… continued from yesterday… in honor of Crown's returning Internship students I am posting the manuscript from their commissioning on February 17, 2012…
Is that really how ministry always goes? Philip had a really good friend, a man named Stephen. They were both men filled with the Holy Spirit. They were both leaders in the early church. They were both great speakers. They were both chosen directly by the Apostles to serve in ministry. They were commissioned and they were sent out. For the most part, Philip had a blissful experience in the fruitfulness of ministry. Stephen’s story, on the other hand, presents another picture of ministry that strains my selfish interpretation of Romans 8:28. You know, we want glory, but not the guts that it takes to endure. We want fruit in ministry, but not the frustration of planting and cultivating. We want popularity in ministry, but not the pain of identifying with broken people.
Look at Acts chapter 7 verse 11. Stephen is preaching in the city and there were some men who started persuading other people against Stephen. They said, “We’ve heard him blaspheme against God.” And they started rumors to discredit Stephen and his ministry and to stir people up against him. Now Stephen is filled, and perhaps even more than Philip is filled, with the Holy Spirit. And yet, Romans 8:28, how does that fit into Stephen’s life?
As Stephen goes out preaching it would seem that people should be coming to the Lord like they did with Philip. But when Stephen preaches, instead of people coming to him and turning to Jesus, stones start coming to him in blasphemy against Jesus. And Stephen preaches as the crowd gets more hateful. And the chapter ends with him, in a very godly way getting killed. And as a result of Stephen’s ministry, and as a result of Stephen’s death, the stoning, we learn that Saul was one of the witness and conspirators of the murder of Stephen, and a “great wave” (at the beginning of chapter 8) “of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem, and all the believers except the apostles fled into Judea and Samaria.”
Philip had fled. I usually miss that part of the story.
It goes on, 8:2, “Some godly men came and buried Stephen with loud weeping.” I usually miss that part of the story too. There was loud weeping. There was mourning. There was intense distress!
It goes on, 8:3, “Saul was going everywhere to devastate the church. He went house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them in jail.” I usually miss that part of the story too. Believers, following after God, were in tremendous distress. Everything was not working out as they expected.
… Part 6 tomorrow…