‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’
I’m sitting in Terminal C in Newark airport waiting for the (increasingly delayed) departure of my flight to Belfast. I have earplugs in my ears and an iPad on my lap as I try to redeem the time. I’m on my way home from the annual Pastors’ Conference organised and hosted by Trinity Baptist Church in Montville, New Jersey, and thought I would write a few words by way of reflection on this year’s conference, which took as its theme faithfulness in ministry.
It’s a vital biblical emphasis isn’t it? Going the distance, come what may; and not just staying in the ministry until the end, but to do so without compromising the biblical convictions we began with; and not just staying the course without compromise but growing in zeal and knowledge and love for God and his people. How many Pastors long for a success in ministry that has less to do with faithfulness and more to do with the kind of status symbols pursued by the people of the world: big numbers, a high profile and far-reaching influence. Not that it’s impossible to desire these things for good and holy reasons, but more often the temptation is to want them for the feeding of our own pride. Men climb the various rungs of the church’s equivalent of the cursus honorum, moving from church to church using each assembly of the Lord’s flock as just another stepping stone in his quest for personal promotion.
At the Trinity conference were were exhorted to pursue a faithful ministry above all – faithful to the kind of ministry prescribed in the word of God and therefore glorifying to God.
All the speakers at this year’s conference were men who have proved themselves faithful over the long haul; they had all been in the ministry for at least 20 years, and were asked to share those key truths from God’s word that had been instrumental in keeping them faithful to their calling as Pastors over the years. These men brought more than 150 years of pastoral experience between them and we benefited greatly from their collective wisdom.
- Pastor Dave Chanski (Trinity Baptist Church, Montville, NJ) brought three addresses on the faithfulness of Moses and of Jesus, compared and contrasted in Heb 3.1-6.
- Pastor Jeff Smith (Emmanuel Baptist Church, Coconut Creek, FL) spoke twice on 2 Tim 2.8-13, highlighting four motivations to be a faithful minister of God.
- Pastor Bill Hughes (formerly of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Coconut Creek, FL) preached from Acts 20 on Paul’s reflections on his own ministry and the priorities it demonstrated.
- Pastor A.N. Martin (formerly of Trinity Baptist Church) gave an address entitled ‘The Tap Roots that Nourish the Fruitful Tree of a Faithful Ministry’.
These messages are available here and I warmly commend them to you.
I wonder how much time those of us who are pastors spend praying that God will give us the grace to be faithful ministers, and how much of a priority it is in the prayers of our congregations.
Yesterday was the fifteenth anniversary of my ordination to the ministry, and as I look back over these years that have passed all too quickly I’m painfully aware that there is so much unfaithfulness for me to lament and confess – in my love for the Lord and his people, in my concern for the lost, in my prayers, in my study of God’s word, in my preaching, in my pastoral work, in my efforts in evangelism, in my zeal, in the example of my speech and my behaviour, in my care of my wife and my children. But how astounding to think that all this unfaithfulness in ministry was put to Christ’s account at the cross – that he who never failed in even the least way was punished as though his ministry record was my record.
And how thankful I am that the perfect ministry faithfulness of the Lord Jesus which is put to my account covers me – his prayer life, his obedience to his Father, his perfect teaching, his evangelism, his love for the Father and for others, his faithfulness in the face of violent and Satanically-inspired opposition – and his steadfast faithfulness in all these things to the very end.