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what is the ministry?
this book is about the ministry-not so much the general ministry that every Christian should be doing, but the ministry as a vocation or life calling from God. This ministry is a lifetime vocation of helping God's people-the church-grow, develop, reach out, and worship Him.
The ministry is a job, but it is much more than a job. It is also a profession like law or medicine. It is an established occupation with its own vocabulary, way of thinking, and generally accepted code of professional conduct. Yet the ministry is more than a profession, it is a vocation, a calling.
The ministry is a wonderful way to spend your life if God lets you. While few ministers get famous and fewer get rich, there are far greater rewards than money or fame, rewards that last through all eternity. It is almost impossible to find an older ministerwho doesn't think his or her life was wonderfully meaningful. Go ahead and ask several! Ask them if they regret going into the ministry, and if they think their life was well invested. Almost every one of them will say "I'd do it again in a second." Of all the things you could choose to do with your life, investing it in the ministry might just provide the greatest possible satisfaction. If God calls you to it, you'll love the ministry as a vocation.
it's hard but it's worth it
However, don't get the idea that the ministry is a cushy job without trial or difficulty. It isn't. Ministry today might be one of the toughest professions you could consider. As a minister, you will be called to lead a congregation of people who have widely differing opinions and preferences. They will want church to be like a fast food restaurant where they can order exactly what they want and receive it in forty-six seconds.
In many denominations, the people you'll lead will also be your bosses; they might get to vote on keeping you as their minister or even "vote you out" so that you have to go to another church. In business, if you are dissatisfied with employees you can fire them; but you can't fire church members (although in many cases they can fire you!). And people, being what they are, can sometimes get downright nasty. Often, it's the minister who bears the brunt of their displeasure.
And there is competition. There will be dozens of other churches down the street from you who will offer better programs, bigger screens, and more exciting and relevant music. Sometimes people leave one church and move to another. It hurts when people leave the church you lead, yet you can't hold your congregation at arm's length and say "It's just business." It's hard to not take rejection personally.
But the real competition isn't from other churches. All Christians are really on the same side. The real competition comes from the Devil. If you started a business, you might face stiff competition from other businesses, but the Devil is not likely to spend much energy trying to run you out of the hardware trade, for example. The Devil focuses on the church with his evil, competitive program. He'll try to drive your church out of business and you out of the ministry. In fact, that may be the Devil's chief work on earth! The minute you accept a call to the ministry, you will have a bull's-eye on your chest.
The ministry is more fulfilling than it is easy. It's hard work, but it's worth it. It's a bit like running a marathon, where you sweat more than the bystanders and hurt more than the spectators. Your muscles ache and scream for you to give up. There's no doubt about it, the ministry can be tough at times. A marathon runner never likes the pain in her legs, yet she still runs because finishing the race is a worthwhile goal. And of course, even an aching, sweating runner gets a "runner's high" during the race. Ministers get lots of ministry highs, but even on the days when it doesn't feel particularly good to be a minister, they keep going because they believe ministry is a worthwhile and eternal pursuit. When you cross the minister's finish line, you'll know that it was worth it! If you are called to the ministry, you aren't promised an easy life, but you are promised a life that's worthwhile.
what does a minister actually do
Knowing the daily work of a minister will tell you a lot about what you may like or dislike about this calling. But be careful: you shouldn't enter the ministry simply because it sounds like fun or is a good career fit. It takes more than a vocational test to send you into the ministry. It takes a clear call from God that is confirmed by the church. If you enter the ministry, do so because you are called by God, not because it fits your personality or personal likes and dislikes (more on the call in a later chapter).
To help you get an accurate idea of what ministers actually do through the week, here is a summary of the general types of work that they do.
1 church work
Ministers work with the church-the body of Christ on earth. God is at work in the world mostly through His church. The church is the place where Christians gather for worship, evangelism, discipleship, and service. No, God is not limited to the church, but He does most of His work in and through it. That is His plan to reach and change the world. The vast majority of ministers are associated with a local church. Even so-called parachurch organizations (like InterVarsity, Campus Crusade, or Young Life) could not exist without the support of local churches, and the people who work in such organizations are full participants in local churches. The local church is at the center of God's plan to win and disciple followers, and bring His kingdom to pass here on earth. Sometimes the local church falls short of God's vision for it, but it is still His primary means for accomplishing His plan in the world. While there are some jobs in ministry that are done completely outside the local church, almost all ministers do work that is in some way connected with a local congregation. If you don't like the local church, don't go into the ministry; that's where most ministers spend their career.
2 people work
Ministers work with people. All the time. In fact, when ministers get into trouble, it's usually because they don't get along with people rather than because of some immorality. God's ministry is to serve God's people, so if you enter God's ministry you'll be working with His people most of the time. You may start the day at a breakfast meeting to plan an upcoming event with someone from your church. Then you might go to a staff meeting at church where you'll coordinate plans for the day and week. Next, you might have several appointments with people, scheduled back to back, about all kinds of things; some might be serious problems, others might be routine administrative matters. After that, you might go to lunch with parents who have some questions about how to handle their teenage daughter during a difficult time. That afternoon you might have some quiet time for study and prayer. And what will you pray for? People! After dinner with your family, you might go to an evening committee meeting, or to a church service, or maybe to a counseling appointment with a couple who are planning to get married. People, people, people!
Ministers spend a lot of their time with people. If you are called into the ministry and don't like people, start praying now that God will give you the only gift that will sustain this much people work: love. The work of the ministry is mostly people work.
3 pastoral care
Consider this day: A high school athlete snapped her anterior curciate ligament and was taken to the hospital where she's about to find out that her senior year of soccer is washed up. An old woman living alone fell and broke her hip yesterday and wasn't discovered until this morning. Her children live two states away and don't know yet. A young couple in the church had a baby last night but the newborn child is on a respirator because "something went wrong." A man and woman who've been married ten years have been arguing so fiercely that they are considering a divorce; calling you is their last ditch effort to keep their marriage alive. There are two aged church members, great saints of the church, who are now in nursing homes and seem to be forgotten; few people visit them. A fifty-five-year-old man was given a pink slip when he showed up at the factory this morning. He'd worked for the same company for thirty-five years and now has no idea how he'll pay his daughter's college bill. His wife just called you.
All of these people have one thing in common: they all want you. Well, not exactly you. They want God, but they consider you to be the closest thing to Him. When life begins to fall apart people look to God for strength and consolation. The minister is often the primary representative of God to these folk. If reading the list above made your heart hurt-you felt a bit of compassion for those hurting people-good for you. If you had no response at all yet feel sure that you are called to the ministry, begin asking God to share His compassion with you. He does that. But if you have no plans ever to be with hurting people in times of crisis, then the ministry is not for you. The work of the ministry includes giving tender pastoral care to hurting people.
4 worship leadership
Laypeople see their minister most during worship. Some think leading worship is all we do! While a minister has plenty of other duties, leading worship is certainly one of the most wonderful. Planning and leading worship provides the greatest job satisfaction for many ministers. Even if you serve on the staff of a church and don't get to preach or even say anything during worship, this event is usually the high point of the week for most ministers. Here we get to see the people of God gathered to give their praise and hear Him speak. A minister's job almost always includes learning how to plan and lead worship.
Ministers represent the people to God and God to the people. They represent the people to God through intercessory prayer, sacraments, and other rituals, but they represent God to the people by reading Scripture and preaching. When a minister preaches, he or she speaks for God by delivering a message from Him. It is a scary task at first-and always. Just like the ancient prophets, a minister sometimes encourages, affirms, and comforts the people. At other times the preacher corrects, chastens, or even scolds the people.
GOD Sacraments YOU Affirm PEOPLE
So how does the minister know what to say? God's words have already been spoken in the Bible. A minister seeks God's guidance to determine which part of the Bible speaks to this church, this week, through this minister. He or she does this by both assessing the people's needs and by listening to God through prayer. Youth ministers do this with teenagers. Senior pastors do it with the entire church. Other staff ministers may get to preach only occasionally, but whenever they do, they speak for God, not just for themselves. That is the difference between a speech and a message.
The pastor is the chief Bible teacher in a local church. All Christians need to know what the Bible says, what it means, and how it applies to life today. Ministers teach them. Ministers often teach Sunday school classes or new member classes, and most teach some sort of mid-week Bible study or class. Some who are especially adept at it even teach during worship services along with preaching. Even if you have a staff assignment that doesn't include preaching, it will probably will include lots of teaching.
Consider these stories: Kara and Jeremy are engaged and have planned a church wedding for this Saturday. Dan and Laura just had a baby girl and want to dedicate their child to God this Sunday. Alex, Faith, Craig, Tammy, Jamie, and Paul all came to faith in Christ during the past month and are prepared to be baptized this week. Agnes passed away Monday and her funeral will be held at the church this afternoon. This coming Sunday is also the first Sunday of the month, the day this church usually offers communion.
Each of these occasions-and other milestones in life-is marked by one of the sacraments or rituals of the church. These are symbolic actions that help people celebrate, grieve, or process some spiritual event. Ministers officiate such rituals, helping people move from one stage of life to another. Pastors are often ministers of transition. It is some of the happiest work a minister gets to do.
All Christians have a responsibility to spread the good news about salvation, but ministers have a special burden to see lost people come to faith in Christ. When asked about the most satisfying aspect of ministry, many will cite "leading people to faith in Christ" or "watching people grow in their faith." All ministers get the opportunity to do this. They even get paid for it!
Mark, chapter 9, tells the story of a blind man who stopped Jesus beside the road and asked to be healed. How would a blind man have known that Jesus was about to pass by? The story doesn't say, but probably someone told him. That's our job. We don't have to restore sight, that's God's job. And we can't save anybody; that's God's job too. Our job is simply to announce His arrival.
9 discipleship and Mentoring
Ministers are generally appointed to serve an entire community of people, but they spend plenty of one-to-one time with people also. Ministers disciple, provide accountability for, and mentor leaders in the church. When college students are asked to list the people who have had the greatest impact on their lives, ministers are named far more often than their number within the total population would suggest.
A minister is not just a preacher but is often a church's CEO as well, managing the sprawling programs of a local church. Administration includes things like making budgets, conducting meetings, writing letters, doing paperwork, recruiting people, organizing events, calling people on the phone, and gathering facts. This "office work" is a part of ministry, just like pastoral care.
Excerpted from the call of a lifetime by keith drury Copyright © 2003 by The Wesleyan Church. Excerpted by permission.
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