As the world prepares to embark on a new year, this coming year brings significant changes in my life. Most notably, I am poised to begin ministry as the pastor of Hope Congregational Church, a church in the small town of Bethune in eastern Colorado. There are many different thoughts and emotions with which I am filled as I meditate on what is coming. This call comes as an answer to prayer and the culmination of many years of preparation. I am very excited to be able to use what meager gifts I have to bless the flock of Jesus Christ. At the same time, this puts an immense responsibility on my shoulders. Here in New Hampshire as I prepare to move myself and family to the western plains, there is a raging presidential primary election, in which candidates are making phone calls and bus stops, vying for the chance to run for election to the office of President of the United States. And due to my recent election as pastor of Hope Congregational Church, (as the Lord guides these final steps,) I am entering into the office of a servant of God’s Word and undershepherd to one particular flock of his. The office to which I have been elected is comparatively much higher than that for which the presidential candidates are competing, due to its eternal importance and opportunity to make a lasting impact. I need prayer more than ever to strengthen me for the spiritual battles which are ahead. And I must have faith that God will supply the strength and wisdom that I need to serve him appropriately, in answer to my prayers (and hopefully those of others as well. I covet your prayers!) As I meditate on the ministry that the Lord will do through me, there are several emphases which should guide my life labor for him. These are my priorities:
- The Word
I do not have all the answers, but I have the book that does. God’s Word is alive and powerful to accomplish the goals that God intended it for when he gave it. “The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” (Psalm 19:7b) My focus as the pastor of Hope Congregational Church must be on serving the Word to those who gather there, because this is the main tool that God uses by his Spirit to build up his flock spiritually and to gather strangers to himself. I must preach the Word weekly during Sunday worship and seek out opportunities to do more and more Bible—teaching and preaching for, to, and on behalf of Hope Congregational Church all week long. (The sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and baptism are also very important as marks to distinguish the church from the world, and pledge Christ to God’s people, but it is the Word that will make them effectual to increase their assurance.) I must be filled with the Scriptures so that they ooze out of my blood, both for myself, to stand in the evil day, and to be able to serve the Word to those entrusted to me.
“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16) The Prayer of God’s people is powerful because God is powerful to answer prayer, and because he is mercifully inclined to the petitions of his people whom he loves. I must pray for strength to carry on the work that God has given me to do in the face of adversity, and to make the Word effective to cause his church to grow spiritually. Recognizing that all of my labors will come to nothing if not for the enlivening work of the Holy Spirit, I must pray that God would grant increase to these labors. I ought also to pray for each and every individual who is entrusted to my spiritual care frequently, by name, and include specific requests particular to each. God has commanded his ambassadors to be constantly praying for those under their care (Acts 6:4) and how then could I think that he will not grant his blessing to this prayer offered in obedience? Prayer in itself is an important part of the labor of a minister of God, to which I must be devoted, both for me and for this flock.
It has been said that a faithful undershepherd ought to smell like the sheep. This applies to spiritual pastors just as much as to those who pastor literal sheep! One of my top priorities in entering the ministry that God is giving me is to cultivate a bond of love between myself and the spiritual flock under my care, as a whole and with each individual sheep, in order that through this bond of love and affection, the sheep will be drawn to eat the spiritual food and drink the living water with which God desires them to be fed, in order that they would grow stronger and healthier. This bond should be cultivated by spending quality time with each of them, to get to know them, and show them how much the Good Shepherd loves each one of them. Visiting members one on one, in small groups and in families, at their own homes, where they work, and at other locations will provide opportunity to develop bonds that will make Bible teaching, preaching, and prayer for them that much more effective. These loving bonds will undergird every other aspect of the Lord’s ministry through me. Jesus loves Hope Congregational Church, and so must I, modeling his love with mine.
As I look beyond the horizon, I covet prayer from all my friends, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ including my present church, Hope Congregational Church, and my family. Please be in prayer for me that God would give me the wisdom, patience, and focus needed to be a clear blessing to his saints who meet at the Hope Congregational Church in Bethune, Colorado. Bethune or Bust!