Year 2 Day 339
Read - 1 Thessalonians 2v1-16
Message - Scott Woodburn
For the purpose of this devotion I've just gone to the list of vacant congregations in our denomination and counted. There are currently seventy (that's 70) vacant congregations and four (that's 4) congregations seeking an associate minister. Around fourteen (that's 14) of the vacant congregations probably will never have their own minister again but that still leaves fifty-six (that's 56) congregations actively seeking a new minister.
What should these churches be looking for? Sadly we often get the answer to that question wrong. Fellowships across Ireland usually want someone young who has at least eleven (that's 11) children and whose wife will become an unofficial and unpaid church worker. This individual must excel at all aspects of ministry. He must be a better preacher than the guy we watch on Youtube and he must be able to write sermons as he is climbing into the pulpit on Sunday. He should be so appealing that every seat in the church is filled. He shouldn't expect too much encouragement and he should not expect too much from anyone associated with the fellowship. I could go on but I trust you get the point.
So if the answer above is incorrect, what should our fifty-six (that's 56) congregations be looking for in a new minister? The Apostle Paul's own ministry gives us the example. He came among the Thessalonians as a bold preacher of the Gospel even in the midst of opposition (v2). He had no desire to deceive but instead had been appointed by God and entrusted with the truth of the Gospel (v3-4). He was not appointed to please men but instead to please God (v4). He was not a smooth talker with words of flattery (v5) and he sought no glory from those he was called to serve (v6).
Instead Paul was like a gentle, nursing mother to the Thessalonians (v7). He loved them and fed them the spiritual milk of the Word of God (v8). He worked hard among them as a tent maker so that he wouldn't burden them unduly (v9). His conduct amongst them was blameless (v10) and like a father he exhorted and encouraged the church to walk rightly before the Lord (v11).
Wow. I'm humbled by these verses and I'm struck once again by the scale of the minister's task! May God have mercy upon me as I fail constantly as a minister of the Gospel. May vacant congregations have expectations that are Christ-centred rather than man-centred.
But with that said, most of you aren't ministers, neither Edengrove or Lissara are vacant and frankly the seventy (that's 70) vacant congregations are of little concern to you. So what? My brothers and sisters I pray that this devotion would cause you to pray. Please pray for your minister - he needs it. Please pray for our denomination - we need it. Please pray for the vacant congregations - they need it.
Finally when you are done praying for others, please pray for the condition of your own soul. Paul thanks God that when he was among the Thessalonians they listened to him and accepted his message as the Word of God (v13). They suffered as a result of their faith just as other Christians in Judea at that time also suffered (v14) but God will certainly bring His wrath to bear against those who oppose His Son and His church (v15-16). So brothers and sisters are you prepared to suffer for the sake of Christ? When your minister preaches the Word are you there to hear it with a glad and tender heart? Pray for your own soul.
For churches vacant and non-vacant alike, there is no perfect minister. Not the one currently in your church and not the next one either. Your minister might be old and crusty, the hymns he picks may not float your boat and it may be true that he is a bit long winded...but brothers and sisters...hear me. Does your minister preach the Gospel? Does he lead you towards baptism and the Lord's supper? Does he open the Bible and preach whatever it says regardless of who might be annoyed? He does? Then pray for him, listen to him, encourage him for I suspect you'll miss him when he's gone.
"Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you." (Hebrews 13v17)
Q93 Which are the Sacraments of the New Testament? The Sacraments of the New Testament are Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.