HOW do you measure a minister? Who is a good minister? And what is the shape of success in ministry?
According to Paul, a minister has to watch closely his life and doctrine, and his teaching and ministry.
Notice the importance of taking care to ensure faithfulness in one’s inner life and outer ministry. Watch who you are becoming and what you are doing, the quality of your inner life and your public ministry, your devotion to Christ and your service for Him, the holiness of your character and your effectiveness in ministry.
Exhorting seven ordinands – three Deacons and four Elders – at the Ordination-cum-Closing Service of the 31st Session of the Chinese Annual Conference at TA2 at Telok Blangah Road on Nov 16, 2006, to “Watch Your Life and Doctrine”, the title of his sermon, Bishop Dr Robert Solomon said:
“You were brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching – trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine. You have been trained in words (theological training, etc). But words must be accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit who alone can produce conviction and change of life in people.
“Therefore your training is not over. Ordination is not the end. It is only the beginning.
“Train yourself to be godly. You were trained, now continue training yourself, and the focus of the training is towards godliness.”
The three Deacons who were ordained were Pastor Helen Ho Chiew Ngin, Pastor Lisa Yu Li Hsin and Pastor Wilfred Leow Hui Ann, and the Elders were the Rev Teoh Kean Onn, the Rev Chew Eng Pin, the Rev Chin Yan Chong and the Rev Louis Chai Shung Chee.
What is godliness? How does it look like?
“It looks like Christ,” said the Bishop, “for He is the Model of godliness. To train yourself to be godly means to become like Christ, your Master. It means spending time with Jesus, to learn from Him, to be a true disciple of His, and to be so infused with His Spirit that the fruit of the Spirit will shine through your lives.”
All these principles also apply to the laity, said the Bishop towards the end of his sermon.
To ripples of laughter from the congregation, he said: “You are not excused. You are to also watch your life and service.
“Respect your pastors, don’t look down on them. Observe your pastors. If they are good, you will learn a lot by precept and example. If you see progress in your pastors, encourage them.”
Telling the ordinands to watch their lives, he said the focus today is perhaps too much on skills and gifts or giftings. “You can have the gifts without the graces. Gifts equip us to do the work, but spiritual fruit will last and become part of our character.
“The inner life of the pastor is of utmost importance. Mission naturally follows the life. A weak inner life will result in the erosion of the soul, and decreasing effectiveness in ministry. We may build institutions but they will never last or touch the inner lives of people. We may speak a lot of words but they would have no healing or transforming power. We may teach methods but they cannot change people deeply. We may give a lot of advice but we can never give true spiritual direction.
“Godliness helps us to discern. To the peripheral. What is important and know between that which is central and what is not. What is truth and what is not. Character is essential. “Godliness results in a life lived in hope – in the living God, the Saviour.”
On watching their ministry, Bishop Dr Solomon told the pastors that “the good minister is one who devotes his time to the reading and public teaching of the Word. This is central. “We teach not just by precept but by example. We must not only tell, but show how to live as a disciple of Christ. We must be living examples of the spiritual life, and of Christian maturity.”
He urged them not to neglect their gift, and warned that pastoral ministry could be so diluted and distracted that one neglects one’s spiritual gift which was given for the ministry. The key gift of teaching and preaching, caring for the flock, etc, can be neglected because of the distortions of modern ministry.
He also told them to be diligent. “Diligence means that we do our ministry well, whether we are observed or not. We prepare sermons well. We visit people with a real desire to minister. We give our hearts and minds in preparing and leading worship, teaching, preaching, caring, mentoring.”
Watching life and ministry is never easy. There are so many other things to do, so many distractions. “Also those who do this well often will face serious difficulties and challenges, severe spiritual attacks, because such ministers are really effective and the devil does not like this. That is why Paul uses the word ‘persevere’. Hang on. Be faithful. Fulfil your ministry.
“The result is that we will be saved ourselves. But watching our life and ministry will also save our hearers and those we minister to. It means that our ministry will really be effective, that we will really be able to touch people’s lives, and that people will really find salvation for their souls from our ministry. What a joy that would be. You want your ministry to count for eternity and not to be in vain.
“So watch your life and ministry. Keep your focus on your inner life in Christ. Faithfully discharge your key duties.”
BISHOP Dr Robert Solomon ordaining three new Elders from Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC). They are, from left, the Rev Terence Yeo Ah Sen, the Rev William Sam Kin Leong and the Rev Barnabas Chong Chien Chih.
The ordination took place at the Closing Service of the 31st Session of TRAC on Nov 23, 2006 at Living Hope Methodist Church. The 31st Session was held there from Nov 20 to 23.
The Rev Yeo was appointed Pastor of Barker Road Methodist Church while the Rev Sam was appointed Pastor of Faith Methodist Church. The Rev Chong was appointed Pastor of Paya Lebar Methodist Church.
Earlier, three new Deacons were also ordained by the Bishop. They were Mr Christopher Chin, who was appointed Assistant Pastor of Christ Methodist Church; Ms Lynette Sathiasingam, appointed Assistant Pastor of Faith Methodist Church; and Ms Wendy Watson, appointed Assistant Pastor of Wesley Methodist Church.