Donald McGavran cited the “professionalisation of ministry” as one of the top challenges for the ongoing cultivation of a movement (“Understanding Church Growth” pgs. 163-164). Specifically, the aspirational goal for credentialed and paid, vocational ministers and missionaries can be detrimental to the very things we need to be doing as apprentices of Jesus. Disciplemaking and church planting are oftentimes lost in the “busyness” of qualifying for, earning an income and doing ministry.
The professional minister is good and necessary – in some cases. In other situations, the pathway to credentialization, the schooling required and financial incentive that many aspire to in ministry, can detract from the making of disciples, caring for the poor and the planting of churches. I wonder how this model influences our understanding of ministry?
I believe the phrase that Neil Cole coined can be helpful: lower the bar of leadership and raise the bar of discipleship. How does this statement influence your understanding of “ministry”. Let me suggest five characteristics of ministry to accelerate movement.
5 Characteristics of Ministry to Accelerate Movement
Characteristic #1 – Gift-based
Ephesians 4:11-12 is one of my favorites passages. You know of others, but I like to keep things simple and believe that Alan Hirsch, and others, have thoughtful arguments that suggest all apprentices of Jesus are gifted accordingly to one or more of the APEST giftings (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher). Regardless if you agree with the APEST paradigm, the principle is to mobilize people according to their spiritual gifting.
- Key Question: How are you mobilizing people?
Characteristic #2 – Maximizes ALL opportunities for spiritual fruit
Whether a person is crunching numbers or laying brick or serving in the home – we would be wise to connect what they do to help people take the next step on their spiritual journey. Too often we push aside what people do for the majority of their lives in the workplace or community, as non-ministry. The best place for apprentices of Jesus to reach people far from God is in their place of employment or in the community where they live.
- Key Question: How are you helping people see their vocation or their service in the community as ministry?
Characteristic #3 – Progresses the movement forward
Movement is simply defined as disciples and churches reproducing into the third and fourth generation. With that as the filter it helps prioritize where to commit time and resources. The real challenge is when other good opportunities are presented that appear good and right but at the expense of movement-building activity.
- Key Question: How are you progressing you movement forward?
Characteristic #4- Kingdom-focused
The Kingdom of God is not destined for a single church or denomination; it is the reign of Jesus in every nook and cranny of society. This encompasses the three primary institutions addressed in Scripture: the family, government and the local church (including para-church, mission socientes and networks or denominations). For heaven’s sake, we need participation in all sectors of society (business, education, the arts, etc) to establish the Kingdom of God!
- Key Question: How are you helping people see that the Kingdom is bigger than the local church?
Characteristic #5 – God is glorified
In John 4: 23-24 Jesus states “…true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth“. When our acts of service are in alignment with the heart of God, it is pleasing to our Creator – this is how I would define ministry. Perhaps another way of describing ministry is to borrow John Piper’s definition of worship:
The inner essence of worship is to know God truly and then respond from the heart to that knowledge by valuing God, treasuring God, prizing God, enjoying God, being satisfied with God above all earthly things. And then that deep, restful, joyful satisfaction in God overflows in demonstrable acts of praise from the lips and demonstrable acts of love in serving others for the sake of Christ.
- Key Question: How is God being glorified?
Once you have a moment to reflect on the five characteristics of ministry to accelerate movement., ask yourself the following questions:
- How do I define “ministry”?
- What characteristics are firmly established in my ministry?
- What characteristics need more attention?
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