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A Reformed Pastor's Toolkit

Faith Works.jpg

Rick Warren has a minister's toolkit (Click here: | Encouraging pastors and church leaders), so here is one of my own.


Tool # 1 -- The Word of God rightly divided and proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit.  This will create faith!


God's word.jpg


Tool # 2 -- The Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper.  These will confirm and strengthen faith!


baptismal font.jpg

Holy Communion WinCE.jpg



Tool # 3-- A biblically based, God-honoring liturgy. This will keep our focus on Christ, not ourselves.


liturgy 2.jpg



Tool # 4 -- A pulpit.  Symbols are important!  This will demonstrate that we respect the Word of God.

And when I say "pulpit", I mean a big wooden pulpit (below), not some cheesy plexiglas one


plexiglas pulpit.jpg




Tool # 5 -- A Pastor's Study.  This is a place to prepare to preach and to pray, and a place to shepherd God's flock by applying the preached word to struggling sinners.

Pastro's study.jpg


Tool # 6 -- Uplifting music from God's own songbook!  Let's sing the songs God gave us!

Uplifting music.jpg



Tool # 7 -- Prostitutes and Tax Collectors.  You need people to whom to preach, and we all are tax-collectors and prostitutes at heart (or else we are Pharisees cf. Luke 18:9-14).


    tax collectors.jpg

Did I miss anything?  What's in your ministry toolbox?


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Reader Comments (27)

Dr Riddlebarger,
Another shot, squarely on the mark! I was just browsing through my usual blog readings between classes and had just come from Denny Burk's blog on Scot McKnight on the Emerging Church Movement . Your toolkit is what the Church local needs and the emergent movement is seeking... now how does one convince them of that?
February 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRobert K "Kelly" Brumbelow
Humm. I wonder how much either of your examples are Biblical? Clearly the Sacraments are, but the style of pulpit is indifferent. Ranks up there with the color of the carpet.And everyone knows that Paul played the pipe organ.

It is funny how we can major on the minors and then criticize when others differ on those things.

No. Come to think of it, it isn't.
February 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTim Etherington
And prayer, which is part of #3 and #6, but deserves its own mention.

And coffee. Lots of coffee.
February 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRuss R
The pulpit and robe are good safegaurds for the preacher so that the focus is on the Gospel and not on the man delivering the Gospel. They remind the preacher and his auditors that "we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord." While this is not a "major" it is an important help for our celebrity-crazed society which is all too eager to elevate the messenger above the message.
February 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBil Van Otterloo
Right, because we'd <i>never</i> focus on a man in a robe...

I preach without a pulpit, where does that leave me?

I think Rick Warren is goofy. I am saddened by what I've seen in the evangelcial churches I visited. But backing into the 17th century is no safeguard against the idolatry that brews in the human heart.
February 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTim Etherington

For whatever reason, you are missing a couple of key points.

1). I am not arguing that repristinating 17th century Reformed forms of worship will do anything to change the idolatrous human heart. Only the Word and Sacraments can do that because they are the divinely-appointed means of grace through which God's Spirit works upon the human heart! What I am saying is that whatever we do in worship, we use those symbols which keep Word and Sacrament at the center. The problem we face (especially in Southern California) is that ministers have become entertainers and worshipers seek an "experience."

2). If you don't preach from a pulpit, that's fine with me. But there's a reason why I think they are important and I hope you'd consider it. That's all.

3). Style is not neutral--read Robin's excellent point below (Worship Style and Mega Churches).

4). I certainly do not believe Paul played the pipe organ (although his wife my have). But I do believe that Paul wanted us to sing Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, which are divinely inspired or based upon biblical texts. Note that the scarcity of good photos I could lift from google images might be at the root of the confusion here. Ignore the picture of the organ if that helps and focus on the picture above it, the Psalter! That's my point. God has given us a songbook! Why not use it and sing it joyfully? That's what I was trying to convey by placing those two pictures together.

5). Given all the dispute and defensiveness about this in our tradition, I hardly think this is majoring on the minors. While there is no divinely prescribed liturgy in the New Testament, there are certain prescribed elements of worship--i.e. Acts 2:42. We must do those things which keep our emphasis where God wants it. Furthermore, we are to worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). The second commandment also has some relevance here, does it not?

Hope that helps clarify things a bit
February 22, 2006 | Registered CommenterKim Riddlebarger
You are right, only the Holy Spirit can cure the human heart of idolatry. Amen. Praise God that he does!

I also agree that parts of evangelicalism has lost any idea of beauty in worship. The idea that God is both beautiful and terrifying is pretty much gone. Jesus is my homeboy, not my God and my Lord. Many probably cannot understand why Peter said "Depart from me, I am a sinful man."

The Church, indeed *must* sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. I think that if we paid attention to more of the older hymns and started singing more than one verse from the Psalms, it would improve our view of God.

I spent 14 years in Southern California before moving here and I can tell you that here in Chicago in the shadow of Willow Creek things are just as bad. I share your pain. Believe me.

Furthermore, I agree that symbols are important. Worship space communicates attitudes about God. When your sanctuary has AWANA circles painted on the carpet and basketball hoops suspended from the ceiling, it unintentionally communicates a view of worship.

However, (oh, you KNEW that was coming! :) what we can do is get hung up on *our* symbols. When we make *our* preferences the only way (or even the best way) we are in danger of brewing up a new idol in our own hearts. We don't like *their* idols, our are better. That isn't helpful at all.

Can the gospel be faithfully preached from a Plexiglas pulpit? Can Christ be glorified by a preacher in an Izod polo shirt? Of course you would agree He can be. Just as much as the gospel can be profaned by a preacher in a robe with a pipe organ behind him (Robert Schuler).

The message that comes across in a post like this one is that the above sentence cannot be true. I've met Reformed folks who couldn't get past those externals. They were the benchmark. It doesn't matter if the content of the music was extremely biblical, they never got to hear if the preaching was richly expositorial. There wasn't a pipe organ and so they were outa there.

That's what I meant by getting hung up on the minors. The externals may change as time goes on. Dress standards change. Music styles change. What we need to focus on is what the content is. The content must be richly God glorifying. It must be profoundly Christocentric. The preaching must be apostolic. The songs, hymns, and spiritual songs must present Biblical truth in contemporary terms. Too often we Reformed are too hesitant to do that and have a hard time getting past those things we may not like. The Regulative Principle of Worship turns into the Regulative Garrote or Worship where anything we don't like gets labeled as "unBiblical." I fight that idol in my heart on a regular basis.

Fair enough, I'll ignore the pipe organ and embrace the psalter.

Okay. I'm done ranting. I know blogs are informal writing spaces. I got set off by the implied message of contemporary vs. 17th century forms.

BTW, I do enjoy your blog and your sense of humor!
February 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTim Etherington
Oh and I agree with Russ, you forgot coffee.
February 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTim Etherington
Kim, you've finally done it. I knew that sooner or later you'd post something offensive here. How DARE you post pictures of IRS agents!? How repugnant...
February 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLevi
Sean the Covenanter says:

Yay to the Psalter!

Boo to the Organ!
February 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSean McDonald
Speaking of robes, as one of the commenters did above, I recently finished reading Henry Chadwick's The Early Church. There were some aspects of the book that I wasn't fully in agreement with, but I found interesting his comment that the clerical robes were at one point the common dress of the day, but hung around in the churches beyond that point as a result of conservatism. Food for though...
February 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDave
Rev. Riddlebarger~

Great post--love the blog; I and the other guys on always keep up to speed on the Riddleblog.

Mike (Horton) told me you could be pretty funny, and it really shows in this format.

Keep it up and God bless.
February 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBrannan Ellis
Robes and pulpits ... come on. Were does that leave the small newly planted group of believers in rural Ireland? Worship is in a community centre and the minister of the Gospel wears standard modest male attire. Robes and pulpits mean nothing ... the Gospel means everything.
February 23, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPhil
Amen and thank you Phil!
February 23, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTim Etherington
I have just two comments.

Tim, you said,
"THAT'S WHAT I MEAN'T BY GETTING HUNG UP ON THE MINORS. The externals may change as time goes on. Dress standards change. Music styles change. WHAT WE NEED TO FOCUS ON IS WHAT THE CONTENT IS. The content must be richly God glorifying. It must be profoundly Christocentric. The preaching must be apostolic. The songs, hymns, and spiritual songs must present Biblical truth in contemporary terms." (caps mine)

This statement illustrates what Dr. Riddlebarger is arguing. You must not divorce substance and style. Yes, you are correct when you say the content is important, but you can never separate the content from its medium. The content can be subverted by the medium itself. As Dr. Riddlebarger stated, style is not neutral. I know you understand this from reading your comments on Awana decorations and the like. It just appears that you contradict yourself when you turn around and say that the minister's attire, the church furniture, and the music are minor issues, especially in our culture.

Phil, you stated,
"pulpits mean nothing ... the Gospel means everything."

Surely this is a hyperbolic reaction. At least I hope it is. No person is justified in saying that the pulpit as a symbol conveys nothing. The pulpit(style) emphasizes the centrality of the Word(substance/content) in the ministry of the church.

Dr. Riddlebarger, I'm enjoying the blog.
February 23, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterChase Vaughn

I completely disagree with you regarding the pulpit. They mean nothing be they wood or perspex, ornate or contemporary. You could have a complete tube standing in the pulpit reading and preaching the Word and not believing any of it. What about those who preach in streets or those ejected puritans who preached in fields under trees? So I will say it clear ... the pulpit as a symbol means nothing ... unless you invest it with meaning. Could you do without it? Yes. Would it mean that poeple do not take, say, Dr Riddlebarger seriously as he preaches because he is not in the pulpit? No. Try and convince me that a pulpit means anything important.
February 24, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPhil
Saying that because one can conceive of a church without a pulpit renders the pulpit meaningless is like saying that the fact that the theif on the cross was saved renders baptism meaningless.
February 24, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterbil van otterloo
Thanks for responding Chase. I don't think I was contradicting myself. My problem is not that externals matter, I think they do. We perceive the world in both conscious and unconscious ways. We don't always have to ask to know some things.

However, my issue is that Kim presented an either/or false dichotomy. Either you use a Plexiglas pulpit (bad) or you used a beautiful wooden one (good). It isn't that simple. The Plexiglas pulpit doesn't necessarily communicate a low view of preaching, God's Word or truth. That was my point about Schuler. Okay, the Crystal Cathedral is a bit gaudy but it has a beautiful pipe organ and Schuler spouts his gibberish in a gown.

Or, consider the majesty of a Roman Catholic Mass in a good old downtown cathedral. It is breath-takingly beautiful and loaded with spiritual poison.

When we take a reductionist view of these things we are in danger of turning pulpits and gowns into idols in our own hearts. They become the shibboleths by which a church gets a pass or fail. We'd never consider staying and listening to the message or the content of the music or the administration of the sacraments because two items on our checklist fail.

That's my concern. I don't want to reduce proper church to those externals. Can a church meeting underground in China haul around an appropriate looking pulpit? Should they have to? Are they being faithful to the gospel without it?

Someone once said to me that if something isn't true everywhere it probably isn't true. I'm still wrestling with that but it smacks of wisdom to me.

BTW, I was so glad to see #7 in the toolbox. It indicates that Kim isn't so inwardly focused that he forgets about the lost around him. Kudos.
February 24, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTim Etherington
"Would it mean that poeple do not take, say, Dr Riddlebarger seriously as he preaches because he is not in the pulpit? No."

If he stood up to preach in surfing attire, I would not, along with many others, take him very seriously. Likewise, I would begin to question the competency of my doctor if he came in dressed that way. Again, style is not neutral
February 24, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterChase Vaughn
Tim and Chase:

I could wear surfing attire under my robe and you'd never know!
February 24, 2006 | Registered CommenterKim Riddlebarger

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