Archive for March, 2013
Church members and the American public have various perceptions about ministers. Some believe that ministers are not hard workers. Those of us who serve in local churches hear people say: “You guys only work one day a week!”
Ministers have challenging jobs. In many ways, ministers are never truly away from the office. Technology has only raised the intensity of their never-ending job. Weddings, funerals, emergencies, and responsibilities on Sundays prevent ministers from having weekends. Yet, with these realities and many more that I did not list, ministers should never be excused from working hard.
Three reasons why I believe ministers should be hard workers:
1: The Bible Charges Ministers to Work Hard
When Paul was instructing Timothy on the life of being a minister, he talks about the minister being like a soldier, an athlete, and a hardworking farmer. (2 Timothy 2) Unquestionably, we must be equipped like soldiers for the battles of ministry and persevere like athletes as we lead people, but we must also be like a hardworking farmer who works until he sees the harvest.
Humbly, ministers should be known to be hard workers. We cannot claim to be spiritual men if we do not work hard. Laziness should never exist in the life of the minister. Laziness should not be permitted or excused by anyone.
2: The Gospel Calls Ministers to Exhaust Themselves
I will never forget a conversation I shared with Jim Cymbala, pastor of the great Brooklyn Tabernacle Church in New York. He asked me to preach for him on a Sunday. It was a marvelous experience. I cannot recall how many services I preached, but it was several. I witnessed Pastor Cymbala lead worship during those services, pouring himself out in prayer and ministry, and leading his people diligently. At the close of the day I asked him, “Pastor, how do you do this each week, plus most of the time you are preaching as well?” He responded to me, “Ronnie, the Gospel calls me to exhaust myself daily for my people.
Pastor Cymbala was 100% correct! The Gospel of Jesus Christ calls every minister to exhaust himself for others. Even when we are weak physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, the Gospel calls us to exhaust ourselves. People are lost and hopeless without Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer. We must give ourselves away until complete exhaustion to advance this Gospel message and strive to reach person in the world.
3: The Testimony Challenges Ministers to Excel Before Others
A minister’s testimony becomes stronger before others when he works hard. Conversely, nothing lowers the testimony of a minister than when he is lazy. A lazy minister hurts himself not only in the eyes of his people, but he also hurts the testimony of his peers.
As ministers, we represent Jesus Christ. We are called to be a living testimony of Christ and His Gospel. Our work ethic either lends credibility to the Gospel and the church or it discredits it before the world.
While each minister can have hobbies and sports they enjoy, we should never become more dominated with them than we are with the consuming passion of our calling to advance the Gospel to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.
Yours For The Great Commission,
We hear a lot about discipleship and making disciples in churches today. This is a very good thing since Jesus both made disciples and commanded us to do so. In fact, the Great Commission — essentially His last words before returning to heaven — is fixed around the singular command of “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19).
Discipleship as our Missional Centerpiece
It is clear we must not treat discipleship as haphazard or accidental since Jesus made it the centerpiece of our mission. The early missionary, the Apostle Paul, taught and lived a discipleship model that bore fruit all over the Middle East and Asia Minor. He wrote to the believers in Thessalonica:
“Although we could have been a burden as Christ’s apostles, instead we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother nurtures her own children. We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the Gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. For you remember our labor and hardship, brothers. Working night and day so that we would not burden any of you, we preached God’s Gospel to you…As you know, like a father with his own children, we encouraged, comforted, and implored each one of you to walk worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”
(1 Thessalonians 2:7-9,11-12, HCSB)
Note the descriptions Paul uses: we were gentle, nurtured, cared for you, we shared our own lives, we were like fathers to children, we encouraged, comforted, and implored you to walk worthy of God. To Paul discipleship was about giving the Gospel through giving life. He did not simply teach the Thessalonians; he poured himself into them. As he said, “We were pleased to share with you not only the Gospel of God but also our own lives.”
An Intentional Disciple Making Strategy
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul described to Timothy a particular strategy for making disciples: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2:2). This is a four-generation discipleship strategy. Paul teaches Timothy, Timothy commits the truths to faithful men, then those faithful men will teach others.
If you take these two passages together (which, in essence, are just summaries of Paul’s entire church planting strategy) it forms the core of an intentional discipleship. Commit truth (which he defines as “the Gospel of God”) to faithful people who will repeat the process. This is intentional discipleship. It is the making of disciple-makers. This is the Great Commission.
A Blueprint for Discipleship
In 1 Corinthians 3:10, Paul used a construction metaphor to describe the process of discipleship: “According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it.”
Good builders are intentional about their construction. Haphazard construction results in problematic structures. A proper blueprint, good materials, and skill are needed to complete the task.
Each one of us who are believers heard the Gospel from another person. If we have grown in the faith it was likely because our parents or a mentor poured themselves into us, teaching us the faith. If we had the time and ability we would be able to trace our spiritual discipleship all the way back to Paul, then to Jesus.
Think for a moment about Jesus’ strategy. He chose 12 men to be with Him. They traveled with Him, listened to Him, saw Him perform miracles, were endowed with miraculous power themselves, heard Him explain parables, and saw Him crucified, resurrected, and ascended. It was the strategy of shared life, the same strategy Paul used.
Jesus prepared these men. Eleven of them became the leaders of the early believers. Both Jesus’ strategy and Paul’s strategy were successful precisely because they were intentional. As should ours be.
Yours for the Great Commission