Saturday, April 7, 2018

How to Serve as a Leader in Christian Ministry

Jesus has called a lucky few to leadership in Christian ministry. But how can we approach engaging in such a monumental task? What does it mean to be a leader in Christian ministry? How can one apply the scriptures through a lifetime of service? We’re going to look at my own plan of ministry leadership. We’ll be examining spiritual formation, the life of the kingdom of God, Christian worldview, my own mission statement, the mission statement of the Salvation Army, and how I will practically apply the mission in daily ministry work. The key to all Christian ministry is to discover the will of God, and to live it out by being a faithful steward of all God has provided to us. God’s mission is that we would make disciples of all peoples, and all nations, building his kingdom in the hearts of others through the vicarious ministry of Jesus Christ.

First, we’re looking at my spiritual formation and how I’ve developed thus far as a minister in training. We’ll look at four key influences on my spiritual walk, and we’ll look at their prophet, priest and king profile. Additionally, we’ll look at my own assessment of my prophet, priest, and king profile. We’ll also be considering my future ministry plans.

My own spiritual development has been a short, quickly paced sprint attempting to make up for lost time. I first became a Christian only five short years ago. Yet God has done incredible miraculous work in my life to develop who I am. I have a set routine, a “method” if you will as to how I engage in spiritual growth. Every morning I read from two devotional books and pray an opening prayer asking the Lord for guidance and direction throughout the day. I ask for His will to be done. This is my short devotional, I’m not a morning person. Throughout the day I try to engage in consistent contact with God through short internal prayers and thoughts of Him. At night I lay down in my bed and read a chapter or two from the Bible. After that I pray a longer prayer at night, usually between 15-30 minutes engaging in thanksgiving, praises, praying the scriptures, praying the Salvation Army songbook, intercession for those in need, and personal expression of my own emotions and needs. I usually finish with the five finger prayer: thumb, those closest to me, pointer, my spiritual leaders, middle finger, government leaders, ring finger, pray for the weak and needy, and pinkie, pray for myself last. It usually takes me about an hour to fall asleep at night, so before I shut off the lights I turn on the audio bible on and listen to the scriptures while I try to fall asleep. I’m also an avid reader. I read a lot of books. I have a lot of audiobooks on CD and MP3 that I listen to while I travel as well. This helps in my spiritual growth a great deal. I understand that the practice of spiritual disciplines on a daily basis is what will fundamentally make or break my entire ministry. If I disregard these disciplines as is so often the case, I can expect to be an ineffective failure in ministry. I’ve made a lot of growth in this area, but there is room for a lot more.

My spiritual formation is in need of the practices that go deeper, and I think that will happen as time passes. I’d like to incorporate practices like lectio divina, solitude, depth of worship, and scriptural meditation into my daily practices. I would also like to go deeper into the scriptures and develop more thorough and lengthy patterns in my prayer and study life. There are a lot of areas where growth is needed.

I’d like to look at four key leaders who have been very influential in my growth in ministry. These individuals have deeply impacted how I think about ministry leadership and the practice of Christian leadership. They are Ravi Zacharias the Christian apologist, Bill Wilson developer of the twelve steps, George Washington the first American President, and C.S. Lewis the famed English author. I could list so many other influences in my development, in fact it’s very hard to name just a handful. Additional influences would include: William Booth founder of the Salvation Army, Abraham Lincoln the 14th president of the United States, Winston Churchill prime minister of Great Britain during world war II, John Adams, Hunter S. Thompson American journalist, Malcom Muggeridge British journalist, Tim Keller megachurch pastor, Mark Driscoll megachurch pastor, Dr. Ben Carson, Ted Cruz U.S. Senator, Ron Paul former congressmen, Ray Comfort Christian evangelist, Mother Teresa, John Wesley, Martin Luther King Jr, Dennis Prager, Mark Levin, and Dinesh D’Souza to name just a few.

Let’s look briefly at the top four. Ravi Zacharias is an itinerant evangelist and Christian apologist known worldwide. Obviously his chief role in the three-fold ministry of prophet, priest, and king would be the role of the prophet, the individual who outlines the vision of Christianity and how it interrelates to society, culture, ethics, and real life. Yet he also has a priestly role in answering questions from the audience at college campuses, and he also holds a kingly role as head of his organization RZIM. But Ravi Zacharias’ primary influence on me has been his oratory skills and ability to connect Christianity to modern thought and explain it’s relevance to life today.

Bill Wilson the alcoholic who developed the twelve steps has been a massive influence on my life. It’s his role as the prophet when he wrote books like Alcoholics Anonymous and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions that really impacted me and continue to impact me. Bill Wilson’s ability to describe the practical steps for real change has completely transformed my life. And his design for the traditions of alcoholics anonymous was so counter-intuitive, in rejecting power structures, and rejecting even the slightest hints of profiteering made the twelve traditions timeless and powerful in a philosophy of servant leadership. Though I was primarily impacted by Bill Wilson’s writing skills through his books, his prophet, priest and king roles came through clearly in his writings. He described a kingly role as servant through the traditions, a priestly role as servant through the 12th step of carrying the message to others, and his prophet role of course came out in how he outlined the hope for recovery from alcoholism.

George Washington’s impact on my life comes from three moments in his life: Firstly, when George Washington led the sneak attack on Trenton during the revolutionary war, crossing the Delaware river on Christmas day. Secondly, it was when George Washington had won the war and instead of being crowned the first king of America, he ceded power to the people. And thirdly, when Washington said that the survival of American society hung on two great pillars of American society: Religion and morality. George Washington as prophet was seen in his action and boldness in the face of what appeared to be defeat; by launching a surprise attack when all seemed lost. George Washington showed a kingly role in his ability to reject greed for power. He ceded power when any lesser man would’ve kept it for himself. That truth outlined in Eric Metaxas’ book “7 Great Men” has deeply impacted me. And Washington’s priestly role came out when he instructed future generations to never forget that America’s strength comes from morality and religion.

Finally, C.S. Lewis has deeply impacted my leadership skills. He loved to write, and his treatise on the defense of Christianity, Mere Christianity speaks for itself. He had a creative mind, and wrote up sagas like the Narnia Series and his space sci-fi series. C.S. Lewis was an explorer of thoughts, ideas, and emotions. His ability to articulate the truth of Christianity was of course his prophetic role. He articulated Christianity in terms that the spirit of the age could understand. His priestly role was his ability to communicate to our emotions through books like The Problem of Pain and A Grief Observed. His kingly role was establishing writings that taught Christianity to future generations. For those reasons he is a great influence on my life and leadership style.

Next we turn to the topic of my own prophet, priest, and king profile. My strongest area is most certainly in the prophetic role. I have a strong ability to communicate a vision, to communicate the Christian worldview, and to inspire those around me toward acting in line with a vision. The prophetic role is probably what I’m most natural at. I love to preach, teach, and lead Bible studies and small groups. I love to study, learn, prepare a message and deliver it. My secondary strength is definitely the priestly role, which I am also quite good at. I enjoy doing home visits with corps members, visiting the nursing homes, doing hospital visits, and going out to eat with corps members. This will be an area where more growth will be needed, to continue to become comfortable with fellowship and interactions with corps members, as time passes. My weakest area by far is the kingly role, which I hold virtually no experience in and have no abilities or much knowledge in whatsoever. I’m quite strong in the areas of prophetic and priestly roles. Of course there is also much room to grow. However, if prophetic role is 85% and priestly role is 80% then the kingly role is at about 5%. I haven’t been taught this skill and I’ve never really been given chances to learn and grow in this area, because I’ve never been delegated any sort of power or authority or leadership in the Salvation Army aside from very small and defined roles. This is a sad state of affairs I’m afraid, and I feel unequipped to take on a role of meaningful leadership where difficult decisions have to be made. Hopefully in my second year at the training college they’ll delegate me more authority. And some chances to make mistakes. I will continue to pray about the kingly role, continue to read books and ask questions, but I imagine that this is a skill that is primarily built on the job actually doing it day by day. My own self confidence needs to be built up in this area, so I can understand the dynamics of kingly leadership and how to practice it effectively.

The implications in regard to my ministry plan are quite clear: I must continue to grow in all three areas of leadership skills, as well as hone and develop other skills along the way. The most important thing of course is to be biblical in my practices, and truly apply a praxis that sums up the full revelation of the books of the Bible. I wouldn’t want to go off on a tangent, teaching what I like to emphasize, while neglecting what I prefer to neglect. I want to preach a full accurate biblical gospel and Christian worldview.

There are many factors that play into my own spiritual development, those who have influenced my leadership profile, and my own three-pronged prophet, priest, and king profile. I’ve grown a great deal in my work in the church and in the Salvation Army overall. I’ve been influenced by the greats like Ravi Zacharias, George Washington, and C.S. Lewis. In my own prophet, priest, and king profile I’m a work in progress, but my strongest areas is in casting the prophetic vision, with additional secondary strength in the priestly area. Overall, growth will continue into the future, and the future is bright.

Secondly, we consider my own mission statement and how that is applied to my ministry vocation. My own personal mission statement is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in full time ministry. For my functional ministry career my mission statement will be the same as that of the organization I work for, the Salvation Army. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, my own mission statement will be synonymous with that of the Salvation Army, which states: “The mission of the Salvation Army is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”

The mission statement of the Salvation Army jives perfectly with my own personal mission statement. It reflects well the dual emphasis of Jesus Christ to carry the message of the kingdom, and to meet the temporal needs of the people in his context. Jesus Christ fundamentally did two things: He spoke about the kingdom of God and he performed acts of healing, mercy, love, and compassion. That is my life mission, to preach the gospel, and to meet the needs of those around me.

The theological core is two-fold: Make disciples of all nations and meet the needs of people near me. This is the core imperative of the scriptures. It is not a full demonstration of the entirety of the scriptures. It is a concise definition of a primary imperative. That’s how I draw my imperative from the scriptures. There are so many things that could be listed off, like “loving God and loving others” or “worship and praise” or “evangelism” but fundamentally what is the chief imperative? The chief imperative is to make disciples and meet needs. The primary imperative that flows out from the revelation of the kingdom of God, the gospel, is the great commission to make disciples of all nations and meet human needs (Matthew 28:19, Matthew 25:31-46). That’s what Jesus did, that’s what he taught and what he lived.

So if this is our theological core, if this is our profile of the full revelation of the scriptures the question becomes: What are the core ministry values that emerge from this scriptural exegesis?

If we are looking at a holistic approach to the kingdom program of God revealed in the scriptures, then I see four core values that emerge from the words of Jesus in practicing the core theology of scripture: Worship, evangelism, discipleship, and meeting needs. These four key values are derived from the scriptures, and the kingdom program of God. Therefore, they should be the primary concern of my ministry.

It's interesting that whenever a speaker comes to campus, at CFOT where I’m training, they often tell us that we have to be passionate about what they want us to do: prison ministry, social justice, multicultural ministry, and all these various concerns. It is true that we are all gifted in many areas. But there are a thousand different things we can do in ministry. And if we don’t have a primary imperative then we’ll run ourselves thin trying to do a little of everything. My mission is to teach about Christ and to reach people for Christ. I’ve got to do this through the most direct means I can summon.

Worship is an absolute must. We have to worship to grow in fellowship with God. That’s why worship comes into the four basic areas. Worship is vital, in gathering the community together, teaching the Bible and singing songs of worship. That’s the basic format of the church community. And therefore it is vital.

Evangelism also comes very high on the core ministry functions. Evangelism is about sharing the gospel with non-believers. It’s about doing the real work that Christ taught us to do. And it’s absolutely vital. Especially in our broken world and de-energized church, where young people no longer see faith as a viable option regarding the meaning of life, more and more we’ll have to go out on the streets and carry the gospel to our neighbors through evangelism. Of course there is no good “evangelism program” evangelism instead will have to be baked into everything we do as a church movement.

Discipleship is absolutely vital as well. Christ taught us to make disciples of all nations. That requires really digging into the scriptures and moving into a deeper, more mature Christian walk. Discipleship is necessary, otherwise we’ll never mature as believers.

Meeting needs is absolutely vital as well. What is the point of evangelism or worship if we aren’t really living as Jesus did? We have to live it out and show our faith through acts of love and mercy. That’s what Jesus taught us to do, so we must do it. Meeting needs is important, but it shouldn’t overtake the other areas, which seems to have happened to a certain extent with the Salvation Army. The main goal has to always be at the fore-front, of carrying the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The core values that I see in fulfilling the mission statement of the Salvation Army are worship, evangelism, discipleship, and meeting needs. Each of these are absolutely necessary to living out the gospel given in the sacred scriptures.

Finally, we consider how to apply the core principles to real daily ministry. Previously we considered the theological core, the core principle of my ministry vocation, which are fundamentally two-fold: To make disciples of all peoples and to meet human needs in Christ name without discrimination.

So if this is our theological core, if this is our profile of the full revelation of the scriptures the question becomes: How do we live this out? How do we conduct ministry in a biblical manner? The mission of the Salvation Army, the organization I serve with, is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination. In practical ministry, I would see six clear areas of application for the core principles. Let’s look at these six areas as broken down into two different groups, based around the two larger categories of “preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ” and “meeting human needs in His name without discrimination.” The categories are as follows: preaching the gospel, evangelism, discipleship, social services, compassionate ministry, and social justice.

First of all, we approach preaching the gospel. To me this is the primary imperative of the scriptures, and the meeting of needs is a close secondary. As our primary imperative of preaching the gospel we see it broken down into three key areas: Worship, evangelism, and discipleship. The early church in the book of Acts consistently met together to study the scriptures and worship and celebrate the risen Christ. Worship is a key practice of the church and as such must be central in any theology of ministry.

Second we consider evangelism. What good is it to gather together and worship Christ if there are none desiring to worship? Evangelism is about going out into the community, knocking on doors, speaking to people on the street corners, and being present at community events. Evangelism will become increasingly important as western civilization continues to jettison its Christian origins and framework. People no longer see the church as a viable place to go when searching out the deep questions. We’re going to have to get increasingly comfortable with going out to meet them, which is simply a re-institution of the origins of the Salvation Army as a street movement.

Thirdly we consider discipleship. Does the great commission say that we must make converts of all peoples? No. It says that we are to make “disciples” of all nations. What use is it to gather to worship on Sunday, evangelize during the week, only to live out a milque-toast Christianity that has no depth of transformation? There is no use in it. This is why deep, meaningful discipleship is necessary to the practice of the church. We must gather together, not simply for Bible study, or for worship, but we must meet together as small groups, to “be real” about our faith walks, to share our struggles, and to challenge one another to grow in holiness. We must have meaningful discussion on a weekly basis in regard to true Christian growth, searching the scriptures diligently for the depths of Christian spiritual disciplines and true Christian worldview. This will help produce converts who are deeply in love with the risen Christ and able to live out their faith in the muddiness of the real world.

All three of these sub-sections are necessary to the proper practice of Christian ministry. Without even one, the church fails and dies. With all three, the church is able to grow and live out an empowered, real, fruitful Christian ministry.

Next we consider the important secondary concern of “meeting needs in Christ name without discrimination.” To me I see three areas of ministry that are essential to the practice of meeting needs. These three areas are: social services, compassion ministries, and social justice.

Social services are a wide umbrella term, but in the way we’re using the term we’re thinking of it along the lines of feeding programs (food distribution), helping people pay bills, pathway of hope (a program of case working to help families escape poverty), and sheltering the homeless. These programs are necessary in that Christ specifically commanded his followers in Matthew 25:31-46 to feed the hungry, give water to those who are thirsty, visit the sick, visit the prisoner, and shelter the homeless. In the parable in Matthew 25, Christ consigns those believers who do not practice these ministries to the lake of fire. That seems quite clear to me, that these ministries are necessary.

Compassion ministries are also essential to this formula of meeting needs. We should be regularly visiting the elderly in nursing homes, engaging in jail/prison ministry to inmates, providing rehabilitation services to those who suffer in alcohol and drug addiction, visiting hospitals, and other ministries of compassion to those in need.

Thirdly, we consider the ministry of social justice. What use is it to provide food, housing, rehabilitation, and so on, if we are not advocating for changes in our society that would help hasten the end of these terrible ills of our age. Christ has called us to help guide and preserve society across the entire world. We must advocate for changes in society, we must advocate for the end of abortion, we must advocate against human trafficking, we must advocate against the radical redefinition of marriage, we must advocate against racism, against inequality, and advocate for those who are suffering in our society. All three of these areas of meeting needs are necessary, without which each of the others become ineffective.

To do ministry effectively we must understand the core principles that define our mission. This core is built upon the foundation of the scriptures which outline a holistic Christian worldview. This Christian worldview is best lived out through the practice of the kingdom program of God preached and lived by Jesus Christ. To live out this kingdom program of Christ we must preach the gospel, and meet human needs. This is best lived out through these six subsets of ministry work: Worship, evangelism, discipleship, social services, compassion ministry, and social justice advocacy.

So we’ve looked at how to practically apply the core theology of ministry, now let’s consider how I can personally apply myself to this mission and successfully complete the task. Completing the great and mighty task of doing a lifetime of ministry in service to Jesus Christ is no small order. This is the greatest calling one can have in life. But there are three core areas that I believe will be essential to survival and flourishing in ministry: Devotion to God, healthy inter-personal life, and dynamic ministry life. If one of these areas fails or falters, all of them will falter.

Devotion to God is of course the most important of the three areas of personal ministry application. Brass tacks, this is it: Am I actively engaging in my relationship with God the Father? Am I praying three times day, which has always been my goal since coming to Christ? Am I reading the scriptures? And am I growing in the faith relationship with God? The devotional life is always the first thing to go when difficulties come. But it can’t be that way with me. The devotional life is not an extra, or a tag on, it’s a crucial essential. But I want more from my devotional life than just going through the motions each day, though that certainly is important. I want to know that the order is right in my life. I want to know that God is actually first. That is essential. My relationship with Christ is everything. My ultimate goal would be to spend one hour a day in prayer, devotions, spiritual disciplines and Bible study. Right now I’m at about 15-25 min a day. So there’s a lot of room for growth in this area.

A healthy inter-personal life is also essential to survival in long term ministry. I can’t allow the stresses and pressures of ministry to squeeze out my personal time with my wife, children, and close friends. Of course I don’t have a wife or children yet, but I do have close friends. So it’s important that ministry doesn’t become 24/7. I will try very hard to have a weekly Sabbath, and a weekly time when I quietly write my sermon message. That’s essential, for me as a minister. I need to have a date night with my wife. I need to have times set for my children, and friends. I think that it can be done. And I intend to fight for those times, just as I’ll fight for my devotional life.

Finally, we consider dynamic ministry life. I’ll have to really engage in ministry. I can’t allow myself to get lazy, or get over-worked. I’ve got to find a good balance, and continue to fight the good fight while taking time to rest and relax. Dynamic ministry to me is connecting with people individually in the congregation, connecting to people in groups and small groups, and finally connecting to the congregation as a whole. This can be done through home visits, going out to eat with congregation members, engaging in small groups, developing discipleship groups, preaching, leading worship, and speaking in corps council/advisory board sessions. All of these areas will be vital to helping knit the community together. But I think the most important thing will be developing leaders to knit the community together. Because it’s not really about me, or me somehow holding it all together. It’s about developing congregation members to do the work of ministry and to knit the community together in true Christian fellowship. If I can help the church to realize that it’s the church, the body of Christ, then they’ll do the work of ministry and I can simply help guide the practice of it.

The truth is, the greatest challenges will not come in the form of finding ways to practically apply what I’ve learned, though that certainly is a hurdle. The real challenges won’t really come from balancing these three areas of personal ministry life, though it will be difficult at times I’m sure. The real challenges will come when people come up against me in ministry, when headquarters puts pressure on me, when corps members cause trouble, and when the stress of the work becomes overwhelming. Probably my worst fear is that no one will come along with me, no one will engage and fight alongside of me, and I’ll be forced to try and do it all myself, which is impossible.

The real challenges will come from within. The real challenges will come when I try to get corps members engaged in discipleship and no one shows any interest. The real challenges will come when I want to go door to door doing evangelism and no one wants to do it with me. I hope and pray that never happens. I hope great things happen through the ministry work I engage in. But in any case, I must show myself to be faithful to Christ. What other people do is essentially of no concern when it comes to my own faithfulness to Christ. But I pray for great things, even in a time when the light seems to be dying out in western Christianity; I hope for great revival. And I believe great things will happen. I dare to believe. And God willing, it will be so.

In conclusion, I’ve grown in many ways through the process of spiritual formation, and God is preparing me to become a minister of his gospel. I understand the mission statement, to preach the gospel of Christ, and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination. I recognize the need for a theological core, a set of principles that outline the revelation of the scriptures. And in all this, I understand how to put it into practice, through various expressions of ministry work. All of this must be done rightly, and correctly, without bias and without overemphasis on any one particular of scripture. The will of God must be sought in all the ministry I do, or I will fail. If I become prideful, I will fail. But I put my faith in God, that He will see me through all the certain high and low spots, to achieve victory in ministry, to carry the life giving gospel to the lost, and to eventually one day come home to glory and live forever in His presence. God willing, my ministry career will be filled with glorious victories, and many converts will as a consequence live eternally with the maker of their souls. To Christ be the glory forever, amen.

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