Consistently ministering to a flock, of which God has given you the privilege to do so, is an incredible opportunity. Ministering for 40+ years, is even more amazing. I am writing this blog post on behalf of my father-in-law, Bob Baker, who has been faithfully ministering to God’s people for the last 4 decades or so . . . Wow, what a heritage. What an example. Today, however – he retires.
So, what do you say to someone who has left this kind of legacy? Well, you offer biblical reasons to appreciate and value him as a pastor; a shepherd. I would like to review two passages of Scripture that I think best describe my dad’s life and ministry. First, is Paul’s admonition to Timothy in his first letter (4:12-13). Here Paul admonishes Timothy to be an example. This means to offer oneself as an impression; an impression that is used as a mold to shape someone or something else. Paul’s point here is that Timothy should not so much be an example that others can emulate, but that he is to be a mold that should be pressed into the lives of others so they too can attain the same shape. How is this to be done? It is to be done in one’s everyday speech, everyday life, through a selfless love – expecting nothing in return, through a trustworthiness in God, and through a pure life. This represents a faithful servant, minister of God’s word. This exemplifies dad’s character; his life as a godly example for others.
Paul continues in verse 13. Timothy is also to read God’s word, exhort others using God’s word, and teach God’s word. Basically he is admonishing Timothy to immerse himself in the biblical text, encourage others to godliness and while doing so, emphasize the centrality of the text through study, devotion and life. His lifestyle is to be characterized as a devotion to, and immersion in, the biblical text. Again, I cannot think of a better way to describe my father-in-law’s ministry to others and characterize his life lived before others. As Paul states later in the text (v. 16), dad paid close attention to his life and continued in the teaching of God’s word. He and his ministry exemplified Paul’s admonitions to Timothy.
The second passage comes from the first letter written by Peter. Here (5:1-4), Peter admonishes the elders (pastors) with some challenging pastoral responsibilities. The pastor is to feed the flock; that is, consistently use the word of God to grow your people toward godliness. He is also to look after, or inspect the flock. Inspecting the people to ensure that their lives are God-pleasing to the church and community at large. How is the pastor to do these things? Willingly, eagerly, and with humility; exhibiting the godly character for others to emulate.
This is not always easy. But over the years I have watched, and carefully observed these qualities in dad’s life and ministry. He has loved people. He has shared the gospel with many, and by God’s grace, had the privilege to experience God’s working in and through people as they humble themselves and accept Jesus as their Savior. He is an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor 5:20). He has paid careful attention to and devoted his life to the Scriptures. He has taught the Scriptures in order to exhort others to growth in godliness. He has done it without complaint. Why? Because he loves his Lord, and the Lord’s people. He truly understands Hebrews 13:17; that is, to watch over God’s people knowing he would one day give an account for them and he did it with joy. Thanks dad for your example. Thanks for being a Paul to this Timothy.