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Clear principles for ministry found in Paul’s teachings, Begg says

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The ministry is not a picnic or carnival and is a task that requires determination, conviction and a reliance on God, said Alistair Begg, pastor of Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio.
“This is no place for the fainthearted,” Begg said in an Oct. 13 address at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
“This is no place for those who are on a fool’s errand. This is not Bible camp. This will take everything in you.”
Begg was one of the keynote speakers for Southern Seminary’s inaugural Heritage Week. Begg said the apostle Paul would have been greatly alarmed if he had been asked to speak at many modern-day conferences on ministry.
“I wonder what he would have thought about spending a great deal of time on the nature of blended worship,” Begg said.
Likewise, Paul would have been dismayed to hear such addresses as “the pastor and his computer,” “the pastor as a change agent” and “seven skills for highly effective pastoring,” Begg surmised.
“You can just imagine him laying the phone down on his desk and saying, ‘My, my. I don’t know what I’m going to do with these people,'” Begg said. Instead, Begg said Paul gave several principles for ministry in 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 that Christians should heed.
The first of Paul’s principles was for ministers not to lose heart.
“This is for Paul a real temptation, and it is for Paul an understandable tendency,” Begg said. “One of the things that you will face regularly is the temptation to lose heart.”
Unfounded accusations and unrealistic expectations follow ministers constantly, Begg told students. And trying to break through the apathy of church members, especially when “their yawns are like crocodiles swallowing sheep whole,” is frustrating.
“You can’t overcome that by any sense of personal charisma or competence,” Begg said. “The almost debilitating sense of indifference falls on you like a wet blanket.”
Another principle Paul gave was to avoid deception.
“An easy-going, theologically vague, harmlessly accommodating theology is the product of the deceived and the deceiving,” Begg said. “A failure to declare the gospel of God in all of its full-orbed authority and certainty is in itself a form of deception.”
Paul also warned against distorting the word of God in an attempt to make the message more palatable.
“We face a church that has lost its nerve,” Begg lamented. “Instead of conveying God’s truth and the power of the Holy Spirit, and challenging the cultural darkness, all too often what is heard in our apparent gospel presentations is a reflection of the darkness, so that we preach to people about wholeness rather than holiness. We describe sin in terms of dysfunction. Salvation is presented as a form of recovery. Therapeutic language replaces the moral and the theological.”
The fourth principle Begg cited was for ministers to resist the temptation to preach themselves, rather than Christ.
“You and I cannot make much of ourselves and much of the Lord Jesus simultaneously when we preach or when we live,” he said. “Resist the personality cult. Get a good wife. She’ll tell you the truth.”
Finally, Begg encouraged students to set forth the truth plainly and preach Jesus Christ as Lord.
“Undefined Christianity is popular. It is vaporized,” Begg said. “Defined Christianity is unpopular.”
And although the ministry is often difficult and fraught with peril, Begg added, God will bless those who are faithful to him.
“God, who can speak out of Balaam’s donkey, who can raise up children for Abraham out of stones, has somehow in the mystery of his providence, on account of his mercy, entrusted us with this ministry,” he said.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth
    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.Read All by Tim Ellsworth ›