Ministers of the gospel need the presence of God in their work, but God will only grant it on His terms, Adrian Rogers declared.
The three-time president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., preached on "arkeology" from selected texts in 1 and 2 Samuel related to the Ark of the Covenant in a May 8 chapel at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.
In spite of efforts by Israel then, and ministers today, God will not be utilized, plagiarized, organized, trivialized, or formalized, Rogers said, listing five principles ministers must understand about God's presence.
"If you're going to serve the Lord, these are things that God has taught and is teaching me, and I pray God will teach you," Rogers told the seminarians.
Describing the ark as a representation of the presence of God with Israel, Rogers noted in 1 Samuel 4 Israel went to battle with her enemy, the Philistines, without the ark and only considered its need when things were going poorly. In spite of "fetching" the ark, the nation suffered a great loss to the Philistines resulting in the loss of the ark.
Like the Israelites who made God an "afterthought," many believers today "get the idea sometimes that God is going to give us victory in spite of our coldness, in spite of our backslidden condition, in spite of our sin, that God is going to give us the victory because we're His people and God is going to do that to protect His glory," Rogers said.
Americans exhibit the same kind of attitude when they "think that God is a part of our natural resources," Rogers said. "We think that we can get the Bible and wrap it in the American flag and God's just going to bless America."
God can't be captured, Rogers said, noting the second principle concerning God's presence from the Philistines' theft of the ark. The Philistines believed they could use the God of Israel for their purposes.
"You can't use somebody else's God," Rogers said, calling it a "great danger with young, embryonic theologues." Young preachers who attempt to mimic what they see veteran ministers do suffer from "secondhand religion," Rogers said.
"We have a lot of young preachers who are preaching things they never experienced," Rogers said. "They hear it on a cassette tape, and it goes in their ear and out their mouth and never goes through their heart. It's secondhand religion — Milli Vanilli preachers," he sarcastically noted, referring to the popular American entertainers who were exposed for lip-synching someone else's music.
King David's attempt to retrieve the ark with great organization found in 2 Samuel 6 illustrates God cannot be managed, Rogers said.
"He had wonderful men — he had 30,000. He had a good method — he had a new cart to haul the ark on. He had wonderful music, and he had a great motive," Rogers said in describing David's organization.
The problem with the method David used is it violated God's way to transport the ark, using instead the Philistine manner of moving the ark with a cart pulled by oxen.
"We have a lot of Philistine philosophy in our churches today," Rogers asserted. "I am amazed at how much Philistine philosophy has invaded the sanctuary. And we wonder what is wrong. We think we know how to do it."
David's violation of God's method of moving the ark — with prescribed priests using staves through rings of the ark to carry it — resulted in the trivialization of God's presence, Rogers noted. In 2 Samuel 6 a man dies because he touches the ark while trying to keep it from falling off the oxen cart.
God was not being cruel in felling the man, Rogers noted. Rather, the man violated God's warning in Numbers that the Israelites were not to touch holy things.
"You know what's happening today?" Rogers asked. "There are people who are committing spiritual suicide by putting unholy hands on holy things.
"I cannot for the life of me … understand how some man, so-called man of God, can stand behind the sacred desk, open the holy Book of God and preach the holy Christ of God while he's living in immorality. I cannot understand that. And they do it Sunday after Sunday. I'm petrified at the thought."
God's presence also cannot be formalized, Rogers said. When David finally brought the ark to Jerusalem with great celebration, his wife, Michal, was embarrassed by David's show of affection for God.
While rejecting false, "cheerleader enthusiasm," Rogers said, "If you love God with all your heart, this God cannot be contained. And the need of the world today is a burning, blazing, emotional love for Jesus Christ. That, more than anything else, will bring people to Christ. The joy of the Lord, it is the attracting power of the church."
Seven Keys to Paul's Ministry
by Bob Griner
To Rick Warren, "Ministry is a marathon."
The pastor of 13,000-member Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif., noted, "It's not how you start in ministry, it's how you finish," during a chapel address at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.
Warren, using 2 Corinthians 4:1-18, gave seven secrets to Paul's ministry to explain "How Not to Perish in the Parish" in his April 23 message.
1 (v. 1) Remember God's mercy. "God has given us our ministries," Warren said. "We don't have to prove our worth through our ministry and we don't have to wallow in our mistakes."
2 (v. 2) Heed the warning for Christians not to distort the Word of God and to be truthful and honest in all they do. "Maintain your integrity," Warren said, "because integrity produces power in your life, while guilt zaps your energy."
3 (v. 5) Be motivated to work for Jesus' sake, not out of selfish desires. "We need a right motivation. A lot of guys start off as servants and end up celebrities," Warren said. "You need to learn to live your life for an audience of one — Jesus Christ."
4 (v. 7) Realize that Christians are only human. "We must accept our limitations, and the quickest way to burn out is to try to be Superman," Warren said.
5 (v. 15) Develop a true love for others. "Churches thrive, grow, and survive when love endures," Warren said. "You must love people or you won't last in the ministry."
6 (v. 16) Allow time for inward rejuvenation. "Divert daily, withdraw weekly, and abandon annually," Warren advised. "Take time for recharging. Like the Air Force, we need to learn the art of mid-flight refueling."
7 (v. 17-18) Stay focused on the important things, not distracted by momentary troubles. "Keep your eyes on the goal, not the problem. Only he who sees the invisible can accomplish the impossible," Warren said.
To be a winner in the marathon of ministerial service, Christians need to realize "great people are just ordinary people with an extraordinary amount of determination," Warren said.