May 5, 2010

My 10 Ministry Fears

I recently had the privilege to speak to the pastors and my spiritual brothers here in the Tallapoosa Baptist Assocation. I felt compelled to share with them a little of my heart regarding ministry. I gave them what I call "My 10 Ministry Fears". I will share them with you here.

1. Preaching without Depth - I have found it far too easy to preach with little preparation in the hard work of exegesis or in the agony of prayer. It is easy to stand on a platform and give spiritual advice. It is difficult to say "Thus says the Lord."

2. Church Growth without the Gospel - I was blessed to serve for 13 years in a fast-growing church with one of the most gifted staffs in the state. However, planning programs and doing public worship that attracts people is easy. Bringing the gospel to life is difficult. I know too well how easy it is to sit in a conference room and plan an event and never ask what it has to do with the gospel or the Great Commission.

3. Personal Success without Spiritual Intimacy - Unfortunately, I also know too well what it is like to have a successful growing ministry at the cost of my personal intimacy and time in God's Word.

4. Choosing Competition over Cooperation - Whenever we pastors get together, we always play the numbers game. We read the yearly report in the state paper regarding baptisms and CP giving and see where we stand up with the other churches. Unfortunately, billions of people have no access to the gospel and thousands in our community lack relevant ministry, but as long as we are in the top 5 in baptisms, we take delight.

5. Discipleship without Life Change - It's easy to have a program with Bible study and classes that focus on fulfillment in the Christian life. It's difficult and messy to actually disciple people - to focus on true accountability, focused prayer, and spiritual maturity. If we have a "discipleship" class and someone attends for at least one year and does not have the ability to personally disciple another person, then that discipleship class is a failure.

6. Leadership without Wisdom - Our culture has brought several advances in the marketplace regarding leadership. Much of it is very applicable to the work of the church. I have been personally challenged by John Maxwell and Seth Godin's writings in addition to Jim Collins' Good to Great. However, our leadership advances need to be grounded in the wisdom and plan of God. Just because you are the leader of an organization does not mean that you are the smartest person in the organization or the most sensitive to the Spirit.

7. Church Success without Family Failure - I have been more personally convicted about my lack of truly discipling my three boys and lack of prayer with my wife. The landscape of ministry is littered with men who faithfully served God's bride and neglected their own. That is spiritual adultery. I can't make disciples of all nations if I can't make disciples in my own home.

8. Ministry without Vision - It's far too easy to spend my ministry focusing on my church and our budget. The vast majority of churches spend 95% of their budget on internal ministry and very little on accomplishing God's global ministry. It's too easy to be happy with baptizing my few and not focus on sending dozens out to the ends of the earth. My former pastor taught me to pray that God will give me a vision so big that if He isn't in it, I are doomed to fail.

9. Putting on a Ministry Mask – One of the things that makes my stomach turn as a minister is the mask that each and every one of us put on. Ministry is full of inauthentic, insecure, and shallow leaders that are overly concerned with the opinions of their fellow ministers than being authentic. This inauthenticity bleeds down through the church and fills our pews with people wearing their own masks and robs the church of biblical community and depth.

10. Developing an Unteachable Spirit - I have been known for a while as a person who reads a lot. The reason is that I want to always have a teachable spirit. I have seen too many ministers who pride themselves that the read "God's Word", but little else. They believe that because of their comfort level, they have arrived at doing ministry and don't need to learn anything else. This creates a spiritual sedentariness that breeds apathy, jealousy, negativity, and stalls vision.

Those are some of my biggest fears. What are yours?