Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Minister's Resources

Last week I was asked to make a presentation for a group of "pastoral care givers" at a local, religious-affiliated retirement center on "A Christian Theology of Suffering."

Before starting that talk, I shared some reflections on my seminary service some years ago as a chaplain in large, urban hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. One comment that stuck in my mind from that experience was an observation made by one of my supervising chaplains. He said that the minister is the only one who comes to visit a patient carrying nothing in his hands. The doctor comes with the stethoscope, the nurse with an instrument to measure blood pressure or a needle, the orderly with a meal, but the pastor comes with empty hands. I know the point he was trying to make, but I would respectfully correct his statement. We do not come with empty hands. We do not come with ourselves alone. We come with significant pastoral resources.

Here are four of the pastoral resources which the Christian minister (whether he holds the office of Pastor, Elder, Deacon, or the general office of believer) brings:

1. We come with a people. We are representative people. When we minister we represent the church. This is why it is so important that all ministers be rooted in a local church. We are not free-lance ministers. Paul said that we are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). We represent His body.

2. We come with prayer (see James 5:13-18). Rarely will a sick or dying man deny the offer of prayer. Always be ready to offer to pray with and for someone with whom you are ministering.

3. We come with Scripture. Rarely too will a man deny the reading of Scripture. Go to the well worn passages of comfort: Psalm 23; Psalm 56:3; Romans 8:28; 1 Corinthians 10:13. God’s Word will never return to Him void (see Isaiah 55:11). Read it aloud with the one to whom you minister and trust it to accomplish its purpose. We come with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17).

4. We come with doctrine. We come with a theology. You remember the old saying, "You are what you eat"? Well, for us the phrase is, "You are what you believe." We come with a well-ordered Christian theology. We do not hold an amorphous belief in some generic God. Mere belief in God (theism) is not enough. James 2:19 says, "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble!" We believe in the God of the Bible. We believe in Christ. We believe in the power of the gospel.

My fellow ministers, take up these resources and use them in your personal ministry wherever and whatever that might be.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Evangel article 10/17/07

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