This past Lord’s Day, it was an honor to be installed as the new senior pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio (an eastern suburb of Cleveland). One of the men who spoke at the service was Jeff Powell, the district superintendent of the Evangelical Free Church of America. Unbeknownst to Jeff, he selected the same passage of Scripture that I had chosen in the early 1990s to be my “life ministry verses.”
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:24-29)
From this passage, Jeff charged me with four reminders:
Remember to Rejoice (v. 24).
Jeff charged me to never forget to rejoice in my sufferings because the ministry we have been called to, and the faith we walk in, will include sufferings. There will always be opposition to the gospel call to Christ. Maintaining my joy is one key area where I have failed in the past. So how do I keep my joy in ministry? Jeff charged me to keep my joy in the ministry by maintaining a deep, intimate relationship with Christ; not sacrificing ministry time to do ministry at the expense of my personal time with God. I must not allow ministry duties to disrupt my time with God.
Remember the Commission Is from God, not Man (v. 25a).
The apostle believed that since his call came from God, he could do nothing else. The call that Paul received was not to a position. The call was to serve Christ in a specific way through the gospel. It was not a call to a specific church or office. It was an assignment to serve his Master, the Lord Jesus. This commission was given and defined by God. Therefore, I must always guard my commission in a way that never allows me to place any earthly expression of the calling above the divine calling to the gospel itself. As a side note, Jeff charged the congregation to remember that their pastor is not their hired man. He is not sent by God for their purposes, but brought to fulfill God’s purposes, which includes caring for the flock.
Remember the Centrality of the Gospel (vv. 25b-27).
The gospel saved the apostle Paul and was the basis upon which his entire ministry was built. His call was to serve as a minister of the gospel. Today, a temptation in ministry is to get overly creative. Jeff charged me to never, never stray from the gospel; it is Christ whom I must proclaim. He is our only hope. The gospel ministry is a call to live out the hope of His glory. I must give my new flock the confidence of the gospel and the uncomfortableness of the gospel.
Remember to Make Disciple-makers for Christ (vv. 28-29).
A church is not called to make church attenders; we are called to make disciples. There is a big difference. Verse 28 gives a clear sense that the apostle was relentless in the task of moving believers toward maturity. We have too many churches filled with consumers and spectators. Jeff charged me to remember that my call is to proclaim the gospel and show believers how living out the gospel is how we are called to live. To do that, I must proclaim Christ. My job is to point people back to Christ, to instruct and admonish the flock, to direct them and to set their hearts in place.
These are important reminders from a cherished passage of Scripture. They serve as a high charge to me. I appreciate your prayers for me as I carry out the Lord’s calling in a new place. If you are ever visiting Cleveland, please come worship with us.