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‘Spiritual heroes’ needed as models for Christian life, Coppenger says

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Just as boys and girls need heroes they can look up to and model their lives after, Christian ministers should be “spiritual heroes” who do not disappoint those who admire them, Mark Coppenger said May 5 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The 1919 World Series in which the Chicago White Sox threw the series in a gambling scandal was the backdrop of Coppenger’s chapel message from Acts 20:17-38. Coppenger is president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Mo.
“Say it ain’t so, Joe! Say it ain’t so,” was the cry of a crestfallen boy to “Shoeless” Joe Jackson after learning the baseball player was involved in the scandal.
“We hear that a lot of pastors are less than heroic,” Coppenger said. “They crash and burn. We’re dumfounded by it. Satan is banqueting today. Let us resolve that, should we see each other 20 years from now, we would not have to look up and say, ‘Say it ain’t so. Say it ain’t so, Mark. … Tell me you wouldn’t do that.’ But let us resolve on this day to be heroic for the glory of God.”
Using the apostle Paul’s farewell address the Ephesian elders recorded in Acts 20, Coppenger enumerated various marks of spiritual heroism evident in the famous missionary’s life.
Although many may think it is obvious to say ministers serve the Lord, Coppenger disagreed. “Most people don’t serve the Lord. In fact, many people in the ministry don’t serve the Lord. They serve their careers. They serve their retirement income. They serve their name. They serve their families. Relatively few purely serve the Lord,” he declared.
Reminded of a church camp experience in which he helped find a child’s missing retainer in mounds of garbage, Coppenger said of ministry service, “For every moment of glamour standing in the pulpit at Southern Seminary with kind introductions and glorious music, there are hours and hours of just fishing around in the muck. And if you’re in this for the glory and the comfort, then you don’t know what it is to serve the Lord.”
Spiritual heroes not only serve the Lord, they do so sometimes at great cost, Coppenger preached.
“Spiritual heroes are in conflict. They have scars. They’re beaten up. If you think that you can serve Christ effectively and go into the locker room at the end of life with a clean uniform, you’re missing it,” Coppenger insisted. “I want to go in with the other guys’ paint streaked on my helmet. I want to have my jersey torn. I want to have mud in my cleats. I want to have my fingers taped and bloodied. I want to have grass stains up and down. I want to have mud in my hair. When I walk into that (locker room), I want to have been tested.”
Noting not all who are persecuted are righteous, Coppenger said, “If you are a giant, you will be tested. You will endure unspeakable abuse. Count on it. Don’t run from it. Following the Beatitudes, give thanks.
“And I’ll say, your president knows this well. He is heroic,” he added concerning R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Coppenger said heroic Christian ministers also are good spiritual doctors who administer the proper doses and types of medicine to those who are ailing, adding, “Sometimes doctors hurt you and sometimes they make you feel good. … But the point is not to feel good or feel bad. The point is to bring health.”
Many Christians are much like track athletes who practice how to start races but never seem to get beyond great starts, Coppenger said. “Their whole life is just starts. And we see that in the ministry. Just starts.” Instead, he added, such believers need to learn how to finish the race, like the apostle Paul.
“Give us the long-distance, steady, faithful runner. When it’s fun. When it’s boring. When everybody’s there. When nobody’s there. When you feel good. When you feel bad. When it costs you. When it pays off. Steady. Steady,” Coppenger said.
Noting the Ephesian elders parted with Paul with tears in their eyes, knowing they would not see him again, Coppenger said, “God can make you so heroic, so splendid, so essential to one another, that as you leave we cry. Or as you have to leave, you cry at the thought of parting. Isn’t it extraordinary that he can make you that wonderful?”

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  • James A. Smith
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