Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Shepherds After God's Heart

I was encouraged recently by Abraham Piper to thank God publicly for my pastor. While I know that I can thank God for one, I must extend that out to four shepherds who have watched for my soul over the years in various capacities.
This is quite the motley band of shepherds, I know...

Dr. Mark Minnick was my pastor from 1996 to 2001. He pastors Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Greenville, SC (yes, I was a Bob Jones student). This guy's pulpit rhetoric is a tour de force. He has mentored hundreds (if not thousands) of men from the pulpit on how to be a pulpiteer of the gospel. His rhetorical gifts are not to overshadow his sober, earnest Christian walk. When I think of a modern day example of someone for whom it means "to live is Christ", it's Mark Minnick. I had the special privilege to share several Lord's Day lunches with him and his family while in college and go on a English Reformation study tour with him in my grad school years while in Greenville. Minnick's second "love" is church history. Many of his sermon illustrations come from the history of the church. Minnick cared for my soul by preaching the beauty of the mystery of the gospel (listen to his long series on Romans and Ephesians).

Dr. Michael Barrett is an associate minister of Faith Free Presbyterian Church, President of and OT professor at Geneva Reformed Seminary (Greenville, SC). From 1994-2000, he was my esteemed professor of OT at BJU. OT Wisdom Books, Jeremiah/Ezekiel, OT Theology and other classes. Dr. Barrett was never formally my pastor, but he taught me the gospel. His passion for Christ in the OT and making sure his students got a grip on that was second to none. His fervor for Christ and loyalty to the Scriptures transcended "party lines". The gospel Barrett taught me helped loosen me from the bonds of a false understanding of the gospel. His teaching gave me solid footing for  my life. There is no debt I could pay Dr. Barrett except to carry on a legacy of being faithful to the Chief Shepherd. Thanks, Dr. Barrett. 

Though they would probably argue it, Minnick & Barrett, are two of the biggest reasons, providentially speaking, I am where I am today and think the way I do.

Dr. Dave Doran is the pastor of Inter-City Baptist Church (metro Detroit, MI) and the president of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary where I finished my M.Div. Dave Doran "inherited" this sheep at a transition time of life (2003-2007). I had recently finished a short-term mission in a theological college in Mexico. I was a new father, poor and hungry to write long papers. Doran is a plodder for the truth and as one of my friends dubbed him a "Bible lawyer". His intellect, ability to reason and articulate complex truths shaped me. I would say his reasoning abilities are nearly impeccable, but I know that would both make him uncomfortable and be untrue. Two of my clearest recollections how Doran shepherded me was when he invited me and several other seminarians in the church to a series of breakfast discussions applying his then Sunday sermon series on Biblical discernment. That series still pervades my thinking. The other memory (and more personal) is when Rachel and I had just experienced the stillbirth of our second child, Nicolas. Dave & Claudia were among the first to our hospital room. I still am moved to think that this great thinker and defender of the faith is so human as to embrace and comfort the sorrowing people of his church. To sum it up... relentless biblicism is how Dave Doran stamped my life.

Finally, Jon Dennis, now the newly appointed senior pastor of Holy Trinity Church, Chicago, is my pastor, boss and fellow elder. Yes, Jon is the only one of these four that doesn't have a "Dr." before his name, but he's working on it. We were led into Jon's fold in the middle of last year. I have never been able to get as close to a pastor as I have with Jon. So far, one of Jon's noted  contributions to my life is his shepherding instinct. He is only 9 years older than me but has been in gospel ministry since his early 20's. Working with and listening to him talk about his passion to reach Chicago and his love for those of Holy Trinity Church is an example of the apostolic sort. I am living in the exemplary ministry of a man who is careful with the sheep God has given him. Pastor Dennis is a man of God, and the more I see him live in and out of the church, the more I see how big shoulders God has built on him.  To borrow some Driscoll lingo (who would have ever seen the same last names of pastors in the same post?!), Jon is an "ox" and quite the "dude." I look forward to continued service with him.

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