Last night, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s Presbytery of Ohio installed the Rev. Chris Malamisuro as the minister of Good Shepherd OPC, which is one of its mission works. The Rev. Bill Kessler preached from John 20:19-23, proclaiming the wonders that our ascended Lord would draw near and announce “Peace be with you” through His ministers. The Rev. Ken Montgomery and the Rev. Bob Eckardt delivered the Exhortation to the Congregation and Officers and the Charge to the Pastor.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Heb. 10:23)
Theological liberalism has brought denominational giants down to their knees. So much so, that the “Mainline” denominations would be unrecognizable to the ministers, elders, and members that founded them in the New World. It would be like a civilian, who had fled her war-torn city, returning to see nothing but ruins and saying, “I don’t even recognize this place”.
Jesus Himself warned, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matt. 7:15) Paul echoed Jesus, saying, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29-30)
In that chapter of Acts, Paul not only warned the elders of the Ephesian church of impending danger, but he also charged them with protecting their church. Given that Christ’s Church is larger than a single congregation and seeing the pattern that was given throughout the Old Testament (elders & Sanhedrin) and the New (cf. Acts 15), church leaders regularly meet together in order to protect their sheep. They do more than this but not less, and NAPARC facilitates it because we find strength against sin in numbers. “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Eccl. 4:12)
In the 1970s, the Reformed and Presbyterian Church bodies united together in a council called NAPARC. They recognized that, though they came from different cultural backgrounds, they were united in the truths they confessed the Bible to teach and believed in “the desirability and need for organic union” between its denominations (Art. 2).
One practical way in which this council has begun to bring greater unity to its member Churches is through regular “discussion and consultation” (NAPARC Constitution, Art. 3.1). To the uninitiated, this may sound like the same sort of thing that happens at the coffee shop, pub, or Evangelical mega-conference. What is in view, though, are official church meetings; some of them are regional (“Presbytery” or “Classis”) and some are denominational (“General Assembly” or “Synod”). When these meetings are held, representatives from the other denominations attend in order to observe the matters being discussed, to address the body on behalf of their denomination, and to foster greater trust, appreciation, and partnership. This also takes place at a yearly NAPARC meeting, when official delegates convene to address matters of unity directly. The 38th meeting will be held in a month.
Recently, I was encouraged by a message from 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 on the calling of the pastor. Here is part of the text:
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God… For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord… [2 Cor. 4:1-2,5]
In the verses that precede this text, Paul had given a wonderful description of the new covenant’s superiority to the old covenant; the former is characterized by the life-giving Spirit whereas the latter brought death.
But here, Paul begins to teach the Corinthian congregation that he and the other ministers that were with him do not lose heart. Why would they possibly lose heart when the new covenant is so much better?! As in our day, some, like the “super apostles” (2 Cor. 12:12), were using disgraceful methods to propagate the gospel and achieve greater outward results. Paul’s method was preaching, though, and he teaches in verses 3-4 that when the gospel is held forth plainly, those that are destined to perish will reject it. The problem isn’t with Paul’s method, and it doesn’t detract from the new covenant. Rather, it is the result of human sin and part of God’s sovereign plan.
A commitment to the open, clear proclamation of the Bible’s teaching is the pastor’s calling. It requires that he be sensitive to the culture; how can he communicate clearly to people he neither understands nor cares for? He must also be a specialist in the Bible; how can he declare something he does not understand? Open proclamation also requires that a minister honestly explain the Bible’s teaching, even if it may cause offense. Though this simple method of administering the new covenant may seem silly and be ridiculed, it is God’s method for growing Christ’s Church.
It is common in our day to associate the Great Commission solely with the witness of the individual Christian. The reasoning goes something like this: “Instruction occurs during worship services, and evangelism takes place elsewhere.” While the personal witness of the Christian is undoubtedly important, it’s a mistake to conclude that the worship of the local church is distinct from the Great Commission.
Consider that it was the Twelve Apostles that Jesus commissioned (Matt.
28:18-20). It is clear that being an Apostle meant that they held a ministerial
office in Christ’s Church.
Furthermore, they were given an ‘official’ method of making disciples, i.e., teaching and baptizing. In other words, these officers were called to make disciples of Christ through Word and Sacrament ministry, the performance of which is not the calling of every single Christian.
Though the apostolic office ended with Paul (1 Cor. 15:7-9), the Commission to make disciples continues with Christ’s Church. It is accomplished in an official capacity through the Word and Sacraments. The witness of the believer is immensely important yet subservient to the official work. Given that churches are formed and gathered around the Word and Sacraments, the Great Commission cannot be fulfilled without planting and growing local churches.