Twenty Years

26th June 2020

Helen and I were totally overwhelmed by the kindness we were shown last Sunday, as we marked twenty years of ministry here at St Stephen’s and St Wulstan’s. I’m only sorry that we didn’t get to share that day with you all in person. I trust that time will come.

It prompted me to look in my files, and I found the order of service for my induction on 16th June 2000. I also found the notes for what I said at the reception following the service. Here’s what I said then:

I’m not going to preach a sermon now, but I do want to leave with you a verse which has become dear to me, 2 Timothy 4:5, where Paul writes to Timothy: “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” If you’ve ever wanted the chance to read the pastor’s mail over his shoulder, or to eavesdrop on one of his phone-calls, this is that opportunity, as Paul tells Timothy what to do:

Keep your head in all situations, because everyone else is losing theirs, giving up on sound doctrine and the word of God. Timothy is to stand fast.

Endure hardship, because those who prefer myths to the truth will make it hard for the pastor who holds to that truth.

Do the work of an evangelist, because the pastor is easily distracted from the key work of getting the word of God out.

Discharge all the duties of your ministry: not do everyone else’s job, but keep going to the end – ultimately until the Lord takes you to be with him.

So, please pray for me: that I will keep my head in all situations, preaching the word and loving sound doctrine; that I will endure hardship if and when it comes; that I will do the work of an evangelist, and not get sucked into other things; that I will discharge all the duties of my ministry, remaining faithful to the end of my work here and to the end of my time here on earth.

Earlier, during the service itself, I led the church in these prayers:

Almighty and everlasting God, who has built your church on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone, make us and keep us a Bible-taught, and therefore Christ-centred, church. May we be those who tremble at your word, studying it carefully, hearing it obediently and passing it on faithfully; for the sake of him through whom you have spoken your final word, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

O God our heavenly Father, who so loved the world that you gave your one and only Son to die for us, may we be a self-sacrificial church. Pour your love into our hearts so that, loving you above all things, we may give up our time, our money, our gifts and ourselves to your service; for the sake of him who loved us and gave himself up for us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sovereign and gracious Lord, who has made your people the light of the world and the salt of the earth, that others may see us and so praise you, grant us to be an outward-looking church. Pardon, cleanse and restore us and fill us with the power of your Spirit, that we may be humbled and purified, and that the great number who are lost without you may be shown their sins and brought to their Saviour, for the glory of his saving name. Amen.

Reading those words and those prayers again today, twenty years on, what strikes me is that nothing much has changed. My convictions are the same, my prayers are the same, and the task is the same. My prayer today is that you and I would continue in them, with God’s help, and to his glory.