The attitude of a minister
Indeed, what kind of president do you want? Nowadays, if you watch TV or read newspapers, you will see that the U.S. presidential primaries are heating up. While the Republican party has John McCain as its likely candidate, the Democratic side is witnessing a close contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. A joint opinion poll conducted by the United Methodist Church and Jogbi Pool reveals that the majority of U.S. voters desire a leader with ideal characteristics from a biblical perspective. The respondents, comprising a diverse racial and age group across the country, included 25% identified as born-again Christians. Most U.S. voters indicated a preference for a president possessing the qualities of "truthfulness" and "faithfulness," with 75% expressing a desire to maintain the tradition of taking the oath of office with a hand on the Bible. On the other hand, 50% of voters stated that they would not vote for a candidate who does not believe in God (Internet). Reflecting on this survey, it becomes apparent once again how crucial a leader's character is . Particularly, our leaders must be truthful and faithful, a reminder that the qualities we should pursue as church members align with "spiritual attitudes." I hope that we, as individuals and members of our church, will remember the "spiritual attitudes" we should strive for, emphasizing the essential principle: "The kind of person you are is far more important than the kind of work you do." Amidst ministry, one of our top priorities is to develop appropriate spiritual attitudes within our hearts, such as obedience, humility, faithfulness, consistency, loyalty, team spirit, and, most importantly, love.
Today, based on Acts 20:1-16, I would like to explore four attitudes that all church ministers should embody. My wish is that, like Paul, we all have a suitable attitude as ministers and, in doing so, bring glory to God.
First, the minister's attitude is comforting and exhorting.
Look at Acts 20:1-2: "When the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, said farewell and departed for Macedonia. When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece." After the disturbance in Ephesus had subsided, Paul, before leaving what could be considered the headquarters of Asian missions that had prospered for about three years, namely Ephesus (Yoo), called the disciples and comforted them before bidding farewell (v. 1, Park). Upon arriving in Macedonia, where he had established churches during his second missionary journey, he continued to encourage the disciples in that region (v. 2, Yoo). While the specific details of how he comforted his disciples in Ephesus and Macedonia are not recorded in today's passage, it can be inferred that Paul engaged in a ministry of exhortation, aiming to strengthen and mature the faith of his disciples (Yoo). Especially in the case of the disciples in Ephesus, he likely provided guidance on how they should wisely handle social pressures and threats and maintain a faithful Christian life. Among these, there would be content that recalled the teachings Paul had emphasized over the past three years (Yoo). Paul, through the power of God, had preached until midnight in Troas (v. 7). When a young man named Eutychus fell asleep, tumbled from the third story, and died, Paul, through the grace of God, raised him back to life. Witnessing this miraculous event, the people received comfort and were not disheartened (v. 12). In this way, wherever he went, Paul exhorted the disciples to strengthen their faith (Park).
This is the attitude that all of our ministers should adopt. We must handle the ministry of comforting and exhorting the faith of our brothers and sisters. How should we truly comfort and exhort? Look at Titus 1:9 - "He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it." This means that the words of exhortation must be upheld. In other words, they should be carried out in action for them to be effective. However, exhortation emphasizes that it must be in the form of teaching. It implies doing it not according to one's own thoughts or interests but receiving guidance from the Holy Spirit (Internet). So, what is the purpose of exhortation? In 1 Thessalonians 4:1, Paul says, "Finally then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more." Paul's ultimate purpose of exhortation is to please God. Our ministry attitude should be to give comfort rather than seek comfort. I hope that both you and I will be those who exhort our brothers and sisters in love.
Second, the minister's attitude is to be determined.
Look at Acts 20:3 - "There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia." In today's passage, the word 'determined' appears twice. The first 'determined' is found in verse 3. Looking at this verse, after bidding farewell to his disciples in Ephesus and spending three months there, Paul intended to travel through Macedonia to encourage his disciples and then sail to Syria (Antioch). However, when Jews conspired to harm him, he decided to change his plan and return through Macedonia. The second 'determined' is found in verse 16 of today's passage. In this verse, Paul, in the midst of his plan to go to Jerusalem, had carefully laid out his travel itinerary, and this detailed plan is elaborated from verse 13 to 16 in today's passage. In verse 16 of today's passage, we see Paul determined to bypass Ephesus to save time in his journey. As we can see in these two verses, Paul's resolution was clear. Amidst his ministry, he made determined plans. He meticulously planned his journey with the goal of preaching the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome. Even when he learned of the plot by the Jews to harm him, he resolved to change his plans if necessary and make efforts to reach his destination.
Another person in the Bible who made a strong resolution is Daniel. Look at Daniel 1:8 - "But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore, he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself." Daniel made a resolution. He resolved not to defile himself with the king's food and wine in Babylon. And he acted upon it. As a result, after ten days of eating only vegetables and drinking water, Daniel and his three friends (Dan. 1:12) appeared more beautiful and healthier than the young men who ate the king's food (verse 15).
What about our resolutions? Do we truly have a strong resolution to fulfill the clear purpose of soul salvation through preaching the gospel, making God's plan our plan? Personally, I like the third verse of the hymn “Jesus, My Lord to Thee I Cry”: “No preparation can I make, My best resolves I only break, Yet save me for Thine own name's sake, (Chorus) And take me as I am. And take me as I am, And take me as I am, My only plea Christ died for me! Oh, take me as I am.” I appreciate the lyrics of this hymn because they express the desire to be accepted as one is. Therefore, it is a prayer to God: 'Lord, accept me as I am.' In ministry, an important spiritual attitude is a strong resolution to carry out God's plan and accomplish the clear purpose of preaching the gospel for the salvation of souls. And it is acting according to that resolution.
Third, the minister's attitude is to cooperate.
Look at Acts 20:4 - "Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus." In this verse, the names of seven people are written. They represent the churches of each region. Sopater, who had fervently memorized the scriptures daily when taught by Paul in Berea (17:11-12), Aristarchus and Secundus represent the Thessalonica church (v. 4), Gaius and Timothy represent the churches in the southern Galatia region (16:1-2), and Tychicus and Trophimus represent the churches in Asia, centered around Ephesus. They were considered representatives of each Gentile church (Yoo). These representatives were appointed to carry the financial gift collected for the saints in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:25-26; 2 Cor. 8:1-2, 9:1-2) (Park). In today's passage, Acts 20:5, Paul mentions that they went ahead to Troas to wait for him, and in verse 6, we see that Paul and his companions also joined them. In other words, these seven representatives of each local church were accompanying Paul, heading toward Jerusalem, and their purpose was to undertake the ministry of delivering the relief funds for the poor saints in the Jerusalem church (Park).
As we have already reflected in Acts 19:22, Paul had trustworthy and faithful helpers. Among them, one person, Timothy, is mentioned again in today's passage, Acts 20:4. Collaborating with reliable and faithful helpers in the Lord's work is indeed a blessing. However, I often hear stories about missionaries not cooperating with each other in many mission fields. Regarding this, Pastor Hoe-Chang Kim stated in his article ‘The Necessity and Challenges of Cooperative Missions’ the following (Internet): ‘If missionaries who preach the gospel to be united for the purpose of oneness compete, guard against, and cause discord due to their backgrounds, affiliations, or ministries, it would be foolish behavior to achieve a good purpose in an unjust manner.’ He emphasized, ’For the Korean church to conduct healthy and efficient missions, it should avoid an individualistic missionary attitude and engage in cooperative missions.’
- The mission field itself requests cooperative missions through missionaries.
The world that needs to hear the gospel, transformed by the Word of God, is thoroughly divided. There is division between nations, races, classes, the rich and the poor, and regions. Even within the same group or among family members, division exists. All humans are weary of loneliness and individualism. This world is gradually moving towards destruction due to the fever of division. Most importantly, there is severe division between God and humanity. Missionaries seeking to evangelize this world should first possess the spirit of unity and collaboration. If missionaries who are going to reconcile a divided world do not unite and collaborate with each other, their missionary work is likely to return in vain. Cooperative missions are what the artisanal world itself demands for missions.
- The very gospel that missionaries carry to preach itself requests cooperative missions.
Cooperative missions are a request of the Bible and the truth of Christianity. The triune God revealed in the Bible is united in essence and work. The triune God existed together before creating this world, worked together when creating this world, and has been united in the history of humanity and the providence of the universe after creation. The essence of the gospel lies in reconciling humanity, which has severed fellowship with God, and bringing them back into communion with the God who exists and works together. Missionaries carrying this gospel need to first be united among themselves.
- Cooperative ministry is necessary for the efficiency of gospel preaching.
Senk and Stutzman state in their joint work, ‘Creating Communities of the Kingdom,’ that when missionaries collaborate in pioneering churches in mission fields, there are many benefits that cannot be obtained when working alone. Among them, the mention that collaborative ministry creates a 'synergistic effect' in missionary activities is noteworthy. Collaborative ministry among missionaries, mission organizations, or denominations brings about a synergistic effect in terms of effectiveness. When two people work together, they can achieve more effects than the sum of what they could achieve individually. Working together, they can leverage abilities and creativity that they couldn't tap into individually. In collaborative ministry, utilizing each other's spiritual gifts, they can efficiently handle the tasks necessary for missionary work. A missionary may not be able to handle everything individually, and the missionary field is not limitless or insignificant. In collaborative ministry, tasks that cannot be accomplished alone can be efficiently dealt with by leveraging each other's spiritual gifts. Cooperative missions are strongly requested in terms of the efficiency of gospel preaching.
Fourth and last, the attitude of a minister is not delaying.
Look at Acts 20:16 - "Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost." In Acts 20, the passage records the process of Paul leaving Ephesus, where he had been successful in ministry for the past three years, passing through Macedonia and Achaia, and journeying to Jerusalem. A significant portion of this narrative is dedicated to detailing Paul's specific travel itinerary (Yoo). First, in today's verses 1-2, Paul departs from Ephesus to go to Macedonia and then travels through the region of Achaia. In verse 6, after preaching fervently in Troas and raising Eutychus from the dead through God's power (v. 12), Paul departs from Troas and goes to Assos (v. 13). From there, he and his companions take a ship, arriving at Miletus port, where they stay for one day at each harbor, including Gyreum and Samos (v. 15). Paul's plan is to reach Jerusalem by the day of Pentecost without delaying in Asia but quickly visiting Ephesus (v. 16). The total days from Macedonia to Miletus are about 17 days if we combine the 5 days from Philippi to Troas (v. 6), the 7 days from Troas (v. 6), and the 5 days from Troas to Miletus (vv. 14-15). Adding an additional 3-4 days for Paul's meeting with the elders in Miletus brings the total to approximately 20-21 days. Given the remaining days, which are around 30 days, Paul seems to have less time than needed to reach Jerusalem by Pentecost (Yoo). Therefore, Paul did not delay in Asia but urgently went to Jerusalem without visiting Ephesus. This demonstrates how earnestly he desired to go to Rome to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, he ardently longed to fulfill the command to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth, as Jesus promised that He would come again when the gospel is preached to the ends of the earth. This urgency drove Paul to hasten toward Jerusalem.
During the time of the Exodus, as the Israelites were journeying towards the Promised Land of Canaan, let us hear the challenging words that Joshua spoke to the Israelites: "Joshua said to the Israelites, 'How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has given you?'" (Josh. 18:8). Joshua's admonition, urging them to not delay in taking possession of the land that God had promised, is a voice we also hear from God. Until when will you delay in carrying out the work of God, which He has clearly promised, the salvation of souls, in His plan? In our proclamation of the gospel, we need a sense of urgency, just as Paul demonstrated by not delaying. In other words, we need a sense of urgency. We need to heed the voice of urgency. Let us pay attention to Jeremiah 48:10 - "Cursed are those who do the LORD's work with slackness."
The attitude of ministry involves comforting and admonishing. The attitude of ministry is about making decisions. Having a commitment to proclaim the gospel and dedicating ourselves to achieving that purpose is precisely the attitude of ministry. Moreover, the attitude of ministry involves collaboration. Also, the attitude of ministry is about not delaying. I hope and pray that such an attitude will be present in both my ministry and yours.
With deepening awareness that actions must emanate from existence,
(Emphasizing the importance of the character and attitude of ministers)