Over the past couple of weeks, we have dug into Paul’s letter to his preacher boy Timothy and his instruction in chapter four regarding the careful attention that should be given to the six spheres of a minister’s life: word, conduct, love, spirit, faith, and purity. The apostle further elaborates on these six areas in his letter to Titus where he wrote: “For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict (Titus 1:7-9).”
We sadly live in a day where an increasing number of ministers resemble pandering politicians, carnal comedians or reality tv personalities than shepherds and prophets of Almighty God. Often more attention is given by the modern minister to his clothing style than to his walk with God and more time to managing his social media accounts than to ministering to his flock. Of course, there is nothing wrong with utilizing social media as long as the minister realizes that it is a tool to facilitate his ministry and not the reality of his ministry. In short, make sure you spend more time in His book than on Facebook and more time talking to your people than texting or tweeting them.
Last week we looked at the first three of the spheres of a minister’s life – word, conduct, and love. This week I want us to consider the last three of those six spheres to make sure we have what Spurgeon referred to as “an all-round ministry.”
There ought to be excitement, passion and enthusiasm in the minister’s heart for God, His Word and His work. If you’re not excited about these things; if you’re not passionate for the work of God then how can you expect those you lead to be any different?
I remember the story of a church building that caught fire one day. There was lots of activity as the people tried desperately to put out the fire. The fire spread and finally they realized that there was no way to put out the fire. It grew hotter and brighter as it consumed the building. The pastor was standing on the sidewalk watching his church burn when he happened to notice a man standing beside him that he’d never seen before. He turned and said, “I’ve never seen you here before.” The man responded, “Your church has never been on fire before.”
I believe that it was General Booth, founder of the Salvation Army that said, “If a preacher is on fire, the people will come just to watch him burn!”
The writer of Hebrews tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” Every Christian possesses a certain amount of faith, but the Christian minister is to promote faith. There must be such an abundance of faith in his life that it spreads and grows in the congregation and community that he serves. We should seek to teach what we know of Biblical faith, show how to exercise that faith and then lead our people to share our faith with with those around us.
First John chapter three tells us that our Lord Jesus was pristine in His purity and as His ministers we should strive to live a life of absolute purity too. This aspect of our lives is essential to our relationship with Him and to the work that He’s called us to do. We must be deliberate and determined in our desire to keep ourselves personally pure.
You will be tempted to focus more on your eyes – and certainly you are to watch what you watch – but don’t neglect to “guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life”(Proverbs 4:23.) As my mentor Dr. Adrian Rogers taught us, “The heart of the issue is the issue of the heart.”
One of my non-negotiable practices as a pastor is never to put myself in a situation where I could fall into temptation or even be accused of having done so. I do not meet with women who are not my wife behind a closed door. I do not ride alone in vehicles with women who are not my wife. I do not eat alone with women who are not my wife. I do not become involved in recurring counseling sessions with women who are not my wife. I often even travel with one of my children for the same reason. (I also don’t, as I have heard some younger ministers do in recent years, refer to my secretary as my “work wife.” This is insulting to your actual wife and will cause others to question your wisdom if not your morality.) In short, early in my ministry, I put up guardrails to help protect my heart against temptation and my ministry from accusation.
The minister must be diligent to live a life that is above reproach. Paul says this is one of the requirements for an overseer. That doesn’t mean that an ungodly person couldn’t throw an accusation at the minister, just that if they did it wouldn’t stick. The minister’s integrity and operation of ministry would be such that he would be personally pure and ministerially blameless.