Wednesday, June 14, 2006

"We will devote ourselves to..." (Acts 6:4)

So the question is, what comes next in this quote?

Have a think...

The answer: "we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word" (ESV).

Notice the primacy of prayer. Now it seems to me (as a trainee minister currently at Bible college) that many of us have those two the wrong way round in our heads - devoting ourselves to the ministry of the word, and fitting in some prayer when we can. We can end up giving talks we haven't prayed about, or at least haven't prayed much about. We can be so busy in ministry that although reliance on God is within our heart and on our lips, it doesn't really feature in our diaries. It is the easiest and most tempting thing in the world to skip a morning's quiet-time...

So: when we hear Christian leaders, ministers and elders being apologetic about how weak their prayer-lives are, we should offer a gentle and loving rebuke - and in no way excuse them because we know the problem to be prevalent (imagine where that trajectory leads!). We might even need eventually to get as far as asking at what point they would step back from the ministry...

Which leads to the question: at what point should one either step back or encourage/tell others to step back? Presumably a week without prayer is (while very far from perfect) not a straight red card... But there must be a point at which one is not living as "devoted to prayer and to the ministry of the word". Obviously it is not always going to be a black-and-white issue, but have any of us any ideas where that line is (I'd love thoughts / answers, by the way!)

And as a trainee minister, do I know where my line is? What would my prayer-life have to look like before I stepped back? How bad in my final year at College for me to look at teaching jobs rather than elderships next year?

[Is this legalistic? Only in as much as Paul gives descriptions of elders. Wise gospel-motivated rules are not legalism.]



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