Jared C. Wilson

Lemuel Haynes: The Most Important American Figure That You’ve Never Heard Of

Written by Jared C. Wilson |
Wednesday, March 1, 2023
In many ways, Haynes could be considered a kind of American Spurgeon—a faithful preacher and pastor, beloved for decades by his church and his family, and concerned to see the implications of the gospel fleshed out in homes and in society.

An Unquestionable Legacy
Lemuel Haynes is perhaps the single most important American figure most Christians have never heard of. Born July 18th in 1753 to a Black man and a White woman, Haynes was abandoned by his parents in the home of a family friend who sold the infant Haynes into indentured servitude. By the providential hand of God, however, young Lemuel was placed into a Christian home, where by all accounts, including his own, he was treated as a member of the family and raised to love the things of God.1
Growing up in colonial Vermont, Haynes worked hard and studied hard, proving himself quite adept at intellectual pursuits despite being largely self-taught. He has affectionately been called a “disciple of the chimney-corner” as that is where he would spend most evenings after work reading and memorizing while other children were out playing or engaging in other diversions.
Haynes’s commitment to theology began in that chimney-corner, and eventually he was born again. Not long after his conversion, he turned his followership of Christ and his intellectual bent into a serious endeavor by writing and preaching. An oft-told anecdote about Haynes concerns a scene of family devotions at the Rose household where he was indentured. Given his adeptness at reading and his deep concern for spiritual matters, the Rose family would often ask Haynes to read a portion of Scripture or a published sermon. One night, Haynes read a homily of his own without credit (apparently the sermon on John 3:3 included in this volume). At the end, members of the family remarked at its quality and wondered, “Was that a Whitefield?” “No,” Haynes is said to have replied, “it was a Haynes.”
The few sermons we have of Lemuel Haynes prove him to be an exceptional expositor in the Puritan tradition, similar to Edwards or Whitefield though simpler than the former and more substantive than the latter. And yet, what Haynes may have lacked in eloquence compared to his contemporaries, he more than made up for in biblicism and applicational insight.
Officially licensed to preach in 1780 by the Congregational Association, Haynes soon after preached his first public sermon (on Psalm 96). He was then ordained in 1785 and would go on to receive an honorary Master of Arts degree from Middlebury College.

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Shepherds Feed the Sheep

Written by Jared C. Wilson |
Friday, February 17, 2023
If you simply want to build something for Jesus, go sell cars or insurance or real estate. Start a non-profit. We don’t need any more salesmen in the pulpit.We need tenders of the sheep. We need shepherds up to their elbows in Christ’s little lambs. Pastor, if you don’t get to the end of your week without at least a little wool on your jacket, you might not be a shepherd.

After his resurrection, before his ascension, Jesus has this moment with one of his chief traitors, one that is as tender as it is powerful:
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:15-19)
This, then, serves as the great pastoral commission. And it centers not on building a large ministry or casting a large vision. The central pastoral commission centers on this mandate: Shepherds are to feed the sheep.
In the center of Peter’s restoration here is embedded not just a reality of identity but a reality of vocation. What I mean is, Jesus isn’t just reaffirming Peter’s right standing with himself; he is restoring Peter’s pastoral office. He’s giving him something to do, and it is the fundamental, essential, irreducible task of the shepherd—feed Christ’s sheep.
Three times he commands him to care for the flock:
v.15 He said to him, “Feed my lambs.v.16 He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”v.17 Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
If I may speak briefly to one issue I believe central to the more recent debate about the sufficiency and reliability of the Bible in worship gatherings and in evangelism and apologetic conversations with unbelievers. I think if we trace back some of these applicational missteps to the core philosophy driving them, we find in the attractional church, for instance, a few misunderstandings. The whole enterprise has begun with a wrong idea of what—biblically speaking—the worship gathering is, and even what the church is.
In some of these churches where it is difficult to find the Scriptures preached clearly and faithfully as if it is reliable and authoritative and transformative as the very word of God, we find that things have effectively been turned upside down. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul uses the word “outsider” to describe unbelievers who are present in the worship gathering. He is making the case for our worship services to be intelligible, hospitable, and mindful of the unbelievers present, but his very use of the word “outsider” tells us that the Lord’s Day worship gathering is not meant to be primarily focused on the unbelieving visitor but on the believing saints gathered to exalt their king. In the attractional church paradigm, this biblical understanding of the worship gathering is turned upside down – and consequently mission and evangelism are actually inverted, because Christ’s command to the church to “Go and tell” has been replaced by “Come and see.”
Many of these churches – philosophically – operate more like parachurches. And the result is this: it is the sheep, the very lambs of God, who basically become the outsiders.
And so you will have leading practitioners of these churches saying things to believers like, “Church isn’t for you.”
For example, Steven Furtick, leader of attractional megachurch Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, in a series called “Confessions of a Pastor” says this:
If you know Jesus–I am sorry to break it to you–but this church is not for you.“Yeah, but I just gave my life to Christ last week at Elevation.”Last week was the last week that Elevation Church existed for you . . . Let me get a phone book; there are 720 churches in Charlotte. I’m sure we can find you one where you can stuff your face until you’re so obese spiritually that you can’t even move.
In response to the criticism that his teaching isn’t deep enough, Perry Noble, former leader of Newspring Church in South Carolina, once said this:
I’ve heard it…You have too…Christians saying, “I just want to be fed!” It blows my mind!
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Top 10 Things I Wish Worship Leaders Would Stop Saying

Written by Jared C. Wilson |
Saturday, November 12, 2022
This is the worship leader’s equivalent of “asking Jesus into your heart.” I think I know what the phrase means, but it reveals something about our thinking related to worship. For instance, is it true that God is summoned by our worship? Or is it actually the other way around? He calls us—we then respond in worship. God isn’t a genie and worship isn’t like rubbing a golden lamp. Nor is he a cosmic butler to be summoned. Don’t invite the Lord into a space like he doesn’t already own it and isn’t already there.

In which a crusty old curmudgeon rants a little about annoying songleader banter. Don’t take this too seriously, except maybe do.
10. Are we ready to have fun this morning?
The answer is, “Probably not.” The truth is, when this is your welcome at the start of the music time, it tells me where your head’s at. Nobody goes to church to have a bad time, of course, and I’m sure plenty of people go to “have fun,” but is this the point of worship? Is “having fun” where you want hearts directed as you lead people to exalt God? No, it’s where you want hearts directed when you’re just trying to “crush your set” or “rock it out for Jesus” [see #5]. “Are we ready to have fun?” is just slightly worse than this next common opener:
9. How’s everybody feeling?
If I wanted to stretch to justify this statement, I could say that what you’re asking the congregation to do is self-reflect on their spiritual condition and present their real, whole selves honestly and submissively to the glory of Christ as you lead them in adoration of him. But my guess is that 9.9 times out of 10 what you’re really trying to do is get people to say, “Woooooooo!”
8. You can do better than that!
Or some other form of nagging about how we’re not singing or participating to your liking.
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3 Ways to Turn Against Your Pastor

Written by Jared C. Wilson |
Thursday, November 3, 2022
Sometimes pastors have to make difficult decisions that are the result of much prayer and study. But in the moment of reception, those who have no clue how much “pastoral anxiety” was put into a decision immediately think the pastor is acting rashly or stupidly or just wrongly. Good pastors will work towards appropriate transparency and clarity of communication with their churches, not leaving them in the dark about their care for the flock.

But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.— Galatians 5:15
Most people don’t set out to dislike their pastors. Something just happens. Oh sure, there are generally disagreeable folks who seem to possess the spiritual gift of discouragement and are always looking to find faults, but most pastors I know who have congregants (or congregations) turn on them felt utterly ambushed. It takes time to trace the outworking of anger and even sometimes ousting to the root causes, and very often these causes are things that could’ve been headed off at the pass given communication, clarity, and charity.
Sometimes pastors preach heresy, engage in unrepentant sin, or unnecessarily stir up hostility or division, but a great number of pastors who’ve seen their share of congregational betrayal were, despite their flaws and failings, simply going about their ministry business when it blew up in their face.
So how does it happen? How do otherwise good Christians turn against otherwise good pastors? Here are three very common ways it happens.
1. Disappointment Turns into Disgruntlement
I have seen firsthand the weaponizing of disappointment in a congregation. Bonhoeffer was right that pastors must beware of the “wish-dream” when it comes to their congregations, but the danger works both ways — congregants often have wish-dream pastors. That is, they have an idealized version of what or who their pastor should be. They wish he was more academic or less so. They wish he was a better communicator, more like the guys they listen to on the Internet. They wish he was more extroverted or more studious or more something than he actually is.
The truth is that pastors will fail us, and this is not because they are necessarily bad pastors, but because they are human. They do not have infinite physical or emotional resources. They mess up. They make mistakes.
But when consider our pastors’ failures to live up to our idealizations of them, we must be careful we do not engage in idolatry — that we want from our pastor what we can only get from Jesus. I can think of a couple of significant disappointments I gave to church members once — both stemming from my apparent inability to “solve” counseling issues. It wasn’t my lack of availability or my lack of concern. I was engaged, I was gentle, I was pastoral. But I didn’t have a silver bullet and thus “failed.” These disappointments turned into severe critcism of me, became exaggerated into a wholesale attack on my qualifications and heart.
Remember that it’s not a sin to disappoint you. Sometimes pastors have to do that. Sometimes they don’t mean to do it, are just as disappointed as you are to be a disappointment to you. Don’t let your disappointments fester into disgruntlement. Consider Christ who never fails and let your pastor off the hook for not being him.
2. Disagreements Turn into Division
Maybe you disagree with a particular interpretation or application your pastor has made in his sermons.
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Yes, the Devil is Real

Written by Jared C. Wilson |
Monday, September 12, 2022
The New Testament writers undeniably believed the devil was a real being. An impersonal force cannot “scheme” (Eph. 6:11). An impersonal force does not have a “will” (2 Tim. 2:26). An impersonal force cannot “prowl” (1 Pet. 5:8). Most notably, Jesus himself dialogues with the devil during his wilderness temptation (Matt. 4). So, yes, I do believe there is a real devil who commands real demons. He really does want to destroy God’s good creation, and he really does tempt and try real Christians.

A couple of years ago, when I was doing a round of interviews for my book The Gospel According to Satan, one question I repeatedly encountered took be aback: “Do you really believe in the devil?”
In our post-Christian, largely irreligious age, it certainly doesn’t go without saying. Plenty of people do believe there’s such a thing as evil, that there are indeed actions that are morally wrong, but fewer and fewer believe there’s any kind of personality behind this evil. Even among professing Christians, the idea is growing that “Satan” is more a force than an actual being.
So do I believe there’s an actual devil? You bet I do. And here are a few reasons why:
First, given the biblical explanation for the origin of existence, only evil persons explain the presence of evil in the world. In other words, to believe that evil is only a force —- some ethereal wickedness or antagonistic but impersonal power —- is to identify God, who is the Creator of all things, as the author of evil. But the idea that evil only exists as a force in opposition to God and his holiness is more akin to Eastern religious views than to a Judeo-Christian worldview. Satan is no yin to the Lord’s yang.
The Bible explains that God created all things good but that he endowed his sentient creation —- both angels and humans -— with the freedom to will good or evil.
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Nipping Gossip in the Bud

Written by Jared C. Wilson |
Thursday, July 28, 2022
Don’t say anything negative about someone that you wouldn’t say to them. Simply put, if it’s a matter of enough concern to share with another, it’s a matter of concern to share with the person in question. If it’s not, it shouldn’t be shared. Redirect others’ gossip with a gentle query about the intent. “Have you spoken to them about this concern you have?” is a great way to nip gossip in the bud. “I don’t think you should share this with me if you’re not prepared to share it with them.”

The Lord loves a straight shooter. How do I know this? Because this is the embodiment of the wisdom imparted in Proverbs, including this helpful little gem: “Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you” (4:24).
Crooked speech is talk that isn’t straight. It is bowed, off-kilter, circuitous, meandering. There are a few examples we could name, including outright lying and even hypocritical living, but one of the most glaring examples of crooked speech that is practically epidemic in the church is the sin of gossip. But what is gossip?
One reason gossip can be so difficult to define is that it so often masquerades as something more mundane, perhaps even beneficent. I’m sure you have witnessed plenty of prayer requests shared on someone’s behalf that seemed to include unnecessary details or salacious information. You’ve probably heard your share of “words of concern” that bordered on insinuation or improper speculation. Maybe you’ve offered such words yourself. I know I have.
If we had to boil down gossip to a straightforward definition, we might say that gossip is saying anything about someone that you wouldn’t say to them. That at least captures the way gossip violates Proverbs 4:24.
So how do you know if you’re hearing (or sharing) gossip? Here are some clues as to the various motives that fuel gossip.
When we are voicing criticism or accusation of another person to a third party, we must take great care first of all that we have the other person’s actual best interest in mind. If we really do suspect a sin issue, the responsible thing to do is to lovingly, gently confront the subject of our concern.
In Romans 1, Paul actually connects gossip as a character trait—“they are gossips” (v. 29), not simply that they commit gossip—to deceit and maliciousness. Gossip is a sin no matter where you find it, whether it’s in the aisles at church or in the aisles of the grocery store. But it is especially egregious in a church setting, where gossip works the satanic ploy of undermining the unity of the Spirit and Christ’s call to love one another as He has loved us. Gossip is anti-gospel, and therefore it is representative of the Antichrist.
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4 Thoughts on Spiritual Fatherhood

Written by Jared C. Wilson  |
Tuesday, July 12, 2022
Spiritual fathers speaking into the lives of young men realize that accountability comes with access, that authority comes with availability, that ambition must come with authenticity — and that lasting, formative influence comes from closeness. You cannot be a spiritual father simply by monitoring someone’s intellectual progress. You have to get up in someone’s business. Spiritual fatherhood is local.

For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.—1 Corinthians 4:15
As I get older, I think more and more about this claim from Paul — and the concept of “spiritual fatherhood” generally — and it seems a pressing issue to me, not just “culturally,” but personally. I won’t say I’ve done a great job of being a spiritual father, but by God’s grace, I want to be. And I’ve certainly benefited from spiritual fatherhood. These are some thoughts on what this practice looks like that I’ve been kicking around for some time and thought might be worth sharing.
1. Spiritual fatherhood is fatherhood, not guru-dom.
In other words, it does not consist in handing down spiritual proverbs from on high like some kind of authoritative oracle, but rather leads from alongside, encourages through relationship, coaches as one invested. By “guides,” I take Paul to mean theological and moral influences — both good and bad, perhaps — and these kinds of voices are of course many, especially in our day of talking head religious media and Internet know-it-alls. There is of course wisdom and positive influence to be found in these arenas. But nothing beats the wisdom of one who knows you and speaks into your growth and can even tailor and customize guidance according to one’s personality, giftedness, experience, and calling. Just as a father may speak to his own children in different ways according to their capacities, a spiritual father, unlike so many of our self-appointed gurus, knows how to relate to different believers in different ways. And while a guru only knows how to dispense all the right information, the spiritual father is honest about his own sin and struggles, transparent about his own mistakes and misunderstandings, and doesn’t claim to have all the answers. He just keeps pointing you to the One who does.
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Proverbs 29:18 is Not About Vision-Casting

Written by Jared C. Wilson |
Thursday, June 2, 2022
 It is “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints” (Col. 1:26; see also Rom.16:25 and Eph. 3:9). The vision is Jesus. The world would have us know a billion other things. The church would sometimes have us know many other things, as well. But those who have beheld the life-changing vision of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ know better.

Where there is no vision, the people perish . . .— Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)
Proverbs 29:18 may be one of the most misapplied verses in all the evangelical church today. Many a church leader has used it to spiritualize his strategies and blackmail followers into supporting his entrepreneurialism. Vision statements are cast. Mission statements are crafted to serve the vision. A list of values is composed to serve the mission. An array of programs is developed to serve the values. A stable of leaders is recruited to serve the programs. An army of volunteers is inspired to assist the leaders.
Much of what goes on in our local churches serves to make sure the church machine keeps running. In less healthy—but sometimes very big—churches, the entire machine is designed to put on an excellent weekend worship service. All of this would indeed perish if that vision were not cast.
But what if a leader’s good idea for church growth or success was not the vision Proverbs 29:18 had in mind?
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Christ is An Unconquerable Savior

Written by Jared C. Wilson |
Saturday, April 2, 2022

Nobody gets out of here alive. Even the Christian must die. But dying isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you. Dying after you die is the worst thing that can happen to you. But for those who are united to Christ by faith – we have unconquerable, eternal life.

Because Jesus is God we can know that he is able to save. But we are encouraged not just that Christ is able to save, but in knowing that he has actually exercised his ability to save us.
In other words, to say that God is able to save isn’t exactly the good news, because God is able to do many things that he nevertheless chooses not to do. Whenever he says “no” to one of our prayers, for instance, we should not construe him to mean that he’s saying “I can’t.” (Unless we’re asking him to sin or otherwise act against his nature.)
I’m thinking along the lines of the old Carl Henry saying: “It’s only good news if it gets there in time.”
That Christ is able to save is no benefit to those who do not find themselves taking refuge in him!
Well, Christ is an able Savior and because he’s always on time—indeed, he has authored time itself— he’s an unconquerable Savior.
Look, for instance, at John 17:9-19, where in his “high priestly prayer” Jesus turns from praying for himself to praying for his friends. Christ’s interceding on the sinner’s behalf is GOOD NEWS, and here it rises to the surface of his prayer in wonderful relief:
I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
He has given us the only kind of life he has within himself – ETERNAL LIFE.
The primary facet of eternal life on display in vv.9-18 is the eternality of it, the forever protection Christians have by Christ himself. Review from the passage, for instance:
v.10 = all yours are mine and mine are yours, meaning we belong to God
v.11 = the Father is keeping us
v.12 = he has guarded us, and not one of them has been lost
v.15 = keep them from the evil one
vv.16-17 = sanctify them (or set them apart)
All of this points us the safety we have in Jesus!
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Why I’m Mostly Quoting Dead Guys These Days

Written by Jared C. Wilson |
Thursday, March 31, 2022
Treasured legacies are not really made in a few years or even in one’s own lifetime, but rather in the enduring impact of a life — even a short life — on the church or the ongoing fruit of one’s work through subsequent decades. There are reasons we are still reading the figures from 2,000 years of church history today. Their words have proven helpful, formative, or otherwise impressive through the ages. That’s the kind of wisdom I want to lean into more and more.

It seems every couple of months now the evangelical world is wrestling with the moral implosion or other kind of disqualification of yet another church leader. And while our first priority ought to be justice and healing for any victims of these leaders, one subject that inevitably comes up is what to do with all of these leaders’ works. Should we read their books any more? What do we do with all the ways they’ve informed or ministered to us through their preaching and writing?
The endorsements printed on the back cover of Paul Tripp’s 2012 book Dangerous Calling now serves as an ironic reminder of how many of our vaunted figures stand on feet of clay. Some of these “falls” we probably should have seen coming. Others startle us. I don’t know about you, but I am weary of having this rug pulled out from under me. There are more than a few quotes from fallen leaders I wish I could go back and take out of my books and past sermons.
Now, the solution, I don’t think, is that we no longer pay attention to living ministers! Loving the brethren necessarily means hoping and believing all things. I don’t think gracious discernment entails embracing a spirit of cynicism and suspicion about everybody. And as one who continues to be blessed by numerous colleagues in local and public ministry, I plan to continue enjoying that blessing. And as one who hopes to continue preaching and writing, I sure hope the solution is never paying attention to the living!
But there are still some reasons why it may be wise to prioritize the wisdom of those saints who have gone before us, who have already passed into glory. I’ve begun intentionally prioritizing the voices of departed brothers and sisters in my own work. I have a book coming out later this fall in which the vast majority of quotes from Christian works comes from departed saints.
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