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:
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.