My dear son,
I realize you will be serving Christ in a world far different than the one where I was trained and first released into ministry. Your methods, your dress, your vocabulary, the technologies you use and even the problems you face may have little in common with the world I knew, or even the world in which we both minister today. You will be a faithful servant of Christ not because you mimic my words or imitate my ministry style, but because you live out the timeless values we share – values that come to us from the Word of God and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
So while I still have the opportunity, I want to take a few minutes to summarize in writing the values and life lessons I have attempted to live out before you and most want to pass on to you…
I’m not sure I can do justice to you, Christ, or the ministry by passing off some of the “things” that I’d like to. I could give lessons, structures, models, answers, and templates, but I’m more and more assured that this is not what would be actually helpful.
In all things, we serve the person of Jesus. He is alive and active, building his church, leading his people. In all things we submit to his call, his direction, and his vision. It is in this context, and only in this context, that I give any advice.
Love the bible. Pursue it, cherish it, learn it, read it, enjoy it, and let it be the foundation of life. Make your decisions through it. Interpret what’s happening in your culture and the world’s culture through it. Allow it to speak to you and thereby mold you into the man that God has in mind. Allow it to transform your thinking, and your thinking to inform your passions, and your passions, now rooted in God’s word, to inform your action. If you love God’s word, and passionately pursue Christ through it, obedience will become your new natural.
Open your life. While you are called personally and privately to know and give your life to Christ, you were not meant to live it alone. Live transparently. Your greatest strengths in ministry will come from others seeing God’s work in your otherwise worthless life. It is his work, so allow him to get the glory. Admit failures, seek restoration, and live a life of the redeemed, not the redeemer. Share struggles, share victories. Laugh, cry, dream and work together. Your greatest bonds will form in these types of relationships. It is these relationships, these intentional friendships with believers and those you hope to one day see as believers, that give life the joy, flavor and favor that the fruit of the Spirit gifts us.
Serve openly. Say, “Yes.” Leadership is about serving those you lead. Following Jesus is about serving Him and others. Pray for opportunities to be a servant, and take them. Whether in the big picture or in the details, it is this selflessness that reflects the glory of God, that allows his love to be tangible to his creation. Give generously, show mercy, show up, and be at the front of the line for chipping in. All generations need your service, and those looking to you as an example need to see this trait in you. Allow them to see the wonder of imitating you as you imitate Christ’s example. Whether your next door neighbor, the worker you meet in Central Asia, the poor neighborhood child you meet downtown, your church brothers and sisters, or your closest family, serve them. Give everything you have and let the return on investment rest in God’s hands.
Value what God values. Always seek what God is doing, and get behind that. It is his church, and the lost are not cared for more by anyone else. All of our ideas, dreams, passions and labor are all in vain if not in step with his movement. Constantly, regularly, and diligently seek God’s Spirit in big decisions and small. Use what you’ve learned and experienced then as tools to navigate your role in his movement. Don’t push to get ahead of God. Your life is a vapor and your ministry shorter, but God’s legacy is eternal. Point to his work, not your own or your church’s.
Lastly, your ministry and life’s legacy are nothing in light of the integrity and relational strength of your family. They are your first ministry. Without them, you have no standing or authority. Love them, serve them, and lead them towards Christ. God has many ministers in his church, but your family has only been given one husband and one father. God will give you strength, peace, and courage unmatched when you are connected and grafted into your family well.
Like Christ prayed for in the garden, I pray your dilegence proves to unify God’s people, that your example plays its part in bringing the church together and drawing others towards him. Let your convictions be inspiration to love, and not reasons to argue, separate or divide. Never do alone what you can bring someone along to do with you. Allow what you know and experience to be a help to anyone seeking to serve our King. Be humble, but confident. Help to understand, but be teachable. Know who you are in The Lord, but know that it is by him that all things are possible.
I am encouraged that I may even write this letter to you. I pray that in some miraculous way, these words may prove useful to you as you store up for yourself heavenly reward. I will continue to pray for you as long as I live.