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…
- Let the GOSPEL drive and consume you in every aspect of life: personal, home, and ‘public’ ministry (1 Thess. 2:8) Never forget where you have come from. Let your passion for people flow from a passion for God’s glory, knowing that He saved you not because of your talent or ability (which is evident), but because He chose to display His redemptive love through Jesus, lavishing His grace on you. Let that be the fuel in your own pursuit of Christ, your love and care of your wife and kids, and in desiring to see others become worshippers of Christ. This will free you from allowing this venture of our from seeming like a job, a burden, or a duty, and people from seeming like obstacles to opportunities. Seek to share not just the information about the gospel, but risk allowing others to get to know you as you process life in the gospel.
- Work to keep LOVE as your motive (1 Tim. 1:5) – “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and good conscience and a sincere faith” There are so many battles that you will face: doctrinal, personal, corporate…you will need a great amount of wisdom in knowing which hills to die on and which to let be occupied. These battles will often cause you to see others as enemies, even brothers, because you fight so hard for the truth. So with wisdom, make sure that love is governing, that love is the goal. Love in the truth, be convicted to stand, but never see people as the enemy but as opportunities to share and show the love of Christ.
- Let success be derived from your commitment to GOD’S WORD (Joshua 1:7-9; 1 Tim. 4:16) – There will always be a drive to be successful in ministry, and that definition is often a shifting target: size, titles, committees, and letters will be siren calls for you to equate success. However, pay close attention to your life and teaching, your living and doctrine, because ultimate success comes from your faithfulness to do God’s Word and live in light of His promises. Never yield ground on matters of core doctrine: the Deity of Christ, His atoning work, salvation by faith alone, and the need for repentance. Fight to teach and stand on the authority & sufficiency of Scripture, as well as its inerrancy. These will grow less and less popular, but the gospel is at stake, so stand firm (suck it up, Buttercup)
- Keep men in your life who will SPEAK TRUTH to you (Eph. 4:15) – Never isolate yourself (which will be a temptation), but pursue & create relationships with those around your that you choose to trust, and who are willing to speak the truth in love to you (this will partly be your wife, but must move beyond her). This will ensure that you continue to grow, that you will not stagnate, and keep on the right track. Accept the word “NO” from them. Dependency and accountability is a necessity for you, and will help you stay humble and teachable.
- Imitate me inasmuch as I have IMITATED CHRIST (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1) – if you truly want to honor me, you will grow and change; you will risk; you will call people to change…Honor the past by pushing forward to the future. You will not honor me or Christ by keeping the status quo, dying a slow death (if you don’t do this, I will slap you, as I have done before).
- Hand things off quickly and often – Finally, you will feel pressure to do it all by yourself, to let everything hang on your shoulders…this is the best way to fail. Be willing to hand things off to younger men…take calculated risks…let them fail. Its always easier to control than confront, but it is rarely better. Entrust and empower younger guys with real influence, and do not fear if they do it better than you (as you were so often better than me). Do not let this gospel movement die with you, but hand it off to others.
I will continue to pray for your faithful service. Until we see each other in this life or the one to come…
Your brother in Christ always,