This month I’ve had a lot of opportunities to preach Christ and encourage the Christians that live higher up in the rural mountains, visiting several churches in order to “stimulate one another to love and good deeds” as we wait for Christ to come (Hebrews 10:24). When we travel into the mountains, I also go through the fields and isolated villages to share the gospel with people. God has allowed me to get to many places bearing the Name of Christ.
Setting in Order what Remains
Lately, the Lord has directed my ministry toward the words of Titus 1:5: “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you.” I’ve had a number of opportunities to apply this text in my own ministry by helping small rural churches in the mountains to organize themselves according to the Bible. Much of my teaching has been about the importance of churches appointing their own elders and deacons—to the degree that there are men that the Holy Spirit has gifted and given the desire to be overseers (1 Timothy 3:1).One example is a man named Timoteo that I’ve been discipling in a local baptist church that doesn’t have a pastor. This is a church that I’ve been serving for a long time with the purpose of helping them raise up and appoint a qualified pastor. Timoteo—after hearing a series of messages that I preached on the biblical qualifications for leadership in the church of Christ—came to me asking more questions about what it means to be a pastor. Seeing his interest, I asked him if he desired to pastor his current church. I reminded him that the pastoral ministry is a position of leadership and authority that’s characterized by service. We shouldn’t view the pastorate as an opportunity to be in a position of prominence in order to be served; we should view it as the greatest opportunity to humbly serve the church to which we belong. He responded by saying that he loved his church and that in light of what I had been preaching, he was sure that his desire was to serve as pastor.
Still, I told him that the desire in itself was not sufficient nor determinative to know if someone should serve as pastor. So, together with two mature men in the church, we began to go through the biblical qualifications one by one in 1 Timothy 3 and the four of us evaluated where he was in each of these areas. He had already heard a detailed explanation of each of these qualifications in the sermon series, so he understood their meaning. The result was very positive.
After our evaluation together, I shared with him that even though our examination of his life in light of the qualifications was very encouraging, the process still wasn’t complete. The church now has the responsibility of affirming that evaluation by considering his character in the areas of qualification. This would be the ultimate evaluation, the one that would determine whether or not things would continue toward him being recognized as a “pastor” in the church. At this point, we are now at this stage of the process, giving opportunity for the evaluation on the part of the congregation. It’s also important that this man be tested in practice in the role of pastor, which will be done under my supervision (because the church has given me the permission and authorization to do so).
So, if everything advances with the blessing and confirmation of the Lord, he will be recognized, selected, and appointed as pastor by the church itself. This would be a very important step toward setting in order what remains in this local body (1 Tim 1:5). Please, join me in praying that both the congregation and I would be given wisdom and guidance from the Lord to do everything according to His perfect will.
Entrusting These Things to Faithful Men
It’s my desire to help small rural churches and their pastors—for those that have pastors. I’m conscious of the need that many of them have for someone to come alongside and assist them. Many rural pastors work in the fields nearly the entire day, and they don’t have much time left over for their own personal study of God’s word or for the preparation of their sermons. That’s one of the reasons I’ve decided to put together a simple study plan to do with the men in order to encourage them with biblical instruction. My hope is that the study plan will provide them with biblical resources that will help them in their study of the Scriptures and in the preparation of their sermons, even with the small amount of time they might have.
The training consists in meeting once a week for the entirety of the morning to pray and discuss the theme of “how to study and interpret the Bible” and “how to prepare biblical messages.” I make copies of the resources that I have at my disposal and pass them out to the men, and I print out everything that I find pertinent to our study and clear in content. We’re also watching together a video course on biblical interpretation. Best of all, thanks to the generous donation of HeartCry, I can go to the bookstores and arm each of them with a basic bundle of four or five foundational books (like concordances and Bible dictionaries) so that they can have their own personal library for study. To make sure that they make good use of these resources, I never give out the books without first teaching them how to use each one of them. Right now, there are four pastors involved in this training. These four men in the mountains don’t have any formal academic training, but they each humbly pastor their churches and have good testimonies in their communities.
“I Need Your Help in Prayer”
These are just some of the opportunities that the Lord has given me lately to spread the glory of our Lord and Savior. I need your help in prayer. At times it’s difficult because I don’t have another brother working alongside me in the ministry to these churches.
Pray for safety as well. Last Sunday I was traveling with my wife and preaching the gospel in several different places in the mountains. All day we were going from one town to the next on our motorcycle. One of the paths was very rough and rugged, with a number of precipices, and at one point I lost control of the motorcycle and we nearly fell down the side of the mountain. My wife and I fell off the bike and went hard to the ground. I give thanks to God that we didn’t die that day. We were both frightened by it. It made me reflect on the great number of things from which God has delivered me, even those things we aren’t aware of. If it weren’t for His constant providence and protection, we would have been with the Lord long ago!
I’m very grateful for all of your prayers for us.