Dr. Erik Thoennes begins his talk with a Scripture passage that has been foundational to his ministry: Colossians 1:28-29.
He is the one we proclaim, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
He breaks it down this way:
- He is the one we proclaim: Our ministry should be Christ centered
- Warning Everyone: Ministry is serious — we are trying to saving people from eternal hell
- To this end I strenuously contend: Another translations says, “I toil” because ministry is HARD work. It will be a struggle, but….
- With all his energy: We’re doing the ministry with God’s power!!
Sometimes we over complicate ministry. It is simply being there for people in a way that draws them closer to Christ. Erik spent some time sharing some beautiful stories about his daughter and the simple child-like ways she is shining the light of Christ into their people’s lives. Things like picking flowers out of mom’s garden, decorating a card, and sharing chocolates with a lonely old woman.
Let’s remember, essentially:
- People are created in God’s image
- We are all fallen people
- Kids (and adults) are very influenced by culture and popular media
- People are theologically unsure
- People are theologically impatient (We want a solution and we want it now! Will God fix me in 30 days or less?)
- People are theologically holistic (Does this fit into my life as a whole?)
- People are theologically hungry (People want spiritual leaders with conviction in their lives. Don’t buy the apathetic act.)
In Acts 20, Paul is giving his farewell sermon and sharing the essential components for faithful ministry. Let’s take a look :
- I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia.
- I served the Lord with great humility and with tears
- I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.
- I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.
- I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
- In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
Paul goes on to give instructions to the believers:
- Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.
- Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
- After I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.
- Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them
Essentially, Paul was telling the people: “Follow me as I follow Christ”. He was confident and bold, but he was also humble because he knew that all his accomplishments came from the grace and power of God. He led with conviction and he invited the believers in Asia to follow him along the journey. People clung to Paul because he truly believed in the power of the gospel. He demonstrated true leadership. Let us be the same type of leaders. Leaders who truly believe the gospel and are dedicated to bringing people along with them on the journey. Leaders filled with confidence and conviction.
Erik Thoennes is amazed everyday that God saved him as a young boy. Some of the most fun and enriching experiences of his life have been:meaningful local church involvement, hitchhiking around America, working with developmentally disabled adults and troubled youth, and playing American football in Europe. Erik’s primary goal in life is to love and glorify Christ more each day and help others to as well. Erik’s undergraduate degree was in philosophy and he has graduate degrees in biblical studies, evangelism, and theology. Before coming to California he taught theology and evangelism at Wheaton College and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and coached high school and college football. God has blessed him with his godly wife Donna, who has been his faithful ministry partner. They have three children, Caroline, Paige, and Samuel. Erik loves people and preaching God’s word at Grace where he is an elder, and teaching theology at Biola University where he is a professor.