Jason Pilchard, Pastor and Administrator at Beth Eden Baptist
Jason continues our series on "Preparing for Ministry" by focusing on the basics that can be learned during the teenage years. Click here for the first, second, and third posts in this series.
Four years ago, we registered our now eleven year old son to play on the local recreational league baseball team. In Colorado, the baseball season begins in early April. For his team, however, that meant practice began in late December. December!
Not having grown up playing baseball, I was skeptical of how much could really be accomplished practicing in an elementary school gymnasium while it was snowing outside. What I learned was that even youth baseball teams drill every aspect of the game – turning a double play, making a proper turn at first base, setting up to make a throw to the cut-off man after catching a fly ball. The goal of (December!) practices was to prepare the team for as many real-game experiences as possible.
A late-high school or early-college student who longs to be used by God in Christian ministry might benefit from a similar approach to preparing for ministry. Intentionally “drill” the basic components of Christian ministry now.
A short article can’t be comprehensive, but let me suggest five areas of practical preparation that will equip you well for Christian ministry in almost any context – local or international, vocational or volunteer, etc.
Don’t forsake the assembling of the body.
Gather faithfully with your local church, and get good at gathering. Warmly greet visitors. Enthusiastically participate in congregational singing. Humbly listen to God’s Word with a heart that genuinely longs to be transformed by it (James 1:22). Encourage someone who is hurting, and rejoice with someone who is blessed (Rom. 12:15). Ask someone to share with you what God is doing in their life. All of this (and more) happens when the body assembles. In fact, the writer of Hebrews says that this is why the body assembles (Heb. 10:24-25). Christian ministry is more than faithful and purposeful church attendance, but it is not less!
Avoid unhealthy patterns of age segregation.
That’s a fancy way of saying, “Purposefully hang out with the older people in your church!” Don’t attend all of the college gatherings and skip the all-church, after-church watermelon feasts! That’s where ministry preparation kicks into high gear! Paul taught Titus to strive to create a culture within the church of older saints mentoring the younger saints (Titus 2). Purposefully draw out your older fellow church members on their ministry experiences. A rookie who is serious about improving his game doesn’t spend valuable hours playing clubhouse games with the other rookies; he picks the brains of the veterans.
Learn how to have natural spiritual conversations.
When was the last time you initiated a spiritual conversation with a new acquaintance, a long-time friend or a family member? Spiritual conversations are the tracks on which the trains of discipleship travel. Simple questions like “How did you become a Christian?”, “What is God teaching you from His Word right now?”, “What attribute of God is especially dear to you right now?” and “How can I pray for you?” should be normal and natural in the church, especially for those in spiritual leadership.
Develop a dirty-towel mentality toward ministry.
Jesus washed His disciple’s feet and instructed them to do the same (John 13:1-17). Paul taught the Philippian believers to regard others as more important than themselves and to look out for the interests of others (Phil. 2:3-4). John said genuine Christian love wears work boots (I John 3:17-18). So much of Christian ministry is just plain dirty, hard work. This is true of actual disciple-making ministry – taking late night emergency calls from a friend who is struggling with a life-dominating sin or driving 20 minutes out of your way to pick up a senior who can no longer drive to church. And this dirty-towel mentality is also necessary to sustain infrastructures that support disciple-making ministry – putting away chairs after a fellowship, cleaning church bathrooms, changing dirty diapers in the nursery. If God chooses to expand your personal ministry platform, the dirty-towel duties may look different, but they will not go away. In fact, they will probably be harder and dirtier. Learn to willingly accept and delight in faithfully accomplishing dirty-towel opportunities now!
Learn to suffer well.
A simple survey of the ministry development of many of our Bible heroes of the faith reveals this simple truth: God shapes spiritual difference-makers through suffering (Gen. 37-50, James 1:2-8). Even more, God is pleased to use the suffering of His most faithful servants as a platform to display His sovereignty, goodness and love (II Cor.12:1-10, I Pt. 4:12-14). A.W. Tozer famously said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” This will likely be part of your ministry preparation path as well. The Seminary of Suffering is designed to yield a graduate that is broken, humble and dependent on God – exactly the profile of a faithful Christian servant. In one short verse, Peter explains exactly what it means to suffer well: I Peter 4:19 – Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.
Back to my son’s baseball team. Some of the early drills in the elementary gymnasium (in December – while it was snowing outside) were brutal. Most of the first-time baseball players were, frankly, awful. But, four years later, all of the players have improved and the team is competitive and a lot of fun to watch. You will always be preparing for ministry while serving in ministry. So embrace the process and don’t quit! God delights in using humble, willing and diligent servants to fulfill the ministry of helping others follow His Son.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.