As we move into 2015, I have been looking back over the past few years and have been doing some reflecting on the lessons that God has taught me. This is the first of a series of five posts on this subject. I hope you will enjoy the ride!
It all started in Spring 2013 as a Bible study with a handful of people, about 7 months later we were in a rented church building holding a launch service, a few months after that we moved to another rented church building where we have been for a year. God has done some great things in our midst both numerically and spiritually. I could give you the many stories, but for today I will share five specific lessons that God has been (and still is) teaching me about ministry!
I hope this will connect with many of you as these lessons are not revolutionary or new. They are timeless lessons that God has been teaching me through his word and also using the mentors that He has placed in my life. You have either already experienced God teaching you these lessons, are in the midst of Him teaching you these lessons, or soon will have God teaching you these lessons as you serve him. My goal is that this short article would encourage you knowing you are not alone, inform you to some of the fundamental principles of ministry, and motivate you to get out, go beyond and serve the Lord.
WARNING!! These first two lessons will almost sound contradictory! First I want to share with you how God has continually reminded me of the necessity of hard work. Real ministry is work, contrary to popular opinion it is not a free ride, it is not a cushy career path, it requires work. There are sermons to prepare, tracts to distribute, people to meet with, various random tasks to be done, etc. Personally, this was brought more into focus since I had to learn to set my own schedule. Moving from a Bible college experience of a determined schedule of classes and a determined schedule of work, I had little latitude to make decisions on what I Had to do! However, quitting my job, moving to a position where there is virtually no schedule, no quota necessarily, I had to learn to get up and work hard!
My dad had always taught me to work hard, it was simply the culture of my family and a culture that I greatly appreciate looking back even though I once detested it. However, moving into ministry I had no boss to give me my list of responsibilities for the day. I would even venture to say that this kind of work where you have no pre-determined schedule is even more difficult because you have to become self motivated. You have to learn to get up at a certain time, go and do the work that is uncomfortable even though no one is forcing you.
I tell you, one of the things that is very uncomfortable in starting a church is going out door tagging or door knocking alone. It is so easy to come up with reasons and other things that need done so you won’t go and invite people, you won’t go and reach people. Perhaps some people are more spiritual that me, but I am an outright introvert (kinda sounds like an oxymoron) I do not like talking with people and I can think of 13 other tasks that I could occupy my time with instead of going out and talking to complete strangers, but it must be done!
We have to learn to go do the hard work.
Without much imagination, I can hear the replies and rebukes of those who would say I am putting too much emphasis on what I do and not enough on the work and blessing of God. They will say, “you are leaving God out of the equation! He is the one who does the work!” I reply, yes I completely agree! Please hear me out. Without God working, we have nothing, are nothing, and will accomplish nothing! However, if we do not obey his command to go reach the lost, God will not accomplish anything through you! Consider with me Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 15:10 – But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
There are two aspects here, Paul says I am what I am, an apostle, a servant of Christ working to take the Gospel to the world by the grace of God. Completely God working in my life and God working in reaching people with the Gospel. Then he adds, but this grace, this gift, was not given to me in vain! It wasn’t useless, it wasn’t a waste! The question we must ask then is How? How wasn’t it a waste? Why wasn’t it in vain? Paul says, well not to brag, but I did work harder than anyone else out there!
What is the truth here? Without the grace of God, we are absolutely nothing and will not be able to accomplish anything. However, without you and I working and using the gift that God has given us, it is given in vain.
What does this mean for our ministry? Yes, God is working in my life. Yes, God is working in the lives of men and women. But if I am not obedient to his command, the grace he has given me will be worthless, nothing will be accomplished. So I say to you and remind myself, get out there and work hard!
Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!