Thursday, October 29, 2015

Partner in Ministry

It's day four of the final week of Pastor Appreciation month. God has encouraged me greatly as I have reflected back over those He has used to influence the path He has me on in this crazy play unfolding on the stage of life. Many of us could point to pastors who have influenced us in our childhood and in our adult life. Others of us smile as we see those who have come along through a children's ministry or a youth ministry being called into ministry of some kind to accomplish Kingdom purposes. Sometimes, God allows another unique opportunity for those who are actually in ministry to grow, to develop, and to learn not from someone who is mentoring them or from someone they are mentoring, but instead from a peer in ministry. Such was the case for me during a time of full time ministry in 2012 and 2013. 

The Lord was gracious to us as a church when he brought a young man and his bride to serve as our Associate Pastor with responsibility primarily for students. The process to get him to town took some unexpected turns, curves, and deep dives at times. For a time it seemed like the enemy was going to keep him away, but the ministry he has had and is continuing to have in this place must confirm for all involved that despite circumstances that were most uncomfortable at times, God brought this young man to town for His greater purpose. 

Much of this post could be spent highlighting the Kingdom advances that have taken place under this young man's guidance and leadership. Students returning to the path of righteousness, families engaged in missions, parents and teenagers equipped for ministry are just a few of the lights that dot the path of ministry God has grown over the last few years. Since the posts this week have been about influence, I'm hoping to share how the Lord used the relationship of trust this young minister and I developed to spur me on in conviction, confession, and change. 

One of the traits that God immediately used was this man's honesty and confidence in who God had created him to be. Pretense was never part of his vocabulary, and he helped me to see areas where God wanted me to grow in confidence of who He created me to be. I've mentioned before that doubt somehow tends to stay near me. I have been known to doubt ability, call, and even favor with God. During the short time that we had in ministry together, King Jesus used this man's influence to remind me that as believers we are all children of the King and heirs with Him in heavenly places. As we spent time together on Monday mornings over coffee at the local coffee shop or when we gathered early on Sunday morning to pray about what God would have us be and do as men of faith, the Spirit quickened me to recognize areas where He wanted me to conform more to His image and likeness. 

We were able to spend family time together enjoying the fellowship that comes with unity of the Spirit. His brother and his parents became friends of ours, and my son still keeps in contact with him and his brother even now. We spent mission opportunities together and even found occasion to work through a tension or two that came with the daily journey of sanctification. One of the most meaningful times I recall was when we decided to preach a series on worship. Our church was going through some challenges, and we knew the Lord had us in place for a reason. He had called us together to equip the saints for the work of ministry, and while the methods I landed on may or may not have the most effective, the messages and the result proved to be meaningful. You could never know unless you have experienced the opportunity to engage in weeks of prayer and study of God's word together with one who is likeminded in faith and purpose how meaningful it is to have a pastor to journey with in ministry. We spent hours talking through the scripture and planning how best to present it to the congregation. We took turns over the next several weeks preaching the Word, and the body of Christ responded as a whole very well. Of course, there were some dissenters as there always will be, but the result was evident, particularly on the first Sunday as many came forward to kneel and pray asking God to remove barriers and lead His church into new opportunities for worship, growth, and Kingdom expansion. Following this time, we saw God bring people to salvation, ministries flourish. and people engage even more vigorously in the word of God. One Sunday morning we preached together from Revelation as the Lord unfolded what worship is like in its most perfect setting. Needless to say, the Lord used His word and the partnership with this fellow minister to help me see that Christ is always faithful to keep His promises, and that the Rock upon which He has built His church will never be shaken.

We moved after a short time to a new place of service, and I am confident that I missed this partnership in ministry most of all. Once you have had this type of relationship with a ministry peer, going it alone becomes a challenge at best. I am reminded of the relationship Paul and Barnabas and then Paul and Silas had together and though I would not begin to compare our ministry with that of these three mighty men of God, I can at least see why they must have had a blast spreading the gospel and planting churches together and why, after Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways, God provided Silas to pick up the empty space. I pray that Joel found as much joy in the experience as I did, but I have a feeling I was the one who was being truly blessed.

Today this young man and his bride have welcomed a beautiful baby girl into their family, and God continues to bless them as they continue in obedience to the call God placed on their lives a few years ago. I am grateful today and will always be for the friendship and partnership in ministry that the Spirit forged with Joel McDonald, and I am eager to see how God expands his heart as the years come one by one. I am thankful for the opportunity to be challenged in my faith to remember that we must always be true to who God has created us to be no matter what may come our way. As I have remembered this young man today, I am reminded that we must celebrate that God is at work in us according to His good purpose and then press on for the reward of Christ as we fix our eyes on Him as the author and perfecter of our faith.

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