Monday, October 11, 2010

The Morning After: Jesus-Centered Ministry

Do you have a philosophy of ministry? Do you have guidelines that shape and direct how you do ministry? Since I can remember being in ministry, Colossians 1:28-29 have been vitally important to me personally and ministerially. Yesterday, I was able to teach on this passage and I was once again reminded how vitally important it is to have a good base as to how ministry should be run. In keeping with my series on Colossians, I have called it a "Jesus-Centered Ministry" because Paul's goal and my goal is to have Jesus at the center of all that we do when ministering to other people. This passage is short, so I wanted to quote it in this blog:

"And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom so that we might present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power which mightily works within me."

Ministry is not just for those who have gone to Bible college or seminary. It is not something the professionals do, but it is something that every Christian is called to do. In fact, Ephesians 4:11-12 says that it is the ministry of the pastors to equip people to do their ministry. My ministry is to help others do their ministry. I never want whatever ministry I am involved in to be about me. I do not want it to be built and shaped and dependent upon my gifts or skills. I want to be a cog in the wheel, but not the wheel. For instance, I want people in our ABF to take ownership of our ABF. Mostly, I think it is biblical but also I think it is healthy. There were Six Keys we talked about yesterday in order to help us think though a biblical philosophy of ministry.

1. Preach Jesus!

Paul's message was primarily a message of Jesus Christ and His life, death, and resurrection. What better message could be upon our tongues than the message of Jesus. Sometimes I wonder if I talk about Jesus too much, but then I am reminded it is the name of Jesus that the Father has said is above any other name and "at the name of Jesus every knee will bow" (Phil 2:9-10). He is my savior. He is my deliverer. He is my reconciler. He is my God. He is my all in all. He is my hope of glory, being inside of me (Col 1:27). Therefore, in order to have a great ministry, we do not need to have great music, good food, coffee, certain clothes, nice buildings, and so on. What we need is the biblical message of Jesus Christ!

We know that message is found in the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, Jesus is seen and spoken about in a glorious way. We need to communicate Jesus-centered messages to people. What would our ministries look like if we talked about Jesus more than we talked about sports, politics, taxes, weather, school, food, or anything else? Would it make a difference in the lives of people? I think so!

2. Be Strategic!

For Paul, he proclaimed (a missionary word for preaching), admonished (give counsel in view of sin and judgment), and taught (instruction of truth) the message of Jesus. I need to find ways to communicate the truth of Jesus to the people I minister to. For some, it will be preaching, for others one-on-one conversations, for others confrontation of their sins. I need to use these different methods with all wisdom to communicate this life-giving message so that they understand their sin and the savior. I love Psalm 119:12-13 which says, "Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me Your statutes. With my lips I have told of all the ordinances of Your mouth." The student becomes the teacher. That is what I want to be. What I have learned, I communicate to others.

3. Don't Discriminate!

Paul repeats three times that his ministry was for "every man." I fear I might discriminate more than I think I do. A Jesus-centered ministry will not happen if we only talk to those who look like us, wear the clothes we wear, have the same color of skin as us, or are the same age as us. I understand there will be some people that you click with better than others, but we cannot ever be comfortable with our circle of friends.

For instance, every week in ABF, I tell our people to stand up and meet someone they do not know. There are some people who do a great job of putting themselves out there, but there are also others who are very comfortable with the same couples they always sit with. We need to go outside our comfort zones to reach every man (and woman) with this message of Jesus.

4. Have a Goal!

Paul's goal was to see them become complete in Christ. He wanted to see spiritual growth and maturity in the people he ministered to. For me to develop a goal with others, I need to know them. I need to know where they are at with their Lord. I need to know what they struggle with. I need to know in what areas they need to grow. I need to invest time and energy into their lives. Which leads to the next point.

5. Work Hard!

Paul labors for the purpose of seeing others grow to the point of spiritual maturity. To labor sounds hard, doesn't it? It sounds like it means work. I often wonder if too many pastors enter pastoral ministry because they think it is easy. And honestly, maybe it is easy for them because they do not work hard. But the same principle also applies to all Christians. Living the Christian life is hard work and helping others grow in their Christian life is hard work as well.

As I studied this, I realized that I would want Paul to say about my ministry what he said about some unknown woman  named Mary in Rome. He told the Romans to "Greet Mary, who has worked (verb form of labor) hard for you" (Rom 16:6). I want to labor hard for those in our ministry. Will you join me? Will we give up our time, our energy, our hobbies, our money so that we can help others walk with Jesus?

6. Trust God!

Paul knew in the end that it was all about God's strength. At the end of the day, if there was anything successful in his ministry, it was NOT because he was a hard worker, but because God is a gracious God. If someone were to ask the question: "Where do we see God most powerful at work?" The answer would be "Where we see people laboring intensely for Him." Am I willing to trust God to do His work? I hope so.

So, that's ministry! You in?

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