Paul’s Personal and Pastoral Ministry

“Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.” – Acts 20:17-38

Usually, my desire in declaring God’s word is to reach an appropriate theological or spiritual depth.  This passage, however, captures a different kind of depth—an emotional depth, because it is dealing with personal relationships between Paul and those to whom he ministered.  I believe this is an important consideration in our day, because churches now adopt different “models,” based on pragmatic data or what has worked in the business world.  But our model should not be derived from the world.  It should be biblical.  So let us consider Paul’s ministry among the Ephesians as a model for pastoral relations in our day.

I.       PAUL’S MINISTRY WAS INTENSELY PERSONAL

And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews.”

“And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.”

Some models now encourage pastors to be detached from the people, in the name of maintaining objectivity.  Paul knew nothing of this.  He was intimately involved in the lives of the people. 

Why is the relationship so personal?  Because we are FAMILY.

II.      PAUL’S MINISTRY WAS INTENSELY PASTORAL

Paul was clear that even though he cared for his people as family, he also understood the relationship in a different and deeper way.  He knew that those to whom he related were sheep who belonged to the Great Shepherd, and that Christ had committed the care of their souls to him.  So a pastor must be more than friends, more than even family, he must be a faithful shepherd.

For a conscientious pastor, it is impossible to separate who he is from what he does, impossible to categorize his person from his calling:

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

Paul’s pastoral ministry includes several elements:

          A.      PROPHECY

Prophecy is a spiritual gift, and consists of two components. 

                   1.       FORETELLING

Paul was gifted by God’s Spirit to have glimpses into the future:

“And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.”

“And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.”

“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”

                   2.       FORTH-TELLING

 Paul was gifted by God’s Spirit to declare God’s word:

“I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”

Paul’s pastoral ministry was primarily centered around teaching God’s word.  He uses four different verbs to express that he would talk to any one, at any time, in any place, about the whole counsel of God.  Woe be to the pastor who is so intent on being everyone’s friend that he shrinks from saying those things that need to be said, even if they are difficult to hear.

          B.      ADMONITION

Admonition is both positive and negative.  It is warning against what is wrong and encouraging toward what is right.

“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.”

“And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”

          C.      LEADERSHIP

“I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”

Note that Paul’s leadership was by example.  No pastor can simply talk to his people.  He must live his message.  In Paul’s specific case, he wanted to be above the charge of being in ministry for his own personal gain.  But this principle applies across a broader spectrum.  The pastor who wants to teach his people genuine faith, compassion, zeal, etc., he must not merely preach these things, he must live them.

gkr1996 posted at 2010-3-18 Category: Theological