Our Lectio Divina for today:
Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use. Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will all see you mature right before their eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it. Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation. 1st Timothy 4: 11-16 (MsgB)
So far, in our pursuit to find the core work of pastoral ministry, as defined by the apostle Paul as he lovingly addresses his spiritual son, Timothy, we’ve uncovered three key components to this kalós, this precious treasure, being passed from older pastor to younger. Allow me to review with you:
- Soul Care: The core work of stewarding one’s own walk with Jesus through the proper care of our soul.
- Prayer: The core work of bringing all things to God, through Christ, using the ancient gift of prayer.
- Gentle Listening: The core work of caring for others through the fine art of spiritual direction, asking great questions followed by the grace to be a gentle listener.
Today, we reach what some would typically say is the cornerstone of pastoral ministry: the core work of teaching and preaching, or as Paul describes it here: getting the word out to others.
But before we tie a ribbon around the work of teaching and preaching, singling it out as the pièce de résistance of pastoral work, might I suggest that Paul sees this teaching and preaching role a bit differently than we might here in the 21st century. You see, in seminaries around the western world, men and women of the cloth have long been taught to become powerful orators, preachers who stand behind pulpits and beckon their flock to come up the mountain to a higher level of faith.
Now please, don’t get me wrong. I truly believe that God’s authority can work amazing miracles through the power of a preacher’s words, but I believe we might just want to broaden our definition a bit on how a man or woman “gets the word out” to others. As we see in Paul’s text today, he not only suggests that we use words to convince others, but that our lives be used powerfully just as well. Let’s look again at the apostle’s list, and allow me, this time, to add in a few simple thoughts along the way:
Paul says…Teach believers with your life:
by word, Yes, we must be able to use words, through both oral and written communication, to clearly convey God’s truth to others. There’s a quote often attributed to Francis of Assisi; “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” As clever as this little ditty sounds, the truth is, Francis did not say such a thing! As a matter of fact, the good saint made it clear in his writings that the preaching of the Gospel message accompanied him on every mission he undertook for the glory of God.
by demeanor, You see, to Paul, the manner in which you or I present ourselves to others counts as much, and maybe sometimes more, than the words we use. Let’s be honest here, it’s truly hard to convey the “good news” of the Gospel when we come off as the bad news; grouchy, ouchy, easily-offended puritans who are repulsed by the sinfulness or immaturity of our audience!
by love, We’ll talk more about this important gift of the Spirit in a later blog, but for now, let it suffice to say that our Gospel-laden words will fall useless to the ground, if our listeners perceive us as un-caring or un-loving.
by faith, If I present myself to others as one who is full of judgement, having little hope or expectancy of good in those I’m preaching to, my words can be powerful but my results will be a complete failure. Believing the best about others, through an expectant faith that God can make good out of the very worst, is a pre-requisite for all who desire to be effective teachers/preachers.
by integrity. If I ever hope to be a man or woman of God who finds long-term success in my preaching and teaching of God’s word, the core truth here is that character truly counts. Sure, I can buzz into town, preach a few good sermons, and see some good things happen. But, as I see it, it’s the men and women who live their sermons out in front of their parishioners who will truly make an impactful difference for the Kingdom of God.
So, there you have it folks.
Teaching or preaching the word of God is so much more than simply getting behind a pulpit and tossing out some impressive words that might tickle people’s ears. No, to Paul, this holy call to teaching must become a core work of the kalós, this ministry we do, by offering our lives daily to the Master, so that the message people hear and see from our lives comes through this fourth key component:
Life-Giving Words & Works.
My prayer: Father God, the power of words is amazing. When You speak, all of creation listens. When well-trained, anointed orators speak, people listen and respond. Yet as Paul writes in one of his letters, I can speak with an eloquent tongue, but if I do so without any love in my heart, I’m nothing more than a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal (1st Corinthians 13: 1). Holy Spirit, go deep within me, changing me from the inside out, so that both my words and works becoming life-giving to all who hear me speak. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: How have I underestimated the corresponding works of my life as it relates to the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of my spoken words? Am I laboring intensely over my oral and written communication while ignoring other important components of my life such as demeanor, love, faith, and integrity?
So, what is God speaking to you today as you guard the kalós, the precious treasure of pastoral ministry, in your life?
In this 26-session blog series, Kalós: Guarding the Precious Treasure, we explore the kalós*, this precious treasure of pastoral ministry that has been deposited into us by the work of the Holy Spirit. We invite you to come along with us, bookmarking this blog’s home page for easy, on-going referencing.
As you go through this blog series, we also suggest that you use the ancient tool of Lectio Divina as you approach each scriptural text we give you in this blog. Lectio Divina is a slow, intentional reading of the Holy Scriptures. Take your time as you ponder the text slowly, allowing the Holy Spirit to illuminate God’s Word for you as you read. Ask the Master as you read, “Jesus, what in this passage do I need to hear today?”
*So, what is kalós?
Kalós comes from a New Testament Greek word which simply means “good.” The apostle Paul, when writing to his young apprentice, Timothy, decided to combine this common adjective, kalós, with a second Greek word, parathéké, a noun which means a deposit or trust committed to one’s charge. As a result, the apostle ends up with one, very powerful phrase! A command that both Timothy, and you and I, truly need to take note of as we continue this ancient work of serving Christ and His Church! “Guard this kalós (this good work, this beautiful deposit, this precious treasure) placed in your custody by the Holy Spirit who works in us.” 2nd Timothy 1: 14