Monday, May 12, 2008

20/20 Vision for Ministry

As a pastor, particularly a young pastor, I am often asked: "What is your ministry philosophy?" The answer to that question is crystallized in Acts 20:20:

I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house.

There you have it. I call it a 20/20 vision for ministry because it's found in Acts 20:20, and because I heard Randy Patten call it that at a NANC conference several years ago. The idea resonated with me, and the phrase stuck with me.

The catchy phrase is not (the only) reason why Acts 20:20 resonated with my soul. There are three other reasons; the first being that this verse declares the concept of a total presentation of God's Word.

Paul reminded the Ephesian elders that he had declared any and all things that were profitable to them, and in verse 27 he explains what was so profitable. He said:

I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.

As a pastor I will only be effective in ministry if I provide my flock and my community with a total presentation of God’s Word. I must rightly handle the word of truth. I must do as Ezra did during Nehemiah's governorship; clearly read from the Law of God and give the sense, in order that the people will understand the reading. The reason why I want them to understand the reading is so that they will live the reading.

In his final letter to Timothy Paul charged the young pastor to “Preach the word!” In the very next sentence Paul warned his protege that the time was coming when people would not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they would accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. Nevertheless, Timothy was to preach the word! Travis is to preach the word!

Paul had faithfully, boldly, consistently, clearly, charitably, and unashamedly proclaimed the gospel message of Christ crucified, buried, raised, and coming again. That message is foolishness to them that perish, but unto the saved it is the very hope to which they cling. Every pastor called by God to the Gospel ministry must do the same. There must be a total presentation of the Scriptures, because only they are inspired by God. Therefore the Scriptures are profitable for doctrine – what is right; for reproof – what is not right; for correction – how to get right; and for instruction in righteousness – how to stay right.

Paul’s method was a total presentation of God word, and also a special proclamation of the Word. Paul declared the whole counsel of God, and he did so publicly - "Have taught you publicly." The pulpit should be at the center of a church's meeting house because God’s word should be at the center of everything that happens there. The central focus of every church service should be the preaching of God’s Holy Word, and everything else that happens in our services is to prepare our hearts for the proclamation of and response to God’s Word.

Please understand, it is not “worship and the word” because you cannot have worship without the word! Everything that happens before and during our worship services is leading up to the time when God’s man in the pulpit opens up God’s word, and preaches God’s truth; giving people an opportunity to trust God’s Son or to rededicate themselves to God’s plan.

20/20 vision for ministry involves a total presentation of God’s word, a special proclamation of God’s word, and finally a personal demonstration of God’s word. Paul had taught the Ephesians publicly, and he taught them “from house to house”. God has a very simple plan for getting His word to people: go where people are. My life's aim, not only as a pastor but as a Christian, is to joyfully magnify Christ, to make Him look good, in all that I do!

A believer must personally demonstrate to the lost and saved alike the Lord Jesus Christ. To the lost demonstrate with your life and your words the gospel. To the brethren, be a source of accountability and encouragement, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Pr. 27:17). Minister to one another; help meet the needs of one another. In every possible way, with every person, and in every situation there needs to be that personal demonstration of God’s Word! Be intentional instead of accidental with your evangelism and with your ministry to one another.

A 20/20 vision for ministry involves a total presentation, special proclamation, and a personal demonstration of God's Word. I think it's a good plan.

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