By Paul D. Mooney
On Sunday night a week ago, Rev. Harry Scism, our International Foreign Missions Director was at Calvary Tabernacle to ordain Bro. and Sis. Brian Williams, our missionaries to Kazakhstan. I might point out here that we had a most challenging service. Bro. Scism is an incredible person, and few men are more in touch with revival around the world than he is.
Bro. Harry Scism has served as our Director for over twenty-four years, and has steered the United Pentecostal Church through its most productive growth years in its history. In fact, many church growth watchers consider the United Pentecostal Church as one the fastest growing churches in the world. Never miss an opportunity to sit and talk with Bro. Scism or have him in your church.
However, what I want to mention here is the scripture he read during the ordination (Acts. 20:19-36). It is an often-read scripture for ordination services, but as he was reading it, I was thinking what a powerful defense the Apostle Paul was making concerning his ministry and how he conducted himself in relationship to his calling. Preachers and church people who want to have a life or ministry that are of the utmost integrity should look at the Apostle’s defense of his own ministry.
To save space, I’ll refer to the scripture and you the reader hopefully will use your Bible to follow along. In verse 19 (Acts 20), the Apostle expresses real modesty in confessing his tears and temptations. This is a much-needed attitude in the church today. The world is turned off when Christians imply by their arrogance that they are without common struggles, especially since they know better.
Next, Paul states that he has been fair and faithful to his duty in verse 20. What an important consideration. Duty has become an unsung virtue in a world of selfish and lustful pursuits, but it still matters.
In Verse 21 the great evangelist makes it clear that he is not a racist. His ministry has been without bias. He ministered to Jews and Greeks, and set the proper standard for the church. We can do no less. “The Whole Gospel To The Whole World.”
Then, He brings up the issue of commitment in verse 23. Too many ministries and church members are afraid of commitment. Hard work will conquer many situations and laziness. These are far too common afflictions that drag their victims to defeat. Paul labored on through bonds and afflictions. What an inspiration!
He continues by reminding the church that he “finished his course,” but more than that, he did so with joy. No whining here or complaining, but the Apostle finishes with integrity. The world may have forgotten about integrity but the church cannot afford to do so.
Now in verses 26 and 27 he deals with the matter or accountability. Many people seek power and authority but do not wish for any accountability. This is impossible. We are all accountable to each other and to God. There are no exceptions. A life spent avoiding accountability is a life lived in fear and usually failure.
A great issue faces every generation with respect to training and the transference of responsibility. This is true in every profession. In politics, all must think about whom will precede them. Paul covers this issue by appointing elders and charging them to be faithful. He trained and prepared others to take his place in verses 28 and 29. May God help this generation to see the value of this enterprise. To not train and prepare our young people is a failure of extreme magnitude.
The preacher brings up hard issues of internal corruption in verse 30;”of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things.” It takes integrity to address these types of issues. My years in the ministry have sadly demonstrated to me how easy it is for some to avoid these issues because it is convenient or politically advantageous to do so.
To me it seems clear that in verse 31 Paul reveals the tone that he had set for his own life. He was serious. His ministry mattered to him. To the great Apostle, his calling was important. Day and night he warned the church and did so with tears. The lightness of our age is in direct contrast to this concept. Foolishness and levity is an embarrassment to the ministry, and to the church as a whole. There is a place of humor, joy, and pleasure, but the work of the minister is important and serious business.
Showing respect and giving proper honor should be easy, but many choke when it comes time to extend honor or recognition to others. This is often seen in cases of former pastors or ministers who have released their labors into the hands of others, only to find that successors try to write them out of the history books. Here is another place where Paul did the right thing when he gives all honor and glory to God. No doubt this was his over-all attitude. It should be ours as well (Verse 32).
“I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel (Verse 33).” There is hardly any reason to add to this statement. When it came to finances and stewardship, this man of God was impeccable.
The next matter he covers, in verse 34, is his own personal responsibility. Old fashioned some might think, but how refreshing it would be to see more people recognize that they are the ones who must first step up to their own needs. Paul is quick to state that he took care of himself. But caution should be applied here, that we do not close off our support for others with the conscience comforting excuse that “they should take care of themselves:” Or “let them eat cake,” as one notorious elitist insultingly stated.
One amazing thing that this world-changing preacher understood and emphatically declares with his remarks in verse 35, is that the call is more important than any sacrifice. He demonstrates great ethical behavior here by showing us that whatever it takes to do the right thing, one must do it. Give until it hurts. Give because it matters.
Finally in verse 36,”he prayed with them all:” He cared. Caring says a lot about a person, and it is more important in most cases than having talent. Caring helps people through the storms and caring is something anyone can do. Caring or love is at the core of all things good. Paul set the pace; may we take note.