Many times, ministers doing God's work wish for great moves of God. What are some things we can do to help ensure that God uses what we are doing for His glory?
The Example of Christ
To start this section, let us look at the early ministry of Christ.
2:40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
2:41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
2:42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
2:43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
2:44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
2:45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
2:46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
2:47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
2:48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
2:49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?
The first and foremost thing I would say is this. Be about the Father's business. And what is that business, you ask? For that, let's turn to:
4:14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.
4:15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.
4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
4:17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
4:19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
4:20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
4:21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
4:22 And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son?
That, in a nutshell, was the Father's business for Christ. We are to imitate Christ, so in a sense, that description of Jesus' work should embody the core ideals in our work today as well.
The Disciple Extension
Are there any additional descriptions concerning the Father's business for us? There are several, but I'll hit a couple of the main descriptions. We are all called to be His disciples. So what did He say to His disciples as He was leaving?
16:9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
16:10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.
16:11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
16:12 After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.
16:13 And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.
16:14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
16:17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
16:18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.16:19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
16:20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
This is one of the classic commands for what disciples of Christ are to do. I included the first part of the scripture because I thought it was instructive. One of the first things that we should do is cease our doubting that what God says is going to happen will in fact happen. It might not come about the way we, in our limited imagination might expect it to, but His will does have a tendency to eventually get done. So I would say one of the first things to put to rest is our doubts and to let our faith in God take over. If we doubt or are double-minded about believing the promises of God the Bible asks why we should expect anything! Have faith! (James 1:5-8)
By the way, let me lay one thing to rest about this passage... The snake handling and drinking something that could kill you was not put in there by Christ as an excuse for His followers to tempt God. It was a statement of faith and security should there be an accidental encounter with these types of worldly dangers. I might even add that the promise might just apply only when they were about the Father's business, but I would not be on as solid a scriptural ground there. It doesn't give believers license to take any risk He hasn't asked them to take under the assumption that God will protect them.
The Works of the Church and the Holy Spirit
Finally, from the ministries of the Holy Spirit, I would include from:
1 Cor. 12:27-31:
12:27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
12:29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
12:30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
12:31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
and from the gifts of the Spirit, I would include from:
1 Cor. 12:4-11:
12:4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
12:5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
12:6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
12:8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
12:9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
12:10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
12:11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
I would say, in a very strict sense, if some ministry you are active in or thinking of pursuing doesn't fit somewhere in the above lists in some specific or broad sense, you should pray seriously about whether it is truly the Father's business.
Christ dealt directly with the people. As His fame grew, He taught more men who also went out and dealt directly with the people. He preached in the churches of His day - the synagogues. He preached on hillsides. He instructed from boats. But everything He did was done personally or through disciples.
Now, I am sure that He was thankful for the work of the scribes and others in maintaining the copies of God's Word that formed the Jewish Bible that He was reading from in the second passage above. I don't think He would have actively opposed any technology that was around that was helping to do God's work. He really wasn't interested in stirring up trouble in the world.
Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's and unto God the things which be God's,
for example, was His response to the taxation debate. The only things that it is recorded that he got hot about was mixing buying and selling (with attendant cheating of people) in the house of God.
The trouble with technology is that it has no morality associated with it. The same printing methods that produce Bibles produce filth. The same broadcast methods that produce Christian television broadcast filth. The same Internet that is bringing you this message can bring you filth on demand. I really do not believe that He would have gotten Himself involved in these media even if all of them were available and cheap enough for Him to use in His day. They can serve a purpose, but they have great risk. At least with TV, radio, and the Internet, if a follower has the means of making use of them, the follower is also at risk of being subjected to their dangers by their very presence.
Before you quickly say you are immune, when was the last time you stayed away from church to watch your favorite television show or sports event on TV? Buy a VCR so you can record the shows or games while you are at church and you open up more risks in the movies and programs you buy to play in it. Somehow, I just don't think He would have gone there. There isn't an inherent evil with technology, and I'm not a Luddite. We'd probably get an average score for the books we read. We have both TV and Internet in our home and buy many books, but we watch far less T.V. than the average person and we actively filter our Internet connection. I hope you do as well.
What you do with any of these technologies is up to you. But you need to give serious thought before taking your ministries in those directions. For my part, I assume that this is mostly a training ministry for people who are already Christians. I don't expect it to save many people directly. While I hope I am wrong and the Gospel Message page leads many people to salvation (or at least helps some Christians become better Christians), I will have little knowledge of whether it has made any difference until I hear directly from God when I stand before Him and my works are judged.
I don't advertise my site, so you almost certainly didn't go out and buy a computer and hook up to the Internet just to read these words. It was something you had already decided to do. The same thinking drives churches to branch out. Just pray that you do it right. Don't start a television ministry in order to advertise and raise money to support other things. Keep a separation between buying and selling and Christianity whenever possible.
Don't get a false sense of worth, especially on the Internet. In the last week, my sermon pages were viewed by almost 900 people. Sounds great, right? I'd be willing to bet that only a fraction of the people clicking on this page will make it this far down in reading. My messages tend to be long and most people have short attention spans. Yet it is hard to break up teaching messages. Hopefully one or two people a week actually wade through enough to get whatever God wants them to see in some message I've preached. Of course, the same thing is true of any pastor's sermon in a church building. There may be 1,000 in attendance, but the number who could actually give a detailed description of what the sermon was about after lunch on Sunday is pretty small.
How would Christ reach the masses today? I suspect He would have done things the same way He did when He walked the earth. He would have made disciples, and sent them out to make more disciples to be sent out and let the world be won for Him one by one with personal contact. It's hard to lay hands on someone over the T1 leading from your web server farm. There are great Internet ministries, even in prayer, that are out there and do good work, but I think Christ still prefers the majority of the work to be done one on one.
Approach and Execution
So what else made Christ successful? Every minister out there wants to know the answer to that. The key, I believe, is found in the answer Jesus gave as recorded in John when Jesus healed the lame man on the sabbath. This act caused the Jews to rise up against Him for doing work on the Sabbath.
5:17 But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.
5:18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
5:19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
5:20 For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.
5:21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.
5:22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:
5:23 That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.
5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
5:25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.
5:26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;
5:27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.
5:28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
5:29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
5:30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.
5:31 If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.
5:32 There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.
5:33 Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.
5:34 But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.
5:35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.
5:36 But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.
5:37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.
5:38 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.
5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
5:40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.
5:41 I receive not honor from men.
5:42 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.
5:43 I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.
5:44 How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?
5:45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.
5:46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.
5:47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?
Now clearly, a few portions of this scripture will not apply to my message today, but I wanted you to have the complete context for reference. Most of it is directly applicable. Following are the points that I think are key in execution.
5:17 First, Christ declares that the Father is working. God is carrying out His will through people, angels, and the Holy Spirit on a continual basis. There may be times when He is doing things that don't affect planet Earth at all. But I think I could say that, in general, He is always attuned to His creation and has some part of Him always thinking, planning, and working on our behalf.
5:18 Jesus worked. He didn't care about the surroundings. He didn't care what day of the week it was. Sometimes He sought rest when He was weary, but even then He worked when awakened. The first key precept is to actually work. Sloth is never encouraged from Gen. 1:1 to Rev. 22:21. If you don't put out any effort, nothing is going to happen on its own. It may happen due to the work of others, but don't think you have a part in that. Work while the harvest is white.
God Works Through Us
5:19 The second key precept follows in verse 19. The Son can do nothing of Himself. If Christ declares He couldn't do anything of Himself, who are we to think we can. No matter how great a preacher we think we are, how great a teacher we think we are, what our normal attendance is in services, how big our Internet or radio or TV ministries are, no matter how many people we reach with a particular message, if the people's hearts haven't been prepared by the Holy Spirit to receive what we say, we have wasted our breath. Acknowledge that we can't do anything by ourselves.
Do God's Work Only
5:19 The third key precept follows immediately. It has two parts. First, Christ paid attention via the fulness of the Holy Spirit to exactly what the Father wanted to accomplish in any given situation, and those were the things He did through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Second, He didn't try to do things that He didn't see the Father doing. These are two sides to the same coin, but are very easy to overlook in a ministry. Follow the leading of the Holy Spirit both in direction, timing, action, and follow-up and you will be successful. Go off on your own, and you will fail (or at the very least not accomplish what the Father wants you to accomplish).
Believers Will Do Greater Works to Bring Honor to God
There is then a several verse bit of prophecy of both the additional things that Christ would accomplish on Earth for them to witness and future events in the world's history and His work. In verse 20, we are told that the Father loves the Son and shews Him what He is planning to do and doing. Well, the Father loves us as well. Be assured that if you ask for guidance, the Father will give it. We see in 20 that Christ says that God will shew greater works through Christ's ministry than what the people had previously seen. Later, we are promised to be able to do Christ's works and greater works because Jesus has ascended to set on the right side of the Father (John 14:12). Verse 23 gives a couple more insights. We should honor the Son just as we honor the Father.
Believe in God and Christ's Words
5:24 reminds us again of another truth. We should hear Christ's words and believe the Father that sent Him. Faith and belief are important. We hear the Gospels preached often, but when it comes to needs, we have trouble believing the promises that are written. Hear and believe.
Do God's Will - Not Man's Will
5:30 continues the thread. Christ again declares that He is incapable of doing anything of himself. A fourth precept is found here. He seeks the will of the Father which sent Him and does not seek His own will. That's a big one for a lot of ministries to get past. Do what God wants you to do and not what you see the ministries around you that are "successful" in your eyes doing! He has a special place just for you. It might not even be to be the biggest church around. It might be to just be a small congregation where hurting people can get some true one-on-one love. Remember that God is concerned first and foremost with the health and growth of His church and not your ministry. If they can overlap, that's great. But He should always get His way.
Seek God's Plow
5:31-5:35 He goes on to say that He has the witness of John, and the baptism of John, but He has a greater witness than that. This greater witness is God Himself. By the words of two or three witnesses, truth is established. The Father backed up what Jesus was saying by works. You can preach and teach all you want, and it can all be complete truth backed up by the Holy Bible. Some will be convicted by simple words. Others who have been blinded by the ways of the world need more.
Some need a plow to break up the hard ground. The works that the Father does is that plow. The Father will work through you by the same Baptism in the Holy Ghost that Jesus had, to empower you to do whatever it is He has called you to do.
5:36 The works that the Father wanted him to finish he was in the process of doing and the works done through the power of the Holy Spirit bore witness of him. This fifth precept speaks of seeing, with God, an outline of a plan that God wants executed. It is not wise to always be jumping from new thing to new thing. Seek God's will for a short term and intermediate term plan. God may correct you in course and change His plan. It is far better to seek some longer term direction than week to week (or minute to minute) in order to direct all member's energies to optimal effect.
Even the great missionary, Paul, moved from place to place under the direction of the Holy Spirit. He spent quite a bit of time at each place teaching and preaching the Gospel to make sure people were really grounded before moving on. Then he kept in touch with those churches as the Lord directed, providing further discipleship.
Know God's Witness - The Works Following
5:37-5:39 The Jews had the word - the scriptures - and they thought that was enough. Simply knowing what the Bible says will not save you. You must make a decision to accept Christ. Christ says that the Jews had not heard God's voice or seen Him. How often do we choose to not hear God's voice because it is asking us to do something we don't want to do? How many of us don't know what the Bible says because we don't have the word abiding in us. This is the sixth precept. Know what the Bible says and when God speaks - either in your heart or via a message in tongues or a prophecy - heed His voice.
Don't Seek Man's Glory
5:40-5:46 These verses could easily be put down in the Results section, but I'll talk about them a bit here. Christ didn't receive honor from men. How refreshing. There isn't much of that in the big names of Christianity today. There are some who don't seek fame or large followings, but not many that don't enjoy attention and honor for what they have done for God.
Don't seek honor. Seek to give God the honor at all times. Remember always that He is the one doing the work and that you are just the vessel. You're just the pipeline from heaven that He is filling. The people don't want the pipeline. They want the water. Keep that always in mind and God just might make you successful. If you don't keep it in the front of your mind, God may take away His water and let your pipe rust away to dust!
Cultivate the Fruit of the Spirit
5:41 Be filled with the gifts of the Spirit and cultivate the fruits of the Spirit. If you don't couple the gifts with he fruit, you will never be successful as a minister. Love, Joy, Peace, Long Suffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, and Temperance. These are what you need to cultivate. No matter what gifts you have, one day they will pass away. Charity or love will remain. If the gifts aren't executed with the fullness of the fruit of the Spirit working in you, you will not achieve the success God has in mind for you. Prune the dead and evil from your life. Let the fruit flourish.
Associate with Christ and Don't Seek to Just Please Men
5:43 Don't be like the Jews Jesus was speaking to. Receive Christ and be sure to give the ones you are speaking to that chance as well. Too often we give honor to those who don't even come in the name of Christ, who preach on TV - but never tell how to be saved, who give unoffensive prayers so they don't run afoul of the political or military bureaucracy - but don't speak the name of Christ.
Receive and honor those who speak the truth boldly and turn away and don't seek to associate with those who soft-peddle Christianity, and you run a greater chance that God will give you a successful ministry. You might not be popular with most of the world, but that is probably a good thing. Be ready in season and out of season with the words to lead someone to Christ.
Believe the Bible
5:47 Believe the Word of God. That is a last simple precept. Believe that what the Bible says is true and that God really did mean every single jot and tittle that was written in the original writings. God has no gray when it comes to mankind's acts. They are either black or white (and I'm counting all neutral actions as white). Preach what is written and not what the masses want to hear. God doesn't care if your church is full because you only preach an easy gospel that doesn't require repentance and change in the life of sinners. People who frequent those churches may well not be in His church.
If you want a successful ministry in God's eyes, preach Truth. Preach black and white. Make sure people know right from wrong. You may not have a huge congregation or get wealthy in man's eyes, but your eternal reward will be great. Everything else will pass away anyway. How much better to not have to answer God's question of why didn't you speak out against sin X - be it homosexuality, lust, lying, stealing, idolatry, pride, gluttony, or anything else that He has clearly proscribed for His people.
Having waded through that segment of scripture, I will say clearly that you can find ways to be successful from cover to cover in the Bible. You can also find ways to be unsuccessful. For a couple of examples, read my discussion on Revelation Chapter 2 and 3. God found fault in these two chapters with the majority of churches being described.
If that doesn't work, look at the people God favored in the Old Testament and see what they did that pleased God and see what they did that made Him angry. There are reams of good information there about how to conduct your life in order to be someone that God is pleased with. I am sure that the above precepts and commentary has been preached hither and yon over the ages and I don't claim that it is in any way original with me.
None of it is actively copied - so at least its fresh in this telling. If you are wondering what is wrong in your church and why you can't seem to grow, the points above are good places to start praying about to see how you can come in closer conformity to God's will.
Although mentioned above, I must repeat it here. The Bible is our guidebook. It's truth, cover to cover, serves as the measuring stick against what everything else we do should be measured. If there is a message in tongues or a prophecy or a word of knowledge or wisdom, is it in harmony with God's written word? If not, it must be rejected.
Stay in the Bible as much as possible. Sometimes you can preach a sermon that doesn't have a lot of Scripture presented. The Salmon message I posted last is an example of that. It is filled with a lot of imagery, and is meant to be illustrative of the Christian walk and the advantages of being Spirit filled. It doesn't have Scripture associated with it as it is meant to be a word picture of the whole process. But I still think it is pretty solidly grounded in actual Spiritual principles. As often as possible, refer directly to the Bible in what you are doing.
Remember how Jesus countered Satan's attacks with the Bible in Matthew 4 and other places. In Ephesians 6, the Word of the Lord is described as being a sword. The Word mentioned here is the written, published, word of God. The Word of the Lord will defeat the armies of the Antichrist in the end times (Rev. 19:15). It is powerful. Knowing it is best. Knowing how to use a concordance in order to be able to find what you need is second best.
Allow me to repeat a key precept. Don't water down the Word in order to make people like your ministry more. Be like Paul. Preach Christ and Christ crucified.
1 Corinthians 1:17-25:
1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
1:19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
1:20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
1:22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
1:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
1:24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
In too many churches today, you will not hear a message about Christ's crucifixion unless you come on Easter. It is rare to even hear an altar call to give the lost a chance to receive Christ. After all, if the people are in church they must be saved, right? An altar call would just slow the flow of the service down!
Paul said no, no, a thousand times no! Paul wasn't sent to baptize (to add to official counts of believers in the church) but to spread the Gospel to every nation. He was sent to preach basics, without flowing words. He warned against seeking after signs and wonders. I am convinced that Christ crucified is today just as big a stumbling block to men as it was to the Jews and Gentiles of Paul's day.
The flip side of this is to be sure to disciple those new Christians so they don't fall back into the world and end up worse than they started out because they now have a bitter taste of Christianity. Support the new Christians and take the time to teach them the truth. Giving them a tract and a handshake is a start, but it is by no means enough. I strongly feel that lack of followup is one of the biggest problems we have today as a church.
It is one risk of a big church where people really don't get to know each other. A small church (or even a large church that instead of having one huge service has many smaller services) can get to know and shepherd the new members and new Christians much more easily.
It would be imprudent of me to talk about your possible success without throwing out a couple of warnings as well. The first is found in the parable of the servants and the talents in Matthew 25. Over and over the master commends the faithful servants and says
"Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
If you want to eventually be blessed with a huge ministry, be faithful over what He has given you so far. As your ministry increases, continue to be faithful. If your ministry grows too large for you, then being faithful might be ensuring that God puts in place the people He wants to help you out. Don't just pick people who will blindly follow you. Pick people that will sharpen you by occasionally helping God do His work when you aren't listening as well as you should and correct you. God is the only one that should be blessed with "yes men".
I'm not advocating disunity, or a complete lack of harmony. A united front - even among denominations - has a great value in what we say, what we believe, and how we act concerning Christianity and the world. The fewer discrepancies, the fewer places Satan can dig into the cracks and pull us apart. However, a little healthy debate internal to the leadership can frequently be a good thing. It makes sure all the bases are covered and helps ensure that the guidebook - the Bible - is consistently followed.
I do believe that if a ministry is following God's will, there will naturally be mostly internal harmony. This will be true whether you have sycophants or true men of God in your chain of command. If you aren't following God's will, then you need people who will stand up for God and stop you. There is too little of that these days. There is too much measuring success by the world's standards and assuming that because the world sees you as successful, then you must naturally be successful in God's eyes.
Stay humble. As Christ was entering Jerusalem the people were cheering Him on. The Pharisees told Him to rebuke His disciples.
19:40 And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.
We should praise and sing to our Father and give glory to Jesus and thank Him for all He has done for us. But remember that God is just as able to make stones cry out in praise if we don't. Christ gets the same praise, either way.
It would be better coming from us, but the stones can cry out as well. In other places, the Jews are reminded that of these stones, God can raise up children to Abraham. Likewise, raw materials can be made just as glorious creatures as us if God really needs to. He's done it before, and if He does it again, they'll be just as effective as we think we are. So we need to stay humble and remember that God made everything and we're just a tiny cog in His great plan.
The second we say "I'm on a roll" when something good happens in part through our efforts, we are in danger. The second we start believing that everything will fall apart if we don't show up to do our part in the overall Sunday morning or other service, we are in danger. That is true whether you're the person who greets people at the door or the senior superstar pastor. The second we, as individuals, put our eyes on any human minister instead of on God, we are in danger. Give God the glory, great things He hath done!
Remember that the greatest minister of all time, Jesus Himself, chose to take a servant's place to wash His disciples feet before He went to be crucified. The foot washing ceremony has almost taken its own place of honor and pride in some churches today. It is more important to stay humble and willing to do whatever the master calls us to do, no matter what. Do you have your own private entrance to the church? Do you come and preach your sermon and go away without ever having any personal contact with your congregation? Do you have other people to visit the sick? You may need to take personal notice of this section!
Jesus never had a large physical church building to call His own, much less a complex of buildings. He didn't have his own radio or television show, nor did he have a website. He went from place to place and instructed His followers to not burden themselves down with things in doing the Father's work.
9:1 Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.
9:2 And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.
9:3 And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.
9:4 And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart.
9:5 And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.
9:6 And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where.
Why was this? If you think about the times, the places of worship had become idolatrous places, covered in gold and filled with debauchery. He wanted His church to be different. He wanted us to be set apart. He wanted us to be able to adapt and grow and spread. It's tough to do that when you're rooted in one spot.
Don't get me completely wrong. I like having a reasonably comfortable place to worship as much as the next guy. But I think Christianity today is dumping way too much money into Christian empires that could be better spent in spreading the Word to the world - whether in purchasing Bibles and teaching materials for foreign countries (or our own country), supporting missionaries better, or any of a number of other ways. We should put up with more inconveniences in order to remain more flexible to help the world.
Remember the warning God had for barn builder:
12:15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
12:16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
12:17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
12:18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
12:19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
12:20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
12:21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
12:22 And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.
12:23 The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.
12:24 Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?
12:25 And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?
12:26 If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?
12:27 Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
12:28 If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
12:29 And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.
12:30 For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
12:31 But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.
12:32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
12:33 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.
12:34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
I know that this deals more with material goods than things like churches and the like, but it can equally well be thought of in a spiritual sense. How many large barns have we created? Jesus warned that the fields were white unto harvest. When Christ returns (the equivalent of the death of the man in the parable) then where will all this great Christian infrastructure be that we have created? Sadly, some of it will still be running, just like it is now. But the rest will be abandoned and left to decay for a bit. Be careful to lay up your treasures in heaven and not on earth.
God has His own timing for each part of our lives. It is rare for His timing to line up with ours because we have such a limited 70-100 year life span in which we feel we must accomplish everything. No minister can do everything in the world by himself. Neither can any one teacher or prophet, healer or worker of miracles. Each needs to allow other people to help out.
Sometimes, God's answer to our pleas to go down our own paths that look good to us will be an emphatic no. We don't like hearing that, and many times we'll try to help God out to get things done in our time rather than letting Him do things according to His time. This frequently results in destruction. Be patient.
Consider the beatitudes. Strive to be on the blessed side of the equations. Consider the entire Sermon on the Mount and try to live your life up to Christ's Holy Standards. Be perfect, walking in accordance with the Bible's directions, as often as possible. When you aren't perfect, ask God's forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ and then forgive yourself and move on. The closer you get to God's will, the more the world will hate you. If the world doesn't actively oppose your ministry, you aren't being very effective for God. Start preaching more truth.
God has many promises in His word. You will find them literally cover to cover. The vast majority are conditional. They are made to His followers. The only purely unconditional promise the Bible makes is that if you accept the blood of Jesus as your personal sin sacrifice, and accept Jesus as your personal Savior that God will forgive you. Having said that, there are a great number of promises for believers. We need to believe that Christ said what He meant in all cases. Meet the conditions and have faith that God will carry out His part. A successful ministry in God's sight will have many wonderful things happening in it. The greatest worry is that we will focus our sight on the works and not on God, or worse that we will set our sights on the person doing the works and not on God.
The example of Christ in the cleansing of the leper is instructive:
8:3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
8:4 And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
This goes against every instinct of most people in the church today. They want to proclaim far and wide what God is doing through them. There is a time and place for this. Certainly, Christians need to know that God has performed a miracle. Certainly, the world will notice, even if it is only the immediate world where the miracle happened or the individual's family. Letting God work and letting God give the increase without trying to help it along ourselves is tough.
As a final challenge, for a successful ministry, seek to give God the glory. That means not telling people to come to your church because fantastic things are happening through a particular individual or individuals there. You can say that God did a certain thing, but not an individual. Let God spread His word in His own way to the non-churched. Make sure to back up instances of divine healing with medical records to ensure that God gets all the glory He deserves for intervening. Whenever possible, include the before and after shots and written testimony of the doctors.
Always put the focus of everything you do on God rather than yourself, and He will bless and give the increase. Let Him tell you how to grow your ministry, follow through, and then give Him the glory. Only count new converts as any sort of credit to what you are doing, and only count those if they are taught and stick around. In all things, give Him praise!
It is very difficult for most ministries to see the work they are doing for God through God's eyes. Too often, even the best ministries start to measure success by the world's standards. Most times, they don't start out that way. Over time, there is a real danger that success starts getting measured by attendance, offerings, divine acts, number of people saved, size of buildings and so forth.
The more the focus shifts from giving glory to the Father for what He has done and is instead placed on the human He worked through to do whatever it was that was done, the greater the risk that God will stop blessing and expanding the ministry. I truly believe that the more we are Christlike and the less we are like the world in terms of how we approach God's work through us the greater He will use us. If we drift toward the world in our standards or cease to give Him glory, we will see His work stop through us. It really is that simple.
That in no means should be interpreted that Satan will not try to throw his own monkey wrenches in successful ministries. As long as God is for us, we have nothing to ultimately fear, even if the present looks bad. Job did come out all right eventually, even if the times were downright depressing for a bit. In the end, God restored him more than he started with, even if there were no direct replacements for some dear to his heart.