Friday, August 17, 2012

Toward a Biblical Philosophy of Ministry



by John MacArthur

How does market-driven ministry compare with the biblical model? How would Timothy have fared under Paul’s tutelage if he had followed the advice of twentieth-century marketers?

We have a thorough answer to that question from the two epistles Paul wrote Timothy in the New Testament. Paul had personally mentored the young pastor, but Timothy encountered severe trials when he was assigned the task of leading the church at Ephesus out of sin and error. He struggled with fear and human weakness.

He was evidently tempted to soften his preaching in the face of persecution. At times he seemed ashamed of the gospel. Paul had to remind him to stand up for the faith with boldness, even if it meant suffering: “Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:8). The two rich epistles from Paul to Timothy outline a ministry philosophy that challenges the prevailing wisdom of today.

Paul instructed Timothy that he must:

    •      Correct those teaching false doctrine and call them to a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:3–5).

    •      Fight for divine truth and for God’s purposes, keeping his own faith and a good conscience (1 Timothy 1:18, 19).

    •      Pray for the lost and lead the men of the church to do the same (1 Timothy 2:1–8).

    •      Call women in the church to fulfill their God-given role of submission and to raise up godly children, setting an example of faith, love, and sanctity with self-restraint (1 Timothy 2:9–15).

    •      Carefully select spiritual leaders for the church on the basis of their giftedness, godliness, and virtue (1 Timothy 3:1–13).

    •      Recognize the source of error and those who teach it, and point these things out to the rest of the church (1 Timothy 4:1–6).

    •      Constantly be nourished on the words of Scripture and its sound teaching, avoiding all myths and false doctrines (1 Timothy 4:6).

    •      Discipline himself for the purpose of godliness (1 Timothy 4:7–11).

    •      Boldly command and teach the truth of God’s Word (1 Timothy 4:12).

    •      Be a model of spiritual virtue that all can follow (1 Timothy 4:12).

    •      Faithfully read, explain, and apply the Scriptures publicly (1 Timothy 4:13, 14).

    •      Be progressing toward Christlikeness in his own life (1 Timothy 4:15, 16).

    •      Be gracious and gentle in confronting the sin of his people (1 Timothy 5:1, 2).

    •      Give special consideration and care to those who are widows (1 Timothy 5:3–16).

    •      Honor faithful church leaders who work hard (1 Timothy 5:17–21).

    •      Choose church leaders with great care, seeing to it that they are both mature and proven (1 Timothy 5:22).

    •      Take care of his physical condition so he is strong to serve (1 Timothy 5:23).

    •      Teach and preach principles of true godliness, helping his people discern between true godliness and mere hypocrisy (1 Timothy 5:24–6:6).

    •      Flee the love of money (1 Timothy 6:7–11).

    •      Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness (1 Timothy 6:11).

    •      Fight for the faith against all enemies and all attacks (1 Timothy 6:12).

    •      Keep all the Lord’s commandments (1 Timothy 6:13–16).

    •      Instruct the rich to do good, to be rich in good works, and to be generous (1 Timothy 6:17–19).

    •      Guard the Word of God as a sacred trust and a treasure (1 Timothy 6:20, 21).

In his second epistle, Paul reminded Timothy to:

    •      Keep the gift of God in him fresh and useful (2 Timothy 1:6).

    •      Not be timid but powerful (2 Timothy 1:7).

    •      Never be ashamed of Christ or anyone who serves Christ (2 Timothy 1:8-11).

    •      Hold tightly to the truth and guard it (2 Timothy 1:12–14).

    •      Be strong in character (2 Timothy 2:1).

    •      Be a teacher of apostolic truth so that he may reproduce himself in faithful men (2 Timothy 2:2).

    •      Suffer difficulty and persecution willingly while making the maximum effort for Christ (2 Timothy 2:3–7).

    •      Keep his eyes on Christ at all times (2 Timothy 2:8–13).

    •      Lead with authority (2 Timothy 2:14).

    •      Interpret and apply Scripture accurately (2 Timothy 2:15).

    •      Avoid useless conversation that leads only to ungodliness (2 Timothy 2:16).

    •      Be an instrument of honor, set apart from sin and useful to the Lord (2 Timothy 2:20, 21).

    •      Flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, and love (2 Timothy 2:22).

    •      Refuse to be drawn into philosophical and theological wrangling (2 Timothy 2:23).

    •      Not be an arguer but kind, teachable, gentle, and patient even when he is wronged (2 Timothy 2:24–26).

    •      Face dangerous times with a deep knowledge of the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:1–15).

    •      Understand that Scripture is the basis and content of all legitimate ministry (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).

    •      Preach the Word—in season and out of season—reproving, rebuking, and exhorting with great patience and instruction (2 Timothy 4:1, 2).

    •      Be sober in all things (2 Timothy 4:5).

    •      Endure hardship (2 Timothy 4:5).

    •      Do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5).

Nothing in that list hints at a market-driven philosophy. In fact, most of those commands are impossible to harmonize with the theories that are so popular today. To sum it all up in five categories, Paul commanded Timothy: 1) to be faithful in his preaching of biblical truth; 2) to be bold in exposing and refuting error; 3) to be an example of godliness to the flock; 4) to be diligent and work hard in the ministry; and 5) to be willing to suffer hardship and persecution in his service for the Lord.


MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Ashamed of the gospel: When the Church becomes like the world (24–27). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. www.gty.org