June 3, 2014

Know This: Nuggets for Those New to Ministry

One of the best things about being fifteen years into this ministry gig is watching those we've loved and invested in coming up behind us and flourishing in their faith, their families, and their ministries. I concur with John's sentiment: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (3 John 4). I love to hear stories and watch lives of faith, and I simply burst when I think of what it might be like to see it in the lives of my physical children.
A couple came to visit us this fall that we first got to know at our previous church. We've watched them fall in love and get married. And we've watched them from afar grow in grace, perseverance, and leadership as they've followed God's leading into ministry. He was ordained last year and when they visited, he asked Kyle to write a little note in his ordination Bible, which he did, and I got to pass the written-in-Bible to his wife when we met for coffee one morning. As I sat in the parking lot waiting with it in my hands, I thought about how it's not only been a joy to watch those behind us grow and flourish in ministry, but how it's also been a joy to watch my own husband grow and develop into the man and pastor he is today. He has so much wisdom to offer, and I wanted to see it for myself in that ordination Bible, so I took a sneaky little peek inside. Here's what he offered to that young man coming up in ministry:

Drink deep of this book. The great gift of this Bible is that you've been given all you need for the joy and sustenance of your soul. Seek to love God and worship Jesus your whole life--knowing that the Lord in the Bible is the source of all your hope. Know, treasure, claim, proclaim, preach, teach, love, and cherish God as the hope for your soul and for others' souls.

Live daily out of identity as a deeply loved, forgiven child of God. You are a grace-filled, freed son of God who has nothing to prove and no one to impress. You are saved by Jesus and the rest is gravy. Make sure there are deeper, truer things about you than just being a pastor. You, because of Christ, have an identity in His righteousness that puts performance in pastoral identity to death.

Love your family and shepherd them before any ministry role! The greatest, most lasting ministry imprint you will have is to your wife and kids. Give them your best and first shepherding.

Labor with all your mind, heart, and hands. Dream gospel-sized dreams for people, think gospel-sized thoughts. Your work is literally going to live on and have fruit for eternity! So never lose sight of what is at stake and the joyful opportunity of your calling.

Gold. Pure gold. I held that Bible in my hands and thought about our years together in ministry, Kyle and me. I thought about my husband and who he has become and is still becoming. I thought about the girl I once was and all that the Lord has taught me specifically through the avenue of ministry. I thought about the people we've loved and been loved by. And then I thought about what encouragements I might give the ministry wife over coffee or anything I might add to the nuggets Kyle had inscribed inside the Bible, and there was really only one thing:

It's worth it. Ministry and all that it entails will cut you to the deepest core sometimes. It will reveal your selfishness and sin. It will challenge you in ways you sometimes don't want to be challenged. It will teach you and stretch you and grow you and change you. But it's totally worth it, because you'll see the gospel move in power, marriages restored in Jesus' name, sinners redeemed, and the weak made strong. You'll see the best of the church and people thriving in their gifts. You'll see tribes and tongues worshipping the living God and sacrificial servanthood at its humblest. The spiritual battle is constant, but so is the faithfulness of God. And you'll see that.

So no matter what comes, remember this: It's worth it. Because He's worth it!

Your turn: What are the most pressing lessons you want to pass on to those coming behind you in ministry?