Years ago, when I was a university student — yes, they actually had universities back in those days — a fellow by the name of Charles Hodge came and spoke to folks looking at ministry in churches as their calling. Charles was known as a voracious reader, reading at least one new book a day. He always had books and a dictionary in his briefcase no matter where he traveled.
He was invited to speak at a week long revival — many folks called these “Gospel Meetings.” Since Charles didn’t know these people and they didn’t know him, he was hoping for a bit of an introduction to kinda break the ice before he spoke each night. Each evening, however, the guy introducing him was very succinct and said something like, “Our speaker tonight is Charles Hodge, a minister of the Gospel.”
Now Hodge told us clearly that this introduction should have been enough and that being entrusted with sharing the Gospel was a privilege indeed. However, on the last night of the revival, Charles knew that many who were lost would be there. He was hoping for a bit more of an introduction to help these folks know that he hadn’t fallen off the turnip truck and ended up in their town by some quirk of fate. So he asked the fellow introducing him to help him out a little bit more in his introduction for the sake of his credibility with these folks who needed to hear the Gospel message.
Sure enough, on the last night of the Gospel Meeting, the man introduced him this way: “Our speaker tonight is Charles Hodge, a minister of the Gospel and model preacher.”
It wasn’t much different than the previous nights’ introductions, but he felt good about it. “A model preacher! Hmm, that’s a nice description,” he thought to himself. Yes, he felt good about that description … until he started heading home and decided to pull off to the side of the road and look up the word “model.” One of the definitions for the word “model” he found in the dictionary was this: “a small imitation of the real thing.”
Ouch! A small imitation of anything seems more like a bunch of nothing. We laughed, and many times since then, I’ve found this definition of myself to be so convicting and accurate — I fear at times that I am a model minister, “a small imitation of the real thing.”
In addition to Hodge’s story, I also remember one strong challenge Brother Charles gave to all of us who listened to him: “Read through the pastoral epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus — links bring up Bible verses in a pop out window) once a week for the first ten years of your ministry.” I thought of that again last night as I began reading 1 Timothy 1 in the Easy to Read Version, which is so clear as it accurately translates Paul’s words to his beloved sons in the faith.
Now that I am older, some of the things said here are even more important than they were when I had to heed the call to “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12 RSV). I look forward the next couple of days to hearing afresh these words of guidance to young ministers … and older, balding gray headed ones, as well.