Brian Croft

Brian Croft

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.  He is the husband of Cara and adoring father of four children, son, Samuel and daughters, Abby, Isabelle, and Claire.  He has served in pastoral ministry for over fifteen years and is currently in his eighth year as Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church.  He was educated at both Belmont University and Indiana University receiving his B.A. in Sociology.  He also undertook some graduate work at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

He is also the author of Visit the sick: Ministering God’s grace in times of illness (foreword by Mark Dever) and Test, train, affirm, and send into Ministry: Recovering the local church’s responsibility to the external call (foreword by R. Albert Mohler Jr.). Both of these volumes are published by Day One in their pastoral series designed to serve pastors, church leaders, and those training for local church ministry.  Brian has also published Help! He’s Struggling with Pornography and Conduct Gospel-centered Funerals (co-written with Phil Newton).

A Faith That Endures: Meditations on Hebrews 11 is Brian’s newest book, released in fall of 2011. His next book on The Pastor’s Family, co-authored with his wife, is due to be released by Zondervan in Fall 2013.

Brian is also a guest blogger at both The Gospel Coalition and 9 Marks.

To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.

The Type of Pastor God Uses to Revitalize a Church

It is unfortunate the number of dying churches that conclude they need one of two kinds of men to lead them to revitalize their church. Churches first pursue the next young, rock-star preacher to be their pastor, banking on his charisma to breathe life back into the church. The problem with this approach is not just the limited amount of so-called “rock-star pastors” that exist, but that the Bible does not advocate that the men who lead the church must fit that description.

The other kind of pastor churches conclude they need is a fiery evangelist who will go out into the community and win souls for Jesus and that will help the church grow and consequently bring new fresh life. God uses both these kinds of men to build his kingdom, but this is not what is necessary for God to revitalize a struggling church.

God simply wants faithful shepherds.

God wants men who meet a certain qualification and godly character (1 Tim. 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9). God wants a humble, eager man who feels called to shepherd the flock of God on behalf of the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1–4). God wants pastors who realize their calling is to take heed to themselves and to the flock who Christ purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28).

God wants faithful shepherds who are not defined by their cleverness or charisma, but by a divine conviction to care for souls as if they will give an account to Jesus for them (Heb. 13:17).

Many approaches to revitalization challenge dying congregations (often set in their ways) to look outward for new life. I am not discouraging evangelist efforts, but if God has sheep already in a local church, we should begin there and not be so quick to simply try and replace them as the solution. Too often the decline of local churches has come as a result of the progression of neglectful, unfaithful shepherds. As a result, the spiritual life in the sheep of the church slowly dwindles throughout decades of neglect to a mere ember.

But there is spiritual life in every true follower of Jesus, regardless how beat up and discouraged they may be. Christ still lives in them and is working to complete the work he began (Phil 1:6).  God needs faithful shepherds to care for the flock, and God, in part, breathes life into the church when his sheep are well cared for and fed the bread of life.  Then, send those fed, equipped sheep out to get others.

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.

5 Common Questions Every Pastor Should Ask a Prospective Church Member

The most important part of the membership process we have at our church is the one-on-one meeting I have with prospective members. This is the time I hear about their conversion, baptism, their grasp of the gospel, why they want to join our church, and explain to them what will be expected of them if they are to become members by walking through our church covenant. As I know many pastors walk prospective members through a similar process, I thought I would share a few specific questions I typically ask.

Here are 5 common questions to ask at a membership interview:

1)  Tell me about how you first heard the gospel, understood it, and came to follow Christ?

2)  What is the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ in 60 seconds or less?

3)  Why would I ask a prospective member question #2?

4)  What are the reasons you feel this is where God desires for you and your family to commit?

5)  In what ways would you desire to serve this church as a member, if given the opportunity?

 A few extra questions for those coming from the seminary:

6)  Describe your calling to the ministry and why you think you are called?

7)  What role should the local church play in preparing you for ministry?

8)  Why are you driving past 5 really good, solid, and faithful churches to come here? (This is true for those who live close to SBTS campus)

These questions really act as a basic template that naturally lead to other follow up questions. I mention them with hopes they will provoke you to consider what details about a person’s life are necessary to bring them into the church as a covenant member.

Side note: A book we require all new members to read is the book written by my dear friend, Thabiti Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member? It is the best resource on the topic that I know exists.

Pastors, what other questions have you found helpful to ask prospective members as they go through your membership process?

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.

2 Practical Tips When Considering a Fast

Fasting, when combined with the practice of prayer, is a powerful tool God uses to increase our desire for him and to focus our prayers for greater effectiveness.

A basic definition of fasting is…

“the withholding of food for a certain amount of time for the sake of creating a more disciplined and earnest attitude of prayer.”

How does this work? The simplest way to explain it is to say that the moments we inevitably feel unfulfilled hunger pains of food should instead move us to pray. We translate our natural hunger for food, which is necessary for life, into prayer. Our physical yearnings are transferred into spiritual hunger for God, for the life we have in him, and for him to do what only he can do.

Consider these two simple guidelines if you are new to fasting:

1) A fast doesn’t always have a particular time limit on it or specific rules you must follow about what to give up. You can fast for a day or for a month. You can do a water-only or a juice-only fast. You can fast one meal once a week or one full day every month. You can abstain from certain foods like desserts, and when you feel the urge to reach for a cookie, your desire can be channeled into an urgency to pray. There are no rules. Do what will create in you a greater urgency and hunger to pray.

2) Be mindful of any health issues that could make a fast unwise. For example, if you are a diabetic or have any other physical condition that requires a strict diet, be especially mindful not to put yourself in a compromised position as a result of a fast. I also discourage the idea of fasting for those who struggle with eating disorders that are making intake of food a challenge and concern in their daily living. The point of the fast is to combine it with a more intense, focused time of prayer that brings a greater communion with God, a greater empowerment of the Spirit, and a greater earnestness in your soul.

There is a time to feast. And there is a time to fast. Make sure both fosters a greater awareness to pray without ceasing.

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.

How Do We Evaluate the Call to Ministry?

The answer to this question is at the heart of what I am teaching today to these precious pastors at the Copperbelt Ministerial College in Ndola, Zambia. Pastors from 4 different countries have journeyed to attend this week.  Very humbling.

The Apostle Paul instructs his young protégé in the faith and writes, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer (pastor); it is a fine work he desires to do (1 Timothy 3:1).  The great nineteenth-century Baptist Charles Spurgeon lectured young men preparing for the ministry in this way, “The first sign of the heavenly calling is an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work.” There must be a strong, unquenchable desire to do the work of a pastor—a desire to preach God’s word, shepherd God’s people, evangelize the lost, disciple the spiritually immature, and serve the local church.

Spurgeon confirms that this divine aspiration which comes from above can be known through a desire to do nothing else:

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. If on the other hand, you can say that for all the wealth of both the Indies you could not and dare not espouse any other calling so as to be put aside from preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, then depend upon it, if other things be equally satisfactory, you have the signs of this apostleship. We must feel that woe is unto us if we preach not the gospel; the word of God must be unto us as fire in our bones, otherwise, if we undertake the ministry, we shall be unhappy in it, shall be unable to bear the self-denials incident to it, and shall be of little service to those among whom we minister.

Paul writes that the man who desires to do this divine work is pursuing a fine work. Nevertheless, an unquenchable longing for this work is required, for it is a work fraught with struggles, challenges, discouragements, pressures, and spiritual battles that can cripple the strongest of men whose desire for this divine labor is ordinary. It must be a desire that cannot be stolen when your brother betrays you; a desire that cannot be weakened when your job is threatened; a desire that cannot be quenched when physical, mental, and emotional fatigue firmly take root. This desire must so define the individual that the reality of an internal calling is unmistakable.

My prayer is this unmistakable calling will be confirmed in the hearts of these African pastors I will be addressing this week. My hope is also that this post in some way will serve you, dear brothers, if you are trying to sort through you own calling to pastoral ministry and that you would find this unquenchable desire in your heart for this fine work.

How Do You Teach a Child about the Imputed Righteousness of Christ?

We talk about the gospel constantly in our house and in our family devotions with our children. However, we can be tempted to have these conversations with our children on a superficial level without discussing the deep theological truths wrapped up in the gospel. We think kids cannot handle it. For example, how does a sinner stand in the presence of a holy God? In other words, how do you explain Christ bearing our sin and Christ’s righteousness being given to us to a child? Here is what followed in one dinner conversation at our family meal time and my hope is that it could act as a template to teach our children other deep theological truths that make the gospel so sweet and accessible to them.

Illustrate the principle of exchange: I find it helpful to teach my children with something they can visualize, so I decided to illustrate what an exchange is to help them grasp, “The Great Exchange.” One evening towards the conclusion of dinner, I asked my 6-year-old to give me her dirty, used napkin and that I would give her a valuable coin in its place. She, of course, saw the better end of this deal and gladly took it. I explained to her that we just exchanged something and that an exchange is anytime you give something away to receive something in return.

Through the illustration, explain the “Great Exchange.” As I saw she began to grasp that idea, I proceeded to describe our particular exchange. She gave me her dirty, torn napkin (a worthless item) in exchange for my coin (a valuable item). Once I saw she understood, I proceeded to equate her dirty napkin with our sin and my valuable coin with Christ’s righteousness. When Jesus died on the cross, He took our sin from us and bore it in our place. Then, our sin is “exchanged” for Jesus’ perfect life (life without sin). If we repent and believe in Jesus, this exchange takes place and God (Holy God) sees Jesus’ perfect life when He looks upon us. That is how we are able to stand before God as sinners.

Narrow it down to a simple question and answer. To confirm she understood this idea, I asked these two questions to her, “What did Jesus take from us?” She answered, “Our sin.” “What did Jesus give us in return?” She answered, “His perfect life.” I proceeded to ask our other children the same question and did so every day throughout the rest of the week to make sure it was sinking in.

As I was explaining this to my 6-year-old and saw she was getting it, my 9-year-old and 11-year-old were listening and really grasped this idea well also. My 3-year-old didn’t, and started insisting that I give her a coin also. Can’t win them all. The point is children can grasp these deep and glorious truths of the gospel. Don’t wait to teach them. Though my 3-year-old didn’t get it like the others, I have confidence I have laid the ground work for her future understanding. Don’t think for a moment that little, sharp mind won’t be looking for that upcoming dinner when I ask for her napkin in exchange for a coin.

5 Powerful Ways You Can Encourage Your Pastor

Based on the emails, notes, and phone calls I continue to get, trust me… your pastor needs encouragement. He needs to know that what he does week in and week out means something to God as well as those for whom he labors. Here are 5 suggestions to accomplish this:

1) Share appreciation for how hard he works

Maybe the most hurtful words a pastor and his wife can hear are not “bad sermon” or “that was a dumb decision” or “I don’t like the way you do that.” Rather, words that imply this message can be the most hurtful: “You are lazy.” Because of this, some of the most encouraging words a pastor and his wife can hear are words of gratefulness for how hard he works to preach faithfully and shepherd their souls.

2) Give specific feedback to a sermon

I’m not talking about the slap-on-the-back, “nice sermon” comment. Instead be specific: ”That insight into the text was really helpful” or “That application really met me where I am struggling.” Don’t underestimate how impactful just one thoughtful, specific comment about your pastor’s sermon can be to him… especially on Monday.

3) Acknowledge the sacrifice of his family

This will encourage his wife and children, but it will also be very meaningful to the pastor. The pastor knowing you are thinking of his family can often mean more than you thinking of him. Some of the most meaningful encouragement to me has been efforts like a card or gift to my wife and children thanking them for their sacrifice in allowing me to do what I do. My kids especially always remember those things.

4) Reveal how you have spiritually grown under his ministry

This is one thing a pastor labors to hear and hopes is taking place all over his congregation. Stop keeping him in suspense and tell him so he knows. The Lord can also use these words to help a pastor learn what he needs to change or adjust in the way he is preaching or caring for people.

5) Tell him how you specifically pray for him

Your pastor of all people should know the significance of prayer. The most meaningful thing I hear isn’t, “I prayed for you,” but “I prayed that your sermon would be powerfully preached and eagerly received” or “I prayed God would protect you and your family from the enemy through this important week.” Write your pastor a text or email today and tell him what you prayed for him or how you will be praying for him this week.

If not in these ways, find some way to encourage your pastor this week. Never underestimate how meaningful and well-timed it can be when God would so lead you to do so… especially on Monday!

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.

How Does a Busy Pastor Plan His Daily Schedule?

Everyone is busy. This is the reality of our modern culture. There is work that needs to be done, a family to care for, a house and car to maintain, friendships to cultivate, doctors to visit. There are kid’s activities to schedule and guests to host. For those of us who are Christians, you can add to the normal busyness of life attendance at church, possibly volunteering once a week. Life in the twenty-first century feels like an unending rat race. We only slow down when crisis and sickness force us to take a break.

Those who pastor God’s people experience many of the same pulls, pressures, demands, and responsibilities as other Christians. And because a pastor is called to be involved in the lives of the people in his congregation, he must learn to juggle his own schedule with the busy and hectic schedules of his church members as well. Their busy lives create additional tension in ministry, setting many pastors up for failure—even before they begin.

Many pastors fall into two traps here…

In some cases, a pastor quickly realizes that he cannot provide adequate care for his congregation, so he doesn’t. Even with a smaller congregation, it’s not possible to be at every surgery, ball game, funeral, doctor’s visit, home invitation, church work-day, and counseling request. Discouraged, some stop trying altogether. A pastor may choose to focus more broadly on administrating large activities, managing busy programs, and overseeing the general functioning of the local church, leaving the work of “ministry” to others—or neglecting it altogether.

On the other hand, some determined pastors recognize that they can’t do it all, but they commit to pushing through the pain. They set an ambitious hand to the plow and hope that with enough effort they will at least please some people. This approach has its own dangers, though. The pastor is now enslaved to the demands and needs of his church. The congregation, whether directly or indirectly, largely determines how his time is spent. His ministry faithfulness and fruitfulness will be based on how happy his congregation is with his efforts, and while some will be pleased, there will always be people who can never be satisfied. Satisfying people becomes his way of measuring faithfulness, yet this will leave him feeling exhausted and empty.

To read the full article click here…

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.

How Do You Counsel a Wife Whose Husband Struggles with Pornography?

Last week, I referred to 6 ways to counsel a husband who has harmed his wife with his pornography struggle. What about the wife? Although many are harmed by a husband’s struggle with pornography, no one is harmed more than his wife. How does a pastor care and counsel a wife who has been harmed by her husband’s struggle. Here are 6 suggestions for hurting wives to help her husband as well as find forgiveness:

1)      Embrace that you play an important role of accountability for your husband.

The wife may be tempted to distance herself from helping her husband and, thus, rely on other men to play that role. However, the wife is an (if not the) important source of accountability for her husband. She knows him better than anyone, cares more than anyone that he overcomes this struggle, and is the object of the husband’s greatest affection. Urge the wife not to be afraid to play this role. She becomes a great asset for her husband to overcome this struggle.

2)      Know that this is not your fault. (It really isn’t you; it’s him.)

Ironically, when a husband chooses to sin in this way, a wife will often blame herself. She was not attractive enough, did not show him enough attention, or did not see the warning signs. The fact is we are all responsible before God for our own sinful hearts. An unhealthy marriage can be a breeding ground for this struggle for a husband, but the wife should never feel the responsibility for his sinful decisions.

3)      Share your hurt with him.

Encourage the wife not to hesitate to share how his sinful actions have made her feel. It will remind the husband of one of many reasons why he should never allow this destructive pattern to return. In turn, it also acts as a healthy and good way for the wife to grieve through the hurt and find forgiveness.

4)      Seek counsel and care from another godly woman.

If possible, put the betrayed wife in the care of another godly woman who has walked through this struggle with her husband, or a similar one. Choose carefully, however, as this is meant to help the wife find empathy, grace, and forgiveness towards her husband, not an opportunity to fuel the fire of hurt and bitterness that already exists.

5)      Guard your heart from bitterness.

Bitterness is an all-too-common response to the offenses of others against us. The best way to guard a wife harmed by sexual sins against bitterness is to remind her of the gospel and how God has forgiven her sins. Keep her need for repentance and the promise of forgiveness from God before her, and God will provide the grace needed to forgive her husband.

6)       Pursue regular sexual intimacy with your husband.

The best thing for a hurting wife to do is the last thing she feels like doing after being hurt in this way: pursue sexual intimacy with her husband (1 Corinthians 7:5). This intentional intimacy acts as a safeguard for this particular struggle in a husband and will break down the barriers to intimacy that the enemy wants to keep up as long as possible.

Pastors, may the Lord give you grace as you attempt to care for a wife who certainly needs care after this sort of betrayal. Remember, the gospel is powerful enough to restore any marriage from the deepest damage caused by sexual sin and God powerfully uses the local church to care for those affected. There is hope.

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.

The Stunning Truth that Allows Us to Endure

One of my pastoral teachers and heroes, Bill Hughes, said goodbye to his beloved wife of over 60 years this past week who met her Savior in glory and is no longer suffering. Bill spent most of his long and faithful ministry serving in Scotland. Thinking about and praying for Bill this week reminded me of a simple, but profound truth I learned from him about how to endure through the constant struggles of pastoral ministry. In an exposition of 2 Corinthians 4 I once heard Bill Hughes preach, he made this observation to answer the nagging question, “How do I endure through the difficulties of pastoral ministry?”

“Never forget the debt to mercy we owe.”

See what I mean? Simple. Stunningly true. Yet when measured against anything we might face as pastors, it produces endurance in every trial, struggle, and difficulty. Bill instructed that when we remember who we once were and the amazing debt to mercy we owe to our Savior, we will be more patient, gracious, and merciful to even the most stubborn and petty of conflicts and complaints we experience in the church. Likewise, if we forget who we once were and presume upon this debt to mercy in the gospel, those same petty people and issues will eat us up and will destroy us and our ministry.

Dear brothers, if you find yourself discouraged, angry, wondering why some of your people do and say what they do and you can’t take it any more… do not forget the debt to mercy you owe. It is a debt greater than you and I could ever pay back. It is a debt that should weigh heavier on our joyful hearts than the most difficult person in our church. Apply this truth that was so powerfully taught to me by this sweet and faithful man and see if you, then, find the hope and perspective you need for that struggling person or circumstance you face in your ministry.

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.

How Do You Counsel a Husband Who's Struggling with Pornography?

Every pastor already faces this. Unfortunately, I fear the problem will only become more common in the future - that is, marriage counseling as a result of a husband’s struggle with pornogrpahy. The work to restore trust and intimacy within a marriage deeply affected by this sinful struggle is only possible through the gospel and applied most effectively within the local church; having said that, consider six practical ways that husband can reestablish trust and intimacy with his hurting wife:

1)      Be patient towards your hurting wife.

Men are known to deal with something, then move on. A wife, especially one sinned against by pornography will not move on so quickly. A wife does not get past this offense in the same amount of time a husband often expects she should. Encourage the husband to be patient with his wife as she tries to find forgiveness and reestablish trust. By God’s grace it will happen—but in time.

2)      Understand the seriousness of your sin against her.

Sexual sin hurts a wife more deeply than most other sins against her. A husband needs to realize that the reasons this sin stings so much is that it seems to confirm almost every doubt and insecurity most women already battle within themselves. Understanding the seriousness of this sin and the pain it causes will help cultivate patience and prevent a reoccurrence of it.

3)      Look to your wife to play an important role of accountability.

It is easy to seek the accountability of another man when it comes to this struggle because, we say, “Only another man knows what the battle is like.” Yet, you do not have to sleep next to that man every night. You do not have to look into his eyes knowing the hurt you caused. You do not have to be as patient and gracious with your buddy through this like you must with your wife. It may need to be in the context of regular counseling for a while, but convince him his wife will be a great asset to establish his new patterns and protection from falling again.

4)      Consistently and creatively romance your wife.

A husband should have already been pursuing his wife romantically as a regular practice. Now, he must understand this pattern must be established to restore his marriage. Sexual sin attacks a wife’s confidence and security that her husband loves and desires her. This confidence is a must for a healthy marriage and remains so for one to be restored.

5)      Affirm your physical attraction to her.

It should surprise no man that when he looks at other women in lustful ways, it will communicate a sharp message to his wife that he does not find her attractive. Most men would confess that is not what drove them to pornography, but it is inescapable that this is how a wife feels because of it. Encourage the man verbally to affirm his physical attraction to his wife. Then, he must back it up with his actions.

6)      Realize the battle never ends this side of eternity.

The gospel is powerful to free men from this bondage and to establish new patterns in their lives, but the fences of accountability must always remain. Most of the men who slip up in this area do so just when they start getting confident that they no longer struggle with pornography (1 Corinthians 10:12). The guards come down. The wife has forgiven. The accountability partner has not asked about the struggle for a while. The gradual decline of these forms of accountability should act as a warning sign and a reminder that this struggle in our sex-saturated culture will only end when the perfectly faithful husband, Christ, gathers his bride to himself (Revelation 19:6-9).

Pastors, may the Lord grant you wisdom as you work with husbands who struggle in this way so that the patterns would be broken, marriages would be mended, and the power of Christ would be credited.

Electronic or Hard Copy of Scripture?

It is safe to say the Reformers never had to tackle this question. However, it is certainly one we face now and has important implications to the fruitfulness of a pastor’s ministry today. As this question has forced its way on the scene as a result of our growing technological advances, so have strong opinions on this matter. Many of these opinions are nothing more than preferences. And yet, there are still some pastoral issues that need to be considered if we as pastors in this technological age desire to avoid any unnecessary distractions so to be most fruitful and effective. Here is a basic template for every pastor to consider in determining the kind of means we would seek to minister God’s word to God’s people:

1)  Consider your audience. The age of your congregation matters a great deal in discerning these issues. A pastor could sit at the bedside of a sick person and read God’s word from an electronic device and be found to do so with someone under 40 years old much more than someone over the age of 40 years old. That is not always the case though. Just because a younger person will probably be more “tech-savvy” does not mean reading from an iPod could not also be a distraction for them like it would be for an 80-year-old.

2)  Determine your level of confidence. These decisions need to be made on your confidence level relationally with the person of which you go to minister. How well do you know them? How well do they know you and will they understand, even expect you, to whip out a Kindle when you go to read God’s word to them? I suggest always erring on the side of caution. If you are visiting an 80-year-old widow who does not own a computer of any kind and still does not know what the Internet is (trust me, they still proudly exist), it is probably best to always take a hard copy of God’s word to read with her. She may think you are trying to pull something over on her if she cannot see “Holy Bible” printed on the front.

3)  Know your surroundings. Making this decision is not just based on the engagement of the person, but the places you minister where others might be around. I think hospitals, funeral homes, and similar traditional settings where many different kinds of people with different backgrounds and ages will be involved and present needs to be properly evaluated. Pastors need to realize some might interpret your gadget you brought that “acts as a Bible replacement” as a distraction. Think of unbelievers in the room who may be wondering what are you reading. “You could be reading anything from that thing. How do I know it is the Bible?” On the other hand, in your small group Bible study with your crew of college students where everybody is reading off a Kindle or iPod… a physical Bible might look even strange to them.

4)  Guard from legalism. As many pastors possess their own “soap boxes” on this matter, each of us need to guard from being legalistic about this issue. God’s word is no less God’s word in printed form inside a really snazzy colored cover with a giant cross on the front, or on the really tiny print on your smart phone. Let’s keep this from becoming the next “King James only” controversy and just call it what it is: a preference. As long it is a credible translation of the Bible and a credible, untampered printed or electronic copy of that translation (of which there are many)… it is God’s word. Don’t make more of an issue of this than it should be.

5)  Trust the source. Our effectiveness to minister to our people ultimately has nothing to do with from what means we read, as long as it is the inerrant, infallible, powerful word of the living God. God, by his Spirit and through his living and active word, is what changes and effects people. Minister that word and do not rely much at all on the “mechanics” of what you read from, but do so in a discerning way that avoids any distractions from God doing what he does through his word in the lives of his people when his shepherds faithfully bring it to bear on souls.

Lately, I find myself doing regular Bible reading off my Kindle Fire, yet you will always find me with a hard copy of God’s word when entering a funeral home, hospital room, or home of an elderly saint. At this point, you will not find me using my Kindle when I preach, not out of any theological principle, but because of my fear of trusting technology that much. Each pastor needs to determine his own comfort level to embrace the blessings of technology as we should, yet mindful of any unhelpful perception that might exist that could hinder your efforts to care for souls.

What Weddings Should a Pastor Perform?

I am consistently asked about the circumstances surrounding weddings. What makes it permissible or not to conduct a wedding in ”this or that” situation? I am very aware that there are strong opinions and lively disagreements about whether an evangelical pastor should marry Christians, non-Christians, and everything in between. The debate does not end there. Then you have to determine if it is wise to marry two Christians in “this particular circumstance” as opposed to “that particular circumstance.”

Here is my effort to serve in this discussion and try to answer the regular calls and emails I receive that have piled up on this matter. It comes in the form of these suggested boundaries I set within these 3 common templates:

1)  A Christian marrying a Non-Christian. Most are in agreement, as I am, that this is not permitted in Scripture, nor is it wise. Although, many of us know of examples of this where the other spouse is eventually converted, I would never encourage a Christian to marry an unbeliever, thus would never encourage a pastor to conduct a wedding where a Christian marries a non-Christian. Yet, if you find yourself shepherding a Christian spouse married to an unbeliever (as I do), 1 Peter 3:1-6 is a powerful word on that subject for them.

2)  A Christian marrying a Christian. The ideal scenario is for a pastor to marry 2 Christians within their church, those whom he knows well, is able to do adequate pre-marital counseling with them, and can then shepherd them through the first years of their marriage. I am conducting a wedding this weekend under this scenario. Where it gets tricky and wisdom and discernment is required is when two Christians ask you to marry them, but they are not plugged into a local church, nor connected to a pastor who has taken responsibility for them.

Regardless the scenario, if you marry two Christians the ceremony needs to be seen as a worship service where the gospel is preached and you know the lives of this man and woman well enough that you can point to them in that public moment and exhort them to display Christ’s love for his church through the way they relate to one another (Eph. 5:22-33). If a couple is living in open, habitual, and unrepentant sin (such as living together and being physically intimate) that would be one reason to prohibit doing the ceremony, for in that instance, I cannot stand and commend these public witnesses to watch their life as professing Christians.

3)  A Non-Christian marrying another Non-Christian. This is the one that many love to debate. All I will say is that if you decide to marry two Non-Christians, I think the biblical warrant comes from Genesis 2 as marriage being an institution of creation of which God is glorified when it is according to his design (one man and one woman), even though it does not fulfill God’s ultimate redemptive purpose (Eph. 5:22-33).

If your conscience allows you to marry two Non-Christians, make sure it is not conducted as a worship service, but simply a ceremony that allows you, a pastor, to join this man and woman together with these witnesses present. This can also be a strategic opportunity to preach the gospel, but I would make that part of the agreement with the bride and groom before committing to marrying them.

OK, there you go. Do not hate. These are simply some general boundaries I have used in the past that have helped me discern so many unique case by case situations to determine whether my conscience could marry a couple, or if it was even wise to do so.

Just remember, you should not feel forced to do any wedding, regardless the pressure you may be feeling from family or church members. If you have concerns whether two people should be married, listen to your conscience, allow the Scriptures to guide you, and seek counsel from other pastors who have possibly walked in the same place you dare to tread… an unclear, complicated wedding decision.

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.