Monthly Archives: March 2017

Response to “10 Things Pastors Absolutely HATE to Admit Publicly”

I recently read this column in Church Leaders. ( I’m not sure that I am really qualified to comment on this as I was only a “pastor” for five years. Actually, I was a church planter. I planted a Vineyard church in a growing suburban area of eastern Iowa. I’m not sure that I was really “called” to be a pastor. My gifting and passion really was teaching, but in the modern American version of church the best opportunity to express that gift is in pastoral ministry. Never the less, I really could identify with many of the author’s sentiments. So here is my take on it.

  1. We take it personally when you leave the church. Yes and amen. I was deeply committed to seeing the church thrive, but American churches are deeply competitive and consumer oriented. Too many church goers have a consumer mentality and shy away from relationships and commitment. It is especially difficult for new church plants without denominational or sending church support to compete with mega churches. We didn’t get much help. I spent four years without a paycheck. The Vineyard helps very few church plants. We gave more to the Association than they gave to us. The church that “sent” us out gave lip service to church planting, but the pastor was greedy. He eventually resigned from ministry because he was discovered to be embezzling donations.
  2. We feel pressure to perform week after week. I never really felt this pressure. I loved teaching, studying and preparing. I felt confident in my teaching/ preaching skills to the point that I never worried about it.
  3. We struggle with getting our worth from ministry. This was probably my biggest problem.
  4. We regularly think about quitting. Not really. Most of the time I loved what I was doing. I developed strong relationships that exist to this day and I know that I was used to help many people to grow in their walk with Christ.
  5. We say we are transparent—it’s actually opaque. I think I crossed the line too many times. We were deeply wounded by people that we thought we could trust.
  6. We measure ourselves by the numbers. Yes, especially in a church planting movement like the Vineyard. While I was serving we attended a number of church growth conferences and our movement placed heavy emphasis on church growth. Yes, Jesus wants a big church. But, He also wants a mature church and He wants His people to be in committed communion/ community. There was not much emphasis placed on the later. Success and support was measured and received based on numbers. I firmly believe that the American church would be stronger if there were fewer mega churches and more small churches characterized by greater commitment and maturity.
  7. We spend more time discouraged than encouraged. Most of the time this was not true for me as our church was growing in maturity, community and numbers for about five years (We were running about 75 in attendance and almost half were in one of several weekly home groups). We were doing relatively well compared to most church plants which fail before five years. Ours blew up over a short time span over a discipline issue. I made the mistake of following the biblical plan of church discipline by dis-fellowshipping a gossip after repeated warnings. My district overseer warned me not to do it. He was right from a strictly worldly business perspective. I should have done it sooner as the damage was irreparable by the time I did it. It wasn’t discouraging until the end. I once had a rude old Methodist pastor ask me, “Why did your church fail?” I wanted to smack him. I told him it wasn’t my church. Those who were blessed by our ministry do not consider it a failure.
  8. We worry about what you think. What, me worry? I should have been more sensitive to what people were thinking.
  9. We struggle with competition and jealousy. Oh yeah. I learned that it wasn’t about me.
  10. We feel like we failed you more than we helped you. No, I know I helped them.


The Four Faces of God

Discovering Biblical Personhood

I recently attended a men’s breakfast at our church where we heard an excellent lecture from Dr. Robert Lewis on “The Four Faces of Manhood”. Dr Lewis describes the four faces of biblical manhood as follows: King, Warrior, Lover and Friend. He plots these on a graph as follows:


Lover —————–  Friend



God has intended for the King to lead, for the friend to be faithful, for the warrior to be a protector and for the lover to love sacrificially as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). He then describes how God’s design for man can be perverted by “ugly caricatures”. The King becomes a cruel tyrant or a weak abdicator. The friend becomes a loner or a user of others. The warrior becomes a destroyer or a wimp and the lover becomes critical or cold.

It seemed to me that an unbalanced man would tend to lean in a circular direction and that the ugly caricatures would follow in a predictable pattern so that a tyrant king would be a using friend, a destroying warrior and a critical lover. On the other hand, if the unbalanced man leaned in the other direction he would be a weak abdicator, cold lover, a wimpy warrior and a loner rather than friend.

As I contemplated this, I was reminded of some scriptures about “four faces”. The first was in Ezekiel chapter 1 where Ezekiel has a vision of God’s throne and he describes four creatures (some call seraph) that stand guard around God’s throne:

As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. Ezekiel 1:10 NKJV

The Apostle John had a similar vision described in Revelation chapter 4:

Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. Revelation 4:6-7 NKJV

It is interesting that the two visions vary slightly, but to my mind it only lends credibility to the authenticity as the scriptures are inspired by God and penned by men with different perspectives. One can only imagine how frightening such a vision might be and how each might have a different memory of it, just as two people observing a horrible accident might have different accounts. If John had meant to copy Ezekiel he would have done it word for word, but he didn’t. But the two accounts are so similar as to confirm that they were seeing the same throne room.

We must understand that all creation is intended to glorify God as originally created. The creatures guarding God’s throne can be considered to display the character and nature of God just as mankind is made in the image of God. So, what do these creatures tell us about God and how does that apply to mankind?

I believe that the seraph show us that God relates to us as a man and a friend. God came to earth in the form of the man Jesus who referred to Himself as “the Son of Man.” God relates to us as King over all creation as the lion rules over all other creatures. Jesus is referred to as the Lion of the tribe of Judah and revelation assures that He will reign over all creation forever and ever (Rev. 11:15). An ox or a calf is a sacrificial animal. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29). An eagle is the swiftest of hunters and warriors. In the Psalms God describes Himself as an eagle protecting His flock.  He shelters us beneath His wings (Psalm 17:8).

So the new chart is this:


Lover/Ox —————– Friend/Man


As I have repeatedly read these scriptures in Ezekiel and Revelation I have wondered at their meaning and significance. I believe through this study that the Lord has granted me a measure of revelation. The four fold nature of God is even displayed in the different gospel accounts. Matthew depicts Christ as King beginning with His royal lineage (Mt. 2:2). Mark, written from Peter’s memories (Mark was Peter’s scribe), describes Jesus as a friend and a brother (Mark 3:35). No one was closer to Jesus than Peter. Mark reveals Jesus as a man (Mark 9:12).

Luke, written from Paul’s memories (Luke was discipled by Paul), displays Jesus as the warrior, the defender of the faith and the faithful. We see in the gospel of Luke the accounts of Jesus’ battles with the religious leaders and Pharisees (those accounts don’t name Paul, but I believe that he was among those who followed Jesus constantly seeking to trip him up; Luke 6:7). It is interesting that Jesus chose Paul, a fanatical defender of Judaism, to be the primary evangelist and his Acts and his letters portray how he battled like an eagle to defend the gospel.

John, the mystic, the romantic, depicts Christ as a sacrificial lover. He tells us that God so loved the world that He gave and describes Jesus as the Lamb of God. John records Jesus saying, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (Joh 13:34-35)

These scriptures revealing God’s nature and our response pertain to all mankind, including women. They show us what biblical personhood is. Women are created to reflect God’s image as well. Women are called to lead, love, protect and befriend all be it in a unique way.

As I looked further into Ezekiel’s vision I discovered that it reveals not only the nature of God, but it speaks about how we must walk with God. The vision shows us how not to become unbalanced, fall into sin and display a false, ugly caricature. I noticed that the creatures walked in the Spirit, that is they followed the Holy Spirit. They didn’t become unbalanced and turn to the left or right.

And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went. Ezekiel 1:12 NKJV

The vision goes on to tell us that a strange object followed each of the creatures.

Now as I looked at the living creatures, behold, a wheel was on the earth beside each living creature with its four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness. The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they moved, they went toward any one of four directions; they did not turn aside when they went. Ezekiel 1:15-17 NKJV

The scripture goes on to describe how the wheels are covered with eyes, depicting the all seeing, all knowing nature of God. This strange object, like the Seraphim, does not turn to the left or right, but follows the straight path, the narrow way. It reminded me of a gyroscope. I searched the definition/ function of a gyroscope.

Gyroscope: an apparatus consisting of a rotating wheel so mounted that its axis can turn freely in certain or all directions, and capable of maintaining the same absolute direction in space in spite of movements of the mountings and surrounding parts: used to maintain equilibrium, determine direction, etc.

Gyroscopes are used in aircraft instrumentation to show relative position to the earth. They help the pilot to know where straight and level is. A gyroscope has two perpendicular axes. One is perpendicular to the earth and the other is parallel. The axes of a gyroscope make a cross.

Our church has recently been studying the book of Romans. Last week I heard a message from chapter 7 by pastor Keith Knight. Chapter 7 is about struggling with sin. The conclusion is that there is deliverance from sin through Jesus Christ. At the climax of the message Keith turned to a cross on the stage and told us that when the struggle is there, he turns to the cross and reminds himself what Jesus did there to save us from sin. That is the key! That is what will keep us on the straight and narrow road.

I know that this vision is meant to show us that God has provided us with a holy gyroscope to help us follow Him. If we focus on what happened on the cross we will keep our spiritual bearings and not wander off to the left or right displaying an ugly image.

It’s interesting that such a mysterious vision should boil down to such a simple truth that is spelled out in the New Testament: that the way to overcome is to walk in the Spirit and keep your focus on Christ’s finished work on the cross. That is exactly how God revealed Himself in the old covenant. Jesus spoke in parables because He searches for seekers who will find revelation in ALL of scripture.