On Saturday, January 22, 2012, I preached an installation service in Point Fortin, Trinidad at the Warden Road Worship Centre (a.k.a., the Mt. Beulah Evangelical Baptist Church) which installed Pastor Roddie Taylor as bishop. Roddie explains this installation, especially to those who are curious how this may fit in our Baptist world!
In our culture, if you are overseeing more than one church and have been involved in planting other churches, you are considered to be a bishop. However, we also believe that a bishop, pastor, overseer, shepherd, leader, etc., are all one and the same. Difference of administration, same spirit.
I was asked to preach this service in mid-December and I count it as one of the signal humbling honors of my life and ministry. I wanted to share with you in three parts (it’s a sermon that took about an hour to preach–as they expect in Trinidad). May God use this to bless!
What a joy it is to be here on this very special day! For one, this is my friend’s birthday—the 17th anniversary of his 39th birthday! But as you can tell, this day has more significance that an earthly birthday—as we have seen. This is a testimony to God demonstrating His faithfulness to a home and family, to a church such as Mt. Beulah, and to a community and country such as Point Fortin, Trinidad and Tobago! He has also done much in the United States by ministering in Kentucky, Arkansas, Texas, as well as other countries like Venezuela and this year the country of Mexico.
When I think of Roddie, the passage from 2 Timothy 2:1-2 comes to mind:
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Paul had given Timothy the task of guarding the good deposit entrusted to you! That deposit is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Roddie is one who desires to see Christ lifted up in his Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. Not his name, Christ’s name.
Not long ago, I heard of a coach who was walking across a university campus and he saw a turtle upon a fencepost. A turtle. Upon a fencepost! Whatever else a turtle can do, climbing is very low on that list! So he asked someone else who was walking by, “How did that turtle get up there?” “I don’t know, Coach—but one thing is for sure, he didn’t get up there by himself.”
Roddie, I saw this in all love and respect—you know that you are that turtle right now upon that fencepost, right? By that, I mean that you recognize you did not get here by yourself. God brought you here by placing men in your life past and present. I think of 1 Corinthians 4:7 which says, “What do you have that you did not receive?” Again, all of this is a testimony to what God has given to you in Christ!
I have known Roddie Taylor since 1996 when we first met at a joint concert in San Fernando, I believe, held at Pastor Sonny Richardson’s church when we sat together. I was only 24 at the time, but I thought to myself as I left, “That man knows how to enjoy himself!” When I was pastor at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church in Kentucky, missionaries Garey and Polly Scott connected me with a man who was a pastor in Point Fortin—the same Roddie Taylor. God allowed four teams from Boone’s Creek to come to do VBSes, crusades, evangelistic doorknocking, construction on this building. And in all this, I now understand what fuels his good time: his God, his family, his church, his calling, his friends—so many good gifts that God has put around him.
This evening however is not simply a testimonial or a tribute to this man of God, but more importantly to the God who made the man! It’s not simply about this man called by God, it’s about the God who called the man into His service. It is with this in mind that I ask you to take a copy of God’s Word and turn to 1 Peter 5 and we shall read verses 1-5.
1 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: 2 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; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Peter is writing to the church, with 2-4 being to the elders, that is, the leaders of the church—then in 5-11 he is writing to the church members at large. Notice where Peter is coming from.
He addresses himself in verse 1 as a ‘fellow elder.’ He knows what the leaders are going through. Dear ministers, don’t you sometimes enjoy getting together with other ministers to talk about ministry? There are things about ministry that no one else understands besides other ministers.
But he mentions that he is a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed. He was there when Christ was crucified—even though he tried to correct Jesus when Jesus told him he could be killed. Christ humbled him quickly. He was also humbled soon after at the Mount of Transfiguration when he got a glimpse of his glory. You see, Christ put Peter in a position of authority, but he had to be humbled in order for him to serve rightly. All of us need to go through that to put the good times in perspective!
With all this in mind, he makes the case to shepherd the flock of God, exercising oversight!
So many pastors see themselves as CEOs over an empire rather than seeing themselves as shepherds of a flock. They want to manipulate! They simply see them as a herd to be driven rather than a shepherd who leads by being among them. Church members either put them on a pedestal or pulverize them with their selfishness.
We must see that the sheep are under attack—so we need faithful shepherds now more than ever before (Ezekiel 34).
First, shepherds must do so willingly, not begrudgingly.
J.I. Packer in his book Your Father Loves You (sadly, it’s out of print), writes about a spiritual disease that in Medieval times they called accidie. It’s not a physical disease, but a spiritual one—an apathy of the soul.
It is something that threatens all Christian workers after the first flush of enthusiasm has worn off. It’s a form of sloth but not at the physical level. It is apathy of the soul. It shows in a certain toughness of mind and wariness of spirit which often results from hurt and disillusionment.
People with accidie in this sense have grown cynical about ideals, enthusiasms, and strong hopes. They look pityingly at young people and say, “They’ll learn,” taking it for granted that when they’ve learned, they’ll become tough inside too. Once upon a time these leather-souled people were keen, hopeful, and expectant. But nothing happened, or they got hurt, and now they protect themselves against pain by adopting cynical, world-weary attitudes.
If these people are ministers of churches, they work mechanically, merely going through the motions because their light has really gone out and they’re no longer expecting anything exciting to happen. They feel that they know from experience that exciting things don’t happen, and that’s an end of it. So they merely plod on, expecting nothing and receiving nothing.
But the Lord does not send us out on his work in order that nothing may happen. His word is intended to have impact; it’s sent out to accomplish something. We ought never to settle for a non-expectant, defeated attitude. Rather we should be asking and expecting great things from God.
While all ministers go through this, Roddie Taylor is a testimony to God at how he persevered in this willingly, not begrudgingly. Spurgeon told some young students who sensed a calling into the ministry, “If you can see yourself doing anything else, then do it! If you cannot see yourself doing anything else, then that may be a sign of God’s call. Because there are few things that are worse than a minister who is not called!
There is the story of a minister who went to a church, but did so not wanting to go—he felt that God wanted him there, but he didn’t want to go. And everytime he would speak to the church, it would never be “our church,” but “your church.” It showed and everyone reacted poorly. He left angry, bitter, and vengeful.
Can God use unwilling men? Yes, he used Jonah who preached a sermon that was not very uplifting: “Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). Now God used that, didn’t he? Yes—His purposes will be accomplished but how miserable will the minister be and for those who are around him any amount of time.
(Next, Part II: Shepherd the Flock of God Eagerly, Not Greedily