As may who read this probably already know, at the end of 2016 I retired from “full-time located preaching.” I am still serving as an elder. One of the reasons that I chose to retire from my other duties was that it would give me more time to do what I consider to be a vitally important role for an elder; being with and helping to shepherd people. Along with that, I am hoping to do some “fill-in” preaching, hold gospel meetings, etc. if and when I am asked to do so.
The decision to retire from what I had been doing for over thirty-eight years was not done without a great deal of prayer, thought, and communication. It was a major decision for Donna and me. It has had a major impact on our lives.
A few weeks ago, the congregation where I preached for the past 16 years decided to surprise us with a reception following our evening worship service. I suppose that it could be said that they were telling us that we had had some degree of impact on their lives.
During the events of that evening, three younger men presented me with a plaque. You can see the plaque here:
I know these young men. I know the hearts of these young men. Each of these young men has worked with me in the ministry in some capacity. The fact that they thought enough of me to do this means more to me than I could ever express. I am confident that they are, in fact, “…faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” In fact, each of them is, in his own way, already doing so.
I am hoping that they can teach others that being overly critical is hurtful. It is hurtful to individuals. It is hurtful to the cause of Christ.
I have had some people question me about the phrase on the plaque – “Father in Faith.” They either said or implied that these young men had given me a religious title and/or were doing something that totally violated what our Lord said in Matt. 23:9.
That thought never entered my mind. The reason that it never entered my mind is that – allow me to repeat – I know these young men and I know the hearts of these young men. I knew that their message was that each of them saw himself in the role of somebody who had, in some way, been mentored by me. While none of them would consider himself to be a modern-day Timothy and I certainly do not see myself as a modern-day Paul, that was the message the plaque conveyed to me when I first saw it. It is still the message I see every time I look at the plaque.
I also see another message every time I look at the plaque and/or think about the plaque. In some ways, the plaque serves as a mirror for me. I’ve had to do some self-examination.
I wonder if, over the years, I have been one who has been overly critical of a person’s actions or comments. I wonder if I see or hear something and begin almost immediately to put a negative spin on what I’ve seen or heard.
Sadly, I know the answer to those questions. The answer is” “Yes.”
As we wonder whether or not a brother or sister has crossed all of the appropriate t’s and has dotted all of the appropriate i’s, we might want to spend some time with 1 Cor. 13. As I read that chapter about love, I find some interesting things said about love. For example, “Love is patient and kind…Love…believes all things” (vs. 4, 7).
Our Lord said that His followers were to be identified by how much we love each other (cf. John 13:34-35). Since that is the case, it seems to me that we need to think the best about each other instead of impugning motives or actions.
Years ago, I read a statement that I try to keep in mind. I even try to live by it. All too often, I fail in that attempt.
I do not remember the exact wording, but what follows is pretty close. As I remember it, a man was told by his wife:
“________, your problem is that you judge yourself by your intentions and everybody else by their actions.”
I am thankful for those who “…contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3, ESV). The ones who questioned the wording of the plaque would be among those who are doing just that. I would like to think that I am in that number. I have no interest in introducing doctrines and practices that are without biblical authority.
At the same time, I have no interest in being known as a person who has set myself up as judge and jury concerning every other member of God’s family. If I have a motto as a gospel preacher, it is this phrase found in Ephesians 4:15: “…speaking the truth in love…” If I am not speaking truth, I have no business speaking at all. The same would be true if I do not love.
As I write this, we are still in the process of getting our home office set up. When that process is complete, the plan is for the plaque/mirror to be displayed.
Maybe you can come by and take a look – at it and yourself. I know I do both.
I do not want the Lord to have the same opinion of me that He had of some of the people with whom He dealt while He was on the earth:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! (Matt. 23:23-24, ESV)
AUTHOR: Jim Faughn