When a string of setbacks come into our lives we seldom begin with the question, “What is right here?” The typical starting point is, “What is wrong here?” I would be the first to agree that if a series of setbacks presents a trend, then something is wrong. As we relate this to our ministry, we know that God built churches to grow. He is the architect, we are the builders by His grace, and those yet to be reached are both the materials and the beneficent of God’s work. Times like these are profoundly difficult for churches. By that, I’m not referring to the obvious, but the oft overlooked part. Many churches compromise or shift during seasons of duress. As ministry leaders, we can wrack our brains, but let us also be reminded that the basis for legitimately finding what is wrong is to begin with what is right. To meticulously walk through the mine field of growth and transition, you have to know the stepping stones where you’ll find your footing. So—what is right here?
1. Our Message
I’m not referring specifically to preaching, but to the overall thrust of our message. The Gospel is right. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” This point seems obvious, but the tendency of many during seasons of difficulty is to grow more sensitive to the seeker, or the potential attendee. Our sensitivity as pastors must remain on the emphasis of a biblically correct message, and that begins with the Gospel. Wrapped up in the Gospel is a bevy of ancillary doctrines that work together. Our position should be biblically-based.
2. Our Methods
Over the years, I have sought to employ a methodology that reflects the principles of the New Testament. Much has changed in 2,000 years, but the principles remain the same. Soulwinning, discipleship, teaching, and preaching will never be outmoded. We don’t need a new track in terms of our overall methodology.
3. Our Means
The means by which we do spiritual work is the Holy Spirit, but we must be servant leaders. We must enlist as many people as we possibly can in the Lord’s work because every saint should be a servant and every member should be a minister.
4. Our Motivation
This is a tricky one. We all do spiritual work in an earth suit that is prone to wander. We all want something big to happen in our ministries and to be honest, a lot of our desires are rooted in the flesh. It is simply more fun and more fulfilling when things are going well, but as we search our hearts during hard times, we find that we are driven to our knees seeking for God to work for His glory. As imperfect as we all are in this, that is the motivation that keeps us going. We’d all quit when things got tough were it not for a deeper sense of commitment to God.
5. Our Manner
Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 1:5, “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.” By “manner” he was talking about the sort of man that he was before them. He dealt with them the right way. He wasn’t overbearing or manipulative. In fact, he cherished those he served as a mother would a young child.
When things are going good we often fail to play to our strengths. We need to get back to the basics. Tactically, there is always much to do and more to learn. But practically, we simply need to do the basics. I remember when my church made a fifth anniversary video. The interviewer asked, “What do you see in the future?” I think he may have been thinking about buildings and property, but my answer was a little different. I said, “More of the same.”
We all know that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result. That is not what I’m talking about. I’m suggesting that staying true to those things that are right is an uphill battle. The old cliche is, “When all else fails, compromise.” That is our default setting in life. It takes a real commitment to stay focused on the reality that this is God’s work, and His work is to be done His way. As we strive for growth in our ministries, let us remember it all has to begin with a commitment to stick with those things that are right.