Saturday, June 13, 2015

Longevity in Ministry ~ Hoping to resume an abandoned but not forgotten study

Last summer, I began a series that has certainly been challenging and searching for me.

Then life happened: a transitioning college student, four high schoolers with their crazy schedules and homework load, working at a local pregnancy resource center, volunteering at a wildlife rehab clinic with a few of my children and teaching English as a second language (ESL)… I managed to keep up with all of that and blogging… Then hubby traveled for a couple of months and I enrolled in an online course to get my ESL certification.

Something had to give and that something ended up being blogging. I’ve missed writing and I’ve been wanting to finish up the final posts scheduled for this series. 

Since it has been so long, however, I decided to do a “recap” first and summarize some of the key points from each post to date. Clearly, this will help me as I look at finishing the series. But hopefully, it will also summarize what I’ve shared so far and pique your interest for the final two to three posts remaining. 

A sermon preached by the senior pastor at my sending church provoked this series. My notes start with these words: 

"Like longevity in life, some basic things are needed - 
right genes [to be a child of God], right diet [God's Word], 
right exercise [involvement in ministry] 
and right environment [a place in God's community - the Church]. 
The Apostle Paul set it as his goal to walk worthy and finish well. So should we!"

Yet what does the practical outworking of this look like in real life - not just a paragraph of pretty words in a complex simile?

Using my sermon notes and through further study, I’ve identified seven essential priorities that help protect those in ministry, particularly cross-cultural ministry, from burnout and the temptation to sin... ones that direct and give hope for the future... ones that remind that all is grace and a gift from God.

Those priorities are (the last three are the ones we’ll be looking at over the summer):

1. Continuously and consistently seeking the Lord - It is so obvious, so simple - to increasingly grow in intimacy with God, we must walk with Him. It must become a habit in both senses of the word - a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up, as well as my regular dress or attire (thing of a nun’s habit).

2. Praying without ceasing - steadfastly, continuously, patiently, powerfully - Satan has blinded God's people so that prayer is trivialized and less important than some other priorities. We forget the truth that the Spirit laid upon the heart of Oswald Chambers and which he later penned: "...prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work."

3. Balancing personal growth, rest and ministry - We must minister to our family, our neighbors, our community, within our official ministries... and at the same time allow God and others to minister to us. Sometimes that means accepting help…

4. Welcoming accountability - Accountability means submitting to, as an obligation and with personal willingness, the responsibility to report and to explain one's words, actions, plans, etc. Accountability-done-right works because it gives hope, and “hope is the only thing stronger than fear” (President Snow, in The Hunger Games).

5. Committing to marriage and family;

6. Choosing to be teachable even in difficult circumstances; and

7. Determining to be a genuine team player.

Underlying the practice of EACH the above priorities are two truths: 1) we can trust God, not only because He is sovereign - but because He is sufficient in that sovereignty, and 2) Our obedience has to be the grace based obedience of trusting faith - we work out what God is working in.

My pastor shared an illustration that I found very helpful when it comes to looking at the sovereignty of God. He'd heard it, I believe, from one of his Bible teachers. 

As men and women with limited perspective and a very finite view, we look at a crazy oxymoron where God says He is divine and yet, that we are responsible. His Word teaches both. It doesn't make sense, no matter how hard we try.

But that is because we can only see as if we are the standing at the open side of an enormous horseshoe, so enormous that we cannot see the U-shaped part of the horseshoe. Human responsibility is on one of the separate ends; divine sovereignty at the other. Our perception, and rightly so if we lived our lives based only on what we see, is that those two are separated by a wide space... irreconcilable... and made of material that bends or changes shape only under great pressure or heat.

There is great danger if we decide that because we can't see how they meet, they can't... that one or the other is more true... should take more priority... than the other and therefore we can discount the other. Those who believe the whole is God's divine sovereignty risk an extreme fatalism. Those who believe the whole is human responsibility risk extreme humanism. Neither extreme pleases or honors God.

God, however, looks at that horseshoe from above. He looks down and sees the whole and how those two principles fusing together and forming a single amazing, protecting, correcting, steadying and sustaining, healing and building reality. 

Those truths - God is sovereign and man is responsible - are so important... so necessary, as we consider this issue of longevity. 

How does a horseshoe serve a horse?
  • It protects from bruising and extensive wear, 
  • It corrects or improves performance/presentation issues (i.e. stride length, overreaching, etc.), 
  • It helps steady draft or trail horses by maintaining or providing traction as they work, 
  • It is therapeutic, aiding in recovery from injury or while building strength. 
Put simply, people use them because horseshoes extend the longevity of the horse.


I’ve tried to summarize what I’ve shared so far. But I’ve also included the links below for any who would like to follow up by reading the actual post. I’m looking forward to finishing up with this series…. and for what I’m sure God still has to teach me through this study.

Series: Longevity in Ministry
horseshoe photo credit: w0LD via photopin cc
all other photos are mine
To listen to the actual sermon "Start, Run and Finish Well," click here.

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