Gentlemen, Get a Grip
Gentleman, it is time to get a grip for the sake of the church and the glory of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. As pastors we are under increasing pressure to conform to congregational and societal expectations. I recently read somewhere that pastors have been leaving the ministry in unprecedented numbers. The primary reason is the pressure of ministry and the number of ‘hats’ a minister has to wear to live up to people’s expectations. As I thought on this, I was reminded of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, chapter 4.
Paul writes with regard to various ministries in the church at Corinth, undertaken by successive elders which had led to a party spirit. Some boasted of the excellence of Peter, or the marvelous preaching ability of Apollos, and claimed to be followers of the one or the other. Paul then shares with this congregation how they ought to regard those whose role it is to minister in Christ’s church. First, he says we are to be regarded as ‘servants of Christ‘ (v.1). We are not primarily the servants of the deacons’ board, or the congregation, but of Christ. Our first responsibility then is to the head of the church, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Truly we serve the people of God, but we serve as those who are the servants of Christ. We are under his governance and our first duty is to ask ourselves whether what we are preaching, teaching or doing is in accordance with our Master’s will for his church. We are not to be men pleasers but Christ pleasers. Next, Paul reminds us that ‘we have been given a trust’ and what is required of us is ‘to prove faithful‘ not successful. Who of us does not long to be a noted minister of Christ? What is more discouraging than the want of success? Oh, if we could only see what Spurgeon saw or have the same success as some famous preacher of our day. And there is nothing wrong with longing for ‘success’, and to see the congregation grow spiritually and physically. But Paul makes it clear that ‘success’ must never come at the expense of being ‘faithful’. We must ask ourselves whether we are being faithful to the trust that our Master Jesus Christ has entrusted to us. Are we guarding the deposit of faith by diligent prayer and holy living? Are we defending the glorious deposit of the gospel against every pressure to whittle away at what it means to be a true believer in Jesus Christ? Some of the pressure eases perceptibly if we remind ourselves that, above all, Jesus has called us to be faithful to him and leave the success, or seeming lack thereof, to the day when he judges the secrets of men’s hearts.
Further, we are not only the servants of Christ but as Paul shows we have been ‘entrusted with the secret things of God.‘ I am told that no one has ever broken into Fort Knox and stolen the treasury of America. We have something of greater value than Fort Knox, and that is the glorious gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We are its guardians, and woe betide the pastor who forgets that. As servants or stewards of Christ we are in charge of his household, and are to behave as Joseph of old, whose integrity was so evident that Potiphar could safely leave his affairs in Joseph’s capable hands. In the ‘Bleeding of the Evangelical Church’ David Wells writes about the subtle way the ‘secret things of God’ have meta-morphosized:
Because of our therapeutic culture, we favor relational matters over those that are moral, the consequence of which is that God’s holiness is pushed into the background and his love is brought into the foreground. Mysticism then flourishes and cognitive conviction retreats. Self-surrender is devalued and self-fulfillment is prized. Pre-occupation with character fades and fascination with personality and self-image advance. The God in whom love has replaced wrath produced a Christianity that is appealing for its civility, but one that has no serious word for a world which is racked by evil. (p. 11 and 12)
Finally, Paul tell the Corinthians and us to beware of ‘judging before the appointed time (v.5).’ We are far too quick to judge another’s ministry. Yes, we have a responsibility to our congregations and fellow elders, but ultimately Christ is our judge and it is to him that we must answer. This may sound foreboding but I have a feeling that we will find our Lord much more gracious than our fellow man. Paul even claimed that he did not ‘judge’ himself but left judgment to his heavenly Master. Yes, we must constantly re-evaluate our ministries and examine ourselves, but when we leave the ultimate results to God we can learn to enjoy our ministries relieved of the burden of what others think or even we ourselves think.
Gentleman let us get a grip and not be frightened out of the highest calling a man can know by congregational or societal demands that run contrary to the will of the Master whom we serve. Today, as perhaps in no time in recent memory, the church needs men who will not be swayed by public opinion, but remain faithful to our calling in Christ. We need to get a grip even as we live in his grip.
Editor of the Sovereign Grace Journal, Vol. 8 Issue 2. May 2005
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