Preparing for Ministry
April 2, 2008
1 Timothy 4:6-16
In a recent article in Christian Century, Harvard Divinity School reported with excitement that they were getting ready to graduate their first group of students with an MDiv in ministry. What were they doing all the years of their existence?It raises several interesting questions. What does a seminary do? Why does a seminary exist? We exist to serve the church and her ministry needs. Our mission statement, our history, and even our students point in one direction: we exist to equip servant leaders for the church and the world.
The books of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are like a short seminary course of study, Paul to Timothy or Titus. They are reminders or hints toward what seminaries are doing.
Yes, the books provide a warning against false teachers and false teaching. But Paul also gives us instructions on worship, prayer, leaders, doctrine, and ministering to various age groups.
SF Seminary was raised up as a school of prophets in 1858 to prepare pastors for the young German Baptists in North America. There were twenty churches and about 2000 worshippers, but they saw the need to prepare pastors for their congregations.
We have come a long way from those days. Two things bother me about the church today: (1) too many churches and church people are looking for entertainment instead of service and ministry; and (2) too many professionals are in ministry and not enough servant leaders. So once again we turn to the Pastoral Letters, especially 1 Timothy, to remind us what we are doing in preparing someone for ministry. Actually, since all believers are freed to minister, Paul's teaching should speak to each of us.
Question: What does Paul say to Timothy that instructs us for ministry?
1 Timothy 4:6-16 comes in two waves with 12 imperatives or commands. And, although they can be organized into seven separate thoughts, verse 16 sums up what Paul wants to say. The focus is on our "being" and our "doing."
I guess you wouldn't stand for a twelve point treatise or a seven point one. Paul says in his profound way, pay attention to yourself and to your teaching.
I. Pay attention to yourself
In our culture, too many people pay attention to themselves by focusing on their wants. Lots of "me, me" people. That isn't the focus of Paul's command. We must have priorities. What are they if we are to minister?
(1) Train yourself in godliness, 7-10
· "Godliness" proves valuable in every way and promises much
· Like exercise we grow stronger and more fit over time
· Dallas Willard and discipleship in Matt 28:19, 20
· Married couples begin to slowly look a lot alike. So we grow to look like our God. The best way to discover that is to learn from the gospels, to learn the way of Jesus.
(2) Be an example, 12
· Richard Baxter, "lest you may unsay with your lives that which you say with your tongues."
· My mother used to say, "Do as I say, not as I do." Even as a young kid I thought there was something wrong about her saying.
(3) Do not neglect your gift, 14
· The "your" in v. 14 is a gift of ministry in context.
· Every person has their own giftedness. We must be true to what God has gifted us for and what he has asked us to do.
II. Pay attention to your teaching
(1) Have nothing to do with profane myths, 7
· The myths of Paul and Timothy's day evidently revolved around the teachings of the Judaizers who made the Jewish rules a part of the Gospel.
· Today we have surfaced a lot of new "myths," extending from civil religion to Eastern mysticisms to eclectic religions that embrace all truth but are not based on the truth.
· "Have nothing" to do with them.
(2) Give attention to scripture, preaching, teaching, 13
· Stott notes that this is our authority.
· We neglect to our peril the reading of God's word in services. Not enough people bring their Bible, we are told. Too many versions. Not enough relevance. All wrong. How can we preach and teach the truth if we are not willing to listen to it?
(3) Practice the things you say, 15
· Literally, "Devote yourself to them."
· We are to exude personal authenticity in our actions just as we are to live a life of example in our "being."
Paul closes with an imperative to "continue", i.e., show consistency. Then he adds an amazing thing ? this will save you and your hearers. I don't have enough space to explore this idea, but it requires some reflection to plumb its depths.
As Paul will say in 2 Timothy 2:2 ? pass it on. The life of discipleship touches each of us. We are all to minister. Pay attention to yourself and to your teachings.