事奉就是争战

1. Ministry is war.

There are two theaters of war in ministry: one within and another without. There is an ever-present enemy within, the flesh, which tempts us to run from the battle. I cannot take a minute off from this war, or I will surely perish.

There are also enemies on the outside seeking to defeat me by singing an alluring siren song. They tempt me with a peacetime mentality, a life of ease and earthly prosperity, far from the bad deacons meeting, the church member whose marriage is collapsing, and the family that thinks I am killing the church by teaching sound doctrine.

John Newton knew this struggle all too well, but saw this war as the best place for fallen ministers:

The people of God are sure to meet with enemies—but especially the ministers. Satan bears them a double grudge. The world watches for their halting, and the Lord will allow them to be afflicted, that they may be kept humble, that they may acquire a sympathy with the sufferings of others, that they may be experimentally qualified to advise and help them, and to comfort them with the comforts with which they themselves have been comforted of God. But the Captain of our salvation is with us. His eye is upon us; his everlasting arm beneath us. In his name therefore may we go on, lift up our banners, and say, “If God be for us—who can be against us? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him who has loved us!” The time is short. In a little while—he will wipe all tears from our eyes, and put a crown of life upon our heads with his own gracious hand!

2. My fictional church was a fictional church.

In seminary, my fictional church adored me. Every person loved the teaching. They loved my personality. They spoke often and gratefully of “all the things I bring to the table.” On Monday, they pondered next Sunday’s sermon with the giddy anxiousness of a 4-year-old on Christmas Eve. They were ready to carry me out of the pulpit on their shoulders as a theological hero.

My pastoral ministry now plays out in the non-fiction section, and they don’t look at me that way. They see my flaws. They feel my inexperience. And rightly so. Most of them love me anyway, and over time, I will come to see how misguided was my desire for that fictional church and how good God is for humbling me through the ministry of his local church.

3. Theological knowledge does not equal pastoral maturity.

My command of Greek or Hebrew or all those Puritans I can quote from memory will not be enough to keep me from blowing my stack when an angry member brings false charges against me to my face. Those things won’t provide wise leadership decisions when a deacon meets with me and tells me that the church is rapidly running out of money. Sure, my theological knowledge will go a long way toward helping me make wise decisions, but they won’t give me the seasoning I need. I still need to learn many leadership lessons the hard way. I have been trained well on how the right weapon works, but using it accurately will come only with locking, loading, aiming, and firing accurately on the battlefield.

4. Love surpasses knowledge.

This is a necessary logical conclusion to the previous point. The inspired writer warned me about this: “If I have all knowledge and have not love . . . I am nothing.” If I do not love my people, they will not care how much theological talk comes from the pulpit. They will be drawn to follow me only when I prove that I love them and can be trusted as a mature teacher and under-shepherd.

5. If I will become an effective instrument in God’s hand, I must suffer.

Sure, I have read lots of books that have taught me how to think well in and through suffering. But I must suffer if I will truly understand Paul’s message in 2 Corinthians: it’s not about me. A pastor will suffer for two reasons: first, for his own sanctification, and second, so that he is positioned to provide comfort for his suffering congregation (2 Cor. 1).

6. Because my Western default definition of success is worldly, it will bother me when attendance is low or they don’t respond well to my teaching.

Because I am deeply prideful and filled with self-love, I am often offended when church members see weekends at the beach/lake/mountains as vastly more compelling than hearing me talk about the things of God. Or because I sometimes subtly exchange my confidence in God’s Word as the transforming agent for my own ability to change people, I will consider adjusting the message or the methods to make people happy. But if I love them, I must not give in to this desire. I will dance dangerously close to this razor’s edge far too often and must rely on Christ to rescue me every time.

7. I will often exhibit an acute fear of man.

All the bravado I spouted to seminary buddies about others “giving in to man-centeredness” has mysteriously dissipated in the face of real people who harbor real issues. Sure, I was correct in saying those things, but only God’s grace can create in me a habit of faithfulness even when the stink has hit the fan and has then splattered on me.

8. Many people in my church will not like me, no matter how much I love them or treat them with kindness.

The reasons they do not like me will have nothing to do with anything substantial, and this will frustrate me. They will not like my personality because I am too extroverted/introverted and therefore not like them. Or they will not like me because I talk too fast/slow. Or they will not like me because I cheer for the wrong sports team or attended the wrong university. But even their distaste for me, valid or not, is part of God’s good design to cultivate humility in the garden of my foolish, self-loving heart. This is also good for me because, by God’s grace, it will remedy, over time, the deadly disease of the fear of man. My Lord promised that if they hated him, they would hate his disciples. This is an opportunity for God to teach me the truth of 1 Peter 2:23 pertaining to our Lord who, when he was reviled, did not revile in return, but kept on entrusting himself to him who judges justly. I will be set free by grace to love them anyway.

9. I will often be mystified and frustrated that my ministerial labors do not yield “product.”

This will bother me because in my arrogance, I have forgotten that I am not the Holy Spirit and that only a sovereign, all-powerful God can renovate a broken-down human heart. Yes, I realize that my theology of sovereign grace has always taught me this truth, but my functional theology of self will tell me that all my knowledge, training, and gifts should at least lead to some change in the lives of this people. If I yearn for visible, finished “product,” then I must be content to cut my lawn, build a Lincoln Log home with my boys, and let God be God in his church.

10. My theological heroes didn’t have it easy either.

From the distance of time, geography, and cultural advances, it is easy to romanticize our heroes. It is easy to think John Calvin snapped his brilliant fingers and transformed Geneva, or that Bunyan leisurely wrote Pilgrim’s Progress for a leading evangelical publisher on his laptop while watching cable television in an air-conditioned jail cell, or that Jonathan Edwards spent much of his time talking theology over coffee with David Brainerd.

But they preached and taught and wrote with such profound depth of knowledge because they were soldiers who had been to war. Their writings bristled with the sinfulness of the human heart and the holiness of God because they wrote from the battlefield. My heroes had it hard in the ministry and so will I, because God demonstrates his power and glory through the powerlessness of pathetic clay pots like me—it says so in 2 Corinthians 4:7. And I will learn the truthfulness of God’s Word and his love for me, as did my heroes, in the intense war that is Christian ministry.

事奉意味着战争:神学院从未教我学习的10个功课

作者:Jeff Robinson

1. 事奉是一场战争。

事奉这场争战有两条战线,一条在人里面,一条在人外面。我们里面总有一个形影不离的仇敌,就是肉体,企图试探我们逃离战场。我一分钟也不可从这场战争中逃跑,否则必死无疑。

外面也有仇敌,企图用一种诱惑的歌声挫败我。他们用和平年代的心态、安逸的生活、地上的兴旺试探我,要我逃离我觉得很糟的执事会议,逃离婚姻正在瓦解的教会成员,或者那些认为我教导纯正教义,就是在把教会杀掉的那家人。

约翰•牛顿对这场冲突是在熟悉不过了,但他看这场战争。是神给堕落牧师安排的最好地方:

神的百姓肯定会遇到敌人,但牧师尤为明显。撒但对牧师怀有双重仇恨。世人等着要看他们停滞不前,主容许他们受击打,让他们可以保持谦卑,使他们可以同情其他受苦的人,使他们可以出于经历得到装备,可以给其他人建议和帮助,用他们自己已经从神领受的安慰安慰他人。但我们救恩的元帅与我们同在,祂的目光关注在我们身上,祂永久的臂膀在我们以下。所以奉祂的名,我们可以继续前进,举起我们的旌旗说道:“神若帮助我们,谁能敌挡我们呢?靠着爱我们的主,在这一切的事上已经得胜有余了!”时间短暂,再过很短一段时间,祂就要抹去我们一切的眼泪,亲自用祂的恩手把生命的冠冕给我们戴上。

2. 我想象中的教会,是一家想象中的教会。

在神学院的时候,我想象中的教会崇拜我。每一个人都喜爱我的教导,他们爱我的个性,他们经常带着感恩的心讲到我“端到桌子上的一切”,给他们的一切喂养。人在礼拜一就会想下个礼拜日的讲道,他们就像四岁的孩子,在圣诞节平安夜情不自禁焦急盼望。他们预备好用肩膀把我从讲坛上扛起,把我当成一位神学英雄。

我的教牧事奉现在是在现实的领域,会众不像上面想象的那样看我。他们看到我的缺点,他们感受到我没有经验,情况确实也是这样。但随着时间过去,他们大多数人无论如何仍是爱我。并且随着时间过去,我会看到我对自己想象的那教会的愿望,是何等误入歧途。神通过在祂地方教会的事奉使我降卑,祂对我是何等良善。

3. 神学的知识,并不等于教牧事奉的成熟。

尽管我懂希腊文或希伯来文,我能背着引用所有那些清教徒的话,但是当一位愤怒的教会成员,当着我的面对我发出不真实的控告,这一切并不能使我保持镇定。当一位执事与我见面,告诉我教会资金正迅速枯竭,这些事情并不能为我提供有智慧的领导决定。确实我的神学知识大大帮助我作智慧决定,但它们不会给我所需的经验,我仍然需要通过付出艰苦代价,学习很多作带领的功课。我在神学院里受过良好训练,知道正确的武器如何发挥作用,但只有通过在战场上打开枪机、装弹、瞄准、射击,我才能学好怎样准确使用这些武器。

4.爱心超越知识。

这是从前一点得出的符合逻辑必然推论。得到神默示的那一位,在这一点上警告我:“我若有各样的知识……却没有爱,我就算不得什么。”如果我不爱我的会众,他们就不会在乎我讲台上面有多少神学讲论,只有我证明自己爱他们,是一位成熟的教师和基督手下的牧者,他们才会被吸引来跟从我。

5.如果我想成为神手中有效的工具,我就必须受苦。

是的,我读过大量书籍,教导我怎样正确看待受苦,经历苦难。但如果要真正明白保罗在哥林多后书的信息,我就必须受苦,我就要认识到,事奉不是以我为中心。牧师受苦出于两个原因:第一,为他自己成圣的缘故;第二,让他可以身处一个位置上,为他受苦的会众提供安慰(林后第1章)。

6. 因为我出于西方思想固有的观念,对成功的定义是属世的,所以当参加聚会的人数下降,或者会众我教导的反应不佳,我就深感苦恼。

因为我非常骄傲,充满自爱,当教会成员把周末上海滩/湖边/登山,看成远远比听我讲关于神的事情更有必要,我常常会感到受了冒犯。或者有时我不知不觉地把对神话语的信心,换成了我自己的能力,以此作为改变的原因,我就会考虑要调整信息或方法,去让会众高兴。但如果我爱会众,我就绝不可向这种想法让步,我太过经常在这危险的边缘徘徊,每次都必须依靠基督来拯救我。

7. 我常常显出对人极大的惧怕。

在有真正问题的真正的人面前,我在神学院对同伴讲得滔滔不绝,说不可“向以人为本让步”的豪言壮语,就神秘地消失得一干二净。的确,我这样说是正确的,但只有神的恩典才能在我被人泼污水的时候,在我里面生出一种向祂忠心的习惯。

8. 在我教会里面有很多人,不管我多么爱他们、善待他们,他们都不会喜欢我。

他们不喜欢我的原因,和任何重要的事情毫无关系,而这让我觉得十分苦恼。他们不喜欢我的个性,因为我太外向/内向,和他们不一样;或者他们不喜欢我,因为我讲得太快/太慢,或者他们不喜欢我,因为我支持的运动队和他们的不一样,上的大学和他们的不一样。但是即使他们不喜欢我,无论有道理还是没有道理,这也是神美好计划的一部分,为的是在我这愚昧充满自爱的内心这园子里培养谦卑。这也对我好,因为靠着神的恩典,经过一段时间,我就要治死惧怕人的这种致命疾病。我的主说过,如果人恨祂,他们也要恨祂的门徒。这是神用来教导我彼得前书2章22节这真理的机会,论到我们的主,祂被骂不还口;只将自己交托那按公义审判人的主。我要靠着恩典得释放,无论如何都继续爱我的会众。

9. 我常常因为事奉的工作结不出“成果”,就觉得迷惑不解,感到挫败。

这让我烦恼不堪,因为傲慢的我忘记了,我不是圣灵,只有一位主权、全能的神,才能更新破碎的人心。是的,我意识到,我学过的主权恩典的神学总是教导我这真理,但我出于自己的实用神学要告诉我,我所有的知识、训练和恩赐,应当至少会给这群会众的生命带来一些改变。如果我渴望看得见,完工的“产品”,我就必须尽自己的本分,让神在祂的教会里面作神。

10. 我仰慕的神学英雄,他们的生活也不容易。

从时间、地域、文化进步的角度远远看去,我们就很容易用浪漫眼光看我们的英雄。我们很容易就会认为,约翰•加尔文聪明绝顶弹指一挥间,就改变了日内瓦。或者约翰•班扬一边坐在有空调的牢房间一边看着有线电视,用手提电脑悠闲为一家大型福音出版社写作《天路历程》;或者约拿单•爱德华滋,大部分时间都用来和大卫•布伦纳一边喝咖啡一边讨论神学问题。

但是他们讲道、教导和写作,有如此深邃的知识,这是因为他们是曾经历争战的精兵;他们的作品充满了对人性罪恶和神圣洁的描述,这是因为他们是在战场上写作。我的英雄在事奉中受苦,我也要受苦,因为神通过像我这样无能的可怜瓦器,显出祂的大能和荣耀,哥林多后书4:7就这样说的。我要像我仰慕的英雄一样,在基督教事奉这剧烈的争战中认识神话语的信实,祂对我的慈爱。

节译自:

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/07/12/ministry-means-war-10-lessons-seminary-never-taught-me/

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