WATCH DRURY WRITE A BOOK. – THIS IS A TEMPORARY POST Writer’s first draft of a book to be published by The Wesleyan Publishing House. as an introduction to the ministry. This web-posted copy is an early draft of the manuscript and not intended to be used as a final document. While the editors will catch minor errors if you see something significantly wrong or missing drop Keith Drury a note at firstname.lastname@example.org © 2003 Keith Drury
What is “the Ministry?”
When people speak of being “called into the ministry” what do they mean? What actually does a minister do all day? We see them up front on Sundays, but what do they do through the week? Is it interesting work? What do they like most? Least? How might I fit into this work?
This book is about the ministry—not so much the general ministry that every Christian should be doing, but “the ministry” as a vocation or life calling from God—to work with the people of God, the church. This ministry is a lifetime vocation of helping God’s people grow, develop, reach out, and worship God.
“The Ministry” is a job, but it is much more than a job. It is also a profession—like law, or the medical profession. It is an established occupation with a vocabulary, a way of thinking, and it has a generally accepted code for how to practice the profession. Yet the ministry is more than a profession, it is a vocation, a calling.
The ministry is a wonderful way to spend your life if God lets you do this work. While a few ministers get famous and fewer get rich, there are far greater rewards than money or fame—rewards that last through all eternity. It is almost impossible to find a minister in old age who doesn’t think their life was wonderfully meaningful. Go ahead and ask several! Ask them if they regret going into the ministry and if they think their life was well invested. Almost every one of them will say, “I’d do it again in a second.” Investing your lifetime in the ministry might possibly provide for you the greatest possible satisfaction in life of anything you could do with your life. If God will allow you to do it, you’ll love doing ministry as a vocation.
It’s hard but it’s worth it.
However don’t get the idea that the ministry is a cushy job without trial or difficulty. It isn’t. Ministry today might possibly be one of the toughest professions you could consider. As a minister you are called to lead a congregation of people with widely differing opinions and preferences. They want church to be like a fast food outlet where they can order precisely what they want and receive it within 46 seconds.
In many denominations the people you lead are also your bosses—they might “vote” on keeping you as their minister or “vote you out” so that you have to go to another church. The people you lead are the people who hire you in many denominations. In business if you are dissatisfied with an employee you can fire them, but you can’t fire church members (although in many cases they can fire you!). People, being what they are, sometimes get downright nasty—and the minister might take the brunt of their displeasure.
And there is competition. There are dozens of other churches down the street from you who will offer better programs, bigger screens, and more exciting and relevant music. Sometimes people leave a church and move to another one. It hurts when people leave the church you lead. You can’t hold your congregation at arm’s length and say, “This is all just business.” It’s hard to not take rejection personally.
But the real competition isn’t from other churches—really, we are all on the same side. The real competition comes from the Devil. You might start a business and get stiff competition from other businesses, but the Devil is not likely to spend much energy trying to run you out of business. The Devil focuses on the church with his evil competitive program. He’d like to drive your church out of business and you out of the ministry. That’s the real competition you face in the ministry—it may be the Devil’s chief work on earth! The minute you accept a call to the ministry, you will have a bulls-eye on your chest.
The ministry is more fulfilling than it is easy. It’s hard but it’s worth it. It’s like running a marathon where you sweat more than the bystanders, hurt more than the spectators—your muscles ache and they scream for you to give up. The ministry is tough at times. However, when you cross the minister’s finish line, you’ll know that it was worth it! If you are called to the ministry you can’t be promised an easy life, but you can be promised a worthwhile life!
So what does a minister actually do?
The daily work of the minister will tell you a lot about what you might like or dislike about this calling. But be careful: one shouldn’t enter the ministry simply because it sounds fun or you think it would be a “good career fit;” it takes more than a vocation-career-matching test to send you into the ministry. It takes a clear call from God that is confirmed by the church. If you enter the ministry, do so because you are called by God, not because it fits your personality or likes and dislikes (we will deal with “the call” in a later chapter).
Like the marathon story above, a runner may not “like” the pain in her legs, yet still run because it is a worthwhile goal…but sometimes even a aching-sweating runner gets a “runner’s high” during the race. Ministers get lots of these “ministry highs” throughout life—but even when a minister doesn’t particularly feel good some day, he know it counts for eternity and it is a worthy way to spend his life. Just so you’ll get an accurate idea of what ministers actually do through the week, here is a general summary.
1. Work with the Church
Ministers work with the church—the “body of Christ” on earth. God is at work in the world mostly in his church—where Christians gather for worship, evangelism, discipleship and service. Sure, God is not limited to the church, but he does most of His work in and through the church—that is Hs plan to reach and change the world. The vast majority of ministers are associated with the local church. Even so-called “para-church organizations” (like Kingdom Building Ministries, Campus Crusade, or Young Life) could not exist without local churches and people who work in such organizations are full participants in local churches. The local church is at the center of God's plan to win and disciple followers in the world and bring His kingdom to pass on earth. Sometimes the local church falls short of God’s vision for it, but it is still His primary means for accomplishing His plan for the world. While there are some “jobs” in ministry completely free from the local church, the vast majority of ministers work in some way connected with the local church. If you don’t like the local church, don’t go into the ministry; most ministers work with the local church.
2. People work
Ministers work with people. All the time. In fact, more ministers get in trouble because they don’t get along with people than get in trouble from immorality. God’s ministry is with God’s people. If you enter God’s ministry you’ll be working with His people most of the time. You may start the day with a breakfast meeting with someone from your church or community to plan a program at the church. You might go from this breakfast to a staff meeting at church planning the day and week. Next you might have several appointments with people back to back about all kinds of things—some serious, other administrative. Then you’ll go to lunch with a parent of a teenager with some questions about how to handle their daughter during this difficult time. That afternoon you might have some quiet time for study and prayer. And what will you pray for? People! After dinner with your family you might go to an evening meeting, or service, or maybe a counseling appointment with a young couple planning to get married. People, people, people!
Ministers spend lots of time with people. If you are called into the ministry and don’t like people, start praying now that God will give you the only gift that will sustain this much people work: love. The ministry is mostly “people-work.”
3. Pastoral care
Consider this day: A high school athlete snaps her ACL and is taken to the hospital where she’ll find out in a moment that her senior year playing soccer is washed up. An old woman living alone fell and broke her hip yesterday and wasn’t discovered until this morning—her children live two states away and don’t know yet. A young couple in the church had a baby last night but the newborn child is on a respirator because “something went wrong.” A man and women who’ve been married ten years have been arguing so fiercely that they are considering a divorce, calling you is their last ditch effort at keeping their marriage alive. There are two aged church members who used to be “great saints in this church” who are now in nursing homes in your town and seem to be forgotten; few people visit them. A man 55 years old lost his job when he showed up for work this morning—he’d worked for the same company for 35 years, and has no idea how he’ll pay for his daughter’s college bill now. His wife just called you.
All of these people have one thing in common: they all want you! Well, not exactly “you,” they want God, but they will consider you to be the closest thing to Him. When life begins to fall apart people look to God for strength and consolation. The minister is often the primary representative of God to these folk. If reading the list above made your heart wince—you felt a bit of compassion for those hurting people—good for you. If you had no response at all and yet know that you are called, begin today to ask God to share His compassion with you. He does that. If you have no plans to ever be with hurting people at times of crisis then the ministry is not for you. The ministry includes tender pastoral care for hurting people.
of the laity see their minister most during worship—some think that’s all we
do! While there are plenty of other
duties of a minister, worship is certainly one of the most wonderful ones. Planning and leading worship is the greatest
joy of ministry for many ministers.
Even if you serve on staff and don’t get to preach or even say anything
at all during worship, this is usually the
Ministers represent the people to God and God to the people. They represent the people to God through intercessory prayer and other rites and rituals, but they represent God to the people in reading Scripture and in preaching. When a minister preaches he or she speaks for God—giving a “message” from God to the people. It is a scary task at first—and always. Following the prophets of old, the minister sometimes encourages, affirms, urges and comforts the people. At other times the preacher corrects, chastens, and scolds the people.
So how does the minister know what to say? God’s words have already been spoken—in the Bible. A minister seeks what part of the Bible God wants to use to speak to this church, this week, through this minister. He or she does this by knowing the people’s needs, by prayer and listening to God. Youth ministers do this with the youth. Senior ministers do it with the entire church. Other staff ministers may only get to preach occasionally—but whenever they do, they speak for God, not just presenting their own ideas—that is the difference between a speech and a “message.”
A minister is the chief Bible teacher in a local church. They need to know what the Bible says, what it means, and how it applies to life today. Ministers often teach Sunday school classes, or new member classes, and most teach some sort of mid week classes. Some ministers who are especially adept at teaching even teach during regular services along with preaching. Even if you don’t have a staff assignment that includes a lot of preaching, it will probably include lots of teaching.
these stories: Kara and Jeremy are engaged and are planning a church wedding
this Saturday. Dan and Laura just had a
baby girl and want to dedicate the baby to God this Sunday. Alex, Faith, Craig, Tammy,
All Christians are to evangelize the lost, but ministers have a special burden to see the lost come to faith in Christ. When asked about the most satisfying part of ministry most ministers cite “leading people to faith in Christ” or “watching people grow in their faith.” Ministers get a chance to do this… and they even get paid for it!
As Jesus was walking from the temple in Mark 9, a blind man stopped him and asked to be healed. How did he know that Jesus was coming—he was blind? The story doesn’t say. Probably someone told him. That’s our job. We don’t have to restore sight to the blind, that’s God’s job. We can’t save anybody—that’s God’s job. Our job is to announce that His arrival.
9. Discipleship & Mentoring
Ministers pour their life into communities of people, but they spend plenty of time one-to-one with their people as well. Ministers disciple, supply accountability and mentor leaders in the church. When college students are asked to list the people who had the greatest impact on their life, ministers are mentioned far out of proportion to their number in the population. Ministers are mentors for others.
A minister is not just a prophet-preacher but is often the church’s CEO as well—leading the sprawling programs of a local church. Administration includes things like making budgets, leading meetings, writing letters, doing paperwork, recruiting people, organizing an event, calling people on the phone, gathering facts. This “office work” is a part of ministry just like pastoral care. While some ministers don’t particularly like this part of the work, they do it because it is necessary to keep the church moving. However, many ministers see it in a better light. When they administer they consider it their greatest act of serving—this work is usually behind the scenes and they get little praise for it, but it is necessary. So most ministers do it with joy “as unto the Lord.”
11. Leading people
A minister is a leader of people. Every Christian should minister to others and serve in the church. The vocational minister’s job is to call out and equip these Christians for their work. The ministry is not just getting paid to do full time what every Christian is supposed to do anyway—it is more than being a “full time paid Christian.” Ministry is leadership. It is helping the people of God discover what God wants them to do then organizing the people to accomplish that vision from God.
This is one reason we ordain ministers. God calls ministers but the church ordains them. When the church ordains a minister we are saying this woman or man is anointed by God to lead us. While ministers cannot act like kings and boss everybody around. We do not need any more pastor-as-master types around the church. But we do need pastor-as-servant types. Ministers who will serve the people's best interests (and God's) through servant-leadership approach. We are called to lead the people of God to discover and fulfill God’s vision for that congregation. So even if you do not consider yourself “a leader,” the ministry will put you in a place where people will look to you for guidance. Trust God to give you His grace as you need it—for ministry is leadership.
12. Community relationships
A minister is primarily God's representative to the people, and a representative of the people to God, but they have a similar role with the community in which the church is located. A minister does not collapse their work exclusively into their local congregation but also relates to the community or town. The minister is a community leader, not just a local church leader. The minister represents their church to the community--by serving on boards, by organizing events, and sometimes even by running for office. A minister can go few places--especially in a smaller town--without being seen as a representative of their congregation. And the minister often represents the larger needs of their community to their congregation, serving as a sort of go-between for the community and the congregation.
Follow up study and application
1. Looking back at the list of things ministers do, share which two you feel most nervous about doing yourself.
2. Now share which ones you look forward to doing the most.
3. How do you think the work of the ministry could change in the next 50 years? How could a minister see these changes are coming—how can we “keep up” so we won’t become ineffective and out of touch?
4. This chapter proposes the ministry is “hard but worth it.” Do some minister have it easier? Is there a way to avoid the unpleasant parts of the ministry—how?
5. Interview an experienced minister and make a list of how the work of ministry has changed over their life so far—what do they do more, less, differently, new?
6. Turn the list of ministerial activities from this chapter into a chart then rate yourself from 1 to 10 on your present abilities and interests in each. Pick the two strongest ones and list how you could “leverage” these strength even now as you prepare for ministry. Pick the two weakest ones and list how you might improve in each area.