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…
Make sure your life priorities are straight: Jesus first, then your wife, your kids, and your ministry.
Jesus comes first. Love and trust Jesus more than anyone or anything. Walk closely with Jesus. You need God’s Word and prayer every day, make sure those two things are your first thoughts when you awake and your last when you go to sleep. Before you get out of bed, pick up the phone, press send, or go up to preach, pray, “Your will be done Lord.”
Your wife comes next. Love your wife more than anyone else on earth. Make sure she is well cared for by you. Study her, learn what makes her tick, and go out of your way to bless and encourage her. Encourage her areas of giftedness. Your kids will catch on to this quickly. They will be much more secure and well-adjusted when they know dad really, really loves mom. Pray for her and with her, read God’s Word together, protect her, provide for her and cherish her.
Your children come next. You are called by God to be your family’s pastor. Do not abdicate your God-given role. Shepherd your family. Teach them God’s Word. Pray with and for them. Process the Christian life with them daily. Yes, daily. Make this a non-negotiable goal. Be honest with them. Confess your sins to them and ask for their forgiveness when you blow it. Keep very short accounts. Let no root of bitterness spring up and defile your family. Always support them privately and publically.
Your ministry comes next. Be yourself and preach the Word. Bloom where you are planted. Don’t seek big things for yourself. Humbly serve where God has placed you. Aspire to be the man you know God wants you to be. Be a trustworthy man of integrity. When dealing with issues always ask: what does God’s Word say about it? And How can what Jesus did at the cross transform this situation? Agree on essentials, agree to disagree on the non-essentials. Be very careful what you put in writing. Handle your own responsibilities and clean up your own messes. Don’t make excuses, take responsibility. Apologize when necessary.
Do not be afraid to say what you know you need to say. If you dread saying it, say it. If you can’t wait to set someone straight, keep silent. Make it a point to do what you say you are going to do. Be on time. If you are habitually late you are telling people they really don’t matter that much to you. Pray for whoever you are going to meet with. As the leadership goes, so goes the church. United leadership means a united church. Hash it out in private, always be unified in public. Seek to encourage, enable, and maintain a healthy balance in life, family, ministry and community.
Make it your ambition to be pleasing to God. (2 Cor. 5:9) Trust Jesus. Love Jesus most and make wise decisions based on God’s Word, prayer and wise counsel. Challenge yourself beyond the status quo. Don’t just do enough to get by, strive for the best that you can do, in the Lord’s strength. Praise God no matter what. Periodically, ask God to reveal to you what you need to keep doing, stop doing, what needs a tune-up and what you aren’t doing that you need to start doing. Finally, be a humble-bold servant of Jesus. Trust God and live courageously for Jesus and the Gospel.