Ministering Personally, Ministering Pastorally - page 2

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From the Fall 2015 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Ministering Personally, Ministering Pastorally

by Michael A. Milton, Ph.D.
Director and Senior Teaching Fellow, C.S. Lewis Institute
of Charlotte and the Carolinas

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Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’ (Matthew 9.37–38 ESV).

  Christ therefore looks confidently over the landscape of a broken, fallen humanity and sees redemption on its way. Yet the redemption will come to the multitudes through His disciples. And those disciples will develop out of prayer for laborers for His harvest. You have heard of preachers who were called by God to preach who later learned of, say, a great-grandfather who prayed each day that God would bless His progeny with a minister of the Gospel. That example, a very common one, is a direct response to this passage.
  But here’s the thing that I want to say: the multitudes that Jesus saw were the objects of His divine affection, the objects of His compassion, the aim of His redeeming purposes. And yet, Jesus, according to John 17, would love those who were not yet even born. And he would do so through the testimony of His disciples. So Jesus Christ had compassion on that multitude on that day—those very people who were before him, as described in that text. Matthew tells us this. But John lets us see that His compassion extends beyond that moment, to those people of generations yet unborn, and to disciples yet unconverted, as well as to those called to answer His call to pray and minister. Jesus Christ’s compassion would be extended to others through the very disciples who receive that compassion themselves. Therefore, Jesus cared for that mass of hurting sheep Himself. His prayer for shepherd-laborers to go into the plentiful harvest is a prayer for you and me. It is a prayer that we should reach the multitudes in our day, people He made; souls He has elected unto salvation. Yet we can only reach those who are before us. We aim our message at one, or two, or three -- the people we know who need the Lord. Yet if I reach out to those who are on my heart and you reach out to those who were on yours and the other man will reach out to the people were on his heart, then we shall reach many together. This is His plan. This is our calling.
  In short: Minister to the people God has placed on your heart. There are probably only a few, but because all of us are in the same condition, if you minister to that person on your heart, you will minister to many who others who are in the same condition.
  I give an example from my life. I have a broken heart about two people I once knew. I knew these two people very well. One of them I wish that I had known better. But that is part of the necessary beckoning, the acute aching, the deep passion, and the God-given desire to reach them — particular people close to me and others like them close to you — and bridge the distance, enter the multitude, and bring the redemptive relief of healing to their souls through Jesus.
  Who are the people from the multitude that God has placed in your life? Name them. Those are the souls—precious souls—for whom Christ has compassion. Minister to those few in your heart and you’ll actually minister to many. Minister Christ personally and you will minister Him pastorally. And Christ’s command will become an answered prayer. 


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The Reverend Michael A. Milton, Ph.D is the Director and the Senior Teaching Fellow of the C.S. Lewis Institute of Charlotte and the Carolinas. Dr. Milton is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America who serves as the James Ragsdale Chair of Missions and Evangelism at Erskine Theological Seminary (SC), and is president of Faith for Living, Inc., a North Carolina non-profit ( Dr. Milton’s record of service includes President and Chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary, founder of churches in Kansas City and Savannah, and Senior Minister of the historic First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga. Dr. Milton is the author of twenty-five books, and composer and musician for five albums of original music. An alumnus of such institutions as UNC Chapel Hill, the Defense Language Institute, and Knox Theological Seminary, Mike and Mae and their son reside in Matthews, NC, just outside of Charlotte.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE:  Knowing & Doing is published by C.S. Lewis Institute; 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301; Springfield, VA 22151. Portions of the publication may be reproduced for noncommercial, local church or ministry use without prior permission. Electronic copies of the PDF files may be duplicated and transmitted via e-mail for personal and church use. Articles may not be modified without prior written permission of the Institute. For questions, contact the Institute: 703.914.5602 or email us.


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