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Wesley Congregations Ordination Service

Rev Charles Vesley 

Matthew 4:18-20, Ephesians 4:11-16

22nd December 2002

One of the world's great business entrepreneurs is John Sculley, who was the President of the Pepsi Cola Company. He had masterminded the Pepsi Generation. Another great entrepreneur is Steve Jobs, the man who developed the Apple Computer and then the Macintosh Computer which revolutionised the computer world.

John Sculley and Steve Jobs are friends, and some years ago Steve Jobs wanted John Sculley to leave Pepsi and work for Apple. Steve said to his friend: "You're the best person I've met. I know you are perfect for Apple and Apple deserves the best." John Sculley replied: "Steve, I'd love to be an adviser to you, to help you in any way, but I don't think I can come to Apple". Steve Jobs hung his head in disappointment, and after an uncomfortable pause issued a challenged that haunted John Sculley for days: he said to John "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?" ("Odyssey" John Sculley, Harper 87. p90)

That is a question Jesus would ask of men and women whom He would challenge to follow Him in the ministry of the Kingdom of God today: "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?" Because after the ministry of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, everything ? medicine, politics, law, business, sales, insurance, professional sport, public service, nuclear physics, computer programming ? everything ? is selling sugared water! Only the proclaiming of the Gospel gives you the radical chance to change the world.

Charles, you have been given the challenge to change the world. That is a tough task. Hence you have been equipped for spiritual warfare. You go out now as one of the front?line troops for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. That is where the greatest number of casualties are. We live in a era when we have tried to turn our minds away from the old concepts of battles and warfare. We no longer like battle hymns and we askew militaristic terms. But the work of Jesus Christ is not akin to selling sugared water!

There is no longer any social status to be gained by being a minister of the Gospel. There is no financial security offered such has been taken for granted by almost every one of you here who works in other employment. It is warfare and plain rations! We gloss over the fact that the work of Jesus Christ in advancing God's kingdom is a spiritual warfare and casualties among leaders are real. The forces of evil gloat every time a minister resigns, or succumbs to temptation, or becomes the subject of media ridicule. There is war on the spiritual front. Every minister compromised by the delights of this world, seduced by the passions of the flesh, or ensnared by the financial traps set for the unwary, delights hell and weakens the Christian cause. We must never train young ministers and send them out to the front?line unless we surround them with the grace of God and equipped for spiritual battle. When Paul reflected on the work of Christian ministry, he used a word translated in a variety of ways: "God appointed some to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers, to prepare all God's people for the work of Christian service in order to build up the body of Christ." (Eph 4:12).

That phrase "to prepare all God's people" is translated in the latest translation by scholars of all British Anglican, Catholic and Protestant Churches, The Revised English Bible as "to equip God's people for work in His service". The meaning of the word "prepare", or "equip" interests me. The word "katartidzo" is used widely in the New Testament: of James and John who were "in the boats getting ready their nets for fishing." (Matt. 4:21); by Jesus when he said that "no pupil was greater than his teacher, but every pupil, when he has completed his training will be like His teacher." (Luke 6:40); by Peter when He said that "Christ Himself will perfect you, and give you firmness, strength and a sure foundation" (1Pet.5:10); by Paul who said that God "appointed some to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers, to prepare all God's people for the work of Christian service." (Eph 4:12).

This word, used of getting nets ready for fishing, of preparing pupils through their education, of perfecting believers with spiritual strength and a sure foundation, of equipping leaders for Christian service, describes the work, your lecturers in Wesley Institute and the United Theological College, have undertaken with you. This word "katartidso" means to make ready, to furnish completely, to perfect on a sure foundation, to equip thoroughly for service. We have now accomplished our task: you have been trained to fish for men, taught to understand the scriptures, given a sure spiritual foundation, and prepared for service to build up the body of Christ. Your membership with Yvonne in Wesley Mission gave you a great example of Christian ministry in word, deed and spirit.

Now comes the final equipping for your ministry. This comes as a result of your own prayers undertaken in your spiritual retreats, your short term ministries as a student awaiting ordination, and it comes with the prayers of the church as they set you apart for the work of ministry later in this service by the laying on of hands, in ordination by the Sydney Presbytery of the Uniting Church in Australia on behalf of the whole church.

That final equipping is a spiritual blessing designed to enfold you in the protection and grace of God, and to strengthen you in boldly proclaiming the Word of God. Your theological lecturers have equipped you for ministry. They have lectured you in theology, Old and New Testament studies, the life of Jesus, homiletics, Greek and Hebrew, hermeneutics, apologetics, Australian society and contemporary social issues, pastoral counselling, public speaking, church ministry and sacraments and so on. Some subjects have equipped you for the defence of the Gospel and some for the advancement of the Gospel.

But more is needed. That comes through your spiritual preparation and development. Your ordination is not based upon theological studies alone. You can study those subjects at University. You have not been taught just religion. Unbelievers can be taught and indeed, even teach religious subjects! But you have been taught not only the academic aspects of religion, but you have been shown how to grow in Christian grace and spiritual strength, both essential if you are to be equipped for ministry. To that you must add determined commitment to serve Jesus Christ.

It is forty two years ago when I graduated from the College of the Bible of Churches of Christ in Australia. I completed all of the subjects required, but as the diploma states, I had also shown consistent development in good spiritual character, and on the basis of both I was granted the diploma. Then on the basis of spiritual fitness for ministry, I was ordained by the Federal Conference of Churches of Christ. Later I felt the need for further studies and I completed studies at Melbourne University, correspondence studies from London University, studies in counselling, chaplaincy, Christian education, business management, psychology, graduate theology at the Melbourne College of Divinity and the United Faculty of Theology, all of them designed to advance the Kingdom of God. I was then, somewhat improperly re-ordained to the Uniting Church.

Ministers also need to be spiritually equipped. The more I have been given the privilege of public recognition, the more I realise the necessity of personal discipline and the vital part played those Godly people who pray for me every day. The greater your public visibility, the further you can fall, and the more damage your lack of spiritual maturity can do to the Church. This is what protects a Christian minister and enables him to win and hold his ground: truthful integrity, righteous character, purposeful proclamation, tough faith, assured salvation, and commitment to the Word of God - all described by Paul as the "whole armour of God." The soldiers of Christ thought of that every time they dressed in the panoply of God! The Christian, and the soldier remembered: "put on the Christian armour, each piece put on with prayer" long before we learned to sing it.

Paul ends: "and never give up." Every moral, spiritual, personal, and community fight for God and goodness is a tough fight, and you should never give up. "When the evil day comes you will be able to resist the Enemy's attacks, and after fighting to the end, you will still hold your ground." Persistence counts. Don't quit.

Academic qualification, life preparation, emotional and psychological maturity and spiritual commitment - all these are required for ordination.

Charles, I once said to you: "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?" Your answer was to commit yourself to training for ministry! Now we will ordain you for the battle. You are equipped and ready for the front line.

Go, and the blessing of God go with you.

Wesley Mission, Sydney.