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3 prerequisites for pastors to do ministry work

Bishop Dr Solomon and Bishop Emeritus Wong Kiam Thau placing hands on TRAC Pastor Edwin Wong who was ordained a Deacon. Bishop Dr Solomon had invited Bishop Emeritus Wong to join him in ordaining Pastor Edwin, saying: “It is a father’s privilege to ordain a son as a pastor.” At right is Mrs Wong. — Methodist Message picture by CHIA PAK YUEN.

ORDINATION SERVICES OF CAC AND TRAC AT THEIR ANNUAL CONFERENCES: NOVEMBER 2002

THE BISHOP SAYS They must have:

Zeal
Knowledge
Love

OUR Methodist pastors have been told that they must have zeal, knowledge and love to do ministry work.

And while it is not good for them to have zeal without knowledge (Proverbs 19:2), they must also be cautious and remember that “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”. (1 Corinthians 8:1).

Bishop Dr Robert Solomon made these points in his sermon at the Closing-Ordination Service of the 27th Sessions of both the Chinese Annual Conference (CAC) and Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC). His sermon, entitled “The Journey of a Pastor’s Heart: Zeal, Knowledge and Maturity”, was based on Acts 9:19-31.

“Zeal without knowledge is dangerous,” he declared.

John Wesley, he said, preached a sermon on zeal in which he noted the “importance of zeal in our work”: “There are few subjects in the whole compass of religion that are of greater importance than this. For without zeal it is impossible, either to make any considerable progress in religion ourselves, or to do any considerable service to our neighbour, whether in temporal or spiritual things.”

And yet, he warned about the dangers of zeal. “And yet nothing has done more disservice to religion, or more mischief to mankind, than a sort of zeal which has for several ages prevailed … Insomuch that it may truly be said, pride, covetousness, ambition, revenge, have in all parts of the world slain their thousands; but zeal its ten thousands.”

He traced the harm that zeal had done in the past in non-Christian as well as Christian settings. He estimated that after the Reformation, due to private persecution and religious wars, in a period of 40 years from 1520, 40 million people had been destroyed. He noted that fervour for opinions was not zeal.

Bishop Dr Solomon illustrated his sermon with the “remarkable experience and life” of Paul, as recorded in Acts chapter 9.

The chapter begins with Saul, who later became Paul, breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples (verse 1). But in verse 20 it is recorded that he is seen preaching in the synagogues of Damascus that Jesus is the Son of God.

“From murderous threats to Messianic truths. What a remarkable change!” said Bishop Dr Solomon.

He told the five CAC ordinands and four TRAC ordinands at their respective ordination services that “you, no doubt, have been recognised for your zeal to do ministry, to give away your lives for the cause of Christ. You went to seminary, quite rightly so, to study the scriptures, to be equipped to preach and teach”.

“But do not think that just by reading books and getting good grades, you would be ready to serve the Lord.

You may have to be humbled, humiliated, broken, bruised. You need to mature. You need to discover the breadth and height, and length and depth of God’s love. As Wesley said in a letter to Joseph Benson, ‘An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.’

“You need to spend time to allow God to shape your lives through your studies, your prayer, your relationships, your experiences, and so on. You have to learn that you do not serve God on your terms, but on God’s terms. It is not so much your abilities that is going to make a difference in your ministry. It is your heart. Is your heart in the hands of God? He alone can shape it, help it to mature, and use it for his glory.”

Bishop Dr Solomon urged the ordinands to make sure that they spend adequate time “in the secret places where God struggles with us and forms us”.

“We find our true vocation by giving our hearts to God. Don’t rush into ministry with destructive zeal and proud knowledge. Let your heart be broken and reformed first. That takes time, sometimes longer than we think,” he added.

He also told them that John Wesley reminded his preachers to remember the Articles of Agreement:
1. Devote yourself entirely to God,
2. Preach the old Methodist doctrines and no other,
3. Observe and enforce the whole Methodist discipline.

The Rev Lek Yong Teck (right) being ordained as an Elder by Bishop Dr Robert Solomon. — Methodist
Message picture.
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