Introduction In an effort to give organization to my thoughts and passion for ministry, and to increase my effectiveness by being intentional about the how and why behind what I do, I will lay forth what is my current understanding for a philosophy for ministry.
Why Am I in Ministry? From a very early age my heart was captivated by the stories of God’s people in the Bible. Even though I was raised in a home where no one went to church, I will never forget the stories my great-grandmother told me about Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Jesus, and the Apostles. From the first day my great grandmother told me that one day I would need to make a decision and give my life to Christ, I had no doubt what my decision would be—that I would follow Him. Over the last 2 decades of my life, since the day I gave my heart and life to Jesus, the “fire in my bones” has only increased. By the time I went to college, it became clear to many within my faith community that I had a gifting for ministering to others and for teaching. I found my greatest satisfaction in proclaiming the good news of the Bible and helping to deepen other’s faith by my ability to take the deep truths of scripture, and make them “plain,” and “come alive” to those that heard them. I have tried many things in life as far as work and career, but nothing moved me and stirred me and created as much passion in my heart as much as ministry. I have come to learn in the last 10 years that that is the moving of the Holy Spirit in my heart, bearing witness to what is the deepest yearning and calling of my life. The beauty of what I have been able to see, now having lived 35 years and having experienced many ups and downs in life, is that there are clear markers, “fingerprints of God,” as I like to call them, that God has used in my life to remind me that He has been there for me every step of the way, and that nothing I have ever experienced in life is wasted. Everything that I have gone through God has used and is using to uniquely equip me for ministry, “…to proclaim good news to the poor…to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…”
The Sole Purpose for My Ministry I believe Paul lays forth what is the purpose behind ministry in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21. As a minister of Jesus my role is to be an ambassador for Christ’s kingdom here on the earth and to teach and live by example, that “the old has gone, and the new is here,” and that “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.” The message I teach is simple, namely that God has reconciled us to Himself in a new loving relationship through Jesus Christ. As Paul states in 2 Corinthians 5:19, God has “…committed to us the message of reconciliation.” This is indeed good news, because it is a message that promises new life in Christ, one where God no longer counts men’s sins against them. Finally the goal of my ministry is so that the people I minister to will come to a full knowledge of the truth that in Christ, we can become the righteousness of God, free from the bondage of sin, and empowered to live the abundant life that Christ promised us. My role is to help the church to have a “God vision” for their lives, to see their lives through an eternal perspective that embraces the truth that “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30
Who is My Ministry For? What Are My Goals For Ministry? Like Paul, my purpose is to labor diligently so that “Christ is formed” in the people whom I ministered to (Gal. 4:19). This process of working and serving the spiritual growth of God’s people is done in the context of the church, God’s community, with other leaders that God uses to bring transformation corporately. So I affirm that, as Paul stated in Ephesians 4:11-16:
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
As a minister I join God in the work that He is already doing, both in the lives of those in and outside the church. For those outside I join Him in the work of the Spirit as He works to convict the world of sin and point them to the cross of Jesus Christ (John 16:8), to faith, and discipleship, and obedience. For those inside the church I join God in the work of building each other up in love (I Thess. 5:11), knowing that it is God who works within the church, to enable us to will and to act in order to fulfill God’s divine purposes for us in this world (Phil. 2:13). Within the scope of my ministerial duties, I must…
11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 …devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift…15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
A Ministry Initiated Through Prayer and Wholehearted Devotion The church cannot exist without prayer, meditation of God’s Truth, and through worship. As a matter of principle I pray for the congregation both as a whole and individually. Prayer is a necessity for any ministry to continue God’s work effectively. Prayer needs to be focused in two major areas: ministry and personal life. Each aspect of ministry, each program and event needs to be bathed in prayer. Each and every person needs prayer regularly as a part of ministry, as well, in no matter what capacity they serve the church. The personal aspects of prayer, medication and worship, is focused on building my relationship with God continually. I desire to continually grow closer to Christ, and the only way to achieve that closeness is through the traditional spiritual disciplines and meditation of God’s Truth and worship. My prayer life consists of speaking as well as listening to God and watching for God’s activity in both my life and the church. My desire is to continually give God every portion of my life and myself, and to encourage others to do the same.
A Ministry Lived Inside-Out Our innermost being, that part of us that is closest to God, must be an area of our lives that is visible to others. Transparency and intimacy with God need to be the hallmarks of my life. My goal is to live this way as much as possible, and encourage others to do the same, as well all seek to live by the love of God that has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 4:5), enabling us to relate with God as “Abba,” (Romans 8:15), and live the fruitful life of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). This inside-out life will be evident in the way I interact with others and consider all others ahead of myself. One of the best passages in the Bible explaining how to live a life inside out is the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Other helpful texts are Matthew 23 (how not to live!) and Mark 1:35.
A Ministry Lived Upside-Down It is natural within the flesh of man to want to receive glory for the work that he does. This is true also in many ministries, where the emphasis is to take a “top-down” approach. My goal however is to live a life of humility in selfless service to those I minister to, and to take the example that Jesus gave in Luke 22:25-27 when, after the disciples argued over which one them was the “greatest,” Jesus said: 25 “…The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. This upside-down life will be evidence in the way I interact with others and seek to build others up, while not seeking praise and adoration for myself. One of the best passages in the Bible explaining how to live a life upside down is the example of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet (John 13:1-17).
A Ministry Oriented In Making Disciples and Equipping Others I feel that my strongest areas are found in preaching, teaching, encouraging, and discipling. I believe that God has also given me some discerning ability and some skills in organization and administration as well. A significant amount of my time needs to be focused on these strengths in order to be as effective in the Body of Christ as possible. Passages that support this are found in Ephesians 4:11-12; Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12-14; and 1 Peter 4:10-11. The foundational text I hold close when it comes how I feel about equipping others is found again, in Ephesians 4:11-13:
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
One of the best and most effective ways to bring another person to maturity in Christ is through personalized one-on-one instruction, i.e. discipling. God has called me to do this and to equip others to do the same. Relationships are a primary vehicle God has given us to accomplish discipling. It requires integrity and commitment. Yet out of this instruction come leaders with integrity that follow 1 Timothy 3; Titus 1:6-9; and 1 Peter 5:1-3. Other passages that support this are found in Colossians 1:28-29 and 2 Timothy 2:2.
A Ministry Centered On Evangelism Christ has charged his Church with the mission of evangelism. I feel that this is the Church’s main mission as well as my own. Although I do not see myself as particularly gifted in this area, I do have a passion to see others come to know Christ and give him lordship over their lives. I strive to evangelize with my life, my actions, and my words. And we are called to teach and equip others to do the same. Classic texts on Christ’s commission to the Church are found in Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8.
A Ministry That is Pastorally Shaped The pastoral aspect of ministry is sometimes very different from the teaching/equipping side of ministry. Love is a major part of pastoring. I have to love enough to forgive, confront, confront and discipline. God desires us to rejoice when others rejoice, and to weep when they weep. I do not feel that my strengths lie in areas of in-depth counseling. But ministry requires some of that. I will do my best to recognize when it is time to refer a person in need to a professional, and to recognize what I am able to assist with. I do have a genuine love for people and a desire to pray for them and with them. Biblical texts that support this area of ministry are Acts 20:13-35; John 21:15-17; Matthew 18:15-20; and Galatians 6:1-5.
A Ministry That is Church Honoring Jesus set the example by showing a very deep love for his Church, and I will strive to keep a strong love for it as well. I see worship, edification, equipping, and evangelism as the main purposes of the Church. And because of my allegiance to Christ, I will continually strive to be faithful in my service to the Church. I believe that the Church is in constant need of renewal and restoration through the Holy Spirit to keep people living for God. I will seek to encourage this in the Church and strive to encourage it in my family as well. Passages revealing Christ’s love and commitment to his church, as well as his connection to it, include Matthew 16:13-20 and Ephesians 5:22-23.