Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Importance of Local Church Leadership.

I been wanting to write some things on the role of Pastor/Teacher for some time. I think sometimes this Ephesians 4 Ministry can get forgotten with the excitement in charismatic circles with the Apostle and the Prophet. Yet I wrote previously that I contend that it was the pastor/teacher who de-railed the Charismatic Movement as was. They have tremendous responsibility! And tremendous challenges! "Be not many teachers brethren, for theirs is the great judgement". I am well aware that sometimes I can give the impression in comments I make on this blog that I am less than impressed with pastors and local churches - so this is an attempt to counter that and show how vital I believe they really are. By the way there is an excellent interview with Pastor/Teacher Mark Dever here ... well worth the read.

In his book, "God's Agenda" Dr Ern Baxter noted eight guidelines for pastor/teachers from Paul's words in Acts 20:18-21.

1. Be an Example Before the Flock.

Paul told the elders; "You know my way of life ... you know after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord". Terry Virgo reminded us at Brighton that Gideon said a similar thing to his followers; "Watch me".

2. Serve the Flock in Humility with Tears.

Ern said; "I found out that it is a very practical thing to be humble. If you're humble you don't compete. If you're humble you don't strive. If you're humble, you're not jealous ... The apostle Paul also speaks of tears. He felt deeply about people ... Paul's care for the sheep was so meaningful that he knew what it was to weep over them and to weep over those who forsook the way of the Lord".

3. Serve the Lord with Honesty and Courage.

He said; "As shepherds of the flock we have our own religious games that we play. If we know that God wants us to bring a word that is going to be hard to give, we adopt the "shun principle" ... the truth is clear. Shepherd - if you're not preaching the word the Lord told you to preach, then you are shunning to declare the whole counsel of God!".

4. Work Hard in the Ministry.

Note this. He wrote; "It is a tragedy that in our day, ministers have become known as playboys, with low golf handicaps and an equally low capacity for hard work. Yes there is a time for leisure and there's a place for pleasure, but we owe God at least as much industrious application in the business of spiritual leadership as a businessman invests in the marketplace".

I am so thankful that my pastor Dr Jebb set such an amazing example in this area. He worked. I remember passing the church late at night sometimes if I was on my way home from a friends when I was a teenager and I would look up and see the light still burning in his office.

5. Live a Committed Life.

Ern said; "Have any of you realised that when God called you into His sevice, He called you to martyrdom? In the early church that was understood. Everyone of the apostles was martyred (with the possible exception of the apostle John), along with thousands of other believers. We don't think of martyrdom today. I want to shock you. Anyone of us may become martyrs before we're through with this decade".

6. Accept Responsibility for God's Sheep.

"Paul had faithfully and uncompromisingly presented the gospel to the Jews and Gentiles alike. That is why he was able to say; "The blood of no man rests on my hands because of deliquence or failure. I have faithfully, night and day, with tears, warned every man".

7. Minister Selflessly.

"To serve God, you have to make an economic adjustment. At one point I made a simple covenant with the Lord. I said, "Lord I'm working for you. I will never lift a finger to make a penny out of my ministry (and I never have). But Lord I expect You to take care of me (and He has)".

8. Be Sensitive: Avoid Ulterior Motives.

I found this part especially interesting!

Ern wrote: "As we find young men who are emerging to enter the ministry, we need to talk to them about celibacy ... Now celibacy is not something you can choose. It's a charism or a gift. However it is a charism that Paul considered valid and necessary for his work. We at least need to talk to young men about the possibility that if God is calling them into a difficult calling, then they should consider carefully the possibility that they may have the gift of celibacy. Of course you know that if you don't have the gift of celibacy if you can't keep your hands off a woman. That is why the Bible bluntly tells us that it's a good thing to marry rather than burn with passion (1 Cor 7:9).

I know young men who are pure, who have the gift of celibacy and who are serving God in very difficult situations in ways that they couldn't do if they were married. The ministry is a very high calling".

I have not heard any call to celibacy for years. The call I grew familiar with in recent years was to hurry up and get married. Yet noone noted that Paul said it is better to not be married! So I am hugely encouraged tonight in what Ern wrote.

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