My Sunday highlight came from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. We had a cracking sermon from our assistant minister, Alex Lyell. It really was terrific. My eldest boy was away with friends for the day and it was so helpful that I really think we’re going to sit down and listen to it online together.
But it wasn’t Alex’s sermon that was my highlight. It was Paul’s description of his ministry that caught my eye and caused my mind to wander. In 1:25 he says,
Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
It was that little phrase in the middle that gave me pause for thought; ‘for your progress and joy in the faith’. A quick glance at Peter O’Brien’s commentary reassured me that the NIV rendering of the Greek construction was accurate. I’ll take his word for it.
Paul’s ambition was straightforward. Any future ministry among them (if he were to be released from house arrest in Rome) would lead to two things. First that they would make progress in the faith. And secondly that they would know joy in the faith. And I just thought ‘that’s a brilliant summary of what I’m supposed to be doing at CCB’. I’d love for everyone in our church to grow and make progress in their faith. If at the end of my ministry life I’m sat in my front room, blanket draped over my knees listening to Test Match Special and I’m able to say that under my ministry people’s understanding of the truth that God has revealed to us in His word grew, then I’d retire a happy man. And I’d love for everyone in our church to respond to what they hear in God’s word by rejoicing. Our meetings can sometimes be a little muted. A little clenched. It’s not embarassing but it’s not obviously emotional. We could probably do with turning up the exuberance a notch or two. And who knows, as God grows our numbers we may feel a crowd gives us permission to let loose! But if people, deep down in their hearts (where it really matters) are singing their souls out then praise the Lord.
And so those two things: progress in the faith and progress in joy are something I’m aiming for. Of course, it has to remain my chief priority that I teach people from the scriptures. That’s why I’m employed after all. I manage a staff team. I administer a church programme, badly. And I’m involved in arranging events, if I can’t delegate them. But principally I’ve been employed as a pastor-teacher so that everyone, both believer and unbeliever alike, can learn what God has done for them in Christ. If that’s in place then the joy can follow. And my work would be done!