Thursday, April 3, 2014

For Preachers, and Those to Whom They Preach

  Life of Christ 57

And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach.
Mark 3.14

My dad praying over me at my ordination
          I believe scripture teaches that the office of apostle ended with the death of John around AD 90, but I also believe there are some practical lessons that can still be drawn from the story of the calling of the Twelve (Mark 3.13-19) in our day, both for preachers and those to whom they preach.
          First, to be ordained as a preacher in the Lord's work is a precious thing. 'This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work' (I Timothy 3.1). It is a precious thing to be called by the Lord, and to be placed into ministry (I Timothy 1.12) by Him. It is precious to be publicly marked by one of the Lord's churches as one of His men.  
        Years ago, upon first assuming the pastorate, my young church called together a council of experienced area pastors, and asked them to form an ordination committee for me. They kindly consented, and in the summer of 1998 I had the distinct pleasure standing before them and answering doctrinal questions for several hours. Following that, those men recommended to my church that I be ordained, and that evening has become a very precious one in my memory. My father, then still a pastor himself, preached the charge to the candidate, and then the men on the ordination council gathered around me to pray. It was a solemn and yet joyful occasion.
          I think of that moment often on Saturday nights as I walk through our church auditorium to make sure everything is in its place for the morrow. I look at my pulpit, built for me by my own brother, and feel again in my heart the great responsibility with which I am entrusted by the Lord and by my church. The call of the Lord upon my life and a regular opportunity to preach the Word of God is very precious to me.
          Secondly, those who would be ordained as the Lord's men must, first and foremost, be with Him. No, we cannot walk and talk with the physical Jesus as Peter, James, and John did two millennia ago on the Judean hillsides, but we certainly can be with Him. The call to preach is a call to walk with God. Being with Him protects me from the inevitable temptations of ministry, such as pride of position, intellect, and influence, or thinking that I am always right. Being with Him warms my heart for what He loves, such as holiness, and the lost world, and His own people. Being with Him rubs off on me, and I become like Him. Being with Him teaches me Who He is, and forms me into His image, and this, in turn, allows me to better minister as He would minister if He were here. To the extent that an ordained minister spends time with God we will find the extent of that man's understanding and application of what God actually designed New Testament church ministry to be all about.
          Thirdly, God's men must preach. Preaching is forthtelling. Preaching is being God's herald. Preaching is confronting the spirit of the age with the ageless commandments of an unbending God. Preaching is laying out the reasons, and persuading and exhorting and compelling men to yield to God.
          Preaching is, by its very nature, designed to be confrontational, which is why it is more and more disliked in an increasingly permissive age. Yet it is this very confrontational preaching, this delivering, without apology, of God's message that is so desperately needed in our generation. It is needed by me. It is needed by my family. It is needed by my city, my state, and my country.
          Preaching is the primary public ministry to which God's men are commissioned, and if they don't get around to answering your email, forgive them. If they don't attend every birthday party for every child in the church, forgive them. If they closet themselves, hour upon hour, in private to dig out the truths of God's Word, forgive them. If they step on your toes, or peel back your scalp just a little now and then, forgive them. If they seem filled with a sense of the importance of their message, forgive them. If they never rest satisfied with the level of your relationship with God, and are always pushing you to grow, forgive them. If they will brook no opposition or meddling with their preaching, forgive them. If they insist that preaching maintain the place of primacy in the life and services of the local church, forgive them. This is exactly their commission.
The pastors on my ordination council, left to right:
Ron Royalty, Tom Brennan, Joe Grimaldi, myself, Tom Grant,
Bob Ross, Don Barth, and Michael Setser
          Beloved, the preachers of our day are not apostles, but God is still in the preacher ordaining business. They will not be hard to spot. We will notice them by their fervent love for the Lord, by the way they walk with Him, by the resemblance they carry to Him, by their high view of preaching, by their fearless proclamation of the truth, and by their thirst for opportunities to minister in the Word.
          Let us pray and beseech Him that He will favor His church by calling some few from our midst.

If you would like to listen to the audio version of this blog you may find it here on our church website. Just press 'launch media player' and choose We Preach Christ 28, 'He Ordained Twelve'.

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