As this year comes to a close, God has been putting something on my heart that I pray will encourage both those looking to enter the ministry as well as those who have recently begun the call of God on their life.
Looking back I can see how the years of preparation to follow God’s call has reaped wonderful rewards. However, like all things in life, some can only be experienced by on the job training. Here are a few of those examples as I close out my sixth year of full-time ministry.
- You will be called on to give council to someone who desires to end their own life
- Sometimes it comes from a family member, close friend, law enforcement, or even the individual themselves. Take time to assess the situation and the individual, if a person is in imminent harm never handle the situation on your own. Develop a file of community resources and mental health professionals. Assist with personal and spiritual counseling and never be afraid to take classes on how to deal with this difficult situation. Remember, the most powerful tool you have is hope, the hope that can only be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- You will experience death first hand
- You will be called to the bedside of a dying person, and in some cases will be there when they take their final breath in this world. Sometimes family will be present, sometimes not. You have two wonderful tools to take full advantage of; listening and prayer. You will not know what to say, and in most cases that is the right answer. It is the Holy Spirit of God that gives comfort in these seasons of life, pray with the dying, pray with the family, pray in the corner of the room as you listen to friends and family tell stories of the one they love. Pray, listen, Pray.
- You will walk into a hospital room as someone receives life-altering news.
- It might be the word cancer, it might be something else. Realize God is in control and be honest that outcome may not be what we desire. Emphasize that the grace of God is sufficient to bring them through. Now it is time to sit and listen as the individual and family work through and process the information that they’ve been given. Then as stated above, pray, pray, pray.
- You will need to comfort a parent who has lost a child or whose child’s life is in danger
- Whenever children are involved the difficulty of the situation increases one-hundred fold. Now that my wife and I are blessed with two little boys I see even more clearly the love a parent has for their children. The possibility of blaming circumstances on God becomes more likely as pain, bitterness, and anger can fester. Commit many hours of time and effort in the immediate but especially in the weeks and months to come. This could make all the difference.
- You will help a couple whose marriage is falling apart
- These are often the most difficult situations to sort through. There is no doubt that God hates divorce because of the damage that is does to families. Be careful to listen to each person and their grievances. These things rarely happen quickly and are generally a failure over a long period of time to guard the most precious of relationships. It will take time, but the power of the gospel is the ability to restore when it seems impossible and to breath new life into something that has been dead for three days! A marriage that is restored in the power of the love of God is one of the most rewarding things any minister can be involved in.
- You will realize the reality of your calling
- When each of the situations arise that I’ve outlined above, and many more I haven’t experienced; God will use these to solidify His call on your life. The visible ministry that many see pales in comparison to the rewarding work of ministering to those when no one sees.
- You will need to develop a close friendship
- For me, this person is my wife. She is someone who I can always rely one, and will provide me honesty, accountability, and advice whenever I need it. She is understanding of the extra time it takes to minister in these situations, and is always praying for me as we work through it together. None of God’s work in my life could be done without her.
- You will need a role model to follow
- I have been blessed to work alongside some of the finest pastors in the country. These men have had a profound influence on my life and have cultivated a love in me for the ministry. They provide me the room I need to grow, while providing the direction that is necessary to keep on the right track. None of us are a world unto ourselves, and the Christian life is not meant to be lived on an island. Learn from everyone, everything that you can.
- You will realize you know nothing.
- Even as I type I am wondering, What gives you the authority to write this? It is only by the grace of God that I haven’t burned my own life to the ground, let alone minister to others. The gospel has completely changed my life and is the driving force of my passion to help others. Every day I realize I know less than I did the day before.
- You will realize that God is all-sufficient
- This is something we all pay lip service to, but is fully realized in the immediacy of life. When tragedy strikes, and difficult decisions must be made it is only God who can bring us through. I do not have any of the answers, God does.
The gospel ministry is a high calling, and is not be taken lightly. I can truly say it is the most special gift I have been given. If you had asked me ten years ago as I began bible college what the ministry would be like, I’d have given very different answers. Now that I look on it ten years later, I wouldn’t change a thing.