FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Ministry in the 21st century might bear little resemblance in style to ministry in the first century, but ministers still have the same duty to faithfully preach the Word and to renounce “hidden things of shame,” the president of LifeWay Christian Resources told Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary students during a Feb. 29 chapel service.
“We’re in a very, very interesting time for ministry,” James T. Draper Jr. said. “The message won’t change, but how we approach it, how we do it, the challenges you face” will.
Speaking from 2 Corinthians 4, verses 1, 2 and 5, Draper noted that the Greek word translated minister in verse 1 also means servant.
“It’s always good for us to be reminded that the ministry is a servant ministry,” he said. “That is what the church is all about. If you have any other concept of what you are to do as a minister except being a servant leader, then you’re in the wrong boat. You better quit now.”
Draper then noted the apostle Paul’s reminder to the Corinthians of his receiving mercy from God.
“It’s talking about your salvation. It’s talking about that point in time where we received mercy,” he said. “It is always important for us to remember where we’ve come from. One of the great tragedies is that we often, I think, as ministers forget what it’s like to be lost.”
These verses present two demands that every minister must meet, beginning with a renunciation, he added.
“We have to affirm some things, but we have to renounce some things,” Draper said.
“Most of us flirt with temptation,” he continued. “Temptation comes, and then we toy with the idea and then we make a choice not to yield.”
He added that these verses say that before temptation ever comes, one can make the choice not to give in.
“We just have to say, `These are the parameters of my life. I will not go beyond this.’ And you can do that now, and if you don’t do it now, you’re going to fall victim to temptation in the days that are ahead,” Draper warned.
Among the things a minister has to renounce are “the hidden things of shame and dishonesty,” he said.
“Any time a minister, a servant of God, begins to hide anything, it begins to hollow out your heart and to sabotage your life, and it doesn’t matter what it is,” he said.
“You ask any minister who has sold his ministry for a mess of pottage if it was worth the price, and without exception he’ll say `No,'” Draper said.
The second demand that the minister must meet is proclaiming the clear, unadulterated Word of God.
“We’re not going to be crafty, we’re not going to be subtle or deceitful. We’re not going to do anything that would disillusion or make someone cynical about the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Draper said. “The gospel is a grand and glorious and dramatic and eternal story, and we need to renounce any craftiness by which we would try to trick people into responding.”
In verse 2, Draper highlighted the word “manifesting,” which he said means to reveal or to bring to light.
“Preach the truth,” he challenged. “The bare, naked, unadorned, unaided story of the gospel is sufficient to meet the purposes of God in this world. You don’t have to prop it up.”
Those who want to make the gospel relevant are missing the point, because the gospel is already relevant, Draper said.
Some preachers today, he said, misuse the Word of God by seeing a need, developing a sermon and only then finding a text, instead of starting with a text and preaching that.
This misuse of Scripture is fraudulent, Draper charged, and reflects a lack of confidence in the effectiveness of the gospel.
“We don’t believe it,” he said. “We don’t believe it really works. We don’t believe it’ll really change people’s lives. We want to try to go out and help it out.”
If ministers instead present the gospel as worthy and introduce people to Christ, people will respond, he said, quoting Isaiah 55:11, which states that the Word of God does not return to him empty.
“We may not see all of the fruits of our efforts, but God is going to honor his Word,” Draper said.
The compelling nature of the gospel has been forgotten “only in the West, where we’ve gotten jaded,” he asserted.
On the mission field, Draper said he has noticed that when people hear about Christ for the first time, there’s no doubt in their minds that they’re sinners.
And when they hear the gospel of Jesus, “they’re eager and quick to respond,” he said.