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:
- To hold myself accountable. Trust is never out of season, and there’s something healthy about putting these types of things in print.
- 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.
- 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.