The Simplicity of Ministry

Induction of Rev George Kopa as Minister, St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Manurewa, Auckland

Welcome Rev George Kopa to Northern Presbytery and welcome back to Auckland. You have enjoyed a great journey since your call to ministry when attending PIPC Newton. While training at what we know know as Laidlaw, you were teaching the lay preachers course! The Cook Islands Fellowships and Churches of Northern Presbytery welcome your leadership and look forward to your contribution to their lay preaching training.

Tonight, the honour of preaching has fallen on my shoulders. They say there is a tradition the most recently inducted preaches at the next. The uniqueness of my preaching tonight is that both of us have been inducted to churches in need of ministers within 9 months of each other. While many other churches continue without a minister, it has been demonstrated that pulpits can be filled in a timely manner.

As a Presbytery, we have made this one of our goals – to fill pulpits within 12 months of vacancy. But it is more than just a goal – it is a necessity. Congregations without ministers are trapped in a wilderness. Christ ordained the Church with ministers and I praise God that you are here. St Paul’s Manurewa, praise God with me that you have not be left to wander in the wilderness. Pray for those other churches within our Presbytery who long for their own minister.

Church is not complicated. Presbyterians are good at complicating simple tasks. I compliment the MSB for executing their role in an uncomplicated fashion. It is a great way for St Paul’s to begin its new relationship and a testimony to us all on The Simplicity of Ministry.

Comfort from God

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended,that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,and all flesh shall see it together, or the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Isaiah 40:1-5

Note the calling out to comfort God’s people. St Paul’s Manurewa, your Whanau has found comfort in the efficient supply of your new minister. God has heard your call. God speaks to you tenderly. All of the past belongs in the past. You have a new beginning. It is time to move forward.

I appreciate how scripture is so real. It describes our Christian life as a warfare. The recent events in Ukraine have brought to our daily screens the stark reality of warfare. Only we wage it on a spiritual level. There are direct bombardments on our Christian faith. We are being told our Christianity is outdated and unscientific. We are being told our faith is superstitious and impractical. We are being taught Christ did not literally die or literally rise from the dead. We are encouraged to change our worship to de-emphasise Sundays and not teach the necessity of weekly corporate worship. We are under attack.

And then there is the media aspect of warfare waged. It appears Ukraine is winning on that front. It illustrates the power of perception during warfare. Our Christian faith is equally under assault. In Western society’s like our own, we are led to believe Christianity is becoming irrelevant. And yet the majority world Christianity is booming under the teaching we are told is irrelevant. The vast majority of Christians on this planet living today have a simple rooted in the belief God is our Creator, Jesus is our Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit is the author of the Holy Bible. Don’t be caught up in the spiritual algarhythms making you believe those are minority beliefs. They are not. The vast majority of Christians embrace these truths.

You can find comfort in God when there is a voice crying out in the wilderness: “prepare the way of the Lord; make straight… a highway for our God.” Encourage your new minister to be that voice. Support your minister in the warfare to build straight paths that lead to God.

The Eternal Word

If you feel my language is too strong, I remind you of Paul’s words to Timothy.

preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

2 Timothy 4:2-4

And so I address that voice that will be calling out in the wilderness of society to call others to the straight highway for our God, Rev George Kopa, “preach the word”. Isaiah 40:6-8 reads:

A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades,but the word of our God will stand forever. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,and all flesh shall see it together,for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Church is not complicated. We gather on the first day of the week in the ancient tradition that the tomb was discovered empty on the first day of the week. We gather our offerings on the first day of the week. We distribute them to help one another. We minister to one another in word and deed. We preach Christ and him crucified. Church is not complicated.

We live in a day where this truth is being challenged. We live in a day where multimedia is seen as a superior means of communication and is felt to surpass the [person] in the pulpit. We live in a day when people don’t like to be told anything in an authoritative way and always have to be managed and to be made to feel that it was their own idea. Even within Christianity there is a mindset that the word is not actually the sword of the Spirit, but that the Spirit and the word are opposed and so experiences, worship, the gifts and many other secondary things are put forward to replace the faithful preaching of the word of God. Add to this the fact that we are all brain dead through constant overstimulation and entertainment so that many of us hardly ever touch a non-fiction book any more. And you have a perfect environment for the preaching of God’s word to be seen as archaic, second best, optional, and even unspiritual.

Nick Cleverly

Rev Kopa, God’s word is eternal. It will never go out of existence. It may go out of fashion with worldly societies, but it will never become irrelevant. God’s word is forever. It is connected to a great God.

The Greatness of God

Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news;lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”

Isaiah 40:7-9

We serve a great God. Rev Kopa, God is greater than any problem you will face during your transition. God is greater than any opposition you will face during your ministry. God is greater than any conflict you will face during your faithfulness to God’s word. We serve a great God!

May I share with you how great is our God from my own experiences? Since entering ministry 40 years ago, this I have seen.

  • I watched a small country village church be rocked to its core when its pastor had to leave due to inappropriate relations with his adopted children and that church being the brunt of the small town’s disdain changed when God blessed their very next minister who went on to become that same village’s town president and mayor.
  • I witnessed that same church sending out a young minister to plant a new one in a neighbouring community with the new church plant purchasing its own property while financially contributing to the support of 6 families overseas.
  • I can testify of a church gathering its resources together with a neighbouring church and God working through them all to bring food to their rural communities suffering from a terrible economy.
  • I have watched a small group of outcast believers rejected because of their race, come together to build a water tower in PNG, church buildings and a school in the islands, while financially contributing more than $35,000 per year and, after putting others first, were blessed by God with the ability to purchase their own land and erect of their own purpose-built facility.
  • I have seen God work countless times in individuals; some suffering from mental illness, others financially bankrupt, while others were over endowed with wealth and unable to comprehend expectations; I have seen God work in and through these lives.

And I am confident that all of you in ministry can share similar stories. We will have all eternity to glorify God for his greatness through countless testimonies of the work of scripture in the lives of people.

But tonight, we are here because there is work to do.

Work to be Done

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Matthew 9:35-38 (ESV)

St Paul’s Manurewa, be comforted that you have a minister called to the Word and Sacrament. Protect your minister’s ability to preach the word. That is his calling. That is your source of comfort. And the word is also how people come to Jesus.

Christ’s word in you —as individuals who are part of this parish and collectively as the church—Christ’s word through you reaches your neighbours, your friends, and your family.

Rev George Kopa, you are a seasoned minister. I offer no instruction for you that is unique or new. I only encourage you to hold fast to God’s word and minister that word without confusion. Church is not complicated.

South Region, we have a responsibility to our members without a minister. May the induction of Rev Kopa inspire us to run to the aid of our sister churches in need of a minister. Let us bring comfort to these churches as St Paul’s Manurewa has received this night. May we install ministers who will be faithful to the eternal word of our great God. There is much work for us all to do!

Closing Prayer

I close with this prayer written by Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560), the German Protestant reformer who succeeded Martin Luther and whose prayer is used at ordination services in Presbyterian Churches overseas still to this day.

Merciful God,
through the mouth of your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
you said to us,
“The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few:
pray therefore the Lord of the harvest
to send out labourers into his harvest.”
We respond to your divine command, O Lord,
and sincerely beseech you
to richly bestow the Holy Spirit on Rev George Kopa
and on all of us who are called to your ministry
that we, with a great multitude,
May be your evangelists, true and steadfast against evil.
So may your name be hallowed,
your kingdom come,
and your will be done.
Hear this our prayer
through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who, with you and the Holy Spirit,
lives and reigns throughout eternity. Amen.

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