Friday, January 27, 2006

Lemon Cheesecake Kitkat, ACM, John the Baptist and Pastor-Teachers

So Kitkat in Lemon Cheesecake flavour arrived on our shores in time for last Sunday's ARPC's meeting with the cheesy acronym ("ACM" for Annual Congregational Meeting: the Presbyterian practice which includes amongst other things, the voting in by the congregation of those pastors, elders and deacons who are up for re-election).

Sim Boon Yong gave a quick sermon on John 1:19-51 at the Combined Service before the ACM. Almost in passing, he observed that John the Baptist, who came as the messenger to prepare the way for Jesus, was not shy to point people to Jesus.

Pointing People to Jesus
Duh! We might say, of course John the B should direct people to Jesus. After all, he wasn't the Christ (1:20), nor Elijah come again (1:21a), nor the Prophet (1:21b), nor the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (1:29).

And double duh! Who was John the B in relation to Jesus? John baptised with mere river water , but Jesus would baptise with the Holy Spirit. Jesus existed waaay before John, and so Jesus of course ranked far above John (1:30). Jesus was so much more than John that John would not even be worthy to untie a strap on Jesus' dirty sandy sandal (1:27). For Jesus was nothing less than the Son of God (1:34).

So what's the big fat hairy deal about him witnessing about Jesus? The deal is sinfulness, the problem that besets all people here on earth.

See what happened when he pointed Jesus out to his disciples:
John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said,"Behold, the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. (1:35-37)
By witnessing about Jesus, John lost his disciples. They upped and left possibly without so much as a thank you.

Our minds tell us that we are not bigger than Jesus, that we are nothing compared to the Christ, the Elijah, the Prophet, the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, the Son of God himself. Yet our sinful pride often stings when people leave our local churches or our bible study groups for another one that also faithfully teaches the gospel. Do we really care about pointing out Jesus to those in our care? Do we rejoice that there are other groups of Christians that also teach and shepherd God's people in love and truth? Or do we rankle at this intrusion onto "our turf" and accuse those other people of sheep-stealing or spread nasty rumours about them?

So one goal of a pastor-teacher is to point people to Jesus, to build up the relationship between the sheep and the God of the entire universe; to make them followers of Him, not our disciples.

There is a further goal of the pastor-teacher which is linked to the first, just as the love of God is linked inexorably and irrevocably to the love of neighbour. David Jackman in "Understanding the Church" put it nicely:

Supplies Division
The most well-known parts of the church body are the evangelists and the pastor-teachers. The word "pastor" means shepherd (Latin pāstor = shepherd). Every church needs a shepherd, suggests Ephesians 4. The pastor-teacher (the words come together) is provided to look after and nurture the flock, by feeding them on the pure Word of God's truth.

Pastors and teachers are God's gifts to the church. They are not produced by the church. Nor are they employees of the church. They are given to it by the Head of the church, who is the Lord. The work of these leaders, who are so gifted with pastoring or teaching skills, in the church is never an end to itself. The aim of the pastor-teacher is not just to care for and feed the sheep. The greater goal (Ephesians 4:12) is to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

The point of gifting these pastors and teachers is the whole people of God, the church. Not the personal edification or satisfaction of the people so gifted. The gifts have particular functions in the church and are primarily given so that the whole body may be prepared for its work of service (diakonia. This became the English word "deacon" which we have come to associate with a particular office in the church). The whole church is made up of "deacons"; everyone is to be committed to the work of ministering/serving and the ministry/service of every member of the body is essential if the body is to grow.

The ministry of pastor-teachers is to bring the people of God into a state of readiness so that they are able to do their personal work of ministry, to which every Christian is called and must be committed. They are the supplies division. If you do not have a supplies division, your army cannot advance. On the front, they will be sick and starved.

So it is the job of those who teach and pastor to encourage the body in their connection with the head, and by doing so, also supply what is needed by every Christian for their works of service amongst the different members of the body.

Sidenote 1: see the unhappy heart-chilling goings-on with RC Sproul Jr and St. Peter Presbyterian Church. I pray this might never happen to our local church. But if it doesn't, it will be by the grace of God alone. For the hearts of men, even reformed evangelical men are deceitful above all.

Sidenote 2: in the zealous folly of youth, in line with the idea that bible study leaders should not be out to gain a following, I decided that the way to prevent people from depending on the leaders for encouragement for continuing in their Christian walk and falling through the cracks if they were shifted from their current group in the biennial (if someone remembers to do it) DG mixer was to consciously leave off the charisma (if any) and be completely disengaged with them relationally, allowing them to stand on their two feet from the beginning. This of course, incurred the opposite error of appearing as if no one loved or cared for them. Somewhere, perhaps Paul of the Many NT Letters may have struck the balance between heavy-handed shepherding and seemingly total bo-chap-ness. But then again he didn't stay with one local church for very long.

Sidenote 3: only because of the fever. Happy 250th, Mozart! But we don't know if you're happy where you are or if your music still being played after 200 years means anything to you in light of your eternal future.

Things Undone, Hobbies, Rest and the Successful Christian Life


At February 02, 2006 11:13 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

RC Sproul Jr was indeed defrocked. The entire Declaratory Judgment is here.


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