Tag Archives: Ministry

Building A Cathedral!

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Life is pretty daily! I know that might sound funny, but it is. And ministering and serving others is the same way. It’s very daily. As unspiritual as it might sound, ministry can be very ordinary. In our culture of excitement, we expect our discipling of others to always be magical. We imagine angels singing behind us in our daily praying for others. And yet most times, it’s just standard ritual.

Therefore, in the midst of ministry that is every day in nature, it can become easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. In the day to day service and the sharing of our lives with those around us, we can forget why we do what we do. We can lose sight of the forrest for the trees, so to speak.

I recently read about a story of two stonecutters. Each was asked what they were doing. One responds, “I am cutting stone in a perfectly square shape.” The other responds, “I am building a cathedral.”

Personally, I sometimes forget the bigger picture. I fail to remember that it’s larger than just “cutting stone in a perfectly square shape.” It’s about building a kingdom. It’s about being a part of something grander than myself though the task at the time might appear routine. The weekly meeting of a friend for prayer or the washing of the dishes for my family (see Theology of Washing Dishes) are in the larger scheme of things, “building a cathedral.”

If all of the above is true, then maybe we should rejoice more in the routine of ministry that is a part of the life and place we daily inhabit.  I realize this is hard to do living in a world that continues to wait for the next big thing, but we must try. I love the words of Christopher Ash as he writes that “the best kinds of ministry are, more often than not, long term and low key.”

So it’s true that “we are cutting stones into squares.” Ministry can be, and really is, routine and ordinary. And yet we must never forget that we are a part of something much bigger. The writer of Hebrews tells us that those who came before us, though not sure of how it would all work out, were looking to something greater. Though our ancestors in the faith died “not having received the things promised,” they continued on for they were “desiring a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:13-16).

We need to realize that we might be planting shade trees that we will never sit under. We might never see the finished product, but we  must trust that anything that we do for God is not wasted, no matter how small we think it might be. So today, let’s delight in making some square stones knowing that in reality, we are building a cathedral.

 

 

 

What Personality Is Needed For Ministry?

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What personality is needed for ministry? Interesting question isn’t it? Personally, I don’t really like it. And I’m not sure I’ve ever heard someone ask it aloud with such clarity, but I do know it’s on people’s minds. Therefore, I  think it’s a question that should be addressed. Here’s why.

First of all, I think there are those who think they don’t have what it takes for ministry. Whether one is considering ministry as a vocation or just beginning to understand the role of ministry that all Christ-followers have, there can be a tendency to believe that we might not have the right personality for the job. This is especially true in regards to evangelism. There’s no way you can be an introvert and be an evangelist, right?

When I was younger and began thinking about entering ministry as a vocational choice, one concern I had was whether or not I could be like the pastors and other church staff I knew. I didn’t really seem to fit the mold (or so I thought). Over the past several years, I have had several conversations with others who felt the same. Specifically, they were youth ministers who felt they weren’t the cool, fun-loving, athletic-type person needed.

Second, I think this question needs to be addressed because of my understanding that God uses all people. In fact, throughout history, He has seemed to use the most unlikely. We need to beat this truth into our heads. Consider the words of Paul to the church in Corinth: Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are (1 Cor. 1:26-28).

The ones that God chooses “are not just ‘have-nots'”, writes James K. A. Smith, “they’re ‘are-nots!’ And yet they are chosen and commissioned as God’s image bearers, God’s princesses and princes who are empowered to be witnesses of a coming kingdom and charged with the renewal of the world.”

So what personality is needed for ministry? Well, simply put, it is the personality that you have been gifted with. You might think you are too quiet and shy. Or you might think that you are too loud. But regardless, you should know that “you were made just as you are so that you can [minister] to a particular people” (see Get Real by John S. Leonard). No doubt there might be times when you have to speak up in spite of your shyness and listen instead of always talking, but make no mistake about it, you have the personality needed for God to use.

When Paul counters the argument among the Corinthians of whom they thought was best to follow, whether it be him or Apollos or someone else, Paul made it clear that they were being worldly in their thinking. Paul writes, What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers (1 Cor. 3:5-9).

God chooses to use all personalities and giftings so therefore, we should rejoice in all as each are given for the purpose of making Him known. So whether you are introverted or extroverted, you have the personality needed. Thank God for it and serve others with it.

Quote Of The Week

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Don’t settle for the false heaven of a “successful ministry.” Because real success is faithfulness. Big church or small church, growing church or declining church, well-known church or obscure church—all churches are epic successes full of the eternal, invincible quality of the kingdom of God when they treasure Jesus’ gospel and follow him. Jesus did not give the keys of the kingdom with the ability to bind and loose on both sides of the veil only to those who’d reached a certain attendance benchmark. So do well, pursue excellence, and stay faithful. God will give you what you ought to have according to his wisdom and riches.

Jared C. Wilson

Quote of the Week

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God is at work in all the places we already inhabit. He is bigger than the arena of our own immediate church programs and ideas about evangelism. He is a prodigal God recklessly working in people and situations of all types. If we truly believe God is at work in the world, we must take the time to pay attention, listen, and discern what God is doing in the lives of those around us.

( taken from Prodigal Christianity by David Fitch & Geoff Holsclaw, p. 29.)

Change The World?

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We are told to change the world! Jesus told us that we are “the salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” We must therefore, let our saltiness preserve and our our light shine. “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” so we must “let [our] light shine before others, so that they may see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:13-16).

What I wonder however, about the mandate to change the world is whether we really know what it means and what it looks like in our hum drum day to day living?  Another question I have is whether we are actually commanded to change the world. That discussion will have  to occur on another day.

In Michael Horton’s fairly new book, Ordinary, he is worried that our call to change the world is actually becoming something we hide behind. He writes, “Changing the world can be a way of actually avoiding the opportunities we have every day, right where God has placed us, to glorify him and enjoy him and to enrich the lives of others.” In other words, we can become enthralled with a social justice cause in some other country that we bypass the people God has placed in front of us everyday.

Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be concerned about justice around the world. We should be. It’s important. But what I think Horton is worried about is that in our desire to be change agents in the world, which always appears to be in some place other than where we live, we lose sight of doing good to the people around us. It’s like a group of students leaving on a mission trip to India for two weeks while driving by an apartment complex comprised of people from India just two blocks from where they live. Again, not saying we shouldn’t go to India. Just wondering if we are aware of those that God has placed right in front of us.

I’m thinking that our context of what it means to change the world, therefore, needs to be adjusted. The reality is that the lady who scans my groceries at the nearest food store could be struggling financially with health bills. Our next door neighbor could have a struggling marriage. The school we pass each day to and from work most likely has children that are neglected at home. The list could go on and on and I think you see the point.

Could it be that changing the world is truly about taking notice of your day to day life and realizing the opportunities that God has placed around you? Granted, praying for our neighbors and children in our local schools may not be near as glamorous as doing so overseas,  but since when has doing good for the glory of God been about us anyway?

Let’s look around some today. Miracles might not happen. The person you decide to smile at and be nice to may not reciprocate. It may just be another one of “those” days. But continue to be open and remember that many times, if not all, God uses the ordinary to do something extraordinary.

 

Do You Find People Interesting?

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To love one another is a common command in Scripture. In fact, if you were to ask any Christian what a core principle of following Christ might be, they would no doubt probably mention loving others.  Just consider the following verses…

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8).

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart (1 Peter 1:22).

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7).

But what does it mean to love others? Though there are many things that could be written, I just want to mention one idea that, for me, is important to consider. And it is this: be interested in others!!!

The idea of being interested in others moves loving others from the abstract to the concrete. For me, it’s easy to love others from a distance. To get up close however, is altogether different. To know another’s story and to be responsive to it is where love moves from the classroom to the field.

So how do we love and show interest in others? Here are a few thoughts…

1. Realize that people are interesting!

There are no boring people! I know that’s hard for some of us to imagine, but it’s true. C.S. Lewis writes that “there are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” He reminds us that “the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would strongly be tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.”

2. Understand that it’s not all about you!

There is a tendency in us to find our jokes funnier, our stories more interesting, our days busier, and our pain and hurt more severe than those around us. So as a result, since we are the “life of the party,” its important that others make way for our schedules and listen to what we have to say.

We have to be reminded therefore, that we are not the center of the universe. God is! And since it’s not about us, but about Him, then humility should characterize our life. We should have the mind and attitude of Christ who gave himself up for us. Our lives should be one of self-sacrifice.

Paul wrote: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:5-8).

3. Ask “How ya doing?” and then listen!

When we ask how those around us how life is going for them, is it just chatter? I know many times asking “How are you?” can be a greeting in which we really do not expect an open and honest answer (Therefore, maybe we should come up with a different way of greeting others and save that question when we really desire a response).

As we do ask “How are you?” to others, however, are we ready to listen? And I mean really listen. I think we might be amazed at how many of those around us are just wanting to be heard. So listen to them. Be patient. Hear their stories.

4. Be careful not to devalue the response of others.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and were excited to tell them something that had happened to you only to have them say, “Oh yeah, I’ve done that!” or “Yea, that happens to me all the time”?

Or, maybe you are talking about some calamity (maybe how you broke your arm) only to hear someone say, “Oh yeah! You think that’s bad, you should hear what happened to me!”

You probably have not only encountered such interjections by others, but have done them yourself. Our fallenness always seems to want to one-up everyone else and when we do, we devalue not just their story, but them. It’s as if we are saying to them, “Your story or what has happened to you is not that big of deal…at least not compared to my life.”

5. Pray for others.

You cannot love others without praying them. If you are really interested and concerned for those around you, praying is one of the best things you can do for them. This is not a revolutionary idea. Nonetheless, it is vital. Plus, when you pray for others, you might discover that you want to know more about them so you can pray more specifically.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).

 

 

10 Quotes From “Dangerous Calling”

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Below are 10 quotes from Paul Tripp’s book Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. Though the title implies it might be a book just for pastors, I have found that any believer would benefit from reading this book for two reasons. First, Tripp’s basic premise is how we must continue to understand our daily need of God’s grace. All of us would do well to continue to read of our need in this area. And second, it would assist us in empathizing with the demands and pressures of pastoral ministry.

Here are 10 quotes from the book that I have found both challenging and thought-provoking…

Autonomous Christianity never works, because our spiritual life was designed by God to be a community project (p. 38).

Bad things happen when maturity is more defined by knowing that it is by being. Danger is afloat when you come to love the ideas more than the God whom they represent and the people they are meant to free (p. 42).

It is your own daily experience of the rescue of the gospel that gives you a passion for people to experience the same rescue (p. 64).

Could it be that many of the stresses of ministry are the result of our seeking to get things out of ministry that it will never deliver? (p. 102).

Once something is our treasure, it will command our desires and shape our behavior (p. 103).

No one gives grace better than a person who is deeply persuaded that he needs it himself and is being given it in Christ. This tenderness causes me to be gracious, gentle, patient, understanding, and hopeful in the face of the sin of others, while never compromising God’s holy call (p. 122).

We must never forget that we earned neither our standing with the Lord nor our place in ministry (p. 161).

It’s pride, not humility, that makes it hard to say no (p. 162).

We must remember that there is no grace that we offer to others that we don’t at once need ourselves (p. 194).

Ministry is war for the gospel in your own heart (p. 203).

Receiving Grace Leads To Giving Grace

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In Paul Tripp’s book A Dangerous Calling, he warns pastors and church leaders of the danger of forgetting their need for the grace of God. This is a much needed word!! He writes…

No one gives grace better than a person who is deeply persuaded that he needs it himself and is being given it in Christ. This tenderness causes me to be gracious, gentle, patient, understanding, and hopeful in the face of the sin of others, while never compromising God’s holy call.

It protects me from deadly assessments like, “I can’t believe you would do such a thing,” or, “I would never have thought of…,” that are me telling me that I am essentially different from the people to whom I minister.

It’s hard to bring the gospel to people I am looking down my nose at or neither like nor respect. In the face of the sin of others, awe-inspirred tenderness frees me from being an agent of condemnation or from asking the law to do what only grace can accomplish and motivates me to be a tool of that grace.