reprint of the May-June 1987 Bethel Ministries Newsletter

The Secret Of Successful Ministry

Success is a journey, not a destination. --Ben Sweetland

The problem with viewing success as an end is that we block out our ultimate destination; we are inevitably shortsighted in our goals. We prepare for the next ten years but leave eternity hanging!

We cannot live comfortably with eternity in view; our immediate interests get the best of us. So what do we do? We sacrifice years of struggling towards a goal for the moment of satisfaction when we reach our goal, IF we reach it at all. What did we give up along the way? Time with our Christian friends? Reading the Word? Spending time with God?

The problem lies in having a twisted perspective. We tend to view Christianity as a career; something that we must "get ahead" in. Why is it that we so seldom see Christianity as it really is: family life! You don't become a successful family member at some point in your life; you mature together. From family you gain happiness, joy, peace and worth; yet you must struggle with envy, hatred, anger and greed.

We are adopted into a family. What are the conditions of our adoption? Simply that we see our deplorable state and receive the mercy of our Father. We are not being hired to do a job, as if we might fail and be "fired." This family is a place of safety, comfort and strength. Our Father will not disown us--he has the final say over our lives. He operates with us, not by a "points" system, but through love--the love of a Father for his kids.

We become "unsuccessful" when we lose sight of this family. First we neglect our brothers and sisters. Then we ignore our Father. Our attention may be drawn into selfish pursuits. Or, if our conscience won't allow that, we fill the emptiness with theology and related studies, "Christian" activities or a "ministry." Yet we may become more difficult to get along with; our family life becomes a chore rather than a most incredible journey.

Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. --Henry David Thoreau

Originality is rare, especially in the body of Christ. Traditions and norms make us comfortable, and we hesitate to venture out into uncharted areas due to fear of failure or ostracism by our peers. We are surrounded by role models in the church everywhere we turn; we mimic the styles and mannerisms of popular Christian leaders, thinking such outward appearances to be somehow "inspired" by God. In doing so, we fail to be individuals.

The joy of a Father is to see diversity in his children. Contrary to what many religions believe, the Father of Lights does not desire "cookie-cutter" kids, any more than you or I wish to have a house full of children who are all clones of each other. After years of moral upbringing, a loving Father will grant the freedom to his children to pursue the desire of their hearts--hoping, of course, that they will glorify him in their choice.

The pressure in Christian ministry is to grow and expand your influence, and to have a multitude of people in your employ. The bigger, the better, right? Your message soon ascends in importance beyond most other ministries, and the world must hear what you have to say. You are willing to use dubious means to reach the desired end; and the highway is littered with former friends whom you have abused and neglected in attaining your goal.

Christ in us is all it takes to have a successful ministry. With him, we need not be afraid to stand tall as we reach out into uncharted areas of ministry. I believe that the most exciting thing about God is that he is full of ideas that no one has yet pursued. But you will never know those ideas by mimicking others or watching them--you must spend much time alone, sharing with your Father. He will inspire you!

Success has made failures of many men. --Cindy Adams

It is my experience to note that few of the many godly men are in the limelight in the Church. Why is this?

If we are following the lead of Christ, we will not be drawing attention to ourselves. We will also not be emphasizing strange or controversial teachings - our message will be of the basics of the gospel, which allows the Holy Spirit to do His work of conviction and salvation (1 Cor. 2:1-5). When God is truly present, we look very small and insignificant. When God is absent, we look impressive.

Looking impressive is part of the "success" that Christians in ministry often seek after. Since preaching the simple gospel has the opposite effect on one's ego, another, more interesting or catchy message must be emphasized.

All of us have certain God-given gifts that enable us to bless others in the body of Christ (whether we are using them or not!). And, we should think BIG when we decide on how to use these gifts--don't underestimate God's ability to use your talents!

The danger comes when we see our talents as more important than those of others in the body of Christ. We may begin to plan and scheme as to how we can use others to advance our cause. We then become a failure. How so?

Rather than being just a member of the family, we feel that God is exalting us to a higher position. We become a little better, a little more important than our brother and sister. We lose perspective as to what family life is all about! We even develop a distorted view of our Father, thinking He must certainly feel the way we do.

We are then affirmed by our followers who look up to us in admiration. Their approving smiles and nodding heads confirm our position. Our failure, however, is evident to our close companions. They see the shell of a person who once had the very mind and heart of God in their bosom, and they know that it is no longer there. *