July 17, 2009 by C.J. Mahaney
For the next two weeks I have the joy of creating a memory-making blast
while on vacation with my family in Tennessee. I anticipate the blog being silent (unless something remarkable occurs in the world of sports and demands my immediate public response).
For two Sundays I’ll have the privilege to teach at Cornerstone Church of Knoxville
(July 26 and August 2). And speaking of speaking, right after returning home from my vacation I’ll have the privilege of participating in the WorshipGod09 conference
hosted by my friend Bob Kauflin (Aug. 5–8). Maybe I’ll see you there!
I’ll resume blogging once I return from the family vacation in a couple of weeks.
I am humbled that you read this blog and hope in some small way it serves you.
July 16, 2009 by Tony Reinke
Since January, C.J. has interviewed 17 pastors and leaders, some of whom you’ve heard of, many of whom you haven’t. Each of the men answered a series of 14 questions on topics ranging from personal devotion habits, books and reading, helpful counsel that improved their preaching and leadership, to specific areas of personal discouragement, leisure, and the like.
The initial series featured men like Wayne Grudem, John Piper, and Randy Alcorn. In the inaugural post of the series, C.J. wrote:
Over the years many pastors, leaders, and authors who have influenced my life have also become my friends. I marvel at and am humbled by this fact. And while I am always eager to promote these men and draw attention to their writings and teachings, too often these friends are known primarily for their public ministry.
I know from personal experience that these men have much to teach us from their private lives. So on this blog I want to occasionally interview these men, ask them questions to draw out their personal example, and introduce you to a private side of them you possibly have not seen.
To date C.J. has interviewed the following eight men:
Meet “Ordinary” Pastors
The initial series was expanded to include interviews with “ordinary” pastors, men serving in local churches within Sovereign Grace Ministries. In the series introduction C.J. wrote:
Pastoral ministry should never be romanticized. It is heavy labor. One hour in the pulpit is like eight hours with a jackhammer.…These men labor diligently and faithfully each day serving those entrusted to their care. But there is nothing ordinary about these men (or anyone serving in pastoral ministry).…These extra-ordinary men are my heroes, men I deeply love and respect, men I seek to learn from.
To learn from their pastoral experience, C.J. interviewed the following nine “ordinary” pastors:
Although these interviews were primarily developed for the benefit of other pastors, in many ways they are relevant to the lives of all Christians. The interviews are all indexed together here in hopes of making them more accessible.
Welcome back to the conclusion of my interview with Billy Raies, senior pastor of Christian Life Center in Midland, Texas. You can read part one here
and part two here
Billy, what single bit of counsel has made the most significant difference in your leadership?
My precious dad would often tell me—and model for me—the phrase, “they won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” As such, I pray that the counsel of the following portions of Scripture will become living realities in my leadership: “he who has been forgiven much loves much” (Luke 7:47); “greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friend” (John 15:13); “they will know you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:35); and “Do you love Me? … feed my sheep” (John 21:17).
Where in ministry are you most regularly tempted to discouragement?
In my personal life there are two.
The first is in the realm of my deficiencies and sins that contend with my being the husband and dad that I aspire to be. When everything is said and done, I would love it if my wife and boys could say that I was a better husband and father than I was a pastor.
I battle with the second area on Sunday afternoons in replaying the morning’s preaching and witness over in my mind. I can bounce back and forth between being dissatisfied in the sense of practical ways that I could have done better versus being discouraged over my “performance” and how others might have perceived me. The war between wanting to instruct vs. wanting to impress can be fierce and discouraging. Now you know why I am reading Lou Priolo’s book Pleasing People!
In my pastoral life, nothing breaks my heart like a broken family, and nothing thrills me more than to see a family restored by the gospel and reflecting the gospel through their marriage.
Do you exercise? If so, what do you do? If not, why not? (Please be specific.)
Is it a sign of sinful pride to be defensive in giving an answer? Here is my specific answer…I am currently not exercising. My reason? I guess it would be laziness, love of ease, and now that you have me thinking about it, apparently a lack of love for my family in being a better steward of my health. Ouch. Why don’t we go to the next question... this is starting to look like what an ordinary pastor should not
Currently, what sport do you like to play and/or watch?
I play about 6–8 rounds of golf a year depending on schedule, who may be visiting from out of town, and whether or not it is baseball season for my sons (they refuse to play golf with me then because they don’t want to mess up their baseball swing!). The only other times I play is when I am practicing baseball with them or helping coach basketball. I enjoy watching baseball, basketball, and football during the post season and championships.
What do you do for leisure?
I love the mountains and fishing, but don’t get to do either often. This other answer may sound pretty corny, but I derive a great deal of joy out of the laughter of Jan and the boys and still get a thrill out of holding my wife’s hand.
If you were not in ministry, what occupational path would you have chosen?
Childhood dream: major league baseball player.
In the real world: If I were not a pastor I think I would have ended up teaching high school or jr. high and coaching baseball.
Billy, I’m grateful for the joy you derive from the laughter of your wife and thrill you still receive from holding her hand. Thanks for your example as a husband, father, and pastor.
Welcome back to my interview with Billy Raies, senior pastor of Christian Life Center in Midland, Texas. You can read part one here
Billy, if you could study under any theologian in church history (excluding those men in Scripture) who would it be and why?
When I read Lectures to My Students
I found myself wanting to enroll in his Pastors College. I wanted to learn how to examine each text and find in it a short cut to Christ and the cross. I so appreciate his courage to stand up for the gospel in the Downgrade Controversy, including his resignation and then censure from the Baptist Union. It would have been something to watch the life of a man who stayed true to biblical conviction and Christ-centered preaching even though there was not necessarily an immediate “reward” for taking such a stand. How awesome it would have been to observe a man who lived for the glory of God and not the approval of man. Providential history would vindicate the righteousness of his stand, but Spurgeon would not live to see it.
There would be so much to learn from a man who truly believed that the Lord was his inheritance and that honoring him was its own reward. His example motivates me to learn more about how sound doctrine should mold my demeanor. I long for a greater display of joy and grace during times of trial. Dear Mr. Spurgeon’s life has helped me much in that pursuit.
What single piece of counsel (or constructive criticism) has most improved your preaching?
Please allow me to use the dinner table to illustrate the most constructive criticism that I have received about my preaching.
Do you know how you feel when you have overeaten? Each course of the meal may have been fantastic, but there was just too much of it. The result is that you are left feeling lethargic—definitely not energized to turn the world upside down. Others have helped me to see that one of my biggest problems in serving God’s Word to our church is that I just try to serve too much of it in one sitting. (In fact, too often, just the appetizer, or introduction, has been a meal in itself in either being too long or too extensive a review of the prior message, or an introduction layered on top of another introduction!)
One of the best reminders to help me avoid this error was provided by Jeff Purswell who said,
…we can misconstrue the preaching task as primarily or exclusively one of data transfer…the goal of preaching is not informational, it’s transformational. Your goal is not downloading data to your people, but exposing them to the text so the text can transform their lives.
Thank you so much Jeff!
This has helped me pray that folks would leave our services satisfied in God, hungry for more, and strengthened to do his will.
What books on preaching, or examples of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?
The Supremacy of God in Preaching
by John Piper. It always brings fresh inspiration to communicate God’s Word with the precision, passion, and prayerfulness that the text demands and deserves.
Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Preaching
has been very helpful in framing the structure and focus of the sermon.
The one sermon that has most influenced my sermons is Mike Bullmore’s “The Functional Centrality of the Gospel.”
This message wonderfully envisioned me to see the need for my sermons to contain not only the saving aspects of the gospel, but also the sustaining, day-to-day applications of the gospel.
What single bit of counsel has made the most significant difference in your effective use of time?
Arrrghhh! Oh to be more skilled in the effective use of time! I was very much helped when I first entered vocational ministry in hearing a pastor say, “In all of your praying, don’t forget that the best posture for administrating the church is upon your knees. There should be a proportional relationship between prayer and the number of items on your to-do list. Don’t minimize your prayer time when your projects are demanding that you maximize their time.”
Simple thoughts such as “if you are going to add a new responsibility, you need to either drop, delegate, or delay an existing responsibility”
and “do the tasks that most intimidate your soul early in the morning after prayer”
have been helpful.
C.J., I would encourage everyone to read your posts on biblical productivity
(time management, procrastination, etc.) as they are outstanding.
Thanks for the encouragement, Billy. I appreciate it.
Please join me next time for the third and final part of my interview with my friend Billy Raies.
July 8, 2009 by C.J. Mahaney
Categories: Interviews | Reading
Meet Billy Raies.
Billy has served as the senior pastor of Christian Life Center
in Midland, Texas, for 16 years. Billy and his wife, Jan, have been married for 23 years and have three sons: Will (17), Micah (15), and Joshua (11).
So what did his father teach him about pastoral ministry? And in what ways does he struggle with discouragement as a husband, father, and pastor? Let’s find out.
Hello, Billy! Please describe your morning devotions. What time do you wake up in the morning? How much time do you spend reading, meditating, praying, etc.? What are you presently reading?
In the words of that “great” theologian Dennis the Menace, “I love the mornings because the day has not been used yet!”
In order to try to use my day well, I wake up anywhere between 5:15 to 7:00, depending on the day.
My morning devotions currently utilize D.A. Carson’s For the Love of God
as well as Anthony Selvaggio’s A Proverbs Driven Life
. Carson’s book helps me in two ways. It helps me see the bigger picture, or the panorama of God’s character and man’s need for God by reading larger chunks of Scripture each day. In addition, Carson helps me focus and meditate on a more specific point of Scripture through the devotional he provides each day on one of the chapters. Selvaggio’s book is helping me spend more thoughtful time in Proverbs as my heart is feeling the weight of the need for much more wisdom as a husband, a dad, and a pastor.
While reading the chunks of Scripture, I try to make a journal note of recurring themes (for about 20 minutes). When I focus on the one chapter of Scripture, I try to spend about half my time reading and journaling about the passage (10–15 minutes), and the other half of my time praying specifically in response to those Scriptures (10–15 minutes). I take the rest of the time (approx. 30 minutes) to pray for my wife and sons, for our church (both individual people and mission), and for specific folks that I have recently met in our community who do not appear to know the love of Christ.
By the time I start “using the day” I hope to do so with a thankful and compassionate heart.
What book(s) are you currently reading in these three categories: (a) for your soul, (b) for pastoral ministry, or (c) for personal enjoyment?
(A) For my soul: Pleasing People: How Not to Be An ‘Approval Junkie’
by Lou Priolo to help me steer clear from the constant snares of the fear of man.
(B) For pastoral ministry: Finally Alive
by John Piper out of concern for the people that live in our region of the country. There is such a skewed idea of what it means to be a Christian and this book is stirring me to be a better steward of the gospel as well as to pray for what best might be called an “awakening” unto salvation for all those who are presumptively saved rather than biblically saved. In addition I am re-reading The Deliberate Church
by Mark Dever to better grasp and implement a healthy church structure in union with healthy church doctrine. I am also reading How People Change
by Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp in accord with an ongoing desire to help the church apply the Scriptures to their lives. We want them to be able to put tennis shoes on sound doctrine so that they can run with it!
(C) For enjoyment: The good ol’ sports page.
Apart from Scripture, what book do you most frequently re-read and why?
There are several that I have re-read: Spiritual Leadership
by J. Oswald Sanders. I come away freshly convicted and inspired to guard the deposit that has been entrusted to me through my reading, prayer, associations, use of time, pursuit of humility, discipleship, etc. It is written in a devotional style, is fast moving and helps me quickly remember the many facets of godly leadership.
A Gospel Primer for Christians
by Milton Vincent. This has been such a wonderful little book to help me preach the gospel to myself every day.
Love That Lasts
by Gary and Betsy Ricucci. Since it was first published, this wonderful book has helped keep me more gospel centered in my marriage and counseling.
by Donald Whitney. We just took the church through this study and it has to be one of the most helpful books to re-read so as to promote enduring intimacy with God.
When you finish a book, what system have you developed in order to remember and reference that book in the future?
I don’t have much of a system. I use the margins to create my own “important points outline” to help me recall what I have learned, points of conviction, places where I need to make application, cross ref. Scriptures, highlight quotes and their themes, etc.
Join me next time for the second part of my interview with my friend, Billy Raies.
July 1, 2009 by C.J. Mahaney
Categories: Preaching | Proverbs
As the book of Song of Solomon is a unique gift for married couples, the book of Proverbs is a unique gift for parents and children. For preachers looking to use the summer months to preach this unique book, here are a few tools that may be useful.
Preaching Proverbs in Calvary’s Shadow
It can be difficult to balance the call to obedience with the cross-centered life. Yet that is what William Arnot accomplishes in the final chapter of his old commentary on Proverbs, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth (published in 1873). The final chapter, “Faith and Obedience—Work and Rest,” models this balance well and I commend it to you.
You can read or download the entire commentary for free online. But you can download the isolated chapter I mention as a PDF here (0.9MB).
Of importance to the preacher of Proverbs is getting a handle on a few recurring themes and character developments featured in the book (i.e. wisdom, folly, discernment, understanding, knowledge). Derek Kidner’s excellent commentary will certainly help here.
I also recommend a newer commentary on Proverbs by John A. Kitchen (Mentor, 2006). In the appendix of his commentary, Kitchen has written a very useful systemization and summary of the path of the righteous and the path of the fool (pp. 727–736). Kitchen uses three graphics to distinguish the two paths and the several steps along the way.
The explanations behind these charts are developed in the commentary appendix. And the editors of Christian Focus have granted us permission to post the entire appendix here as a downloadable PDF (2.4MB).
Summer Series Outline
Due to its structure, the book of Proverbs is difficult to preach expositionally from beginning to end. The book lends itself to topical exposition, a feature that makes it a suitable text for preaching during the summer months.
Sovereign Grace Church in Fairfax, Virginia, is using the summer to preach a ten-week series on Proverbs. The pastors have divided the first nine chapters by topic (I was honored to participate in the series by preaching the second message).
FEAR GOD (1:1-7)
HEAR (8:1, 32)
The church printed full-color bookmarks to outline the series and, as you will see, to capture the series as an opportunity to encourage and equip the church to interpret the book of Proverbs for themselves. Here is the graphic they used for the series:
So these are a few tools of note as you preach Proverbs, or as you consider a future series in the book. I hope you find them helpful.