I had the privilege of hearing from Lindsay Brown, the international director of the Lausanne movement a short while ago. During this time he spoke of some insights of his 40 years of being in ministry.
These so impacted me, that I feel the need to share them with anyone who will listen. Not only are these reflections good for people in ministry, but also great for any Christian who is trying to live a life that is faithful to God. Below are Lindsay Brown's tips for ministry (and Christian life).
1. What would you like to be the focus of your life?
Let's face it, ultimately most people want to be remembered for something. People have often said 'this is what I want said on my grave stone' or 'this is what I want to be remembered for'. Have you ever thoughts about this for your own life? What is important to you?
When our time comes, it's funny the things that people remember. Sometimes it's a quirky personality trait, or a habit people have. But more normally, its' what we lived for. Suddenly people are good, patient, kind, warm. None of these things are bad, in fact they are commendable qualities. What is something that you want to be remembered for, and is that the focus of your life at the moment?
2. Who are you? - Be aware of temptation of pride
This is a challenge for everyone, no matter your self-esteem. Whether you think highly, lowly or 'about right' of yourself (what ever that may mean), as Christians we need to think of our ultimate identity as found in Christ. This then has an effect on who we are and how we behave. Who do you think you are? How do you identify yourself? If you think too lowly of yourself, then know who you are in God's eyes. You have been saved, made right again and it doesn't matter what you have or have not done, God's love for you is incredible, and you have been set free from whatever is holding you back.
If you think highly of yourself, be aware of thinking that it is by your own skills and talents that you are awesome. Know that we aren't perfect, and even though we have failed God, he still made a way for us to be made right again. In Christ alone.
3. Look after yourself! - Be aware of neglect
This can be very tempting, especially in a busy culture. We must look after ourselves. There is a classic analogy of using energy. If we keep pouring out our energy chasing after what we think is right, in this case, doing the right things even in the right motives how are we being filled up again. In this case it was church work, in your own personal case, it could be volunteering or whatever it is you do, as a response of
God's love and sacrifice for you. It is really important that we care for ourselves. This is actually a big deal in Christian ministry circles. Many people are running hard, and trying to do so much, but either forget to take days off, or end up collapsing. Burn out is good for no one. Look after yourself.
4. Keep on being challenged – Danger of dryness
Someone who has been a Christian for some time, sometimes I think that I know enough. I read my bible, but there are times when I only read other books for need sake, rather than learning or continually trying to be challenged. The danger of dryness can set in when we stop being challenged, and in essence stop learning. Is there a possibility of having a mentor, or catching up with someone to read a good Christian ministry book together, or maybe a book on tough questions. If we keep learning we stay sharp, rather than getting dry and dull.
5. Rejoice and be Generous! – Be aware of jealousy
Have you ever just looked around and rejoiced in what God is doing? Being thankful is not always a discipline we practice. I know its easy to notice other people and how good they are being, how much service they are doing, in Christian circles, maybe there is someone who is talking to more people about Jesus, or who is bringing more people to church. Learn to be generous in the praise of other people!
Learn to speak well of other people first. Have you ever noticed how much we talk about ourselves... why not try to see how long you can ask questions of the another, praising them in what they are doing before you start talking about yourself. It can be quite challenging.
6. Patience and God's grace – Bitterness can be dangerous
Some people are surprisingly patient. I don't know how they do it, but they seem to survive with a smile on their face and have few things bother them. I have always wondered how they worked through such things. Develop a bottomless capacity to deal with disappointment. Instead of focussing on what you aren't or not doing, focus on what Christ is doing, in your life, and in other people's lives. God's grace, love and patience for us is incredible!! Plumb the depths of God's grace!
7. Think big picture –do not think short term
When you look back over history, few things changed quickly. If it was an invention, look up the many times that inventor failed before the right version came along. Think about change in people. Yes, we notice the change, but what of all the small things that lead up to that change. When we think about it, nothing changes quickly! If we take a long view, big picture view we can realise that things don't end with us. If you need a reminder, look over church history. NOTHING was done quickly J
8. It's a team game
This one speaks for itself. If we think we are the big thing, main item, and that all things work through us, then we may be disappointed. Like links in a chain, usually we are a part of something much bigger. Whether it is sharing our testimony, talking to someone about the bible, or a random encounter, remember that we are part of a bigger team, and that if we are working in ministry, that it is a team game, not a solo mission. Even Jesus had a team that he developed and worked with... so to speak J
9. Consider the cost
Some people get tied up in thinking and looking for the cost in ministry and being a Christian. Yes, sometimes it will be tough and there will be discouragements. Sometimes we will be in danger and other times we will be exhausted. The cost will find you. If you have hard times now, pray and find support in our fellow brothers and sisters. There is no need to do it alone. If you don't have hard times, then REJOICE, that you don't have them right now. But there is no need to go looking for hard times, or discredit what you are doing. For some people, discouragement is the cost.
10. Start well, End well
If you start something, finish it well. Leaving half way through is often a temptation when things aren't going the way we plan. Especially for people who have ideas and like starting things, see them through. Don't jump to the next thing just because it is exciting and new. Finish what we start. That's what Paul the apostle did.
I pray you are challenged by the things that Lindsay said like I was. God Bless.
Stephen Urmston is based in Melbourne and is completing a Masters of Divinity at Ridley College. He is currently employed as an associate Children's and Family minister.
Stephen Urmston's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/stephen-urmston.html