I recently posted my top 10 biblical priorities for a pastor’s ministry in the local church. One common question asked as a result was, “What does it mean for a pastor to guard the truth?” This is a fair question, especially since I listed it as #1. Here is a short biblical explanation followed by a few practical helps that will show how this all-important priority of guarding the truth manifests itself in the practicalities of pastoral ministry:
If we were to summarize Paul’s message to his young protégé, Timothy, it would be this, “Guard the treasure (deposit) that has been entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:14). Paul is saying guard the sound words, or doctrine, that I have taught you and entrust them to faithful men (2 Timothy 2:2). Jesus spoke his Word to his apostles, the apostles wrote down and spoke that Word to others (e.g., Paul to Timothy and Titus), and now that charge to guard the truth of the gospel and the apostle’s teaching has been passed down and entrusted to faithful men—undershepherds of the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words…pastors.
We are now entrusted to first guard this deposit, regardless the cost, then to do what has been done to bring it to us—entrust it to the next generation. This is #1 (out of the 10) because if we lose the truth, we have nothing.
3 Practical Helps to Guard the Truth
1) Declare the gospel. The gospel is the good news of Jesus that has been entrusted to all followers of Christ. This is not just a call to declare the gospel, but to guard the essential truth of the gospel. Paul is writing to Timothy and Titus with the looming presence of false teachers trying to twist and distort the true gospel. Yet, part of guarding the truth of this good news is to make sure we declare these essential truths of it.
Truths like the sinlessness of Jesus, Jesus' atoning death that was completely sufficient to satisfy the wrath of God on sin, his imputed righteousness, his physical resurrection, his rulership at the right hand of God, and that salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone in Him. Those of us who are Christians can begin to assume these great essential truths. Yet, I believe this powerful statement I once heard: “A generation that assumes these essential things about the gospel loses the gospel in the next generation.”
2) Defend the authority of all Scripture. The gospel is the good news of Jesus and reflects the redemptive plan of God throughout history culminating in the coming of Jesus. However, another part of this deposit Paul is writing Timothy to guard is the sound words of the apostles’ teaching. In short, the whole of Scripture we know as the OT and NT is to be defended as we guard the truth. Paul writes that “All Scripture is God-breathed” and is inspired by God. We guard the truth when we view the whole counsel of God as God’s authoritative, inerrant, infallible Word and we defend it as that.
3) Exercise Oversight. Wrapped up in us guarding true doctrine is the implication of true practice. Peter exhorts to “exercise oversight” as a function of shepherding, which means a pastor is to oversee not just that God’s Word is taught and preached, but to lead in such a way that God’s Word is the standard for the practice of the church in its day-to-day operations.
Pastors must delegate responsibilities to deacons and other leaders, but ultimately pastors still must maintain oversight over the entire church. In other words, administration, the handling of finances, caring for the children, planning the public gatherings, upkeep on the building, etc. We guard the truth by not just watching our life and doctrine, but making sure we operate with a biblical standard and practice in all we do as a local church.
I hope that is helpful in some way for those of you asking good questions in regard to this particular priority.
I went on a trip a couple of years ago with my son after he turned 13 years old. What was the occasion? My wife and I promised each of our children when they turned 13 years old, they would get to take a special trip with one of us. My son with me, and each of my daughters with my wife. The purpose of these trips is to first have fun and enjoy each other’s company, which is why they each get to pick the destination (must be within a day’s drive) and determine much of the agenda.
There is, however, another purpose for these trips: to celebrate each child is growing up to be a man and likewise our daughters into women. Becoming a teenager can be a scary prospect (for both child and parent), and this often mutes both parent and child from obvious changes taking place. Yet we want it to be something we all would celebrate. We also want to communicate the responsibilities that come with this different life stage as well as some of the developmental aspects of it. Therefore, these trips are also designed for us to have very intentional conversations about life as men and women. Many of these conversations had been already taking place for quite a while, but it provides an atmosphere to delve into them a bit more and reaffirm what has already been said.
Since several of you asked about how I led my son through these conversations on our trip, I thought I would explain it here for others interested in some of those details. The theme of the trip revolved around this biblical manhood template: Protect, provide, and lead.
We read in 1 Peter 3:1–7 about how I am called by God to protect my wife and children from any physical harm. Then, we discussed how my son could engage in this activity in our home. We discussed the practical ways he, too, could protect his mom and sisters from harm, everything from killing bugs to locking doors at night when I am out of town. We also read Proverbs 5 and discussed the need to protect ourselves from the adulterous woman who is after every man to steal him away from his wife. This allowed a fruitful discussion about sexual impurity and the destruction of pornography that we as men are surrounded by and how we protect our hearts and minds from it.
As men, we are called to provide for the needs of our families. We were made to work (Gen. 1–2) and to care for our families by providing the physical, emotional, and spiritual support that each family member needs (1 Tim. 5:8). Because of this, we discussed ways my son could accomplish this, even though he does not have to work to support a family at this time. We talked about how he needs to work hard now at school, competitive swimming, cutting grass, chores, and whatever else in his life that will help develop a work ethic that he can later take into his job that he would use to support a wife and family one day, Lord willing.
We read and discussed many implications to our call as Christian husbands to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her from Ephesians 5:22–33. One of the central ways Christ loved was through humble sacrifice. We talked about how my son could sacrificially serve his mom and sisters to develop that instinct to lead by humble service in the home. Also, we discussed the times I asked him to lead us on a family walk, or when he would pick where we go to eat, thinking of everyone in the family for the best place to go. Those are little ways for my son to lead now (and teach my daughters to follow) and think of how his decisions impact others.
Parents, I don’t think you have to take a trip as we have planned to do with each of our children. If you are able to afford it and do it, great. Regardless, I urge you to be very intentional about not waiting on these kinds of conversations that should be taking place much earlier than 13 years old. Don’t be afraid of them. Don’t run from them and wait because you anticipate them being uncomfortable. I promise you it will be too late if you wait until you must have these conversations. Our trip was a joy, very fruitful, and I am sad it will be my only one.
My oldest daughter turns 13 years old in a couple of months (here we go), and her trip is already planned for the fall with my wife. Parents with older kids, what have you done that has been fruitful in this preparation for your own children?
Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.
When I took a dying church on its last leg over 8 years ago, I did not know what to expect or whether we would even be a church the next year. By God’s grace, the church has grown, changed, matured and stabilized in a way that has surpassed my expectations. Much of what I have learned I anticipated and braced for it. Yet there have been some lessons learned that I did not expect. Some lessons that came through pain, heartache, and mistakes. Some lessons I am so grateful to God He allowed me to learn thus far in this journey and are lessons unique to pastoring these kinds of churches. Here are a few:
1) Wait for the right time to implement change.
2) Don’t underestimate the power of persistent love.
3) Don’t underestimate the joy of winning those who were once hostile to you.
4) Don’t neglect your elderly members, they’re one of your greatest gifts.
5) Labor for the satisfaction of seeing unhealthy, dysfunctional church patterns broken.
You can find my explanations of these 5 lessons in full in this article from the most recent 9 Marks ejournal. I welcome your thoughts on the article as well as any further lessons you have learned while laboring in your church revitalization work.
What is Practical Shepherding? Well, here is our newly released 2 minute promo video to explain it. It captures well the essence of this ministry, how it got started, and where we hope to go in the future. Thanks to Greg Cash from 20 Schemes for his friendship and excellent work on this project! He captured our story well:
Thanks to all who are excited about what God is doing and praying for what is to come. Spread the word!
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.
To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.