The early Christians focussed on discipling new Christians until some of them became leaders. One of such stories is unfolded as Luke joins Paul at Philippi in about AD 58 and together they make that baleful journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20:5–21:17). As a medical professional, Luke was willing to sacrifice his career prospects to go where he felt God was calling him and to stay with a loyal friend who needed him. On the way, they stopped at the nearby island of Miletus, and Paul made his farewell address to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:17–38). Luke made good use of the time in capturing the ‘sermon’—a locus classic to understand the heart of a pastor. Paul’s examples were awe-inspiring, and he mentioned things about himself that none could deny. Here are a few thoughts that reveal Paul’s expectations of his pastors.
A Reliable Lifestyle: It was see-through (v.18), translucent. It was consistent (v.18), humble (v.19), helpful (v.35), generous (v.34), unselfish and non-materialistic (v.33).
An Uncompromising Message: Paul did not change the essence of his message, whether he was addressing Jews or Greeks, but he would change his approach. He never watered down the basic message in his public teaching and private conversations (v.20)—repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Surrender to Jesus: He did not consider his life worth anything to himself (v. 24). He was determined to finish his race at any cost. He was a man to whom a life of sacrifice held no threats. He had already given up his home, his career, perhaps his marriage, indeed his money. He was totally at the disposal of Jesus Christ.
Integrity and Fearlessness: “I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you. (v.20), ‘I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God’ (v.27), and ‘I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tear” (v. 31). With integrity and fearlessness, Paul makes the counsel of God very clear to his hearers.
Disinterest in Money: ‘I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing’ (v.33). He must have come from a wealthy family. He was born a Roman citizen; he tells us (22:28). That means his father must have had a small fortune, to acquire the privileged position of being a civis Romanus. But Paul was prepared to work for his living and for that of his friends (20:34) to bring others to know of Jesus who meant so much to him.
A remarkable life! A shining example. And, if we ask the secret of it, we do not have to look far: the secret lies in prayer. Public prayer (v. 36) and private prayer (v.19). There is no ducking out of this most demanding of spiritual exercises. The early church worked on equipping pastors. As we go through the pages of this issue, let us think about how we can do it now?