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Posts Tagged ‘Ministry’

Those of you who attend church with me at Omaha Bible Church know that I am going through a significant change in ministry. Over the last three years, my wife Amy and I have been serving in the high school ministry together. As the leader of that ministry, I was challenged in ways I could never have expected. It was a great time. My main regret was that it ended before I had the chance to apply the lessons learned from my failures.

My new ministry will be as a care group leader for a new church campus, spun from OBC. I will be working with adults, families. As hard as it has been to leave high school ministry behind, these new waters are equally daunting. I feel privileged to have been handed such responsibility, and yet I have struggled with the guilt of unfinished business.

I’ve been wanting to share some of my thoughts on the nature of ministry with you for some time now, but due to the need for discretion in the planning stages, I’ve had to keep things under wraps. Now that our plans have been announced, here goes:

  1. I have really been impressed with the providence of God in moving the pieces of the puzzle around to meet all the needs. When the prospect of this new ministry came along, I was not interested. As I saw it, I was needed in the youth ministry and I didn’t see a replacement. Later, when the proposal became formal, a replacement had appeared. Our church added a new pastor with experience in youth ministry and a desire to serve. Having a full time pastor was something I’d felt was needful all along. Rob Clay was an answer to long-standing prayer, and it seemed as if God was nudging me through my hesitation.
  2. In the body of Christ, everyone is replaceable. Months before any of these things came along, Amy and I had this conversation on a walk. I stated plainly that I was not so specially suited for the high school ministry that the students would suffer if I decided to leave. I said that God depends on no man to accomplish his plans. The doctrine of election underscores this: God cuts and pastes at will in order that HE might be glorified as the architect (1 Cor 1:19-21)
  3. Sheep need to listen to the shepherds. We all need to be careful not to become so attached to our ministries that we end up being barnacles, slowing the ship or even sinking it. We are sheep. Pastors are shepherds. Sheep need to let the shepherds arrange them as they seem fit.
  4. God has been wise to make the gifts of the Holy Spirit diverse, and yet general enough that our desires are defined and our application can be broad (Eph 4:10-12, 1 Cor 12). We need to be careful that we don’t consider ourselves personally tailored for a particular ministry. Our gifts can and should be used in a wide variety of ways, and no single ministry can contain them all.
  5. Christian life is about change. Particularly, it is about trial and challenge. We should expect that we will move from ministry to ministry as we mature. As we grow, God will gift us with greater responsibility.
  6. Learn to live with the tension of never wanting to fail your Master. I think it’s proper never to feel as though you’ve arrived, or that you’ve got things running just so. Christ’s standard is perfection (1 Pet 1:16). We know we can’t reach perfection and yet we can’t be fully satisfied with anything less. Perfection-ism is idolatry (perfection for it’s own sake, the work itself being the goal), but the desire to serve God faithfully (striving for His pleasure) to the fullest degree of our ability is proper worship.
  7. Make declaring Christ the center of your ministry and you cannot fail. Having been surrounded by other men who actively declare Christ is everything they do, it has been driven home to me that this message is not to be merely implied or assumed, but declared emphatically at every opportunity. Don’t take this priority as given. Say it. preach it. Do it with a mop, or from behind the lectern.

Nuff said.

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Earplugs: Sounds out or brains in?

As I’ve mentioned, lately the learning has been coming fast and furious. It’s all I can do to hold on to as much of it as possible.

Tonight is a good example:

I’ve just sat down from jamming through much more reading than I’m accustomed. The leadership meeting to plan our ministry year for Ikon Youth Ministries is Saturday and I’m trying to plow through a couple of books that we will be reading in the next couple of months. One is Don Carson’s “The Cross and Christian Ministry” and the other is “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life” by Don Whitney. Both are awesome.

“Spiritual Disciplines” though, is delighting me with it’s mix of observations and practical suggestions. Maybe one reason more that I’m loving it is that it is matching some personal conclusions I’ve reached on my own. Smart guy, that Don Whitney. Still, I find myself running to my computer immediately afterward to add some of Don’s ideas to a curriculum for student discipleship that I am developing.

Discipleship, that is, how it should be done, has been dominating my mental agenda for months now. This is because of some breakthroughs of my own. I have certainly engaged myself in all of the major disciplines (reading, praying, learning, serving, evangelizing etc) but I have recently learned to be more effective and consistent in those areas, and the difference has been notable. At least to me it has.

Let me burden you all with one central observation that has fallen on me like a grand piano: Prayer and Scripture study are the cornerstones of Christian growth.

WOW! I should write a book and spin it off countless times in progressively derivative and watered down installments.

I feel a bit sheepish to say that I have been very impressed lately with this fact of spiritual growth. It’s such a compelling fact that I find myself looking around the room and sizing up people’s spiritual habits.

Here’s the caveat: People that don’t pray and study their Bibles don’t change. They look OK, but they lack passion and they don’t grow. ALL those who are dynamic, passionate, and growing are pray-ers and read-ers. Exceptions (and fakes) aside, that’s how it goes.

As I’ve been run over by this understanding, I have dedicated myself over the last year to be good at those two things. Everything else has been following. It’s exciting.

The scary thing is that a year ago, I understood less about what I was lacking. It is the grace of God that has continually pushed be and not allowed me to be content. His Spirit ensures that my dedication to these disciplines yields fruit. Praise God for His dedication to overcoming my thick-headedness. Praise God for his willingness to supply everything, including my obedience, by His Spirit.

As I work to master these disciplines myself, pray that my efforts to impart these disciplines to others would be fruitful.

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OK, so someone who will remain anonymous is goading me about my recent dearth of posts. For the record, I have been VERY busy. I know that I have a monopoly on being busy, too. From overseeing our high school retreat this weekend, to recovering from said retreat, to closing off administrative threads regarding said retreat, and preparing to preach Sunday night, I am tired man! Cut me some slack!

One reflection from our retreat last weekend (the theme was “Fear: Not Just for Cowards Anymore”…clever, eh?): I will be done with youth ministry when they pry off my cold, dead hands.

A second reflection: That may come sooner than I think.

In all seriousness, for as much as I hate camping and generally outdoorsy stuff, I always have a great time. The students wear me out, big time, and it makes me wonder how long I can keep up. I’m 33 now. It makes me laugh to think about running around like that when I’m 40 or 45. Who knows, maybe that’s motivation to keep myself in shape.

That’s the thing about ministry: Love of your ministry will see you do all kinds of crazy, outside-the-box type things to make it a success. In the process, your joy is amplified by realizing God’s glory in taking you outside your comfort zone for the sake of others.

My thanks to Erik Bauer, future Master’s Seminary student and devoted brother-in-law, for trekking halfway across the country to tell us about the importance and benefit of fearing God. It was much more than an opportunity for a cool t-shirt, Erik.

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If I could just point this one thing out…

In our high school ministry we try to drill on the point that assurance of salvation is not based simply on a profession of faith, but on spiritual fruit. The profession is essential, but it is empty without evidence. All ow me now to call your attention to one major piece of evidence on behalf of my profession of faith:

I am going on a retreat this weekend.

It will be very hot, around 95F with high humidity. There will be uncomfortable bunks. There will be sleeping bags. There will be camp food. There will be not-my-house, if you will.

And yet I am going.

This is coming from the worlds-most-pathetic-ever Boy Scout. I suffered through every night of camping, and even cried a few times because I wanted to go home. As soon as I realized that I would actually have to work to get the Boy Scout bling, and that meetings would involve discussing camping and not just playing games, I was so OUT of there.

And yet I am stuffing a bus full of high school students and gear this afternoon. Here’s the really weird thing:

I’m sort of looking forward to it.

Sort of.

When all is said and done I will be glad to be showered and in my own bed, but I do look forward to these special times of ministry. There are opportunities here that you just don’t get during the rest of the year, like sharing the gospel, establishing friendships, and getting to know new students. Truly the old Boy Scout has passed away, the retreat camper has become new.

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I am a self-professed New Year’s stick-in-the mud. I am not into making resolutions, and this year will not be any different. I also find it difficult to get charged up about celebrating New Year’s Eve in any way. The older I get, the more of a non-event it becomes. All the New Year’s means to me is that I’ll be writing the wrong date for the next two weeks. Whatever.

I find many of the New Year’s traditions irritating as well. I’m sure that all the media outlets love the excuse to run rehashed filler material, otherwise known as “year in review’ and your various “top ten of the year list” shows. Whatever.

What I am is resolved.

Perfect tense.

I am resolved in a way that requires no annual retrospective or taking of personal inventory. I am resolved to be a Christian, living in the world according to a Biblical worldview, functioning as a willing participant in the working out of God’s sovereign will.

Stymied is a word that comes to mind when I see how other professing Christians live their lives. They live without any practical convictions or passion for the things of God. At church they listen and go home. They adopt the Christian vocabulary and a roughly Christian lifestyle, but they are not penetrated to their core by the knowledge of God’s Word, nor are they consumed with knowing Christ so that they can become more like Him.

I have joy because I am resolved. I have joy because I have a purpose. I have joy because I have found the center of the universe and it is not me.

Paul was a deeply resolved man. This same kind of resolution is mirrored by Paul in 2 Corinthians 4. The misery of the ministry, as trying as it was, was offset because Paul was certain of his place in life. He was a minister of the gospel to the Gentiles. There was no question about that. Only the executioner could keep him from his work, and that by God’s permission. the church would thrive were it peopled by others who were so resolved.

I may be much weaker and far less wise than Paul, but I am resolved to love God and to serve the will of His Son Jesus Christ.

That, my friends, is worth celebrating.

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Back to the salt mines!

Allow me so say something with some VERY negative connotations:your involvement in church should be like work. That’s right, be you a sandwich artist, working the movie theater concessions counter, or selling toilet paper and bowl cleaner (that would be me), your participation in church ministry should be like work. Throw out labor laws limiting the number of hours you can work, throw out the material pay, and forget the opportunity for personal advancement. Get to work.

It personally bothers me that so many people are so passive and uninterested in ministry. They want to know what’s in it for them, or they want to be sure that they will be entertained before they will commit to anything, and when they do commit, they do so half-heartedly. You can tell who wants to be there and who doesn’t.

Don’t take this as a rebuke from the guy who works harder than everybody. I’ve worked with that guy, and when I meet him at church I see that has more the heart of a Pharisee than the heart of Jesus. What I mean is that the church is always deperate for people who are willing to shoulder any load. The church needs people who ask not if they will do ministry, but which ministry they will serve. They ask not “should I” but “why not?” The church needs people who work at avoiding being overloaded, not people who can’t be bothered.

Sound like a job application for the salt mines? No way! The church is the pillar and support of the Truth (1 Tim 3:15) and Christians love being a part of it all. Further, they are gifted by the Spirit of God (1 Cor Ch.12) and have a Spirit driven impulse to use that gift for the edification of the church. They also love the brethren (1 Jn 3:14) and being the square pegs in a world of round holes, they love to be around one another. Christians can’t get enough of church, fellowship, or ministry, and they take in all they can.

I have a personal passion for serving my church. By God’s grace it has resulted in being appointed formally to the office of deacon, but this doesn’t make me special. I am proud to serve alongside many others who labor equally as hard if not harder in the work of service. I also have a passion for exhorting those around me to the same kind of lifestyle, in which our church is the center of our earthly universe. the more the merrier and the greater the glory and good pleasure of God.

So get to work!

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