Here is a core value that has shaped my perspective on spiritual and ministerial formation:
“God is responsible for the breadth of our ministry, we are responsible for the depth of our message.”
Some years ago, I found this insight implied within Romans 5:1-4. In this text, Paul moves from the theme of justification from our “sins” (chs. one to four) to the theme of sanctification from the reality of “sin” within us (chs. five through eight). A key term in Paul’s teaching is “tribulation,” which foreshadows Romans 8:28.
Several principles can be here gleaned.
- 1. First, the processes God uses to sanctify our whole life, , are the same processes he uses to make us fit for ministry.
- 2. Second, sanctification is determined foremost by our response to the situations God orders for our daily life.
- 3. Third, there are lessons about life and ministry God teaches us only via His engineering of our life and ministry circumstances.
The lessons we learn through life and ministerial challenges should govern our approach to future life and ministry challenges. These lessons become the depth of our life message, obtained through discerning the lessons God wants to teach us in the events He orchestrates in our life.
In his book, Ralph Turnbull (A Minister’s Obstacles, Revell, 1959) called this process the forging of a “moral theology of the heart,” through the “crucible” (Prov. 17:3; Mal. 3:3) of one’s relationship with Christ. Our life message is the expression of our being-ness; it reflects who we are. It provides the moral reservoir from which ministry can flow through word and deed, but primarily through how we live our life (i.e., 2 Cor. 3:2-3; 1 Thess. 1:5b; 2:10, 13).
Over the years, I have identified some core principles that to the best of my will, reflect what I would define as my ministry philosophy. These principles are neither exhaustive nor necessary the most perennial. But they do provide some definitive benchmarks, and reflect some experiences I have walked through.
- Who you are in Christ is more important than what you know about Christ.
- Ministry flows out of who you are in Christ.
- One ministers out of what one is, more than what one knows or can do.
- God is more concerned about the making of a minister than the making of a ministry.
- An effective leader maintains a learning posture throughout life.
- To every criticism encountered, there is a kernel of truth to be sought.
- A truly repentant person has no defence against the darkness exposed in his heart.
- If a leader’s character is questionable, his capacity to offer spiritual leadership will be questionable.
- Spiritual discernment is obtained through observing divine lessons in events encountered in life, and then responding to new yet similar events in light of those lessons learned.
- Integrity is foundational for ministry and leadership.
- Spiritual authority is of greater value than positional authority.
- God wants us to lead from a basis of spiritual authority, not positional authority.
- A shepherd puts the interests of his followers before his own interests.
- A person shows himself a credible leader when he accepts responsibility for both the design and the effect of the decisions he makes.
- When a follower commits an unwise action that may then question one’s leadership, a leader should be
- Willing to suffer in place of one’s followers, the effects of that action- in spite of one’s blamelessness in the action committed.
- A leader should be quick to accept responsibility for the actions of his followers.
- A leader who vacillates in decision making, will undermine his own credibility to provide direction to followers.
- Not admiting to one’s own decisions or proposals, shifts responsibility to others of one’s own convictions.
Monte (18 August, 2007)