There are many people who feel like they are cut out for ministry. Through the years I have had several interns and students who have considered ministry as an option. Here are a few things from those experiences and from Jesus’ own life that I feel are musts to consider for people who desire to pursue full-time work in ministry.
1) Personal relationship with Christ. This may seem like a “given” but it’s really not. There are many people in ministry who have no real, vibrant, growing personal relationship with Christ. As people flock to “ministry” it’s often because they have a desire to help others and in doing so to feel good about themselves making a difference. Ministry however is administering the gospel to people which can only be done when one has been so transformed by the gospel him/herself.
Since I have been involved in various ways preparing people for ministry this is an area I have learned to watch carefully. When people are coming to me for mentoring or ministry, I have learned to look and watch for their own personal habits and time with the Lord. As John Maxwell’s book so aptly titled conveys, “Talent is not enough.”
2)Servanthood. What is their mindset coming into the ministry? Is it to tell people what to do or to serve people around them. This can be determined fairly quickly. Is the person seeking “ministry” seeking to really serve in any capacity or just the way they “want” too. People in leadership and certainly those in ministry have to accept the perspective of serving as their greatest calling. Someone once said “God’s greatest gifts are on the bottom and only those who stoop may get them.” We have many students and people seeking ministry who simply want the glamourous life of someone “listening” to them and following their words or ways of teaching. I believe it was Jesus who said if a man wanted to be His disciple, he had to deny himself daily, take up his cross and follow him. This is anathema to many who are in ministry simply trying to start a following or movement. Jesus said plainly that he came to serve others and someone who cannot serve in many differing ways and have a willingness to do whatever it takes is really not fit to be in the ministry.
3)Kingdom Minded. Sadly many in Christian leadership and service do not share Jesus notion that we are one body, one church and one Kingdom, where He is King. Many find it difficult to work together with others who are a little different and have unique styles or even a different belief system. Christ has called us to serve anyone and everyone. He has called us to love everyone, not just those who are “like” us. We have to remind people going into ministry that the work of the Lord is His work. It’s what’s important to the King, not our own agenda, church building etc. that matters. What is of utmost importance is what matters in the scope of eternity. What is vital to our success is seeking what Jesus wants and how he wants us to live, work, serve and love together. People who cannot envision serving and working with people not like themselves are not fit for the ministry of God.
4)Adaptability. Jesus was more than flexible with His father’s will and design, going to people where they were. He adapted his conversation and his ways with the needs of those around him. I have found that far too many in Christian service can and only desire to minister to others in one way…their way. It’s important when talking to those who would consider ministry to look at just how flexible and adaptable people are to change. Ministry is all about change…constant change from the God who never changes! Yet so many in the ministry cannot bring themselves to change or be changed and this is not a quality anyone wants on a ministry team.
5)Initiative. Anyone who doesn’t have this quality needs to stay home! Leaders don’t wait. Leaders act! From the beginning God moved and sought out people. He took the first step and still does. People who seek to be in ministry and never step forward need to simply stay home. Yes, ministry is a place for servants but we need servant leaders! We need people who will step up and step out. We don’t need more pew potatoes, people who are content to listen to another good sermon, chow down on the free food and then not do a thing the rest of the week! Disciples are doers! No way around it. Watch your would be leaders for the ones who actually step up, step in and do something without being told. Look for the ones who have a mind to move and serve and work. You won’t go wrong with those!
6)Called. There are far too many people in ministry who have not been called to ministry! How do I know this? Look at the results of how many quit! Called people don’t quit. Called people persevere, serve long and hard hours and get up the next day and do it again! There are too many “leaders” who avoid the problems, don’t deal with conflict, and become people pleasers because they are not called. They are “voted in”. When one is called, nothing is going to deter that man or woman…nothing! Many would be leaders and disciples end up living out a job description and not their calling. They end up with a list of “dos” and “don’ts” and become encumbered by the fear of man. Calling in a person’s life frees them to live out God’s desires and pleasure. Watch your disciples and see who is operating from a sense of calling as opposed to a sense of duty and obligation.
Over the course of time I have come across people who simply are doing what they are doing because they have nothing “better” to do. They fill a void or space and end up causing more damage and problems than it’s worth. Invite people who are serious about God and know His call on their lives into ministry. Anyone who is willing to lay down his life can be a disciple according to Jesus. Have you laid down yours? The ministry needs more and more people who are willing to lay down their lives and follow Jesus instead of trying to get people to follow them. Joseph Stowell said “Leadership is a temporary assignment. Followership is a lifelong calling.” The best leaders are the ones who are superb followers! Seek out those people who want to be great followers of Jesus and they will be great ministry leaders!