Today, there are zillions of different kinds of ministries and just as many ways to do ministry. When I first felt God tugging at me to do something, it wasn’t that easy because basically in 1988 that meant I would go back to school to learn to be a pastor, youth leader or other church worker. A lot has changed in just a few years.
But I believe because the world is changing, the Lord wants to position His people strategically in front of those that so desperately need Him. He is calling people into ministry fields in virtually every walk of life where there are people. He is giving lawyers, doctors and nurses, contractors, people having struggled through divorce, drugs and other addictions, gangs, human trafficking, and those that have come through childhoods plagued by abuse and molestation. He is taking us any way He finds us, then quickly putting us to work in the kingdom.
In America we get behind a western century, western culture mindset, which isn’t always scriptural. Sometimes this is true that you need a college degree in law, medicine or counseling to be dovetailed into the exact ministry God has for you.
Other times, like the new testament, you hear the gospel today, come to know Jesus and truly you have everything you need to share Jesus with someone else. He changed you.
What is ministry? Whether you are conscious of it or not, ministry is simply answering the Isa 6 call of God. Isa 6:8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
Whether you are doing something as a single individual, or as a group, ministry is any time you give to serve others. For 99% of Americans, ministry is a volunteer effort. Let’s take some examples.
Ministry in church work is everything from cooking for VBS in the kitchen of your church to preparing as a teacher. For some it’s taking a particular age group out in the community to do evangelistic work, do back-yard Bible Clubs, put on a health fair with your church doctors and nurses or change the oil in cars for single moms on Saturday mornings. Without going outside the walls of your church there are umpteen ways to serve others.
Some people, depending on the church and how missional it is or simple based on what God has put in them, venture out to community ministries to volunteer with a local food pantry, pregnancy crisis center, abuse shelter, transient shelter, thrift store, medical clinic, divorce recovery group or celebrate recovery group. It could be a cancer or Alzheimer’s group.
Most people start in ministry fields here, but not necessarily. Ministry is as individualized as the person. The call to each of us, “who will I send and who will go for me” is a personal call and your reply might be based on your growing knowledge of just what Jesus has done for you.
God loved you so much that He sent…………….. That means something different to different people. It means something different based on your relationship with the Lord. It means something different based what God has saved you out of.
Some of the most dynamic people in ministry are those who, like Paul, have been saved from a life of drugs, alcohol, wrong decisions, wrong sexual lifestyles or people who have been in prison. We know what God has saved us from.
We can’t buy one drop of Jesus blood. We can’t do enough things in all our life to earn one drop of Jesus blood, but ministry is knowing how much Jesus loves us and it is simply our response to that love.
When someone loves me, I respond to that love. I love them in return and I’ve learned love is a verb. I am always demonstrating my love. Think of true ministry as simply demonstration of your love for Christ. Often a person’s depth of ministry is based on their growing relationship and love towards their Jesus.
Some people at some point, want to step out into a place of both service and demonstration of their love for Christ by entering into some type of Christian service work. At one time in the past, this literally meant you would leave home and go on a foreign mission field somewhere. But now the Lord has opened doors for full time missions in hundreds if not thousands of venues here and abroad.
Not everyone finds themselves at this crossroads and I don’t feel it’s right or wrong that you do or don’t. It’s certainly not a measurement of love for Christ either. The fact is, God uses people in all types of occupations in ministry. But just as evident, there are some, who feel this inner calling. They think about it, some worry about it, but as long as you have that vibrant relationship with the Lord, you feel that constant tugging that ministry is ahead for you. Full time- stepping out on some type of faith or something. So this next little section is devoted to anyone who might be at that crossroads. What might it look like. I feel a tugging (maybe??) What am I suppose to do about it.
What I am going to say next, I really need you to hear it correctly. I know people who have been so willing to be obedient, they have so wanted God to move on their behalf, they have sold all their possessions expecting God to move for them and put them on a mission field somewhere. Two years later, they were still looking, disillusioned and feeling bad towards the Lord. I’m not saying God doesn’t honor our faith sometimes, but I’ve learned a large part of ministry is obedience. God invites me to join Him in His work and I join Him following Him the entire way.
Please don’t see this as criticism for anyone that this has happened too, but there are people who are so passionate we step out on what we think is faith, but maybe we want to lead and expect God to follow. Maybe the process is learning to rely on Him, follow Him, trust in Him, and Surrender to Him. Somewhere in that, we are lost to ourselves and we let Him fill us, work through us and we are no longer limited to our limitations, but His. He does mighty things through us.
My call for ministry developed out of delighting in the Lord. This is a story in itself how I fell in love with the Lord, but it was out of that love relationship, that my response was being open to His will in my life. I remember how passionately I prayed that prayer of Isa 6. Here am I Lord, Let me, Use me.
The Lord gave me the idea of a classroom of grade school children. The teacher needs some paper or crayons or something and she asks, who will go to the office for me to get these. If there are 30 children, 30 hands go up. Not only that, they all want to wave more frantically than the other to be the teachers attention to be chosen.
When God has Isaiah standing before Him, He almost acts like He is in that grade school setting talking to a class of 30 students. Who will go? Who will serve? Isaiah might not have even been able to talk as the Biblical response for being before the Lord is you are layed prostrate with no energy to speak. The Lord said what He said almost like He was looking out over 30 students.
But whether Isaiah could speak, I believe he had his inward hand up high, waving as frantically as possible saying Here Lord, Use Me. Use Me Lord!!!!, Let Me Lord!!!!!. That was my attitude and response to a “t”.
I remember in March going to the front of my church at invitation time. I said I feel called into ministry. I don’t see anything. Everything in front of me is black. Then I did something. I took one step forward and said, I am taking my first step of faith today. But if you the church don’t pray for me, nothing is likely to happen. I need the Lord to show me and I need you to pray for me.
At this time I had a job. I worked with my family and I was satisfied. I was happy. In fact, they needed me and I felt I couldn’t walk away from them, so this was to be a part time effort.
About 3 months later, I became aware that people were going church to church to church taking advantage of them for food and other helps during the month. I learned that a brand new Second Harvest Food Bank had opened in a neighboring city and I had a pickup and could get food there and bring it back to our town to do a food pantry.
I talked to the area churches and asked if I could do this on their behalf, meaning, if I got food, they would send people to us to serve. They thought that was a good idea. I started using the bedroom of our home, until the landlord about a year later threatened to kick us out if we didn’t move the food pantry somewhere else.
Up to now I had used my tithe money to purchase all the food. This was a part time effort for me and for 8 years. Now I was being forced out of our comfortable surroundings. How in the world could I afford a business space for a food pantry? The answer came when someone offered to rent a store front on a side street, 30 by 40 for $100 a month. The building had 3 light bulbs, no plug ins, but for $15 more, electric was included. There was no bathroom and no water.
But a local church offered to pay the rent and our first monthly giver began helping. The bigger space was in a neutral location which meant we could literally serve our county, draw many more volunteers and begin seeing some small donations come in.
After 2 years, we began seeing challenges. People needed food at odd times and no one was at the food pantry. We needed a place open during normal hours through the day on a consistent basis. I started going everywhere I could find anyone doing ministry and found some ministries were using thrift stores as a base for income. We were just hoping if we could open a store, it would serve to have someone open in the morning, pay the rent and utilities and then the food pantry could take a back section without incurring any further need for donations. We began to advertise. 100 pennies out of every dollar donated buys food and goes in someones food box. It began to work.
8 years came and went. We hadn’t grown by leaps and bounds, mostly just small steps at a time. When we started the thrift store, I borrowed money and purchased the fixtures for this tiny store. We had a rough start and two years later, were 6-9 months behind on turning in sales tax and payroll tax. It looked like the end. Our manager had left to stay with a sick father and the person in the interim had finished killing business.
The board met to shut down the ministry, but we ended up praying and putting it in God’s hands and trying again. We interviewed for a manager and God sent someone from Florida who had managed a successful thrift store. In 3 months, we had paid all bills and were in the black. My tithe and a few church gifts each month continued to purchase food.
We continued to grow. We had started a county-wide Christmas program and a couple of other programs, but our manager left and the manager we brought on killed sales again. God sent in 3 girls who not only turned sales around, once again, but they doubled sales.
8 years had come and gone, and our family business was closing. At exactly the same time, the home I was renting, the owner died and it was sold forcing me to move. The family had rented me this old Victorian colonial 2 story home for $125 a month. Could I survive?
The ministry was at a point of needing a director, but we had never figured a way to afford one. There was no free money to direct towards another salary. The board decided they had to hire a director. They only offered $400 a month for 2 years. No one else would take it and it looked like I was stuck with the job, but I did learn God was faithful every month. Money would come from usual sources and I never missed a payment, was never late and God always supplied. The 3rd year, the board increased the salary to $800 a month, but by October they were out of money so for 3 months, I didn’t get anything. But never did God let me down.
By now we had a couple of vans and I was the person who had always gone to get food and unload it. I did most of the heavy work and my weekends were spent driving to homes and picking up yard sales from people.
We opened another headquarters in Sneedville in Hancock County, Tennessee’s most impoverished county where 1/3 of the residents were out of work. That’s a whole story in itself but we thought we were going to have to close the center, but God turned it around and we then outgrew 3 ministry centers and purchased the one we’re in now.
In 2001, we started looking for a larger ministry center in Rogersville. We had grown to where we would have volunteer banquets and sometimes 25 to 30 people would come. It was a grand time and the 3 girls were running the store and making some money. But people would come to get food and the food ministry so grew, they would block the street and police were being called to give tickets.
There is so much we’re missing but these are highlights to show that we’ve gone through years of struggle and long hours, no money, but God has always been faithful and never let us down.
A much larger building (2 story, 22,000 sq ft) a block away was being bid off from a bankrupt national furniture company. We stepped out on faith to purchase it and did. Miracle after miracle happened. Nearly 350 people helped us on move day and moved everything out in 5 hours and then had the store ready to open for business by 5pm that afternoon.
Another several months passed and we decided to have a dedication and ask local pastors to pray a blessing over the building. The day of the dedication, I had just completed a 40 day fast, and God sent a couple from a town 60 miles away who we only knew their names. They had come that week and paid off the balance of our building so our $250,000 building was now free and clear.
Now just a short time later, the ministry has grown to serve nearly 100,000 people a year, employee to some degree 32 staff and utilize 400 local volunteers and 1,300-1,500 mission team members from some 35 churches from around the nation to do home repairs and other services. We are giving away a million pounds of food each year and we value the goods and services provided at about $3.5 million dollars.
Keys to Ministry:
But I promised to give some keys for ministry. Let’s see if we can look at some that are most important.
- How do you know you are being called? The idea of working for God becomes your heart’s desire. Often people in ministry make far less than their counterparts in the real world. Money is no longer the motivator or the determining factor.
- So does God speak to you, draw a picture for you are what? He could speak to you, but most people hear a message that convicts them, they read a scripture or have a quiet time with God or see other people in ministry, all of which are God ways to draw people to His heart. All of these are ways God speaks to our hearts.
- God wants relationship more than service. Don’t ever let your service get in the way of your love for Jesus. He wants relationship and out of that you will walk in His favor and be blessed. There will be times when He is all you have and if you have that relationship, you won’t have to worry about whether your blessings will eventually arrive.
- Never let yourself get in a place you don’t depend totally on the Lord. Ministry is not a job. It is being empowered by an Almighty God to do His work on this earth. It is an honor and privilege to work for Him. Every day surrender to Him. Every day let Him fill you and every day let Him amaze you at what you see Him do through you.
- Always be careful to give glory back to Him for everything He accomplishes through our hands.
- Don’t sell what you have and wait. Rather, begin where He shows you, whether in a church, a community ministry or starting your ministry. Start part time or maybe you land a job in an established ministry that is full time. Be faithful. Be diligent. Hard work pays off. Don’t work for others, but rather work for the Lord.
- If you are doing a ministry that someone else does, visit every ministry you can find doing the same thing. Talk to them. Learn from them. If you follow them and cut down on mistakes, you can probably accomplish in 5 years what it took them 15 years to accomplish.
- I’ve seen a lot of ministry people break themselves down in ministry. There are smart ways to approach things and less than smart ways. Eat right, Exercise right, Rest right. Take good care of your body as ministry pulls things out of you, you didn’t know you had to give. Learn what your boundaries are. There is only so much you can do and so much you can give. “Burn-out is real” Some people never get over it. Some ministries die because of it.
- Learn to find places and times to escape.
- Speaking of the things in #3 above. If at all possible, protect yourself early on. Make decisions that are valuable. One of mine was not taking phone calls at home. You can call my office and you can call my cell (if I can remember to turn it on- oops forgot today) but I won’t answer my home phone. I would have no rest. Depending on what your ministry might be about, you might have to have degrees of protection from those you serve. This only means you try to put into place something that screens who can get to you. People needing you will not hesitate to soak all the life you have to give out of you. I really feel I need to know when I have life to give, and let God lead me as who to give it too. It doesn’t in any way I’m cut off from those I serve, it simply means, I make choices based on my energy and life levels when to connect with needs. When I’m used up for the day, I have to quit until tomorrow. I’ve not always done this, but keep it in mind as you grow. You always have in your mind what you are willing to give in service to others. But I promise, when people start demanding on you and draining your life out of you, they will take more than you every dreamed about and many become bitter and quit or loose their health.
- God might use grants, federal funds, or other funding, but always depend on God as your source. God can supply money from many directions and only through your dependence on Him will you see those funds come when they are most needed.
- Constantly give your ministry back to Him. Always be looking to train your staff and board of directors to take over if you got hit by a bus. The ministry is like a child and you don’t want the child to die if something happens to you. Begin early to build in the success.
- Success in ministry comes too as you sell responsibility and ownership. You first have to sell the fact that your audience is responsible for those you serve. You normally can find this in scriptures so you are having God speak to them from His word. But then you sell ownership. You can only do this if you understand that even though God gave you a ministry, it doesn’t below to you, it belongs ultimately to God. If so and you don’t feel you own what you manage, you can sell the ownership to others. I might say something like- Who owns Of One Accord? God entrusted it to a board of directors representing the churches of our community. That’s you. We tell our people we represent you the churches of our community. If there is always enough food to give away, it reflects on you. If we never have a good selection of food, it reflects on you. Fortunately you are making sure there is always enough.