Sunday January 02, 2011

Greetings in the strong and sweet name of Jesus!
I am hoping this email finds you blessed and eager to continue serving our Lord Jesus for another year.

First, let me express my sincere thanks for the gracious welcome I received in Bacau last November. It was a real joy to meet you, to fellowship, and to explore the Scriptures together. I grew in my faith because of that Saturday when we gathered to jump deep into the book of Ruth. Thanks for taking the study seriously, and for your attention over the course of the day, even with my total lack of any ability to communicate in your language!

As you know, we hope that this effort to bring leaders together for periodic teaching, training, and encouragement will continue with similar enthusiasm and success, and that the Church of Christ in your region of Romania will be strengthened – in existing works and through new church plants. I am humbled that God has given me this little role in such a significant vision through my new friendship with Pastor Marian Paduret. I look forward, prayerfully, to my next trip to Romania. I hope it can be soon. I trust God for partners who will make the mission happen.

With that in mind, I want to suggest to you that 2011 will be a great year as we labor together in the work of the Lord. Please allow me to share from my heart (and from God’s heart through his servant Paul writing in 2 Timothy), a few helpful hints to stay ‘on track’ in your Christian service:

1. Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2:1) So often we want to produce the effort and achieve the results on our own. We know better! We know this is just plain stupid thinking, but we stumble on this dangerous path of self-reliance anyhow. This type of thinking is destructive; this type of thinking causes us to sink into exhaustion and failure. Effective ministry over the ‘long haul’ is knowing that it is not our deeds that impress – it is God’s grace! Effective ministry is sustained in the Lord’s strength. Mature leaders will accept Paul’s direction.

2. Endure hardship like a good soldier (2:3) I do not like this verse. It presumes or recognizes that ministry may not be all smooth sailing. How I wish it was easy! In my lifetime of ministry, I have experienced the most hardship, not from outside the church walls, but from inside. It may have been different in the early years of the New Testament Church, when the culture, the structures of government were antagonistic to believers. It may have been different in your country when the Church moved underground during communism. But I have seen the church at its best and I have seen the church at its worst. Conflict, hurt, ego, politics – and many a ministry leader bails. The pain and disappointment is just too much. Soldiers expect tough times. They know it is dangerous work. but they are trained and they have resources. I think our Barnabas Ministry can help in this regard.

3. God’s word is not chained (2:10) There are so many ways to get the Scriptures into peoples hands, into their hearts and minds, in their faces (LOL); experiment, pray, strategize, teach, preach, read, use drama, use Facebook and Twitter, use video, – whatever, just let it go in the Spirit! Don’t hold on to it, don’t box it too tightly: God’s Word can look after itself! Paul says “handle the Word correctly” (2:15), “continue and make use of the holy Scriptures” (3: 14,15), preach the Word” (4:2)

You have had your life blessed and changed by God’s Word! Do whatever it takes to release it so that the Holy Spirit can take it and transform others. The Word will survive, and so will you, even in hard times. As long as you remember that the success and strength is a ‘grace thing’, God will keep growing His church in 2011. Praise, all praise, to Him!

Pastor Doug Johns
Brockville, Ontario