INTRO.- Romans 15:15-16 “I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles...” Paul was a minister of Christ Jesus but not many men are interested today in becoming a minister in any church for any reason. I WONDER WHY?!
ILL.- Church members are sometimes hard pressed to say something to their preacher after the service. Here are some words that people have said to their preacher at the close of the service:
- "You always manage to find something to fill up the time."
- "I don't care what they say, I like your sermons."
- "If I'd known you were going to be good today I'd have brought a neighbor."
- "Did you know there are 243 panes of glass in the windows?"
- "We shouldn't make you preach so often."
I’ve had some different verbal responses at times to my sermons but none like these! I believe if I ever heard some of these I would be tempted to quit the preaching ministry.
ILL.- Martin Luther gave ten qualifications for the minister:
(1) He should be able to teach plainly and in order.
(2) He should have a good head.
(3) Good power of language.
(4) A good voice.
(5) A good memory.
(6) He should know when to stop.
(7) He should be sure of what he means to say.
(8) And be ready to stake body and soul, goods and reputation on its truth.
(9) He should study diligently.
(10) And suffer himself to be criticized by everyone.
Whoa! They sure didn’t tell me these things when I was in Bible College! If they had I might have decided to do something else instead of the preaching ministry. I do recall that when I was in Bible College that a verse of scripture was given to make us think before we made a commitment to enter the preaching ministry. Care to guess what scripture?
James 3:1 “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
Do you believe this? And how do you feel about it? Does it make you want to think twice before teaching Sunday School or a Bible class in any form? And how should this affect someone who wants to enter the preaching ministry?
Now, how do you think you would have responded to the apostle Paul’s ministry and preaching?
PROP.- Paul speaks of his ministry in Christ and what it deals with.
1- Ministry is a matter of believing in others
2- Ministry uses the avenue of writing
3- Ministry always points to Christ
I. MINISTRY IS A MATTER OF BELIEVING IN OTHERS
14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.
These words sound like Paul believed in his Christian brothers and sisters. He had faith in them. If a preacher doesn’t believe in people (Christian or non-Christian) then he or she won’t have much of a ministry or effect on others.
ILL.- Jay Craig is the Stewardship Director (31 years) with the Shiloh Christian Children’s Ranch in Shelbina, MO. The home opened in 1977 and has grown ever since. They now have six homes for abused or neglected children. Jay wrote recently on facebook: Recently, Marge and I traveled to Columbia, MO to shop at the mall there. While she shopped, I spent time in Barnes & Nobles, browsing. After finding a suitable book to buy, I went to the coffee bar register to pay. The other registers in the store had lines. The barista was probably a college student who wore a Jewish skull cap.
The off-centered cap looked home made, and was affixed to his hair with large bobbie pins. I greeted him with a "shalom", which he returned. "With which Jewish denomination are you affiliated", I asked. "Oh, I don't belong to any denomination, I'm just Jewish", he informed. "Well, which denomination would you most closely resemble if you did affiliate with a Jewish group, then?" "Oh, none of them, I'm just Jewish."
His flustered inquirer, (me), finished with, "Well, in what Jewish denomination were you raised, then?" "None of them, I was raised Catholic", he laughed.
I appreciate Jay’s interest in people. I appreciate the fact that he was interested enough to speak to start a conversation with that young Jewish man. Most of us probably wouldn’t have started a conversation. We would have paid for our book and left.
I Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
We must always be prepared to speak for Christ or witness for Christ and defend our faith. And there are times when we must lead or start the conversation as Jay did. THIS SHOWS THAT WE ARE INTERESTED IN PEOPLE AND IN POINTING THEM TO CHRIST. The old saying is true: People don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care! And we must show that we care for people.
Galatians 6:9-10 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
II. MINISTRY USES THE AVENUE OF WRITING
15 I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
I have written you quite boldly on some points. If a preacher doesn’t write he’s missing out on something very important.
ILL.- LeRoy Lawson is the recently retired president of Hope International University, Fullerton, California, and has written 29 books as well as ministered in a number of large Christian churches. Hope was originally Pacific Bible Seminary in 1928. They relocated to Fullerton, CA, in 1973. LeRoy also had a long ministry (20 years) with the large Central Christian Church in Mesa, AZ.
Did you ever hear LeRoy preach at one of our conventions? He’s an excellent speaker and writer. He wrote one time, “If a preacher wants to speak well then he must first learn to write well.” I believe this. Writing improves a person’s speaking skills.
ILL.- One pastor never prepared during the week, and on Sunday morning he'd sit on the platform while the church was singing the hymns desperately praying, "Lord, give your message, Lord give me your message." One Sunday, while desperately praying for God's message, he heard the Lord say, "Ralph, here's my message. You're lazy!"
A preacher should never be lazy if he expects to accomplish anything for the cause of Christ whether writing, preaching, teaching, or visiting. And good writing or good sermon preparation takes time. Once in a while I can prepare a sermon in a day’s time, but often, it takes longer because I write, correct, and rewrite.
ILL.- Samuel Clement (Mark Twain) attended a Sunday a.m. sermon. He met the pastor at the door afterward and told him that he had a book at home with every word he had preached that morning. The minister assured him that the sermon was an original. Clement still held his position. The pastor wanted to see this book so Clement said he would sent it over in the morning. When the preacher unwrapped it he found a dictionary and in the flyleaf was written this: "Words, just words, just words."
However, words are very powerful if they are put together in a good order as to give a good meaning.
ILL.- Charles Rann Kennedy wrote: “There is great power in words. All the things that ever get done in the world, good or bad, are done by words.”
ILL.- When the great preacher Alexander White was too old to preach, he would rise every morning to prepare a sermon, even though he never preached them. He did so until the day he died. He was convinced that study of the Word was essential to saving himself. White is my kind of man. I believe in writing. I believe in the written word. I believe in sermon preparation. I believe in written preparation.
ILL.- A mother often spoke to her little girl about Dr. Harry A. Ironside, the late pastor of the Moody Memorial Church, Chicago. She told the little girl that he was a great preacher. One day the little girl attended one of the preaching services of Dr. Ironside. He spoke simply, as he always did.
As they left the church, the little girl said to her mother, “Mother, I thought you said that Dr. Ironside is a great preacher. Why, Mother, he’s not a great preacher! I understood everything he said.”
In relating this story afterward, Dr. Ironside said, “That was the greatest compliment ever paid me!”
I prefer to preach sermons that everybody can understand and that takes time to prepare.
I Timothy 4:13 “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.” This is what a good preacher should do and it’s what I intend to do.
III. MINISTRY ALWAYS POINTS TO CHRIST
17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— 19 by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.
ILL. - J. I. Pracker (British-born Canadian Christian theologian)wrote: "You cannot at the same time give the impression that you are a great preacher" -- or theologian or debater or whatever -- "and that Jesus Christ is a great Savior.” He said, “If you call attention to yourself and your own competence, you cannot effectively call attention to Jesus and his glorious sufficiency.” Amen!
ILL.- Most of you have heard of the large Southeast Christian Church of Louisville, KY. That church runs about 22,000 every weekend and is now the largest non-denominational Christian Church in the US. Bob Russell was their senior minister for 40 years before resigning in 2006. When he went there in 1966 they had an attendance of about 130 and grew to about 18,000 every week in several services. How did that happen? It happened for several reasons. It happened because Louisville, KY, is the largest city in KY with a population of over 600,000. When you have that many people in a city you also have great potential for church growth.
The Southeast Church grew large because the people and leaders worked together. United we stand, divided we fall. And many churches have experienced division for one reason or another and have fallen in attendance and in many other ways.
The Southeast Church grew in part because of the faithfulness of their Senior Minister, Bob Russell. Bob is a teaching type preacher and very consistent. He consistently preached good sermons, Sunday after Sunday. He was also, no doubt, good with people. He got along with his leaders and people.
But more than Bob’s faithfulness was God’s faithfulness to His Word and to His people. That’s the main reason God blessed the Southeast Christian Church. The people and leaders were committed and faithful BUT GOD WAS AND IS EVEN MORE FAITHFUL.
As it says in II Timothy 2:13 “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself." God is faithful when we are not and we are often not faithful. God never fails nor forsakes us, but we sometimes forsake Him.
As good as Bob Russell was as a preacher and still is, God is better. God deserves the glory for the good He does in this world, in our lives and in our churches. And in the Southeast Christian Church. And I have heard that Bob Russell ALWAYS gave God the credit for the church growth and not himself. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
ILL.- When Dr. Mark Guy Pearce of England was in this country he related an experience that presents a good lesson for the soul-winner. He said he was out fishing for trout; he had toiled wearily and caught none. His equipment was excellent but he was unable to catch any fish. Finally he came upon an old fisherman whose sack was full of trout. He asked him how he was so successful.
The old fisherman answered: “There are three rules to follow in trout fishing: first, keep yourself out of sight; second, keep yourself further out of sight; third, keep yourself still further out of sight.”
The preacher walked away musing upon this thought: “That is the best advice I have ever heard for becoming a successful fisher of men. I must keep myself out of sight and put Jesus Christ in full view.” AMEN.
If we want to do any good in this world and if we ever do any good, we should always point to the Lord. He’s the author of all good in this world and in us.
I Corinthians 10:31 “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.”
Paul had a ministry. I have a ministry and you have a ministry. We all need to know exactly how we can minister to people best in this world and then do it.
II Timothy 4:5 “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
Steve Shepherd, Cape Girardeau, MO