Trusting Timothy

On Sunday nights we are studying the book of 1 Timothy. It’s the first of two letters from the apostle Paul to Timothy, his young protégé in ministry serving as the pastor of the Ephesian church. Paul’s aim is to instruct Timothy as to “how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth,” (1 Tim. 3:15). He gives Timothy general instructions for ministry and life in the local church — combating false teaching, gender roles, leadership structure, ministering to various demographics, etc.

Embedded among these instructions, Paul gives Timothy what might be thought of as the basics of pastoral ministry (4:6-16). During our study on Sunday nights, we pulled out various fundamentals that every faithful pastor, or as Paul says, “good servant of Christ Jesus,” (v. 6) should embrace in his ministry, such as: teaching the flock, guarding the truth, setting the example, and so forth.

As Paul ends this section, he reminds Timothy that ministry involves people. He writes, “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity,” (1 Tim. 5:1-2). These two verses serve a dual role. First, to transition into the final two chapters 5-6 covering the how to’s of ministry across demographics (widows, pastors, slaves, rich). But the second is our focus, where Paul uses these two verses as a conclusion, a bow of sorts, on the former material (4:6-16).

What then is Paul teaching Timothy? He is reminding him that to be involved in ministry, whether full-time, part-time or any-time, is to be involved in — as we say at Coats Baptist — the people business. In his instruction to Timothy, Paul therefore reveals a key ingredient for healthy pastoral ministry: Trust.

From a human perspective, trust is the glue that holds people together. To be sure, the local church shepherd does well to major on the basics of pastoral ministry. But he cannot, he must not, forget that ministry means people and people means trust. Paul is warning young Timothy, he may preach great sermons, he may pray down heaven, he may cast a compelling vision, but if the people do not trust him — he doesn’t have a ministry. And the same is true for every pastor today.

In regards to church ministry, how then does a pastor earn trust with people? I believe the answer is found by surveying the correspondence (both letters) between Paul and Timothy. As we do, we find key tenets of trust to encourage healthy gospel ministry in the local church. To help us think it through, I’ve fleshed out a simple acrostic: TRUST.

Teach the Text

Everything starts with Scripture. “Please open your Bibles” should always be good words to hear. (1 Tim. 1:3; 3:2; 4:6; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-4:2)

Build the Relationship

Ministry happens at a real life level. We are a relational people, designed for community, made in the image of God. (1Tim. 5:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:2; 4:11, 19-21)

Feed the Unity

God has given us a great unity in the gospel. We do not have to create gospel unity. But we do have to guard it, and feed it. (1 Tim. 1:5, 15; 2:4-6; 2 Tim. 1:10; 2:8-9)

Set the Standard

Always. Above. Reproach. Period. The waves are high, but we cannot afford a shipwreck. There is precious cargo on board. (1 Tim. 4:12, 16; 6:11-14; 2 Tim. 1:13-14; 2:20-22)

Spend the Time

Not days, maybe weeks, perhaps years. A special bond is created as people do life together through the seasons. (1 Tim. 3:6, 10; 5:22; 2 Tim. 1:5)

What would you add to this list?

I write this post for several reasons:

  1. To hold myself accountable. Trust is never out of season, and there’s something healthy about putting these types of things in print.
  2. To remind you of your responsibility in the church. You may not be a pastor, deacon, or ministry leader. But if you are a follower of Christ, you are an agent (and conduit) of trust.
  3. To encourage us all during times of transition. Whether it’s new staff/pastoral positions, facility renovations, or ministry development, many healthy churches like ours are walking together in a season of transition and looking forward to good days ahead.

Like many of you, I’ve followed Jesus long enough to know the significance of trust.

If people trust one another, as brothers and sisters in the gospel, there is no limit to what God can do. Let me encourage you to lean in as an agent of trust in the local church. Pray for our people, pray for your pastors. Let’s journey safely home together.

Discovery of the Heart: The Hypocrite Within

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me, and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; Lead me in the everlasting way.” – Psalm 139:23-24

Hypocrisy is not an accusation that’s easily accepted. But I stand guilty as accused. If that weren’t enough, my accuser correctly pointed to pride as the root of my hypocrisy. Ouch.

This discussion – if you can call it that – took place as I prepared for a recent small group lesson on the spiritual discipline of journaling. My accuser had me alone, had my complete attention, and had me dead to rights.

Unfortunately, my accuser was me. I had nowhere to run.

My rather significant discovery and resulting self-discussion took place while preparing for a recent small group lesson on the spiritual discipline of journaling. I was preparing to teach journaling all the while making mental excuses as to why I didn’t practice it.

I looked at time as an excuse.  I looked at lack of personal interest as an excuse. I looked at a lack of biblical command as an excuse.

My excuses failed to carry any weight. I have been given as many hours each day as anyone. I have just as much time as Jim Elliott, as George Whitefield, as David Brainard, as George Muller, and as Jonathan Edwards. Their journals fueled their personal growth and have inspired generations of Christians to a life of godliness. Time is no excuse. How I use my time is a choice.

Using my lack of personal interest as an excuse also failed. The idea and purpose behind spiritual journaling is to record and reflect on how and where God has worked in your life. A spiritual journal is a tool, not a diary. There’s no question that I could benefit from a tool that helps me understand God better, capture my reflections on scripture, help me process my thoughts and feelings, and remember all that He has done for me. My personal interest certainly should include such things as these. Another excuse gone.

Well, I told myself, God didn’t command spiritual journaling in the Bible. That’s true, but He certainly demonstrated its value in the Bible. Many of the psalms, perhaps the whole book of Lamentations, and countless other passages throughout the Bible are demonstrative of thoughts journaled as reflections on present circumstances, contemplations on scripture, and observations of God’s character and work.

Confronted with the reality of my excuses being hypocritical, I realized I was just scratching the surface of my insincerity. My hypocrisy was far deeper still.

My excuses were, in fact, a cover for the truth: I simply didn’t want my thoughts written out. I again began to rationalize that I didn’t want others – even my own family – to perhaps see my thoughts after my death.

There was some logic there, but then, the whole truth finally hit me: I wasn’t concerned about others, it was me … I didn’t want to see my own thoughts written out. I didn’t want to confess – to admit – to myself, or to anyone else including God, my true thoughts.

Rather than facing the truth of my weak and sinful nature, it was easier to gloss over them and ignore their reality. Writing out the truth made it impossible to ignore.

How hypocritical. How totally prideful. My excuses were wrapped up in, indeed, rooted in pride. I thank God for showing this ugly truth to me.

The discipline of spiritual journaling may remain a struggle for me, but it is now my prayer that I be willing to confront my pride by putting thoughts and observations out for personal review and reflection. I pray that I spend time earnestly examining how God has proved Himself throughout my life. I pray that I be courageous enough to journal knowing that my family, my children, even my grandchildren may see the inner me. I pray that they may they take comfort in, and learn from, my spiritual journey just as I love to learn from those that gone before me.

I pray that, like the Psalmist, I can proactively petition God to “Search me … and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; Lead me in the everlasting way.”

Share Your Story

I have the joy and privilege to lead the college agers small group, alongside my fiancée, every Monday evening. We have a rather large small group that’s comprised of a wonderful mix of Campbell students, CBC “homegrown” 18-25 year olds, young couples, and their friends. Every week, I’m encouraged by their desire to grow in Christ, live in Christian community, and simply enjoy one another’s company. Most of the spring semester was spent walking through the book of Ecclesiastes. I thought about writing about our study, but decided it would be meaningless… then again, all is meaningless! (If you didn’t realize that was a joke, read practically every other verse in Ecclesiastes and you’ll understand.)

Since that study wrapped up, we’ve been spending time to intentionally talk about what God has done in our lives through sharing our testimonies. It’s been an immense blessing to hear one another being vulnerable and transparent while pointing each other to God’s great work in their lives. Since most of us have been together for the school year, or at least this semester, there is a level of trust and openness that allows for deep, meaningful conversations to occur naturally.

If you’re anything like me, I’m more often than not hesitant to openly share my testimony in a group setting. When you grew up in church and your testimony doesn’t include a dramatic before and after life change, it’s easy to view your own testimony as less powerful in comparison to those saved from x, y, z.

That’s a lie from the devil to keep you quiet.

Every testimony of salvation is powerful because God took you from death to life. He freed you from the bondage of sin. He gave you His Spirit to dwell in you.

And that’s worth sharing! Why?

1. Your testimony is more about God than it’s about you.

When you share what your life was like before Christ and compare to your life after Christ, the difference is obvious: CHRIST! Whenever you share your story, make sure it points others back to God. Nothing we have done or can do to “be better” is from our own strength or goodwill. Transformation is found in humble obedience to God and faith in His power to change your heart. The Spirit at work in us is our story. The good news of the Gospel is our story. The heart of God is our story.

2. The more you share, the more natural it becomes.

Practice makes perfect, right? God doesn’t desire for us to remain silent when it comes to His goodness. Make it a habit to share what God is doing in your life to other people. You don’t have to formally share your testimony to a group of people that often, or ever. But I believe that there are times every day that we can speak truth and encouragement into the lives of others. God puts people in our path that need hope. Be ready and eager to share!

3. You need reminding.

We are forgetful people. We too easily fail to remember that God has done a mighty work. He has made promises that He has kept. He has answered prayers. He has done exceedingly more than we can ask or imagine. And He’ll do it again. The more we recount God’s faithfulness and goodness, the more our eyes become fixed on Him. Forget yourself. Forget your circumstances. Remember Christ.

4. It’s never over.

The testimony I shared in high school is different (and a lot shorter) than the testimony I share now. Granted, you don’t have to share every single detail each time you share your testimony. Follow God’s lead and know your audience so they hear what God wants them to hear. My point is, as you grow in your walk with Christ and life happens, your testimony will expand. There will be more answered prayers, comforts in loss, peace in storms, and unmerited blessings to share.

If it’s been a while since you’ve shared your testimony – I encourage you to do so. Start in a safe space with a friend, family member, or your small group. Be ready to share with a non-believer. They need to hear the Gospel and they need to see God at work in the lives of ordinary people. For His glory, share your story!

The Humanity of Jesus

Recently, our family stumbled across the globally popular tv show called The Chosen. If you haven’t heard, it is the first multi-seasonal show on the life of Jesus. I tend to be overly critical when it comes to visual representations of the Bible because they require writers to make assumptions about missing details in Scripture. However, the creators of this show were very intentional to fill those gaps without taking away or adding to the Gospel message.

Don’t worry, this isn’t an advertisement. I simply wanted to share what the show led me to consider. The show does an excellent job highlighting the humanity of Jesus and the disciples. It is fascinating to compare the humanity of Jesus and the disciples throughout the show.

I found myself wondering what Jesus was like. What human aspects did He have? I have been reading in the Old Testament for a while, so I turned to the New Testament to observe Jesus’ humanity this week. We know that Jesus had a human body that grew like ours (Luke 2:40). We know that He got hungry (Matthew 4:2), thirsty (John 19:28), and tired (John 4:6).  We also know that He experienced temptation (Luke 4:1-2). These are all characteristics He shared with the disciples and us, yet Jesus never sinned. It is such a simple truth, but it is foundational to our faith.

But then I look at the disciples. They were hungry, thirsty, tired, and tempted, just like Jesus. Yet, they complained (John 6:60-61), bickered (Luke 9:46), and sinned (John 18:15-18). I can certainly relate to the disciples. I strive to follow Jesus’ example, but sin just always gets in the way. I always miss the mark.

But Jesus.

Jesus is a glimpse into what humanity was supposed to look like! He is a glimpse into what humanity will look like again!

Jesus is the true example we are to follow in both character and conduct. He regularly prayed (Luke 10:21), worshiped at the synagogue (Luke 4:16), read and memorized Scripture (Matthew 4:4-10), and observed the Sabbath (Luke 4:16). He knew when to be silent (Matthew 27:12), and He knew when to speak.

The disciples might have complained, bickered, and sinned, but Jesus still used them to spread the Gospel! And He still uses sinful humans to accomplish kingdom work. Though Jesus is no longer physically here on Earth, we can still learn from His life. This week find ways to be more like Jesus.