Clergy/Leaders’ Mail-list No. 2-026 (Sermon – topical)
THE PATH TO EFFECTIVE MINISTRY (1 Corinthians 12:1-11)
by Rod Benson
Russ Blowers is a pastor and an active member of the Indianapolis Rotary Club. Each week at club meetings a different member gives a brief summary of his job. This is what Russ said:
“I’m with a global enterprise. We have branches all over the world, and representatives in nearly every parliament and boardroom on earth. We run hospitals, feeding stations, crisis pregnancy centres, publishing houses, and nursing homes.
“We care for our clients from birth to death. We’re into life insurance and fire insurance. We perform heart transplants. Our original Organiser owns all the real estate on earth plus an assortment of galaxies and constellations. He knows everything and lives everywhere.
“Our product is free for the asking. Our CEO was born in a hick town, worked as a carpenter, didn’t own a home, was misunderstood by his family, hated by his enemies, walked on water, was condemned to death without a trial, and rose from the dead – I talk with him every day.”
It’s great to see someone so passionate about God, about the church of Jesus Christ, and about Christian ministry. Sometimes I find it hard to be passionate about the church, and I find it difficult to focus on ministry.
But then I remember Jesus. I remember that he came from heaven to earth to rescue me and renew my life. I remember that he worked hard and prayed hard, and still there were crowds of critics and multitudes of half-hearted believers.
I remember that he kept his focus, and maintained his passion, and gritted his teeth, and steeled his will to complete the work for which God sent him to us.
I remember that he dealt with sin, and conquered evil, and overcame death, and emerged as the glorious victor, and received the praise of heaven and the eternal commendation of his Father.
And I want to be like Jesus. I’m inspired to be more like him in character, ministry and mission. I want to be a faithful servant, a good follower.
So I take the path that leads to effective ministry, and I watch out for those things that destroy effective ministry, and avoid them or deny their power.
What attitudes or behaviours can destroy my ministry? What kind of things can leave my gifts latent and lifeless, and my character tarnished, and my potential for God wrecked? What unplugs my ministry?
Ministry gets unplugged when I want – when I’m doing ministry for personal gain or prestige or financial reward. If my motivation is not grounded in love and a desire to edify the church or evangelise the world, I’m wanting what God does not want for me.
Ministry gets unplugged when I waffle – when I’m full of words, but what I say doesn’t ring true, or camouflages character flaws or incompetence, or is simply irrelevant.
Ministry gets unplugged when I waft – when I try one thing, then another, without stickability and without stability.
Ministry gets unplugged when I wilt – when I get so busy with things that don’t matter that I don’t have time for what is important, or time for self-care.
Or I’m doing things I’m not gifted to do, perhaps because I feel there is no one else to do them. Or I’m doing exactly what God wants me to do, but I’m doing it with such intensity and investing such long hours in it that I burn out.
Ministry gets unplugged when I walk – when I wander like a nomad from church to church, or like a pilgrim who feels the need to keep moving but knows neither their purpose or their destination.
And ministry gets unplugged when I say, “I won’t” – to God, to other leaders in the church, or to myself.
What can I do when these forces creep into my thinking or my life? The best response to a desire to want the wrong thing, or to waffle, or to waft, or to wilt, or to walk, or to say, “I won’t,” is to say, “I will,” and follow through with discipline and commitment.
Forget about yourself, and focus on Jesus. Fall in love with the Gospels and be inspired by the pure and passionate life of Jesus.
Take heart from the scene of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane (Mt 26:36-46), or the interaction between Peter and the resurrected Jesus on the shore of the lake (Jn 21:15-23).
Take heart from Paul’s declaration in Galatians 2:20, and make it yours: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
And recognise that ministry is an awesome privilege that deserves the best you have to offer. Ministry isn’t something you do to get a good reference from the pastor for a job interview.
Ministry isn’t something you do to fill in some spare time between social engagements on the weekend. Ministry isn’t some optional activity that you do only if you feel like doing it.
Ministry is the work of the kingdom of God. Ministry is following Jesus. Ministry is building the church, one brick and one life at a time. Ministry is what encourages transformation in people’s lives, and changes their destiny.
A job is at your choice; a ministry is at Christ’s call. In a job you expect to receive; in a ministry you expect to give. In a job you give something to get something; in a ministry you return something that has already been given to you.
A job depends on your abilities; a ministry depends on your availability to God. A job done well brings you praise; a ministry done well brings honour to Jesus Christ. Ministry is extremely and eternally significant. The amazing thing is that God calls you and me to do ministry for him!
Many of us returned this afternoon from our church camp. We knew how to get home, because we’d been that way before. Some of us knew how to get there on Friday night, because we remembered from past years how to get there. But some of us used a road map to help get there.
You might think a road map tells you everything you need to know except how to fold it back up again. But maps lie. In Aqua Church, Leonard Sweet shows why a map can be a trap: “No map is accurate. The only absolutely accurate map would be one so large and true that it was exactly the same size and shape as the place being represented. No map is current. Everything changes. No map is impartial. Every map is drawn from someone’s perspective. No map will get you there. You have to take the journey yourself.”
So don’t rely exclusively on maps. When it comes to ministry, especially in the 21st century, don’t rely on traditions, or what has worked in the past, or what this or that church is doing.
Be yourself, cut your own groove, burn your own track, embark on your own voyage, shape the unique destiny God has for you. Plug in to God, and turn on your unique ministry, and trust God to navigate for you, and use your gifts and abilities in the church you call home.
E070 Copyright (c) 2002 Rod Benson. Reproduction in any form except for commercial purposes is permitted with full copyright notice intact. Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1980).
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