Suggestions to New Pastors Regarding Your Conduct at GA and Presbytery

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SEAGOON

Puritan Board Freshman
Gil Garcia asked me to post the following, I would have posted it in a "pastoral theology" forum, but couldn't find one...

The following is directed to shiny new Puritan PCA pastors fresh out of seminary. It is merely a few quick and fallible words of advice from someone who has been where you are and doesn't want you to end up where I am.


1) Don't Use the Label TR to Describe Yourself! - it's about as useful to you as being labeled "fundamentalist" in the media/academy. Also, you are not "Truly" nor "Totally" Reformed, none of are or will be till we get to heaven. I've found that amongst our brethren on the left, TR is viewed as a synonym for "Theonomist" and "unloving, graceless, theological pit-bull." Additionally TR in its use is too broad. For instance, Steve Wilkins, with whom I have almost nothing in common theologically, and I have both been described as "TRs." The label really isn't helpful to anyone.

Instead call yourself something more specific, and less prejudicial. For instance, I describe myself as an "Old School Southern Presbyterian" because my theology lines up most closely with Peck, Palmer, or Thornwell.

2) You have to "make your bones" before anyone will take you seriously:
Your first year in the ministry is not the time to be telling everyone else what to do. You need to have served your time in the trenches, proved your worth, and written a number of helpful things or you are just another young Turk. They need to see you can take advice before you'll be allowed to give it. I missed that lesson and am still paying the price for it today. I will probably never lose the PNG status I earned while I was still an RE and seminarian. Certainly I will never be respected even if not agreed with by the opposition. Even guys technically on my side know to stay away from me in public lest some of my bad rep. get stuck to them.

3) You catch more flies with Honey than Vinegar: Try to always emphasize what you are "fer" instead of what you are "agin". Be winsome, or at least disinterested, not angry. Not even your own side will have the patience to listen to an angry young man more than once or twice. Plus remember that as in preaching, your calling is to convict and persuade people, not "crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of the women." At the end of the day, we want people in the courts of the church to either be persuaded or at least willing to hear us again. I'm not the best of advocates, but over time, I've managed to get some guys who were initially opposed to everything I stood for to at least give me a hearing and begin to shift from their original positions. Be firm, be patient, be gentle and respectful.

4) Recognize that Ecclesiastical, like popular politics, is the art of the possible: By my estimation, the PCA is around 55% moderates, 25% liberal/progressive /emergent leaning, and 20% conservatives of all stripes. Our Puritan/Old School wing is the smallest grouping in the denomination. You simply CANNOT beat the drum for your own side and expect to carry the day. The left realizes that and consequently their speeches are tailored to sway the critical moderate bloc. Conservatives are gradually learning that, after several years of serious defeats. If an issue has NO possibility of capturing the conservatives and the greater portion of the moderates, it will not fly. Puritan worship, sad to say, will not even fly with the majority of CONSERVATIVES. The majority in that wing are "blended" or "Episcoterian" not Puritan. The liberals WILL win whenever they capture the moderates, and if they can continue to do that, the moderates will open the door for them to drive us out of yet another denomination. What moderates fail to realize is that with conservatives gone, the agenda becomes "all liberalism all the time" because moderates by definition don't have an agenda and therefore offer no counterbalance to a liberal agenda.

5) Realize that you are not Obi-Wan Kenobi: You are not the "only hope" for the continuation of evangelical orthodoxy. You have a role to play, and it is important that you always strive to do the right rather than the pragmatic thing, but if you got hit by a bus tomorrow, the gates of hell still wouldn't prevail over the church of Jesus Christ. I stress this because sometimes we sound as though we, and not Jesus, are the ones to whom "without me you can do nothing" is referring. Leave the "if you don't do this thing I'm advocating the sky will fall" talk to the left wing. Humble yourself and patiently persevere in well doing and realize that even set-backs are part of God's plan.

Oh, and keep in mind I'm preaching the above to myself.

Your Servant in Christ,

Andy Webb
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Wow,
HAHA. This is addressed directly to me.:)

Where exactly are you so I know where I don't want to be? (You may PM me if you'd like).
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Very interesting.

I've never heard our denomination described in this way, and have never though of it like this.

Kind of assumed we are something like 40% broad evangelical leaning, 60% reformed leaning.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
I agree wholeheartedly with almost everything Andy wrote. For example, I'm on Andy's side and I love to be seen with Andy!

It is important not to take labels merely for "shock effect." I prefer "Vanilla Westminsterian" or "Ordinary Means of Grace" because it is better known than Old School Southern. But my theology is Southern Presbyterian as well.

I also think that #2 and #4 go closely together. My personal opinion is that in order to gain respect, influence and ability in a Church court, you need to work. Roll up your sleeves and work. Help churches that are struggling. Help churches in need. Preach for them; encourage their elders; give advice; give assistance. Once people see that you are someon who is there when the chips are down, you earn trust.

That is also true of the art of the possible. Always keep at the work of the Church. Never give up. There is no reason that the liberal modus operandi cannot be used. Keep coming back over and over. Make incremental change for the good work.

My experience has been that if you earn your bones, people will listen. It requires sacrifice more than grand gestures. For example, one of the greatest ecclesiastical friendships I gained was because I left work one evening and drove 2 hours to meet a minister with concerns about his denomination and questions about the PCA. It "cost" me an evening at home. I was tired when I got back. Then several weeks later, I gave up another evening and along with a fellow RE drove to give moral support to that minister and his church.

Too few men want to actually work hard and in the lobby of Presbytery meetings. They'd rather speak on the floor and make grand gestures.

Finally, don't let Andy totally degrade himself. He is a man respected by many, and loved by many, including this TE.
 

SEAGOON

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi Andrew,

Wow,
HAHA. This is addressed directly to me.:)

Where exactly are you so I know where I don't want to be? (You may PM me if you'd like).
Where am I? Well Andrew, I'm going to be brutally honest with you. I hope I am useful in my own congregation, but I am of little use in the broader church and certainly I'm going nowhere when it comes to the denomination. For instance, by God's grace I served as a ruling elder in a successful church plant in Pennsylvania and subsequently planted a growing OSP church here in Fayetteville from scratch, and learned quite a bit through both experiences. I will probably never have much opportunity to share that experience beyond what I post on the internet, however. My reputation is such that both the denomination and even relatively conservative church planting organizations wouldn't invite me to speak on the subject in a million years. One group probably fears I'd spout rabid rhetoric and offend everyone and the other wouldn't put me in the line-up for the aforementioned reason and because they'd be afraid of damaging their ability to reach a wider group. At this point, people who know my reputation and hear me preach are shocked, because they expected to hear a narrow and vitriolic doctrinal diatribe.You see if you establish a reputation as a reckless pit-bull early on, you can be virtually assured that no one will invite you to speak or write or publish your work, so you are never really afforded an opportunity to rehabilitate your reputation in the wider church. Lets face it, I have relatively high name recognition (if I had a dollar for every time I hear "oh, you're THE Andy Webb?"), but not the kind that does either me, or more importantly, the church any good. Plenty of men with less name recognition are serving the wider church much more productively because if anyone does recognize their name, the general associations are positive. In that sense ecclesiastical politics really is like secular politics, the negative stuff has a much longer shelf life than the positive stuff. For instance, what do you think the Governor of South Carolina will be remembered for?

Please understand, this isn't about career and it isn't even about denominational advancement, its about NOT giving the devil something that will allow him to cripple your usefulness to the broader kingdom. I know you want to rush into the fray, guns blazing, but understand that ten years on you'll still be paying the price.

Plus, to be more brutally frank than I should be, if you go about making enemies before you go about making friends, not only will you not have people who will defend the reputation you never bothered to build, you will find the people in "your camp" view you as more of a tool than a friend. The continuing effects of the fall mean that plenty of conservatives are willing to let reckless young men do the reputation damaging heavy work while they preserve the "reasonable, gracious, and scholarly" reputations they've labored to build. And when you're done, you won't be receiving any thank-you notes or even credit for that matter.

Go the young Turk route and I guarantee you'll either:

A) struggle with a nasty Elijah complex - "I alone am left; and they seek to take my life."
or
B) Become increasingly bitter, negative, and acerbic till you are suitable only for ministry in shrinking micro-denominations
or
C) Become tediously whiny
or
D) Seek to atone for your previous bad behavior by doing a massive "about face" and attacking the very side you once supported

Anyway, lest I fall prey to accusations of C, I'll leave it at that. Well maybe I'll go a little farther. Follow the lead of my dear brother Fred Greco. He served his time in the trenches, didn't do the angry young man act, and was recently elected to the SJC (beating Paul Kooistra in the process I might add!). Pastor Greco is a man who is and (by God's grace) will continue to be useful to the broader church.

Anyway, learning the art of the possible is going to be critical. The older PCA men can tell you that attempting to bring PCA worship practice into line with the Puritan worship it pretends deference to isn't part of the possible. You'd have more luck persuading the Baptists to issue a statement banning green bean casseroles from potluck luncheons.

Your Servant in Christ,

Andy Webb
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Thanks for the honesty.

I think in your categories, I would fall under B (if I continue on the track I am on) and C.

Thankfully, I know I am not alone. I have my church, and basically all on the PB. But again that is a definite minority in the PCA.

I guess I will have to rethink things. Maybe I should stop blogging or when I do blog, stick to quoting puritans. Can't go wrong there.

Reminder to self, never blog about the GA.

So seriously, not that i would do this, but how does one protest/object at the GA level? Bill said I would have to do it at that particular GA.





Hi Andrew,

Wow,
HAHA. This is addressed directly to me.:)

Where exactly are you so I know where I don't want to be? (You may PM me if you'd like).
Where am I? Well Andrew, I'm going to be brutally honest with you. I hope I am useful in my own congregation, but I am of little use in the broader church and certainly I'm going nowhere when it comes to the denomination. For instance, by God's grace I served as a ruling elder in a successful church plant in Pennsylvania and subsequently planted a growing OSP church here in Fayetteville from scratch, and learned quite a bit through both experiences. I will probably never have much opportunity to share that experience beyond what I post on the internet, however. My reputation is such that both the denomination and even relatively conservative church planting organizations wouldn't invite me to speak on the subject in a million years. One group probably fears I'd spout rabid rhetoric and offend everyone and the other wouldn't put me in the line-up for the aforementioned reason and because they'd be afraid of damaging their ability to reach a wider group. At this point, people who know my reputation and hear me preach are shocked, because they expected to hear a narrow and vitriolic doctrinal diatribe.You see if you establish a reputation as a reckless pit-bull early on, you can be virtually assured that no one will invite you to speak or write or publish your work, so you are never really afforded an opportunity to rehabilitate your reputation in the wider church. Lets face it, I have relatively high name recognition (if I had a dollar for every time I hear "oh, you're THE Andy Webb?"), but not the kind that does either me, or more importantly, the church any good. Plenty of men with less name recognition are serving the wider church much more productively because if anyone does recognize their name, the general associations are positive. In that sense ecclesiastical politics really is like secular politics, the negative stuff has a much longer shelf life than the positive stuff. For instance, what do you think the Governor of South Carolina will be remembered for?

Please understand, this isn't about career and it isn't even about denominational advancement, its about NOT giving the devil something that will allow him to cripple your usefulness to the broader kingdom. I know you want to rush into the fray, guns blazing, but understand that ten years on you'll still be paying the price.

Plus, to be more brutally frank than I should be, if you go about making enemies before you go about making friends, not only will you not have people who will defend the reputation you never bothered to build, you will find the people in "your camp" view you as more of a tool than a friend. The continuing effects of the fall mean that plenty of conservatives are willing to let reckless young men do the reputation damaging heavy work while they preserve the "reasonable, gracious, and scholarly" reputations they've labored to build. And when you're done, you won't be receiving any thank-you notes or even credit for that matter.

Go the young Turk route and I guarantee you'll either:

A) struggle with a nasty Elijah complex - "I alone am left; and they seek to take my life."
or
B) Become increasingly bitter, negative, and acerbic till you are suitable only for ministry in shrinking micro-denominations
or
C) Become tediously whiny
or
D) Seek to atone for your previous bad behavior by doing a massive "about face" and attacking the very side you once supported

Anyway, lest I fall prey to accusations of C, I'll leave it at that. Well maybe I'll go a little farther. Follow the lead of my dear brother Fred Greco. He served his time in the trenches, didn't do the angry young man act, and was recently elected to the SJC (beating Paul Kooistra in the process I might add!). Pastor Greco is a man who is and (by God's grace) will continue to be useful to the broader church.

Anyway, learning the art of the possible is going to be critical. The older PCA men can tell you that attempting to bring PCA worship practice into line with the Puritan worship it pretends deference to isn't part of the possible. You'd have more luck persuading the Baptists to issue a statement banning green bean casseroles from potluck luncheons.

Your Servant in Christ,

Andy Webb
 

Ravens

Puritan Board Sophomore
As a note of encouragement (though it is minor compared to your griefs) I listened to some of your sermons on Sermon Audio when I was going through a very rough time a couple years back and found them to be eminently warm and helpful. You came across as a gracious, soft-spoken (in a good way) man of God who had a heart for people and a heart for the Scriptures. Never in a thousand years would I have imagined that you had a crass, pit bull reputation.

You never know who you are helping nowadays in the age of the Internet.
 

SolaGratia

Puritan Board Junior
I also listen to Pastor Webb sermons (via sermonaudio.com) and that's how I also feel about Pastor Webb, a man with a gracious heart for God's Truth and one who faithfully desires to lead God's Flock.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
SEAGOON
but I am of little use in the broader church and certainly I'm going nowhere when it comes to the denomination
Dear Brother,

I don't know you at all. My thought in reading this is... have faith.

Men do not control over what God has, is and will do with you any more than do these thoughts.

Be faithful, pray... and God will put you in the place He will have you. It sounds like you have already done a lot in the kingdom of God. Ask Him in prayer what you want, you will be surprised.

Romans 8:28
28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Psalm 37:23

23The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks Andy (and Fred) for this. I think it is also something generally useful to keep in mind for everyone in group situations like reformed discussion forums such as the PB where we are seeking to persuade others of the scriptural truth on some thing. Sadly, we've seen the burn the bridges motif work itself out many times over the years.

This reminds me to an extent of something Samuel Miller wrote to young men about speaking in church courts; I don't have it to hand but may post it sometime when I have more time.
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
There's all sorts of work in the vineyard, and pest control is just as vital as watering.
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
Hi Andrew,

Wow,
HAHA. This is addressed directly to me.:)

Where exactly are you so I know where I don't want to be? (You may PM me if you'd like).
Where am I? Well Andrew, I'm going to be brutally honest with you. I hope I am useful in my own congregation, but I am of little use in the broader church and certainly I'm going nowhere when it comes to the denomination. For instance, by God's grace I served as a ruling elder in a successful church plant in Pennsylvania and subsequently planted a growing OSP church here in Fayetteville from scratch, and learned quite a bit through both experiences. I will probably never have much opportunity to share that experience beyond what I post on the internet, however. My reputation is such that both the denomination and even relatively conservative church planting organizations wouldn't invite me to speak on the subject in a million years. One group probably fears I'd spout rabid rhetoric and offend everyone and the other wouldn't put me in the line-up for the aforementioned reason and because they'd be afraid of damaging their ability to reach a wider group. At this point, people who know my reputation and hear me preach are shocked, because they expected to hear a narrow and vitriolic doctrinal diatribe.You see if you establish a reputation as a reckless pit-bull early on, you can be virtually assured that no one will invite you to speak or write or publish your work, so you are never really afforded an opportunity to rehabilitate your reputation in the wider church. Lets face it, I have relatively high name recognition (if I had a dollar for every time I hear "oh, you're THE Andy Webb?"), but not the kind that does either me, or more importantly, the church any good. Plenty of men with less name recognition are serving the wider church much more productively because if anyone does recognize their name, the general associations are positive. In that sense ecclesiastical politics really is like secular politics, the negative stuff has a much longer shelf life than the positive stuff. For instance, what do you think the Governor of South Carolina will be remembered for?

Please understand, this isn't about career and it isn't even about denominational advancement, its about NOT giving the devil something that will allow him to cripple your usefulness to the broader kingdom. I know you want to rush into the fray, guns blazing, but understand that ten years on you'll still be paying the price.

Plus, to be more brutally frank than I should be, if you go about making enemies before you go about making friends, not only will you not have people who will defend the reputation you never bothered to build, you will find the people in "your camp" view you as more of a tool than a friend. The continuing effects of the fall mean that plenty of conservatives are willing to let reckless young men do the reputation damaging heavy work while they preserve the "reasonable, gracious, and scholarly" reputations they've labored to build. And when you're done, you won't be receiving any thank-you notes or even credit for that matter.

Go the young Turk route and I guarantee you'll either:

A) struggle with a nasty Elijah complex - "I alone am left; and they seek to take my life."
or
B) Become increasingly bitter, negative, and acerbic till you are suitable only for ministry in shrinking micro-denominations
or
C) Become tediously whiny
or
D) Seek to atone for your previous bad behavior by doing a massive "about face" and attacking the very side you once supported

Anyway, lest I fall prey to accusations of C, I'll leave it at that. Well maybe I'll go a little farther. Follow the lead of my dear brother Fred Greco. He served his time in the trenches, didn't do the angry young man act, and was recently elected to the SJC (beating Paul Kooistra in the process I might add!). Pastor Greco is a man who is and (by God's grace) will continue to be useful to the broader church.

Anyway, learning the art of the possible is going to be critical. The older PCA men can tell you that attempting to bring PCA worship practice into line with the Puritan worship it pretends deference to isn't part of the possible. You'd have more luck persuading the Baptists to issue a statement banning green bean casseroles from potluck luncheons.
Two questions for Andy: how does what you decry as the "young Turk" route, differ from what Athanasius did? And why should we even consider "the art of the possible" when it comes advocating biblical doctrine or practice in a denominational assembly?
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
I find it more than a little ironic here that Andy Webb wrote a piece that could definitely be called the Reformed version of "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Of course, I love Andy Webb very much. Life's too short to learn only from our own experience. I can identify with these words. Fortunately for me, I haven't shot my chances on the national level. On the Presbytery level, however, I'm seen as a young Turk (at least by some), although I do think that reputation can change. I definitely agree with Andy's assessment of the percentages in the PCA. I think it is crucial for us conservatives to stand with the moderates loudly and graciously, where we agree. And surely, those things upon which we disagree should not take center stage. The balance of love and truth has to be maintained. Conservatives err more often than they think they do on the side of truth at the expense of love.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Esteemed gentlemen,

Several of you have agreed there is a slight majority composition of our denomination [particularly general assembly(?)] of "moderates."

In the political sphere, that tends to mean someone who is not driven by principle, is not consistent, or would make a virtue of indecision.

In the reformation, that might mean Mr. Calvin's reform of the church to Scripture was more thoroughgoing whereas Mr. Luther's was more moderate, that is less thoroughgoing.

In this context, how do we understand the term "moderate"?
 

tgoerz

Puritan Board Freshman
In a nutshell.....keep your mouth shut, eyes open and have your ducks in a row.

And.....a servant's heart.

Is that about right? =)
 

LawrenceU

Puritan Board Doctor
Andy, and Fred, that is good advice for all young pastors - regardless of denomination. Especially those of a more 'conservative' bent. Even among Baptist churches, of which there is no church court, young men shoot themselves in the foot routinely.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Snowflake
Finally, don't let Andy totally degrade himself. He is a man respected by many, and loved by many, including this TE.
And this one.

-----Added 7/2/2009 at 11:13:40 EST-----

At this point, people who know my reputation and hear me preach are shocked, because they expected to hear a narrow and vitriolic doctrinal diatribe.
All - I can tell you from first hand experience that Andy's sermons are neither narrow nor vitriolic. And in no case are they diabtribes. They are, however, doctrinal.

In private conversation he is engaging, witty, and reflects genuine interest in what you're saying to him.

So those who think he's mean or narrow or reckless don't know him.
 

nicnap

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Wish I would have had this advice in the first couple of churches where I was pastor...great advice.
 
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