What a blessing it is that our good Lord doesn’t only answer our prayers, but…
In a recent interview, pastor and author Tim Keller recalls how, soon after the diagnosis of his pancreatic cancer last year, two words came to him while he was meditating upon the Scriptures and praying: sanctification and focus. Concerning the second, he said:
I would say that as a man who was 69 years old, I actually was pretty unfocused because the reality is it doesn’t matter whether you have cancer or not, when you’re approaching 70, you should actually know the time is short . . . And so I should have been more focused, but I was tending to do whatever anybody asks me to do.
Keller is urging those in Word ministry to choose to be occupied with the essential “commitments,” As Allan Chapple calls them in his book Ministry Under the Microscope. These commitments are laid down for us as a pattern in 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus among other places and include: prayer, the ministry of God’s Word, loving God’s people, setting a godly example, and persevering through hardships.
Each of these five commitments is conjoined to the others, and foundational in bringing about holiness
(read the book of Hebrews for a long treatment). The major challenge I face, and we all face, is believing that these (biblically grounded) commitments are what we should give our time and energy to. These essential commitments are hard to focus upon all on your own.
For this reason, pastors and others who lead in Word ministry need to make training up lay leaders (elders, deacons, board members) to be people who are able to lovingly instruct and correct others from the Scriptures.
This is clearly seen in Paul’s ministry as reflected in his address to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:18-35. It is clear that this was not the first occasion he had spoken with them. If we head back into Acts 19, we read that Paul found a group of “disciples” in existence when he entered Ephesus. He instructed
them in the faith of the Lord Jesus. They joined him when he went into the synagogue at Ephesus. They then learned from him as he preached and dialogued there, before departing for the hall of Tyrannus—no doubt an enlarged group—for another two years of instruction. These disciples partnered with Paul (and his coworkers) in gospel outreach into much of Asia Minor. They were respected by
Paul, for he heeds their advice not to enter a frenzied crowd of idol makers and worshippers. And here in Acts 20 the elders he trained in the pattern of ministry commitments are now those who carry the flag of the gospel in the church of Ephesus and in the work of missions, reaching further into Asia
The point is this: Paul ensured that he was not alone in his ministry or ministry commitments. Yes, he had his ministry team who went ahead or back to various places and reported back to him (Timothy, Erastus, Gaius, etc. [Acts 20:1-6]), but in each place where he planted a church, he ensured elders or lay-leaders were well-grounded in the gospel through patient teaching and modelling. As we in our social and anti/religious context look to the future of our churches, and to planting new churches, let’s focus our time and energy, and the resources God has given us, on not only carrying out our essential commitments but bringing others into and alongside us in this great work for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Finally, may I join many others and give thanks to God for the election of one of our trustees, and former Deputy Chair of Council, Kanishka Raffel, as
Anglican Archbishop of Sydney. We commit him and Cailey, and that great diocese, to God and to the Word of his grace.
With every blessing in Christ,