One of my main concerns with writing posts for myself is that my writing ministry will take me away from my ministry at my local church. I currently serve in a variety of ways at my local church: from preaching at many of the Men’s events, to teaching the Wednesday evening Bible study, to helping plan events, and more.
Over the past three years, however, I’ve backed off writing for a lot of the outlets I was writing for fairly regularly. It hasn’t been because I didn’t enjoy writing at those places. Instead, I considered it an honor to do so. The change has come because my view of the local church has increased. I truly believe that the local church is the hope of the world. I believe that our legitimacy for ministry outside of our local church first starts in private alone with God, extends to our relationship with our spouse (and our kids if we have them), and from there to the local church.
Ministry at Home
If our lives in private alone with God are not well, it will not go well in our own homes. If our lives at home are a mess, our ministry at church will not go well, nor should it. Our ministry at home is the cauldron where our legitimacy for ministry begins. Our proving ground, especially for those who are in ministry, begins with how our home life is and then moves to the church.
Often times, I fear many Bible college and seminary students, those aspiring to ministry, go at this the wrong way. They believe they are called. They rightly share that with their pastor or a close friend. I can still remember telling my grandfather and grandmother that I believed I was called to be a pastor. I remember telling my parents that, and pastors at every local church I’ve been at. It can be nerve racking doing that. Yet, that’s just the first step, to tell someone. The second step is for them to watch your life; to see if you are a man of godly character as outlined in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
I have on occasion told one of the pastors at my local church who I work with very closely, and he and I are now very close friends, about how much I gave up to be involved. I didn’t do so to boast or brag. In fact, I wouldn’t tell anyone else at church this information because it’s not relevant to them. I did it because I saw a need, and still do, to be involved—to pour my life into others and see the Lord work in their own lives and in my own life as well.
One of the biggest dangers, and I’ve seen this repeated in my own life, is to think, “Well that person over there needs to grow,” when in fact it’s this person (finger pointed at myself) that needs to continue to grow. The older I get the more I realize how much I truly need accountability.
Thankfully I resolved in my early 20’s to get a lot of accountability not only within Servants of Grace but also outside of SOG. At my local church, I have accountability. Outside my local church, I have accountability. You see, if you are ever going to be in ministry in any kind you must have accountability. The stakes are too high and many people have fallen by the wayside. In fact, every time I hear of a ministry leader failure, I’m provoked even more to double down on accountability, take my own spiritual growth more seriously, and earnestly pray for the Lord to freshly stir my affections for the Gospel.
Godly Character Matters
Your legitimacy for ministry outside the local church will never extend beyond your character. Yes, it certainly can if you are very gifted. If you have a large influence, the Lord has given it to you. Let me clarify what I mean. I’ve been blessed to write at a lot of places and even to speak at events. Yet none of that matters. If my character isn’t matching what I believe to be true from God’s Word, then I shouldn’t be doing any ministry. Instead, I need to sit down, repent, and get help and encouragement from my support team.
I fear—given the nature of social media, blogging, and online ministry—that we can often forget the primacy of the local church. I have seen this with many Bible college and seminary students. I have seen a desire for ministry and that is good the Bible says. Yet, the Bible calls us to be men of godly character. The qualifications for ministry are not giftedness, although that is a bonus. The qualifications for ministry are not a seminary education; although it can be useful. Instead, the qualification for ministry is godly character.
Godly character is painful. I’m going through a season right now where I’m very involved in my local church. I also run all aspects of our ministry at Servants of Grace including our magazine Theology for Life. I say all of that not to toot my horn. It’s a true joy to write, serve, and pour out my life in this way and at this season. However, during this time, I’m waiting on the Lord to open the door for pastoral ministry. I know the Lord has called me and it’s been confirmed time and time again by those closest to me that I am called by the Lord to be a pastor. And the older I get the more I find my pastoral instincts are growing stronger and the burden to minister to hurting people, encourage struggling believers, walk alongside the anxious, the weary, the downtrodden, and more, is increasing.
The Need for Godly Character
Let me close with saying this. Brother, I know well your desire for pastoral ministry. I know it and understand it well. If God has truly called you, and I say this as one waiting even now for a position, God will open up the door in His timing. I urge you to trust the Lord. Trust that His promises are true because they are tied to His character.
If you are a pastor right now, I want you to understand that your legitimacy for ministry is because of your godly character. This needs to continue to be cultivated. You have an ongoing need for friends in your life to speak into your life. Don’t forsake that. Don’t become isolated.
Whether you are a pastor or a ministry leader, understand you have a great need for Jesus, and a great Christ for your need. Jesus is enough for you; go to Him daily, spend time in His Word by praying and meditating on it. Listen to good sermons, podcasts, or listen to an audio Bible. Take time to cultivate and fan the flames of your new affections for Jesus. Remember once again the calling you’ve received. May the Lord stoke the flames of your new affections for Him as you daily embrace your great need of grace.
I need this reminder in this article just as much as anyone. Being in ministry is hard work. It’s hard to serve and pour out your life. I’m deeply thankful I have many people who speak into my life.
Above all of that, I’m thankful to Jesus. I’m thankful that each day I take time in His Word, to pray and to seek His face. Without that, you and I won’t last long in ministry. In fact, our legitimacy for ministry is directly tied to our spiritual growth because it impacts our ability to be godly.
I urge you to not help others with their walk while yours is neglected. Get your own house in order. Seek the Lord, repent of your own sin, get your home in order, and then minister. This isn’t a call for perfectionism; instead, it’s a call to the standards God has laid out in His Word. They are strong for a reason, but they are possible to adhere to because of the Gospel of God’s grace. I urge you, therefore, to look to Jesus—consider His greatness, His beauty, and His glory. It is there that I leave you and pray the Holy Spirit would continue His sanctifying work in your life.