I met a retired pastor once, and I asked him what a retired pastor does with his days. He said, “I get up every morning with no agenda and ask the Lord what He wants me to do. I listen for His answer, however long it takes. Then I just go do whatever it seemed to me that He might have said.”
He paused and said, “Steve, I have had more fruitful ministry since I retired and started living this way than I ever did when I filled my calendar up with so many meetings!”
Then he paused again and said to me in a very serious way… “I am haunted by the thought that this is how I was supposed to do my whole ministry, and I waited 50 years until I retired to begin it.”
This short encounter has never been far from my thoughts throughout the course of my ministry.
- What is it about the simple immediacy of waiting until he thought that the Holy Spirit may have given him some direction for the day that made this the richest time in the retired pastor’s life?
- What would it feel like to get to the end of my career as a pastor and realize that I may have done it all wrong the entire time?
The Lord has used this brief conversation to teach me that ministry is meant to work ONLY by way of a daily (and hourly) conversational relationship with the Holy Spirit.
If we do anything other than that, ministry ITSELF ends up lonely and empty and secular.
When I speak of a daily conversational relationship with the Holy Spirit, I am not simply referring to having devotions or studying the Bible, although you should definitely do both of those. And I am not even referring to praying in the formal sense.
When Jesus came to earth, the people said, “God has come to help His people!” (Luke 7:16) And they flocked to talk to Him and to listen to what He had to say. He spent nearly three years of conversational relationship with His people.
And when Jesus left earth, He promised that just as HE had been sent by the Father to help His people, the Father would send ANOTHER helper. And that new Helper, the Holy Spirit, would take up where He left off.
Jesus basically told the disciples, “I have told you this much… but the One that the Father is sending to you next will teach you about EVERYTHING!” (John 14:26)
Pastors, we are to do God’s work in the midst of an unbroken conversation with our new Helper, the Holy Spirit!
Here’s a little informal self-test to help you determine if you are doing ministry that is NOT based on a daily conversational relationship with the Holy Spirit, or if you are doing ministry that IS based on a daily conversational relationship with the Holy Spirit.
IF YOUR MINISTRY IS BASED ON ANYTHING OTHER THAN A DAILY CONVERSATIONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, YOU ARE…
- Often under pressure to think up what to do next.
- Always looking for something to inspire the people so that they remain faithful to the church.
- Usually “on the hunt” for good ideas to borrow from the latest books, podcasts, seminars, etc.
- Focused on the ups and downs of attendance or giving in order to see if your ideas are working.
- Usually tired from pushing.
IF (on the other hand) YOUR MINISTRY IS INDEED BASED ON A DAILY CONVERSATIONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, YOU ARE…
- Involved at least daily in informal conversation with the Spirit, asking Him what to do next because the next step is His responsibility.
- Always looking for ways to please God by obeying the Spirit, rather than looking for ways to please the people.
- Really not involved in seeking good ideas to borrow from successful ministries, but much more involved in seeking the Spirit for His direction, since it will be tailored to your exact situation.
- Resting in the realization that the ups and downs of attendance or giving are not the measure of whether the Spirit’s plans are working.
- Occasionally tired, but paradoxically you are almost always at rest.
So… which of these two pictures better describe your experience of ministry?
There are wonderful people in both situations, but the first group are honestly always teetering on the edge of exhaustion, looking for help to push that giant ball of ministry up the next hill, while the second group often seems (to the first group) to be casual or even lazy, and yet their ministries seem to be powered by Rocket Fuel!
We have begun a new year of ministry, brothers and sisters. And I (who by God’s grace have been called to be your president this year) would like for us to declare… 2016: THE YEAR OF LEARNING TO DO MINISTRY BASED ON A DAILY CONVERSATIONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT! I am calling on everyone involved in ministry… whether pastor, associate, assistant, Sunday School teacher or small-group leader, to spend this year genuinely deepening your skills at conversing every single day throughout the day with the precious Holy Spirit!
Let’s apprentice together at listening for the Holy Spirit!
What if we became a family of churches that walked in partnership with the Holy Spirit every day?
What if we became known for carefully and prayerfully waiting upon the Holy Spirit, confident that He would lead us well and that He would never lead us to violate the Scripture which He helped men to write?
I believe our ministries will experience a new infusion of Rocket Fuel! Will you join me?
-Steve Jones, President of Missionary Church