I was listening to a small part of the Radio 4 service last Sunday. I only tuned in to a short part so I had no idea where it was from, although David Robertson later illuminated me via the Book of Face (a Church of Scotland parish). I didn’t even get to hear the sermon (which according to David’s post was a mercy). But I did get to hear the Bible reading announced and read. ‘Today’s reading is from 1 Peter 2, verses 4 to 5 and 9 to 10.’ Now, why would you do that? Sometimes I can see the case for an abbreviated reading (though I’m dead against it myself). Just sometimes – perhaps you’ve got Numbers 7-8 as your reading. But in 1 Peter? Whatever you hope to convey by truncating the reading, all you ever do is to give the impression that there are bits you’d rather people did not hear. As I say, I did not hear the sermon, so I’ve no idea whether that was the case here, but I’m guessing it might have been (go and read the missing verses). Oh well, goes the argument: both Jesus and the Apostles quote selectively and even combine different source books from the OT and represent them as one. Yes, they do. But Jesus is Jesus, don’t you know, and the Apostles are the Apostles. They have an authority we don’t have. They, in one sense, inscripturate. You and I have no authority to do the same and we do our people a great disservice when we do – in fact, we undermine the very word we say we preach and believe in. Please, no missing verses.
I’ve always struggled to switch off on my day off. Finding a day off (a real problem for some) has not vexed me so much, although – as every pastor knows – there are times when circumstances arise so that the best laid plans etc. I’ve just had a run like that, and sometimes there is nothing you do about it. But what about actually making the most of the days off? I struggle with this. Partly that is due to my own sinfulness – and in particular my besetting sin of man-pleasing. I find it painful to admit this, but I do so knowing it is the same sin that besets many pastors. We tend to be those who care about people, and it’s a short jump into caring what people think too much. Such a sin makes taking time off difficult because we’re always going over what people say in our minds. But it’s not only sin. Pastors are pastors. We do what we do because we love our people (or you’re in the wrong job!). We long to see them flourish. We want to see them grow as Christians. We want unbelievers to confess Christ and be saved. Who wants a day off from that? Not me. At least, when I schedule time in the diary I find it hard to stop thinking about Gladys and her crisis of faith or whether Norman who seems so close is finally going to repent and believe. So, I’ve learnt to set myself some little guidelines. Here are some of them. They may not float your boat and that’s fine. But you do need to know yourself and know how to switch off from Gladys and Norman; ironically so you can serve Gladys and Norman better tomorrow. 1. I have two email accounts and I don’t have work emails on my phone. That means that I can’t get work messages flashing up on screen whilst I’m out for a Monday walk. Incidentally, smart phones are one of the most helpful and most damaging pastoral tools – both at the same time! Though I hate to say it, I’ve even thought of having two phones for this very reason – though that’s a bullet I’ve been unable to bite so far! 2. I get out of the house. In the house (when I was working from home, and still today, though not as much) are computers, files, books – things that are about studying and work. I love that about being a pastor. But it’s a disaster for me on my day off. 3. I do something which occupies my head. My mind is inclined to wander to pressing issues, so I cannot just lie on the beach, even metaphorically. So I read a lot, or watch a box set or go to the movies. Emptiness works for some, but not for me, and I needed to learn that lesson. It also means that I like noise: I realise that’s not for everyone. But if I take a long bath, for example, the silence is deadly for my heart in terms of switching off. So I turn on the Bluetooth speaker and sing along to La Fille du Regiment or Pink Floyd (delete as applicable for you). 4. I play the piano. Now, obviously this is useless advice if you’re a one fingered Charlie when it comes the black and whites. But the point is this: I’ve found a pastime that engages both my head (learning pieces) and heart (I actually enjoy playing). It is my ultimate relaxation and in the unlikely event Radio 4 ever invite me onto Desert Island Disks, I’m taking a grand piano (something I don’t possess, note) with me. All of that is just me. You are you. But if you is going to serve them, then you do need to think about how to switch off.
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Monday 22nd June 2015 –
Wednesday 24th June 2015
EMA 2015: Identity Crisis - Preaching to a confused world. Speakers will include Christopher Ash, Tim Keller, Mike Raiter, Andrew Reid, Vaughan Roberts, Bruce Ware and John Wyatt. We're confused about identity. We're confused about gender and sexuality. We're confused about race. We're confused about the beginning and end of life. The 2015 EMA will focus on a biblical theology of humanity: if we can be clear about the Bible's teaching on humanity, then we can be joyfully confident in our own identity in Christ and equipped to preach to a confused world.
For those who are really looking ahead, the dates for EMA 2016 are 21st to 23rd June.
Cornhill Summer School 2015
Monday 29th June 2015 –
Friday 3rd July 2015
For people who are, or hope to be in any kind of Bible teaching ministry in the local church. All sorts of people come to the Summer School - students, workers, people who have retired; those who want a taster of Cornhill; people taking a week out of their normal lives to be equipped, encouraged and refreshed in their service of the Lord. It's an opportunity to work through some of the important principles of handling the Bible faithfully with the aim of teaching Christ with integrity. The week consists of some of the key elements of PT Cornhill and is taught by Cornhill lecturers at our offices in central London, near London Bridge.
Started in 1991, PT Cornhill exists primarily to train preachers, as well as equipping men and women to teach the Bible in other contexts, such as youth/children's work and women's ministry. Click here for more details
We're gradually adding material from our archive. EMA 1993 featured Dick Lucas, Phillip Jensen, Don Carson, David Petersen and John Lennox for a mix of inspiring teaching, challenging exhortation and encouraging reports of gospel work. (Click the title, left, for the talks)