bits from bob....

Faithful Ministry

by Bob Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

Faithful: the word gets thrown around a lot in religious circles. What does it mean to be faithful? Similar concepts include loyalty, allegiance, fulfilling a trust. To be faithful suggests being consistent and dependable. In the everyday use of the word, a person who is faithful is one who can be counted on.

Christians are called to be faithful. Disciples of Jesus are faithful to God, faithful in relationships-marriage, family, friendships, and faithful in using their resources, gifts, and talents. The Christian is called to faithful love, service, and obedience. Ministers are called to faithfulness in at least three additional areas. The task of ministry requires that the man of God be faithful to the Word, to the task of ministry, and to the people with whom he ministers. This article considers these three areas.

In the first century, professionals often sold their knowledge and instruction. As a result, that world was frequently cynical about philosophers and religious teachers. Many peddled their wares for financial gain. In his New Testament letters, Paul more than once denies that he had such motives. Paul not only denies such motives, he affirms that such an accusation is impossible to sustain because he was personally involved in his ministry. He was constantly on call, never distanced from those he served.

This was due to the fact that his first allegiance was to his calling from God, a calling which entrusted to him the saving Word of God, a task for preaching and teaching and sharing that which he had received. Paul's willingness to endure persecution and difficulty for the sake of the gospel message demonstrated his passion for the truth. Orators were trained to understand that their most persuasive arguments were built on the example of their own lives. People expected then, and still expect today, that a speaker's character, conduct, and commitments mirror the message he presents.

Ministers who are faithful to the Word of God learn what ideas are important and why. It is not enough to talk about the word of God, using it as a springboard for a secular presentation or throwing in a few biblical illustrations to support what one has read elsewhere. Faithfulness to the word demands that the message begin in the word of God and communicate the mind and will of God. We who preach have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation. The message-kerygma-has been entrusted to us as a deposit. We have a protective or fiduciary responsibility to make certain the deposit is used according to the intention of its owner.

A minister who is faithful to the Word of God has a double relationship to that Word. First, he has himself been formed by the gospel. Second, he sacrificially invests his entire life to advance that message. Christian leadership demands both. Those who will be heard are those who reflect the Word in their character and conduct, and couple that with a clear commitment that invests every ounce of energy and being to the spread of the message. Only the combination of these two elements can legitimately be called a passion for truth. Ministers serve in the midst of a church and a culture that has become enamored with the trivial matters of life. We are drowning in trivial pursuits. The discussion in many church meetings and church leaders' meetings is hardly worthy of the gospel. One can sit in some churches for weeks, attending every class and hearing every sermon, and hardly know the essential substance of the message as Paul describes it to Timothy: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.

Paul suggests (1 Timothy 4) that the first line of defense in protecting the church from the influences that would undo it, especially from false teachers, is the integrity of the lives, examples, and knowledge of those who lead. The good minister is serious about the work of ministry-teaching others, avoiding useless controversies, personally applying the principles that train one in godliness. Such training is necessary if the minister is serious about providing a good example.

Faithfulness in the task of ministry requires diligence, gift-development, whole-hearted sacrifice, and special attention to life and teaching. Faithful ministry is characterized by perseverance. The minister who is faithful to his ministry is constantly on guard-considering his example of commitment. Thus we conclude, that the passion for truth is combined with a passion for service.

Being faithful to the Word of God with a genuine passion for truth, and being faithful in service with an unquestioned commitment to the task, enable the minister to live out the third responsibility. Being faithful to people includes both those in the church and those outside the church. Being faithful to people includes teaching the lost, edifying the church, and combating false teachers. Faithfulness in relationships means that no one is unimportant and that all are essential. The minister may have special friends and a support group of a few people. Jesus apparently had such a group composed of three of his followers-Peter, James and John. Faithfulness to people means that everyone is equal in receiving ministry. There is no favoritism. The minister who is faithful to people is a "equal opportunity" minister. Paul urges Timothy to work with old and young, men and women, married and widows, leaders and followers, slaves and masters, without partiality, bias, and prejudice.

Some contemporary ministers attempt to do ministry with only one or two of these three areas in view. Some think they can handle people relationships and ignore service and study. Some spend all of their time with Christians and seldom touch the lives of the lost. Some spend time with people but do not spend enough time in the Word of God to be faithful to the gospel and passionate about the Word. Some are into service and benevolence projects but never put in a good word for Jesus.

Faithfulness in any of these areas is commendable. But the minister who is serious about a reconciling, saving ministry that imitates the Lord in service and strengthens the community of faith will pay close attention to being faithful all of these areas.

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Last updated January 26, 2011