In this blog, Rodney Shaw offers three pointers for ministry development: faithfulness, preparedness, and willingness.
Most times our ministry journeys unfold in ways we could not have predicted or planned. Although we typically start with a plan, a goal, or a dream, very seldom do things unfold as we envision. A person with God’s call walks into the future with more unknowns than facts. This is in part due to grace and things we could not comprehend, or in some cases, bear to know the details of what lies ahead.
Recently when a young minister asked me for next steps in his development, I stopped to ponder whether there were universal principles or pointers for ministry development. Lacking a specific and clear destination, is there still a road map that could point in the right direction?
Faithfulness is the starting point. Without faithfulness there is no path. We ultimately will be judged by our faithfulness in ministry, not the fruit of our ministry. Looking only to our fruit as evidence of success could be a huge mistake. Sometimes things appear to be fruit that are not. Jesus told a parable about tares, which grow inseparably with the wheat. Paul talked about building on inadequate foundations and having our works purged by fire in judgement.Noah preached for 120 years and had no converts outside his family. Yet he is called a preacher of righteousness in the New Testament, and his efforts saved humanity. Click To Tweet
How do we judge our success? One of the biggest dangers of judging our success by visible fruit is there is no objective standard. The default standard becomes our neighbor’s fruit: if we have more, we are successful; if we have less, we are unsuccessful. This is a tragic mistake. Jesus also told a parable about talents and how each servant is dealt a different hand. The master will want to know if we were faithful with what we were given. A minister with an extremely large harvest could actually be less faithful than a less gifted minister with a much smaller harvest. Noah preached for 120 years and had no converts outside his family. Yet he is called a preacher of righteousness in the New Testament, and his efforts saved humanity.
If we are called of God, then we cannot deny our ministry is defined by our opportunities.
A person’s ministry does not always unfold as he or she expects or plans. The variables are innumerable. Rather than fixating on a position or pulpit, a person should commit to being faithful to the opportunities at hand. If we are called of God, then we cannot deny our ministry is defined by our opportunities. This does not mean something more defined or permanent will not come but sitting idle while waiting on the big opportunity never moves one forward. Our calling has a remarkable resemblance to our opportunities. God called Paul to ministry because God considered him faithful (I Timothy 1:12). God spoke face to face with Moses because he was faithful (Numbers 12:6–8). Faithfulness is the chief quality of a minister.
I cannot open any doors in my ministry, but I can be prepared for the next door that opens.
The world around us is changing, and therefore we must continually prepare.
We should seek to be prepared holistically—spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, physically, financially, and relationally. A great mind with a horrible attitude will not fit through an open door. Whether we will change ministry locations or assignments in the future is irrelevant. The world around us is changing, and therefore we must continually prepare. The fields in which we labor are morphing around us. If we are not constantly growing, we will one day find ourselves ill-prepared to minister in our own fields. It then becomes easy to recast the situation as us holding on to truth or clinging to the old paths, when in reality, we got stuck in the mud.
A prepared minister will have doors open before him or her. Romping around in the harvest with a dull sickle causes damage.
I include willingness as a step beyond faithfulness. Willingness is attitudinal. We can be faithful and yet unwilling. We can be coerced against our will out of duty, guilt, or for some other reason. We fulfill the role, but there is no joy in the service, only a longing for something better.
A faithful person does the work; a willing person finds joy in the work.
Instead a willing vessel is quick to serve, quick to volunteer, quick to praise others, and quick to offer gratitude. God loves a cheerful giver. A faithful person does the work; a willing person finds joy in the work.
Rodney Shaw is the co-editor of the Forward. He serves as pastor of New Life Austin.
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A version of this content originally appeared in the Forward. For more by Rodney Shaw, click here.