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A Tribute to Wallace York

My father, Wallace York, was a faithful husband, father, grandfather and pastor who touched many lives before his death in 2009. He pastored many people in the course of his life and, though he was only a sinner saved by God’s grace, nearly everyone who was fortunate enough to have him as a shepherd will attest that he loved the Lord, He loved God’s Word, and he really loved people.

Especially children. Any kids who were ever around my father for even just a few minutes were treated to his fake French, watching him take his thumb off, or hearing him talk like Donald Duck. He could carry on an entire conversation and sound just like Donald Duck. He even joked that his mother was a duck because she waddled when she walked. Kids absolutely loved to run to him as soon as they got to church and to plead for him to talk like Donald Duck. No matter what was going on, he always obliged. He loved children.

I miss my father every day. I miss our Sunday night phone calls telling one another what we each preached that day and how it went. I miss cheering for Kentucky Basketball with him, or commiserating over Kentucky football, or hearing the same five corny jokes that were the extent of his comedic repertoire. Every time “No Time for Sergeants” comes on TV, I yearn to see his eyes squint with laughter. I really wish he could be with me on November 13 for the first public worship service in Buck Run’s new building. I know he would be overwhelmed with joy at what God has done and his voice would choke with emotion in some expression of praise.

I have wanted to honor my dad in some tangible way and now I have the perfect venue. The indoor playground equipment for our children’s wing cost $38,000, and I think it would be appropriate and fitting for people who knew and loved my dad to help me raise that amount to honor him and to bless the children who are growing up under his son’s ministry with a place to play and expend their energy in a safe, loving, Christ-centered environment. By God’s providential grace, some of my father’s own great-grandchildren are among those who will play and be taught there.

If those who knew and loved my father will do this in his honor, we will purchase high-quality, safe play equipment that will stand in the Wallace York Play Area as a tribute to the man who taught me God’s Word and will be used to help Buck Run Baptist Church train and teach children to love the Word of God that he faithfully taught and preached for so many decades before God called him home.

I intend no pressure on anyone, only an opportunity to honor my father and bless the children whom God will bring to Buck Run. If you can give, the process is simple and easy to complete online by clicking the link below or simply by mailing your donation to Buck Run Baptist Church, 3894 Georgetown Road, Frankfort, KY 40601. Once the goal is met and we can purchase the equipment, this opportunity will disappear. We are seeking only enough to meet this goal and no more. If you feel led to be a part of it, your gift is completely tax deductible and you will receive a receipt from Buck Run Baptist Church for tax return purposes.

Thank you for your tribute to my father and your investment in our children.

Pastoral Pointer | Intentional Church Programming

Does your church merely schedule activities, or does it have a comprehensive strategy to build unity, reach the lost, and make disciples? Whether planning a church picnic or an evangelistic service, church members need to know the purpose, the goal, and the desired outcome of everything on the church calendar. Dr. York explains five levels of church planning and how to communicate it to the congregation so everyone understands and embraces the church calendar is an important ministry tool.

Pastor Well | The Pastor As Worship Leader

Most pastors understand that they are the primary teacher of the Word, but few realize that they are also the principle worship leader. No congregation will ever be focused on worship if the pastor treats it cavalierly or acts disinterested. Dr. York explains the integral relationship between preaching, which is the central act of worship, and the preacher, who is the de facto leader in worship.

View all other Pastoral Pointers HERE

Two Readings of Scripture, Two Views of Jesus

(Note: the following is a guest editorial written for the Frankfort State-Journal for July 5, 2015)

The Supreme Court may settle disputes of American law, but cannot establish right and wrong. A bitterly divided Court can, by the slimmest possible margin, dictate what is legal but cannot determine what is moral. 

    Same-sex marriage is now the law of the land. The same institution that once justified slavery and defined African-Americans as less than human, that has bestowed personhood on corporations but denied it to unborn babies, that vacillates—and will again—on whether or not capital punishment is acceptable has found a way to read the constitution innovatively and differently than any previous generation of citizens or legal scholars. The majority has found something there that none of its authors intended or even thought about.

The heart of the argument is about hermeneutics, how a document is read and understood. Liberal justices contend that the Constitution changes meaning with the culture, while conservatives insist that the meaning is fixed and that the amendment process should be used as society evolves or modifies its views.

Within Christianity the same debate rages about the Bible and stands at the epicenter of the current impasse about homosexuality and gay marriage. Some of us believe the Bible is God’s Word, a special and perfect revelation of himself, written by humans inspired by the Spirit who wrote what God led them to record. We believe that the proper way to read the Bible is the same way we want our pharmacist to read our doctor’s prescription, discerning the author’s original intent rather than imposing any foreign meaning on the text. 

Furthermore, we believe that the sixty-six books of the Bible together form one book with one grand narrative, the story of God’s redemption. That story of creation, fall, anticipation, the gospel, the church, and Christ’s return to reign is a single story. Though many human activities and practices within that story are shameful and highlight the need for redemption, God’s moral will and standard of holiness revealed in Scripture does not change through time and is not subject to the vicissitudes of culture. At the beginning of that story is the marriage of a perfect man and a perfect woman. At the end of that story is the marriage of a glorified man, the Lord Jesus, and his sanctified bride, his church. 

Other Christians, however, see the Bible as stained by human frailty and riddled with error, requiring more enlightened thinking to discern the good parts from the bad. These Christians are embarrassed by and denounce parts of the same book that they read in weddings and funerals, sermons and Sunday school classes as a model for faith and life. They see no contradiction in quoting Paul’s lyrical description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 while at the same time denouncing his instruction on gender roles in 1 Corinthians 11. They fear no inconsistency quoting Jesus when he says “Judge not” in Matthew 7:1, though simultaneously judging Jesus calling people “pigs” and “dogs” in Matthew 7:6. Scavenging Scripture selectively like a picky eater at a smorgasbord, they consume only what appeals to their taste and what they have already learned to like. 

Ultimately, that approach to Scripture inevitably leads to the same understanding of Jesus. How can one claim that Jesus is Lord and yet insist that Jesus needed to be corrected for his insensitivity when he spoke to the Gentile woman in Matthew 15:21-28?

To be candid, I can accept that many people do not agree with historic Christianity that homosexuality is a sin. I understand when people not guided by a biblical worldview adopt a simple live-and-let-live mentality because they do not think in categories of God’s design and purpose. 

I cannot comprehend, however, how people who claim that the Bible is God’s Word and Jesus is their Lord can either ignore or pervert the clear meaning of Jesus’ endorsement of God’s purpose for marriage. When asked about the lawfulness of divorce, Jesus answered by going back to creation and looking at God’s design. What was God’s intent? Jesus answered the question about divorce by saying much more about marriage than merely its duration. “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4,5). 

Jesus could have answered the question about divorce by simply explaining that marriage is for a lifetime, but he went beyond that. He defined marriage by the number of people in that relationship as well as the sex of those in that relationship. Some may voice honest disagreement with Jesus’ words, but I cannot respect the kind of intellectual dishonesty that denies the plain and natural reading of his words. When someone says they take the Bible seriously but not literally, I take their words literally but not seriously.

Two thousand years of church history render a virtually unanimous opinion about the definition of marriage. It seems the epitome of arrogance for a Christian to hear Jesus’ words and the church’s verdict from antiquity only to say, “But I know better.” The Bible is not an instrument by which we justify the opinions of Christians, but the revelation of God in which we discover our justification in Christ.

Ten Unique Challenges of Ministry

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In an earlier post I wrote that seminary cannot prepare anyone to be a pastor. Only a church, guided by the Holy Spirit, can truly qualify a man for ministry. By its very nature, the field of pastoral leadership is fraught with such incredible difficulties that we must say with the Apostle Paul, "Who is sufficient for these things?" Leading God’s people is unlike any other task in the world--which is why it requires a calling of the Spirit, and not merely training for a job. While I am sure there are others, I have identified a matrix of ten challenges specific to the church that make pastoring unlike anything else.

1) A pastor or church leader deals with the eternal and spiritual nature of things. Medical doctors have a stressful job of being guardians of life. Their decisions can mean life or death in some cases. A pastor, however, has the awesome responsibility of dealing with the immortal soul of man. His leadership and decisions have the potential of affecting eternity, and that is an infinitely greater burden.

2) The second challenge is that a pastor’s role is prophetic in nature. In other words, he has to look people in the eye and confront them with the uneasy subject of their sinful actions and attitudes--and no one likes that. Though he finds himself a great sinner in need of God’s grace, God holds him no less responsible to deal with the sin of others. Furthermore, the people he usually confronts are the very ones whose offerings pay his salary.

3) The pastor leads an army of volunteers. If a businessman has to correct a worker’s performance he has the leverage of a paycheck whose necessity powerfully motivates employees to do what they are asked. Workers in the church, however, do not need the job they perform in order to put food on the table and, may even have easier lives without it. How does a pastor lead a volunteer to change when she doesn't want to? A volunteer army also means that they can unvolunteer.

4) In most churches the pastor has an unclear identity. Most congregations, as well as the pastors themselves, have never actually defined what role they want the pastor to have. They want him to lead, but they don’t want to be told what to do. In addition to that, successive pastors have different sets of gifts, which clouds the issue because it affects his style of leadership. Each member may have a different expectation of the pastor. Some want him to be a great preacher, while others demand someone who will be at the hospital bedside for every tonsillectomy. Is the pastor primarily a leader, prophet, visionary, equipper, motivator, fund-raiser or teacher? Five church members may answer that question five different ways.

5) Compounding this problem is an increasing uncertainty about church polity. Some churches see the deacons as the leaders of the church, while others see the pastor as the leader and the deacons as servants. More and more churches are turning to a plurality of elders — one of whom is the pastor- teacher — who have the oversight of the congregation. Even in a plurality of elders, whoever serves as pastor-teacher has the de facto leadership, but how does he relate to the others? 

6) The church expects the pastor’s family to be involved in his work. I don’t know of any other private sector jobs that require so much family involvement. The school board doesn’t demand that the high school principal’s wife help decorate the hallways or attend all basketball games, for instance. But churches have expectations for the pastor’s wife and children that are rarely voiced in the interview with the pastor search committee even though that perception may indeed affect the pastor’s ability to lead. Many leaders in the church have lost their effectiveness because the congregation became disenchanted with his family, whether their disappointments were real or imagined.

7) Another challenge of ministry that results from the expectations of the congregation is the belief that the pastor should be the initiative taker. Church members don’t demand their doctor show up on the doorstep when they don’t feel well, but they expect the pastor to take the initiative to discover why they haven’t been around. In fact, some folks will get mad about something in the church and quit attending, but later they have forgotten what upset them originally. Their complaint then becomes that the preacher never came to see them when they quit coming.

8) The demand for originality is an especially burdensome and constant pressure. If a pastor preached just two sermons a week for fifty weeks in a year, he would write the equivalent of nine novels. With that much productivity required, church members ought to forgive a dull chapter every now and then! Though the Scriptures are an inexhaustible well of subject matter, saying biblical truths in an interesting way with fresh illustrations that connect with and engage a congregation is no small feat. The pastor who cannot preach well often finds his leadership itself threatened. His pulpit ministry is his broadest stroke of contact and leadership, and if he is perceived as dull or repetitive, he loses his most influential method of leading.

9) One of the most frustrating challenges of leadership in the church is that churches often give the pastor or other leaders responsibility without authority. For instance, the congregation usually assumes that the pastor is supposed to help meet the needs of his congregation. If a family has a legitimate financial emergency, they may turn to the pastor for immediate help, but he often has no way to provide it. And if he does, some committee may later rebuke him for overspending the benevolence budget. Churches often have a “get it done” attitude toward the pastor, but then complain about the way he did it.

10) Simmering below the surface of all leadership is the pastor’s friendship development difficulty. Most pastors and their families have great difficulties making and maintaining close relationships. A church leader often finds it impossible to walk the tightrope between leadership and friendship with the same people. Leaders and their families may be afraid to confide in others, are often burned if they do, and sometimes become the victims of jealousy or resentment if they try. Because of egos larger than they should be, pastors even find it difficult to establish relationships with other ministers because they can never break out of the thought pattern of comparing churches and problems.

So how do we meet those challenges? That's the subject of the next post!

Five Reasons to Plant Your Life in a Church and Stay There

Not every pastor has the option to stay in the same church for a long time. God might call him somewhere else, a church filled with unregenerate or unresponsive members might force him to leave, or health needs of family members might dictate a move. I do not mean to lay false guilt on those who have legitimate reasons to leave a church or go elsewhere. I do, however, mean to encourage pastors to default to staying rather than leaving, even in the face of problems. Here’s why:

1)  The longer you live in community with people, the more credibility you will have—unless you simply don’t earn and have credibility. Either way, they will know it. There are no shortcuts to credibility, but every day presents plenty of shortcuts to its loss. The pressure to maintain credibility with people is a sanctifying grace that one forfeits with a pattern of short pastorates.

2)  Only when you stay for a significant portion of time can you know for certain what the church has been taught and intentionally plan your preaching, alternating between testaments, genres, law and gospel, and homiletical lens so they learn a strategic grasp of the Scriptures and it’s redemptive-historical framework.

3)  Nearly every pastor will face a crisis of leadership in the church at a 1-year, 3-year, 5-year, and 9-year mark (give or take a year at each point). If a pastor survives his 1-year crisis but decides at the 3-year crisis that he’s not going to stay (usually saying something like “I can’t put my family through that again,”), then he has to start all over again somewhere else. And he’ll have a 1-year and a 3-year crisis there, too. He may be in danger of one day claiming to have 30 years experience in ministry, when in fact he has 3 years experience ten times.

4)  The temptation to preach old sermons at a new church setting is too great for some to resist, but rehashing old, familiar stuff will lead to spiritual dryness. Preaching old sermons leaves more discretionary time, but it’s time that a pastor doesn’t usually want anyone to know he has (who wants your congregation to know you spent less than thirty minutes looking over an old sermon?). Consequently, he’ll fall into a pattern of looking busy when he’s not, at best wasting time on silly things, at worst spending time on illicit things. Sin usually flows in the direction of discretionary time. The necessity to be fresh and preach books, sections, and texts that your congregation has never heard before is a tremendous grace and discipline in a pastor’s life, but that necessity is only there when he stays someplace for a longer period than he has sermons for.

5) Moving is tough on families. I certainly applaud those men who do it out of the necessity of a calling, but I pity the families of men who do it out of personal ambition, laziness, or greed. A pastor’s wife, for instance, has enough challenges facing her in developing meaningful friendships and  having ministry impact without also having to start over every three years.