Tag Archive for: ministry

Preaching is the chief work of the ministry, yet it happens on more than Sunday morning.  A man must be apt to teach, though he can and should increase this God-given gift in his work.  Loehe also describes the form of a sermon and offers some surprising suggestions regarding this important task.

Host: Rev. Zelwyn Heide

Regular Guest: Rev. David Appold

Episode: 70

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T. David Gordon, Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers (Phillipsburg, New Jersey, P&R Publishing Company, 2009).

If “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver,” (Proverbs 25:11) then T. David Gordon might contend that most of what he has heard from pulpits over the years bears more resemblance to the cacophony of a deconstructionist painting.

Just a few sentences into the introduction, Gordon drops this massive redpill: “I’ve always feared to state publicly that, in my opinion, less than 30 percent of those who are ordained to the Christian ministry can preach an even mediocre sermon.” (11). Hard to swallow, but necessary.  And again a few pages later, he laments “the problem…is not that we don’t have ‘great’ preachers; in many circumstances we don’t even have mediocre preachers.” (14).  He advocates meat and potatoes preaching—not entertainment, nor that every pastor become a Chrysostom.

Gordon’s concern is not so much failure on the doctrinal level, though he does touch on that a bit.  Instead, most of the book focuses on Left Hand Kingdom aspects of good preaching: clarity, memorability, and unity around a clear theme. Thinking he was dying of cancer, Gordon penned this concise, pointed, and heart-felt treatise against what he saw as ubiquitous, sub-par preaching.

Even better though, the author suggests numerous workable remedies.  Workable, that is, after the preacher, and perhaps even his congregation, undertake deliberate, long term solutions.

Gordon writes from decades of experience as a seminary professor and pew-sitter in the Orthodox Presbyterian in America, the Presbyterian Church in America, as well as the broader conservative Evangelical world.  Nonetheless, the Lutheran preacher can find great help in this book.

As Gordon sees it, “to preach the Word of God well, one must already have cultivated…three sensibilities: the sensibility of the close reading of texts, the sensibility of composed communication, and the sensibility of the significant.  Without these, a person simply cannot preach, any more than he could if his larynx were removed or he were utterly illiterate.” (106).

With a preface, an introduction, and five chapters, T. David Gordon diagnoses the sickness and prescribes the cure in just 108 pages.

In Chapter 1, Gordon unpacks his assertion that “Johnny can’t preach.”  In addition to personal experience as a listener, he draws on decades of anecdotal evidence, including conversations with lay people concerning preaching.  Gordon contrasts the basic public speaking expectations of Rotary Club with what passes on Sunday morning.  If any Lutherans are getting sweaty at this point, they will be comforted to know that among his criteria for a good sermon, Gordon lists “textual fidelity” and “evangelical tone,” as well as several other classical Reformed criteria.  Again, a discerning Lutheran pastor can find much to like here.

Chapter 2 takes a deeper dive down the rabbit hole, contending that “Johnny” cannot preach because he struggles even to read the Bible on the deep level needed for good preaching. Yes, he knows his phonics and might even have a master’s degree and some familiarity in the original languages, but he fails to read scripture in deliberate, disciplined manner needed for homiletics.  The preacher cannot speed read scripture for the basic content or information. He must be able to appreciate the specifics of each passage of scripture, rather than wander off into other more general Christian truths.  His sermons should not be simple paraphrases of the obvious facts.  The pastor needs to dig deep in order to bring up the treasures of God’s Word to his people.  This should be a slow, deliberate process.  Scripture itself must work on the preacher.  It should force him to think, wrestle, and stretch.  It should feed him and build him up.  Since “the text doesn’t stimulate [preachers] particularly…their sermon is not particularly stimulating to their hearers.” (47).

In Chapter 3, Gordon argues that we have allowed the way we use various electronic media to eviscerate our ability to compose meaningful communication.  Images, sounds, and videos bombard us all the time.  We take in more stimulation that a human brain can process.  When do we ever take a Sabbath rest from the constant barrage?  The modern reliance upon electronic media makes us passive, rather than active; lazy and confusing, rather than zealous and clear. Our brains are scattered and our words garbled.  If we are not careful, we allow the way we consume electronic media to hamper our ability to carefully read texts like the Bible, as well as our ability to communicate in a clear fashion.  Gordon advocates not necessarily that we go off-grid, but that we exercise discipline and also cultivate certain aptitudes.

The author discusses sermon content in Chapter 4.  The sermon should largely focus on Christ and his work of redemption.  Gordon explicitly compliments Lutherans on that point.  He also touches on four common misguided types of sermons: moralism, “how-to,” subjective spiritual introspection, and culture war/social gospel.  Lutherans would agree with him here.

Chapter 5 offers several solutions for the preacher.  First, an annual preaching review.  This is not so that the preacher can hear that he needs more jokes or needs to be more entertaining.  Instead, Gordon simply wants the sermon to be clear and memorable (he uses the word “unified”).  His suggestion is this: once each year, someone other than the preacher call several hearers at random on a Tuesday or a Wednesday and ask them what the sermon was about.  Gordon asserts “if, several days after the sermon, many or most hearers do not have any idea what it was about, or if they have different ideas, then the sermon plainly and manifestly failed at this crucial point [unity].” (98). A good Presbyterian, Gordon suggests the elders perform this task. Some Lutherans might quibble here.  Nonetheless, our tradition does assign such a role to the circuit visitor.

Gordon also suggests preachers cultivate an ability to read good literature in general, especially poetry.  The preacher must be able to read texts closely; he must be able to discern the significant and impress it upon his hearers.  This is different than a cursory reading for information.  Gordon makes several recommendations on how a pastor could start this in the parish.  He recommends An Experiment in Criticism, by C.S. Lewis, as well as Poetry as a Means of Grace, by Charles Grosvenor Osgood.  Gordon also rightly disavows post-World War II poetry as “almost perversely iconoclastic.” (102).

Similarly, preachers must cultivate an ability to write well.  Hand-written letters, well written emails, as well as contributing to newspapers, theological journals, or magazines will help him work these muscles.  Gordon also commends writing prayers as a devotional practice, as well as penning pastoral notes to one’s parishioners.  Lastly, Gordon suggests public speaking classes, or joining a club like Rotary which would help the preacher hone these skills.

The congregation can also help the pastor preach better sermons by respecting his time and his calling to be in the Word.  Gordon writes, “as long as the typical congregation runs its minister ragged with clerical, administrative, and other duties…[and] expects the minister to be out five or six nights a week visiting or at meetings, the minister will not have time in his schedule to read, write, or reflect….those sensibilities essential to effective preaching will remain uncultivated.” (106-7). One might argue specifics with Gordon, but he is basically just asserting we practice Acts 6:2.

Some Lutherans might object to T. David Gordon’s undertaking.  Gordon is not implying that we can help God, or that preaching is ultimately man’s work.  But Gordon has isolated several tendencies which he thinks get in the way of well-organized, clear, memorable preaching.  We affirm that the Word of God is living and active, that it accomplishes great things.  But if my sermon is so disorganized, dense, or cliché-ridden that my people do not fully hear me, am I not just a noisy gong?  On Pentecost, the Spirit gave men the ability to speak and hear the Gospel in their own tongues.  If it does not profit to hear the Gospel in a language I do not know, could we not go a step further and accept that poor communication means I am not as edifying a preacher as I could be?  Yes, sinful hearers will have itching ears.  But are fleshly expectations, Pietism, or the hearers always the only things to blame when the hearers do not benefit as much as they could from the sermon?

Gordon’s observations on mass media offer a profound social commentary in their own right; the book is worth reading for this alone.  We should be cautious of the way we consume social and electronic media, lest it hamper our ability to read and clearly proclaim God’s Word.  We should also take Reformed theologians on their own terms and appreciate what they might have to offer, rather than just using them as straw men.  Every preacher has room to grow.  Each can also help brother pastors improve their preaching skills.  Why Johnny Can’t Preach will invaluably assist the Lutheran preacher on all of these counts.

Continuing our discussion of Gerberding’s The Lutheran Pastor, the crew tackles a number of questions. What does a pastor do? What should he leave undone? Listen to learn about preaching, visiting, and all the other work of a man of God.

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide
Guest: Rev. Adam Koontz
Episode: 9

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As noted in the previous study on Sexagesima, Paul speaks against the “super apostles” who were plaguing the Corinthian congregation. These false teachers were making themselves out to be something great on their own merits and were disparaging Paul as being nothing in comparison. The reading beginning in 2 Corinthians 11 for Sexagesima is more or less Paul’s final assault on these men. The reading for the First Sunday in Lent, 2 Corinthians 6:1-10, gives us one of Paul’s major appeals to the Corinthians themselves. These false teachers wanted only what they could gain from the Corinthians; Paul, on the other hand, suffered much for the sake of the Corinthians.

“Working together with Him,” which is to say, with Christ, “we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain” (2 Corinthians 6:1). The false apostles were leading them astray, and as Peter says, “it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Peter 2:21). The one who turns his back on Christ after coming to know Him stands under a far greater judgment than the one who never knew Him at all. Capernaum will be brought down lower than Sodom and Gomorrah, because it refused to receive the mighty works of Christ (Matthew 11:23). Therefore, for the Corinthians to depart from Paul and the Gospel is not a matter of preference or just choosing a more likable teacher, but a matter of life and death.

Paul also emphasizes the urgency of his message. Those who think that there is always time for the grace of God will be caught by surprise, whether by the Lord returning or by their own death and being called to account. “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20). ““Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6). Now is the favorable time; now is the day of salvation!

With this in mind, Paul expresses very clearly everything which he has suffered for the sake of the Corinthians. The false apostles, who did not love the sheep but only want to profit from them, did not suffer in the same way. A false teacher is not willing to suffer, because a false teacher is not in Christ who suffered on our behalf. “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger” (Matthew 23:4). “You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep” (Ezekiel 34:3). “These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever” (Jude 12-13).

Paul’s suffering, on the other hand, demonstrates the genuineness of his affection for the Corinthians. What false teacher would suffer everything that Paul suffered only for the sake of his own belly? Yet Paul endured everything for the sake of the Corinthians, because of his love as their spiritual father. If he lost much for the sake of Christ, his loss was their gain. In the ease of the false teachers, unwilling to suffer, the Church was being torn apart; in the suffering of Paul, the Church was built up to eternity.

The lectionary reading should be extended to include 2 Corinthians 6:11-13, because these verse clarify Paul’s point in this passage nicely. “Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians, our heart is wide open.” Paul has held nothing back from them. The issue is not because of a stumbling block on his end, for nothing in his ministry offended in that way. The issue is the Corinthians being hardened against him by the alluring voice of false teachers. “You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.” He calls for them to turn from the works of darkness and return to the light of the Gospel, confident that, as their spiritual father, they will listen to him.

The authority of the preacher is derivative in nature. Men preach the Word, which is not their own, in season and out of season. For good reason, the men called to proclaim the Word of God are called stewards and not masters, because they are answerable to the Master in all that they do. Yet the great temptation of preachers is to center their authority in themselves, whether because of their knowledge, ability, or in comparison with other men. The false apostles who were plaguing the Corinthian congregation despised Paul out of pride. “For they say, ‘His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account’” (2 Corinthians 10:10). Paul apparently was an unimpressive speaker, and his enemies exploited that to their own advantage.

These “super apostles” built each other up in a false confidence. As Paul says, “When they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” (2 Corinthians 10:12). The pastor who boasts of his own ability has missed the point, because it is not personal ability that makes him what he is in the Lord. “For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:18). Lest we misunderstand Paul’s point, he also writes to Timothy: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Seeking our commendation from the Lord and not from ourselves or from men is not an excuse to be lazy or immoral. Rather, “let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips,” because self-praise is a fruit of the flesh and not of the Spirit (Proverbs 27:2).

On the other hand, there is such a thing as false modesty. Paul explicitly says, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (2 Corinthians 10:17). The men whom God has called into the ministry should not be ashamed of the authority which comes from the Lord. To be ashamed of what God has sent you to proclaim is tantamount to being ashamed of God. It is boasting in the flesh that Paul condemns. As he says to the Galatians, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). Let the one who boasts boast in what the Lord has done, even to unprofitable servants like us.

Paul, in a fit of what he calls madness, proves his point yet further. It is foolishness, because Paul speaks like a madman in answering the fools according to their folly (Proverbs 26:5). If they have any ground for boasting in the flesh, Paul has more. These false apostles love the position of high honor, but do not suffer for it. They seek the rewards of speaking on behalf of God without recognizing the cross that must go with it (Matthew 23:1-12). Paul suffered much for the sake of the Gospel, a cross laid upon him by the Lord (Acts 9:16). These are not generic trials, as if one could apply them to any situation. Many of those who preach the Word have not suffered as Paul suffered for the Gospel. The crosses that the Lord sends to discipline his people are not the same, nor should we magnify them into meaninglessness.

However, the ultimate point that Paul makes is one that applies across the board. Whatever the cross may be, if we boast, let us boast of our weakness, for the Lord declares that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Our actual weaknesses, not our imagined ones or our sins, testify to the mercy and the grace of the Lord. We are “jars of clay” bearing the treasure of the Word (2 Corinthians 4:7). Those who bear this office “have this ministry by the mercy of God” (2 Corinthians 4:1). “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory, for the sake of Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness!” (Psalm 115:1).

As a final note, Paul’s motivation for such foolish boasting to show his own weakness stems from a “divine jealousy” for the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:2). From fear that they were being led astray like Eve was deceived by the serpent, Paul speaks against those who were leading them away from their first love. “As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!” (2 Corinthians 11:10-11). The false teacher does not seek to build up the flock, but rather to exploit it. “For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive” (Romans 16:18). Do we as pastors seek to instruct those entrusted to us as a father with his children, or out of a desire to appear orthodox? Is our jealousy divine or fleshly? Let us not compromise the Gospel out of a desire to seem fatherly, to be sure, but let us remember that we are called to be spiritual fathers. Those commended to our care for a time are not our enemies, but sinners for whom Christ died.

Ephesus, like so many of the newly formed congregations in the days of the apostles, struggled with the question of how the Gentiles and Jews, now both Christians, related to one another.  Peter himself received a vision before going to Cornelius that confirmed to him the will of God.  Seeing the Holy Spirit descend on the Gentiles, how could those  who heard his report say anything else other than “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18)?  But though God had clearly revealed his will, old rivalries still remained.

Paul addresses this question by pointing to the Gospel of Christ.  The Lord “predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:5).  Being sons, He also chose us from the foundation of the world to be holy in His sight, not divided according to the fruits of sin, but as one in Christ.  He poured out the Holy Spirit as a “guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (Ephesians 1:14), so that we await the fullness of our redemption.  However, we are no longer divided in the way of the world, but alive and united in Christ.  “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).  Predestination, therefore, is as much about being chosen to believe as it is being chosen to be holy in His sight.

Paul points to his ministry as a proof of all of this.  He is a steward of God’s grace to the Gentiles, that through Christ all who believe have access to the Father.  Jew and Gentile are no longer two, but one in Christ, so that the new man is neither Jew nor Gentile, but Christian.  Yet Paul did not know this “mystery of Christ” except through revelation, much like Peter.  This mystery “was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:5), a clear testimony that the Lord moves progressively throughout the history of salvation, to His glory.  “For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Matthew 13:17).

His ministry, therefore, is not a matter of right, but of grace.  Only through the “working of His power” could Paul, or any man whom the Lord chooses to be a minister, proclaim this great mystery.  “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:1).  Paul regarded himself as the “very least of all the saints” since he had once persecuted the Church (1 Corinthians 15:9), yet the ministry of the Lord is not a matter of right, but of grace.  No man deserves to proclaim the Gospel.  Paul’s sin does not make him uniquely qualified or anything similar, as if greater sins made for greater preachers.  Paul’s sin magnifies his own inadequacy to make the grace of God all the clearer.

All of this “was according to the eternal purpose that He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11).  God chose Paul from before the foundation of the world, not only to believe and to be holy in His sight, but also to be one who “turns many to righteousness” (Daniel 12:3).  If faith is through God’s mercy, and the ministry is a matter of mercy, then, as Paul says, those who fulfill this ministry do so according to the will of God (2 Timothy 4:5).  Pastors therefore may be encouraged, knowing the Lord’s will for their lives.

That God places men into the ministry through His own will is not an opportunity for laziness.  The call to preach the Word in season and out of season is not a call to pride.  Such proud and lazy men are “enemies of the cross of Christ,” who “do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites” (Philippians 3:18-19; Romans 16:18).  It also follows that occupying the office of the ministry is no proof that it is the Lord’s will.  “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do” (Matthew 23:2-3).  “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep” (2 Peter 2:1-3).  False prophets and false teachers, though they have all the outward appearance of the office of the ministry, are waterless clouds, swept along by winds (Jude 12-13).  You shall know them by their fruits!

But for the one whom the Lord has chosen and placed into the ministry by grace, Paul calls for him to struggle mightily for the sake of God.  The ministry is not a matter of words, but of power, the transformative power of the Holy Spirit which raises from death to life and sin to holiness.  “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:14-15).

It is common when attending the ordinations or installations of a new minister to hear one of the fellow pastors urge the newly ordained or installed man to, “love your people.” Paul appears to be doing the same thing in 2 Timothy as he tells Timothy to fan into flame the gift of the Spirit, which is further defined as the Spirit of love.

One would expect Paul to spend some space then in the body of this epistle discussing how Timothy is to minister in love. Surprisingly though, the word, “love,” is seldom used. “Love,” is mentioned by name alongside righteousness, faith, and peace as something Timothy is to pursue. Paul’s own, “love,” is noted in a description of his own ministry along with his teaching, conduct, aim in life, faith, patience, steadfastness, persecutions and sufferings. These are hardly extended treatises on love. Three perversions of love are listed in the section on the difficulties of living in the last days. Among the vices of those without faith is that they are, “lovers of self, lovers of money…not loving good…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

But to therefore conclude that love is an unimportant feature for the ministry of Timothy is to commit a word-concept fallacy, supposing that because the word love is not explicitly used that the concept is missing. While Paul doesn’t tell Timothy to, “love his people,” in those exact words, he shows what the minister’s love of the elect people of God consists in.

“Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” (2 Timothy 1:10) Paul’s initial exhortation to Timothy to, “share in suffering for the gospel,” is punctuated with this statement of purpose. He is willing to be bound in chains and to face all, even death, for the sake of the elect. That willingness to share in suffering for the sake of the Gospel’s proclamation and the salvation of those who believe is pastoral love in action. Paul returns to this willingness to bear suffering again when he contrasts his own ministry with that of the godlessness of the last days. And what Timothy has learned and seen in Paul he must continue in.

What does it mean for pastors to, “love their people”? It means that they will do all that they can, that they will endure many hardships and sufferings, so that they can share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with as many people as they can. It means not being ashamed of the Gospel, but putting oneself on the line for that message. Laying down self, financial gain, and pleasure that others may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus.

This self-giving love is what is needed for the ministry. It is the true form of love as opposed to love of self, money, or pleasure. And this kind of love is that which the Spirit will work in those who have received Him. It is the cruciform love of the Savior, imitated by the apostle Paul, and continued to be displayed in Timothy and those after him. “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

“Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever” (Zechariah 1:5)? Do we hear these words of the prophet Zechariah? While in their context these words are meant to call to mind the need to return to the Lord, they also point to the time which is always flying away. The previous generations once lived and worked and loved just as we do, but now they have gone. Our way is also short, but we are always on the brink of eternity.

But Zechariah’s words are especially important for those the Lord has called to proclaim His Word. It is one thing to call to mind that we are mortal, and that cannot be stressed enough. The men called to serve as the messengers of the living God, however, must remember that the time spent in His service is shorter still.

Pastors are, after all, jars of clay bearing the treasure of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:7). They are not from everlasting to everlasting. We have been given a charge and appointed a time to fulfill it. Will this sermon be our last? “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more” (Psalm 103:15-16). The prophets, do they live forever?

These words are meant to remind us that we too will pass away, but they should also spur us to action. It does no good to turn back when handed the plow (Luke 9:62). Our time may indeed be short, but that should remind us of the urgency of our task. “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).

Even if the field is rocky and the plow is in less than perfect condition, a pastor is sent to do what his Lord would have him do. Would you run away like Jonah, complaining of the Lord’s mercy (Jonah 4)? Would you point out your inadequacy like Jeremiah, being but a youth (Jeremiah 1:6)? Would you demand that the Lord send someone else like Moses, who could not speak well (Exodus 4:10)? The Lord has given you a charge and sent you to carry out His will. It is not yours to hesitate (1 Kings 20:35-36; Jeremiah 48:10). Who indeed is sufficent for these things? In ourselves, we are nothing, but in Christ, we have been set for this great task. “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:16-17).

But our fathers and the men who served in the same field as we call to us as well to fulfill the ministry which has been given to us by the mercy of God. They knew hardships and toil, great joys and great sorrows, just as we do. They are the forgotten shepherds of the living God, who eagerly ran the race set before them. They planted churches, serving dozens of congregations and preaching stations, often at the same time. They travelled long miles in the days before roads. They braved bad weather and endangered their health to bring the Word to people far off. They rode on horseback or on the trains or through dirt roads that turned to mud in the rain. Their task was long and hard and is now largely forgotten among men, nameless men who will not grace the pages of history books. But their deeds have not been forgotten by their Lord whom they served, and He will give to them a crown which will never fade.

So take heart, sons of the prophets. Your time is short and your calling is urgent. But the Lord who is faithful has called you, and He will sustain you for the work. “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).