“Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service” (2 Timothy 4:11).
From time to time, pastors invite me to spend an hour or two with their leadership team, primarily the church staff, at their weekly meeting. It’s informal and conversational and takes place around the office conference table with the coffee pot going and a rapidly diminishing plate of donuts before us.
Some thoughts I share with the team include the following…
One. Nothing is more important than that you keep yourself close to the Lord.
He is your source. “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).
Jesus Christ is the Giver of everything that concerns you. He called you into this work (after saving you!) and He sent you to this church. If either of those is not the case, you would do well to get alone with Him for an hour and clear everything up, then do as His Spirit instructs.
Keeping yourself close to Jesus means exactly what you think it does: daily quiet time with Him, with your Bible open and your heart in constant prayer, bringing every thought and act under His lordship. We should begin and end the day in prayer, and offer up prayers throughout the day. “Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17). We should know God’s word and meditate upon it. A church staffer should never say knowing the Word is the preacher’s job; it’s every believer’s privilege and duty.
From time to time, your pastor is going to exasperate you; Jesus will give you patience and understanding. Your income is not going to be sufficient; Jesus will hear your prayers and send what He wants you to have. Your job conditions are going to change, and sometimes the assignment dearest to your heart and matching perfectly your spiritual gifts and talents will be taken from you; Jesus will be your counselor, guide, and protector, or you will be in trouble.
The Holy Spirit will be your Human Resources Director. He is your Lord.
“Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
If you miss this, you may expect to be perpetually dissatisfied and angry in your work. You will be a detriment to the ministry, a disappointment to your pastor, and a pain to those who love you best.
Two: You are not here to do a job; you are an ambassador of Christ sent to make disciples.
Many a staffer thinks he/she has been called/sent and hired/paid to build a great music program or children’s program or youth ministry. Wrong. That’s a secondary consideration. Your primary assignment is to make disciples.
Essentially, that means two things: reaching outsiders with the gospel of Jesus Christ and developing the saints for the work of the ministry. Ephesians 4:11ff says we are to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, to the building up of the body of Christ….”
Now, not all church members, even the finest of them, will get this. Most will think you are being paid to build that great program. And, sad to say, some will even think you are being paid to do their work, to do their visitation and witnessing and serving. Not even close. You are there to equip them to do their job, the work of ministry.
Your first assignment is to obey and practice and exemplify the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
A good minister (and that’s you!) will periodically review this with your team of helpers. In an informal setting, perhaps in your living room when you are sharing and praying together, you remind them of the Lord’s call upon your life. You remind them that God has sent you to disciple believers, not just to build a program. You are encouraging them not to judge your work wrongly, but to see your calling for what it is.
—This means you cannot leave evangelism and outreach to the pastor. Whether on the platform or in the supermarket or in the bleachers at Friday night’s football game, you are always representing the Lord Jesus Christ. You are always on duty for Him. So, you will always be alert to bear a witness for Christ to your neighbors, to the choir, to your teachers, to the families of your target group.
—And, this means you are always developing leaders. Your antenna is forever alert to the Holy Spirit within you and the disciples around you. When you have a project coming up, you must not attempt to do it by yourself but enlist others to help. You must find ways to give them key roles in the work. You are growing a new crop of leaders, some of whom will be leading churches long after you are off the scene.
–Three: How to make disciples and develop leaders.
You are always encouraging those about you in Christ. You are seeing gifts and talents in people which they have never seen, and helping to draw them out of them. You are giving jobs to people they never thought they could do. You are in the empowerment business.
Your spirit will sometimes balk and want to take the easy way out. “I could do it easier myself.” And this is true, in one sense. The manager of a hotel could run the vacuum cleaner and make up beds in less time than it takes to train a new employee. But he/she would be failing the employers and violating their assignment. Managers are not there to clean floors and make up beds, but to enlist employees and train them, then oversee them.
It happens something like this…
“Bob, could I talk to you a minute?” Sure. What’s up? “Bob, we’re going to be doing this musical at Easter. God is going to use this to touch a lot of hearts for Christ.” Good. “And Bob, there’s a part in it for you.” For me? Ha. I doubt that. “No, really. I was praying about this and the Lord laid you on my heart. So, here’s what I want you to do. Take this CD with you. Play it in your car, in your home. See if you don’t think it’s powerful. And let me know when you’re ready to talk.”
You call Bob the next day. “How did you like that musical?” (He hadn’t got to it yet, but your call prompts him to do this now.) You add, “And Bob, when can you give me a few minutes?” Bob comes by a day or two later, you show him the part you have in mind for him, and give him the score. And he’s going to protest. He doesn’t think he can do it. That’s when you go to the next step…
“Bob, do you know Ken? Ken is a friend of mine who used to be minister of music at Second Church. He’s going to help us on this, and will be having a solo in the program. And I want you and him to get together.”
Ken has agreed to help Bob on this. So, you back away now and you pray for them. The minister of music–you!–stays out of it, except to check from time to time on how things are coming.
This weekend, as I write, the announcers for the Cowboys-Buccaneers football game were talking about the phenomenal year Dak Prescott is having quarterbacking Dallas. Now, we all knew about Tony Romo, Dallas’s all-star quarterback now riding the bench. But the announcer told us about Mark Sanchez, formerly with the Jets and now the number three QB for the Cowboys. It turns out that Sanchez is discipling Dak Prescott. Every time Prescott ended a series, he ran off the field and straight to Sanchez. They talked and conferred and went over what Dak did right and could do better. They pointed out that Sanchez is doing a phenomenal job in developing this rookie quarterback, something most of us had never heard.
Bible students know this is what Barnabas did. First, he befriended the new believer Saul of Tarsus. Then, he helped to get him out of Jerusalem when the opponents threatened him. (Acts 9) Later, Barnabas sought out Saul in Tarsus and brought him to Antioch, where a revival had broken out among the Gentiles. (Acts 11) Then, when the Holy Spirit called Barnabas and Saul as the first two missionaries, they traveled to Barnabas home area of Cyprus to minister. (Acts 13) It was there that Saul became the Apostle Paul. From this moment on, it was “Paul and Barnabas.” Then, when the two leaders prepared for the second missionary journey, they could not agree on whether John Mark would be allowed to join them. So, Barnabas took Mark and journeyed to Cyprus, while Paul took Silas for his second missionary journey. (Acts 16) Sometime later, Mark worked with the Apostle Peter and produced the Gospel According to Mark. Thank you, Barnabas!
One of the greatest privileges granted to a few of the very best mentors is to see their pupils shine, to far exceed the level the teacher had attained.
When your ministry in that church is drawing to an ending…
You should not leave behind merely a great program. You should also be able to point to a number of people serving the Lord in ministry positions whom you reached and trained. Then, you may be said to have truly succeeded.
“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2)
Pass it on.