When most of us hear the call to go out and start a work for God He deals with most of us the same way He did Abraham. That is He doesn’t give all of the details at the beginning He simply says go! Why not give us more details? First of all I think it’s because He wants us to learn to trust Him a step at a time that we might grow in our faith. But secondly I believe if God showed us all the details at the beginning some of us might be tempted to ignore the call altogether! Why? Because although serving in the ministry is an honor and greatly rewarding, it can also be very difficult with many tests and trials along the way. Hence if God showed us everything we would face at the beginning we may not have the maturity or commitment to make it to the end. So what would be my encouragement to you when stepping out to answer the call of God? I will list several things below that have been helpful to me.
- First of all keep your priorities straight.
- It must be God, then family, then the ministry. And although this sounds obvious and most of us would say that is how we have our lives ordered, the realty is when things get busy it is very easy to get these priorities mixed up. And if you do, rest assured it will come back to haunt you at some point. Especially with your wife and kids!
- Secondly guard your expectations.
- I am not saying you shouldn’t be a man of faith or vision, but if you have expectations that are different from God’s in scope or timing you will be greatly discouraged when things don’t happen the way “you” envisioned. For example how quickly your study will grow and how big it will one day be. My advice would be to have no specific expectations in these areas and simply do your best to obey your call. Then leave the details up to God. This will guard you from being discouraged due to misplaced expectations, and it will also make it that much more exciting when God does something you didn’t expect!
- Commit for the long haul and know it will not be easy.
- If you know God has called you to go and told you where to go, then mentally commit for the long haul and regardless of how hard it gets. God never said it would be easy so don’t expect it to be. This doesn’t mean there will not be exciting times. But there will also be great tests and trials. And only a long-term commitment will see you through.
- Avoid the temptation to appeal to people’s flesh.
- All true pastors want their church to be alive and active in the things of the Lord, but sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that simply activity or fleshly generated excitement will do the trick. But we need to realize that this mindset is indeed a trick! The only fruitful activity a church can have is what the Holy Spirit leads. Hence guard yourself from being tempted to have a little less of the Word and a little bit more excitement. A healthy church can have both. That is we must continue to teach through the whole Bible so we end up with whole Christians, but as God leads we can also have fun in our ministries, outreach, and events. Just make sure you don’t leave the most important thing behind. Stay true to teaching the Word from cover to cover. God’s Word is the only way believers can truly grow, and it’s the only thing that will raise up mature disciples.
- Don’t be too quick to appoint leadership.
- As time goes by and the church grows there can be a temptation to quickly appoint leadership. The problem is if you don’t have time to truly evaluate the people you have you may put the wrong person in place. And trust me, it is a lot easier to put people in leadership than to remove them! Give time for a person to first be proven and you will avoid a lot of heartache.
- Let God lead you and not the people.
- You will soon find that most everyone has an opinion as to how the ministry should be done and even what they thinks you should do. Regardless of what God has said! Listen only to God! God has called you and you are His under shepherd of that flock. Not them. God needs leaders, not hirelings.
- Don’t be afraid to take steps of faith.
- This one sounds obvious but we must never forget that the Bible says without faith it is impossible to please God. And that means we should be men who are not afraid to take a venture of faith. That doesn’t mean we blinded push our will and try to build our own personal kingdom. But it does mean that as we pray and feel led of the Lord we must not be afraid to step out of the boat and into the water from time to time. You never know what God has planned until you step out. And who knows how many of us have missed great things that God had planned for us or our congregations because we never stepped out to see.
- Spend time with your staff or ministry leaders.
- One of the early mistakes I made was thinking my staff and leadership would be mature enough to stay on target without frequent meetings. But what I found was that even if they are mature, your staff and elders need “regular” and “frequent” meetings in order to keep relationships strong and loyal. Because I didn’t do this at the first I had some that I trusted be disloyal and turn against me. And while I am not making excuses for their sin, I also realized that I was partly to blame for not cultivating and maintaining good relationships. And this gave opportunity for the enemy to get in. I now meet with my staff at least once a week and my elders monthly. Since making this change I had not had another incident. Hence I strongly encourage you have regular meetings and contact with all your leadership.
I hope you find some of these ministry lessons helpful as you step out on your own in ministry. And I also hope you can learn from some of my mistakes over the years. But mostly I want you to know that although there have been many ups and downs over the years in the ministry I have seen God be faithful in all regards. So be encouraged, trust the Lord, and get going! Our time is short down here. So let’s let our motto come from the words of Jesus Himself Who said, “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” It’s time for us to get busy and be about our Father’s business!