I hope you will forgive what might be self-indulgence, but I am going to inflict a little more of my sermon to myself which I preached at my induction last week, looking at 1 Corinthians 3:1-9:
Paul wrote some harsh words to the church in Corinth. The comedian Eddie Izzard has a very funny routine in which he imagines the postman in Corinth trying to get someone to sign for the letter from Paul. None of them want to because they know that he is going to be telling them off.
Nick, a Regional Minister’s role is not to write letters telling people off. But let’s be honest. At different times all churches, like Corinth, have their challenges and difficulties. The Christians in Corinth struggled because of different factions, and because of perceived or assumed super spirituality. Other churches in the New Testament era had other problems. And that has continued throughout almost 2000 years of church history. I don’t think that there are many problems that we face today which have not been faced by churches at some point in history.
Part of your role as a Regional Minister is, to appropriate the words from the wedding service, to help nurture and support churches for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health.
Some of you will be old enough to remember the TV advert for Yellow Pages in which an old man is phoning around bookshops looking for a copy of Fly Fishing by JR Hartley. Eventually he finds one and leaves his name: JR Hartley. The strapline of the advert is: “Good old yellow pages, not just there for the nasty things in life.”
Nick, I think you should have that strapline too: “Not just there for the nasty things in church life.”
But recognise that you are there too for the nasty things in church life. Not to be nasty, but to be there in the nastiness with the churches.
When you read the passage in 1 Corinthians 3 you can read it as quite an admonishment from Paul: “I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are worldly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed you are still not ready.”
Ouch. But look at it another way. Paul had not abandoned them, even though they were somewhat dysfunctional. And Paul recognised their situation and offered them what they needed – milk, not solid food. You don’t feed babies solid food, it’s not what they need as they are growing.
Nick, part of Regional Ministry is to help feed churches appropriately. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to ministry at local level let alone Regional. Come alongside each church in their own context and feed them what they need to help them to grow.
Be blessed, be a blessing