As one responds to the call of ministry, they often pursue Bible College or Seminary to initiate their training. Although I’ve earned a few degrees in the area of ministry, the classroom was not the beginning of my ministry training. In the 1990s, shortly after responding to the call of God on my life, I was given an opportunity to serve in an internship. The Youth Pastor of our local church soon became one of my best friends. His name is Kevin Pitt. Pastor Kevin had a long track record of mentoring, training and releasing young people into ministry and life. He opened a door and invited me to participate in a structured internship in the youth department of our local church. This internship involved everything physical and spiritual in the area of ministry. To this day I’m so very thankful for the training I received during that season of my life.
We were required to read selected books, make hospital visits, attend and lead prayer several days a week, and to develop a new area of ministry. All of those things were valuable. However, what really impacted my life was the required journaling. Pastor Kevin would challenge us to develop our own personal philosophy of ministry. We were to evaluate what we did and to see if we agreed or desired to do things differently. That process has brought us to where we are today.
Several years later God sent another mentor in my life. In fact, he’s much more than a mentor. His name is Bishop Vaughn McLaughlin. By his invitation I was invited to attend a weekly class Bishop offered to ministers in the area. During one particular teaching I heard a very familiar topic, “Personal Philosophy for Ministry”. Once again I was being challenged by another mentor in my life to rethink ministry and to focus on my personal philosophy for ministry. The remainder of this article I will focus on what I’ve learned and developed over the years as a philosophy of ministry. Although I have critiqued my personal philosophy of ministry over the years, much of what I will share will be direct quotes from both of these mentors.
Philosophy Defined: What do we mean by a philosophy of ministry?
A basic definition for the word “philosophy” is: “a theory or attitude that acts as a guiding principle for behavior and activity.”
So, in short, philosophy of ministry would be defined as; “why and how ministry is accomplished.”
In developing your personal philosophy for ministry you are clarifying to yourself and those you lead to why and how you will accomplish what God has called you to do. This philosophy will become an instinctive tool that will be birthed from the character and experiences you’ve had in the Lord.
Personal Philosophy of Ministry
Ministry should be God Himself and not human activity.
In the early 1990s I heard a quest speaker (Tim Storey) at our home church say,
“There are good ideas and God ideas”. As the years progressed I really understood the value of that statement. I really don’t think the world is lacking in good ideas. However, not all ideas and activity are productive and bear much fruit. When we only focus on good ideas there is a possibility to leave the Holy Spirit out of our activities. The flesh must maintain what we birth in the flesh. What we birth in the Spirit, God’s responsible for it.
When we allow God to birth not only good ideas but also God ideas, we will find favor and supernatural provision and strength to persevere like never before. Good ideas invite God to participate in YOUR activity. However, God ideas are when God invites you to participate in HIS activities. So often people are fighting to keep something alive that God hasn’t birthed. That will only lead to disappointment and frustration.
Listen to what Paul the apostle said;
I Corinthians 3:6 (NKJV)
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.”
When we partner with God He will bring the increase. We find a great sense of fulfillment in partnering with Him!
The guide for ministry is the Bible and not human wisdom.
Although I’m a believer that God has given His people such a great gift of creativity in addition to wisdom. God asked Solomon what he desired. Solomon’s response, “wisdom” (II Chronicles 1:10). However, we can become so consumed with the earthly wisdom that we push God out and never involve Him in our activity.
The Bible is God’s instruction manual for the purpose, structure and guidebook for ministry. Paul the Apostle gave these instructions to Timothy:
II Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine,
for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,”
Several years ago while serving on staff of a local church I saw first hand the results of good men who leaned more on their business experience than the leading of the Holy Spirit and the lack of biblical wisdom. Everything was about numbers and required very little faith. Unfortunately that ministry struggled for several years due to decisions that were made from human wisdom. Thankfully they are back on track after considering God’s wisdom and direction for His ministry.
The focus of ministry should be people and not programs.
In recent years there has been a huge shift from the program based church to a focus of creating community. People desire to do life together. Not just church!
If what we are doing is not building relationships and seeing lives changed then why are we doing what we do?
Churches that struggle with this area are generally churches that are seeking to preserve their past instead of focusing on the future. As we mentor leaders we are constantly encouraging them to structure for which they’re reaching verses that they’re trying to keep. How do you know if you’re more focused on programs verses people? Simply ask yourself two questions:
- What kind of fruit are you producing? Are lives not only being changed but also connected?
- Ask yourself the question: Am I more concerned in maintaining or impacting people? Pastor Kevin, my first ministry mentor would drill into us as leaders, “find a need and fill it.” People are the reason we do what we do! The most quoted scripture in all of the Word of God worldwide says it all:
John 3:16 (NKJV)
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever
believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Ministry should be about advancing people through reaching, discipling, and equipping. This has always been the heart of God!
The atmosphere of ministry should be corporate and not individualism.
My wife and I give oversight to four different ministries. Each are distinct and different from each other. The first thing we do is ask God to help us establish a team. Each team member has open access to the ministries they participate in. We are constantly encouraging each team member to be vocal and to contribute new and fresh ideas. Long ago we realized that most of the people around us are more talented and gifted than we are. Often we simply feel we are there to encourage our teams to become all that God has called them to be. We simply provide an avenue for them to express their gifts and calling.
This is a difficult thing for insecure leaders to do. Insecure leaders focus solely on their individual ambitions. Individualism will cause destruction. The first case of individualism was in heaven when Satan thought he was equal to or better than God.
Often leaders set themselves on a pedestal and see their team members as servants and a tool to accomplish selfish ambitions. They don’t desire the input of others. They have a “follow my orders mentality.” This will always lead to weak foundations in ministry and ultimately a very dysfunctional organization.
Insecure leaders command and control, secure leaders invite and involve. Insecure leaders will always take credit for the efforts of the entire team. Secure leaders take pleasure in celebrating those around them. Leaders should be willing to help and make room for the vision of the committed and connected.
In conclusion I want to encourage all you to ask yourself these four questions:
- Is God involved in our activity?
- Are we biblical in our efforts?
- Are people our focus?
- Do others find our ministry a place of fulfillment or contention?
If you have answered any of these questions negatively it might be time to rethink the reasons and the way you are doing ministry and life!
It’s my prayer that strong, selfless leaders will rise up and create an atmosphere of community that lives are being challenged, changed and celebrated.