Matthew Bohin, Assistant Pastor of Adirondack Baptist Church (Adirondack, NY)
Football and Flat Tires
I am a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan. Autographed cards of my favorite players? Check. Jerseys of the greats like Brian Dawkins and Nick Foles? Check. Eagles mugs, cups, socks, ties, and Christmas ornaments? Check. Attendance at a Philadelphia Eagles football game? You bet.
In fact, the first time I ever went to a game was early on in my high school years. I grew up in Massachusetts, so my first ever game was watching the Eagles play the New England Patriots near Boston. I was excited. Although it was only preseason, I was looking forward to seeing my favorite players in person. I wanted to be at the field, see them score touchdowns, hear the crowd, and experience my first NFL game in person. Needless to say, there was high anticipation. So with my Eagles jersey on I hopped in the car with my grandpa and headed down the road.
As we traveled, my anticipation built. But just as we were less than an hour away from the stadium, I looked out the passenger side mirror and saw our back tire shredding. It was flat—so flat that it was riding on the rim and beginning to tear. We pulled over and assessed the damage. There was no doubt: it was a flat tire.
At this point, I could have done two things. I could have given up, or I could have allowed my anticipation to drive me to fix the flat. And that's exactly what happened. We worked rapidly to fix the tire and get to the game before kickoff.
My excitement for the football game drove me to work precisely and diligently to assure we'd arrive on time. My anticipation fueled my work.
Why do I relate this story on a blog about ministry?
I currently serve as the Assistant Pastor at Adirondack Baptist Church in Gloversville, New York. I have the privilege of working with a number of ministries at church: children, teens, young adults, counseling, and administration. However, I would be unfit for the various roles God has given me without the diligent time of preparation behind me.
What preparation you ask? Well, I've been in your shoes before.
I spent eight years at BJU earning my Bachelor's degree in Bible, Master of Arts in Theological Studies, and finally my Master of Divinity. God gave me the chance to serve him through two church internships and three summers as a camp counselor. I also had the experience of working in the residence halls at BJU for a number of years.
I never dreamed I'd be at BJU for THAT long! But, those experiences prepared me to pastor in my present role.
Your preparation now lays a foundation for your anticipated future ministry. But, your anticipated future ministry must also provide the fuel for engaging in diligent preparation in the present. When you are in the throes of your studies now, are you motivated by your future ministry?
Many students today engaged in college or seminary studies disconnect their dreams for future ministry from their present work of preparation.
In the six years I spent working in the residence halls at BJU, it saddened me to see students wasting the time God allotted for their education on other pursuits. Now, recreation in and of itself is not bad. Video games, sports, entertainment, or other avenues of rest are not wrong. But many times, students in educational settings justify inordinate times of rest at the expense of their education.
Students would spend hours watching YouTube videos while failing to spend hours studying for their doctrines tests.
Ministry majors would claim that it's the "easiest" degree while failing to pour their time into their papers and projects.
Residence hall men would spend their weekends out enjoying the community while neglecting to serve in their local churches.
Why? Why do we expect laziness in our ministry preparation to produce fruit in our ministry futures?
Let me argue that we are lazy in our preparedness because we fail to connect our studies with serving our future congregations.
Just like the desire to see my beloved Philadelphia Eagles inspired my hard work to get me to the game, you must develop a desire to serve your future people in order to inspire your current studies.
You aren't just studying for yourself—you are studying for blood bought souls. You aren't just preparing for the next educational step—you are preparing for a ministry sanctioned and overseen by the Lord. You aren't just waiting for your future to happen where you'll be a good shepherd, missionary, church planter, or bi-vocational worker—you are shaping your future now.
Your Future Is Caring for Blood-Bought Souls.
I'm assuming if you're reading this, you're preparing for some form of ministry whether as a pastor, missionary, or some non-traditional form of ministry. Your studies are preparing you now for service to blood-bought souls.
In addressing the Ephesian elders, Paul says, "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood" (Acts 20:28, ESV).
Jesus cares for his church—the people to whom you are preparing to minister. Every test you take, every research paper you write, every project you submit, or every lecture you attend is not just for your own edification but for the benefit of those Jesus purchased with his cross-shed blood.
Every time you put off an assignment, prioritize unnecessary rest (i.e. laziness), or neglect a project altogether you are doing a disservice to those for whom Christ died. If Christ could give his life for souls, can you not give five hours of study for a class paper?
One thing that helped me as I went through my coursework at BJU was keeping in mind the people to whom I'd be ministering. I now know who they are: citizens of Fulton and Montgomery County in upstate New York who attend Adirondack Baptist Church in the city of Gloversville. Although you do not know where God will lead following your studies, keep these unknown people in mind. When you candidate at a church, enter the mission field, or begin at an organization, you can go to them with the knowledge that you studied, prepared, and learned for them.
Your Future Is a God-Watched Ministry.
But your preparation is not only one for blood-bought souls. Your preparation is for a future of God-watched and God-ordained ministry. Paul urges Timothy, "I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word" (2 Timothy 4:1-2, ESV).
The time you spend now in your studies, courses, lectures, and homework is preparing you to minister in the presence of God.
Since becoming a pastor, God has constantly brought this verse to my attention. My ministry is not ultimately about people but about God. He will evaluate my work as a pastor. He is the one to whom I answer.
So what does this truth have to do with preparation for ministry? Your ministry preparation is providing you the tools to serve God well. It sharpens you. Those papers and long reading assignments strengthen you to stand before God as the best servant you can be.
If you were a knight in medieval times, you would want to appear before your king or lord with the best armor, best weapons, and best skills. Why? Because you want your lord protected, defended, and pleased.
Your preparation for ministry at BJU or any other school gives you tools to do the work of your Lord well.
Your Present Is a Reflection of Your Future.
One last thought.
As you prepare, you truly are becoming the person you will be. The same habits you form in college now are the same habits you'll take with you to the pulpit, mission field, counseling room, or job. Practically speaking, the same diligence, perseverance, or studiousness you show now will show when preparing for sermons, counseling sessions, or missionary outreach in the future. The same laziness, carelessness, or lethargy you show now will show when preparing for sermons, counseling sessions, or ministry outreach in the future.
Are You Excited for the Football Game?
As we approached the Eagles game, I was glad we worked hard to fix the flat tire. I was excited to go see my team play in person!
Do you approach your studies with the same effort I used to fix our flat tire that day? You have a great ministry ahead of you; are you preparing like it? Do you serve your future congregation or counselees now by the time you put into your work here at BJU?
By God's sovereign grace, you will have the privilege of serving souls in the future! Study, prepare, and expend yourself in light of that future reality.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.