Sunday, November 30, 2008

My New Blog

I have relocated to http://dougsmith1977.wordpress.com - it contains posts from here, as well as links and resources that are easier (I hope) to navigate.  Please update your records if you are a reader!  Thank you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Isaiah 6:5 Sermon: Seeing Ourselves in the Light of God

November 23, 2008 - Community Church of Exeter, Exeter, NH - Sermon on Isaiah 6:5 "Seeing Ourselves in the Light of God" (audio)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

On Sermon Preparation

Some helpful links for preparing an expository sermon (all .mp3 files except the last two links):

Mark Dever on Sermon Preparation (preparing an expositional sermon)

Ligon Duncan on "Principles of Preparation and Normal Practices for Preaching at First Presbyterian Church"

Steve Lawson - 10 How-To’s of Expository Preaching

Hershael York - "A Sermon Preparation Checklist" from 2007 Power in the Pulpit conference

Steve Weaver on preparing expository sermons

Expositional Preaching at 9Marks.org

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Luke 11:33-54 Sermon: Be Real

November 16, 2008 - Grace Baptist Church, Cheshire, CT (church website) - Sermon on Luke 11:33-54, "Be Real" (The Fine Print of Discipleship?) (audio)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Our Help Is Here: a Meditation on Psalm 46

by Doug Smith (The following was originally published as three articles at SharperIron.org - part 1 - part 2 - part 3. The audio sermon is available here.)

Psalm 46:1-11 (NKJV)

HandsTo the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. A Song for Alamoth.

1 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3 Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah.

4 There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. 6 The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

7 The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has made desolations in the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire.

10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

11 The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

When you are in trouble, it is a blessing to know that help is available. It is a great blessing to know that it is on the way. And it is an even greater blessing to know that your help is here.

The blessing of help in time of need is magnified even more when others are involved. If you have had vehicle trouble with a van full of small children, you know what I mean. And if you have not experienced such a thing, you can surely imagine it or relate a similar circumstance where help is needed, not just for an individual, but for a group.

In our spiritual lives, as individuals and as groups—particularly local churches—we experience crises. The world, the flesh, and the devil are set against our having joy in Christ and glorifying God in all circumstances. Persecution and temptation—external opposition, internal strife, and disappointments—threaten to shake our faith. We need help, and help is available. But God’s Word has better news for us than that help is on the way. When we turn to Psalm 46, we see the good news that our help is here. In unstable and uncertain times, we can have stability and certainty because God is our help, and He is here.

The book of Psalms functioned as a songbook and prayer book for Israel. The psalms reflect much about the experience of God’s people—joy and thanksgiving as well as repentance, complaints, and cries for help. Some psalms clearly indicate the event that is addressed in the psalm. For example, Psalm 51 describes David’s repentance after being confronted about his sin of adultery. Others, such as Psalm 46, do not tell us the exact occasion for which they were written. However, Psalm 46 is one of the eleven psalms with the inscription “Of the Sons of Korah.” It is especially appropriate that we take a brief look at the background of the sons of Korah as we consider this corporate psalm of God’s help for His people in troubled times.

Numbers 16 is the record of Korah’s organized rebellion against Moses. After the congregation of Israel separated from the rebels, God caused the ground to swallow up Korah and his followers alive to show His judgment against them. But according to Numbers 26:9-11, there were sons of Korah who did not die. Though not part of the Aaronic priesthood, the Korahites (also descendants of Levi) served in the temple. According to 1 Chronicles 9:19, they were still in existence after the Babylonian exile. Their background in being spared while their rebellious ancestor perished should have made them thankful to sing praises to God for His present help in trouble.

As we look at Psalm 46, let those of us who are believers be grateful for God’s salvation and look to Him to see that our help is here. We will notice three different emphases in this psalm. It teaches us about the people of God, the person of God, and the presence of God.

Our Help Is Here: Help for the People of God

The corporate nature of this psalm is evident throughout its eleven verses. Notice the references that indicate this nature:

v. 1 God is our refuge and strength.

v. 2 Therefore we will not fear.

v. 4 the city of God

vv. 7, 11 The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Many psalms are worded in the first person singular with “I” and “my” and “me,” but this is one of the corporate psalms, worded with we and our and us (6 instances). The corporate nature of this psalm reminds us that our relationship with God is not merely an individual relationship that has no relevance to our relationships with others. Rather, it changes the dynamics of our relationships to others. When we become God’s children, we find that we have brothers and sisters. I am not an only child to God, and neither are you. All God’s people are part of a larger group.

But before we discuss the importance of the group, let me ask you this: Do you have a right relationship with God? Have you been forgiven of your disobedience and reconciled to Him? God created this world, including you and me, for His glory to display His character. Yet Adam and Eve—and you and I—have rebelled against God. Our sin has rightly been called cosmic treason; disobeying God is equivalent to seeking to dethrone Him and enthrone ourselves as the king of our lives. This treason deserves eternal punishment. Yet in His great mercy, God sent His Son, Jesus, the eternal Son of God, who was born of the virgin Mary, lived the perfect life that God requires and that we could never live, and died on the cross in the place of sinners, bearing their punishment. He rose from the dead and lives forever. He promises to pardon and rescue rebels like you and me if we will turn from our sin and trust Him for our salvation. If you do not have assurance that you are part of the people of God through faith in Christ, I beg you—trust in Him today.

If you have turned from your sin and trusted in Him, then you have the certain hope and assurance of salvation in Christ. But He has not saved you for yourself; you are part of a larger body, the church.

If you are trusting in Christ, part of following Jesus means to identify with His people. We do this identification through baptism or the immersion into water as an ordinance of the church in order to testify to the world that we are dead to sin and raised to walk in newness of life in Jesus Christ. To identify with God’s people, we should also join ourselves to a local congregation, becoming members of a local church, where we can participate in the decisions of the congregation and also be subject to its discipline. We take gathering with the church seriously. We attend so we may grow from the preaching of the Word and partake of the Lord’s Supper. We also fellowship and encourage and warn one another, being involved in the lives of others.

If you know Christ but have not been baptized or joined a local church, let me urge you to obey God in these areas. Do not be afraid or ashamed to be publicly united to other believers. In our individualistic society, many do not value commitment. But to please God, we must value commitment to one another and love Christ and one another enough to identify ourselves as His people.

As God’s people, we understand that our Lord’s concerns extend not just to our individual problems, but to the problems we face corporately, particularly in local churches. Whether with your local assembly or with persecuted believers gathering in Saudi Arabia or Sudan, God, our Help, is there. He is a very present help in trouble.

Our Help Is Here: Help from the Person of God

God is clearly the subject of this psalm. Twenty-five different references to Him appear throughout these eleven verses. We see a divine name or title eleven times (God, the Most High, the LORD of hosts, the God of Jacob, the LORD), a metaphorical description five times (refuge, strength, help), and deity pronouns nine times (I, He).

This God who is our Help is the God who made heaven and earth. As the Most High, there is no God or power above Him. This God is the LORD. Notice in verses 7, 8, and 11 that the word “LORD” is in all uppercase letters. This use designates that the original Hebrew has the word for the most sacred name of God—Jehovah or Yahweh. It is probably derived from the same name that God revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14, when He revealed Himself as I AM WHO I AM. This God has the power of self-existence, needing nothing outside Himself to exist. He has all the resources of life in Himself, whereas we need food, water, oxygen and other external circumstances to live.

God’s sacred name not only refers to His self-existence but also speaks of His covenant relationship with His people. This God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and—as focused on in Psalm 46—Jacob—is the same God for the Korahites, for the Israelites, for the first-century believers in Christ, and for you and me. The God who showed mercy and faithfulness to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has not changed—His people can still count on Him. Notice that this sacred name is paired with “of hosts” in verses 7 and 11. This reminds us that God is omnipotent and commands all the powers of the universe. This self-existent, faithful, promise-keeping, all-powerful, exalted creator God is our Help!

The metaphors in Psalm 46 indicate our dependence on God. He is our refuge, the One we run to for shelter. We trust in Him to protect us. He is our strength. Apart from Him, we are weak and faint. We have reason to fear if He is not our refuge and strength in trouble. He is also our help, providing the aid we need in our distress. This God is our fortress who protects us in troubled and unstable times—our stronghold and safe place. He is our defense. We do not need to fear trouble. We can trust God.

God’s names, titles, and descriptions remind us of His character, but we also learn about Him through His works. This God dwells with His people and helps them “at the break of dawn” (v. 5)—not a second too late. He opens His mouth and unleashes His omnipotent decree: “he uttered his voice, the earth melted” (v. 6). When He thus speaks, compliance is the only option. None can withstand His judgment. Regardless of your view on global warning, we haven’t seen anything yet! God will one day speak, and the heavens will be destroyed by fire, and “the elements will melt with fervent heat” (2 Peter 3:12 NKJV). The psalm mentions the desolations God has brought on the earth. We can see astonishing things today that show the power of God. The Grand Canyon shows evidence of the catastrophic effects of the power of God. Hurricanes, tornados, and volcanic eruptions are just glimpses of the infinite strength of the Almighty. This God has power to stop wars, break the bow, shatter the spear, and burn the shields with fire.

God says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (v. 10). Calm down. Quiet your troubled soul. Make certain that you truly know that God is God and that He will be exalted in the earth. Consider the greatness of God, Who is the permanent, powerful, preeminent protector of His people. We should not fear trouble if we know Him. We should not fear to take the gospel to those near and far away, even if they react with hostility. God is our refuge and strength, and He will be exalted in the earth. Our Help is here.

Our Help Is Here: Help in the Presence of God

Notice how Psalm 46 emphasizes the presence of God: “God is…a very present help in trouble” (v. 1). He is “in the midst of” the city of God (v. 5). He is “with us” (vv. 7, 11).

It is not unusual to experience a period of waiting for help to arrive after we call for it. We may know that it is available, and we may know that it is on the way; but it is another thing altogether to know that it is here. It could be available but not come to us. It could be on the way but encounter a roadblock.

God is not just potential Help or Help who might arrive—He is already on the scene. The child of God never has trouble in which the Lord is not present, ready to help. He dwells among His people in their midst. He is with us even now.

God has always desired to be among His people. He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden before they sinned. He manifested Himself to Abraham. He dwelled with His people in the tabernacle and later the temple. Jesus Christ Himself is the fulfillment of the temporary dwelling places God made use of. John 1:14 tells us that “the Word became flesh and dwelt [tabernacled or pitched His tent] among us.”

Knowledge of God’s presence should encourage us. His river makes the city of God glad. He was with Joseph in the midst of all his trials (Gen. 39:2-3, 21, 23). God’s promise of His presence encouraged Moses and Joshua and the returned exiles who rebuilt the temple (Ex. 3:12, Josh. 1:5, Hag. 1:13; 2:4). God has also promised to be with believers today. Jesus Christ, when charging His disciples with the Great Commission, told us, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). The unchanging one, Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, has promised never to leave us so we can say with boldness and confidence, “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:6).

This God dwells with you if you are a believer. He dwells in a special way in the midst of His called-out ones, His church. If you are trusting in Him today, you can be encouraged that God is with you, a very present Help in trouble. Our Help is here.

Conclusion

It is a great encouragement when needed help arrives. But the help of God is far greater and more necessary than any human help we may need. We all need God’s help every day in the troubles of this life. We are tempted to fear and worry when the circumstances we face seem like the earth shaking and mountains falling into the sea. When things threaten to change life as we know it, we need the help of God to survive the storm. It may come. Things may change. But God, the only source of stability in unstable times, is unchangeable.

The sixteenth-century Reformer and German pastor Martin Luther wrote a famous hymn based on this psalm. We know it as “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Luther faced many trials from the world and the devil as well as his own flesh. It is written of Luther that,

In the darkest times he used to say, “Come, let us sing the 46th Psalm, and let them do their worst. He says, “We sing this Psalm to the praise of God, because God is with us, and powerfully and miraculously preserves and defends his church and his word, against all fanatical spirits, against the gates of hell, against the implacable hatred of the devil, and against all the assaults of the world, the flesh and sin. 1

God’s help is promised to His people forever. But there are those who will not survive storms and calamity and judgment. Friend, if you are not looking to Christ today, you are in trouble and great danger. You do not know when you will draw your last breath. God will judge all people with His perfect justice. He requires perfect obedience to His commands, but we have all failed in this regard. The penalty for such an offense against the infinitely high dignity of God is eternal, conscious torment in hell. Yet because of His great love, God sent His Son Jesus, who perfectly fulfilled the requirements of His holy law to take our punishment if we trust Him. If you forsake your sin and efforts to make yourself acceptable to God and simply trust in the One who has done the work for you, you will find a very present help in trouble.

Are you facing fear and anxiety? “God is our refuge and strength, avery present help in trouble” (v. 1). Our Help is here. Are you discouraged? Our Help is here. Are you tempted? Our Help is here.

Uncertain, unstable times should serve as a reminder to look to the certain, stable, faithful God. “Be still, and know that [He is] God” (Ps. 46:10). He can be trusted. He is our refuge and strength. Encourage one another with this truth from Psalm 46—our Help is here.

Notes:

1. William S. Plumer, Psalms: a Critical and Expository Commentary with Doctrinal and Practical Remarks – Geneva Series Commentary (Carlisle, PA: the Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), 522-523.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Training Pastors in the Local Church: Church-Based Seminaries (Part 4 of 7)

By Doug Smith

So far in this series, we have considered one-on-one mentoring and internships as avenues for training men for pastoral ministry in the context of the local church. In this article we will contemplate the idea of church-based seminaries.

A church-based seminary differs from what is now known as a more traditional seminary in several ways. A church-based seminary is directly accountable to one local congregation, whereas the seminary’s accountability may be to multiple churches or to a denomination. A church-based seminary will be smaller than most well-known seminaries. This usually means a better student-teacher ratio and more interaction out of the classroom. It may mean less library resources are available to students, but this gap may be overcome in churches with large collections or in churches located close to major traditional seminaries. One can expect cost of tuition at a church-based seminary to be less than most traditional schools.

Church-based seminaries may or may not be accredited by a regional organization (tuition fees will probably reflect this, but not necessarily). Church-based seminaries may or may not exclusively employ their own church staff as instructors; some provide classes with professors from other churches or schools. For example, The Midwest Center for Theological Studies, in addition to faculty from their own church (such as Dr. Sam Waldron and Dr. Richard Barcellos), have utilized professors such as Drs. Tom Nettles, Tedd Tripp, and Don Whitney to teach semester-long or intensive modular courses.

Considerations for Churches and Pastors Hoping to Start a Church-Based Seminary

For a church to begin a church-based seminary, there must be clear agreement. The pastor(s) and the congregation must be in harmony and see this as a legitimate extension of the command to train others in 2 Timothy 2:2. They must agree that this ministry is desirable and helpful.

The pastor(s) and church must also agree on what the church-based seminary should accomplish. This may take some time to pray through, talk through, and hammer out (although it should be the heartbeat of the pastor(s) and then presented to the congregation). Should it only train students for the ministry? Should it be accredited to give their graduates more of a credential than they might otherwise get? If seeking accreditation, what agency should one go with (a regional one that accredits secular schools as well, or an agency that only accredits religious schools)?

Who will lead the school? How will the pastor be involved?

Should it train students from the home church only, or open it up to others? What kind of standards will be required for admission? How will you handle students who fail academically or morally?

What kind of curriculum, resources, and faculty will it utilize? What a church decides about accreditation will factor in to these considerations. Will multiple degrees be offered? Will languages be required? Will all requirements for the degree be met through the program or will students be allowed to transfer credits? Is there a substantive library available on site or nearby (especially if the church is near a large traditional seminary or religious graduate school)? What will be the requirements for those who teach, including doctrinal and ecclesiastical commitments, as well as the amount and quality of pastoral and/or teaching experience and educational credentials?

Will separate facilities be needed for instruction or will it suffice to adapt present classrooms?

How will the school be funded? Does the church have a budget to help subsidize it (particularly in the first few years until it gets “off the ground,” if that is the intention)? Are there businessmen or donors who want to help underwrite such an effort? How will tuition and fees paid by students or their sponsors figure in to the financing of the education? Will any financial aid or scholarships be available for students?

What ministry opportunities will you provide for students?

Question for Prospective Students of a Church-Based Seminary

Are your beliefs substantially the same as the church? Is it somewhere you could recommend to others or a place of the type you would feel comfortable serving in some day? In a church-based seminary you will be more immersed into one particular church and its beliefs more deeply than you would be in a traditional seminary. If there is not a high degree of compatibility and theological affinity, it will be a long, hard road, or you may be bailing out (or kicked out) early.

What are you hoping to do with your degree? Some church-based seminaries will offer more one-on-one time with professors, but if the school is not accredited, one may not be able to use the degree in obtaining future education. If your goal is the Ph.D. program, or if you aspire to teach in an accredited college, graduate school, or seminary, you may want to take accreditation and the rigor of the program into account, as well as the credentials and ministry experience of the teachers.

If you do not believe your ultimate goals would be met by a church-based school and are still interested in having some of your education from such a setting, find out if courses transfer to the school of your choice. I have taken classes from a church-based seminary that I am not pursuing my degree through, because of a goal I have. However, the caliber of professors and courses they offer are just as good as a traditional seminary and they transferred to my school (and the cost of tuition was less).

What is the cost? How does it compare to a traditional school you might also consider? Are there scholarships or financial aid you can use (either from the church seminary or from other sources)?

What is the schedule? How might this work for you in the short term and long term?

Does the school have a good teacher/student ratio?

What ministry opportunities will be available to you through the school?

Have you visited the seminary, spoken to graduates, and received recommendations for this option from leaders you trust?

If you are at a church that has a seminary and are thinking about theological education and have been encouraged by your church to pursue it, are you thinking about the option right in front of you, with people you are already organically connected to?

Examples of Church-Based Seminaries

Thankfully, there are those who have blazed this trail already. Those who are considering starting a church-based seminary would do well to learn from some already in existence – some for decades. The mention of a school or church is not an unqualified endorsement, but those considering such education may want to look at schools such as those below.

The Bethlehem Institute – a ministry of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary – a ministry of Inter-City Baptist Church, Allen Park, Michigan

The Master’s Seminary – a ministry of Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California

The Midwest Center for Theological Studies – a ministry of Heritage Baptist Church, Owensboro, Kentucky

Shepherds Theological Seminary – a ministry of Colonial Baptist Church, Cary, North Carolina

Reformed Baptist Seminary – a ministry of Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Easley, South Carolina

In the next installment of this series, we will look at ways churches can partner with other churches or ministries to provide theological education in the context of the local church.

What do you think? Do you know of some other churches training pastors through a church-based seminary or academy? What are some other things churches and students should consider when contemplating this type of model?

OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES

Friday, November 14, 2008

Training Pastors in the Local Church: Internships (Part 3 of 7)

by Doug Smith

(This article was originally published at Said at Southern.)

In my last article on training pastors in the local church, we looked at one-on-one mentoring, where a pastor takes an aspiring pastor under his wing. This is the most direct way of training men in the context of the local church. However, it is not the only way. Another good way to train pastors is through an internship.

An internship can and should overlap with one-on-one mentoring, but factors that generally distinguish an internship are a defined purpose, length, and funding.

The internship needs a definite purpose, which may be broad or specific. For example, a “pastoral ministry” internship could have interns doing and observing, as well as reading and listening to, all sorts of things in relation to the pastorate. An internship can also fill a gap or focus on a specific area. For example, Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, provides a five-month, intensive “ecclesiological internship” that focuses on the local church through extensive reading, writing, discussion, and observation. Other internships may call for more participation. I am currently an intern with the New England Center for Expository Preaching. A core component of the internship is preparing and delivering expository messages week after week.

In regard to length, internships can be for a summer, a semester, or otherwise agreed upon amount of time.

Interns need to food to eat and a place to live, so funding is a critical component of an internship. While it is conceivable that some internships could work without a stipend, let’s face it: most men seeking a theological education can’t afford several weeks or months with no income. And it is hard to hold down a job and derive much benefit from an intensive internship at the same time, since interns need to sleep. So, internships tend to provide housing and some sort of income on a weekly or monthly basis, although some require students to hold down a secular job. A church can fund an internship if it has a large enough budget. Another option is for an individual or business to underwrite the stipend of an intern or interns.

Providing an Internship

For churches, pastors, or others seeking to provide ministry internships, there are several matters to consider, but they will all be grounded in the purpose of the internship.

Who will lead this program? Will the senior pastor, an associate pastor or other elder, or some combination of the pastoral staff? (It is probably most beneficial when all are involved, but having one person primarily responsible for an intern is helpful.)

What is the focus? Will it be broad, covering many facets of pastoral ministry, or will you focus on one or two specific areas, such as ecclesiology, preaching, or counseling?

Will the internship be a supplement to a seminary education or a part of an exclusively church-based model? If a supplement to seminary education, one could seek to fill in gaps by providing more in-depth training for areas in which students and schools may be weak. In some instances, one can partner with a seminary to provide applied ministry or supervised ministry experience credit toward a degree. Consider when the internship would work best: before entering seminary, during seminary, or after seminary (or any of those times).

Will your internship be more focused on observation or active ministry, or will it be a combination of both? Will the intern be allowed to sit in on leadership meetings? Will he be allowed to preach sermons in the church or teach a Sunday School class? Will you have reading or course requirements for the intern prior to his arrival? Consider implementing standards for accountability and assessment of the intern in assignments he is called to fulfill (time log, guidelines for response papers, evaluation forms for sermons/lessons, final de-briefing, etc.). It should be clear what the intern should be walking away with: improved skills in one or more ministry areas, more of a first-hand idea of what it is like to be a pastor, a more Biblical understanding of the local church, etc.

Will you aim to train men in your own congregation, men from churches in your association or denomination, or theological students at large? Will you have educational requirements (high school, bachelor’s degree, enrollment in seminary, etc.)? How will you screen the applicants (application form, phone interviews, checking references, etc.)? Will the internship be more suited to singles than husbands and fathers? Will it be too intensive for dads to fulfill their responsibilities in the home?

How will you publicize your internship? Obviously, if it is limited to men in your own local church, this is not a major issue, and might be most prudently spread by word of mouth. However, if you have a broader audience in mind, consider maintaining a website and sending information to various likeminded seminaries or Bible colleges.

How long will your internship run? This may depend on the availability of the one running the program as well as the church calendar. If partnering with a seminary for applied ministry credit, the school’s requirements may also factor in to this decision. A summer-only program may be better suited to some churches. Others may be able to have interns for two semesters or all year-round.

How will you fund the internship? Funding is important on several fronts, from how it will impact the interns (and possibly limit who can come because of financial reasons) as well as whether you will be able to have multiple interns at once. If you are a pastor and your church has a large enough budget, consider teaching on the importance of training other men and explain that an internship is a practical way to do that, as you seek to enlist the congregation to partner with you to provide such an opportunity. If you are a business owner or leader, consider helping make an internship possible for future pastors, particularly for churches where a godly leader would like to train others but cannot afford to fund an internship at the present.

However you proceed with an internship, be sure that requirements and expectations are clear up front for all involved or this could be an experience your intern and church would like to forget. The old adage “to fail to plan is to plan to fail” should be heeded here. Producing a syllabus is one way to help ensure that you are not failing to plan.

Finally, an internship, at least in the beginning, should probably be considered to be a fairly fluid thing, always a work in progress. Whether starting from scratch or adapting another model, sensitivity to the particularities of the local context of the internship is prudent. Certain programs work where they work because of the context of their church as well as who is working them and whom they serve. Your education, experience, church, and students may have different needs, so you should structure and plan the internship accordingly. This may mean being willing to change some things mid-stream if needed, but it definitely means a post-internship evaluation is in order, by the intern and those who have overseen the internship (and possibly others who have had contact with him or sat under his ministry during that time). Over time, your internship can take on a shape that is more rigid. Reminding your interns that they are helping set the pace and pave the way for future interns is a good way to help them partake in the program with an eye toward future improvements.

Participating in an Internship

Students considering an internship must also think seriously about the matter. Asking the following questions can help in gathering necessary information.

What is my motive for pursuing this internship? Have I prayed concerning this potential opportunity? How will this particular internship help train me for ministry? How will it make me a more useful pastor? Will it glorify God for me to participate in this program?

What does the internship require? Have I met or am I working toward meeting the prerequisites?

What does my pastor recommend? What do my professors and trusted friends recommend?

What stage of life I am in? What does my wife think? Will I be able to spend adequate time with her and my children? What kind of arrangements are there for income and housing? Will I be able to maintain adequate income with the stipend? Will I be a full-time intern, or will I have to hold down a job at the same time? If I have health insurance, will I be able to maintain it?

How is the timing in relation to my theological education? Will I receive credit for the program (not the most important issue, but not an unimportant one if one is in the midst of a degree)? Is now the best time or should I wait?

Have I talked to interns who have gone through the program? Have I shared with them my situation and desire? What do they advise?

If one determines that a particular internship is right, then preparation is in order. Contact the appropriate people and offices. Apply early – some internships have waiting lists and encourage applying at least one year before the desired semester. And come prepared not only to receive, but to give. Come with the mindset that you are training to be more useful to the people of God and to be an encouragement to those you are placed around during your internship setting. Take assignments and opportunities seriously and thank God for providing training that not everyone is privileged to receive.

Patterns and Possibilities for Internships

Both those who are interested in offering internships and those who are interested in participating in internships would do well to take a look at some of the programs already in existence. Here are links to a few:

In my next article, I will examine the concept of church-based seminaries as another way to train pastors in the local church.

Doug Smith is blessed to be the husband of Krystal and father of three daughters. He is a

What do you think?

Are there other aspects that one should consider about offering or taking part in an internship? What are some other churches and ministries that offer internships relating to pastoral ministry?

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Training Pastors in the Local Church: One-on-One Mentoring (Part 2 of 7)

by Doug Smith

(This article originally appeared at Said at Southern.)

The most direct way of training men in the context of the local church is through mentoring.

One on one mentoring can be one of the most rewarding methods of training others. It may possibly be the most difficult as well. It involves an investing, or pouring, of one’s life into another. It involves some vulnerability, because to truly mentor someone means that you are opening your life to scrutiny – which you have already done to some degree if you are a pastor. While meeting to discuss a book is one good way to mentor, effective mentoring will involve more immersion in ministry – both watching and doing. When a pastor invites a man in training to travel with him to minister, to attend elders’ meetings (if the church has a plurality of elders), and gives opportunities to serve and speak (all while providing helpful feedback), he is cultivating a good mentoring relationship.

In the mentoring process, the pastor should encourage the student to pay close attention to his life and doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16). If a pastor must make himself a bit more vulnerable to mentor, the student must be sure to cultivate a teachable spirit. While the pastor should be careful and tactful – yet truthful and helpful – with his feedback, the student must be capable of receiving encouragement and critique in the right manner.

Several factors play into the feasibility of establishing a mentoring relationship, but they center on the mentoring pastor and the student. Looking at these factors will help determine to some degree how compatible, available, and profitable a potential mentoring relationship may be.

Pastors or others considering a mentoring relationship will need to examine their commitments – in theory and practice. This will help them decide whether they are available for this type of relationship and, if so, to what extent. Depending on one’s setting, there may be seasons of pastoral ministry that make an intensive mentoring relationship impossible (apart from neglecting legitimate family and church commitments). However, that does not mean that no informal mentoring is possible. Pastors and churches must see 2 Timothy 2:2 as part of the mandate for pastoral ministry, and seek to make that a reality. It has been well said that pastors should not be considered as being like the apostle Paul if they do not have a Timothy.

Delegating duties that do not properly belong to the pastor is one step that can be taken to freeing a busy pastor. For example, if a pastor of a small church is responsible for secretarial duties, could there not be a member who could volunteer time to process office paperwork and print the bulletins? If the church has a plurality of elders, one elder could specialize in mentoring, although it would be even better if each elder could mentor a student.

The pastor, of course, should always seek to be a model of that he teaches, paying close attention to his own life and doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16). When men make shipwrecks of their ministry, the church is hurt. But the closer one is to ground zero, the more damage is sustained. The student will be deeply hurt by a mentor’s fall. If one is not modeling attention to right living and teaching, one is not in a position to be a mentor (or pastor). This does not mean that one must be perfect, but that he must be serious about his own sanctification if he is to help train another man.

The student seeking a mentor also has several matters to consider. A student must examine his own commitments and availability. Being committed and available at the local church should be expected of church members, and students are no exception. Single men may have more opportunities to be intensively mentored, since financial and family commitments are usually less demanding for them than for husbands and fathers. Yet, men who have less availability usually have some availability. Informal, less frequent mentoring is far better than none.

The student should seek a pastor that he truly wants to learn from. The motive should not be to impress the pastor and network oneself into the right circles in hopes of getting a job. The motive should be to seek to be a better servant of Christ by learning from one who has gone down that path a bit farther already. The student should seek a man who is completely committed to the Scriptures and the Gospel of salvation only through Jesus Christ. In addition to healthy doctrine, the student must look for a godly man, whose life is shaped by that doctrine. The student need not agree with the pastor on every nuance of theology, but there must be some basic agreement and there must be respect for him. Otherwise, the mentoring experience will likely go sour.

Ideally, the student could be mentored by his own pastor. Yet, especially in large churches, this may not be possible. In such a situation, another church leader or godly man who knows and lives the Scriptures would be options to consider. In these matters, the student may need to exercise pro-activity – without being pushy. He can make the first move by asking the prospective mentor for a time to talk and share with him his desire to learn from him.

There are other situations where neither the pastor nor anyone other potential mentors are available (or even interested). Here the student may be able to find a godly mentor in a pastor of another ministry, but will need to carefully consider how this may impact his involvement in his own local church. In this scenario, less-intensive mentoring may actually increase the student’s fruitfulness in his own local church. But if the mentoring relationship draws one increasingly away from his own local church, it might be time to change churches so one is actually committed to the people he is spending time with, or it might be better to scale back the relationship with the mentor.

If a pastor and student determine that there is sufficient compatibility and availability for a profitable mentoring relationship, then they will need to decide how they will proceed. Will the student shadow the pastor on most of his ministry activity? How frequently will they meet? Will there be ministry opportunities for the student along with feedback from the pastor? The details can be worked out and adapted to their situation.

Both pastor and student will need to evaluate the mentoring relationship from time to time. Is it going somewhere? Is the pastor able to actually provide some helpful training by teaching and/or example? Is the student teachable and learning? Have other circumstances arisen since beginning the relationship that make a modification necessary (whether by increasing or decreasing the intensiveness or even terminating the relationship)?

The potential flexibility of a mentoring approach has great advantages. It can be somewhere on the spectrum between formal and informal. The student could be a staff member, such as an associate pastor or pastoral assistant. He could also be a non-staff church member or a senior pastor of another church. Mentoring does not have to be structured in the same way as a degree program, and it can (and probably should) be combined with other avenues of obtaining theological instruction, providing extra safeguards and reinforcement to the student. The approach chosen should be carefully and prayerfully considered and adapted as needed.

In my next article, I will examine the idea of the internship as a way to train pastors in the local church.

What do you think? Are there other aspects to mentoring that should be considered when thinking how to train pastors in the local church?

OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Training Pastors in the Local Church: Introduction and Overview (Part 1 of 7)

by Doug Smith

(This article was originally published at Said at Southern.)

The church is called “a pillar and buttress of truth” (1 Tim. 3:15 ESV). The model of theological training presented in the Scriptures is one that directly involves the local church, particularly as qualified men train others to teach others (2 Tim. 2:2).

I began seminary classes in the Spring of 2007, by distance education. I am not very far along in the M.Div. program as yet, having completed only 14 semester hours. My status is still that of an Internet student, but I did enjoy my first on-campus class this past summer in a one-week module. I am hoping in the near future to move closer to Louisville or one of the extension centers for Southern Seminary.

Even before beginning seminary, I was beginning to see the importance of theological education being solidly anchored in the local church. This is a conviction that has only increased. I have had numerous conversations with others about this topic (including SBTS blogger, graduate, and Ph.D. student Matthew Wireman, who has given much thought to this matter as well). I am encouraged that our school’s president, Dr. Albert Mohler, also desires to see churches become more involved in training pastors (see his recent article, “Training Pastors in the Church”).

This series will examine various ways that a local church can become involved in the training of pastors. These methods can (and often should) overlap, so they are not necessarily cut-and-dried approaches. However, they are a suggested starting point, especially for those thinking through this matter or seeking to implement church-based theological training of some sort. I submit these ideas to the reader, not as an expert on this concept, but as one who is zealous about this topic yet still thinking through these issues. My goal is to stimulate others to consider the place of the local church in training pastors and how they might encourage or participate in this noble task.

Five Models of Theological Education

There at least five models of theological education that can involve the local church in training pastors. I have listed them in order of most direct to least direct methods, although they can be combined and overlapped. The unifying theme of these ideas is that the church in some way, directly or indirectly, is attempting to take seriously the call to train pastors.

The first model, mentoring, involves a pastor pouring his life into an aspiring pastor, preferably over an extended period of time. Its central place in the diagram is fitting, since an ideal theological education would include this aspect along with other methods. The second model, the internship, would involve some mentoring, but it would be for a more defined period of time and likely be in a group setting. The third model is a church-based seminary, where the school is a direct extension of the ministry of one particular church. Churches could also partner with other churches or ministries to combine forces to offer training (the fourth model). The fifth model is the traditional seminary that is accountable to churches. Not all traditional seminaries are accountable to local churches, and I would argue that such institutions would, in effect, overstep their bounds and assume a task that they cannot legitimately claim.

I personally have benefited in some measure from a mentoring relationship, a church-based seminary, a ministry which partners with churches to train pastors, and a traditional seminary accountable to local churches. My articles, in part, will draw on my interpretation of these experiences, but will also point the reader to specific examples of these sorts of models. The final article will give some practical suggestions on thinking through and implementing church-based theological education, to help us apply a biblical approach to training pastors.

What do you think? Are there some other ways to anchor pastoral training in the local church?

OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Matthew 16:13-20 Sermon: The Identity Question (Who Is Jesus?)

November 2, 2008 - Crosspointe Community Church, Hudson, NH (church website) - Sermon on Matthew 16:13-20, "The Identity Question (Who Is Jesus?)" (audio)