For both missionaries and pastors, there may be no issue more critical for increase of character and competency than that of disciplines of godliness. Many young people who claim they sense a divine call to take the gospel across the globe fail to endure in their supposed call because they fail in this one area. Digital natives, as some sociologists have termed them, can be are more easily distracted than previous generations from accomplishing tasks and thus achieving long-range goals. It’s the tyranny of the now. Social media invades every corner of our lives, and it is difficult to discern what is best now—replying quickly to a Facebook post, commenting on an Instagram thread, or finishing your Bible reading and prayer time. Little by little, the minister’s devotion to God gets crowded with all the alerts and pings of our distracted digital age. Not only does this distract us from doing those good things that God has called us to do as ministers—prayer, Bible meditation, study, language acquisition, evangelism/discipleship—but it can desensitize us to what is really important. Is it more important to reply to a fleeting ping and a minor post, or is the weightier matter to focus your soul on the Word, the state of the unevangelized and undiscipled, and the tasks at hand in order to bring the Word to the such people?


We must remember that our small daily routines—time management, financial spending, task completion—all serve our larger long-term goals of evangelizing that unreached group, teaching those untrained village pastors, communicating in that perplexing tonal dialect, and so on. Every major responsibility is accomplished by minor focused routines; every big goal is met by small faithful steps. For a non-committal, easily distracted age, this talk of discipline, routine, and duty is unappealing. But it is, nevertheless, part of being trained for our sacred calling. Peter Lewis further describes Puritan piety in a way that contrasts the casual approach to godliness of our contemporary evangelical subculture:

Puritanism was not merely a set of rules or a larger creed, but a life-force: a vision and a compulsion which saw the beauty of a holy life and moved towards it, marvelling at the possibilities and thrilling to the satisfaction of a God-centered life. Moreover, iron discipline was combined with fervent devotion, saving the Puritan from a fitful mysticism on the one hand, and a mere worldly religion. . . . Every area of life came under the influence of God and the guidance of the Word.[1]


These small decisions to prioritize godly disciplines truly affect how we lead. Are we casual, and dare I say, lazy, with our time and task management? Are we reactionary in our guiding people—mostly responding to challenges by flipping open to a random verse and proof-texting a useful idea? Could it be that we are accustomed to leading as pastors based upon our own acquired experiential insights and not from the text of Scripture? Or worse, could it be that when we do counsel from Scripture, it is a by citing verses out of context to support our presuppositions? Either way, the challenge for spiritual leaders is to lead with the Word, directed by the Word. Shepherds of the church have no greater authority than the Word. It is Christ’s church and he feeds, guides, strengthens, and protects his sheep through the written Word. Therefore, as under-shepherds, we must be careful to train ourselves in godliness with the Word so that we do not go beyond what is written. And when we are using the text in our leadership, we must be aware of those pitfalls to over-emphasize, over-interpret, and over-state, or under-emphasize, under-interpret, and under-state the main sense and the plain sense of the Scripture. This workshop will discuss the challenge of training for godliness with the Scripture, how to spend our time well in order to be filled with the Word, principles for avoiding proof-texting, and example passages that leaders often misinterpret and over-apply to exert their supposed extra-biblical authority.

[1] Peter Lewis, The Genius of Puritanism (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Goria, 1995), 11.


The above blog is by E. D. Burns, one of our workshop speakers for the 2017 annual conference.

Leading from the Text

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