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Sunday, June 25, 2017
C2C: Connected to the Great Commission

"Shoe Shine" Letters...

This page contains selected articles that have previously appeared in the "Baptist Light" or other letters written to encourage pastors and churches to "be the Church beyond the walls".  Check back for occasional updates. 
 

Proverbs 25:11-13 (King James Version)

11  A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

 

12 As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.

 

13 As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters.

 

As I meditated on these verses, I am struck by the imagery of the illustrations but also the practicality of these truths. 

 

I.  THE BEAUTY OF TIMELY ADVICE (vs. 11)

Throughout Proverbs, a strong case is made regarding the wisdom of seeking good counsel.   I’ve learned the hard way that I need to first consult the Lord’s will regarding everything I do but also the wisdom of seeking the advice of wise people, especially those who have experience in the area of my concern.  One of the things I’ve found though, is that while I need to be liberal in seeking advice, I need to be conservative in giving advice.   I take someone’s trust very seriously and make every effort to be wise in what I say and that my counsel lines up with scriptural wisdom. 

 

When it comes to helping people grow in faith and love (“making disciples”), I’ve found that I need to be prudent not only in what advice to give but in when to offer it.  Except in rare situations, I don’t think it’s wise to give advice unless it’s asked for.   Even then, I’ve learned not to be too early and certainly in serious matters, not to be too late.   Timely advice is a beautiful thing.  The key word here, however, is timely. 

 

II.  THE TREASURE OF VALID CRITICISM (vs. 12)

Those of us who are or have been leaders know the certainty of criticism.  I’ve learned that you cannot please all the people all the time.  Pastors especially get criticized because, typically, everyone in the congregation has a different opinion as to what the pastor should be doing and their opinions are usually centered around their own personal needs, whether real or perceived.   Like armchair quarterbacks, many people second guess decisions, question motives, even want to comment on the length or content of sermons.   I’ve had to learn the hard way that when we try to please everyone we often end up pleasing no one, and more importantly, failing to please God.  No one likes to receive criticism but it is a reality.  Sometimes, however, it is valid and those open to valid criticism grow.

 

Here’s three simple truths that I’ve learned both for accepting and giving criticism.

 

1.  Criticism is easier to accept from a trusted friend. 

If I know my critic is a friend and a supporter and has my best interest at heart, I’ll listen more readily.  I thank God for my wife who loves me enough to tell me the truth!   I’m also thankful for my true friends who do the same.

 

2.  Criticism is easier to accept when it is seldom offered. 

I tend to ignore people who are continuously critical.  Someone who comes rarely, and in the right spirit, gets my attention.  This isn’t to say that someone who is a regular critic cannot be right, however, it is just harder to listen to them. 

 

3.  Criticism is easier for me to accept when it is sought. 

I’ve learned the value of surrounding myself with trusted people and giving them permission to speak truth.  It’s also wise to ask them questions like, “How am I doing?”, or  “What can I improve?”.   I think the worst thing you can do is surround yourself with people who only tell you what they think you want to hear. 

 

During most of the time I was a pastor in Dothan, I was privileged to have several pastoral interns who were students at the Baptist College of Florida.  When one of them was graduating from college and about to move on, he came to me and asked me to sit down with him and share what I saw as his shortcomings and weaknesses.  I’ve never been so honored and at the same time so humbled.  He did not know it, but my esteem for him rose to new levels that day. 

 

I rejoice to tell you that this young man left me to become a successful pastor, wisely shepherding a flock that grew in faith and love.  In addition, in 2003, he and his family were commissioned as missionaries in China.  I believe one of the reasons for his success is that he has been willing to listen to truth shared in love.  And the pupil helped his teacher learn the value of valid criticism.

  

III.  THE REFRESHMENT OF A FAITHFUL MESSENGER (vs. 13)

A faithful messenger is one that delivers the message entrusted to him both accurately and in the right spirit- the spirit in which it was intended.   As pastors, teachers, witnesses, and brothers and sisters in Christ, we sometimes must offer timely advice and valid criticism.   I believe to do this we have to always base everything on the God’s word.  The first apostles’ request for assistance in ministry came because of their desire to devote themselves to “prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 12).  We’re to teach, preach, and instruct one another for evangelism (lifting up Jesus) and edification (building up one another), “rightly dividing the word of truth”, “instant in season and out of season”, committing the message to faithful people who will in turn be “able to teach others also”. 

 

Although the message is not always welcomed and may not be received, we have an obligation to speak the truth in love and the assurance of God’s word that the faithful delivery of the message brings joy to the One that sends us. 

 

Personally, I want to be a faithful messenger, bringing glory to my Master by faithfully delivering that which has been entrusted to me. 

 

It’s very evident that the Apostle Paul felt this way also.  Let me close with his words to the elders of the church in Ephesus. 

 

   “You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, 19“serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; 20“how I kept back nothing that has helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21“testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Acts 20:18b-21 NKJV

 

May God bless you richly as you keep speaking the truth in love.   

 
Alongside,
 Jeff Mann
Former DOM