The other day I was reading Paul’s farewell address to the elders from Ephesus. He summarized his ministry with them in this way: “I (Paul) served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.” (Acts 20:19-20) From these verses, Paul teaches us three essentials every minister and ministry must have. Here they are!
Every ministry needs perspective, perseverance and practicality.
- PERSPECTIVE. Paul said “I served the Lord with great humility.” It cracks me up that Paul would put that into words…not just humility, but “great” humility. But that was his perspective. What he did was all about Jesus, never about himself. His perspective was from a place of humility! Andrew Murray defined humility as “the displacement of self by the enthronement of God.” Being humble is when God is all and self is nothing. Paul said that he viewed life this way: “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24)
- PERSEVERANCE. Who said ministry would be easy? It’s not. Paul said he served “with tears…in the midst of severe testing.” Ministry is challenging. It takes work. That’s why we call it the “work of the ministry.” Paul further expressed his commitment, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35) If we want to make a kingdom-difference, we must persevere.
- PRACTICALITY. Paul goes on to say that he preached what was “helpful.” Here’s an obvious, but often neglected principle for ministry: “If it’s helping, keep doing it; if it isn’t helping, stop doing it!” I’m amazed how the church can keep doing things that are no longer effective. Stay away from those seven deadly words: “We have always done it this way!” Paul wanted to make sure others got what they “needed.” He said that he was committed to “proclaim the whole will of God.” (Acts 20:27) Don’t allow yourself to get so lost in heady theology or the nitty-gritty of doctrine that you leave behind the practical.
BEFORE YOU GO
So what about your ministry? Which of these three ministry essentials resonated with you?