Ian Robinson, Major
Commissioning 2011 is now a distant memory. The Ambassadors of Holiness are well on their way—flying, sailing or driving to exotic destinations from Juneau to Oceanside, and San Francisco to Greeley. They are energized by excitement, filled with anticipation and ready to win the world for Jesus. They have received masterful advice, exhortation and encouragement from a rich variety of experts and are about to put two years of intensive training into practice.
But how much of that advice, exhortation and encouragement do they remember? I admit with a little shame that having heard many sermons and lectures in my life, I don’t remember much about any of them. Confess it now, how many sermons can you recall? Not many, I suspect!
Over 100 years ago, German psychologist Ebbinghaus wrote that we only remember 20 percent of what we hear. He also revealed the “forgetting curve,” which shows that most of the information we hear is lost within 20 minutes!
I dredged my brain to find a memorable sermon and only a couple came to the surface: John Gowans’ famous three-legged stool sermon and Doris Noland’s farewell message at Santa Ana, which was, “sit down, shut up and keep rowing!” A lot of people recall bits of sermons, usually funny illustrations, and will tell you they still remember the “monkey” sermon or the one about “Billy and Bob surrounded by wolves.”
The best advice, exhortation and encouragement I ever received did not come from a sermon. Colonels George and Joy Church shared it on the day my wife and I were appointed auxiliary captains. Over lunch George gave us the advice that has been indelibly engraved on my psyche and has guided me so well for the past 18 years. He said, “Just remember these three things: preach the Word, love the people and keep the receipts!” We laughed, but the advice stuck and I’d like to pass it on to the Ambassadors of Holiness and anyone else who cares to read it:
Preach the Word is self-explanatory but most important. God’s Word changes lives, so make that your focus. Keep the Bible at the center of your messages and your life, and help people understand what it means to them today. Paul told Timothy, Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction (2 Tim. 4:2).
Love the people doesn’t need much explanation either. Sometimes this will be a challenge—some people are unlovable. But isn’t that our creed? “To love the unloved, never reckoning the cost?” It’s the single most visible sign that we belong to Christ: If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us (1 John 4:12).
Keep the receipts simply means be a person of integrity. Transparent leadership must be your motto. Never fudge your expenses, don’t claim for anything you didn’t do or shouldn’t have and make sure that you can back up everything with clear documentation. Paul instructed Timothy that church leaders must be above reproach and have a good reputation with outsiders (1 Tim. 3:2,7). It’s easy to say and not so easy to do, unless you live up to your name, Ambassadors of Holiness.
Now go and win the world for Jesus.