Description / Transcription
We trust, Lord, that has been our prayer, that You would show us Christ, help us to meet Him in the pages of the Word that His Spirit has inspired. We pray that we would see Him more and more in our lives, reflected in the character of this church. We pray that You would speak to us. Give us ears to hear. You would show us Christ. Give us eyes to see. We pray this in His name. Amen.
We come this morning to Acts chapter 20. A few more weeks as we hit some of the highlights in the book of Acts before we turn to some Advent messages come December, and then Lord willing pick up again in the New Year with John. We come this morning to Acts chapter 20, beginning at verse 1 through verse 16, and then I hope next week to do the second half of Acts chapter 20. We have been looking at, to a large degree, God’s vision for the Church. We have our own vision document, which hopefully reflects some of these, but much more important than what we have written down, is what God has written down, and so we’ve seen God’s vision to be a teaching church, a praying church, a mission-sending church, and now this week and next week we will hear something of God’s vision for what pastors and elders are to do in a church.
Follow along as I read from chapter 20, and though it is a record, you’ll see, of Paul’s missionary journeys, yet I think this gives us something of Paul the pastor as he comes and he visits many of these congregations again and seeks to strengthen them.
Verse 1. “After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.”
“On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, ‘Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.’ And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.”
“But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched at Samos; and the day after that we went to Miletus. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.”
Now what to do with a passage like this? Most of the other passages we’ve gone through you may recognize as high points in the book of Acts and they’re very famous stories, and this one may have some recollection, but it doesn’t look on the face of it to be one of 12 or 13 that I ought to have chosen. What does God really want to say to us in these first 16 verses? It doesn’t look like there’s much here, or at least not much that is new. We have another detailed travelogue, we have a list of people that he encounters and ministers with and we have a story about a young man falling out of the window. So what are the life lessons for us?
I might say the most important lesson is do not fall asleep in church. [laughter] You might say the most important lesson is don’t preach so long. Both of those, perhaps, would be fair.
Now, when I was a young man in many a church service, I would put my head down, put my elbows on my knees, and do one these things and hope that my parents and the pastor just thought I was very deep in prayer and contemplation. I know that’s not the case. But, as you try to stay alert, and I try to preach with some brevity, there is much that we can learn here as we see a picture of Paul as a pastor. Next week we will look at Paul and we’ll see something again of some pastoral priorities, but there he is speaking in particular to these Ephesian elders.
We’re familiar with Paul as a missionary, great church planter, evangelist, preaching in synagogues, reasoning with philosophers, going where Christ has not been named, but what we may miss is that often he is doing that third prong of the missionary stool, that is to strengthen those fledgling works, the followup side about missionary work. Paul was not just interested in “I blitz in, I get some hands up, there are some decisions for Christ, go for it, you’re a church, I’m out.” He knew that if there was going to be a viable Gospel witness, they needed to be trained, they needed to be strengthened, they needed to make sure that they were built up so they could be on their own.
So we see some of Paul and his pastor’s heart, visiting churches, caring for these young congregations, going not only where Christ was not named, but in many of his travels going where the Gospel had begun to take root, seeing his friends again, strengthening new converts.
So this is going to be a sermon about pastoral ministry. Now I know when I say that, 98% of the congregation thinks, “Interesting, not a sermon for me.”
So why does this concern you this week to talk about pastors and next week to talk about the priorities for elders? Let me give you just a few categories why you should not fall asleep, even on a sermon about the pillars of pastoral ministry.
Well, you know, first of all, there’s a lot in the Bible about pastors. 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, written to pastors. Titus. These are the pastoral epistles. 2 Corinthians has an awful lot about the nature of ministry. We have the shepherd imagery throughout the Old and New Testament, so for as much as God says in the Bible about ministry and about pastors, it must be that he thinks all of us need to know something about this, that he didn’t just say, “All right, here’s a little addendum, if you go to seminary, you need to read this. The rest of you it doesn’t concern you.” Of course, that’s not the case.
Also, there may be some young men here, or maybe not even young men, but men who may feel a sense of call to pastoral ministry. Perhaps in a sermon like this there is something in your heart, whether you’re 8 or 18 or 28 or 68, that says, “Yes, yes, that’s the sort of thing I want to do with my life.” You won’t feel that sense of urgency, that sense of excitement, if you never hear the texts that deal with it.
And it also shows you what to expect from your pastors. What’s important, what matters, how to pray… It helps you, also, in whatever role you fill in the church, whether it’s a formal role, you’re an officer, a teaching elder, a ruling elder, a deacon, or whether you are a covenant group or a small group leader, or you teach in a Sunday School, or you counsel, or it’s informal conversations or it’s campus outreach. However you minister to people, many of these things here are going to be transferable for any of us, all of us, who want to minister the Gospel to others.
And then here’s just a final thought. Many of you will, at some point in your life, probably, especially if you’re younger, move on to some other place. We are very transient culture, people don’t always stay forever, so some of you are going to go to college, you’re going to move, and you’re going to look for a church. Some of you will have a job that takes you somewhere else, or you’ll retire and you’ll go move to where the grandkids are, and you’ll look for a church.
And it’s disheartening to a pastor to find people leave a church like this and go to churches that are very completely different. I’m not talking about style things and things in preferences, but different theology, different heartbeat, and so a sermon like this can help you think, “What sort of church, what sort of ministry, should capture my heart and attention?”
So all of that as preface. I want us to look at Paul as our example, and see, we’ll move through these quickly, five pillars of pastoral ministry.
Now this is not necessarily the five keys to unlock every door, or the five things that a pastor does every week, but pillars, that is these are the things you need to have in place in order for ministry to be sound, healthy, and flourish.
So number one, the first pillar of pastoral ministry, is Gospel encouragement. Gospel encouragement. You see verse 1, “After encouraging them, he said farewell, departed for Macedonia.” Verse 2, “when he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece.” We can stand to reason that wherever he went, especially dealing with new converts, one of his aims was to give them Gospel encouragement. Not mindless flattery, not just pats on the back, “Atta boy, you can do it,” not infomercial Paul, but real Gospel encouragement.
We don’t think of encouragement as at the heart of ministry, but it is. Encouragement can sound like sort of a sort word. That’s just something that a few people are good at, and they are always coming around and saying, “Oh, you did such a nice job.” But Gospel encouragement should mark all of us, and in particular pastors.
You know the difference between Gospel encouragement and flattery? Flattery makes you feel inspired about yourself. Gospel encouragement makes you feel confident in Christ.
Flattery is what you give people when you want something from them. You want a favor, you want a break, you want to grease the wheels.
Encouragement is what you do when you want to give to someone else.
Flattery says, “I want to get something from you, therefore I pat you on the back.”
Encouragement says, “I want to give to you unto God’s glory what I’ve seen in your life.” To encourage them. Encourage them in evidences of grace, to encourage them to keep on following Christ, to press on, to don’t give up.
Turn back for a moment to Acts chapter 14. You get an idea of what Paul’s Gospel encouragement to these churches looked like. Chapter 14, verse 22: Paul was “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouragement them,” there’s the word. And what was his encouragement? You look beautiful, that’s a great dress, I love the shoes, love what you’ve done with your hair… This encouragement is “to continue in the faith and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” That’s Gospel encouragement.
I know, friend, brother, sister, you’re wondering what is going on in your life. How can you hurt so much? How can it feel like God has picked you out for a Job-like experience? Gospel encouragement says through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of heaven. Don’t give up. Press on. I believe, even when you may say I believe, help thou mine unbelief. Gospel encouragement does not require you to fix people’s problems, to solve their problems. You may not even be able to answer the questions that they have. But you can still be an encouragement.
Don’t you love encouraging people in your life? One of the things that Trisha and I have tried to think over the years to pray, either when we have people over to our house or when we go over to other people’s house, is the Onesiphorus prayer. You may have encountered him in 2 Timothy. He looks like One-sip-horus, but he’s Onesiphorus. And it says “he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.” That’s what Paul says. Isn’t that a great thing? “He often refreshed me.”
So we have thought to pray, whether going or having people come, may we be refreshers. More than having an immaculate house, more than showing how much we can do to put on a show or a party, that people would leave and say “I feel refreshed.”
Is that the sort of effect you have on people? Are you an air freshener in people’s life, or a great big stink bomb? [laughter] “Oh, my, I do not want to be around them. I leave without some sort of odor down in my soul.” Or do you leave feeling, “That was so encouraging.”
This is not some small bit of Gospel ministry. This is at the very heart of it. Paul went around, “I want to encourage these Christians.” And so it must be at the heartbeat of what pastors do, to give Gospel encouragement, keep strong in the faith, God is with you.
Second pillar of pastoral ministry: Pastors must be faithful in the face of opposition. Faithful in the face of opposition. We have, in the first six verses, a travelogue. It goes by very quickly, but it could have taken as long as two years to complete the travel that’s described in verses 1 through 6. The impression we get from Luke writing Acts is that Paul was constantly on the move, from one place to another. His travel plans were flexible. Sometimes we like to think that Paul had a grand missionary strategy, and he had a very deliberate aim, and it used to be that people thought, well, he was going to all of the key centers and this part of the region and he was targeting these very important cities to establish a beachhead, and he had a very deliberate strategy.
More recent scholars and missiologists have concluded, and I tend to agree with them, that it was much more organic, much more ad hoc than that. There doesn’t appear to be a grand strategy. He sometimes gets called divinely to another place. Other times he simply goes where it seems the need is greatest, or where it’s best, or where there is an open door. Sometimes he tries to avoid persecution, sometimes he seems to run into persecution. And sometimes he just hunkers down in a nice place in the Mediterranean over the winter.
So Paul, on his travels, encounters here three months he spends in Greece, perhaps Achaia, Corinth, very likely winter months when the sea was not navigable, as he travels around the Mediterranean.
What I want you to notice is not so much all the places that he goes, but all of the opposition that he faces. Constant threats, frequent opposition.
Look at verse 1: “After the uproar ceased,” that is the uproar in chapter 19 with Ephesus. There it’s a riot.
Verse 3: “There he spent three months,” Greece, “and when a plot was made against him by the Jews,” so verse 1 Ephesus, there’s an uproar. Then he goes on to the next place, and there’s a plot against his life.
Verse 16 we read that he wanted to sail past Ephesus, probably to avoid that place again, he’s going to meet with the Ephesian elders, but not in Ephesus, he calls them to Miletus, and he’s on his way to Jerusalem.
Now what will happen in Jerusalem? Look down at verse 22, we’ll come to next week, “Behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.”
If I were making my travel plans and I knew nothing about where I was going except the Holy Spirit told me affliction and imprisonment awaits me, I would take that as a good sign from the Spirit not to go there.
But not Paul. We’ll see next week, he has his reasons for going to Jerusalem. Almost everywhere he goes, you have surprising people who are converting, and you have a whole bunch of people that hate him.
He faces opposition. We must not be surprised, Peter says, by the fiery trial.
Now, all of us suffer. It’s certainly not the case that pastors or elders automatically suffer more than other people. I count myself as having innumerable blessings in life and see others suffering in much more unique and intense ways than I have suffered.
But it is the case that there are unique kinds of suffering that Paul faced. Unique suffering that comes from opposition to the Gospel. Unique kinds of suffering that can come to those engaged in ministry. Conflict, disappointment, misunderstanding, discouragement, people that you think you’ve given your life and your heart and everything in you and then they seem to forget. They seem to betray. Do not think if you are considering pastoral ministry that you are getting into an easy profession, “God will give me extra ease because I’m doing His will.”
Well, there are unique blessings for sure. I do not think that I have a harder job than many of you, but you should in ministry expect unique kinds of suffering and more opposition.
And it helps all of us to think, in whatever context we speak the Gospel, does anyone get upset by your Gospel? By my Gospel?
Now, if everyone’s upset with you all the time, then you, you’ve got some problems. “Hmm, every single relationship in my life is broken. What is the one common denominator in all of those rela—? Oh, me. I’m in all those relationships.” So that may tell you something. That’s not the aim.
But listen, if no one is ever upset with the Gospel I preach or the Gospel you speak to others, then either you’re not saying the right things, or we are not talking to the right people. We’re not talking to the right people, we’re only ever communicating with people we already know agree with everything we think, or we’re not saying the right things. We’re finding a way to make everything palatable, understandable, yes, but without scandal? No.
When Paul went, he constantly faced opposition, because yes, it’s tempting to think, isn’t it, that if we were in the first century, oh, it’d be so easy, they didn’t have these sexuality issues; oh, yes they did. They didn’t have gender issues; yes, they did. They were all really squared away on marriage; no, they weren’t. Everyone was really eager to hear the Gospel; no, Paul faced opposition everywhere he went.
And we should not be surprised. Part of it is we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security because for so long, in many parts of this country, it’s been a very Christianized culture and so we think that it is somehow our divine birthright that no one would dislike anything we believe or say. That is not the case. And if it is the case, then we have probably capitulated what we ought to believe.
Pastors in particular must be able to endure and face opposition.
Third pillar. Couldn’t think of a real sophisticated way to put this, so let me just call it “team building.” Team building. Notice in verses 4 through 6 there are seven ministry partners mentioned of the Apostle Paul.
So first, in verse 4, Sopater. It may be a shortened form of Sosipater of Romans 16:21. Then there’s Aristarchus, he’s also mentioned in Acts 19:29. We have Secundus, there’s nothing else in Scripture we know of him. Gaius, there is someone of that same name mentioned in Acts 19:29, but he was Macedonian, so we’re not sure if he’s the same Gaius. Then we have Timothy, we know quite a bit about Timothy, and there are two letters to him, and he’s come up in Acts before, in Acts 16 and then again in Acts 19:22: “I have sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus…Will stay in Asia.” And there is this man named Tychicus, or Tychicus. Now, when it says Asians, these are not as we would think of Asians or Asian Americans, but this is Asia, kind of Turkey, that sort of area around the Mediterranean, two men, Tychicus and Trophimus. Trophimus is in Acts 21:29, called the Ephesian. He’s also mentioned once in 2 Timothy 4, and then just above him Tychicus, or Tychicus, is noted several times in the pastoral epistles. Sometime you can go and do a concordance search in your Bible and find about this man. He’s noted in several passages as one of Paul’s faithful ministers and helpers, who is willing to do for Paul everything from being a co-laborer in teaching the Gospel to delivering the mail and bringing his apostolic greetings.
Now why, what’s the significance of mentioning these seven men? We often think of the great and mighty Apostle Paul as if he were an island unto himself. “I am a rock, I am an island, and a rock feels no pain,” as Simon and Garfunkel said. As if Paul were this spiritual giant, single handedly, he doesn’t need anyone or anything, he goes and he plants churches and then he writes the Bible in his spare time, and he spins out the world’s deepest theology, he outruns the law, he gets lowered in baskets and bitten by snakes, and people beat him up and he doesn’t feel anything, need anyone, he’s some sort of superhero.
That’s not Paul at all. And you notice in Paul’s travels, and in his letters, he is almost never alone, except when he’s in prison, and then he’s asking people to come visit it. And he’s speaking of how refreshing it was that somebody would come and bring him a meal or bring him his parchments or bring him a cloak.
Paul did not do ministry alone. If anyone had the gifts, wasn’t married, didn’t have children… If anyone could have gone out and done ministry on their own, it was the Apostle Paul, and yet he is constantly surrounded by people and ministry partners. A team.
There’s a reason Jesus sent out disciples in pairs. If you want ministry to be short-lived, do it by yourself. Share the work with no one, share the authority with no one, do everything by yourself, and you can guarantee the work will be short-lived.
2 Timothy 2:2: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”
A huge part of ministry is constantly training up others, releasing others, empowering others, to replicate you, replace you, re-duplicate you. This is true for all of us in whatever ministry we have and it’s particularly true for pastors, pastors must be disciplers, must be trainers, must have lots of people around them, whether you’re an extrovert, introvert.
What do you think Paul was? No, he didn’t have those categories. I’m thinking Paul had some, some real hard-core introvert tendencies. I’m thinking he liked to study. He liked to be by himself. He liked to prepare. And yet the flurry of activity we see from the Apostle Paul is one where he is constantly with coworkers, with men, sometimes with, with women who are also attending and serving alongside.
So we must be engaged and not simply doing ministry, but in training others to do the ministry.
Here’s a fourth pillar: Personal affection. Personal affection. It’s again one of those things you don’t think of “Five pillars of pastoral ministry,” you’d think, “Kevin’s going to give us something a bit more theological.” Well, this is exactly what we need in pastoral ministry, and cannot live without.
Now let me show you where I see this here in the text. We haven’t dealt with the this story from the second half of our verses. This miraculous event, this boy Eutychus, he falls out a window and he’s dead. When it says later that there was life in him, that’s Paul’s way of saying, “I’ve given life by the power of the Spirit to him, he’s raised from the dead.” This isn’t, you know, “he’s only mostly dead,” [laughter] no, he’s all dead. It means, “I’m putting life back in him.”
This power is unique. It only shows up in the Bible in certain times of intense redemptive historical activity, like Elijah and Elisha, or here in the apostolic age, Peter, Paul. The power is unique, but the affection must be common. You see he has affection for this boy. Look at verse 10. It so tenderly described the great mighty theological giant, church-planting missionary, Apostle Paul went down, bent over him, taking him in his arms, and said “Do not be alarmed, for life is in him.” Such tender affection for this young man, comfort he provided the Church.
Verse 12: “They took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.”
And Paul wants, apparently, to spend every last moment he can with these believers in Troas, verse 11, “When Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak.” He’s talking through the night, maybe he’s teaching them, he’s saying “I’m not going to let just, you know, a dead man and a resurrection interrupt my sermon,” or even more than that, he just wanted to, to converse, to talk, these were his friends, these were people he loved.
What we see from Paul in Acts is what we often hear from Paul in his letters. Have you ever noticed this in Paul? A great tenderness and affection for the saints.
Ephesians 6:21: “Tychicus, a faithful minister in the Lord.”
Philippians 2:22: “You know of Timothy’s proven worth.”
Philippians 2:25: “Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier.”
“Onesimus, your faithful and beloved brother,” Colossians 4:9.
“Luke, our beloved physician,” Colossians 4:14.
“Titus, my true child in a common faith,” Titus 1:4.
“Philemon, our beloved fellow worker,” Philemon 1.
And there’s all the examples in Romans 16. “Prisca and Aquila risk their necks for my life… Greet my beloved Epaenetus… Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord… My beloved Stachys… Greet the beloved Persis… Greet Rufus’ mother, who has been a mother to me.” Oh, Rufus’ mom must have been so proud when the letter was read in the church, and Rufus’ mom, “Oh, Paul mentioned me. Didn’t give me my name, but I’ll be Rufus’ mom, that’s fine,” and Paul said “She’s been like a mother to me.”
Philippians 1:7: Paul says “I hold you in my heart.”
Philippians 1:8: “I yearn for you with the affection of Christ.”
Philippians 4:1: “My brothers, whom I live and long for, my joy, my crown.”
2 Corinthians 2:4: “You know the abundant love I have for you.”
2 Corinthians 11:11: “You are in our hearts to die together and to live together.”
Did you ever notice that? Paul is a master encourager. He doesn’t have to do that when he writes his letters. He could have said, you know, “Greet Stachys, Ampliatus, Rufus’ mom… ” but he goes “The beloved, the faithful, she’s been a mother to me.” He’s constantly doling out encouragement, showing personal tender affection.
Some of us do not show affection easily. Now, I know different cultures, different generations, different personalities. We have to allow for all of that. And yet without the encouragement of tender affection, marriages grow cold, family dynamics get strained, churches become unbearable, ministry becomes drudgery.
Some of you have those stories. You never heard dad say he loved you. You never heard mom and dad say, in front of the kids, how much they love each other.
Look, the Apostle Paul with all his head, has quite a big heart, and he’s throwing out beloved to all of these fellow workers. Surely you can tell your kids, you can tell your parents, you can tell your husband, your wife, you can tell your friends, maybe you need to tell some of the people sitting around you, “Do you know that I love you?”
In some ways ministry is so simple. Do people know that you love them? Do they know that you care? Do you know that you like them and you like to be with them? Do you know that I love to be your pastor? And I love you. And I want to love you well. All the pastors do. And we want this to be a congregation that is full and overflowing with tender displays of affection toward one another.
You understand that we have some real strengths here, and with those strengths come some obstacles. You walk in this room. It’s a… I like this room, I love pews. My other church, we, uh, purposely got a church that had pews. I like pews. It’s easier to kind of wrestle the kids in, as long as they don’t lay down. I had this pulpit big. I like a big, honking pulpit. I love the music. What Nathan’s doing is amazing. I even love our bulletin.
Somebody coming in could easily feel intimidated, especially if they don’t look like the majority, especially if they don’t live where many of us live, could easily feel like, “mmm, I don’t know, I don’t know if this, this feels, this feels kind of high, this feels kind of tight, this feels, I’m not sure, this is big.”
We don’t have to apologize for any of those things, but it does mean that we may have to go out of our way to set people at ease so they don’t, “You know what? The church did, it was a little bit of liturgy, I wasn’t used to all of that, but I’m getting it. I see it. It’s rich. And you know what? The fellowship was so warm, the people were so friendly, they were so kind. And not just to me for 30 seconds in front of me, but really I got, I got welcomed into people’s home, into people’s groups, into Sunday School classes.”
Let this be a place flowing with tender affection toward one another, just as Paul models here for the Church.
And then finally, a final pillar, which we won’t spend much time on. We’ve seen it throughout the book of Acts, and that is relentless teaching, relentless teaching.
Verse 7, this is the first mention of a gathering on Sunday, the first day of the week. They broke bread after midnight, maybe a meal, maybe communion, maybe it was both together. We don’t know what else took place in this meeting for sure, except there was preaching and there was lots of preaching and then there was more preaching. This is a picture of what Paul was doing on his missionary journeys.
Now we get this particular story and not all the others because this one has a miracle to affirm and to attest to the preaching. Eutychus falls out window. He’s a boy, given the language used in the Greek, he’s probably a boy between 8 and 14 years old, maybe a little bit on the younger side that Paul can pick up him. He’s crawled into the window because the room is so packed, there are so many people who want to get to this evening service he has to sit in the windows.
Eutychus, His name means “fortunate one,” “lucky one.” You see that “Eu”? That’s the Greek prefix for “good” or “fortune” or “happy,” like a eulogy, good words about someone at a funeral, or a euphemism is a good expression, euphoria is a good feeling, Euangelion, evangelism, is good news. Eutychus means “fortunate one,” sort of an ironic name. He falls out the window, not so fortunate; he’s raised from the dead, very fortunate.
It’s warm, no doubt. There’s no air conditioning. It’s late at night. It’s dimly lit. The lamps were perhaps emitting some sort of aroma, thick in the air, you can understand why the boy would be sleepy. I don’t have time, but you’ll be encouraged to know I had a long paragraph from Calvin on sleeping in church where he defends Eutychus and says “let’s not be too hard on him, it happens.” [laughter] So there. You have Calvin at your disposal.
Not a good idea for boys to sit in the window. But we do get the picture that Paul’s highest priority was to equip the people biblically, spiritually, theologically. He had much to teach them and so he keeps on teaching, even after his sermon kills someone in their sleep, he keeps teaching.
The main thing when they gathered was that they would hear teaching, the miracle was to seal this last sermon. In Acts 2:42 we saw what characterized the very first church, the breaking of bread, prayer, sharing of possessions, and they committed themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and that’s what we see in composite in chapters 20 and 21. These churches scattered throughout Asia, Macedonia, and Achaia, but the chief role here, Paul, is to teach. And we’ll see that one of the chief functions for the elders as they shepherd people is to teach publicly, privately, to teach.
So what are the pillars of pastoral ministry? What ought your pastors to be doing? You could summarize it like this: We encourage, we endure, we work together, we show affection, we teach the Word.
To the degree that you see that, you should give thanks. Where it is not there, or you think it can grow, pray.
Pastors, speaking to myself and to the few others here, to those perhaps training, let it be said of us that these five things mark our character and our work. Yes, in today’s ministry you’re going to have to be conversant at e-mail, you’re going to have to do some organization, you’re going to have to have some skills with committees and administration, but let’s not lose sight: These pillars that are transferable from culture to culture, we encourage, we endure, we work together, we show affection, we teach the Word.
I think God would have us see that if you have the men leading your congregation, doing those five things, we ought to give thanks.
So is this what you see in your pastors? If so, give thanks. If not, pray that it would.
But there’s another question. Is this what others see in you? Because everything here is transferable at some level to all of us who do ministry. And so you ought to think, “Am I marked by Gospel encouragement, endurance in the face of opposition, working well with others, showing affection, teaching the Word?”
And then a final question for all of us: Is this what people see in our church? Is this what people see in our church? I hope so. I think so. In my almost 20 years of pastoral ministry, it’s my experience, sad to report, that healthy churches are the exception, not the norm.
And so where there is a healthy church, the Word is taught faithfully, the leaders are leading hard and well, and people generally like each other and get along, that’s an amazing thing.
So think about personally where in this list might you be strong. Where in this list are you weak? Is it the affection? Is the endurance?
And think about our own church. Are we marked by these things? By grace? I think that we are. And by God’s grace I think we can grow even more. And my prayer is that God helps us to grow in these things, He would start by helping your pastor to grow in them first.
Let’s pray. Our heavenly Father, we give thanks for all of the things we learn from Your Word, sometimes from the Apostle Paul, things so deep and rich and high and mighty that our brains can scarce contain them, and other times so simple, yet it is often the simple things that are even harder to do, to talk to people we don’t know, to ask good questions, to care for people in body and soul, to show affection, to give encouragement, to give the benefit of the doubt, to forgive one another. We pray that we would be marked by these things and we pray that the pastors at this church would set an example in faith and love and godliness. Thank you for giving to us such a joyful congregation in which to serve and such a joyful fellowship among us as a band of brothers. We do not take it for granted. We pray that you would give health, strength, good years ahead and whatever trials you may give to us, and that we would bring glory to Christ. In His name we pray. Amen.