Summary: A message focusing in on the need of prayer and ministry of the Word.
THE GREAT PRIORITIES
TEXT: Acts 6:1-4
Acts 6:1-4 (KJV) And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.  Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.  Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.  But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
-Among us there are a variety of levels of ministry experience. We have those here who are just beginning the early stages of ministry all the way to those who have been involved for almost as long as half a century.
-I can tell you with great honesty that there have been times, in fact many times, that the true priorities of ministry find the back burner. That can be due to a variety of matters; some preventable and others not so much.
-Years ago, when I was just a young man, I was listening to one of my heroes preach and he mentioned a book that he thought was crucial for every minister to find and read. But not just read but to spend time with it, going through it slowly, carefully, and then praying over what you had read. The book was by Eugene Peterson and it was actually part of a series of books on ministry and life in the ministry.
-The book was, Under the Unpredictable Plant—An Exploration in Vocational Holiness. He took the book of Jonah and worked through it in a way that was instructional and deeply impacting on me at the time (published in 1992).
-The book was actually in a series of books that were written by Eugene Peterson over a period from 1980-1992. Obviously, they are dated now but they really had a direct impact on me as to how my time and energy should be spent toward the calling of ministry. I cannot say that I have lived out all of the concepts of those books but they were beneficial enough to me at the time that I can now see how they have pushed me in the direction that I now find myself moving in.
-If you are interested in the other books, they are:
• Working the Angles—The Shape of Pastoral Integrity
• The Contemplative Pastor—Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction
• Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work
-Eugene Peterson later wrote the paraphrase of the Bible—The Message, of which has been valuable as well in my devotional reading of the Bible too.
-One of the things that happens to preachers who read is when they find an author who has been helpful to them, they generally will buy all of the books they write. I have done this with Eugene Peterson, Francis Frangipane, Leonard Ravenhill, A. W. Tozer, and a few others. But when it comes to speaking to getting the priorities of ministry in hand, Eugene Peterson has been worth his weight in gold.
-He died last year but prior to his death he wrote an autobiography with a simple title, The Pastor. I have read it several times and it is one of the books that is highlighted, underlined, and has copious notes in the margins. Peterson has a very unique way of speaking to the matters of the inner life of the minister, the preacher, the prayer warrior, the soul winner, and the watchman.
-I copied this from his book, The Contemplative Pastor, in one of my Bibles so that I would regularly run across it:
Impatience, the refusal to endure, is to pastoral character what strip mining is to the land—a greedy rape of what can be gotten at the least cost, and then abandonment in search of another place to loot. Something like fidelity comes out of apocalyptic: fidelity to God, to be sure, but also to the people, the parish, and the place you serve. . . A pastor has to be disciplined because there are tendencies toward apathy and complacency, the human susceptibility to indolence and laziness and we have to be constantly alert to that in ourselves and the churches that we serve.
-I pray that quote has the effect on you that it had on me! I also hope you can see why I wanted to handwrite it in the back of one of my Bibles.
-No matter how short or how long of a ministry that God deems you called to, those are some of the challenges that you will face along the way. I trust this message will speak to you about the great priorities of ministry.