This post was written by Michael Kinion, one of our pastoral Residents. It originally appeared here.
Around 12:30 AM on Saturday, August 6th, I was awoken by a call from my mother telling me that my niece was sick and my sister was taking her to the emergency room to have her looked at. Just a few minutes later I received another call letting me know things had taken a turn for the worst and they were starting to do compressions on my niece. After this call I went to another room and just fell down on the rug and started praying incoherent prayers. I could not collect a thought and for sure could not verbalize a thought so I just begged God to spare my niece’s life. After a short period of time, I received another call, this time from my sister.
I answered and asked what was going on but I already knew what this call meant. I dropped the phone and experienced the most sudden and intense grief I ever had. At 6 years old, my beautiful niece had passed away.
My wife and I, along with her parents who were visiting for the weekend, left around 1:30 AM to make the three and a half hour drive back to my hometown. During this drive my wife and I experienced an incredible dose of God’s grace as we reflected on the incredible, blessing-filled life of my niece. When we arrived at my sister’s house around 5:00 AM we expected to walk in to a devastating scene of family grieving. Luckily for us, most people were asleep or exhausted by this point so things were calm and quiet. So shortly after we arrived we laid down on the couch to get an hour and a half of sleep before waking up to the next day that would bring many questions and issues to deal with.
Now that I have set the scene for the weekend I will turn my focus to reflect on the beautiful things I saw and experienced during this terrible weekend. My hope is that one would read this and be able to find God’s glory in even the most tragic of events.
1. God Provides: The morning after arriving, I was woken up by my family discussing how we were going to pay for the costs of the funeral. This obviously wasn’t something that my sister and her husband were expecting, so they didn’t have money set aside to take care of expense like this. But within a few hours, the large majority of the costs and most of the plans were taken care of as a result of God’s provision and people’s kind generosity. We saw this trend continue throughout the next couple days as all of the planning and events went smoothly and without issue. But the most significant sign of God’s provision throughout this time was undoubtedly the sense of peace and comfort that God blessed our family with. It was a time full of grief and sorrow, but God made Himself known and provided comfort to a group of people in desperate need of it. Because of this, we were able to see God as the loving and comforting Father that He is and were spared from the false feeling of God being unjust for taking away someone that we loved.
2. Community is of Utter Importance: One of the best parts of the weekend was getting to see how family, friends and church family stepped in and served with love. Every minute of the day, someone was there visiting with the family or bringing food for everyone to eat. We truly got to see community in action. It made me reflect on the consistent effort of many churches to cultivate community. Sometimes cultivating community can feel forced or repetitive. But we’re not gathering together in small groups to just talk about a sermon or hangout. We are gathering together to build bonds that will help one another know each other and care for them in their darkest moments. The role the community surrounding our family played during this time is of insurmountable importance and helped constantly point us to God and His glory.
3. God is Good: Throughout the entirety of this weekend, my most consistent thought was that all theological discussions and attempts to correctly understand God’s word seem like they are drills preparing us for these moments. When all sense of peace seems to be lost, people are forced into the corner of bitterness OR God’s glory. This is why understanding the gospel is so important. When we experience tragedy we must be able to understand the gospel so that we can cling to the cross and know that God is good and that He defeated death so that we may live. A firm comprehension of the gospel also allows us to understand that God is holy and that His perfect will, will be done. Humans have a tendency to try and put themselves at the center of all things (especially during times of tragedy) but a solid understanding of the gospel helps us to step back and take a look at the big picture and realize that God is in control and we are here to see Him glorified, even if that means our ideas of what is good are stomped into the ground. When we process these realities, we are able to find rest in God’s comfort and celebrate a believer being delivered to glory.
This weekend was beyond question one of the most terrible weekends of my life up to this point. But God used a terrible event to show us his beauty, grace and glory. He took a broken situation and used it to remind us that He is beautiful and that He is faithful to us even when it does not look the way we want it to. I will forever mourn the loss of my beautiful niece, but will always be able to look back at this weekend and remember how God was faithful to me and my family.
This post is written by one of our Pastoral Residents, Austin Burgard.
It is said that whenever Christians gather you know there will be food. Ask any Southern Baptist about their after-service potluck and you’ll hear stories about how they ate so much of Miss May’s sweet apple pie that they thought they were going to explode. Are these kinds of food wrong? Sinful? By no means! But, as Christians, I believe that we have taken advantage of the freedom we have in Christ to enjoy all things, including all foods (1 Timothy 6:17; Mark 7:19). And in doing so, we’ve been desensitized to our lack of self-control in regard to food.
Now before you pick up your stones, think with me for a second. Over my first semester at seminary, I saw my overall well-being get worse. Once I stopped working out and started eating out more the quality of my sleep deteriorated, which meant that I was tired throughout the day and my ability to get work well dropped off. It was within the realm of possibility for me to workout but I didn’t. I could have eaten foods that were more nutritious but I opted for the quick meal out. All of this negatively affected my spiritual life. As I lacked self-control and discipline (a four letter word in evangelicalism for some reason) in terms of eating and working out, so went my spiritual discipline.
Now there isn’t necessarily a correlation between nutritious eating, exercise, and spiritual disciplines. But what if there is? If I had been working out and eating well, I would’ve gotten better sleep, which would’ve allowed me to wake up early in the mornings like I like to do. If I would’ve been in the Word and prayer in the mornings, I would’ve been more effective, humanly speaking, at killing sin. If I had been killing sin, my communion with Christ would’ve intensified. If I would’ve gotten better sleep and eaten better, I would’ve had more energy throughout my days. On and on the cycle goes.
Do you see what I mean? Lack of self-control in little things rolls on up to lack of self-control in bigger things. It is a sin that pervades most of our lives and it has dire consequences.
Christians need (yes, need to) to practice self-control in all things. I have had the privilege of watching my three bi-vocational pastors with families pursue healthy lifestyles. They may not do it perfectly but they are seeking to practice self-control with what they eat and how they spend their time because they recognize that their self-control, or lack thereof, has consequences. We need to stop giving in to every desire for food. Our Christian subculture has grown desensitized to its sinful effects. Is not God to be desired more than food? When we give ourselves over to sloth and gluttony, we look like the world, not like Christ.
Something Christians need not do is demonize certain foods. God did give us all foods to enjoy. So, Christian, enjoy food and God’s good gifts. But your life is more than food and your stomach is not your god (1 Timothy 6:17; Matthew 6:25; Philippians 3:19; 1 Corinthians 6:13).
This may not be a popular idea within evangelicalism because we love food. But I believe that self-controlled eating and a pursuit of overall health will be for our good and will only serve to strengthen our communion with Christ.
A word of warning for those in ministry: it isn’t cool to spend more time in the gym than on sermon prep or with your family. If your biceps are stronger than your exegesis, you’re doing it wrong. Pastors don’t need to be the fittest people because if they are it is probably at the expense of another crucial aspect of their ministry. We don’t need pastor-bodybuilders but pastor-theologians. But to do the work of ministry, to have the energy to do so, we must practice self-control in all things, including food.
A version of this post was originally published here.
Emmaus Church exists to see God glorified and churches multiplied by declaring and displaying the gospel.
That is our mission statement at Emmaus. This statement is why we planted Emmaus. It’s why we do what we do and how we decide what we will do. There are 3 main parts to this statement. We’ll explain the entire mission statement in another blog post, but for this post, we are focused on one part; churches multiplied.
A major part of our purpose as a church is to see churches multiplied. What does this mean? Well, it starts with our church. We want to see the people of Emmaus discipled and equipped to declare and display the gospel, disciple other followers of Jesus and ultimately see the number of followers of Jesus multiplied. When we see followers of Jesus multiplied, this should lead to new churches. More Christians should equal more churches. We believe that the book of Acts demonstrates to us that were people become followers of Jesus, churches start and where churches start, people follow Jesus. We want to be part of seeing these churches multiplied both in Kansas City and around the world.
How does this answer the question, “Why do we Spend Time and Money on a Pastoral Residency”?
If we truly want to see churches multiplied, then we must see pastors multiplied. Churches need pastors who will sacrificially and passionately lead them to know, love, and share Jesus.
With this belief, we have labored to develop a robust training opportunity for pastors that we call Train. Train is a 2 year residency where men who desire to pastor spend extensive time reading, writing and discussing with each other and our pastors so that they may grow in three areas: their heart (love of Jesus and character), their head (knowledge of scripture and wisdom), and their hands (skills needed to pastor and lead a church).
Through Emmaus’ generosity of time and finances, we have begun training a dozen future pastors already.
Joshua Hedger is the Pastor of Preaching & Vision at Emmaus Church. He is married to Tish and they have an adopted teen daughter and a biological toddler son. Joshua has served in several other ministry roles including Director of Church Planting at Midwestern Seminary, planting another church, a youth pastor, and as a missionary in West Africa.
By God’s grace Emmaus is a church where men who desire to pastor are gathering for training and equipping. By God’s grace we will continue to be this kind of church. It is our desire to train & send men to plant, replant, and revitalize churches all across the globe.
One of the questions that I most often get asked by guys who are pursuing pastoral ministry is, “How do you know if you are called to be a pastor?”
This is a great question. It is a question that Charles Spurgeon answered in his book, Lectures to my Students, which is a compilation of Spurgeon’s lectures to the students at his school for pastors. Chapter 2 of this book is entitled “The Call to the Ministry.”
Every follower of Jesus is called to be a minister. Not a single disciple of Jesus is exempt from the task of making disciples, being ministers of reconciliation, and serving others. However, some are called to a specific ministry of pastoring. Spurgeon worded it this way:
Any Christian has a right to disseminate the gospel who has the ability to do so; and more, he not only has the right, but it is his duty to so do as long as he lives. The propagation of the gospel is left, not to a few, but to all the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ… I do not, however, in this lecture allude to the occasional preaching, or any other form of ministry common to all the saints, but to the work and office of the bishopric, in which is included both teaching and bearing rule in the church, which requires the dedication of a man’s entire life to spiritual work.(23)
Spurgeon recognized that all followers of Christ are called to ministry, but some are called to pastoral ministry, which requires a level of commitment not common to everyone else.
How do you know if you are called to this level of commitment? What if you make a mistake and pursue pastoral ministry without a calling? Can’t you simply “try” it and see if you like it? Spurgeon did not think it was a minor mistake to pursue ministry if not called: “It is a fearful calamity to a man to miss his calling, and to the church upon whom he imposes himself, his mistake involves an affliction of the most grievous kind” (26).
A calling to the pastoral ministry is a weighty calling that we should not consider casually. If you believe that you may be called to pastoral ministry then I encourage you to take serious action into the investigation of your possible call, and if called, to pursue that call with all that you are.
Spurgeon suggested the the following four points to discern if you are called to pastoral ministry.
An intense, all-absorbing desire for the work (27)
There have been days (mostly Mondays) when in my stress and frustration I wanted to quit the pastorate. There have been other days when I thought I should quit because of my sin. However, there has never been a day that I did not desire to be pastor. It is a longing in my heart that I cannot step away from.
If any student in this room could be content to be a newspaper editor or a grocer or a farmer or a doctor or a lawyer or a senator or a king, in the name of heaven and earth, let him go his way; he is not the man in whom dwells the Spirit of God in its fullness, for a man so filled with God would utterly weary of any pursuit but that for which his inmost soul pants. (28)
The true pastor’s work is full of them (self-denials), and without a love to his calling e fitted to lead, burdened with a monotony as tiresome as that of a blind horse in a mill” (28).
An aptness to teach and some measure of the other qualities needful for the office of a public instructor (29)
In 2013, at the leading of one of our pastors, we hosted a Spring Preaching Symposium at Freshwater. It was a three-month process. In the first month we hosted a day of training about preaching. In month two those who attended the trainings preached a sermon they had prepared to a panel of preachers, and were critiqued and instructed in how to better their sermon and delivery. In month three, we placed these young men into churches around our area to preach the sermon they had prepared. We saw over 40 men trained, nearly 30 preach sermons to the panels of preachers, and over 20 placed in churches throughout our community to preach. A few of them were even hired by the churches where they preached. The goal of the symposium was to give guys training and opportunity to practice a skill that is of primary importance for the pastor of a church—teaching.
My brethren, if you think it is an easy thing to preach, I advise you to come up here and have all the conceit taken out of you. (30)
It is by no means a law which ought to bind all persons, but still it is a good old custom in many of our country churches for the young man who aspires to the ministry to preach before the church. It can hardly ever be a very pleasant ordeal for the youthful aspirant, and, in many cases, it will scarcely be a very edifying exercise for the people; but still it may prove a most salutary piece of discipline, and save the public exposure of rampant ignorance.” (30)
An ability to teach is not the only quality a pastor must have.
Sound judgment and solid experience must instruct you, gentle manners and loving affections must sway you; firmness and courage must be manifest; and tenderness and sympathy must not be lacking… you must be fitted to lead, prepared to endure, and able to persevere… if such gifts and graces be not in you and abound, it may be possible for you to succeed as an evangelist, but as a pastor you will be of no account.” (32)
A measure of conversion work going on under his efforts (32)
This could be a controversial qualification. Some may say that conversion is the work of the Lord and is not controlled by the pastor, and therefore it should not be a qualifying test. I understand this argument. However, I also believe that one who is filled with the Spirit, preaches the gospel well, and pleads with people to embrace Jesus, will rarely see no one converted from their sharing. There may not be converts every time you preach or share the gospel, but there will likely be converts some of the times. It is God’s desire to save sinners and it is his plan to use the preaching of the gospel to do so.
Spurgeon said, “I could never be satisfied with a full congregation, and the kind expressions of friends; I longed to hear that hearts had been broken, that tears had been seen streaming from the eyes of penitents” (32, 33).
An acceptable preaching to the people of God (34)
Spurgeon said, “God usually opens doors of utterance for those whom he calls to speak in his name” (34). Spurgeon moves from this statement into an understanding that a local body of believers should affirm your pastoral calling and desire to be taught the truths of scripture by you.
“Churches are not all wise, neither do they all judge in the power of the Holy Ghost, but many of them judge after the flesh; yet I had sooner accept the opinion of a company of the Lord’s people than my own upon so personal a subject as my own gifts and graces… none of you can be pastors without the loving consent of the flock.” (34).
Spurgeon is declaring that he’d rather trust a church to affirm his calling than trust his own flesh to affirm his own calling. If a church does not see him fit in heart and gift to be a pastor, then he should reconsider his belief of calling.
I spoke this week with a young man who is not in a ministry position yet, who desires to eventually travel from state to state and preach at large conferences for college students. My advice to him came from this portion of Spurgeon’s lecture. Spurgeon said, “As surely as the man wants his hour, so surely the hour wants its man . . . Be fit for your work, and you will never be out of it. Do not run about inviting yourselves to preach here and there; be more concerned about your ability than your opportunity, and more earnest about your walk with God than about either” (34).
“I have met ten, twenty, a hundred brethren, who have pleaded that they were sure, quite sure that they were called to the ministry—they were quite certain of it, because thy had failed in everything else . . . the ministry needs the very best of men, and not those who cannot do anything else. A man who would succeed as a preacher would probably do right well either as a grocer or a lawyer or anything else. A really valuable minister would have excelled at anything. There is scarcely anything impossible to a man who can keep a congregation together for years, and be the means of edifying them for hundreds of consecutive Sabbaths; he must be possessed of some abilities, and be by no means a fool or ne’er-do-well. Jesus Christ deserves the best men to preach his cross, and not the empty-headed and the shiftless . . . If we can endure all these (browbeating, weariness, slander, jeering, and hardship, being made the offscouring of all things and being treated as nothing for Christ’s sake), we have some of those points, which indicate the possession of the rare qualities, which should meet in a true servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (39, 42)
If you believe you are called to ministry, then investigate your calling and if you find it true, pursue it with all that is in you. Train for the calling. Seek affirmation of your calling. Give all you have to your calling. It is worth it.
C. H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2010).