Saturday, September 13, 2014

Longevity in Ministry ~ The essentials? Or merely superfluous? ~

Several weeks ago, I started a series that I'm hoping will be both a challenge and encouragement to you, based off of a sermon by the senior pastor at my sending churchThe first post focused on that oxymoron that the God is sovereign, but that men are also responsible. Imagining those two truths as a horseshoe where, as mere humans, we only see and comprehend the ends. God, on the other hand, looks at the whole and thus can see how two things that appear contradictory do actually work together. The second post considered one of the ends of that horseshoe: trusting God, not only because He is sovereign - but because He is sufficient in that sovereignty. The third post explored the other end of that horseshoe and specifically what God's Word says about obedience and abiding in Christ.

A 2003 study on missionary retention/attrition observed that the number of missionaries leaving missions for preventable reasons is increasing. One of the interesting details that they noted in their survey based research: 
"...high retention agencies placed more weight on the selection criteria for screening purposes than low retention agencies. [Additionally] High retention agencies placed a significantly greater weight on: a) Previous church ministry experience [and] b) The demonstration of mature Christian character and spiritual disciplines of prayer and devotional life."
According to this study (and not surprisingly), longevity in ministry correlated with the consistent application of key Bible based principles, particularly a heart inclined to ministry as demonstrated by consistently working to serve others before ever heading to the mission field, lives seasoned by persistent trust and God's grace, and a determination to not allow ministry to overwhelm private devotion to one's individual relationship with God.

This means that those who "started well, ran well and finished well" could not only recite the importance of what I'm listing below, but they also demonstrated a history of persevering in priorities such as:
1. growing an increasingly intimate relationship with the Lord by consistently, daily and throughout the day, seeking Him; 
2. praying without ceasing (steadfastly, continuously, patiently, powerfully); 
3. striving to maintain a good balance between personal growth and service or ministry; 
4. welcoming accountability; 
5. committing to marriage and family;  
6. choosing to be teachable even in difficult circumstances; and 
7. determining to be a genuine team player.
As this series continues, each successive post will target these priorities as key principles identified in God's Word with the goal of helping missionaries and others seeking to serve God under challenging circumstances "hang in there," allowing God to continue working in and through them to better love God and love people.

Rather than diving in immediately, however - I'm curious....

What do you think?

Are those priorities listed above essential for longevity? 
Are some more important than others? 
Would you add additional ones? 
Are some priorities easier to maintain than others?
Which do you find the most difficult?

Series: Longevity in Ministry

Please note: 
Italicized words are from my notes or from the guided notes in the church bulletin
and are, to the best of my recall, actual content from the sermon.
The rest comes from my continued study and meditation prompted by that sermon.

To listen to the actual sermon "Start, Run and Finish Well," click here.


  1. Thanks for this series, Richelle. I'm just seeing it now! Of the list above, I'd say #1, seeking God daily and growing in relationship to Him is most important. Honestly, without my daily quiet time, there is NO WAY I could have survived 14 years in the MidEast. No. Way. It kept me alive and growing when the going got tough.

    I don't really know what other fields are like, but I think a lot of people come to Turkey without realizing how difficult, excruciating, and depressing it's going to be. That said, there's a lot of joy, but you have to get through the excruciating first! Most workers here leave after 2 or 3 years. They just didn't know it would be this hard...I don't really know how you can prepare.... I'm interested in hearing what others think...

    1. i agree 100% that without seeking God each day - although to be totally honest, i can't say that for me, it is always a deep time of study in His Word and a quiet spirit before Him... some days it is a desperate prayer while standing in the shower so that the water noise blocks out all other distraction... or the peace that comes as He reveals Himself afresh to me through creation... or something similar - is imperative.

      one thing i've not delved in to - but i think in general, we in the west tend to think of ourselves as capable and independent folks, that if we just work hard enough, we'll be able to do whatever it is that we think we should or need to do. i know i came to the field convinced in what i could do. is that a whole lot different than those who came together to build their own tower that reached into heaven? we aren't prepared to suffer. we aren't prepared to fail. and when we do, we figure we must not be cut out for the work... we are doing something wrong. yet that's now what i read in God's Word. i just finished studying through 1 and 2 Peter. 1 Pet is all about perseverance in the face of suffering, persecution, etc. 2 Peter is all about discerning true teaching from false teaching. Peter clearly expected Jesus followers to face suffering, persecution, challenges, failure... and to keep on even in the face of that because that is when it becomes obvious to self and to the world - only God could do this.

      i, too, am looking forward to hearing others' comments.