Clergy/Leaders’ Mail-list No. 0-146
An ordination sermon preached by Rev Dr Gordon Moyes
ADD TO YOUR FAITH . . .
Bible reference: 2 Peter 1:5-8
When challenging young men and women to give their lives in full- time service for Christ, I have used Ephesians 4:11-16: “And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” They are not to do all of the work; they are to equip God’s people in the building up of the Body of Christ.
Some translations render the passage “to prepare God’s people”; the NRSV has “to equip the saints.” The word is katartizw and it is widely used in the NT, and is used of four or five things. It was used of James and John who got into their boat, “preparing their nets” for fishing (Mk.1:19). So I challenged young men and women to spend their time getting their nets ready for fishing in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is used by Jesus himself in one of his allusions, where he says, “Every pupil, when he has completed his training, shall be like his master” (Lk 6:40 – not NIV). We’re to be disciples who complete our training. It is used by Peter, who says, that “Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Pet.5:10). It means a perfecting of the soul and of the character, and it is used of Paul in Eph 4:12, when he says you are to equip yourself for the equipping of others in work for Christ’s service.
It is interesting, if you look at the passage where Peter uses this word katartizw, that he uses another word and says that part of the equipping is to add to your skills and abilities virtues. The word he uses is a Greek word meaning “to lead a chorus,” like a musical conductor. In the ancient Greek world, when they put on huge dramas or plays, they needed huge choruses. The ancient Greek writers like Sophocles and Euripides had large choruses led so that people could understand. The role of the Christian minister is to help a large chorus of people, working like a conductor. “Make every effort to add to your faith” virtue on virtue (2 Pet.1:5-8).
It is not enough to possess technical expertise to be a minister – in the Christian life you need to keep growing in every virtue. There are many Christians who make a commitment to Jesus Christ, they want to follow on his way, but they don’t keep growing. You don’t see the fruit developing as it should. They suffer from spiritual chronic fatigue syndrome. They’re always tired when it comes to spiritual growth. But if you look at what Peter says here, having used the word “prepare yourself,” he now goes on to say, “Add to that preparation.” So to [the new minister] I say you now need to add a few things to your character to make sure that what you have learned is going to be used of God.
“For this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self- control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (vv5-8). Now the problem ministers face is having been equipped and trained, and having got all the skills, they become ineffective and unproductive in the work of the kingdom. How can you be effective and productive? Add ‘these things’ to your technical competencies, skills and abilities.
But it begins with “Add to your faith….” Everything goes back to that. Faith is the absolute conviction and certainty of who Jesus Christ is, and that what he says is true, and the unequivocal commitment to him as both Saviour and Lord, and the unquestionable certainty that his way is the way to happiness and peace and strength on earth and in heaven, that Jesus Christ is Lord.
I’ve seen many spiritual casualties in the lives of men and women in ministry who have technical competence, but who have never added to their faith. Rather they have begun to question their faith and nibble away at their faith, and have uncertainty about their faith, and this in turn leads to ineffectiveness and unproductiveness – always.
So Peter says, “Add to your faith excellence.” Now excellence has a double meaning: it means both efficiency and courage. Your faith must have the best of skills, which will make it competent, but you have to be brave in your witness to Jesus, so you add to your faith excellence. You need to be continuing to grow in your mind and your thinking, to improve yourself, in the way of Jesus – but you’ve got to have courage.
There are times in a Christian minister’s life when you draw a line in the sand, and you say ” ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord'(Josh.24:15); we won’t cross that line.” There’s a great tendency these days, in some denominations, to water down the faith, to turn from the traditional beliefs of the Scriptures, to move into all kinds of immorality. But you need to have the knowledge and excellence that draws that line in the sand and says “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Then Peter says, “add to excellence knowledge.” This is a real practical wisdom, and it’s very important. I have discovered over the 40 years since I was ordained that you might start off young in the Lord, but the Lord has plenty of business still to be done throughout all your life. And you’ve to keep on growing all your life; you’ve got to keep adding to your excellence knowledge all the time. So 40 years on I’m still doing courses, still learning and discovering that there is more need today then ever before.
Why? Because, if you are a pastor or minister in a local church, you become the repository of practical knowledge in the community. A generation or so ago, people were able to turn to a community physician, and to the local solicitor, and the headmaster and teacher: they were the people who had the repository of knowledge in the community. Today those people either don’t exist, or they only work on certain hours, and when you ring them you always get an answering machine. It’s only the pastor in the community who is the repository of practical knowledge, and people come to him when he builds up a relationship with them through his counselling and pastoral skills in the community, ministering in the name of Christ.
Peter says, “add to your knowledge self-control.” More competent men have failed in the ministry because of lack of control, than any other thing. It does not please me when … I see a television evangelist go off the rails, and become immoral in personal activities. It doesn’t please me when I see people build huge ministries and take out money that does not belong to them. Why? Because in every case the ministry is ruined. It’s a dreadful situation, and it happens when people lack self-control. As pastors we have wonderful opportunities for entrance into people’s personal lives, into their families, at the points where they are often most vulnerable. When people come to you distressed and distraught, and are so vulnerable, that’s when you need all the strength personally that you can have.
When anyone in a position of privilege lacks self-control, the whole ministry of Jesus Christ suffers, and is hurt, and the name of Christ is brought into disrepute. If a minister sins his punishment must be all the heavier. The Apostle Peter says, “Add to your faith excellence, and to your excellence knowledge,” and then very wisely he says, “and to your knowledge self-control” – because the lack of self-control will undo everything you have learned, and every year you have spent training.
Then Peter says, “Add to your self-control perseverance.” Ministry requires a certain degree of toughness – you’re going to have to endure. Jesus never promised that you should take up a cup of tea – he promised a cross! And that implies endurance. We expect that you will be able to accept everything that life will throw at you, and that includes deacons, and church members, and other Christian helpers. Add to your self-control perseverance. Most problems are overcome by toughing it out.
And “add to your perseverance godliness.” The word is eusebia, a beautiful word that means you don’t just tough it out because you are stupid and thick-headed, but because you have about your person a godliness that survives. There is still a tremendous demand for personal holiness. I think it is one of the greatest blights when Christian ministers these days in various denominations are not taught, or who are not expected to develop, personal holiness. Now holiness or godliness is still an expectation – vertically toward God himself, but also horizontally in the way you behave toward other people. It is inconceivable that a minister should act in any way other than in a godly way. So to your knowledge you must add these virtues including this character of godliness.
“And to your godliness,” Peter says, “add brotherly kindness.” This is one of the most beautiful words in the New Testament: filadelfia, meaning literally “brotherly love.” To all that you do in your character, and knowledge, and self-control, and perseverance, and personal holiness, add a sense of brotherly kindness. There are many hurting people in our world, and Peter says that, we need people in ministry who are kind toward others. There are so many people with demands on their lives and who live in terrible situations. Sometimes what they need more than anything else is real kindness.
Now sometimes people are just a pain in the neck. I’ve always had my telephone number printed in the phone book, and I get calls from all round Australia from people who watch my weekly television programs, and listen to my radio programs. I don’t try to hide. The number is there. Anybody can ring. And people do! They ring when they are troubled – which is 3.00 am and 2.00 am and 1.00 am and 4.00 am. Because that’s when most people are troubled. And I could say, “Get lost!” But that is not brotherly kindness.
Sometimes there will be a conflict here, and the love of your wife and family is such that you have responsibilities to them, and the demands of unreasonable people are such that you have conflict there, and that requires a certain wisdom, but even dealing with people who are pains in the neck requires you to have a certain brotherly kindness. At least being patient with people gives an opportunity for some of that kindness to come through.
“And add to your brotherly kindness love.” It’s like a ladder of Christian virtues, and there on the top rung is love. It’s not just loving people whom you like. The beautiful thing is we’re never told we have to like people, because there are a lot of people I don’t like, and there are a lot of people whose behaviour and actions make it difficult for us to like them. Jesus never asked us to like people. Thank goodness for that! But he did ask us to care for people deeply – with what we call “tough love” – people who are unlikeable (you get them in the church as well). We need to love people, and to have a deep care for people, even for those whom we find it hard to like.
Now all of those virtues Peter has spoken about are expected to be evident in the life of the man of God who has added these virtues to all his technical competence and expertise. So katartizw means to prepare yourself, to get your nets ready for evangelism, to train yourself as a good pupil, to become like your Master, to be willing to serve to equip other people. Your theological college training has been doing that for you; your University courses have been doing that for you. Now add to all of that epicoregai, all of these virtues. And if you do that, you will be able to lead your church.
Now let me just say to you, the members of the church, that, if you have a competent, trained, equipped minister who develops his virtues like this, he is going to lead you in the way of Jesus, and he’s going to lead you to do some things that are risky, and proclaim the Word of God boldly, to serve the needy, to bring glory to God. The trouble is that many churches don’t want to get into that; they really just want to remain comfortable where they are. Their main objective has become what Kennon Callahan calls “protecting their place on the side of a cliff.”
What he means is that, if you’re climbing a rocky mountain, you climb up with finger- and toe-holds, and if it’s a very high mountain you get up the side of this rock, and you have your fingers and feet in places, and sometimes you reach a place where you can’t find anywhere to place your next hand, and you look backwards and you can’t find a place to put your foot. You can’t go up; you can’t go down. You just stay where you are, clinging to the face of the cliff.
Many churches are like that. They don’t want to venture forth, and they’re frightened of the abyss, and all they are concerned about is protecting their place on the side of the cliff – maintenance, membership and money. But Jesus never called you to do that, and Peter here said that if you add these virtues – I love the eighth verse – “If you possess these virtues in increasing measure, they will help you from becoming ineffective and unproductive” (2 Pet 1:8).
A minister who is effective and productive is going to challenge people to get off the side of the cliff, and to keep climbing. By that minister’s preaching, his leadership and personal example, be prepared to grow in your own faith, and take risks for God. He is not going to allow you to stay with chronic spiritual fatigue syndrome. Keep climbing!
(Slightly abridged sermon preached at the ordination of Rev Rod Benson at Blakehurst Baptist Church, Sydney, Australia, on Sunday September 26, 1999)
To contact Rod Benson, e-mail:
Copyright (c) 2000. Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1980).