The Power of a Positive Legacy

Normally towards the first of the week, we examine an apologetic issue of importance. However, today I am still left with the overwhelming importance of a person’s legacy. This past weekend, I helped officiate my grandfather’s funeral service. I learned much more about my grandfather’s early life during his funeral than I had known while he was with us. Grandpa’s brother, Paul Sisk, said that Grandpa had led him to the Lord as well as many in their family. I also heard, from many of his parishioners, how great a pastoral leader my Grandpa had been. One word keeps coming to mind: legacy.

Legacy is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “something handed down by a predecessor.”[1] My Grandpa handed down a legacy of Christian conviction and influence. Grandpa was by no means perfect. However, he did strive to live the best Christian life that he could and used the resources he had available to him to make a difference for the kingdom of God. The issue of legacy makes me wonder what type of legacy I will leave behind. Some may inquire, “Why is it important to leave a lasting legacy when people may not remember us past a generation or two?” Such is a fair question. I feel that we must leave behind a positive legacy for many reasons.

  1. A positive legacy will inspire future generations.

The term inspire is defined as to “fill with the urge or ability to do or feel something.”[2] Inspiration is generally associated with a positive urge or ability implanted in someone. Throughout the Scriptures, we find records of individuals who have inspired future generations to do great things. Abraham is one such example. Abraham inspired the faithfulness of future generations. Abraham is revered not only in the Christian worldview, but also in the Judaist and Islamic worldviews. Others have served to inspire future generations, as well.

Jesus inspired the salvation of future generation. Jesus’ obedience even leading to the cross has inspired countless individuals to face and overcome amazing odds. Jesus noted that those who believe in him “will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).[3] If we look for a perfect example for how one should inspire others, look to the perfect example found in Christ Jesus. For it was Grandpa, who pointed me to Jesus and tried to emulate Christ as much as he could. While we all need heroes of the faith and need to be heroes of the faith for others, we should inspire individuals to always look towards the perfect example found in Jesus.

  1. A positive legacy will influence future decisions.

The legacy of an individual will influence the decision-making of future generations. If a person holds a negative influence over others, the person may propagate bad decisions in his or her children. People who constantly surround their children with drugs and addictive behaviors could influence their children to do the same. But, the opposite is also true.

We often hear about the exodus of youth from church. While we may concentrate on those things that don’t work, I have been seeking information on what does work. Michael Haverluck, writing for One News Now, notes one particular influence that keeps children in church. Haverluck writes,

“Nielson argues that firm and loving leadership at home is essential to keep kids rooted in their faith into adulthood. ‘The 20-somethings who are serving, leading, and driving the ministries at our church were kids whose parents made them go to church,’ Nielson continued. ‘They are kids whose parents punished them and held them accountable when they were rebellious. They are kids whose parents read the Bible around the dinner table every night. And they are kids whose parents were tough, but who ultimately operated from a framework of grace that held up the cross of Jesus as the basis for peace with God and forgiveness toward one another.’”[4]

I feel that the Nielsen studies are accurate. If a parent does not take church seriously, what makes a person think that their children will? Wishy-washy, buddy-buddy, boundary-less parenting does not lend itself towards good results. God told Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations” (Exodus 3:15). It was Moses’ and the peoples’ responsibility to influence future generations. Modern Christians hold the same responsibility.

  1. A positive legacy will initiate future changes.

One person can make a distinct difference which will initiate a future chain of events. People often like to think that the person is their own person and does not influence anything or anyone else. But this is simply not true. Instead of living isolated lives, people are interconnected through a human network so to speak. The choice of one person may directly or indirectly initiate a future change of some sort.

Take Joseph for instance. What if Joseph had succumbed to temptation? What if Joseph refused to listen to God and interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh? Well, life would be much different than it is now. Because of Joseph’s faithfulness, a chain of events took place eventually leading to the Exodus, leading towards the nation of Israel, ultimately leading to the first advent of Christ. Actions today lead towards decisions tomorrow.

Take again my grandpa. Grandpa became a Christian in part due to the ardent prayer life of my grandmother. What if Grandma had not prayed as she did? What then? I would suppose that we would not have had the Christian upbringing that we enjoy and countless others would have never heard the gospel message through Grandpa. Grandma was influenced to accept Christ due to the moving of the Holy Spirit working through the lives of those close to her. What if those people had rejected the calling of God to share the gospel? What then? We initiate future decisions by our actions and attitudes. A person must ask himself or herself, “Am I purporting positive potential future changes?”

  1. A positive legacy will insulate the furtherance of truth.

A person’s legacy is either that of one who insulates, or protects, the truth, or one who rejects and distorts the truth. The importance and value of the Scriptures were emphasized to me very early in life. My grandpa told me, “Son, if you keep your messages between the covers of Genesis and Revelation, you are okay. However, if you leave the text found between these two covers, you are on your own.” Grandpa’s sage wisdom in the area of biblical exegesis is one that I have tried to keep and maintain in my ministry. It was actually due to this advice that I left the ministry when I had times of doubts. If the text could not be trusted, then I did not need to preach at all. Once God demonstrated the veracity of Scriptures, I could then preach and teach with a newfound fervor.

I am struck by the dichotomy found in the Third Letter of John. John, on the one hand, praises one named Demetrius. Why did John praise Demetrius? Demetrius had “received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself” (3 John 12). The legacy of Demetrius was one devoted to truth. Yet, the same was not true for Diotrephes.

Diotrephes had a legacy that was one not devoted to truth. Rather, Diotrephes was one “who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority” (3 John 9). Furthermore, Diotrephes was involved in “talking wicked nonsense about us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church” (3 John 10). While scholars do not know much about Diotrephes, his legacy has been tainted in the pages of God’s Word. Can one imagine the horror of having one’s legacy recorded for all eternity as one who stood in the way of God’s church? Such is the case for all who allow themselves to be the conduits of falsehood.

Conclusion

Every person will leave behind a legacy of some sort. Theologians, pastors, apologists, and regular congregants alike leave something for the next generation. One must ask oneself, “What will be my legacy? What will others remember about me?” It behooves each person to evaluate themselves and begin building a legacy that will bring about good results. God has been too good for one to lackadaisically and half-heartedly settle for mediocrity. Let us all strive to leave behind legacies that will positively shape the generation to come.

 

© May 23, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Notes

[1] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[4] Michael F. Haverluck, “3 Factors Keeping Youth in Church Through Adulthood,” OneNewsNow.com (May 4, 2015), retrieved May 23, 2016, http://www.onenewsnow.com/church/2015/05/04/3-factors-keeping-youth-in-church-through-adulthood.

The Pastor-Scholar: Contemplations on the Possibility

Almost anyone who has been convicted of the great theological problems influencing the modern American church would confess that now, perhaps more than in the past century, the church needs trained Christian leaders to diagnose and confront current issues. I have been under the persuasion that the church needs pastor-scholars—pastors who are scholarly in their endeavors. However, recently my perception of that notion was challenged by a piece written by Andrew Wilson in Christianity Today. Wilson argues that while it is possible that a few may become pastor-scholars, most who try to combine the endeavors will do neither. Wilson approaches the term “scholar” as one who is highly trained in one specific area.

At first, I highly disagreed with Wilson. However, the more I have read his article, the more I have felt that there is a need to revise the term “pastor-scholar.” I would like to argue that we need highly trained pastors to engage the church and the community around them, that it is possible to have pastor-scholars. However, I would like to suggest that we qualify the term towards another direction. First, let us look at the challenges facing one who pursues the tag “pastor-scholar.”

The Challenges of a Pastor-Scholar.

Wilson writes,

“But how feasible is it to be both a scholar and a pastor? I suspect many of us know individuals who, by aiming to be both a pastor and a scholar, have ended up being neither. More commonly, some aspire to be both equally, but indicate by their speech and actions—let alone by their weekly timetables—that they major in one and minor in the other” (Wilson 2015, CT.com).

I understand fully where Wilson is coming from. I am currently a pastor of a small, rural church and a full-time seminary student.[1] Luckily, our church only has one service on Sunday and a Wednesday night Bible study each week. I say luckily because I normally spend a minimum of 6 hours in preparation for each service. With the incredible workload from school as well as the pastoral responsibilities of visitation and the like, in addition to caring for my family; my time is stretched. Thus, there are specific challenges if one seeks the term “pastor-scholar.”

Time. As noted earlier, scholarship and pastoral leadership both require an exorbitant amount of time. While there are some who can manage the task (i.e. N.T. Wright, John Piper, etc.), most will find this to become a taxing challenge.

Generalist-Specialist. Scholars are deemed specialists in one particular field. Wilson understands scholarship to be “about mastering an area of research in a way that advances human knowledge…For scholars, praxis is the tail, research is the dog, and the former is not meant to wag the latter” (Wilson 2015, CT.com). Pastors, in contrast, must become generalists, concentrating on broad topics and being studied in several areas. As you may even note about this website, we deal with a variety of topics. Such is a generalist approach.

University-Church. In addition, as noted by Wilson, the scholar will need to spend a great deal of time at the university in research. The pastor will need to spend a great deal of time with the congregation. Thus, one may find oneself stretched when accomplishing both.

Despite the difficulties, the modern church screams forth, “We need pastors who are equipped to face the challenges from theological and political liberalism, secularism, and the like.” So why should one even consider being an academic pastor?

The Need for Scholarly Pastors.

There are at least two reasons that trained, scholarly pastors are needed in the modern climate. Think of these reasons like the two-sided squads of a football team. A football team needs a good offensive squad and a good defensive squad. Likewise, trained pastors are essential to offer the same.

Theological Offense.

A good, grounded theology offers a great offense for modern Christians. The Christian needs to know what it is that Christianity purports. Bob Dill, a member of our congregation, said just this week, “Our great failure in the church is the lack of training that we offer new Christians” (Bob Dill, conversation). It seems as if the modern church accepts new converts and then allows them to fly off on their own without the least bit of help before pushing them out of the nest. This demonstrates the great need for theology in the church. Bruce Riley Ashford and Keith Whitefield provide two observations pertaining to theology,

“First, Scripture anticipates theology because it reveals truth about God and furthermore provides the true story of the whole world…Second, Scripture anticipates theology because it invites humanity into the drama of redemption by provoking change in the people of God and calling them to know and love him” (Ashford and Whitfield 2014, 4-5).

Does it not seem like an integral responsibility to provide a solid theological foundation for the church? Jesus himself when meeting with the two men on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection took time to explain the theological reasons behind his own life, death, and resurrection. Luke records that Jesus “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).[2] In order to provide theological training, the pastor will need to be trained himself.

Apologetic Defense.

In football, it is said that a good offense wins games, but a good defense wins championships. Likewise, the pastor will need to be able to defend the truths of Scripture to be able to make a great impact on the faith of those to whom he has been assigned. Again, this may require a generalized approach. The scholarly pastor will need to have the means to defend the faith historically, scientifically, and/or philosophically. Hopefully, one will note the great reason for a pastor to be at least “scholarly” in his approach. Despite all of this, one can still appreciate the challenges to be considered a “pastor-scholar.” Perhaps the entire difficulty is originated semantically. Could there not be a reason to establish a new category?

The Need for a New Category—“The Pastor Theologian?”

Michael Kruger offered in his piece “Should You Be a Pastor or a Professor? Thinking Through the Options” six categories of the pastor-scholar which are,

“1. The Pastor…the average…pastor who is theologically-trained…but not engaged in any meaningful study/research”…2. The Pastor-Scholar…individual [who] has an interest in theological and scholarly issues that goes beyond the average pastor mentioned above…3. The Pastor-Scholar who is active in the scholarly world…4. The Scholar-Pastor who is active in the church…a full-time professor/academic with a Ph.D., but still very much engaged with the local church and with pastoral ministry…5. The Scholar Pastor…a full-time professor and has a real heart for the church and for pastoral ministry, but is not as actively engaged in it himself…6. The Scholar…a pure scholar [who has] secondary interest in how it might impact or be used in the church” (Kruger 2015, MichaelJKruger.com).

I feel that Kruger offers a better assessment than does Wilson in this regard. Seeing as how Wilson’s primary issue was with the term scholar and what that entails, perhaps a better term for the “pastor-scholar” is the “pastor-theologian.” The “pastor-theologian” would fit in the second category of Kruger’s paradigm. However, I think it needs to be said that being a pastor-scholar is not as impossible as Wilson purports.

Conclusion

Andrew Wilson provides a great article on the issue of what is called the “pastor-scholar.” While being a pastor and a scholar is a great challenge, there are many individuals who fill the qualifications. For instance, I could name numerous scholars at Liberty University who engage in top-notch scholarship while also being involved in local pastoral ministry. Other pastors-scholars from other universities would also fit the bill such as Phil Fernandes. Others throughout history fit the bill as well, such as John Calvin, John Wesley, for a time B. B. Warfield, Martin Luther, and many others. Thus, while it may be a challenge to be a pastor-scholar, it is not an impossibility.

Perhaps for those of us who are striving to become scholars and are also engaged in pastoral ministry we would be better served by the title “pastor-theologian” since we are involved in academic work, but not yet qualified in one specific area (such as those who hold a Ph.D.). Perhaps the greatest problem with Wilson’s assessment is in his assumption that specialists cannot speak on generalist terms. It may well be said that scholars are even better to evaluate general areas of interest due to their training. Also, if one acknowledges the New Testament setup, the pastor is among many others in the church who do the task of ministry. Part of the problem may also be found in ministries that expect the pastor to be pastor, preacher, counselor, electrician, plumber, gardener, carpenter, financial guru, and so on (see Acts 6:2).

Regardless of which category a pastor finds oneself, may the pastor be found to continually deepen his knowledge through the study of Scripture and theological pursuits. As Paul writes, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Sources Cited

Ashford, Bruce Riley, and Keith Whitfield. “Theological Method: An Introduction to the Task of Theology.” A Theology for the Church. Revised Edition. Edited by Daniel L. Akin. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2014.

Dill, Bob. Conversation with author. September 30, 2015.

Kruger, Michael J. “Should You Be a Pastor or a Professor? Thinking Through the Options.” MichaelJKruger.com (July 6, 2015). Accessed October 3, 2015. http://michaeljkruger.com/should-you-be-a-pastor-or-a-professor-thinking-through-the-options/.

Wilson, Andrew. “Why Being a Pastor-Scholar is Nearly Impossible.” ChristianityToday.com (September 25, 2015). Accessed October 3, 2015. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/september-web-only/why-being-pastor-scholar-is-nearly-impossible.html?share=ZUx%2fdfTCxLFQYLDKaovhOwQN%2fyjvIjmX.

 [1] God-willing, I hope to graduate December 2015.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

Testimony, Trials, and Triumph: The Demand for Apologetic Pastors

white church  Today, I had the great privilege of being included in J. Warner Wallace’s list of apologetic pastors, or pastors who engage and employ apologetics in their ministry. The article can be found at http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/why-pastors-ought-to-be-apologists/. This website was referenced along with the church I serve due to my work in apologetics. Honestly, I was greatly humbled to be listed with the likes of Bobby Conway, Derwin Gray, Dan Kimball, Phil Fernandes, and Erwin Lutzer. In all honesty, their work far surpasses any that I have done. I was far and away the least of the pastors listed. Yet, what surprised me is that the list of apologetic pastors was quite brief. I earnestly expected to find a great directory of pastors throughout our land who engaged in the apologetic craft. Upon speaking to a layperson who is an apologist on social media, I was even more disturbed to find there have been experiences where pastors discouraged the use of apologetics in church. But, how can one proclaim one’s faith if that particular one can not defend it? 

If I seem passionate about apologetics in ministry, it is because of my testimony which is quite simple. I experienced a relationship with Christ at a very young age. I was called to the gospel ministry at 16. However, at the age of 18, I was confronted by the works of John Dominick Crossan and the Jesus Seminar. Crossan and the Jesus Seminar purported that one could not really trust the words of Jesus in the gospels. The fellows of the Jesus Seminar voted on which sayings were authentic and which were not. They published a book titled The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say. The book contained the four canonical gospels and the purported Gospel of Thomas. The sayings of Jesus were color-coded as to the Seminar’s acceptance or rejection of the sayings…red letters represented words which were authentic, pink letters represented works which were probably accurate, gray letters represented words which could have been based on Jesus’ real words, brown words represented those which probably were not Jesus’ words, and black letters represent words which were certainly not Jesus’ own. Needless to say, there were not many sayings of Jesus listed in red. Even more bizarre, there were more red sayings in the Gospel of Thomas than in the canonical four. My faith in the New Testament was rocked. My faith was rocked mainly because NO ONE in the church could give a rational reason to believe that Crossan and the Jesus Seminar were wrong in their assessments. For a time, my doubts succumbed to emotional and spiritual highs. In the end, it was as if band-aids were placed on a major gash because when I was in ministry and faced difficult circumstances, the doubts resurfaced and eventually swept me away from ministry. I never rejected my faith, but I did not promote it. At times, I nearly became an agnostic.

Five years later, I was driving in an urban area in our state when I came across a Lifeway Christian Bookstore. Something compelled me to enter the bookstore, so I did. There, I came across Josh McDowell’s The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict and Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. I entered the store not expecting to buy anything, but left the store purchasing over $70 worth of apologetic books. God used apologetics to strengthen my faith and to bring me back in the ministry. I learned that there exists more attestation for the New Testament than for any other work in ancient history. The books presented the evidences in favor of the resurrection of Christ. Also, other apologists such as William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, and Ravi Zacharias were introduced.

My journey delivered a stronger faith and a hardcore devotion for truth. However, my absence from ministry may not have been as long as it was if there were more apologetic pastors and ministers in the church. When I asked questions, I was met with hostility and anger. What if things were different?

What would happen if more ministers were able to defend their faith?

What would happen if more ministers were devoted to stand upon the truth?

What would happen if more ministers took the time to answer difficult questions?

What would happen if more ministers spent less time worrying about numerical growth and more time worrying about spiritual discipleship?

What would happen? I think the following would take place:

Pastors and deacons would become beacons of truth, justice, and compassion.

Less heretical doctrines and “feel good” ideologies would enter the church. People would actually have reasons to feel good about their lives and their eternity by knowing their purpose and plan.

There would be a much lower drop-out rate among young adults.

Some churches would not be as large numerically; however, the church would be much healthier overall.

Leaders of the church. I am calling out to you. The church needs more defenders at the helm. Will you take the challenge and incorporate apologetics into your ministry? Apologetics in our culture is no longer optional…it is mandatory.