patricio, and Clever watch Juan battle Oscar in tennis. (Did you know the ball flies differently in the mountains?)


LRI staff Patricio Paredes (far left) and Kevin Halloran (bottom right) enjoy delicious corbiche with mentor trainers in Portoviejo.


PS: We have the wonderful opportunity to bring together mentor trainers from all over the globe for a summit in Brazil this March. Would you pray that God would use that event to encourage and equip our MTs so they can better strengthen His church around the world?

Have Bible Quoters Replaced Bible Readers?

Merely quoting verses is not “staying on the line” if you miss the intention of the author in the passage. After all, even Satan quoted Scripture when he tempted Jesus (Matthew 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13).

In a recent article called, Have Bible Quoters Replaced Bible Readers?, Russell Moore explains why only quoting Scripture (as opposed to reading it well) is dangerous. Moore shares the following explanation from David Niehuis of how the issue often manifests itself:

“Some of my students attend popular non-denominational churches led by entrepreneurial leaders who claim to be ‘Bible believing’ and strive to offer sermons that are ‘relevant’ for successful Christian living. . . . Unfortunately, in too many cases, this formula results in a preacher appealing to a short text of Scripture, out of context, in order to support a predetermined set of ‘biblical principles’ to guide the congregants’ daily lives. The only Bible these students encounter, sadly, is the version that is carefully distilled according to the theological and ideological concerns that have shaped the spiritual formation of the lead pastor.”

Moore continues to diagnose the issue:

This is not a matter of the educated versus the uneducated. The same problem exists among both. I have noticed people who were experts in the grammar of the Hebrew and Greek Bibles who didn’t really get the flow of the old, old story. But if the Bible is God’s Word, and it is, we must raise up people who don’t merely believe it but also know what it says.

We encourage you to read the article in its entirety. We also encourage you to think through how you can lead the people under your care toward greater Bible literacy by modeling faithful Bible reading and by training others in the Scriptures. As David Jackman has said, it’s not enough to consult the Bible only when we need direction or an answer, we need God’s message in the Bible to sit in the driver’s seat of the church.

For practical ways to make the Bible user-friendly from the pulpit, read this article.

Edwards’ Religious Affections for the 21st Century: A Conversation with Dr. Josh Moody

The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards is one of the most clarifying treatises on revival and spiritual transformation. For that reason it has been a major influence in LRI’s understanding of what true spiritual transformation is. (Access the entire critical edition from Yale University Press online for free.)

We thought it would be helpful to discuss The Religious Affections with Dr. Josh Moody, an expert on Jonathan Edwards and the senior pastor at College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, and the author of several books including The God Centered Life: Insights from Jonathan Edwards for Today, Burning Hearts Preaching to the Affections (co-authored with Robin Weeks), and most recently John 1–12 For You. Listen in to our conversation or read the transcript below.



KH: The Religious Affections came out of a historical situation, out of Edwards’ own experience in his own pastoral ministry and as part of a larger corpus of literature he wrote on the same subject of revival and true spiritual transformation. Can you explain to us what was happening at the time? What caused Edwards to write The Religious Affections?

Jonathan Edwards

JM: Right, so, Edwards was at the heart of something called the Great Awakening, which was an international movement for revival, and there was a preacher called George Whitefield, who was prominent at that time, having a massive effect—I mean thousands and thousands of people crammed to hear Whitefield preach in the fields. They’d run – we have eyewitness testimony of people dropping the plow in the field, jumping across a hedge and ditch, cramming in to hear him. We’ve got eyewitness testimonies from Benjamin Franklin describing the electricity in the air when Whitefield was preaching. Whitefield was obviously a dramatic, gifted, charismatic preacher, but it was more than simply his personality. We have other records of Whitefield’s sermons literally being read without him present and revival breaking out. Something extraordinary was going on in America and in England. Whitefield was at the heart of that – also a man called Wesley, John Charles Wesley, and Jonathan Edwards. 

Jonathan Edwards and his church in Northampton had a series of awakenings on a more local scale. Then Whitefield came along and those awakenings took on a huge scale across New England. A lot of things began to happen that were scary for some of the traditionalists: preaching outside of church, physical manifestations. People became so overcome with emotion they started to fall down, cry out—in the middle of sermons. 

Edwards’ most famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” was actually never completed, at least the second time he preached it. He preached it once in Northampton and then again in the place where the most famous impact occurred. It was never completed at that church because the outcry from the people listening was so massive he just couldn’t be heard anymore. The pastors who were with him had to get down into the congregation and pray for people as they were coming to Christ. This is all the sort of exciting thing that pastors want to happen, but on the other hand, it created some fears among the traditionalists. People perhaps went a little too far and split the movement between radical “New Lights” and then the “Old Lights,” as they were called. Edwards carved out a space for [what] historians have called the “Moderate New Lights”—those who were for the revival but also saying to keep God’s Word and biblical orthodoxy at the heart – not run to an extreme. Edwards wrote a number of different things to try to both promote the revival and describe it. His most mature reflection on that is the book we are talking about, The Religious Affections. There are others previous to that –  Distinguishing Marks of the Work of the Spirit of God, Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion – but The Religious Affections is his more mature, more seasoned reflection on revival. Now as we look back, it’s really the classic textbook if you want to understand revival. It’s the best book written in church history on that, but it’s also helpful for discerning what God is doing and what a real experience of God is and is not. 

I often say to young pastors, if you want to really good handbook for pastoral ministry, The Religious Affections isn’t a bad place to go – because of the textbook practical level but also the mental, conceptual, and spiritual level. How do I understand what is a real work of God, and how do I promote that? What is not a real work of God? The real work of God – that gives it some context and also some of its contributions to current ministry. 

KH: And for that same reason, The Religious Affections is a core book for our training and philosophy of ministry. 

JM: Right.

KH: We want true, real transformation in the lives of people through the Word of God by the Spirit. It’s helpful to know signs of when that is taking place and signs that don’t necessarily mean it’s taking place. Our culture doesn’t seem to use the term affections much. How does Edwards use the term? And how does it differ from emotion?

JM: It’s a great question. It’s an area of some debate among Christians who read Edwards. The popular understanding of Edwards’ use of affections is that it’s for all intents and purposes basically the same as emotions. That’s almost certainly incorrect because of the history. In church history there’s this distinction between passions, which tend to be more like physical, almost sensual, reactions to things—not necessarily bad, but just the way the body emotes things. It’s just what it is. Then there’s this sort of higher order of, for want of a better term at the moment, emotions, which tend to be called affections in relation to that. So, that’s the background, and it’s particularly picked up by the Puritans and then later by Edwards. 

What I think Edwards is saying by affections is that affections are the thinking the feeling and the willing expression of the human heart; what you have affect towards. Not that we use affect as a pretense but the word actually – what you’re actually doing. And so it’s an internal will, feeling, understanding, movement in a sort of direction. It’s cognitive. Emotions we think of as non-cognitive. No, affection is cognitive, but it has a movement inside. Another term Edwards uses for this is “a sense of the heart.” So, you have a taste. The famous description Edwards uses is about when someone has a taste for God, their affections are stirred by God. This is different as when someone has heard about honey, as opposed to when someone has tasted honey. When we have an affection for God, then you’ve tasted honey. There’s that sense, that feeling for sure, but not as sort of a crazy passion.

KH: According to Edwards, one element of affections is what you alluded to – is that they lead to action. Can you explain the relationship between affection and action?

JM: What I have a will to do is what I will do. Now there can be physical constraints. You can image there is somebody who’s in jail who has a will to be free, but they’re in jail. Okay, but leave aside physical constraints: what I’ve a will to do is what I will do. Affections are what I’ve decided mentally in my mind, sense is true, and have a will, therefore, to do. That inevitably leads to action. Otherwise, I don’t have the affection for it. Therefore if I’ve been moved intellectually, emotionally, cognitively in my will to do something, then I’m going to do it. Otherwise, I’m not going to do it. It’s what Jesus says: the one who loves me obeys my commands (John 14:21).

KH: In The Religious Affections, Edwards works through 12 signs and 12 non-signs, things that don’t necessarily prove a true spiritual experience one way or another. [Read a helpful summary of the signs.] What are some of the biggest takeaways from this list for today?

JM: Well, I think actually reading through the non-signs is almost as important as reading through what the signs are. The reason for that is we tend – they did then, and we do today – to make things significant that are not really significant. The most obvious is the physical manifestation. We tend to think that if someone hears a sermon or sings a song, and they start really crying, then they must mean it. Well, maybe; maybe not. People cry in all sorts of situations. Or we think that’s a sad emotion. But if someone is singing a song or listening to a sermon, and they’re really enthusiastic – they start jumping up and down, they’re clapping – you think, “Yeah, they must be.” 

Well, maybe. But people do the same sort of thing at rock concerts or a party. In other words, because we are psychosomatic wholes as people – that is, we have bodies, and the bodies are connected to our thinking and feeling – humans act in certain ways when they are personally moved. It’s not necessarily a sign that the thing by which their person is moved is the work of the Spirit. What’s really showing is we’re human, we’re physical. Similarly, other people tend to look at someone being very enthusiastic or excited in a meeting or something, and they think, “Well, that certainly isn’t the work of God. You know, we should be reverent. We should be stayed.” You know, “Keep quiet.” But again that’s confusion. Some of it is cultural. Certain cultures are more expressive. Some of it is just physical for some people. We have physical bodies, so we express ourselves in certain kinds of ways. You see it in the Psalms: you kneel, you stand, you clap, you raise your hands or worship. These are just physical ways the human body expresses its natural response to things. There is the same natural response to things you can see in other situations that are completely non-spiritual: parties, rock concerts, whatever . . . a family get together – “I’m so excited.” It’s not a sign that this is a work of God. It’s a sign that there’s a human involved, and something moving is happening. We don’t know what just by looking at the outside signs. I think it’s really important to get clear. People are constantly confused about that all the time in church life. So that’s on the negative side. 

On the positive side, I think it’s really important to get clear in our minds the greatest sign, which is love – where Edwards lands. Clearly that’s biblical: “These three shall remain, but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). The first fruit of the Spirit is love – not just because it’s the first randomly, or just because it’s the first priority, but because it’s the summation of all the rest. It is – Edward’s has this phrase – concatenation of the fruit. That is, the fruit is actually interlocking, connected, and its sum – summation – is love. Edwards defines this love as a humble, serving love. There’s a kind of love which can be almost prideful, you know: “I’m loving, and I’m so proud about that.” But Edwards defines this love as a humble, serving love. 

What I think is most important about the list is; let’s get really clear on what is negative. What are the negative signs? What doesn’t mean anything? And the other thing is to land on the primary one, which is when we see the love of God going forward. Then we’re seeing what is truly the work of God. In other words, the devil will not want to make humans love Jesus and love his people. There is no natural way . . . given who we are, because we’re in sin outside of Christ – there’s no natural way to make anyone love Jesus and his people. So, when you see that developing, you are surely seeing the work of God. That’s how it’s summarized. 

KH: When talking about The Religious Affections, it’s probably good to note that it’s not the easiest book to read. It’s probably at least 350 pages, and Edwards kind of has a roundabout way of explaining his points. Sam Storms who wrote a book interpreting The Religious Affections says, “I’ve worked my way through The Affections at least ten times, and I still struggle in places to make sense of him.” So that’s encouraging to me. That being said, what are some resources that you would recommend to help people more deeply engage Edwards in [The] Religious Affections

JM: Part of it is Edwards. It’s like trying to understand Mozart – he’s a genius. It takes time to try to figure it out. Part of it is just 18th-century English. The sentences are really long. So, we’re used to sentences just having maybe seven or eight words in them. You come across a sentence with 13 or something, and you just don’t know what to do. You have to get used to reading long sentences. 

I think probably the most helpful thing to do is – I mean having to do with The Religious Affections, because it’s a great book . . . But if you really want to read it, you probably should start somewhere [else]. I think The Distinguishing Marks is an easy read. If you’ve read The Distinguishing Marks, then you kind of have the key to understanding The Religious Affections, which is sort of The Distinctive Marks writ large. That’s an easy book. 

The other thing to do would be to read some of Edwards’ Personal Narrative, which is almost, really, a description of how he became a Christian. You read that, and you get a sense of his heart. I have to say I’ve never – this is maybe not encouraging – but I’ve never really found The Religious Affections hard. I mean, I find some books hard going – you know Dickens starts pretty hard going. Some novels are pretty hard going; some are great. My main piece of advice would be take it slowly. Get a copy, print it off, look at it online, and just read it slowly. 

I read The Religious Affections first when I was on the mission field. . . I only took over two volumes of Edwards in my backpack. It was right after the civil war there, and I wasn’t sitting in any kind of posh library or anything. The electricity didn’t always work, and so, in my mind, reading this isn’t associated with a feat. I would take it slowly – not be scared. I would actually read the text itself. I love Sam Storms. I love what he’s done [writing Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards’s Religious Affections], but if you can, actually read the text itself. It’s a bit like reading the Bible. I’ve written a commentary on the Bible, so in a sense I’m all for commentaries; but the best way to understand the Bible is to read it – to have the confidence that when you read it and use your own brain [and] pray about it, you understand more about the Bible. I think that’s true of almost anything. Go to the source, figure it out – some of it – yourself. Then if you get stuck, then go to the helps. I’ve written books on Edwards, so by all means read those, too. But you really want to go to the source and then lean on the interpreters afterwards. Otherwise, you spend all your life looking at life through someone else’s stained glass windows rather than going [and] experiencing [it] yourself. 


Related Links:

Two Examples of Preaching Christ (from 2 Samuel 13 and Acts 9) | Part Three


What follows is the final part of an interview with Colin S. Smith on what it means to preach Christ.

https://www.leadershipresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Colin-Smith-Interview.mp3


KH: We’ve talked a little about theory about preaching Christ and why it’s important. Can you share a couple examples? Maybe walk us through a message you’ve preached before and how you think about preaching Christ.

CS: Sure, I’d be glad to talk about a couple examples. Every example is different. Every sermon is different. You’re trying to find the road to London from every village. You’re starting in different places.

Example #1: The Rape of Tamar – 2 Samuel 13

Every sermon is a unique experience, but I was preaching recently on the rape of Tamar in 2 Samuel, chapter 13. It is a terrible story of how this daughter of King David is sent by her father the King and goes to her own brother’s house and is horribly abused by him. She’s betrayed and violated, and King David knew what had happened. The Bible says he’s angry but did nothing. He said nothing. No discipline for his son. No comfort for his daughter.

And then we are told that Tamar lived as a desolate woman. She says, “Where can I carry my shame?” It’s an extraordinary question: Where can I carry my shame? And there’s no answer to that in the Old Testament. There’s no answer in 2 Samuel in chapter 13. So, you have to go forward from the desolate woman who says, “Where can I carry my shame?” and answer that question. The answer, obviously, is in the Lord Jesus Christ. Think about the parallels – this just blew my mind open thinking about it: that the Lord Jesus Christ was sent by His Father, and He’s horribly abused, and He’s terribly betrayed, and shame that is not His own is heaped on Him, through no fault of His, and yet He’s not overwhelmed by the shame. He actually rises above it. He just despises the shame, and He’s now seated at the right hand of the Father. In Him there is hope for every Tamar and for every person who’s been betrayed. The flow of the Bible’s story takes you from this awful evil that is left unanswered in the Old Testament. The Old Testament can never stand on its own. It possesses a question to which there isn’t yet an answer. Jesus Christ comes in as the fulfillment of everything that is promised and everything that is predicted by the prophets. Flowing into Jesus and seeing the connections was, to me, an amazing thing in regards to that.

Example #2: The Conversion of Saul – Acts 9

Let me give another very different example, entirely different, the conversion of Saul of Tarshish (Acts 9). Here’s Saul, and he’s blinded by seeing the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first thing you notice when you read this is that it’s unlike any other conversion experience. People read that story and they think, oh, this is far away from me. Most testimonies that we hear start, “I’ve never had a Damascus Road experience. I’ve never seen a blinding light or heard a voice from Heaven.” People say that all the time. They feel it to be so remote.

What was really striking to me was the thought that the Damascus Road experience will happen to every person hearing this service. One day we will all stand before Christ, and we will see His glory. We will hear His voice, and He will address us by name. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” That is true of every person who has ever lived, irrespective of whether or not we believe in the Lord Jesus. Suddenly, now, by connecting the story with the great truth of the Bible – that one day we all will see the glory of Christ – it moves from being a story that’s a long way away to one that’s actually very near. This is an unavoidable reality: that we will all see the sovereign Lord, who lays claim to every life, and therefore, we need to get right with Him.


Learn more about Colin Smith by visiting UnlockingtheBible.org or following him on Twitter @PastorColinS.


For more information on how to preach Christ, read the article A Simple Guide for Seeing How the Old Testament Points to Jesus Christ or browse the Biblical Theology page of our Dig & Discover Hermeneutical Principles Booklet.

What does it mean to preach Christ? Interview with Pastor Colin S. Smith (Part One)


LRI’s Kevin Halloran sat down with his pastor, Colin S. Smith, to talk about what it means to preach Christ. Listen to the audio or read the transcript below.

https://www.leadershipresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Colin-Smith-Interview.mp3


The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:23, “We preach Christ crucified,” and a few verses later, he said he was determined to “know nothing among the Corinthians except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). But what does this mean? And how can a preacher faithfully preach Christ?

Pastor Colin Smith

With me is my pastor, Colin Smith, of the Orchard Evangelical Free Church, and the author of Momentum: Pursuing God’s Blessings Through the Beatitudes, Heaven How I Got Here: The Story of the Thief On The Cross, and most recently, Heaven So Near So Far: the Story of Judas Iscariot. Welcome, Pastor Colin.

CS: It’s fun to be together, Kevin.

KH: What does it mean to preach Christ, and why is it so important?

CS: Well, I think first of all, it means more than getting Jesus into a sermon. I sometimes hear guys saying that. How am I going to get Jesus into the sermon has got to be more than getting some reference to Jesus in the sermon. It’s got to be more too, I think, than preaching about Jesus. Even if we say the great things about Jesus, it’s possible to say even the great things about our Lord Jesus, His death, and His resurrection in a way that is detached from people – so that we’re merely giving information about the Lord Jesus Christ. But when Paul says that he’s determined to preach Christ, what he’s saying is not simply, “Tell people about Jesus,” but actually, “Hold Jesus and all that He is and all that He’s accomplished and all the He offers before people in such a way that they actually are confronted by a living Christ who is reaching out to them in the preaching.”

Christ speaks in the proclamation of His Word. And so, when Christ is held forth in the proclamation of his Word, people are able to discern the very voice of God speaking to them. That’s why it’s so important that we proclaim Christ and don’t simply speak about the Bible in a way that’s detached from the one who’s at the very center of the entire Word of God.

KH: Christ uses the task of preaching to reach out to the audience – I love how you said that. As you think about preaching Christ, what are some principles you use or keep in mind?

CS: Well, one of the things I learned early on in ministry back in England. So, I have to put this in an English way. A great English preacher once said that there’s a road from every village and hamlet in the country that leads eventually to London. I thought quite a bit about that. It’s true of course of any other major destination. You know there’s a road from everywhere in America that takes us to Chicago, I guess.

The point is that wherever you are the Bible, there is a road that does lead to Jesus Christ. And so, my job as a preacher, as I’m getting into any part of the Scripture, is to discern where that road is – what that path is. It might be a road that’s quite extensive. It might be a long way. It might not be just one connection; there may be some junctions along the way. But there’s always a road that takes us to Jesus Christ. My task is to find that road and to help people traverse it so that we’re brought to the feet of Christ. This is something that the apostles always did.

A number of years ago in the church here, a group of us sat down and said, “Let’s go through the New Testament and try and identify as many references as we can to preaching, then see what was it that was preached.” So, we started going through Acts. Then we went through the rest of the New Testament and Epistles. In about an hour and a half, we jotted down 39 references to preaching or proclamation. In every case, what we found that was proclaimed was the Lord Jesus Christ or His death or His resurrection or the gospel itself. It was always the same thing. The apostles gave themselves to that proclamation of Jesus Christ. That’s the task. Wherever we are in the Bible is where we begin. Proclaiming Christ is where we’ve got to end.

KH: That’s very helpful. What difference, then, does preaching Christ make for those who are in the pew?

CS: If Christ is not in a sermon, then what good is it ever going to do? I mean, our hope and our life is in Jesus Christ. So, a Christ-less sermon is actually a sermon that’s sub-Christian. It may lay out some moral principles, it may call a person to live a better life, but what use is a call to live a better life if a person doesn’t have the power to live that better life residing within them? That power comes from Jesus Christ. The experience of a person in the pew, if Christ is missing from preaching, is going to be that basically they’re being challenged. There’s a demand that’s being laid out. Here’s what you have to do; go try harder, go live better at the end of the day.

But then you come right up against what the law was powerless to do God did by giving His Son, Jesus Christ. The whole point of the gospel is that it gives to us what the law demands of us. If you take away Christ, you’re simply left with a demand. That’s why people often come out of church feeling that the whole thing was heavy and made them feel worse. Because what they’re confronted with is a challenge that they’re not being given the resource to meet.

Part Two deals with Preaching for Encounters with the Risen Christ.


Preaching for Encounters with the Risen Christ (Part Two)


This post is a continuation of a series on what it means to preach Christ with Colin S. Smith.

https://www.leadershipresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Colin-Smith-Interview.mp3


KH: You’ve written before that preaching Christ must arise out of the Word and should lead us to the table, creating a worshipful experience encountering Christ there, at church. What do you mean by this, and why do you think it’s such an important idea?

CS: I got that out of the Church of England liturgy, going all the way back to Thomas Cranmer and the way in which the origin of worship in the Church of England was set out. These three elements were put together: there was reading of the Word, there was the sermon, and then there was the Lord’s Table. Cranmer organized that order of service because he believed deeply that preaching should arise from the Word. So, you begin with the Word read, and then you have the Word preached, and where it should end is it should lead us to the table. Now in our church here at the Orchard, we don’t always have the Lord’s Supper every Sunday; we do it once a month. Churches vary in their practice in that regard.

But the point is that when I’m preparing to preach, I’m always thinking, what would be a natural bridge to the Lord’s Table? I want every sermon to end with a sense of, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you for what’s mine in Jesus Christ.” I want every sermon to end with a sense of people being invited to receive what Jesus Christ holds in His hand. There has to be that offer, that invitation, that sense of meeting with Christ at the end. So that very simple little bridge, preaching is a bridge from the Word read to the Lord’s Table. Conceptually, that’s really helped me to think about what I’m trying to do in the course of a sermon.

KH: That’s wonderful, and you really engage with Christ with different senses. You know, auditory, when you hear the Word, but also more tactile through communion and also remembering what He’s done for us. In thinking through preaching Christ, what are some potential pitfalls a preacher might fall into?

CS: The way that I try to think about this and to encourage others to think about it, Kevin, is that we’re called to preach Christ. That’s the first thing. We’re called to do this in a way that is biblical, theological, clear, and compelling. These are like four sides of a sandbox around preaching Christ.

I think the most obvious pitfalls are speaking about Christ in a way that’s dislocated from the text of the Bible. That would be not doing it in a way that’s biblical or missing the great truths about Jesus Christ. That’s preaching Christ in a way that’s theological. [Or, as LRI’s training would put it, using Biblical Theology in preaching.] We want to preach Christ in a way that is clear. We don’t want to get lost in profound language that ordinary people can’t understand. We want to do it in a way that’s compelling. What that means is there must always be a connection between the proclamation of Christ and what a person can actually receive from Christ. It’s not simply information about Jesus. Christ is being held forth as the fount of all the gifts of God in such a way that as I hear Him presented, I’m drawn to say, “Now I must receive from Him.”

KH: I think every preacher wants to be transformative in their preaching. They want their people to leave changed people. Can you speak to the relationship between preaching Christ and application in sermons?

CS: I think that that’s the distinction that I have in mind between preaching about Jesus and preaching Jesus. It’s more than “Oh, Jesus said this, or Jesus did this; isn’t that interesting.” It’s, “Here is Christ. Here’s what Christ does, and here is what He offers to you right now that you can actually receive here and now.”

For example, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). Christ gives me strength. What’s being held forth in that verse? It’s that Christ actually communicates strength that is matched to the particular burden that any person in the congregation listening to the sermon at that time is actually carrying. I want to hold forth not simply a strong Christ but a Christ that gives strength.

That’s just one example, but there’s a difference. It’s hard to put it into words, but there’s a difference between merely communicating truths about Jesus and actually holding forth a Jesus who has the power of transformation and brings the power of transformation in His own self.

KH: It reminds listeners there’s a living Savior who rose from the dead who intercedes for them and is on their side.

CS: And you can come to Him right now, and He has all that you need. Yes, there’s an invitation. There’s a response, and that’s the heart of application. Someone listening to the sermon needs to have the sense that there’s something here for me, and therefore, they feel a drawing to move towards what is being proclaimed – or rather the one who is being proclaimed.

In Part Three, Colin Smith shares examples of preaching Christ from two passages.

    Never miss a post!

    * indicates required

    Choose a Frequency


    Categories