Newsletter for February 2008
One aspect of God’s call on my life is to help Christians discover and become equipped to fulfill their ministry calling. While on the surface this may not sound too terribly complicated, it is more of an undertaking than some might think.
First, many Christians must be convinced to accept that God has a ministry for them to fulfill. There are so many Believers who have been greatly misled into thinking that only “special people” are called and that everybody else is just supposed to attend church, pay tithes, and fry chicken for the covered dish dinners. But a close study of First Corinthians chapter twelve and Ephesians chapter four reveals that every member of the Body of Christ is called to a ministry…no exceptions!
Second, you have to walk them through scripture and explain that the terms “ministry,” “ministry gift,” and “ministry calling” are all speaking of the same thing. It is one thing to minister to someone who is hungry, thirsty, hurting, or in need of some other kind of help; it is another to operate in your ministry.
Third, for most Christians you have to undo years of wrong doctrine concerning what is and is not a ministry calling. I have encountered a number of people who are firmly convinced that their secular employment (nurse, auto mechanic, restaurant manager, etc.) is their ministry. Others believe that whatever they enjoy doing at their church (working in the nursery, operating a sound board, serving as an usher, etc.) is the ministry calling God has for them. Sometimes it can be border-line impossible to convince them that a ministry calling is not defined or identified by culture, technology, or talent, and that unless a ministry is found, identified, and defined in scripture, it is not a calling…no exceptions!
Getting past these first three hurdles is only the beginning. The next thing is to teach them how to discover their calling. (For more teaching about this, my 12 sermon series “Taking Heed To Your Ministry” is on the MP3 CD The Path Of Divine Destiny.) Part of the challenge is convincing them that it is a waste of time to use those “personality profiles” implemented by so many churches to help members discover their ministry. The rest is convincing them that they absolutely must spend time in the word and in fellowship with God through worship and praying in the Spirit so He can reveal their ministry gift.
Once you have a person convinced that spending time with the Lord is the only way to clearly identify his or her ministry, and warning them ahead of time that the devil will try anything to take them out of prayer, it is then simply a matter of waiting until they receive the revelation of their calling. BUT…it is also just a matter of time before they hit the next obstacle.
Over and over I have had Christians come to me and share that they have finally figured out what God has called them to do. But their big question is “When? When is God going to start using me in ministry, start opening ministry doors, and start moving me forward into my calling?” Complicating this is when these people ask such questions of their pastor and, in reality, are expecting him to fix the problem. I can answer all of those “when” questions; but the answers may present a bit of a challenge for some.
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Ephesians 4:7-8)
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ
Notice that Jesus is the One who has given each of us our ministry gift, or calling. Since He is the One whom the Father has entrusted with this responsibility, we can say for certain that Jesus is the fullness of what every Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher should be. Scripture even says as much, For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9).
Now take a close look at the following verses,
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (Ephesians 4:15)
The longer we stay in the presence of Christ, the more we become like Him. Jesus said in John 14:9, …he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father. In the same fashion, as we conform to His image we can say, If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen Jesus. Likewise, as we mature spiritually, we “grow up into Him in all things,” meaning, we begin to fit the mold of “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” But there is something else I want to point out.
As I mentioned earlier, Jesus is the fullness of what every Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher should be. If He has called me to be a pastor, then as I stand in front of that glass I will behold the glory of “Christ the Pastor.” The more I am changed from glory to glory I will change into the perfect image of the pastor Jesus desires me to be. As I continue to mature spiritually, I will grow up into Christ the Pastor, fitting into the mold of His divine call on my life.
The same would be true if I were called to be an evangelist, teacher, or any other ministry. I would behold in that glass Christ the Teacher or Christ the Apostle, and so on. If He has called me to be a prophet, He most assuredly will not present Himself before me as Christ the Teacher. This is not to say that prophets can never teach or that teachers can never prophesy. But the goal is for each of us to mature into the image set before us. Consider this another way,
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)
If it was God’s good pleasure to design for me the ministry calling of evangelist, then as He works in me He is working to develop me into the complete fullness of the evangelist He desires. The more I fellowship with Him, the more work He is able to accomplish. The pattern He sets before me is everything I am to be in Christ.
Now, let’s get back to those “when” questions: “When? When is God going to start using me in ministry, start opening ministry doors, and start moving me forward into my calling?” One thing we must establish is that it is not to God’s advantage to hold a person back who is at the right place at the right time and ready for promotion into ministry. This is because there are both too many lost people and too many Christians who are floundering in their walk with God; He needs us touching their lives. Stated differently, God needs to move us forward a soon as possible.
However, many of the Christians I have encountered see themselves as fully ready for the next step, yet can’t figure out why God, (or, in their eyes, their pastor), is holding them back. Well, if we assume that their pastor knows how to hear from God, then it’s a safe bet to say that it isn’t their pastor holding them back! In other words, God is not moving them forward because, in all likelihood, they aren’t ready for promotion.
You see, the majority of the Christians I have met who believe they are ready to fully operate in their calling are measuring themselves against other ministers to determine their “promotability”. In many denominations, they measure themselves against other preachers in their denomination and the requirements for ministry established by the denomination. Thus, in their opinion, they are fully qualified to be promoted in the fulfillment of their ministry.
But we are not to conform to the image of Brother Televangelist or Pastor Megachurch; we are to conform to the image of Christ. He will set before us the pattern into which we are to fit. He will prepare, equip, and anoint us for what the fulfillment of our ministry gift requires.
May I be blunt? Is it possible that God has promoted you as far as He can at your present level of spiritual growth? Could it be that you reached a level of maturity, but have since stopped pressing into Christ because you have judged yourself sufficiently ready for the pulpit (or whatever you calling may be)? I personally believe this is the trap a great many Christians have fallen into.
What is so sad is that often these Christians blame their pastor for holding them back, then get upset and leave the church. This is nothing more than pride, because a pastor who is led of God and hears His voice needs the people in the church operating in their ministry as soon as possible – but he will not promote them until the Lord releases him to do so.
As a pastor, I long for every person who is a part of our church to press so deeply into God that their calling flows like a river out of their spirit. There are so many doors of ministry just waiting for them to walk through. My heart aches for those who get so close, then stop or even leave the church out of frustration.
I know what it’s like to experience the disappointment of having a calling yet feel like it is being wasted as few, if any, opportunities to minister arise. In my early years of ministry I couldn’t seem to figure out what was the problem. But I continued to spend time with the Lord and resigned myself to do whatever He wanted. Once I had this settled in my heart, things began to change.
Years have passed and many wonderful things are now happening in my ministry. We are having an impact globally in a way that I’m sure some people would have thought impossible. The key to this is allowing God to work on the inside. He is not finished with me by a long shot and there is much more to do. As long as I fellowship with Him, I can receive His instructions and He will continue moving me along the path of His design.
Remember, a ministry calling is not about your success, but about His Kingdom. Years ago God told me that He hadn’t called me to build a church, but to build people and His Kingdom. The church I pastor is just one facet of His overall Kingdom plan. If I become centered on “my church” I will have lost focus of His divine plan.
Believe me, God will promote you in your calling you as quickly as He can. If I were to very briefly summarize what will help you be prepared for promotion it would be:
Additionally, it would be good to read these verses which reveal how the Apostle Paul saw himself and the ministry to which he was called:
In closing I would encourage you not to be weary in well doing. Do not focus on what doesn’t seem to be happening, but rejoice in the work God is completing in you. There is a glorious future awaiting you!
Yours in His love,