In the words of the Farmers Insurance commercial, “I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.”
Unfortunately, after 36 years of ministry, a lot of things I’ve known and seen are not good. I have personally made magnificent mistakes and gargantuan gaffes as a pastor and I’ve seen others do so as well. I’ve seen pastors and churches make decisions against all reason and guidance that would almost make your head explode.
So, how can we do better? How can pastors and churches improve? Improvement begins by having healthier relationships between pastors and members of the churches where they are called to serve. We need to help and encourage one another.
In 2 Timothy, the Apostle Paul introduces a man named Onesiphorus. I think that would make a good boy’s name, but it doesn’t seem to be catching on yet. Paul wrote this letter to Timothy and the Church of Ephesus from the Mammertine prison in Rome. In response to his letter, Onesiphorus made the 400-mile journey to Rome to assist Paul during this challenging time. If today’s pastors and church members were more like Onesiphorus, we would be in much better shape. I suggest that we should “learn a few things” from Onesiphorus.
1. BE A REFRESHER. Paul said that Onesiphorus “often refreshed” him (2 Timothy 1:16, NIV). He refreshed Paul at Ephesus and he traveled all the way to Rome to refresh him in prison. Do you know people like that? Are you like that? Are you a refresher?
You’ve heard of the man who was being interviewed by a reporter on his 100th birthday. The reporter said, “Sir, at your age, I guess you’ve seen a lot of changes in your lifetime.” The old man said, “Yep, and I’ve been against every one of them!” Change is difficult sometimes, but let’s not be against everything. Let’s be positive, encouraging, and refreshing to our leaders and fellow church members.
2. BE LOYAL. In 2 Timothy 1:15-16, Paul mentioned several who had deserted him, but not Onesiphorus. Paul said that “he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.” Even though Paul was chained like a common criminal, Onesiphorus was not ashamed to be associated with him. Don’t you love people like that? When the chips are down, they’re still around!
They’re there when you’re popular; they’re there when you’re unknown. They support you on the mountain top; they support you when you hit bottom. They stand by you when you’re winning; they sit with you after you lose. In short, they are loyal to you and loyal to the Lord.
3. BE DILIGENT. It was almost impossible for Onesiphorus to locate Paul in Rome’s Mammertine prison, but he searched and searched until he found him (2 Tim. 1:17). He was diligent and didn’t give up. In my imagination, I can see a reporter from RNN (Rome News Network) ask Onesiphorus for an interview as he got off the ship. The reporter asked “Sir, why are you here in Rome?”
Onesiphorus said, “I’m going to look for Paul until I find him.”
The reporter said, “What if it takes longer than you think?”
Again, Onesiphorus said, “I’m going to look for Paul until I find him.”
The reporter insisted, “What if it takes a month or two?”
Onesiphorus stated firmly, “Sir, I don’t mean to be unkind, but you don’t seem to be listening. I’m going to look for Paul until I find him no matter how long it takes.” He was diligent and may his tribe increase.
4. BE HELPFUL. Paul told Timothy he knew very well “how many ways [Onesiphorus] helped him in Ephesus” (2 Tim. 1:18). He helped him in the church at Ephesus and in the prison at Rome.
What a great way to be described—a helper! In every KBC church I have been privileged to serve as senior or interim pastor, God has given me helpers—men and women of God who came alongside and served God unselfishly and sacrificially.
I’m convinced that I would be a better person if I learned a thing or two from Onesiphorus. I’m also convinced that our churches and pastors would be healthier and more effective for God’s glory if we modeled ourselves after this outstanding church member. Indeed, he knew a thing or two because he had seen a thing or two!
Dr. Stephen C. Rice