Reid A Ferguson
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, this morning is a very special morning for us at ECF, as we take this opportunity to ordain or officially set into the office both Ben Zwickl and Jim Luckey.
Both of these as elders, and of course with Jim having the expanded role as being paid staff. His compensation providing the means to give himself to this service full time, whereas our other elders (apart from myself) take up these responsibilities in addition to working full time to support themselves.
What do we mean by that?
Lexham Bible Dictionary: ORDINATION The process of formally appointing someone to ministerial office within a religious community.
The term first appears in Exodus 29 when Aaron and his sons are officially put into office as priests for Israel.
Now as you know, we are not OT Israelites. And with Jesus coming as the final, Great High Priest – as He is designated in Hebrews 4 & 10, we no longer have a separate priesthood in the Church.
In fact, as we saw in our study of Revelation, the entire Church and everyone in it takes up a part of this priesthood now.
So we read in Rev. 5:9-10 that after Jesus took the scroll of the whole of God’s plan for time and humanity from the right hand of God the Father – the 4 living creatures and the 24 elders which surround the throne of God burst out into song singing:
Revelation 5:9–10 ESV / And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
This really is a tectonic shift. In the New Covenant we no longer have this separate priesthood.
That said, we still see the Church setting certain people apart for certain tasks, and in all reality – ordaining them – the congregation officially recognizes them as suited for a certain task.
It does NOT mean they are in any wise spiritually superior or a special class of individual. It is designation for specific service. We want to be clear on that. Those ordained aren’t more holy or of a higher spiritual order somehow. They are peers, set aside for special service.
And we see that in a number of places: In Matt. 10 Jesus did it with the 12 Disciples. Setting them uniquely apart with unique authority.
We see it again with a local congregation in Acts 13:2–3 ESV / While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Here we see the dynamic of recognizing the Spirit’s gifting in these men, and the Church then laying hands on them – marking them out for this ministry they have.
In Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas repeat this action in returning to a number of the cities where they first preached the Gospel –
Acts 14:22–23 ESV / strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
And here we see how that figures into ordaining elders in the local assembly.
I wont take the time this morning to go into much detail, but the NT uses 3 words to describe the same individuals but in varying capacities: Elders, Pastors and Overseers. They come together for clarity in 1 Peter 5:1–4 ESV / So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
So notice how the Holy Spirit put this together:
(1) Peter exhorts the ELDERS (presbuterous); to
(2) SHEPHERD the flock of God (poimen) – translated “pastor” in Eph. 4);
(3) exercising OVERSIGHT (from episkopeo) – from which word we get the idea of Bishops.
The elder is a shepherd is a pastor is a teacher is a bishop or overseer.
The only 2 offices in the NT church being: Elders and Deacons.
And as you know when we were going through our pastoral search for Jim to come on board as an associate, we spent much time going over the qualifications for elders/pastors/shepherds outlined in Timothy and Titus especially.
And because of the seriousness of this work we have Paul’s warning to Timothy when he was given the task of helping the Church order itself well: 1 Timothy 5:22a ESV / Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands.
This is not to be done quickly, or lightly, without those being considered having proven themselves as suited for this ministry.
So much for ordination.
Jim Luckey and Ben Zwickl
So the pleasure we have this morning is being able to set these two men apart for this ministry having done our due diligence in that regard.
With Ben, we know his history, having served as an elder in other churches previously, and more importantly, how he has served here at ECF over the past number of years.
There simply is no question at all and we are most grateful for that reality. God is good. Ben and his family are an invaluable part of this assembly.
With Jim – while our personal experience has been more limited, we know his preparation in seminary, his service in his previous Churches and offices, and the testimony of those we talked with extensively during the search process. And tho as I said, our personal experience has been limited, I can tell you that in his time here, he has more than demonstrated his preparedness and giftedness for this Role. God has been so good in bringing Jim and his family into our midst. We are truly blessed.
Some Scriptural Insight
I want to turn our attention now to a most interesting and informative passage – pertinent to our activity this morning.
A passage that talks about 2 other men set aside for service, and which holds particular importance to me having served here at ECF the last 40+ years, and as senior Pastor since 1996.
The passage we had read for us earlier is from Paul’s letter to the Church in the city of Philippi.
There are 4 Things about Timothy and Epaphroditus in their service, that for me are supremely important in this matter.
It unpacks perhaps the most often neglected but vital considerations regarding eldership and ministry.
They are spoken of specifically in reference to Timothy, but then also demonstrated in Epaphroditus. And if we had time, we could see how these very same key ideas are connected by Paul with the ministry of Titus as well.
Philippians 2:19–30 ESV / I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.
I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
Philippians 2:20 ESV / For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.
Genuine concern for the souls of men above a “ministry.”
One thing that I’ve learned over the years, is that there is no shortage of those who want to preach, teach or hold positions of leadership in the Church.
Ministry often attracts a certain personality type. They have a sort of romance with the idea of ministry. Preparing sermons. Having a group of people to sit and listen to their wisdom, insight and eloquence.
They are taken with the idea that if they could just get their chance, if they could just get in the pulpit, God would finally use them the way they believe they are called to, people would necessarily have respect and awe for their gifts and value, and the Lord could finally do the work He intends to do now that they are firmly ensconced in place.
And they are never truly happy, never truly content unless they are given that particular avenue of service.
Oh, there is enough sincerity mixed in, in terms of having a high opinion of the call to ministry – but this compulsion really goes well beyond that. So much so that robbed of this opportunity, they forever feel cheated and resentful.
And God help the congregation where these find their way into ministry. For there is a perpetual undercurrent that they are not being properly recognized or utilized. And when the inward vision for their version of success and acceptance isn’t met, someone or someones will inevitably become their scapegoat – the stumbling block they are certain Satan has placed in their way and the great hindrance to their extraordinary ministry.
All of this because their grand object isn’t the care of souls, but the building and carrying out of “their” ministry.
When I was a young man, I remember a pastor who had long regarded my Dad as his mentor in the ministry, coming by the house to discuss the crises his church was embroiled in at that time.
After he left, my Dad simply shook his head and said: “The real problem with his church was on his own lips the entire conversation – it was MY church, MY ministry, MY people, MY vision, etc.. Everything was about him.” Nothing was about Christ. And certainly nothing about the souls of those people.
Here, the Apostle states what he does about Timothy – why Timothy is so well suited and employed to tend to the Church at Philippi and later pastor the Church at Ephesus: He was genuinely concerned for THEIR welfare, not HIS ministry. His burden if you will, was the spiritual growth and health of God’s people. It stood out as his chief concern.
The same spirit Was demonstrated in one of the Philippians’ own – Epaphroditus, who had been sent by them to carry a gift to Paul and serve him for a bit. This good man, when he grew gravely ill in Rome, was deeply longing for them and was “distressed”, anguished over how his fellow Philippians might be disheartened by his near passing.
His concern, like Timothy’s and Paul’s was for THEIR welfare. That they might not be discouraged but encouraged, built up and energized to follow Christ.
And this Beloved I can testify is the heart and mind of Ben and Jim.
They are here and serving us at ECF, and I can say with all confidence that they are like minded with myself and the other Elders in a passion for YOUR spiritual welfare above anything that the office of Elder-Shepherd-Overseer holds for them.
Passages like those in Timothy and Titus which lay out the basic qualifications for elders – in all truth say little more than that they ought to be men who seriously pursue living out authentic Biblical Christianity in a mature way. Other than needing to able to teach or communicate the Gospel and defend it from detractors, they simply need to be solid men seeking Christ.
But Paul notes the things here that really set them apart – and chief among them is this one thing: They have an abiding concern for the spiritual health and development of those around them. An inexplicable burden to pray for and help others in this regard.
And as I consider the transition ahead in my own service here, after the basics are met, this for me takes precedence in looking to men to be elders in this congregation. They MUST have this burden for your spiritual welfare at the fore. And I am more than glad to be able to say that concerning our existing elders, and these two this morning.
The 2nd vital characteristic Paul alludes to here is found in the next verse: Philippians 2:21 ESV / For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.
Seeking Christ’s interests above their own.
Growing out of the first priority comes this second one. They are connected though not identical. But those who are to enter this office must be those who seek Christ’s interests above their own.
Once again, the thought of having or establishing THEIR ministry, is NOT a leading factor. Being convinced of Christ’s priorities and what He is doing in His Church, they do not seek to carry out their own vision – but His.
Ben has a career as a scientist and educator.
Jim didn’t go looking for a mega-church or for a position as a stepping-stone to something higher.
Each in his place simply sought to serve Christ’s people for Christ’s sake.
They have nothing personal to gain in this. They want to serve God’s people in their growth in the image of Christ.
Now even the best of men can err in this at times. We have a stunning example of that with Peter in Matthew 16:21–23 ESV / From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Peter was sincere. Peter was gifted. Peter was hand chosen by Jesus. But when Peter insisted on his agenda apart from considering Christ’s, he found out just how dangerous that was. This is a powerful rebuke.
And those who seek any position of ministry need to be especially cautious here. For the only thing it takes to become a supreme hindrance to Christ is to lose sight of His plans and purposes, and insist on our own instead.
That does not mean we cannot have ideas of how to serve and put into action plans and methods for meeting the needs of the souls of those around us. But it IS to say our ideas must both take second place to the priorities set in God’s Word, and are only valid when they are useful for promoting Christ’s agenda in the Believer, the Church and the World.
We must never forget that Peter’s great blunder here came on the heels of Jesus telling him how the Church would be built upon the revelation of and Peter’s confession of Jesus Being the Christ, the Son of God. And that it was on that revelation and confession that Jesus said “I will build my Church.”
The Church isn’t ours to build – it is Christ’s! And He, is still building it. All we can be is co-laborers in HIS work. We do not seek to establish our own.
And once again I am confident that we have in these 2 men, those who have that very mindset and are committed to it. Neither one has their own kingdom here to try and establish.
The 3rd characteristic Paul appeals to is found in Philippians 2:22 ESV / But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.
As a son with a father.
The picture here is one of humility and service.
Our church governance here is one of a plurality of elders. We have a team of pastors. Not just one pastor with advisors.
Nor are only the paid ones like Jim or myself considered more so than the others. We simply have been compensated so that we can devote all of our time to the pastoral duties the others can only do part time.
While I have the privilege of being technically the “lead” pastor, it truly is only leadership among equals. I am not THE pastor any more than the others even though I’ve enjoyed the role of being the lead-teacher/preacher.
But when I look at the eldership God has been pleased to gift us with here, I am truly amazed. What I am about to say about Jim and Ben I can rightly say of the rest as well.
These men are smarter than I am.
They are better equipped than I am.
More educated and trained than I am.
But in humility, they serve under me, like sons with a father.
And doesn’t every father hope to see their sons outstrip them in growth and service? I know I do. I want that for them, and I want that for you.
This has been true of all our elders here. And it speaks to genuine humility and willingness to serve above seeking recognition or position.
In fact, if one cannot serve UNDER others, then they are never fit to serve OVER others. It is a simple fact of life, as well as a Scriptural principle.
We have no greater example of this than we do in Jesus Himself.
We all know the account of Jesus when He was 12 years old going up to Jerusalem for the Passover with His parents.
In returning, they thought He was in the caravan, and when they discovered He wasn’t, they spent 3 days looking for Him.
They finally found Him in the Temple sitting around with the teachers, listening and asking them questions. But when His parents get Him back in tow, Luke 2:51 states –
Luke 2:51 ESV / And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
Make no mistake, He was no less God of the universe in His incarnation than He was before He came or after He ascended.
He was His parents creator!
He was in every conceivable way their superior. And yet, in fulfilling the Father’s plan, He was “submissive” to them.
In Luke when He went to heal the Centurion’s servant – do you remember what the Centurion said to Him? And why he didn’t need Jesus to actually come and lay hands on the servant, but just “speak the word?”
Luke 7:8 ESV / For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
I too – like you Jesus, am UNDER authority – and that is why – like you – I HAVE authority and recognize yours.
The Spirit of Christ is not a spirit of self-promotion or autonomy – but of submission to God’s arrangements without chafing.
And once again, as all the elders here, these men have served with me, in many ways their inferior, but in preserving right order in God’s house, as though they are sons with a father.
It really is an unusual blessing for an assembly to have men like this.
Lastly, in that same verse, we light upon the 4th quality Paul finds so necessary in one who serves best in his own place: And I will only touch on it briefly.
Philippians 2:22 ESV / But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.
They serve in the Gospel.
They are Gospel centered men.
I know them.
I’ve watched them.
I’ve worked with them. I’ve seen how they reason and what guides their views, plans, opinions and goals.
They aren’t given to trends and gimmicks and every new wind of doctrine which comes down the pike.
They seek to see Christ’s cross-work lived, proclaimed and wrought out in their own lives, and in the lives of others.
They have the Gospel as both their starting point and their goal, in their own lives and in their service here at ECF.
Seeing the lost reconciled to God through the Gospel, and pointing Believers always back to the Gospel as our only hope and comfort. Seeking to see the implications of the Gospel applied to the lives of those they minister to.
They are committed to Gospel ministry above all other ways to serve. And this Beloved, this alone is safe for your own souls, and central to the kingdom of God in our time and place.
As the Apostle Paul would put it in Ephesians 3:7–12 ESV / Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
To know the Gospel for themselves savingly, to live in it, to preach it and teach it to others, and to protect it from distortion, loss, dilution, mixture or indifference.
These men are set for these things, and that is why we set them apart today in ordination for those ends.
- Genuine concern for the souls of men above a “ministry.”
- Seeking Christ’s interests above their own.
- As a son with a father.
- They serve in the Gospel.
Jim and Ben – I charge you as Paul did Timothy in his 2nd letter to him:
- (1.6-7) Rekindle the fire/ “fan into flame” the gift of God – Don’t let the flame die!
- (1.8) Resist Timidity/ “do not be ashamed of the Gospel” – Don’t lose boldness!
- (1.13-14) Regard the standard/ “follow the pattern of sound words” – Don’t compromise!
- (2.1) Renew yourself in Christ’s favor/ “be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus” – Don’t rely on yourself!
- (2.2) Recommit these truths to others/ “entrust to faithful men” – Don’t stop teaching!
- (2.3-6) Rise to the Rigors/ “share in suffering” – Don’t become soft!
- (2.8-9) Remember Jesus Christ/ “Remember Jesus Christ” – Don’t forget whom it is you serve!
- (2.10-13) Recall my Reasons/ “for the sake of the elect” – Don’t forget the lost souls of men!
- (2.14) Remind them of these things/ “Remind them” – Don’t stop rehearsing the truth!
- (2.14-19) Require them to avoid word wars/ “charge them before God” – Don’t let them get bogged down!
- (2.15) Resolve to show yourself approved to God in the Word/ “Do your best” – Don’t lose focus!
- (2.16-19) Refuse irreverent babble/ “avoid irreverent babble” – Don’t get tangled up!
- (2.22) Run from youthful passions by running to Godly passions/ “flee youthful passions” – Don’t let down your guard!
- (2.23) Reject ignorant controversies/ “Have nothing to do” – Don’t get derailed!
- (3.1-9) Recognize the Times/ “understand this” – Don’t get disheartened!
- (3.14-17) Retain the essentials/ “continue in what you have heard” – Don’t move from the Scriptures!
- (4.1-4) Remain Ready/ “preach the word” – Don’t stop preaching!
- (4:9-13) / Refresh Other Laborers/ “Do your best to come” – Don’t Forget others who Labor!
- (4:14-15) / Refrain from Opposers/ “Beware of him yourself” – Don’t be gullible!
- (4:19) / Reaffirm Relationships/ “Greet Prisca and Aquila” – Don’t get isolated!
And so now I would call for the other elders to come and lay hands on them and pray.