Within the category of Christian ministry are scores of important topics to consider. Life often moves so fast that ministers do not think through ministerial issues of consequence until they have to. But too often, their thinking comes too late. For each aspiring minister, they must be devoting themselves to the qualifications of character and competency as well as crystalizing the calling of a biblical pastor.
Our thinking about such issues can be helped in the context of a community or fellowship. Simply put, people sharing ideas, convictions, and resources can propel our learning and ministry forward at a rate that we could not obtain in isolation. In this article, I’d like to share some benefits of a ministry fellowship–a regular gathering of ministers (aspiring or actual) to talk and think about ministry. How can a ministry fellowship be useful to us? In at least the following ways:
- By fighting fear of man. In ministry circles, there is often a barrier of intimidation. Someone has a better grasp of a doctrine or a stronger gifting in preaching and so we separate ourselves from them in fear of man. A ministry fellowship can help us to not only stop envying others who are more advanced than us, but it can help us to befriend them and learn from them.
- By pursuing a kingdom mindset. There is an opposite problem in ministry circles that we also have to be aware of: overlooking those who may not be able to help us. In this case, we may be tempted to distance ourselves from less advanced aspiring ministers because we are convinced they do not have anything to offer us. The PhD pastor who ministers at the largest church in the area should be eager to fellowship and learn from the like minded rural bivocational pastor of 50 people who ministers 25 minutes outside of town. A ministry fellowship encourages a greater kingdom mindset.
- By strengthening our weaknesses. Interacting with mature ministers and godly aspiring ministers can help us discern how we can progress in ministry (and ministry preparation).
- By humbling our pride. Overall, a ministry fellowship can help all of us cultivate humility. We are not infinite in wisdom. Each of us can grow in preaching, shepherding, prayer, leading, etc.
- By shaping our character. How we act in conversation reveals a great deal about our qualifications. Through hospitality and social settings like a monthly ministry fellowship, we put our lives on display for others to see and speak into. We should be edified in those settings to pursue Christ and shepherd His people with more faithfulness.
- By strengthening our competence. In today’s ministry context, there is much to know by way of social issues and the fast-shaping secularism of the culture. Beyond that, there are dozens and dozens of questions a minister might be wrestling through in a given moment. Moreover, there are doctrinal issues and tough passages that need not be waded through alone. A ministry fellowship can inform current and aspiring ministers of resources that will enable them to be strengthened in ministry competence.
- By cultivating a godly temperament. Pastors are simultaneously men who are tough and tender, caring toward all but not fearing man. Conversations with godly men teach us when to speak and how as well as how to respond and when. Ministry fellowships instruct us on how to provide and receive critique and encouragement. An important aspect of ministry is learning to respect and listen to those who may disagree with us. Pastors are susceptible to pride which is why the newly converted should not be pastors (1 Tim 3:6). 1 Tim 4:12 teaches us that pastors are to be an example in speech and conduct. A ministry fellowship can help us cultivate a godly temperament.
- By considering helpful topics, resources, and perspectives. Pastors are thinkers and gatherers. The ministry requires that we be filling ourselves with truth and communicating that truth in fresh ways. A ministry fellowship can provide the current or aspiring minister with a regular set of questions, topics, and related resources to consult.
- By growing in purposeful fellowship. Doing spiritual good to church members is what pastoral ministry is all about. Pastors should be leading in discipling relationships and edifying conversations. A ministry fellowship can create a venue where we can learn from others in the ministry of purposeful fellowship that edifies the soul.
- By giving us ministry friendships. Loneliness and discouragement are prevalent. Ministry friendships help us to remember that our identities are not in ministry but in the Lord. Ministry challenges are real but not ultimate. We need ministry friendships because of the uniqueness of ministry for which only those preparing or in ministry can fully sympathize with.
Ministry fellowships have numerous benefits for your life, ministry, friendships, and learning. Consider starting one in your church and area.