Emerging Leaders Pass on the Ministry of Dentistry
June 17, 2019
by Steve Cartin, MDiv
“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10, NKJV).
Whether ministry, dentistry or anything worthwhile, Ezra reminds us that preparation must take center stage. His resulting legacy helps us understand the importance of his philosophy of what it takes to make a difference in our world. Ezra was a Jewish scribe and priest who lived and ministered toward the end of the Babylonian Exile. But the fact that he was both a scribe and a priest had no more to do with his success than it does to say someone is both a dentist and an adjunct faculty member. Success can’t be measured in titles or degrees, only in influence. For his part, Ezra prepared his heart by being attentively devoted to the “Law of the Lord”—the words of God and the record of His dealings with people. And then the rubber met the road.
Ezra had to “do it.” The progression moves from preparation to application and then from application to multiplication—“throughout Israel.” His example reminds us that the application stage of learning and growing precedes the teaching stage. In a day when anyone has an instant online platform to the world, the importance of first “doing it” often gets overlooked. Dental school offers an opportunity for young men and women to “do it” under the supervision of learned faculty before being turned loose on “all of Israel.” That’s a good thing. Ezra’s influence in Israel and, by extension, into the church and the world has been profound. It has been good for us that he did all he chose to do.
But the apostle Paul adds invaluable bookends to Ezra’s example. He reminds Christ followers that the progression from preparation to application to multiplication in the Christian life is not one of many approved specialties—it is the outline of the core curriculum for all us:
“And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2, NKJV).
For Paul, there is a secret to effective multiplication. On one end of Ezra’s example, Paul holds up his own apostolic ministry as the place of first importance in which young Pastor Timothy’s own ministry had begun. In dentistry and in ministry, the inspiration of those who have lived lives of significance become a focal point from which the fire and passion of our own lives burn.
I recall as a young preacher almost 40 years ago how my own pastor put energy, effort and some of his own funds into making sure I had a chance to connect with some of the most gifted and influential servants of God. From our little church in Panama City, Florida, we travelled to Pensacola, Florida, Atlanta, Georgia, San Antonio, Texas and to smaller venues where men of renown stood to proclaim the Word of God. Even when he could not be present, he arranged for me to meet men I never would have met on my own. When he hosted spiritual “giants” in our church or in his home, he invited me to come break bread with them for the influence their lives and ministry would have on my own. Those were the bookends he put at the beginning of my own ministry. Last week my wife and I bumped into someone I haven’t seen in a couple decades, a man whom I had baptized—along with his mother—back in the 1990s. But the opportunity I had to visit that young man in prison and to baptize him and his mother is bookended by my own start in ministry rubbing shoulders with and learning from giants of the faith.
Every year about this time a group of emerging leaders in dentistry meets at CMDA headquarters in Bristol, Tennessee in large part to live out the words of Ezra and Paul. And while I won’t be there to experience the blessing this year, I can pray for those who are there, for the emerging leaders whose lives will multiply blessings in years to come, for the spiritual and dental giants whose faithfulness has given them this platform and for unsung heroes of it all like my former pastor who have quietly given of their lives, their own funds and time on their schedules to make it possible for another generation of young men and women to pass the faith along out of their passion for serving others through dentistry. Godspeed to all in attendance and all who made it possible.