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Posts Tagged ‘Gospel Ministry’

The world needs passionate men and women. People who are committed and self-driven to serve the Lord wholeheartedly. Those won totally and visibly by the Gospel. Those who are using every second to build the kingdom of God. It’s exciting when people speak about reaching the lost so passionately. About going out of their way to reach the unreached. Risking their necks for the lost overseas. It’s great to hear from those passionate about children ministry, church planting, students, families, preaching, evangelism, and so on. 

Talk of changing our political scene with faithful leaders, influencing the corporate world with men with true faith and godly practice. What about the education level, media and technology, the police, the judiciary, the transport sector, and whatever else gives you sleepless nights. We need passionate men and women in all spheres of life that the Lord calls mine. I pray that the Lord would make me this kind of man so passionate for him that I ooze the Gospel and its influence in my corner.  But there’s a danger when we are too passionate in one area of ministry.

When we Only See our Corner 

There’s a danger with people who are too passionate in one area because they can be too invested in their corner of ministry and miss the forest of God’s vast kingdom. When we feel all resources, time and energy should be directed to our area and especially to us we’ve narrowed the kingdom too much. I’m passionate about training people for Gospel ministry and availing training resources to the next generation. I hope we can invest as much in this area. But if I imagine that’s the only way to serve God or it is the only area that matters then I’ve lost the bearing of the kingdom of God. 

What’s worse, passionate men can be selfish and proud men. We might look down on others and what they are doing. We might think they are wasting time. We might feel we are doing a better job. We might be jealous if they get the resources that we think we deserve. We might actually speak ill of them and their ministries. But all this is sinful friends regardless of our commitment to the Lord and the specific causes we are pursuing informed by the Gospel. 

We need to survey our hearts and our motivations that we are being godly and not after selfish interest and our own glory in our ministry pursuit. I would say we need to force ourselves to speak well of others. To say little of, I’m doing this and why are you not joining my corner. Instead to encourage those serving in a different area that we are probably less passionate about. Speak about their work and pray for them genuinely to be provided for even more than us if it pleases the Lord. After all, it’s his work and they are his labourers. 

When we Expect Others to be Like us 

If we are passionate about children’s ministry that is good and commendable but we need to remember the Gospel has many other groups in mind. Men and women, rich and poor, office workers and construction workers, rural and city people, Africans and Asians all need the Gospel. Just because someone is not passionate about our ministry and just because they don’t see how strategic and urgent it is doesn’t mean they are not serving the Lord. 

In the case where someone seems to lack passion in anything we deem important we shouldn’t look down on them. As the word says it’s before their master that they stand judged, see Romans 14:4. Actually, if everyone was passionate about everything very little could be achieved because no one would be convinced to come alongside others. You need people you can challenge. You need others to encourage. Others need their energies redirected while others need to be given a Gospel passion. And perhaps you also need a broader scope of the kingdom of God and be clear on the calling we have all received.

You see being passionate about ministry isn’t the end goal anyway. We need to always ask ourselves where our work and ministry ends. All ministry work however important is actually temporary because worship is the end goal. In heaven, we’ll not be doing walk-up evangelism or even full-time Gospel ministry. Our gifts, our strategic ministries, and all our passions will have ceased when God’s people arrive to be with their Saviour forever. That’s the end goal friends, to walk with the Lord now and enjoy him forever. Fellowship with the Lord is the end goal. Our walk with the Lord and bearing fruit for him in our lives is the first calling. What we do for the Lord however passionately follows after we are walking with him. Remember on that last day your passion and your ministry won’t save you, Jesus will.

When we Mistake how People Change 

People who are too passionate think they can move mountains. It’s a beautiful thing and there’s a lot we can do for the Lord when we give it our very best. We should have big dreams in our ministries, we should make big prayers and go for big steps. But we should remember that only God can change people’s hearts, see Ezekiel 36:26-27. Whatever we are passionate about isn’t our own doing anyway. We were not born passionate in that area. We didn’t even care about it before the Lord opened our eyes to that need. It was the Lord who sowed the seed and watered it before we claimed it our own. 

If you’d love for more people to be passionate about a certain ministry go to their Lord and Saviour and ask for his help. Don’t argue, abuse, call hell down, mourn and complain before you ask the Lord. If you sense a brother would make a great children’s minister save up some convincing energy for asking the Lord for his passion and commitment. If you see a gap that exists in the church don’t kill the pastor with new demands. Start praying about it and call others to pray on it. If you feel a particular ministry isn’t getting enough attention don’t spread hate and call people names. Talk to the Lord about it. You’ll be surprised how he starts to change you and others in that direction. 

Weighing our Passion

All of us however sold out to the Lord and his work need to remember we are on a discipleship journey. None of us have arrived and yet so often we operate like we have already made it to heaven and are back helping others. That’s a lie that blinds us to our blind spots in our walk with the Lord. We also need to remember nothing we have is our own, see 1 Corinthians 4:7. Not even our passion, our gifts, our clarity of the Gospel, and our key ministries. They are all gifts from the Lord and he has many other gifts and many other areas of ministry with many other faithful people. Let’s be careful not to miss the forest of God’s kingdom for our small tree.

If the Lord is calling us to a certain area let’s go for it with all the energy he provides. Let’s come to him with big prayers on the same. Let us get as many others excited on the same. But let us also remember the kingdom of God is bigger than us and our area of ministry. If others thrive in other areas of ministry we should praise the Lord for them. If some don’t seem as excited or convinced to join us we should pray about it and be okay with it. But we should also be careful not to build a kingdom around us. We need to remember it’s the Lord’s work we are doing, the resources come from him, the passion is his to inspire and the opportunities are his to open which means it’s him to have all the glory. If we weigh our Gospel passion and find we are at the heart of it, that we are always fighting on it and hating others because of it we need to repent and ask God to give us a bigger vision of his kingdom.

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Here in Kenya, we are preparing to go to the general elections next year. I bet you’ll hear a lot about the kind of leaders we want or need. We will all hopefully get a chance to choose who to lead us. The problem is leaders can’t choose who to lead. Sure they can pick a constituency and position of influence but they can’t pick and choose the people. They can have the best manifesto and the most elaborate implementation plan but they can’t have the best people to lead. What’s worse is they’ll have to deal with those who already hold them with suspicion. People who don’t want to be led by them.

But what does that have to do with shepherding you ask? Well, everything. You see many of us think the problem with leadership is that we don’t have good leaders. And while we apply that mostly to political leaders we can also share the same attitude in Christian ministry. Get the right person and leadership works, we say. Everyone will be happy, godly, and prosperous. In truth, the best of leaders have to endure harsh criticism and opposition because people don’t want to be led. We enjoy the merits of good leadership but we don’t really want to be led even by the best of leaders. If we did Jesus would face no opposition from our world. People from every nation and race would gather around to serve him who truly cares for them. You’d think the best leader would have everyone following them and doing so joyfully.

But the word of God is unashamed to tell us who we truly are, that we are all rebels. We’ve all gone our separate ways when it comes to God and his authority on us.
Romans 3 says:

10 As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11     there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.
Romans 3 NIV.

We are all sinners who especially hate God’s authority and with it any other form of authority. The world heaps all kinds of praises and massages our ego but the word speaks plainly here. Where the world says we are mostly good but shaped by our environment the word says we are inherently wicked and that it is us who shape our environment that way. That’s the problem of leadership and shepherding. The problem behind every other problem we face is the problem of sin. Adam chose his way and likewise, we do the same. People don’t want to be led and leaders don’t want to be held accountable because they don’t want to be led either. Politicians don’t want to be asked questions and citizens don’t want leaders telling them what to do and how to live.

Back to shepherding and it’s the same problem in Christian ministry. You’d think the redeemed would celebrate good leadership and to some extent, they do as adopted saints. But the presence of indwelling sin in our hearts means we still are rehabilitated rebels. There will be occasions when we despise leadership even from the best pastor and youth worker. Moses was a great sacrificial leader, a Saviour and yet Israel made his life hard. Jesus came to die for his people and if you think perfect leadership none fits the bill more. But he was not only rejected by the religious leaders but the masses demanded for him to be crucified.

If we then approach shepherding thinking that if we do our best, that if we die for the people they’ll love and make it easy for us we are in for a surprise. And yet if we are not willing to die for those we serve we fall short of Jesus’ model and his call to be undershepherds. So how do we shepherd people who naturally don’t want to be led and do it sacrificially?

The first thing is to know we are shepherding among rebels and we too are rebels. It means we know people for who they are and our leadership surpasses mere appreciation to serve a higher goal. John tells us something striking about Jesus in his Gospel. In John 2 we are told:

24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person. John 2 NIV.

What is striking is that Jesus knew us more than anyone else, he knew our deep-seated rebellion, and yet he came to die for us. This is shepherding that does not depend on the applause of the sheep. It’s shepherding that follows the way of the Cross. It says that God’s approval and recognition is enough for us. It gives the very best to people who may not naturally want to be led. Such realization will safeguard us from the idolatry of approval and appreciation. It’ll be to God that we look and not merely what we gain from the people. And when people do appreciate and idolize us, our hearts will be shielded from pride.

But since the condition of the heart is also true of us as Gospel ministers we need to ask ourselves if we are also responding similarly. You see it’s not just the normal congregant who has an issue with leadership, our Gospel ministers also don’t want to be undershepherds under the great Shepherd. We can’t lead if we don’t want to follow. How can we ask people to submit to our leadership and shepherding if we won’t submit to Jesus and those he’s entrusted with leadership?

We need to remember we are first his disciples before we are Gospel ministers, first sheep before shepherds, and only undershepherds. Before we murmur and complain of rebel sheep we need to survey our hearts. Would the chief Shepherd say the same of us? To shepherd among rebels, we need to kill our own rebellion and submit to our great Shepherd and those he’s given charge over us. If we desire leadership we must learn submission to godly leadership. If we would be undershepherds we need to obey and follow in the footsteps of our chief shepherd.

To the shepherds among us please remember these words from the apostle Peter:

5 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flockAnd when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. 1 Peter 5. NIV

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When you think about Gospel ministry I wonder what comes to your mind? What do you think a call to ministry actually means? Do you think there’s a chance God is calling you to ministry? I suppose most of us who are genuine and aware of our inner self think about what a noble and difficult task this is. We think about God’s word, about preaching to others and shepherding. We wonder how can I, a mere sinner help others in their relationship with God? How can a broken man lead others to the holy God? In this case, we think the call to ministry is something others can do but not us. No, we don’t qualify to lead others.

But perhaps your answer is different. If you’ve been serving elsewhere perhaps you do feel this is where the Lord is leading you. Your pastor thinks you can do it. You’ve led a Bible study before and enjoyed it. You’ve been involved in organizing for missions that went well and many souls were saved. And when you’ve had the opportunity on a Sunday to hammer the word people do seem to like your preaching. So it feels like yes God is calling you to ministry. You do realize it’s a noble task and you need help but you are largely convinced God is calling you to ministry.

Both of these are responses we hear every time we try to encourage people to do ministry. And there’s one thing that seems to drive these responses; if our heart is in the right place we think about the flock which is admirable. We ask ourselves can I serve God’s people? I’m I the right guy for the mission of God in reconciling the world to himself? Do I have the gifts and skills to pastor them? I’m I equal to the task of bringing others to the kingdom of God? Which I think is a very important question for anyone considering Gospel ministry.

The thing many of us forget or seem to miss is that a call to ministry though is actually a call first to personal discipleship before it is a call to disciple others. God’s call on his minister begins with the minister himself. He doesn’t call the qualified he qualifies those he calls. And to a great extent they never really qualify. No one is fit for that job. No one graduates to be a minister, instead, it is the student of the Word that leads other students in Gospel ministry.

But I know when I talk about ministry and mission the place that easily comes to mind is Matthew 28:16-20 which is the classic place we got to encourage people for missions and Gospel ministry. That’s where we get our job description. Now, I hope you don’t get this wrong but I think that’s the wrong place, to begin with, get me right I said to begin with. First, because if you read the Gospel accounts carefully as they should be read that’s where you end not where you start. Second, because when we start there we assume a lot about the people going for ministry and think very highly of them.

If you read the Gospels carefully you’d see how insufficient the men God sends are. This is especially clear when working through Mark’s Gospel. It should shock you that Jesus decides to send these guys. None of them qualifies. They want to be lords, not servants. They struggle to grasp what Jesus is doing, they are not A students. In the end, one betrays him, the other publicly denies him and they all desert the Saviour when he needed them the most. How can they qualify?

Now I’m not trying to split hairs and argue for the sake of it. Actually, I would still use Matthew 28 to encourage people to go to the ministry field and I think we don’t do this enough in our churches. But I do want to convince you why discipleship needs to come first before mission because even in the Gospel accounts it comes first. When Jesus called his disciples heres what we are told was to be their Job description:

14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach

Mark 3:14 ESV.

We easily get the second part of that verse but we miss the first. The first mission for the first disciples was Discipleship, to sit and learn from Jesus. He called them to be with him and he stayed with them 3 years before he could issue the Great Commission. And even at that point, I would say still these guys were not ready and they were not going to be ready.

Brothers and sisters what I’m trying to convince you and I is; that it’s only after we have been with Jesus when we are walking with Jesus when we are killing sin and striving for holiness every day that we can even think about Gospel ministry. In others words, the call to faithful ministry is a call first to be a faithful Christian. And it’s a daily call, not something that happens once in a dream. Not something that happened when they commissioned or ordained you. The Higher calling is not calling others but answering the call yourself first.

This is the case even when we think about the people of Israel. God’s call on Israel was a call to himself even before they could be a light to the nations. What does God say in Exodus 19?

5Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

Exodus 19:5 ESV

The call on Israel like the Christian call and to the Gospel preacher is a call to God first. The things we’ll do for God are great. The sacrifices we make for God are worthwhile and part of the package. The souls we’ll preach to and be added to the kingdom will glorify God. But if we miss the calling on our lives for the calling of others then the heaven we talk of is a place we’ll never set our feet on. Others will make it partly because of our ministry but Jesus will say on that day depart from me for I never knew you. If you think Gospel ministry is for you think about your devotion life. If you sense you’ve got the gifts for the job ask yourself if you have the heart for it. And if you feel weak and unqualified and yet see the need for Gospel ministers then ask God to qualify you and to do so every day.

Every year at iServe Africa we send out invitations to college graduates who are sensing a calling of God for ministry to do our one-year Apprenticeship program. This offers them an opportunity for training and testing the waters for ministry. The problem is often times when we talk about ministry they like us tend to think about preaching, going for missions, and discipling others. We think about ourselves as agents that God is sending to others so they can hear the Gospel which is partly right. But the thing we spend most of our time trying to convince our apprentices is that ministry is more about becoming than it is doing. For them, the year is more learning and unlearning than it is hammering the Gospel. It’s about discipleship before it’s about the mission. For only the faithful disciple makes a faithful Bible teacher.

The rebuke we need to hear friends for those of us in ministry is whether we are leading others where we are not following. There are extremes of those who are clearly leading others astray leading them to themselves and to the idols of their hearts. But if we claim to be faithful ministers we need to ask if we are faithful disciples. This is not aimed at guilt-tripping us or making us feel insufficient although that’s how we should feel. But to encourage us to go the Father so he can qualify us with his word. We ought to think the word we are preaching applies to us, not just the naughty teenager in front of us. We need to feed so that we can point others to where they can find pasture. For we are all sheep and we have one Shepherd, the Overseer of our hearts, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

If you are starting on in Gospel ministry or trying to make that decision I hope you can see where it all begins and stays. It’s a higher calling because God wants your heart before he can use your mouth, hands, and feet. Actually, I hope all of us can see that in one way or the other God is calling all of us for ministry. We may not have the gift set of a pastor but God is calling us to himself so he can send us to our neighbors. God is calling us to fellowship with him before we can go out for his mission. He’s asking for our hearts before we can give him our hands. Our heads before our mouths. Our life before we give him our gifts and skills. This is the higher calling.

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