Not everyone comes to ministry from the same perspective. Some people come better prepared, with a long history of spiritual maturity in the family, or a long history of spiritual development, but some come with little background or understanding of ministry. It is not where you start but where you stop that is important. Ministry is something that comes from a source. There are various sources that people do ministry out of. I want to look at the three levels of sources in which ministry bubbles from into practical functioning.
The Source of Insecurity. A lot of ministers operate out of this level. The minister might not admit it, but this is the root from much of his functioning in the congregation. It could go back from childhood issues, or his journey in life, but he works out of this attitude. You see this in the minister who always backs down from a conflict or the minister that will never back down from a conflict. It is seen in the minister that is a people pleaser. His functioning in the congregation is one of testing the wind to see the direction or is one that is never concerned with the feelings and concerns of others. Often the most confident minister is operating out of this mindset. The minister that is seen as prideful could really be the one that is struggling the most with self-identity. Fortunately, this is where I started in ministry, and at sometimes still can fall into this trap. I have received some of the most unhealthy and unchristian behavior given to me because I was afraid to stand up to the person. Also, I have not be able to handle criticisms in a healthy manner, instead I would become defensive. Much of this position in my ministry happened because of a terrible treatment that I had by a person in a school I was attending. I was insulted, questioned, and rebuked so bad that it really left a scar in me. The source of insecurity can be a awful place for a minister to be operating out of in ministry.
The Source of Skills. Because of insecurity, and this scar, I did everything in my power to not allow someone to mistreat me this poorly ever again in the church. Fortunately it helped me go to the next level of operating in ministry. This is a skill set style of ministry. Since I was worried about being a good minister, I have done everything in my power to be the best minister possible. I have read almost everything on people skills, conflict management, missional outreach, how to be a preacher, how to handle elderships, how to transition a church to grow, how to remove the person in the congregation that is causing you problems. You name the skill set, and I have probably studied the techniques. Unfortunately, recently an deacon called me from another congregation in the south about a elder in the congregation. He wanted him gone, and I asked “how do you want to play this game.” And yes, I learned how to manipulate the system of a congregation to remove an elder. Also, fortunately, I told this deacon a good and godly strategy on how to help this elder. I have been highly educated and yes trained in ministry, and I have read business books, whatever it took to be the best minister possible. Tons of preaching books, a ton of stuff. I had to develop the skill sets to do ministry. This is not all bad, but as ministers you cannot operate out of this mindset because all the pressure is on you. This will burn you out and destroy you. The guys that operate out of this mindset are some of the best ministers you will find. They are highly skilled and can do great things in congregations. They are also the ones that move a lot. Everyone wants them. They have gained confidence, they say “I know I am good at what I do”, but they are still missing the most important element.
The Source of the Spirit. This is where I am striving to be. I can still fall into insecurity, skill, but this is the place I belong in God. And it is a wonderful place to be. You operate out of the overflow of the work of God in your life. I am thankful for the insecurity, it led me to really study ministry and work hard, but I rather learn skills from the motivation of the spirit instead of the other. This is where you have skills, but you understand that God is really doing the work. And you allow God to accomplish his purposes in you and through you. You share, you do life, you have ministry, because well, God is doing so much in you. You are filled with the power of God. This is the minister that has deeply been formed spiritually. He is intentional about spiritual formation. He might not be flashy, but man, he is full of the spirit. Time with him, is like time with God. He is stable and secure in himself. He does not have a hero complex, he is just a man who loves God and loves man. He does what he can. You will find these ministers sometimes tucked away in no man’s land, in some congregation that is not large or maybe someone that is not always in front of people, but when you find them, never leave. My late friend and mentor Burnice Wesbrooks was one of those guys.
I hope this self-revelation helps you on your journey. I started it from square one, so yes, I have reflected on this much. Some of you started at a different place, but if this hits a cord with you, check out Mark Parker’s website. He is a master on spiritual formation, and will be able to help.
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