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Faithful Shepherds in a Frantic Culture

If you love the church, you must believe that God’s people deserve men who will be faithful shepherds in the midst of a frantic culture. No matter what era you peruse throughout history, faithful shepherds are always in demand. But is every man claiming “compulsion to lead the church” a man that should be trusted? We must ask questions. Does he have the heart of a shepherd? The zeal of a warrior? The humility of a servant? The perspective of His Master? No matter his insistent passion, does he measure up when the grid of Scripture is laid atop his life?

There are plenty of ways that people approach pastoral ministry today. Some are showmen who enter ministry hoping for a cushy job and a flexible schedule. They’re the type who show up once a week collect a paycheck. Others think the pastor is a CEO, sitting in a big office tapping golf balls into a glass while paying others to do what he won’t. Mix in some innovation, a few big events, a motivational speech on Sunday, and he’s got himself a career! Still, others believe that pastoral ministry is more of a fraternity or locker room full of like-minded friends. They see the church as being more about their loyalty to a denomination and venerated leaders. They wear the team colors. They defend each other no matter what but are confused about what it means to stand firm in the truth. They’re “of Apollos” and “of Paul” so they’re more content to preserve unity even it means tolerating errors. Of course, we mustn’t forget the all-inclusive ideology of today’s liberal mob. These, who insist that the “old book” needs their modern-day editorial brush, see homosexuality, gender, and various imperatives as more relative than restrictive. Good PR matters more than truth.

The culture today is a frantic one. Many in the professing church are spinning in confusion. Therefore, the last thing we need are any more thin-skinned shepherds looking for an easy paycheck and notoriety. We need men with guts who wield the staff and put in the work it takes to care for God’s people. Men willing to take God’s word seriously when it comes to being shepherds! The kind of men who heed 1 Peter 5:1-4.

A Pivotal Text for Every Pastor

When Peter wrote to Christians throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, myriad of Christians were scattered, being persecuted, in need of faithful shepherds who would guide and guard them. Nero had set Rome ablaze and needed a scapegoat so who better to blame than a group of narrow-minded monotheists who were loyal to Jesus Christ? They weren’t popular to begin with but now everything turned against Christians. Persecution soared, the Church was under assault, and the sheep belonging to Christ were in desperate need of elders who would shepherd them through the storms of life they faced.

Peter’s letters are pivotal for Christians and 1 Peter 5:1-4 is especially so, for pastors and elders. The man desirous of being a faithful shepherd, and the church seeking the service of faithful shepherds do well to let Peter’s Spirit-inspired words pierce their heart. If the command is to “shepherd the flock among you,” then what does that look like?

Based on Peter’s words, here are six observations of a faithful shepherd in a frantic culture:

1.     A shepherd will suffer

Inferred by the context, and explicitly stated about Christians throughout the New Testament, if sheep are going to suffer then most certainly their shepherds will. Ultimately, Christ the Great Shepherd did and all who follow Him will. Nowhere are we promised an easy life if we are faithful to the gospel and faithful to calling of a shepherd. Jesus was adamant that this world will hate His disciples and it hated Him first (John 15:18). Paul exhorted Timothy, “Join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8), “suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2:3), and “indeed all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (3:12).

2.     A shepherd is aware

In 1 Peter 5:2b he writes, “…exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God.” The word “episkopeo” comes from epi and skopeo meaning “upon” and “mark.” This is a shepherd with his eyes wide open. He’s aware. You could say he pays attention to detail. A shepherd is not aloof of the state of his flock, he is not a weekend warrior simply showing up to preach and then disappearing all week. A shepherd is diligent, keeps his eye on the ball, exercising close attention to the details and daily affairs of those entrusted to his care. He knows them and thus can pray for them and preach to them in a way that reaches their hearts.

In sports a coach will often tell the players, “The difference between winning and losing is often about paying attention to details.” The same can be said about ministry, except that in sports wins and losses are at stake. In ministry, heaven and hell are on the line.

And how does he pay exercise this awareness and oversight? Not with an eye rolling compulsory demeanor. Not with a lazy heart or excuses, but “voluntarily.” Lexical definitions describe this word as “of one’s own accord.” Now apply that and you get a shepherd who takes initiative. Nobody should trigger a shepherd. He lives triggered! He takes initiative because his heart is held captive to the word of God, and he desires the best for the people of God, because he knows this is the will of God!

3.     A shepherd is eager

Furthermore, Peter writes that an elder ought to shepherd “not for sordid gain, but with eagerness” (1 Peter 5:2c). Coming off the heels of the previous statement about a voluntary heart, Peter pushes the point again and adds that shepherds should be the exact opposite of greedy false teachers in that they are not serving for filthy lucre. You can hear echoes of 2 Peter 2:3 here where Peter would late describe false teachers as exploiting people in their greed. This is a sure mark of a false teacher. But a faithful shepherd? Eager whether or not people recognize all you’ve done, sing your praises, or take care of you. For little or no money, small crowds, no live stream, and old dingy buildings. If that’s what God calls you to are you still eager? Your leadership will be contagious for better or worse. If you’re not eager, expect no one else to be.

4.     A shepherd is an example

1 Peter 5:3 exhorts, “…nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. Kleros is “a share or portion given.” This is your part of pie. Tupos is “a statue or something to be resembled.” Literally, shepherding is not “do what I say” it’s “do as I do.” If you take Peter seriously, you’d agree that shepherding is not dominance, it’s devotion. It starts in your own life and pours over into theirs. This begs another question of every shepherd or aspiring shepherd: Is your life a statue worth resembling? If the men loved their wives like you love yours what kind of marriage would they have? If they parented like you how would their kids turn out? If they talked to their colleagues like you talk to yours? If their morning routine was like yours? Are you combative or peaceful? Petty or mature? Are you indecisive or unwavering? It gets convicting doesn’t it? An elder’s greatest sermon doesn’t happen in a pulpit. His greatest sermon is his life.

5.     A shepherd is accountable

One day, Christ the Chief Shepherd will return and that’s who every shepherd answers to (1 Peter 5:4a). If you’re an elder, you don’t enact any will upon the Church, but God’s. The Church is not yours. It’s His. You’re not the Head pastor, He is. One day you will stand — more likely, bow — before His judgment seat and give an account for your deeds in the body. Our chief concern must be for what the Chief Shepherd wants!

We’ve all watched as in the past few years as autocratic and domineering men have fallen publically and brought reproach on Christ and the Church. Their model was built on abuse of power and they lost sight of Whom they were accountable to. We don’t glory in this as those who sneer, “Ha! I saw that one coming…” We learn from this and humbly remind ourselves with fear and trembling that our calling is the highest there is on earth and thus our judgment will be the greatest of all those in the Church. We must live accountable now knowing we will be accountable then.

6.     A shepherd is rewarded

Though judgment is imminent for all, so are rewards for faithfulness. 1 Peter 5:4b culminates with these joyous words for those who’ve run the race well: “you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

The highest praise of man should be our lowest concern. We don’t serve with eagerness because of what we get now but what awaits us in the future. This is fitting for Peter’s theme throughout his letter which points to an eternal focus. If you’ve lived 1 Peter 5:1-3, you get the joy of experiencing of verse 4. This is the motivation of a faithful shepherd. This is what is needed in the midst of a frantic culture.

If you ask me, the greatest moment of embarrassment for any shepherd would be to have spent their earthly ministry climbing some the ladder to a destination that doesn’t exist. What do I mean? There’s this idea that if you just publish a book, or speak at a conference, or pastor a larger church that you will have “arrived” somewhere. There are pastors who always seem to be trying to arrive “there.” Let me tell you, there is no “there” there. You can speak at conferences, write books, rub elbows with your favorite speakers and guess what? All that will ever matter, and the only “there” you need to focus on is the day you stand before Christ and answer for your work here on earth.

The King’s approval awaits, brothers. But there is a flock to be served first. In the midst of today’s frantic culture, do it well.

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*This article is derived from a sermon by Costi Hinn entitled, “Faithful Shepherds in a Frantic Culture” (1 Peter 5:1-4). This message was preached at The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, CA. Watch below:

What to Expect from My “Prosperity Gospel” Book

This July Zondervan will release my next book entitled, God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel: How Truth Overwhelms a Life Built on Lies.  One of the great joys throughout this project has been the repeated effort by the team at “Z” in focusing on getting the gospel to people who need it. Especially encouraging is the joint goal of everyone involved to give more than we take.

While publishing a book costs money and there is compensatory work involved on both the writing and marketing side, there is a collective conviction that our mandate to honor Christ through this book must transcend any pressure to “sell books.” I am eager to see this book used as a tool for God’s glory — not for sordid gain. Here is a sobering thought: In a rat-race effort to sell books, it’s easy to become the very dragon that we’re attempting to slay.

With plans taking shape for the next 6 months, I wanted to share some personal thoughts about the marketing plan and be transparent about how I’m going to approach things when it comes to money and royalties. Here is what you can expect from a book that seeks to charge the prosperity gospel with the grit of a bull while displaying the grace becoming of servants of Christ.

A prosperity gospel book should give more than it takes. Get ready for big giveaways.

For this project, the plan is to invest back into the people who are buying the book in some big ways. In just the first month since pre-orders began, 100 books were donated to The Central Africa Baptist College and Seminary to support pastors who are training for ministry. Africa is one of the most plagued countries in the world when it comes to prosperity theology. Plans are in place to give away thousands of dollars in books in resources to those who pre-order in the coming months as well as pastors around the world. During February, every pre-order will be entered to win the entire set of MacArthur New Testament Commentaries (34 Volumes). All subsequent months will have brand new book bundles for people to win. Then, during the 9 days of the release month (July), we’ll give away another MacArthur set to someone who pre-ordered!

This book is likely to upheave people’s bad theology. We need to help them recover long-term.

Books like this one can come off like a tornado. The clouds move in, the rain and hail pour out, the thunder roars, lightning cracks, and then all that seems to be left is upheaval. Instead of leaving a wake of destruction, this book is designed to help people with the theological rebuilding process. After the initial wrecking ball tears down exploitive and abusive theology, there will be a hopeful and upward trajectory. There will be plenty of resources continually offered on social media and at www.forthegospel.org. In addition, I was part of launching Reformanda, a teaching ministry, with six other faithful men and there is plenty of resources for people there as well. Finally, the book contains numerous recommended resources for those who will need an ongoing roadmap. The goal of this book is to destroy “speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5) and shed the light of truth into dark places.

Royalties aren’t for my big house. They’ll be used to build God’s kingdom.

Imagine the irony of me writing a book on the prosperity gospel only to make a ton of money off of royalties so I can live like a king. That’s not only shameful considering my background; that’s hardly what God’s purposes are in blessing a project like this. In an effort to operate with transparency and integrity, allow me to state the obvious: A book speaking against the prosperity gospel technically makes money “off of” the prosperity gospel. As such, it is the conviction of both my wife and me that royalties* from this book be used for theological education and providing resources to pastors and people who have been exploited by the prosperity gospel. Prayerfully, God will use this project as one that gives more than it ever takes. May it be blessed to be a blessing.

As the next few months unfold, you can both support this project and benefit from it in three simple ways:

  1. Scroll down and subscribe to this blog for content directly to your inbox
  2. Pre-order the book and email your order confirmation to contact@forthegospel.org to be entered into drawings for theological resources. *Must be subscribed to the blog
  3. Pray that God uses this book to rescue people being exploited by prosperity theology.

Soli Deo Gloria

*Due to legalities associated with royalties, taxes, and fees, I cannot say “100% of royalities” in this statement.

Top 3 Questions Defining Deception’s Readers are Asking

Over the past 3 months our latest book, Defining Deception, has ended up in the hands of nearly 3000 people. Reviews are pouring in from people who claim a variety of denominational alliances and most (including Pentecostals and Charismatics) are calling the book a timely work with a balanced argument. So, for all the potential controversy the book could have caused, it seems to be clear that Christians from all walks of life are tired of the deception; they want the truth.

In light of phone calls, emails, and personal correspondence with pastors and people who’ve read the book, here are the top 3 questions people are asking. Keep in mind, these are brief answers that should spark your own thoughts in light of Scripture. Much more can be said here.

#1 Does your church sing Bethel songs?

Both Pastor Anthony and I serve the same church so our answer is the same. Absolutely not. To be blunt, we’d be hypocrites if we wrote Defining Deception and offered the evangelical community advice on something we weren’t implementing ourselves. The book was originally written for our church, so much of it had already been taught there.

Our plurality of leaders – which includes pastoral staff and lay elders – are completely aligned on the convictions of Mission Bible Church. More importantly, we’re aligned on the clarity of the Scriptures regarding false teachers and doctrines that damage the bride of Christ. Our structure is such that a worship pastor at MBC must be theologically astute and capable of building a ministry team of worshippers who are guided by biblical convictions on worship. There is no room for compromise.

There isn’t a singer, guitarist, drummer, or tech volunteer who isn’t theologically aligned with what we call, “Tier 1” doctrinal beliefs. This includes Christology, which Bethel Music, Jesus Culture, and Bill Johnson specialize in butchering.

Dr. Steve Lawson was with us at Mission Bible recently when he squared up nearly 100 local church leaders and declared with unwavering boldness:  “The preacher is the worship leader!” That’s how we feel about the importance of preaching the truth in a church. There is no split between the pulpit and the piano. What is preached will be sung. What is sung will be preached.

#2 Why is the book so Short?

Because we wanted people to read it and use it quickly. Most readers don’t want a historical textbook that takes them down every rabbit hole of every sub group of every movement. Besides, better men have written those textbooks already. For now, Defining Deception was written with pastors and laymen (laywomen) in mind who are in the local church trenches. The book needed to be clear and concise so it could be consumed. Things were broken down into the most basic form so people could see the errors, identify with the illustrations, and convey the truth to others in a portable way.

Still, if you’re looking for a longer version then you will find it useful to go through the footnotes. There are literally countless videos, articles, and other books that you can put to use and further your research just like we did. Just make sure your kids aren’t around when you watch the Kenneth Hagin videos. They’re literally demonic.

#3 How do we get our church to change?

This is a loaded question – but a very serious one. I’ve spoken to multiple pastors with churches that have split over the “Bethel Music” issue. I know other churches with pastors who refuse to read the book, endorse the book, or to involve themselves in the issue because they’re scared of what they’ll lose if they stand for truth. Whatever the situation, here are several helpful things to keep in mind when trying to change the direction of your church on this issue. These may depend on whether your a member of the church or a pastor of the church:

Be respectful of church leadership. Sometimes they are busy doing funerals, hospice care, discipleship, evangelism, preaching prep for multiple sermons, counseling, meeting with elders, balancing the budget, leading the staff, and loving their family…(deep breath)…so they haven’t had the chance to get up to speed on the latest hot-button issues. This isn’t an excuse for their lack of protecting the flock, but it is a reason for people to be understanding of the speed with which a pastor catches up on all issues. Bethel may not be on your pastor’s radar yet. Help him by providing the book and telling him, “Pastor, I’m with you all the way if you have to take on these issues in our church.”

God hates when people spread strife among the brethren (Proverbs 6:19). Steer clear of divisive behavior, developing factions and pushing your weight around. Starting a theological gang to overthrow the leadership or start a worship war is not how to go about changing a church.

Your pastor may be an imposter who is not a real pastor. This one may rub some people the wrong way but it’s clear in Scripture that Satan likes to use deception to infiltrate the ranks of the church (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). There may be a “pastor” in your church who the elders need to remove because he’s not fulfilling his mandate to shepherd the flock faithfully. Keep in mind, the elders need to do it. Stay calm and trust leadership to do their God-given job. Even the best of men are men at best. Give leadership the chance to make things right.

It may be best to leave your church. This is not the first choice for anybody who loves the bride of Christ. I know of people who have stayed in a church for years; praying the pastor out before they ever dreamed about leaving. Still, there may come a time when it’s just too divisive to stay. It also may be that your church leadership is unified on going a dangerous direction. Whatever the case, people should seriously pray about going somewhere safe; somewhere that the pulpit is fearsomely devoted to truth. Find a church that loves God’s people enough to protect them.

Start a Sunday school class or mid-week study addressing these issues. What Bethel and it’s leaders are teaching is Christological heresy and many people likely don’t know that because they don’t know much about the doctrine of Christ to begin with. Take several weeks and teach people in your church about the truth. Use the errors as illustrations of deception and preface the class by explaining that you’re going to name names at some point (Romans 16:17-18). Maybe even include a session called, “Paul Named Names…So Should We,” before calling out certain people. Some Christians have been so malnourished they need to be helped with just the basics about Jesus. Whatever you decide, equipping God’s people is the best way to help lead change. He designed us that way!

As the months carry on and Defining Deception makes its way overseas and into churches across America, one thing is for sure: people are desperate for the truth. May God continue to use the book to bring much needed nourishment to starving souls. Best of all, we’re praying that the Lord use it to save people from the clutches of darkness – no matter how good it looks…or sounds.


 

Defining Deception can be ordered via Amazon by clicking here.

For bulk orders, distribution, or other inquiries email chinn@missionbible.org.