Recently, a friend of mine posted the above picture of a well-used Bible with the following caption: “One of my most prized possessions on this Earth. My grandpa preached, counseled, and studied from this Bible. I love reading it every morning in my office. It is a time that I feel I see his thoughts and guidance through the notes he jotted down. He stood for what was right even when it was wildly unpopular even within his own family.”
I love that post for several reasons. First, it reminds me that my most important legacy I leave to the next generation is a consistent, obvious relationship with God’s Word that we will come back to in a few sentences. Secondly, the “grandpa” being referred to was Pastor Richard Folger, my first pastor and the one who preached a poignant sermon on hell that prompted me to go home and get saved that very Wednesday night beside my bunk bed with my brother Travis. It is possible and even very likely that the sermon he preached that night was out of this very Bible! Wow! What a legacy!
The picture coming up in my social media feed a week ago jarringly reminded me of what really matters in my ministry. From being on the receiving end of a simply-faithful pastor, I have realized anew and afresh that it is not the sophisticated, networked, platformed whatever that validates pastoral ministry; it is all about my faithful adherence to divine revelation…plus nothing…minus nothing. That alone is what changes the eternal destinies of my flock and community! That alone is what will supernaturally outlive me!
Here a few takeaways that I hope will help my family and ministry descendants build upon my biblical legacy:
My preaching needs to allow God’s eternal Word, not the immediate verbal and nonverbal responses of others to validate my pulpit ministry.
As a seasoned pastor recently posted, “The final evaluation of a sermon will be at the end of the age, not the end of the service. Lord, help me to be faithful.” I would echo that prayer.
As a faithful shepherd, I must counsel with a resilient confidence in the all-sufficiency of Scripture that doesn’t “need” the ever-shifting models and techniques of pop psychology.
While we may utilize certain assessments or data, either 2 Peter 1:3 is true or it is not when it says, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.”
My teaching and preaching ministry must be less about manufactured volume/intensity and more about biblical substance.
As H.B. Charles recently said, “”Passion is no substitute for clarity, volume is no substitute for content, emotions is no substitute for conviction.” Less topical tirades. More expositional teaching. Less passive aggressiveness. More Spirit-led unction. When considering what will stand the test of time, it is definitely less about our INTENSITY and more about God’s INSPIRATION.
I am determined to leave behind me a pervasive love for and application of the Word of God over a love for my delivery style or pulpit personality.
How our people feel and what they do with God’s Word on Monday through Saturday says much more about the enduring effect of our ministry than their immediate “amen’s” on Sunday. Are we producing believers like the Bereans who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so (Ac. 17:11)?” Is our ministry resulting in not just hearers but doers of the Word…all week long? That alone will endure.
In our digital and virtual age, I insist on being identified with a physical copy of God’s Word.
Tim Challies, the ubiquitous blogger, writes, “So what’s the argument for continuing to use a printed Bible? It allows you to leave behind a tangible link to your faith. When you have run your race and received your reward, your Bible will live on as a testimony to your interests, to your character, and ultimately, to your Christian profession. That’s something I just can’t do with my app and my tablet.” A good thought to at least check our “easier” but also often intangible preferences.
At the end of the post, my friend Adam said, “I long to hear his voice and his laugh again, but while I’m here on this earth, I’ll treasure these pieces that he left for us.” While he will never hear the voice of his grandfather again this side of heaven, he will continue to hear the Word of God that “liveth and abideth forever.“
Pastor friend, it really is that simple. It is that Scriptural. Be a man of the Book. Visit other books. Live in God’s book and it will outlive you.
2 Timothy 4:1-5 “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”