Monthly Archives: April 2013

Called to Ministry (Part Three)

“Where the call is manifest, the promise is assured”

“Nothing can be more explicit than her solemn question to us- ‘Do you trust that you are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon you this office?’…the answer that is made to this ought to be well considered…”

            I remember when I had first become a Christian (while in a prison) and seen first hand the hypocrisy in “Christian leadership”. I was dismayed. The man that led me to Christ consoled me by explaining that true ordination for ministry comes from God not man. Sadly, many today who are “leaders” in the “institutional church” are simply called by denominations to stabilize things, not lead the mission of Christ, the Truth of Christ forward. As was said:

“The national Church groans and bleeds from the crown of its head to the sole of its feet from the daily intrusion of unworthy men into the ministry from this source”.

            So how to we discern a “call to ministry”?

“…A DEEP IMPRESSION OF THE WORTH OF SOULS…THE LOVE OF CHRIST TO SPEND AND BE SPENT FOR HIM…DIRECTING THE CONSCIENCE TO A SOBER, SEARCHING, SELF-INQUIRY; TO A DAILY STUDY OF THE WORD; TO FERVENT PRAYER….”

“- a special kindling within- in character, if not intensity, like “the burning fire shut up” in the prophet’s bosom, and overcoming his determination to go back from the service of his God”.

“One of the most certain marks of the Divine call is, where it is the purpose of a man’s heart to live, to labor, and to possess nothing, but for Jesus Christ and His Church”.

“But if you do not feel in yourselves a desire of being employed as the ambassadors of God- judge ye yourselves, whether ye are called into the Lord’s vineyard. God implants a love in the heart for the service to which He calls; and better would it have been for you to have felt, that it was not the ministry for which you were intended, than that you should possess a want of inclination for the performance of its duties”.

“We are laborers, not loiterers, in the Lord’s vineyard”.

“No man, indeed ought to think of this profession, unless he feels within himself a love for religion, with a zeal for it, and an internal true piety, which is chiefly kept up by secret prayer and reading the Scriptures”.

            I have seen many young men and women stand up with the desire to “do ministry”, yet when I question their motives and reasoning, namely a desire to “demolish strongholds and bring all thoughts captive to Christ”, they are found wanting. Many today are lacking what I call a “zeal empowered by knowledge”, and have failed to “count the cost” and would much rather follow the “social club” outline than seriously endeavor to follow Christ.

“Let the novitiate be found in the DAILY HABIT OF PRAYER, in the conscientious IMPROVEMENT OF HIS NATURAL GIFTS, in a diligent INCREASE OF HIS INTELLECTUAL AS WELL AS SPIRITUAL STORES- and he will find the promise made good- “Whatsoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly”.

            I thought this sermon by John Leland of England concerning a call to ministry:

God has been graciously pleased to give me some talents, which seem capable of being improved to the edification of the Church. He hath disposed and inclined my heart to a willingness to take upon me the sacred ministry, and that not from the worldly, carnal ends and views, but from a sincere intention and desire of employing the talents he has given me in promoting the salvation of souls, and serving the interests of truth, piety, and righteousness in the world…Upon seriously weighing all of these things, I cannot but think, I have a clear call to the work of the ministry; and I verily believe, that, if I rejected it, I should sin against God, grieve many of His people, counteract the designs of Divine providence toward me, and alienate the talents he has given me to other purposes, than those for which they seem to have been intended”

“The pastoral dignity is really the condition of a servant. It obliges a man to devote himself entirely to Jesus Christ, and His Church. Both the minister and the ministry are only for the Church. He who in this state does not apply himself entirely to the service of the Church, will be treated as a thief, and a sacrilegious person”.

MISSIONALITY

“As men of God, we should have it at heart and in hand, spreading a spiritual savor over the common walks of society, and stamping us with the mark of confessors of Christ in the midst of a world, who hold Him still in the same contempt, as when eighteen centuries since they nailed Him to a cross. There must be some defect if we do not bring an atmosphere with us, which is more or less instantaneously felt”.

“The character of our profession with the world must not be merely negative. It must be MARKED by a wise, tender, but unflinching, exhibition of THE BROAD LINE OF DEMARCATION, which, under the most favorable circumstances of mutual accomadation, still separates the world and the Church from real communion with each other”.

  So…an issue that seems to be facing many Christians today is clarity on what exactly is THE BROAD LINE OF DEMARCATION that sets us apart from the world? Is it a touch not, taste not attitude concerning our interaction with the world, such as the religious leaders of the first century? Is it an odd quirkiness about us as we spout Bible verses, sing songs, and preach incessantly? What is it? I believe the line is the authority, the forthright truth and answers we have in Jesus Christ, through the gospel. A wisdom not of this world, a peace not of this world, dare I say, a love not of this world demonstrated by us individually and corporately as the ‘kingdom of God’. A liberating freedom from the slavery to ANYTHING- whether it be drug use or television, or comfort zones to what we ‘think’ we rightfully deserve. We demolish those strongholds opting for “life to the full” in Christ found by seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness for the glory of God alone! Can I get an AMEN?

“We should endeavor to make our religion agreeable: but not to make ourselves agreeable by leading our company to forget religion. We should ‘everyone of us, please his neighbor for his good’, but not so ‘please men’, as to fail in the character of ‘servants of Christ’. We should be made in a fitting sense and measure, “all things to all men, that we may by all means save some,”, but we shall lose ourselves not save others, if we are quite different persons in the pulpit and out of it”.  Cf. Galatians 1:10

LIVE IT OUT AUTHENTICALL

“I am to speak boldly, “not as a man-pleaser, but as the servant of God”- and therefore I endeavor to master all these fears, and to act implicitly as my conscience suggests, without respecter of persons”.

            Be challenged my brethren.

   By His grace,

         Michael Miano

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Called to Ministry (Part Two)

(Quotes and Notes from the book, The Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges)

“‘A Pastor should act with the dignity of a man, who acts by the authority of God’-remembering, that while we speak to men, we speak in God’s stead”.

 How about that as a job description? That shows the dignity of the pastoral position and the authority thereof. BUT…there is much work to be done. Sadly, many pastors settle at “pulpit preaching” and fail to further expound upon the foundation that has been laid.

“There was not only a foundation to be laid, but a building to be raised”

“Not even is the light and heat of the sun- not even is meat and drink, so necessary for the support and cherishing of our present life, as the Apostolic and Pastoral Office for the preservation of the Church on earth”- John Calvin

“The subsequent walk also of our people in the faith, hope, and love of the gospel, forms our ground of unceasing  thanksgiving to God, our chief joy, and the very life of our life. “We have no greater joy, than to hear that our children are walking in truth””.

            If that is so, we are in dire need of discipleship. In a day and age, where “backsliding” happens more often than sincere repentance, we (all of us who call ourselves Christians) must work toward better efforts in discipleship. Let’s start with the discipleship of our “leaders”.

“The Scripture justly insists- that Ministers should be “holy”- in a peculiar sense men of God- men taught of God- men consecrated to God by a daily surrender of their time and talents to His service- men of singleness of purpose- LIVING IN THEIR WORK- living altogether but for one end, “moved by none of the afflictions that wait them: neither counting their life dear to them, so that they might finish their course with joy, and the Ministry  which they have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God”. Cf. Acts 20:17-35

            Again, a sad note is that the failure of many “leaders” or “pastors” in that they have not worked toward their continual discipleship.

“The solid establishment of the people may be materially hindered by the Minister’s contracted statements, crude interpretations, or misdirected Scriptural application”.

            I personally have come into contact with “pastors” who make the “ministry” out to be an ordinary job description like a “worldly” 9-5 job. Men who claim to be “of God” yet will not challenge their presuppositions and build a “social network” rather than God’s Church. Let me add a disclaimer, I extend as much grace to those who fail in these regards as I would hope to receive myself, as has been rightly noted:

“It will not fail to be objected that if none were to be admitted into the holy orders, except those who are possessed of every necessary qualification, there could not possibly be procured a sufficient number of Pastors for the supply of our Churches”

With that said, let’s delve into the proper “discipleship” of the “pastoral ministry”.

“The duties of an evangelical preacher, before he begins his ministry, are,

1.)    To grow in piety, by feeding on the bread of prayer

2.)    To give his zeal time to wax strong by reading the Holy Scriptures and the Fathers

3.)    To continue in silence and retirement, till God is pleased to bring him out, and show him to the world; men deceive themselves when they imagine that they ought to produce and employ their talents without delay, and that they cannot hide them without violating the commandment of God.

“A season of preparation- employed in storing the mind with Christian doctrine, and in directing it to devotional and practical purposes- in habits of self-communion and converse with God, and in the exercises of godliness, will turn to the most profitable account throughout the course of a protracted ministry”.

            For the past 3 years, I have continually sought God’s advice and counsel in regards to my call in ministry. I have had opportunities, but my decisions (accepting the truth espoused in Full Preterism for one) removed those opportunities from before me. I have had nights where I cried out to God asking WHY?!?! All my labor for and in Him, yet I seem to be the one “not being blessed in regards to my calling”. I remember one day after a long prayer session, I went to my wife and said, “God is preparing me. He has told me to be ready, because when it is time, I will be responsible”. As I noted in part 1 of this series, as of March 2013, I have been called. How exciting!!!

HABIT OF GENERAL STUDY

“The object of all your studies, should be neither celebrity, advantage, nor knowledge for its own sake, but furniture to enable you to serve God in your generation”.

“…whatever is respect of knowledge supplies the materials necessary for EDIFYING, COMFORTING, AND PROTECTING FROM ALL SPIRITUAL DANGER the people that may be committed to his charge, or is of use for defending  the cause of his Master, MUST EVIDENTLY BE A PROPER STUDY FOR THE MAN WHO INTENDS TO ENTER INTO THE HOLY MATRIMONY”.

“Indeed, to restrict our reading to matters of immediate connection with our grand subject, would exclude us from much valuable collateral knowledge, and expose us to prejudice and misconception”

“…a competent acquaintance with the Evidences of the Christian religion- the Holy Scriptures- and the history of the Church, and especially of our own church”.

“PATIENT APPLICATION is literally everything. Without it you may have a number of HALF-FORMED IDEAS floating in your mind, but deep, connected, large, and consistent views of any subject you will never gain. Impatient haste is the bane of deep intellectual work. IF YOU ARE INVESTIGATING ANY IMPORTANT DOCTRINE, BE NOT READY TO LEAVE IT. COME TO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN: SEEKING LIGHT FROM EVERY QUARTER; AND PERUSING WITH ATTENTION THE BEST BOOKS, UNTIL YOU HAVE ENTERED, AS FAR AS YOU ARE CAPABLE, INTO ITS PRFOUNDEST MERITS. And, if compelled by any circumstance to leave the subject before you have reached this point, hold it in reserve for another and more satisfactory examination. In short, let your motto, and, as far as practicable, your habit be, to leave nothing until you have THROUGOUGHLY MASTERED IT”.

            To be honest, this is something I am still working hard on. I have developed quite the ‘foundational knowledge’ of many topics, yet I do find it hard to “thoroughly master” things since I “jump” a lot. I have been in a “season” of practicing this though, challenging myself in regards to ‘preterist thought’ and the consistent application of it (for example, baptism- which Larry Siegle has been an immense help).

      I have met many friends who fail to fully understand the concept of “patient application” and this leads them in many directions. I have continually challenged people with the truth of 1 Thessalonians 5:21 which clearly expresses the Christian truth, which is much neglected’ of “examining everything carefully”.

“The accuracy of study is of far greater importance than its extent. ‘A little study, well digested in a good, serious mind, will go a great way, and will lay in materials for a whole life”.

“…LOVE OF STUDY; a desire of becoming useful to our parish; a CONVICTION of the necessity of deriving from prayer that knowledge which study does not afford; of being impressed with a desire of salvation, and of applying all the means of ADVANCING IN EVANGELICAL WISDOM, to INSPIRE our flock with a love of their duty, in order that they may the more easily be induced to practice it: in a word, a sincere desire to fulfill our ministry”.

            -Authentic Missional Discipleship

“Not to read or study at all is to tempt God: to do nothing but study, is to forget the ministry: to study, only to glory in one’s knowledge, is a shameful vanity: to study, in search of the means to flatter sinners, a deplorable prevarication: but to store one’s mind with the knowledge proper to the saints by study and by prayer, and to diffuse that knowledge in solid instructions and practical exhortations- this is to be a prudent, zealous, and laborious minister”.

SCRIPTURAL STUDY

            The practice of having a well rounded Biblical understanding has allowed for my to keep Scriptural truths always revolving in my mind. When someone speaks of something regarding the Scriptures I am able to draw from my mind the story in context (sometimes I wish I was blessed with the memorization gift, not yet at least).

“I wish him to be diligent in his studies; but the Bible is the proper library for a young man entering into the Church…I read other books that I may be better able to understand the Scriptures”

“Prefer having eyes to read the Scriptures, and be blind to everything else, rather than to read everything else and neglect the Bible”.

“I find it would be very much to my advantage to be thoroughly acquainted with the Scriptures. When I am reading doctrinal books, or books of controversy, I can proceed with abundantly more confidence, and can see upon what FOUNDATION I STAND”.

Amen. When I first became a Christian I believed reading ‘Christian books’ was ridiculous. Why bother when I have the Scriptures? Obviously as I have grown, I have realized the benefit of studying science, history, sociology, and various religions to better enhance my understanding of the context of Scripture. The fact that for about 2 years I was a staunch, “Bible-Only” type of guy, I have developed a strong foundation to which I can always refer back to.

 The failure of men/women in the “leadership”, as well as all in the Church, to examine the Scriptures in context of the “whole story” prior to “religious indoctrination” has led to prejudice.

“Attachment to some particular system is a spiritual self-indulgence, which TOO OFTEN GUIDES OUR SCRIPTURAL READING, and gives an INDIVIDUAL CHARACTER to it, rather than receives a complexion from it”.

            In our day and age, there are a variety of “flavors” of Christianity which sadly read the Scriptures in different contexts. The failure to understand Audience Relevancy and other Hermeneutical practices has led to a gross error in how many understand the Scriptures. The rise of “devotional reading” without contextual understanding has led so many to read themselves into a historical story and to completely remove the original context they had. This in turn makes Christianity out to be a personal religion rather than a historical fact.

            The fact that a reformation, or as some are calling it, a “reframe-ation” is occurring in our day, is rather exciting. Many are coming to understand the historical story of the Scriptures, the truth espoused in them, how that affects us in our day, and also leading many to the faith. Semper Reformanda.

“You will apply yourselves wholly to this one thing, and draw all your cares and studies this way; continually praying to God the Father by meditation of our only Savior Jesus Christ, for the heavenly assistance of the Holy Ghost; that by daily weighing of the Scriptures, you may wax riper and stronger in your ministry”.

“Study furnishes the materials- prayer sanctifies them- exercise makes a suitable distributive application of them to several cases brought before us”.

“Abhor an hour of idleness, as you would be ashamed of one hour of drunkenness”.

“A minister must remember, that himself with all his studies is consecrated to the service of the sanctuary. Let everything be done therefore with a view to one great end; and let us pursue every part of science with a design to gain better qualifications thereby for our sacred work”.

   I endeavor to continue to walk worthy. So grateful to be alive in this generation and to be called to ministry as a reformation takes place!

    In service to Him,

             Michael Miano

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Called to Ministry (Part one)

            As of March 2013, I was called to pastor- The Blue Point Bible Church (BPBC). Considering that BPBC is more of a “traditional structured” church, it has provided a delightful challenge for me, considering I am used to being the pastor of an “emergent conversation” style church community and director of a discipleship ministry. As I read through the “constitution” of Blue Point Bible Church, as well as talked with the membership, I realized the “high regard” this congregation held toward the pastorate. I have never been one to just accept a role with complacency, so I took this calling as a challenge.

         As I have talked with other men in ministry leadership I have noted a variety of styles, there really is no “one way” to do it. This makes it even more of a challenge since there is no specific “right” way to be a pastor..ahhh, how is one to know if he/she is doing it “right”?

            Let me make a personal conviction clear. I have struggled with the concept of “full-time ministry” for years, since I believe all Christians are called to “full-time ministry”. We are ALL called to “evangelize”, all called to have knowledge of the Scriptures, have a strong devoted relationship with God, and to make disciples- so what’s the deal with this “leadership ministry” stuff? I have come to a point where I recognize the importance of “leadership” because it helps empower, engage, and encourage others within a congregation. It is with this mentality that I enter into the role of “pastor”.

            So, I picked up a book recommended by a friend, a Baptist pastor. The book is called “The Christian Ministry: An Inquiry into the Causes of its Inefficiency”. Yikes, quite the title, right? This book was written in the 1800’s as a critic of the problems within Christian leadership. As a brother recently said, “the deader the better”.  It is time we get a historic look into the details of this style of ministry.

 (From here on out, I will share my thoughts, notes, and quotations from the book)

WORKING AS A COMMUNITY (WHAT I WOULD REFER TO AS THE “APEST”)

“The privileges communicated to the Church by its instrumentality, are union with her glorious Head, and the communion of the several members with others in their diversified relations, and mutual dependencies”.

“Each member contributes to the establishment of the system”.

“The whole body…is enriched by the MUTUAL IMPARTATION of the gifts severally distributed to the members, EACH OF WHOM READILY FORGETS HIS OWN PROPER INDIVIDUALITY IN A CONSIDERATE REGARD TO THE GENERAL INTEREST”.

“And surely it is not easy to conceive of a machine better adapted for the grand purposes which it was intended to subserve- the completion of the Church, and the regeneration of the world. Suppose it to be in its full effective operation- how admirably it is framed to make the Church the most important blessing to the world”.

            ARE YOU AWARE OF YOUR ‘WORKING IN THE BODY’? GET ON THE FREAKED OUT MOVEMENT’S EMAIL LIST FOR HELP IN THIS AREA. EMAIL: CHRISTIANITYGONEWILD@YAHOO.COM

“The dignity however of this SACRED OFFICE belongs to a kingdom “not of this world”. It is distinguished therefore, not by the passing glitter of this world’s vanity, but by eternal results, productive, even in their present influence, of the most solid and enduring happiness. For surely it is ‘the highest dignity, if not the greatest happiness, that human nature is capable of here in this vale below, the have the soul so far enlightened as to become the mirror, or conduit or conveyor of God’s truth to others”.

Oh, how we have failed to recognize the ‘sacred office’ of being a Christian, being an ambassador of His kingdom. Amen? As this next line exhibits the reality of what we face today in Christianity:

“The moment we permit ourselves to think lightly of the ChristianMinistry, our right arm is withered; nothing but imbecility and relaxation remains”.

When we return to “a sense of dignity of our office” by recognizing the need for proper discipleship that is “accurately formed, carefully maintained, and habitually exercised”, we will then again place Christianity in our lives and the lives of others “of the highest importance”.

“We must work, like Nehemiah and his men, with the trowel in one hand and the sword in another”.

“’Fools rush in where angels fear to tread’. But though many see little necessity for preparation; here, if ever, LABOUR, DILIGENCE, OBSERVATION, AND INTELLIGENCE, are needed to produce a ‘workman that needeth not to be ashamed’”.

 Let us walk worthy, Blessings in Christ,

           Michael Miano        Christianitygonewild@yahoo.com

     Be sure to visit www.bluepointbiblechurch.org

 

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Resurrection Power: The Church (An Easter Sermon)


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