Christian Ministry

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:4, NLT

23 Now I call upon God as my witness that I am telling the truth. The reason I didn’t return to Corinth was to spare you from a severe rebuke. 24 But that does not mean we want to dominate you by telling you how to put your faith into practice. We want to work together with you so you will be full of joy, for it is by your own faith that you stand firm.

 So I decided that I would not bring you grief with another painful visit. For if I cause you grief, who will make me glad? Certainly not someone I have grieved. That is why I wrote to you as I did, so that when I do come, I won’t be grieved by the very ones who ought to give me the greatest joy. Surely you all know that my joy comes from your being joyful. I wrote that letter in great anguish {thlipsis, pressure} , with a troubled heart {synochē, a narrow strait} and many tears. I didn’t want to grieve you, but I wanted to let you know how much love I have for you.

We don’t have an introduction…we are just going to dive into the message without a spring board…

I. THE FOUNDATION OF THE MINISTRY IS A RELATIONSHIP

Obviously, a minister has a relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul echoed this truth in chapter 5...14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

Paul stated in I Corinthians that he was Corinth’s spiritual father. He was the one who brought the gospel to Corinth and the one who founded the church. Paul had a fatherly relations ship with the church is Corinth.

For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you. {I Cor. 4:5}

Being a father myself, I know that this relationship involves a lot of things. There are stages in the relationship where things can be one sided. Paul loved the Corinthians like a father. It was a committed love, an unconditional love but the Corinthians were not loving in their response for all that Paul had done. There was someone in the church [v.5], a man who was anti-Paul and apparently, he had a rather large following. There is no doubt, Paul loved the Corinthian church more than they loved him. Of all the churches he founded, Corinth gave him the most heartache.

Finding a preacher is not that hard these days. There are many gifted pulpiteers our there but find a pastor is a horse of a different color. Until a preacher has invested his life in a particular congregation, he is not going to love them like a father. Any church who has a pastor that loves them is fortunate.

II. THE CHALLENGE OF MINISTRY IS TELLING THE TRUTH IN LOVE

Now I call upon God as my witness that I am telling the truth. The reason I didn’t return to Corinth was to spare you from a severe rebuke. [1:23]

Using the same analogy [Father and child], a part of a Father’s responsibility is to be honest with his children. Everyone needs someone in their life who loves them enough to tell them the truth.

How does a child grow and mature? How does a football player improve his game? How do we grow in Christ?  We all need someone to hold us accountable, someone to challenge our thinking, someone who will tell us the truth in love. No one is what they think they are: your perception of yourself is not accurate. You cannot see your back side. Others have a totally different opinion of who you are: we all need correction, sometimes rebuke, we need admonishment and encouragement.

I had a seminary professor take a slight interest in my life. The man proved his sincerity by helping me graduate early. I was on campus two and one half years where as it takes three years to graduate. He took it upon himself to let me finish my last class as a Seminar, this meant more work for him, far less time and expense for me. Toward the end of my class he felt confident in talking to me about my weaknesses, the areas where I need vast improvement. I have never resented this man’s comments because I was confident that he was trying to help me. We all need coaching and accountability.

Paul was not afraid to speak the truth which was exactly what Corinth needed. Some old friends from a former pastorate dropped in to see me this past week. I asked them about one woman in particular and they told me that she was not doing well which is what I feared. This woman was very straight laced and some what of a pharisee. She did not understand why I preached depravity. She believed that everyone has inherent goodness and that in some cases, the good far exceeds the bad. This is contrary to scripture that teaches all have sinned and come [exceedingly] short of the perfection we see in Jesus. When I talked about death and hell deserving sinners, she was offended.

I loved the woman and my goal was never to offend her but I had to preach the truth. After I left the church and moved to our present place of service, she told someone, “I loved Bro. Jack but he never said anything good about us.” I may have been guilty of too much truth without enough love. To much rebuke without enough encouragement.

I’ve been in the ministry for 45 years and only once have I been asked to preach on stewardship. I do preach on the subject but not because it is popular but because it is the truth. No one will be helped spiritually if I tickle ears and stroke egos. 

III.THE GOAL OF MINISTRY IS SYNERGY [Working together]

24 But that does not mean we want to dominate you by telling you how to put your faith into practice. We want to work together [synergos] with you so you will be full of joy, for it is by your own faith that you stand firm.

Total domination destroys synergy [working together]. Paul did not want to lord over them or dominate them, he wanted to work together with them. If I could pass along one word of advice to husbands and pastors it would be this: do not attempt to be dominating. Total domination may exalt you but it will be at the expense of other and your long term goal.

Synergy is not my way or your way but a better way that can only be achieved by us working together. So much more will be accomplished by working together than by one person dominating and commanding. You always know that a church has become a cult when the dominate leader is the focus. Some people praise their pastor more than they do Jesus. Folks, we are to promote Jesus, not earthly leaders.

IV. THE FRUIT OF MINISTRY IS JOY

[2 Cor. 2:3] That is why I wrote to you as I did, so that when I do come, I won’t be grieved by the very ones who ought to give me the greatest joy. Surely you all know that my joy comes from your being joyful. 

This is not rocket science: an average leader will accomplish more than a highly gifted leader if he has a congregation that is willing to work together. Moses was an outstanding leader but he did not have a congregation which was willing to work together. Thus Moses had more grief than joy. Team work creates enthusiasm. People are always happier when they feel a part of the team, when they know they contribute. We cannot win by disenfranchising people.

Hebrews 13:17– Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.

The Israelite’s gave Moses sorrow rather than joy. They were anything but obedient: their were stiff necked and obstinate. They not only hurt Moses, they hurt themselves.

Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Dwyane Wade, Carlos Bozer, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Emeka Okafor, Shawn Marion, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tim Duncan, Lamar Odom, and Richard Jackson have in common. They were members of the 2004 US Olympic men’s basketball team, all NBA all stars playing against amateurs, projected to go undefeated. The only question was the margin of victory. WRONG! They lost three of their seven games by a margin of 33 points. One game was a blow out and the last was never close. You can see the highlights on YouTube. The difference: the Americans were all stars with huge egos, concerned about stats and publicity. They played as individuals whereas Argentinians played as a team. To my knowledge, Emanuel David Ginóbili is the only member of the Argentine team to play in the NBA.

They teamwork payed off and they celebrated their victory with great joy. When synergy happens, joy is the by product.

V. THE HEART OF MINISTRY IS COMPASSION [Love]

 I wrote that letter in great anguish {thlipsis, pressure} , with a troubled heart {synochē, a narrow strait} and many tears. I didn’t want to grieve you, but I wanted to let you know how much love I have for you. [2 Cor. 2:4]

Our motivation for Ministry has to be love: love for Jesus and love for others. We must be compelled by the love of Christ. As Paul shared in his first letter, LOVE is the highest motive:

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

We never fail in ministry if we are motivated by the love of Christ. The last line of to nights passage is:  I didn’t want to grieve you, but I wanted to let you know how much love I have for you.

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Saved To Serve

Matthew 8:14-17

14 When Jesus arrived at Peter’s house, Peter’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a high fever. 15 But when Jesus touched her hand, the fever left her. Then she got up and prepared a meal for him.16 That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. He cast out the evil spirits with a simple command, and he healed all the sick. 17 This fulfilled the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, who said, “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.”

INTRODUCTION

After a busy day, Jesus goes home with Peter and finds his mother-in-law sick with a fever. Jesus simply touches her and the fever leaves immediately. When the fever left, she felt fine and she got up and fixed supper for Jesus. Thus she was saved to serve or healed to help, however you want to look at it.

If we go back to Genesis and the creation of man we discover that God gave Adam dominion over all creatures and everything in the garden. Adam was to rule over God’s creation within the borders of Eden and God gave him the authority to do it. Of course, Adam transgressed and lost his authority and dominion. The authority Adam lost we see in Jesus. Everyone was impressed with Jesus authority. He could speak to diease or demons and they would flee. But God not only gave Adam dominion, he gave him responsibility. Adam was to [1] rule over and [2] to care for. Genesis 2:15… The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. God made Adam the care taker of Eden. Adam was God’s steward or servant. The earth never belonged to Adam but God did entrust everything in the vicinity of Eden to his care. He had all the timber rights, mineral rights, water rights–All the gold was his and so was the silver. No man ever had more to manage than Adam when it comes to material wealth.

The fall gave man a bad concussion. It messed up the way we think. We are very anxious to get back what we lost but we go about it in the wrong way. Adam was both ruler with dominion and servant with instructions. Now the first step in our recovery is to submit to the authority of Christ as LORD and learn from and obey His instructions. That is basically our assignment here and now. In this life we are to be stewards [managers] of His resources and servants. We are destined to a throne but that comes later. Our problem is that we don’t like the servant hood role, we want to go straight into ruling. Everyone wants to be his own king or in the case of the ladies, queen.

We resist coming under Christ authority and allowing Him to make decisions for us. We want to be in charge and we are convinced that we are capable. Acknowledging Christ as LORD is much more difficult for us than acknowledging Him as Savior. As our SAVIOR He died for our sins and secured our forgiveness but as our LORD He commands our daily life. So we were created to serve in the beginning and when Christ redeemed us, He recreated us to serve…2 Corinthians 5:17…Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Jesus not only healed Peter’s mother-in-law, He gave her a new purpose for living which was to serve HIM. He does not save us to sit, He saves us to serve.

Marion Mill was born into an aristocratic family in Hungary. Her first spoon was actually pure gold. She was raised in all the comforts of extravagant wealth. When she became of age, her parents sent her to school in Vienna where she became an actress, and there she met and fell in love with a young medical student named Otto.  They married and went to live in Hollywood, CA. There, as they “set up house,” he began to dabble in movies just as a hobby. He became so interested in movies that he gave up his medical practice and an made a career out of directing movies. Marion’s beauty, wit, and irresistible charm brought her everything a woman desires. In Europe, New York and Hollywood she became a celebrity but she could not handle the fast lane and got into drugs and numerous affairs. Her life and lifestyle became so sordid, even for Hollywood, that Otto divorced Marion. In a state of depression she moved back to Vienna. There at a party she met another doctor, named Albert Schweitzer who was on leave from his hospital in Lambarene, Africa.

She was so fascinated by Schweitzer, that she asked him if she could talk to him alone. He met with her weekly for the next six months. As he prepared to return to Africa, she begged him to let her go with him. Schweitzer surprised everyone by agreeing. Marion, the young princess, born in a palace, educated at Vienna, successful in Hollywood and formerly married to Otto Preminger the famous movie director, went to a little village in Lambarene, Africa, and spent the rest of her life emptying bed pans and tearing up sheets to make bandages for putrid sores on the poverty-stricken nationals.

In her autobiography she wrote, “All I wanted was everything. Dr. Schweitzer convinced me that there are two kinds of people; those who are helpers and those who are non-helpers. I thank God that He allowed me to become a helper. It was in helping others that I found everything.”

I agree with Schweitzer: there are two kinds of people, the helpers and non-helpers, the servers and the setters, the participators and the spectators and the happy and the unhappy…the fulfilled and the unfulfilled. Peter’s mother-in-law join the ranks of the helpers. In all my years [43] of ministry; I have never met a server that was not happy and I’ve never met a sitter that was not a complainer. When we reject Jesus call to serve, we become deeply introverted and so preoccupied with our self that it is impossible for us to think of anyone else and this leads to misery of the worst sort.

Many preachers have an unhappy retirement. Over the years they become addicted to being needed and they also enjoy the honors that goes with the job. When they retire, they have a lot of time on their hands and in some cases very few phone calls in regards to preaching assignments. The pastor who baptized me back in 1968 was an unusual man. Unfortunately I did not realize this until just a few years ago. He was never a great preacher. I cannot remember one sermon or even one point that he made and I heard him preach many times He was a very good pastor. He loved to tell stories and he had a great memory but he had trouble relating his stories to any specific point. He just told story after story at random and he lost track of time. Needless to say, when he retired, he got very few opportunities to preach but no man enjoyed retirement more than he. He was built like St. Nick and often played the part at parties and the nursing home. He didn’t need a pillow under his shirt, he had the big belly and everything but what I appreciated about him most was his jolly attitude. I saw one of his beautiful daughters just weeks ago and I told how much I appreciated her father’s spirit and attitude. How did he remain so jolly? Rarely did anyone invite him to preach so what was his secret. He got involved in a nursing home ministry and was faithful to that humble ministry for the last 20 years of his life. He took a job that no other preacher wanted. He was devoted to helping others and he did it until the day he collapsed. He could have sat home and felt sorrow for himself as so many seniors do but he would have not part in that: he had to be helping someone else and that was the key to his jolly attitude.

I’m telling you folks, Jesus doesn’t save us to sit, He saved us to serve. He doesn’t heal us to hinder but He heals us to help. Two kinds of people: helpers and non-helpers, which are you?