How do you disciple a new Christian who cannot read or write?

A few years ago had the privilege of baptizing a new believer.  I quickly came to realize this was not going to be the typical discipleship scenario (as if there is one).  He is an elderly man who cannot see well and more importantly cannot read or write.  This situation should not concern us.  We should, actually, rejoice at these opportunities to challenge our regular practices, throw the rule book out, and use discernment to know how to best care for these sheep.  God desires them to know his word and ways to the same extent as the doctors and lawyers in your congregation.  Here have been five practical ways we have cared for those who struggle to read well or read at all:

1)      Audio Bible

Never assume you can give someone a Bible, tell them to read your recommended passages for new Christians, and think your effort is done.  As soon as I realized this elderly brother could not read, but had a CD player, I went and bought him audio CD’s of a good translation of the Bible.  The following week when I came to visit him unannounced he was listening to them.  He tells me he spends hours a day listening to God’s Word being read.

2)      Audio Sermons

If he can listen to the Bible being read, he can listen to the Bible being preached.  Any good faithful expository sermons are good.  However, if this member misses church regularly because of physical ailments, be sure to provide him with audio sermons from your local congregation.   That way, he will stay connected with the ministry of your church.

3)      Read Scripture with them

One of the reasons Richard Baxter was so faithful to visit people in their homes was to check to make sure they understood what was being preached and read to them.  Many of them were common people and could not read well.  Visiting someone in their home and reading Scripture to them are always fruitful ways to serve and encourage your fellow church members.  Imagine the fruitfulness of your efforts to do the same for those who cannot read at all.  You will find those who cannot read receive the public and private reading of Scripture more eagerly than those who can.

4)      Pre-sermon discussion

Try to call and visit those who have trouble reading the day before they will hear the word preached.  Read the passage with them, share a few insights from the passage you have gathered through your own preparation to hear the word preached, then pray that the Lord will give them understanding when they gather with God’s people and hear the word read and preached.  Any mature Christian in your local church can do this, and I promise you, anyone you serve in this way will hear the word with a greater attentiveness.

5)      Use good children’s materials

I find myself regularly giving out good children’s resources not just to those who read at a basic level, but new Christians in general.  Good gospel-centered children’s materials don’t change the message at all, they just simplify it.  I just walked an unbeliever through the Two Ways to Live tract and sent the children’s version home with him.  I regularly have new Christians in our church reading David Helm’s The Big Picture Story Bible and those that do in a matter of months have a grasp on redemptive history that I would argue most Christians do not.

Remember, you don’t have to be remarkably creative or pragmatic to make these adjustments.  Just think like a shepherd who will not rest until all his sheep are faithfully cared for and you will have all you need to make good decisions in all the “outside the box” circumstances of discipling new Christians.

This man who inspired this post, went home to be with the Lord yesterday.  Grateful for him.  I will not forget how a man who could not read or write still taught me so much.

Posted in Discipleship

What should I do with the hard, difficult people in my church who appear to hate me?

One of the most significant implications from Hebrews 13:17 (giving account for souls) I learned early in ministry was that I don’t have the right to dislike and refuse to care for someone’s soul that God has entrusted to me.  This is important to realize as pastors because we all have those who despise us in our congregations–those we have upset by something we said or did–that we will still give an account for when we stand before God.  At this point, some of you may be thinking these kinds of people are a good reason to leave and start over, but I submit to you they are actually a good reason to stay and endure.  Why are these difficult people a good reason to stay and endure?

Stay in the same place to watch God work through your ministry in such a way that those who once despised you may in time grow to love and appreciate you.

I was reminded of this several years ago as I went to the hospital to visit an elderly lady who almost died, but turned the corner and began to make a slow recovery.  She is someone who years ago publicly attacked and slandered me in front of the whole church.  Not my biggest fan.  Although the tensions had calmed down the last few years, I didn’t expect a great deal of warmth from her.

I sat with this woman and had the most encouraging and pleasant visit with her.  She was warm, kind, and gracious to me.  She praised me for caring for her and the church so well over the years.  Just as I started to intently look for the “candid camera” that had been planted, she reached to hug me as I left.  Unable to humanly explain anything I had just experienced, God reminded me of one of the greatest joys of staying and enduring with these people.

As we endure the criticisms, complaints, and verbal attacks, and try to love and care for the souls of those who attack us, God in his grace might just allow us to eventually win them over.

What a powerful testimony of the power of God at work in his shepherd and sheep when He does this.  This is not the first time God has allowed me to experience this and I can definitely say it ranks as one of the greatest joys I now experience in pastoral ministry with my congregation.

Pastors, hold fast to what you know to be true and right.  Love those who love you as you love those who don’t–at least right now.  However, don’t be surprised when you wake up one day (years from now) and find that a church member who has been cold to you for years suddenly has warmed up.

Consider these stunningly wise words from Richard Baxter on why we should especially care for the souls of those who despise us,

“Even the stoutest sinners will hear us on their death bed, though they scorned us before.”

Posted in Hospital Visitation, Oversight of Souls, The Pastor's Soul

Practical Shepherding Workshop (Night before T4G) Register Now!

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We are excited to announce that we will be having a Practical Shepherding Workshop on Monday, April 11, 2016, the night before Together for the Gospel begins.  It will be held at Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisville, KY less than 2 miles from the conference sight.  The workshop will be from 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm.  Since the pre-conferences do not start until Tuesday morning, this workshop can be attended without sacrificing other T4G events.  Snacks, drinks, and a bookstore full of discounted practical resources will be provided.

What is a Practical Shepherding Workshop?

Our Practical Shepherding Workshop is an intense one day practical training for pastors, church leaders, and aspiring pastors that focus on the life of a pastor to “Pay careful attention to yourself and your flock” (Acts 20:28).  We accomplish this by focusing on 5 main areas:

  • The Pastor’s Soul (The personal care of a pastor’s own soul)
  • The Pastor’s Ministry (The 10 priorities of every busy pastor’s ministry)
  • The Pastor’s Family (Discussing how a pastor can more faithfully care for his family)
  • The Pastor’s Journey (Brian Croft tells the painful, yet redemptive story of his first 10 years as Senior pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church)
  • The Pastor’s Inquiry (A time of “Q and A” with a panel of PS endorsed pastors moderated by Brian Croft)

Register now and get the early bird registration cost ($50; $40 student rate).  You must register and pay to reserve your spot.  Limited seating!

Register and pay through this link: PS Workshop Pre-T4G

Posted in The Pastor's Soul, Promotion

What do I love about C.H. Spurgeon’s ministry that is largely overlooked?

Charles Spurgeon is celebrated as one of the most gifted, dedicated, brilliant, and impacting preachers and pastors in history.  This honorable distinction is given by most because of his piercing, articulate, Christ-centered, and Word-driven sermons that were heard and have been read by thousands all over the world.  Because of the popularity that Spurgeon reached in his ministry, his faithfulness as a very young pastor is often overlooked.

In 1854, at the young age of twenty, Spurgeon moved to pastor a church in London (New Park Street Chapel), which later became the Metropolitan Tabernacle.  Spurgeon had barely been in London twelve months when a severe case of cholera swept through London.  Spurgeon recounts his efforts to care for and visit the numerous sick in the midst of horrific conditions:

 All day, and sometimes all night long, I went about from house to house, and saw men and women dying, and, oh, how glad they were to see my face!  When many were afraid to enter their houses lest they should catch the deadly disease, we who had no fear about such things found ourselves most gladly listened to when we spoke of Christ and of things Divine.

 What an extraordinary example of a young, inexperienced pastor who feared God more than a contagious disease.  What a model for each of us to see the sacrificial care that Spurgeon gave at great risk because he knew of the spiritual fruit that could come only at the bedside of a dying man.  His gift to preach was evident to all who heard him, which brought great demand on his time.  Yet Spurgeon placed all those opportunities aside as he accounts:

During that epidemic of cholera, though I had many engagements in the country, I gave them up that I might remain in London to visit the sick and the dying.

The demands on the life of Charles Spurgeon, even at twenty years of age, were great, quite possibly greater than the demands on most of us who live in one of the busiest cultures in history.   We can certainly see through Spurgeon’s example the significant impact visiting the sick can have.  However, what may be most applicable through this account is the sacrifices of Spurgeon to make this divine task a priority.

Pastors, don’t lose sight of the sick, suffering, and afflicted in your congregation for the more glamorous parts of pastoral ministry.  In fact, I believe it is the faithfulness of our labors in the trenches that God uses to make our public ministries more useful and powerful.  Especially, if we are willing to take risks.

Posted in Hospital Visitation
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