Restraint…that was what I had to tell myself this past week as I prepared for Sunday’s sermon. This text has literally been a guardrail for what I have sought to do. While not perfect, it has been desire each week to honor the Lord by “knowing nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
- When I ‘cut my teeth’ on ministry, a mentor of mine made this statement to me: “What you get people there with, will be what you’ll need to keep them there with.” I realize the grammar of that statement isn’t very good, but the idea behind it is. His point is this: if people come to your church/ministry because of the entertaining value of what you do (pizza parties, great games, funny stories, etc.), you will need to up the ante each week. He would often say to me: “give ‘em pizza and you’ll need to eventually give them Six Flags.” However, as he told me, if you give them Jesus, they will come to expect that each week. This doesn’t mean that learning about Jesus can’t be entertaining…but it does mean, the focus is Jesus, and the entertainment value is secondary.
- James 3 clearly indicates the challenges/issues facing teachers of God’s word. James wrote, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” Charles Spurgeon said that this text alone made him tremble, as he entered the pulpit. Not for fear of the people he stood before, but because of the book he was preaching from and the Author who would hold him accountable. There’s to be a sense of seriousness, soberness, profound sense of respect, honor, humility, and wonder when one teaches from God’s word.
- There are 2 types of ministry that I’ve seen (and done) in my 30 years of ministry.
- I’ve been guilty of a “come to me and I’ll give you answers”, type of ministry. This type of ministry tries to have all the answers, is embarrassed when stumped, gets angry/jealous when people ask others for input, seeks to draw a following…ultimately this type of ministry says, “come visit us and we’ll show you how to live life.”
- Another type of ministry (and my hope is that I’ve done this more than the 1st), is “come and let me point you to One who will give you rest.” The goal of this type of ministry is to be a signpost to Jesus. It’s one that takes God’s word, for what it is…God’s word pointing us His glory, His love for His people, and His provisions to us through Christ. Over and over, this ministry is humble, joyful, excited when people look to Christ, is not threatened by what it doesn’t know because it shows our need for Christ’s wisdom, is unafraid to look weak because it’s a great moment for God to reveal His power. In a sense, this type of ministry wants the people who look to us for leadership to learn that Jesus is all they need and He will meet them, counsel them and care for them.
- Some comments/ideas through the years that have kept me grounded in this:
- Bill Heard used to remind me…”don’t forget the power of God’s word…you could read it out-loud to our church and will have an effect.”
- Isaiah 55:11: “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
- When Charles Spurgeon preached as a young man, at his grandfather’s church, the church was mesmerized. His wise grandfather, after young Charles was finished preaching, rose up to the pulpit and said, “Young Charles might be able to preach the gospel better than me, but he sure can’t preach a better gospel.”
- Thoughts/ideas like this remind me: the power is in God’s gospel/word. Yes, it’s critical to prepare, study, pray, write, and think. But in the end…God’s power is in His word. My job…our job…is proclaim it.
- It’s more than likely our own pride when wanting to make our ministries look bigger than they really are or we exaggerate the effects/results of our ministries. We do this sometimes because in our “glory-culture” we think that if we don’t look like we’re “something” then no one will want to be a part of what we’re doing. In doing this, we forget that wonderfully peaceful word from God in 1 Corinthians 3: “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”
Quotes I left out:
- “Paul did not come to Corinth to display his own achievements as a rhetorician or professional lecturer (v. 1) but to focus only on Jesus Christ, and Christ crucified (v. 2). Indeed, superficially the kind of power that some expected to overwhelm the hearers, whether by triumphalism, manipulative rhetoric, or spectacular miracles, appeared to have been absent: I come to you in weakness, with much fear and trembling (v. 3). Paul renounced the seductions of “spin” or audience-pleasing devices (v. 4).” AC Thiselton
- “It would boost the status of the church if their leaders could compete with other professionals on the platform. Part of the reason why Paul could accept funding from Philippi but not from Corinth (1 Corinthians 9) related to these expectations of a more “professional” standing as well as to obligations to the more wealthy Christians who promoted the funding.” AC Thiselton
- ”He deliberately avoided the very thing that now fascinates them, “the persuasion of wisdom.” But his preaching did not thereby lack “persuasion.” What it lacked was the kind of persuasion found among the sophists and rhetoricians, where the power lay in the person and the delivery. Paul’s preaching, on the other hand, despite his personal appearance and whatever its actual form, produced the desired results, namely it brought about the faith of the Corinthians.” Gordon Fee
- “The cross provides a criterion not only for what Christians say of Christ but also how they say it. Does preaching, teaching, or witness sometimes draw more attention to the speaker than to Christ? Some Christian preachers use manipulative devices or methods that are unworthy of an honest proclamation of the cross. Might certain ways of using music, lighting, or bullying or wheedling rhetoric risk bringing discredit to the gospel, and encourage “conversions” that are only skin-deep (v. 5)?” AC Thiselton
- “These verses do not provide any argument against disciplined, rigorous, and reasonable communication of the gospel. “Only Christ, only the cross” offers no approval of sloppy presentations of Christian truth. Paul rejects “pleasing the audience” because then the audience would be constructing or reshaping the gospel.” AC Thiselton
All around the globe:
You might know that I have had the privilege over the last few years to work with our denomination (Sovereign Grace Churches) with international churches. Our team is called Sovereign Grace Emerging Nations Team. From Latin America, to the Philippines, and to undisclosed parts of the globe, it is fascinating/exciting to hear what God is doing around the world. If you would like to receive a monthly email with updates on the Sovereign Grace Emerging Nations, please feel free to subscribe here: https://tinyurl.com/sgemergingnations.
Have a great week…