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Episode 16 - How Do We Stay in the Race for the Long Haul?

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Date: September 26, 2018
Run Time: 16:37
Host: Dr. Gregory R. Perry
Guests: Dr. Steve Brown, Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.
From the Series: Growing Bold, Not Old, in Our Faith

Program Notes

What does it take to run the race of faith? How should we prepare for ministry? Enjoy this lively and informative conversation with Dr. Steve Brown and Dr. Richard Pratt as we discuss:

  • How you're only as good as your next sermon
  • "No More Mr. Nice Guy"
  • The need for Christian-leader boot camp
  • Why we run to Jesus, our only hope

Sponsor this Month: Key Life Network

Our guests this month are Dr. Richard Pratt, the founder and President of Third Millennium and his friend, Dr. Steve Brown, President of the Key Life Network, an organization that encourages lots of folks through its weekly broadcast on over 600 radio stations. Please go to their website at keylife.org to experience their programs and many other resources, which are designed to help us understand God's astounding grace to us in Christ. Both of these men have been pastors, seminary professors, quite unconventionally we might add, in order to provoke Christians to stop playing it safe, but to truly be 4 the World as Jesus' witnesses.

Podcast Transcript

4 THE WORLD PODCAST
EPISODE 16: How Do We Stay in the Race for the Long Haul?
Guest: Dr. Steve Brown and Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.

4 the World is a production of Third Millennium Ministries where we believe every Christian deserves a well-trained pastor. To study Scripture deeply or to learn more about how you can partner with us to provide Biblical Education. For the World. For Free. download our App to your phone or visit our online classroom at Thirdmill.org. And now, your host 4 the World, Dr. Greg Perry.

Welcome back everyone to the weekly podcast of Third Millennium Ministry called 4 the World. I'm your host, Greg Perry, and you have probably gotten word that we have as our guests Dr. Richard Pratt, the president of Third Millennium, and Dr. Steve Brown, the president and founder of the Key Life Network. It's been a rich conversation, gentleman. Thank you so much for joining us this month on 4 the World.

YOU'RE ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR NEXT SERMON

Now, last time we were talking a little bit about being in the garden, about what it means to grow as a Christian. You both have spent a lot of time — given your lives, really — to encouraging pastors. You men love pastors like, really, few other men I know in terms of what you've given in terms of resources. But the statistics on how long pastors stay in the ministry aren't very good. How do we help our leaders stay in for the long haul? How do we stay in for the long haul? That's what we're going to talk about today.

Richard: That's a good thing to ask old men like Steve and me.

Steve: But he's not. I really am old. I'm cramming for finals. He's got a long way to go yet.

Richard: Well, it doesn't feel that way sometimes. But, you know, the truth of the matter is that it's not easy to stick with it for the long haul because there's a lot of suffering, a lot of pain. And I don't know if this is true, I'm trying to think of another profession that a person could have where the more you do for people, the more you sacrifice for people, the better you do for people, the less they appreciate you, and less forgiving they are of you if you mess up. I mean, really, that's certainly the truth. Because you're only as good as your next sermon. You're only as good as your next counseling session, and if you mess up after twenty-five years of doing well and serving like crazy, they hold you more accountable rather than less.

It disappears so quickly.

Richard: Like that! It just vanishes. A little bit like parents with a teenage child. That's the way teenage children often treat their parents. And so it's a thankless job, for the most part, being a pastor, if you're doing your work well. It's a sacrificial job and you have to have your spouse and your family on board. They have to sacrifice. And it's just flat out hard. There's nothing really easy about it. People all the time… I don't know where they get these ideas, Steve, but I've run into people in the airport and they'll say to me something like, "Oh, Rich, now that you're Third Mill you must really be happy." I just stand there with my mouth open. I say, "Happy?" Steve: What are you, a fruitcake?

What do you think we do?

Richard: I am all kinds of things, but happy is probably not the word that comes to my mind. And then they'll say, "Well, how about 'fulfilled'?" And I'll say… I'm standing there again with my mouth open, "What do you mean fulfilled?" I remember Bill Bright — I wasn't a good friend of his, but I did have one serious conversation with him, near his death in fact. He looked at me, because he knew about Third Mill, and he said this — you'll like this, Steve — he said, "Rich, you're going to have the same problem I have. The problem with people with big visions is they never see anything but the glass half empty." Now, that's Richard Pratt's life. And Greg, who works with me here every day, can testify to that.

Yeah, absolutely.

Richard: I don't look back and say, "Look at what we've done for twenty years." I try to give God glory for that, but I don't take any satisfaction in it. All I'm thinking about is what are we doing celebrating this? We've got to get busy! That's my attitude. And so it's a thankless, servant, self-sacrificing job. So how we hang in there on that is a great question that Steve is now going to answer.

NO MORE MR. NICE GUY

Well, you've both put something in front of us in your teachings. You just finished the Grace Encounter Conference, and one of the things you were talking about is what's at the end for Christians — we will be restored. What is out there? What is that hope that keeps us moving forward towards the goal? What is the goal?

Steve: Well, eye hath not seen and ear has not heard, and mind of has not conceived, so I'm not going to be able to tell you details. But there is that hope. But I want to go back to the original question too. And boy, what Richard said… We have over four thousand — y'all have about four million — but we have over four, almost five thousand pastors on our mailing list. So I spend a lot of time talking to pastors who just have experienced what you were just talking about. And one of the things that doesn't sound very spiritual is the importance of… well, you have to be… You need to develop a mean streak, is what you need to do. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil — because I'm the meanest preacher in the valley. And there's something to be said… We've had pictures in the past… I have a book in my library about the circuit riders called Gun in Pocket, Bible in Hand. And you get somebody like Peter Cartwright who's looking out over a town, and he turns to his colleague and says, "I smell hell." We don't create preachers like that anymore. And what that means is the preacher needs to be human. He needs to get angry like everybody else. He should not… When I wrote my book No more Mr. Nice Guy, when it was published in England, they changed the title to it, and they called it Don't Let Them Sit on You, and they had an elephant on the cover sitting on this little guy. But you know, there is a sense in which pastors need to express their humanness, the reality of who they are. And they're going to lose a lot of their congregation, and they need to get a bottle of champagne and celebrate as they leave. Then you create a soft place in the church for yourself and for your people, a forgiving, kind place. But it's hard to get there. Everything Richard said is true, and pastors don't last. I don't think they last because they can't live up to their own teaching. What if you got in the pulpit and said, "You know, it just dawned on me, I'm not living up to what I've been teaching the last five years, and if it's okay with you, I'm not going to live up to it for another five years." And you'd be surprised. Ten per cent of your congregation will leave. The other ninety will say, "You too?" They really will. And they'll rise up and call you blessed. The problem is, that ten per cent is usually in leadership. That's where you've got to be meaner than they are. And at my age, you don't give a rip about what people say, so I'm going to say what I think. I'm going to proclaim the good news, and I'm going to be as faithful as an old sinner can. And I'm going to be cynical, but I'm not leaving. And Richard ain't either. Don't worry about it. There's no way he's going to leave. And you aren't either, Greg.

BOOT CAMP

I'm not. Richard, you've talked about even the way we train pastors, though, and you've talked about, we need a pastors' boot camp, and just in terms of how we do it in preparing people for real battle, and, like you said, to be human about our failures. You want to say a little bit more about that?

Richard: Well, I just think that the way we develop leaders for the church is unrealistic. It doesn't get them ready for what they're going to face, and it's not even pious in the sense that it's not what Jesus tells us it's going to be like. You know, when he tells them, "The world hated me. You think they're going to like you?" And the reality is, most people want to be liked so badly, they can't live without it, and you've got to be ready not to do that. Well, how do you develop people like that? You develop them by putting them through the nightmare just like they do in the military. And I often ask people, what kind of soldiers would the United States Army have if boot camp amounted to reading books, taking exams and listening to lectures? The answer is simple. You'd have dead soldiers. That's what kind you'd have because the first grenade that explodes, they'd be running, and the next bullet would get them. But that is exactly how we think of training people for the ministry, that it's a matter of intellectual development and not physical and emotional challenge. You can do it, because that's what boot camp is all about — doing it in a concentrated, simulated combat. And that, in my opinion, is what a theological education ought to be, simulated combat, the battle for the world against the devil.

You've talked about it in terms of even dangerous evangelism, like some of our brothers and sisters face in very real situations in the world.

Richard: If I were King of Seminary, I would have the students out on the streets. They're, "Oh, I can't do that. I'm too scared." Yeah, exactly, that's why we're doing it. They need to be doing things that get them arrested. They need to be doing things that make them come to their wits' ends, like we've had with our good friend Omar, a brother who was very sick, and you know, I had one person tell me, "I can't use a bedpan. I can't carry somebody else's bedpan." I said, "What?"

Steve: Go do it.

Richard: That's exactly what we ought to be doing. We ought to be wearing bedpans rather mortar hats at graduation. We ought to be using our stoles and our jackets on our robes for washing the feet of others rather than adorning ourselves. That's what it's all about.

Steve: I don't believe I'd have said that. That's a little bit radical!

It's a different kind of soldiering. But it is in the battle all for the Lord.

Richard: Unfortunately today in the military they do a lot of remote fighting, you know, they fly drones from Tampa, Florida over in Iraq and things like that. But unfortunately, I say, that's not the way ministry is done. You don't get to sit in an air-conditioned semi doing a joy stick and blowing up people. You are with people as they're being blown up. So you've got to be like an infantryman ready to do the hand-to-hand.

OUR ONLY HOPE

Well, there are no Jeremiahs anymore, it seems, in the West. You were quoting in Jeremiah in your recent conference about, you know, what do you do in ministry, or in life as a Christian? Jeremiah said "The summer is ended, the harvest is past, and we are not refreshed." Where do you go from there?

Steve: And it's the same thing that I would say to not just pastors but all Christians. And you have to think about this. Where [are] you going to go? Who's going to love you the way Jesus loves you? Who's going to forgive? I mean, what are you going to do with your guilt? What are you going to do with your life? Where is there an option? You know, I sounded like I was a soldier fighting, and I'm going to be here 'til I die, but I don't have any other place to go either. Because when you've been loved as thoroughly as I have — and I think Richard will agree — when you know you don't deserve it, you don't run away. You run to him.

That's what Peter said, we have nowhere else to go. And he's the one who wrote that letter. And I'd like to end with this, men, and that is that in his second letter Peter is talking about the day of the Lord, he's talking about this kind of love, and he says that the patience of the Lord is why he tarries so that all might come to repentance. But then he says something really strange that I'd like to see or hear you guys unpack a little bit. He says that, as we wait for that day, that we can actually hasten that day in terms of our service, in terms of the hand-to-hand combat, in terms of the ways that we serve God, that we can hasten that day.

Richard: From God's perspective the day when Jesus comes back is fixed. There's no question about that. He knows it, only the Father knows it. Even the Son, Jesus, in his human nature doesn't know it, but he knows it, the Father does. It's fixed. But from a human point of view, we can delay it, or we can speed it up. That's what Peter says. And our lack of commitment, our lack of zeal for the good news of Jesus around the world, our lack of devotion slows it down. And as he says, "What shall we do in light of this great judgment that's coming? Live godly and holy lives and hasten the day of the Lord, hasten the day of God." Speed it up — using the word that we get Speedos from in Greek. And so, yeah, we can speed it up by doing the things that God has called us to do. This is our hope, this is our dream. I think sometimes, especially in our cultures, in Western cultures, we have so much of goodness in our lives. Now there's a lot of suffering, there's no doubt about it, but most of the people that are listening to this podcast, their lives are fairly decent. They're not worried about what they're going to eat, they're not worried about whether somebody's going to shoot them tonight. They've got personal problems and relational problems and they're not fulfilled, okay. Alright, we got that. And that can be really important to people. But the truth of the matter is that sometimes we don't long for that day. We just don't. What we want to do is to push it away as far as we can. Push away our own personal death, and we just don't even care whether Jesus ever comes back again because we're all going to go to heaven once we die anyway. So we try to avoid what's coming. What Jesus is going to bring to us, it is our only hope. I don't know how people live without some thin thread of hope. Now, sometimes my hope in Jesus is like a thin thread. But I talk with unbelievers sometimes and say, "I just don't know how you're making it." My hope cannot be in this world. It really is in the world to come that Jesus is bringing, and so I'm going to do everything I can do to hasten that day.

Amen. And that's where Peter ends that section. He talks about not just heaven and the hope of being with him when we pass from this life, which is a real hope to be in his presence, but he talks about the new heavens and new earth that are coming. I remember the first time that really struck me was a conversation I had with you, Richard, where you were talking about owning your own land in the new heavens and new earth and coming around and having these kinds of conversations and being able to rejoice in what Christ has accomplished as he remakes the world.

Richard: Every sacrifice is worth it.

Well, I want to thank both of you. Dr. Steve Brown, thanks for coming by.

Steve: Thanks for having me, very much.

Richard Pratt, thank you so much for joining us. And for our listeners, thank you for giving us your time, and we look forward to having you next time on 4 the World.

4 the World is a production of Third Millennium Ministries where we are reimagining biblical education for Christian leaders in a global church. Each week we bring you conversations to cultivate you're curiosity about God's word, to inform your intercessions for God's people, and to equip your efforts in God's mission for the world. Our host is Dr. Greg Perry. Our sound engineer and editor is Christopher Russell. Our web designer is Ra McLaughlin. And I'm your announcer, Cindy Sawyer. Today's podcast was brought to you by Keylife.org where you can find radio programs, weekly devotionals, and books produced by our guest, Dr. Steve Brown. He's also our host for The Book of Revelation in our online classroom. Enroll at elearning.thirdmill.org today. And we'll meet you next time on 4 the World.