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LW08 - Minister's Talk - Integrity in Christian Ministry

Paul Moore (St Wilfrid's) introduced briefly.

Jonathan spoke from the 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12.

He introduced the topic by describing the problems he has with their digital TV set. Apparently A/V sync is a relatively common problem: mouths flapping, but not corresponding to the words being heard. A lack of coherence that makes it hard to take someone seriously.

To lack coherence between what we say and what we do is to lack integrity. Just as buildings are inspected for structural integrity to ensure that all the parts are in good repair and fitting together well, so we need to examine our lives.

There is a consistent link in the NT between holiness & mission, between godliness & ministry.

So what do we do?

1. The Gospel must be embodied

1:5 Effective communication. We communicated more than just information - it came with conviction and power. They modeled what they preached.

God's word, accompanied by the power of the spirit and embodied by the minister makes for a powerful combination.

A prophet is not God's postman who simply delivers God's message - he must embody it.

2:6-8 Compassionate Identification. Paul not only shared the gospel message with the Thessalonians, but he shared his life as well. Sharing the gospel may be getting harder, but sacrificially sharing your life is harder still.

It is not from a pulpit but a cross that power-filled words are spoken: sermons need to be seen as well as heard.

2. The Preacher must be approved

2v4 Entrusted by God. Implies testing - a continual cycle of testing and further being entrusted. Just as Paul's passion for sharing the gospel flowed from a deep sense of his calling, so the burden of trust we have received should impel us.

2v4-6 Pleasing God. 'as you know' v5, 'God is our witness' v5, 'you are witnesses and so is God' v10. Our sole ambition is God's pleasure. Here criticism is our friend - because it reveals the true state of our hearts. Success in ministry to easily breeds pride as an artificial motivational-substitute.

[In its early stages] pride looks and feels like energetic commitment, sacrificial zeal, selfless devotion. -- Eugene Peterson

If our motivation for ministry is pride, we will be exhausted if we try to live two lives - we have a constant need for God's strength.

Ministry must be modeled

A godly example 2:10-12 Paul declares that his behaviour was holy, righteous and blameless among them. cf 2 Corinthians 6:3 - He did his utmost to ensure that nothing he did caused them harm; caused them to doubt the truth of the gospel.

Christian character is as much taught as caught.

Jonathan gave the example of a treasurer at the church he attended as a small boy who was found to have embezzeled significant amounts of money over a period of several years. It was shocking and extremely disturbing for the church. (He went on to discuss how it had been handled in a godly way, the man had repented and demonstrated his sincerity over many subsequent years in humble service).

Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity. (2 Tim 2:19). Paul's faithful conduct made the gospel seem more credible - and he pushed others to follow his example.

Richard Baxter, the puritan who wrote the Reformd Pastor, declared that we must study as hard to live well as to preach well.

He quoted a survey which indicated that the No.1 reason for boys abandoning church during their teenage years is seeing a disconnect between their father's conduct in church and conduct at home.

There is a ripple effect:

v5 the gospel came to you

v6 you welcomed the message

v8 it rang out from you everywhere

v6 you became imitators of us

v6 you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia

Reflection

Ministers need to:

Look out: Keep watch. Are we exhibiting signs of spiritual decline?

Find help: Support networks. How do we care for one another? How do we avoid isolation? How do we pursue accountability?

Keep learning: Stay humble. Keep seeking to understand the scriptures more deeply and clearly. How do we avoid acting as though we've reached a spiritual plateau?

Integrity

Integrity - Jonathan Lamb

I'm reading through Integrity - Leading with God watching with a local pastor who is graciously making time in his busy schedule to correct, challenge, exhort, rebuke and encourage this arrogant young jerk. It's sobering reading - I've grown up in an ecclesiastical tradition which is high on abstraction and low on application. Integrity is quite the opposite: Jonathan writes with remarkable clarity as he highlights my favourite sins and failures, as well as the ones I hadn't even noticed. And rather than leaving me wallowing in a soup of navel-engrossed self-pity, he is challenging, insightful and hopeful in his application.

I've actually overcome my natural reverence of books and antipathy towards marking them in anyway and every chapter thus far has sentences underlined and notes in the margin. It's that good. And that relevant.

A few choice quotes thus far:
  • Integrity, then, means a coherence in every area of life. (p19)
  • When leaders at any level fail to live with integrity, the fallout is deadly serious. It poisons community, destroys trust, torpedoes a coherent and unified mission and, most seriously of all, betrays the cause of Christ's gospel and dishonours the God whom we serve. But when Christian leaders live their words, keep their promises, serve their community - in short, show us Jesus Christ - then Christian community is built and Christian mission in enhanced. (p20)
  • Sincerity, consistency and reliability: failure to demonstrate integrity in these ways is quite possibly the most serious obstacle to any form of Christian ministry and, indeed, in the growth of God's work (p34)
  • the greatest motivation to live a life of integrity arises from a sense of gratitude. (p36)

Buy. Read. Apply.