Recognizing that ministry is an expression of who we are, “givers,” takes the pressure off of having to know exactly what we are supposed to be doing. There will be times in our lives that we will be between projects, and times when we will have more on our plate than we can handle. As we wait on the Lord, depending on Him to meet all of our needs, including the need for recognition, we can enjoy rest regardless of the projects we’re assigned. It’s great to identify what projects (ministries) we’re involved in now, but don’t confuse them with your identity. Your ministry is something you do, not something you are. Be patient with the Lord, with yourself and with others, and accept whatever results the Lord has planned for each project, even if it means passing a project on to the next person the Lord brings along.
Preparation for Ministry
If the Lord sends you, He is responsible for your training and preparation. Though He may choose to use opportunities presented by organized religions, if you’re not taught by Him, you’re still not taught.
Put Aside Your Own Desires
Part of the process of the Lord bringing you into greater dependence on Himself is a greater experience of His giving nature. Because you are now a giving, spirit being, your desire to be involved in some kind of ministry will be quickened. As you endeavor to clarify the Lord’s will for you in this matter, recognize and embrace what your own desires are. Admit to and embrace what you want! We can’t give to God something that isn’t ours. Then relinquish it to the Lord to do with as He pleases.
Put Aside Expectations
As the Lord draws or instructs you into certain areas, don’t run out ahead of Him, and try to “take it from here.” For instance, if you find yourself involved in a choir, and the Lord is giving you songs, don’t assume that He must want you to focus on a music ministry. Instead focus on what the Lord has placed in your hands, what you find yourself doing now, trusting that He will have you equipped and prepared for what lies ahead. If you attend a church that stresses evangelism, or youth outreach, and you find yourself involved in one of these areas, don’t assume that is the ministry He wants you to launch out into. Accept that you are learning His lessons, and enjoy yourself while you are there. All ministries are temporary!
Ministry Isn’t Something You Do
For God, It’s Something He Does
Through And For You!
Start with a Clean Slate, with Yourself, Others and with God
Ask the Lord if there are any relationships, debts, misconceptions you need to clear up. The best time to address these is before you go into a focused ministry; anything left in the closet becomes an open door for our enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil.
Make Yourself Available
Let the Lord know you’re willing and available to be used by Him in a focused way. Don’t be surprised if the first things He does is start to put demands on your time, resources, and patience to reveal areas where you aren’t as available to Him as you thought. This is part of His true purpose, though, so don’t let it get you down! The purpose of your involvement in ministry is to expose your flesh, receive healing, and know Him. He doesn’t need you to accomplish His outward projects!
Count the Cost
Vocational Ministry is closer to joining the military than entering into any other occupation; you’re dealing with life and death struggles against both the enemy and bureaucracy, and every aspect of your life will be accountable to the Lord because of the authority and responsibility He desires to confer. As co-inheritors with Christ, each of us has a remarkable and awesome opportunity to loose the chains of those who are bound, set people free to know God, and impact even the physical well-being of all of creation. We must not take this responsibility lightly, yet all too often assumptions are made as to what others are obligated to do for us.
Every Ministry Is A Solo Ministry;
In Christ, We Are All One!
Counting the Cost of Ministry
God’s concept of ministry is very different from what is taught and experienced in most religious circles these days. His emphasis is on ministering to and through each individual, not on the effect we have on others: He doesn’t need any of us to accomplish His purposes. For some this may be a relief; for others, it may be a contradiction of your perception of your relationship with God and with others. Understanding His dual purposes for ministry—to train you in dependence and to give Himself, through you, to others—will help you keep your perspective as you consider the path God has prepared for you.
School of the Spirit (for all Saints, the Children of God)
When we become a spirit being, we automatically enter the School of the Spirit. This is not a choice we make or qualify for due to a test we take, but a response to the desire of God Himself. His Spirit indwells us to reveal the Father, bringing us eventually into full stature of a son, spirit, soul and body. Similar to kindergarten, the tuition is free, and the basic skills, tests and requirements are minimal. Most Christians fall into this category, as they are content to spend enough time with God so that they know they’re going to heaven when they die and know how to pray when they need something. The opportunity to graduate is available for everyone, but some prefer to maintain their own control. In most cases, the Lord allows this, knowing that eventually they will be faced with the trials and healing that are necessary to bring them into the requisite Christlikeness, just not in this present age.
School of the Prophets (for the Friends of God)
For our purposes, the term “prophets” simply refers to someone who hears from God, then speaks or acts accordingly. This school is for anyone who desires to be used of God to share what God has given them, regardless of their specific ministry. We’re not talking about the gift of prophecy, or what some call the office of a prophet, but simply those who have learned dependence enough to knowingly be used by the Lord to set the captives free, in whatever form, by whatever gift that’s necessary. Tuition for the School of the Prophets is high, and is paid for solely by each student. Because these ministers speak for the Lord, they must go through rigorous training. The Lord knows how wounded and unlearned we are, so He provides fellowship and encouragement through our peers. He provides an authority figure, and reward and recognition related to public accomplishment. Most involved in ministry today are at this level. But there is an even greater opportunity for those who are qualified and are invited:
The King’s College (for the Sons of God)
For some who have endured the training of the School of the Prophets, the Lord extends an invitation to enter the King’s College. When the Lord asks, “Who will go for us?” there is a response in this one’s heart, “Here am I, send me.” This is the difference between “going” and “being sent.” There is an unequivocal assent, without knowing where the path will lead or what the cost will be, but knowing the Hand that leads. In Him these live, move, and have their being in reality; they are consumed and transformed without understanding or agreement, recognizing this life as an opportunity to know Him that will never be available again. These take full advantage of the opportunity regardless of the cost. Ministry accomplished by them or through them is unnoticed by them, except as an extension of the Hand of the Beloved. “See what God has done.”
There Is A Difference Between
“Going For God”
“Being Sent By God.”
Tuition is everything you have, own, or expect, and more. Expect to give up your expectations and identity, past, present and future. Your thirst for fellowship and encouragement is satisfied only by God Himself, so although you may still be in the same circumstances, former relationships no longer satisfy. Your reward and compensation likewise come solely through Him, even when others are used. God reveals Himself, consuming, liberating, bringing a Oneness that overwhelms any uniqueness and self-ness that we once worked so hard to free.
This Is Eternal Life:
To Know God Now As He Is Now
Hindrances to Ministry
Once again, the greatest hindrances to dependent ministry are the world system, our flesh and the devil.
The World System
The most damaging manifestation of the world system in Christianity is in the form of religious organization. Many have embraced the lie that things operate the same in the spirit realm and His ministry as they do in other business ventures. In order to expose and deny the world system, which says that if you are in the center of God’s will nothing bad will happen, at some point in time the Lord brings us through experiences we would not choose for ourselves. He arranges circumstances of tribulation, the wilderness, suffering and darkness, all for our good, to expose our wounds, bring us healing and into dependence.
For many, the temptation of the flesh is to rely on our own strength once we get into the ministry. We recognize that God has planted our feet on a path, but we assume ownership of the journey. So He crosses our path to expose our flesh; that even in our greatest strength we can do nothing on our own. If we do not recognize our flesh, or if we are not willing to let the Lord consume it (starting with healing our wounds), we will not have the Lord’s resources available to us. He will let us fail, often publicly. This is a prevalent explanation of the persistent rise in “Pastor Burnout” and other leadership failures.
Any believer learning to depend on God is automatically on the devil’s “Hit List.” Failing to recognize his influence, and failure to learn how to overcome the enemy and his demons, will almost certainly lead to a constant drain on the movement of the Spirit that God intended. With personal dependence comes personal warfare; ignorance of his influence is surrender to it.
The Rewards of Ministry
Being involved in ministry, being involved in the Lord setting people free, is compensation in and of itself. Yet the Lord encourages us and others by bestowing honor where and when honor is due. His idea of honor, however, may not be the same as ours, and His compensation and reward will vary according to each unique situation.
There will be occasions when the recognition will be public, and times when it will be private and personal. In many cases the Lord likes to show off through His people; we can consider it an extension and a reflection of His high regard for us when He manifests Himself publicly on our behalf. How do you respond to recognition? Just say, “Thanks!”
Our confidence will also grow as we personally experience the integrity and faithfulness of God in a variety of circumstances. HE comes through for His people, often in spite of our efforts instead of because of our efforts.
He provides fellowship with others with shared goals of dependence. He knows what we need, and is generous with His friendships. The more dependent we are on God, the closer we become to others who are traveling that same narrow path. Be willing also to accept friendship with those the Lord brings across your path that may not have the same vision or goals, accepting and receiving what they have for you unconditionally.
Fellowship with Him
The more dependent we become, the more we are able to receive His love for us in our entire being. Words cannot express what this is like, though we share our various experiences. He shares His secret plans with those He trusts. We can be confident that our fellowship with Him is worth whatever the cost.
Even in the midst of strife, His peace engulfs, protects, preserves and restores us. The assurance of His Personal Presence strengthens, upholds and shelters us, regardless of the circumstances.
The Lord rewards our dependence, our willingness to let Him be God, by preparing us for what’s next. We know that whatever it is, we’ll be ready, and can look forward not only to each new day but to what’s to come in the next age.
Ministry is simply the outward evidence of dependence. As you spend time with Him, He will manifest Himself through you to others. He will provide the training, equipping, finances and opportunities that are necessary to bring you into even greater dependence. As you determine to focus more and more on the Lord, don’t be surprised to find yourself more and more ministering to others.
Adapted from Knowing God by Dianne Thomas