We commissioned Peter and Claire-Lise Judkins as our newest international gospel partners last Sunday morning. In God’s providence we’d got to 1 Corinthians 16 in teh preaching programme. It was wonderfully apt.
Paul closes his letter by commending a handful of fellow gospel workers. Some of them we’ll have heard of, others we won’t. There’s Timothy his apostolic delegate and church planting trouble shooter. There’s Apollos the eloquent Alexandrian Jewish convert. And lastly there’s the Corinthians team of Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus. Paul exhorts the congregation in Corinth to honour these men. Of them he says, ‘Such men deserve recognition’ 1 Corinthians 16:18.
One implication of this teaching is that we need to get better at giving recognition to those who work hard for the gospel among us.
We need to do so in public so that everyone knows we value the work that they do among us. We need to do so in practice so that it’s genuine appreciation and not merely words. And we need to do so in person so that they feel as well as hear our appreciation of what they do for Christ.
We had the opportunity to do that on Sunday morning. The Judkins family are heading off to Madagascar to work in a Mission Hospital in a place called Mandritsara. I was able to say a few words about them. Sadly their parents didn’t get to hear this. But this is what I said.
Earlier on we commissioned Peter and Claire-Lise to their new ministry in the Good News Hospital in Mandritsara, on the island of Madagascar.
It’s very exciting day for you as you look forward with apprehension, no doubt but also with eager anticipation at what God has in store for you. And it’s very exciting for us. We’re not a very large church and yet it’s our very great privilege to be able to support you in your gospel ministry. We’re thrilled to be able to contribute to the building of the Kingdom of God by sending you half way across the world.
But it’s a day of conflicting emotions, isn’t it? We’re excited that God has called you to work for his kingdom. But we’re also very sad to see you go because you mean so very much to us. And so I’d like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to you and the contribution you’ve made over the last seven years, but also to attempt to express our appreciation of you and our affection for you.
I did wonder whether I might talk of your great gifts, of which you have many. We’re very grateful to God for all the skills abilities he’s given to you. But I thought instead I’d talk about your character. We’ll miss what you can do, of course. But more than that, we’ll miss who you are.
Peter claims to have put a load of stuff in the loft at their flat in Streatham. But I simply don’t believe him. They don’t have that much stuff. They’re not acquisitive. And they’ve lived very simply. They model a lifestyle that doesn’t cost them very much. And so they’re well placed to adapt to a new life in which all they can take must weigh less than 100 kilos.
One of the reasons that they’re much loved is because they’re so personable. They’re people people. They have great relational skills. People are attracted to them because of their personal warmth. They genuinely love people. Claire-Lise especially takes trouble to pay attention to your issues. She remembers to ask about them. And one suspects that she’s been praying about them in teh intervening period.
They are uncomplaining team players who use the gifts that God has given them for the good of others. I had the joy of being Peter’s Apprenticeship Trainer for two years. And I’m sure that I made decisions with which he disagreed. He’s an intelligent man, he’s got experience of running teams of people at St George’s and so I’m sure that there were times when he’d have called it differently. But not once did I have occasion to doubt his allegiance. Loyalty only really starts when there’s cause for disagreement. They have been unwaveringly faithful to me and the elders in their time with us.
Over the course of Peter’s apprenticeship I was all too often unreliable. I let him down in lots of different ways; by not spending enough time with him, by forgetting to do things that I said that I would, by needing to be reminded about things that I’d forgotten. But the same could not be said of him. He is so reliable. They’re people that you can depend on. They’re not remotely flaky. They’ve got substance.
They will leave a massive hole in our church community. But that’s alright because God knows what He’s doing. But I suspect that we won’t truly appreciate their great contribution to congregational life here at CCB until they’ve gone and we have to get along without them.
At the risk of embarrassing them further, let me read to you Philippians 2:19-24. These are words with one or two minor qualifications that I’d happily send to Dr David Mann and his team at Mandritsara.
19I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. 21For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.
Let’s give thanks to God for them and pray.