Guard Your Motives in Ministry

Paul wrote to the church in Thessaloniki about their motivation to do ministry. He said this in chapter 2, verse 3-6:

For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.

Paul reminds the Thessalonians of his ministry among them. Having come out of a bad situation in Philippi where he was arrested, he remained bold in his proclamation of the gospel.

He proclaimed the gospel without error, impurity or deception.  Integrity was high on Paul’s list of desired character traits. He taught the truth, for their good, not his, with no need to trick them into the kingdom. When you trust the power of the gospel you neither need nor want to resort to tricks or shortcuts.

Paul was seeking only God’s approval, not men. His employer was God. He was beholden only to Him. He had only Him to please. This gave him the freedom to speak truth without worry about the response.

Paul spoke without flattery or greed. Because he was dependent only on God the Father, he did not attempt to manipulate his audience. He didn’t need to win their approval to gain big offerings. He trust the Lord to meet his needs.

He was intent on sharing the gospel without seeking personal glory. Paul had no need for fame. He had already been famous and that had left him empty and without hope.

So now we must ask the question: Why are you doing this? What is your motive? What, if anything, are you hoping to get from this? Watch out for the ministry traps found in bad motivations:

  • Seeking approval, compliments, “amen” from the crowd
  • Manipulating emotions to gain influence
  • Attempting to build your own kingdom in the church
  • Jealousy of others, trying to be just as popular as someone else or some other ministry
  • Shocking to be shocking
  • Rebelling to draw the rebellious

The gospel is sufficient. God’s Word is powerful enough. The Holy Spirit convicts the heart. The Father is trustworthy.

Mission Central Podcast – What is the Role of the Pastor?

In this final installment looking at the role of the pastor we examine the God designed responsibility of the pastor. Growing churches call a pastor to administer and lead the church so the members are free to do ministry. Dying churches call a pastor to do the ministry while the people administer the church.

Mission Central Podcast

Here are some key points from this episode:

  • The pastor equips the members to do the work of ministry.
  • Pastors are not exempt from the work of the ministry.
  • Members in ministry results in growth for the church.
  • Pray for your pastor.

“Mission Central” is available on iTunes, search podcasts for Mission Central.
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Mission Central Podcast – What is “The Call”?

As we continue looking at the role of the pastor I advocate for a high view of the pastorate. It’s important that we understand God’s calling in general to ministry and His calling to a specific church. A church doesn’t hire a pastor. A church agrees with the pastor that God has called him to that specific church.

Mission Central Podcast

Here are some key points from this episode:

  • God issues a general call for some to enter into vocational ministry.
  • God calls specific men to pastor specific churches.
  • A church doesn’t hire a pastor.
  • Life is too short to be a member of a church where you fundamentally disagree with the leadership.

“Mission Central” is available on iTunes, search podcasts for Mission Central.
You can subscribe to receive each new addition in your inbox.

Mission Central Podcast – Support Your Pastor

In this episode we begin an examination of the role of the pastor in a local church. This is a message I preached as an interim pastor at a local church about to call their new pastor. Pastors are gifts to the local church and should be valued, loved, supported and encouraged as such. Even though the world no longer values the position of pastor, this should never be the case in the local church.

Mission Central Podcast

Here are some key points from this episode:

  • Christ has given people to the church as gifts.
  • The pastor/teacher role is a gift to the church from Christ.
  • The role of pastor is clearly defined in the New Testament.

“Mission Central” is available on iTunes, search podcasts for Mission Central.
You can subscribe to receive each new addition in your inbox.

Preparing Your Team to Go on Mission

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There is nothing more frustrating for a team leader, and for a team than to get to the place of service and know you are not prepared for what is about to happen. To have no idea what is about to happen, what you are supposed to do, how you are supposed to function individually and as a group, leaves little hope for anything more than low performance. A mission team needs to be prepared logistically and spiritually.

Logistics refers to the how, when and what of the mission. What are we doing? When are we doing it? How are we supposed to do it? These questions should be answered as much as possible in meetings prior to getting on the bus, van or plane. While the demand to “be flexible” is given for all participants no matter how much preparation is done, there should be a basic outline for the trip made available to the team. Some cases require more of that information because of the ministry assignment. Children’s activities need more prior planning than adult activities in general. If you are going to be teaching specific material the preparation phase is vital to the ability of the team to be effective on the field.

Making plans known in advance also capitalizes on the talents and resources of the team members. When they know what they are doing and when they are doing it they will be able to add high value to the event. Learning the plans the day of the event limits their ability to be effective and go above and beyond expectations.

More important than logistics are the spiritual preparations that should take place before the team leaves home. Every team begins their trip with excitement. Adrenaline is flowing as anticipation of what will happen grows in the heart of each participant. Fear is also there. Feelings of inadequacy creep into the soul. As the days progress the reality of being around this same group 24/7 has transformed from joy to boredom to annoyance. The group is tired from long days of ministry and Satan is “roaming to and fro seeking whom he may devour.”

Prepare your group spiritually with a set of focused devotions. Remind them of the reason for the trip. Have them anticipate the challenges that plague any group of people who spend a large amount of time with one another. Open their eyes to the work of Satan as they involve themselves in the spiritual warfare of ministry. Encourage them to build a support team of prayer partners who will begin their work before the trip and continue it throughout the mission effort. Give them tools so that they can communicate with their prayer team while they are on the field.

Anytime we step into the battle for souls we are venturing into a spiritual battlefield that requires focus and faith. We must be focused on the Lord, not looking to the left or the right, and we must trust Him to accomplish His work through us. We do the work to plan and prepare the logistical aspects of ministry, but we also know that absent the work of the Holy Spirit nothing of lasting value will be accomplished.  Prepare your team to accomplish the mission God has given you.

Why it’s important to visit the mission trip location before your group goes?

Your group loads up in the van and you set out on mission. With Google maps guiding your every turn you feel confident about how to get there. You pull up in the parking lot of the church, at least what you think is the church, but no one is there. The building looks abandoned. A quick call to the pastor and now you have new directions. They moved from that location six months ago but their website just hasn’t been updated yet. The youth in the back are restless and then your phone rings. A parent wonders why you are lost. “Where are you taking my kid? Do you know what you’re doing?”

Once you get to the church it appears evident that what you had planned for the Bible Clubs just isn’t going to work in this neighborhood. Nobody has a yard. There is no place to play soccer. Now you are scrambling to update your ministry plan and the kids are quick to express their boredom. What are you going to do? The answer lies in having asked that question at least a month before.

Having led many mission trips, sometimes I took a pre-trip and others times I did not, I can say unequivocally that the best practice is to visit the mission trip location before you take your group. This is even more important when you are traveling to a location very different than your home. If you are going to another country, a different state, a city (when you live in the country) or some other highly distinct area, you need to see the place, experience the people, learn how to travel and how long it takes to travel. I know for many this seems impossible for your budget, but it’s important enough that you should make the short pre-trip part of your overall trip budget. If the pre-trip is prohibitive, then you need to enlist someone to help you who has visited the site before. You need to amass as much information as possible or get a great guide to help make your mission trip a success.

Here are 4 reasons you should take a pre-trip before your group leaves your church parking lot:

  1. You need to learn about getting around on your mission trip. What are the easiest ways to move your group? How long does it take to get to and from the airport? To the church? What roads should we avoid? What parts of town should we avoid? It’s always better to learn these things before you have a van full of teenagers or senior adults.
  2. You need to learn about the people and the neighborhoods. There are some things best learned by observation and experience, not merely reading. Look at the venue. Get a feel for the people and what works to reach them. See the space and think of creative ways to use it.
  3. You need to meet the people you will be working with, the pastors and missionaries. Visiting in person is different than over the phone or even in a video conference. It’s important to meet people face to face to both understand them and their passion as well as to help them understand you and your passion. Asking questions and solidifying a plan is much easier when you can sit across the coffee table from someone. Having confidence in one another makes a positive impact on your mission trip.
  4. You need to get a feel for the things that will and won’t work on your mission trip. Whatever preconceived ideas you might have about what you will do on your mission trip must be subject to the reality on the ground. When you see the location, meet the people, and experience the culture you can get a clearer picture of the things that will be effective. Being able to properly plan before you leave is better than having to change everything once you arrive.

None of these mean you won’t still have to invoke one of the cardinal verses of mission trips: Steve 4:6 “Be flexible.” Making that early visit to the site does allow you to have a better beginning from which to change.

One last thing: If you can’t afford to take an overseas pre-trip, you can help yourself by arriving a day or two before the rest of the group. On that extra day, which will only cost you housing and meals, you can do much of the legwork to help with travel and you can also begin thinking about any other program changes you might need to make.

Why didn’t He tell Paul to begin with?

Yesterday I preached at Spring Baptist Church (video will be on later this week) from Acts 16:6-10, where Paul and Silas are seeking God’s will as they embark on Paul’s second missionary journey. They try to go to Asia, then to Bithynia and end up in Troas where Paul has a vision of a Macedonian man asking them to bring the gospel to Macedonia.

It occurred to me in between services that there was one question I hadn’t talked about in the first service. I addressed it briefly in the second one and I thought I’d throw out some thoughts on it here: Why didn’t God just give Paul the vision to begin with instead of letting them walk around the desert for a couple of weeks?

This is a question most of us ask when we are searching for God’s will. We just want God to give us the directions now, show us the road map and we’ll get on our way. But most often the process of finding His will is a journey, not a moment.

I can’t say I know the answer to the question, but I can think of some possibilities:
1. The search forced Paul to seek God and not rely merely on his past experience.
2. Paul’s call was going to be so dramatically different that the Lord had to get Paul in the right spot to be ready to listen.
3. Paul’s experience was as much for Silas, and maybe us, as it was for Paul. We needed to see the lesson found in the journey of Paul. So maybe it wasn’t about Paul at all, but about us.

I’m sure there are other reasons but these are a few I thought of this morning.