Four Things a Pacesetting Pastor Should Do

Jack Miller, in his book Outgrowing the Ingrown Church (which has had significant influence on Tim Keller, along with many others), suggests four permanent elements a pacesetting pastor should labor to make permanent fixtures in the life of a local church:

Preaching and Praying

…the supreme importance of preaching the gospel clearly and boldly, and his need to recruit people to pray regularly that this might take place. Preaching in the United States and elsewhere in the modern world tends to be strongly moralistic and legalistic rather than Christ-centered. Often the emphasis is on doing, without a foundation being laid in the grace of a God who welcomes sinners to Himself unconditionally. In other words, the pastor can unintentionally short-circuit the welcoming process by depressing the people with joyless preaching that concentrates on doing things rather than on relying on Christ for help to obey the will of God.

Reorienting Worship Service

…emphasize the importance of orienting the worship service around God’s welcoming person and grace….choose singable hymns that focus on Christ’s resurrection and ascension. —– …use songs and music that focus on our sins…but do so to bring people to an honest appreciation of divine grace in its surpassing abundance.  —– …emphasize testimonies of church members and new converts to make all aware that God’s gospel of grace is active and challenging people by faith in their midst.

Outward Facing

…labor to make every organization in the church develop what our church calls an “outward face” toward the world. The deacons should plan their work so as to get involved with the forgotten people in the community: the elderly in nursing homes, the sick, the unemployed, the people in prisons, the dying. The elders should not act merely as an official board, but also plan times of shared hospitality to which they invite non-Christian guests. —–  Every effort should be made to convert the Sunday school into a vehicle for welcoming families from the neighborhood.

Programs That Meet Needs of Community

…develop new programs designed to meet the needs of the community. The church should decide which needs it is most equipped to meet and then pray and organize with a view to meeting those needs. Going with the gospel needs a direction, a planned outlet. Ask yourself what gifts and abilities are resident in the members in the congregation. Then see how these resources harmonize with the needs of people living around you.

—Jack Miller, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, pp. 90-91. Reformatted for readability.


TGC and the Local Church: Priorities

This past Sunday I preached at a local church in Minneapolis with a lot of 20-30 year olds. Preaching on Psalm 1, I mentioned how obedience and grace are inextricably linked, and one need only to look at the recent The Gospel Coalition events surrounding Tullian to highlight its importance.

After corporate worship, a young man approached me and expressed concern, even disillusionment, over TGC’s situation. “I love Keller and Tullian,” he said. “It makes me hesitant to commit to these groups when these sort of things happen.”

My encouragement to this young man was simple: hold on loosely to these affiliations, glean what you can, dismiss the dismissable. But remember: you’re not under these groups’ or men’s authority (unless one of these men serve as your local pastor). What’s primary is the local church. Ensure you’re committed to it and are someone who’s under their authority (i.e. biblical, loving, serving, protecting vs. domineering, abusing, unbiblical, etc.)

In the end, ministries like The Gospel Coalition can be very good things. But they should never replace or eclipse the local church as the primary means of grace, influence, honor and love.

The local church is where our priorities should ultimately lie.