RETIREMENT, ORDINATION-CUM CLOSING SERVICE OF THE 34TH SESSION OF THE CHINESE ANNUAL CONFERENCE
THE PASTOR’S FEARS, the Pastor’s Tears, the Pastor’s Ears, the Pastor’s Years.
What do they have in common? Answer: The presence of God.
Bishop Dr Robert Solomon touched on these four topics in his sermon at the Retirement, Ordination-cum-Closing Service of the 34th Session of the Chinese Annual Conference at Paya Lebar Chinese Methodist Church on Nov 12, 2009. The Rev Louis Chai, Pastor-in-Charge of the church, was the interpreter.
Basing his message on Acts 20: 17-31, the Bishop urged the ordinands, pastors as well as church members to “Be Shepherds of the Church of God”, the title of his sermon.
He ordained two ministers as Elders – the Rev Paul Thian Moon Hee and the Rev Jasper Sim Shenq Chyi.
He began by showing that the apostle Paul, a man who was on fire for the Lord, faced great challenges. Immediately after Paul was converted, he preached and angered the Jews, so much so that they conspired to kill him (Acts 9: 23, 29). Everywhere Paul went, a Jewish mob followed him to create trouble for him. Pastors have their fears too. A student
who is about to graduate and begin pastoral ministry dreams of anxiety.
Will I be abused? Will I be a victim? Will I lose out? The answer to such fears is to fear the Lord and trust Him. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
On the topic of the Pastor’s tears, the Bishop pointed out that twice in the passage, Paul mentions tears. The tears refer to both deep passion and compassion – essential qualities in pastoral ministry.
“There should be more tears in the presence of God than in the presence of men. But the point here is that ministry must be done with the heart, not just with the hands (activist professionalism) and the head (intellectual professionalism).
“Notice the connection between tears and humility (v.19). Tears shed by pride are tears of self-pity and anger.
Humility’s tears are tears of contrition and compassion. That’s the kind of tears that is redemptive and transformational.”
The ears are most important for the pastor, said the Bishop. The most important Person to hear is God Himself. Paul spoke of how the Holy Spirit regularly spoke to him. He was warned by the Holy Spirit in every city” “that prison and hardships are facing me” (v 23).
If Paul was not listening, he might have given up, or entered the ring to fight the wrong fight. Instead he stayed on and for a year and a half, taught the people the Word of God. He remained faithful to his calling and his ministry, and he focused on the Word – “which is what primarily should enter our ears and heart”.
“Listening to God will also help us to listen to the flock and minister to their real needs.”
A pastor whose ears are blocked will see his ministry die. Paul knew that trouble waited for him, even as it had pursued him everywhere.
But he did not give up. He was totally committed to Jesus. He was faithful to Jesus. He was a man who followed Jesus all his years by carrying his cross and denying himself.
His driving force was two-fold. Firstly to finish the race. That has to do with God’s work in him – to grow into Christ-likeness.
Secondly, to complete the task – the task has to do with what we do outwardly. The task is defined as “testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (v 24). This includes preaching, teaching, spiritual direction, living as a model.
Paul was fearless and faithful. What motivated him? The Blood of Jesus. Acts 20:28 says “Be shepherds of the church of God which he bought with his own blood.”
“The church belongs to God. It is not yours or mine. Secondly, it was purchased with the precious blood of Jesus. How careful we must be with the things of God,” said the Bishop, who concluded by reminding the congregation that “pastoral ministry is not easy but is also a great privilege”.
“God knows the pastor’s fears (I am with you). He sees the pastor’s tears (I will bless you). He speaks to his ears (I will feed and guide you). He will use all his years for His glory (till the end of the age).” By Peter Teo
Peter Teo is the Editor of Methodist Message.