Ordination Charge- Love the Church
Here is a slightly edited version of an ordination charge I recently gave. I try here to communicate that love for the church ought to be a key source from which our ministry arises. Loving the people is not in contrast to preaching, etc. Rather, it is the context from which it emerges.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
We need more men who love the church deeply, passionately, vehemently.
We need men who love the church universal, whose hearts race and the thought of joining in labor with those who have gone before, who feel the connection with brothers and sisters around the world. We need men who value the communion of the saints.
However, loving people in general can at times be an excuse for loving no one in particular. We need men who love the particular, local church they serve.
If you love your people:
-It will keep you from being just one more denominational politician disguised as a preacher.
-It will keep you from being a mere professional simply seeking advancement in a career, treating the people of God as stepping stones, building your own kingdom and calling it God’s.
-Love for your people will guard your heart from arrogance
-Love will drive you to study the text and preach well, not to impress but because you know your people need the word of God
-Love for your people will aid you in your own fight with sin, as you know your sin will affect them and as you know they need a righteous man to lead them.
-Love will keep you out of the ivory tower and compel you out into the lives of your people to know them, to know their lives, their joys, and their struggles. How else will you pray for them, preach to them and oversee their souls?
-Love will compel you to watch over their souls and not be content with simply filling a pulpit.
-Love will cause you to labor hard and to impart not only a message but your very life. (1 Thess 2)
-Love will cause you to speak the word boldly to them. Some speak boldly, it seems, because they like to hear their own voice and they are pleased by their own posturing. Let it not be so with you. Rather follow the maxim of Bernard of Clairvaux, “Boldly I speak, because faithfully I love.” Then your people may say of you as they did of Baxter, “We take all things well from one who always and wholly loves us.”
-Love will lead you to discipline.
-Love will keep you from being overbearing (1 Pet 5).
-Love will cause you to shepherd the flock “not under compulsion, but willingly…not for shameful gain, but eagerly” (1 Pet 5).
So it has always been with the choice servants of God:
Luther opposed all the assembled powers of his day because he would not bear to see his people deceived by the indulgence hawkers.
Huss and Tyndale went to the flames because love for their people drove them to give them the Word in their own language.
Love the church, particularly your specific congregation, because in doing so you imitate the Chief Shepherd who loved the Church and gave Himself up for her (Eph 5).
Imitate your Lord who said:
“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” (John 10:11-13, ESV)