Blogs,  Vic Stanley

For The Love of Others Part II

Written by Victor Stanley Jr.

 

Introduction

“No one presumes to teach an art that he has not first mastered through study. How foolish it is therefore for the inexperienced to assume pastoral authority when the care for souls is the art or arts.”[1] These are the words of St. Gregory the Great written in late 6th century in his book Liber Regulae Pastoralis; or Book of Pastoral Rule. In this book he lays out what it means to sit in a position of leadership and authority, to care for souls, and to live as an example to others. It is a book that all those who step into any type of ministry should read. One simple thing that has much gravity to it is St. Gregory’s assertion that ministry is focused on the “care of souls.” This focus should ground anyone’s philosophy of ministry and serves to shape what we will call the meaning, motives, essentials, and methods of ministry.

In Part 1 I wrote about the meaning and motives of ministry, now let us look at the essentials of ministry and the methods of ministry.

 

Essentials of Ministry

Dave Earley and Ben Gutierrez in their book Ministry Is…: How to Serve Jesus with Passion and Confidence lay out what they see as ten essentials of ministry. Indeed, these ten are insightful and very helpful. However, I’m going to focus on what I see as two essentials of ministry, namely death and life, that is dying and living. These two are pulled from 2 Corinthians 4:7-18.

In 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 the Apostle Paul says that we always carry Jesus’ death in our flesh so that His life may also be manifest in us.[1] What I see here is a need to put to death those things that would hinder, harm, or derail our ministry, and to raise to life those things that would invigorate and build our ministry. All of Earley and Gutierrez’s essentials can be placed under these two umbrellas of dying and living. Let us take their essentials and categorize them while showing how they relate to either dying or living.

Earley and Gutierrez first essential is “Saying ‘Here Am I. Send Me.’”[2] This requires a person to cast aside their own will and submit herself to the will of God, it falls under dying. Second is “Responding to the Call of God.”[3] This is a person submitting to God so that God may bring to life a spirit of trust and obedience within him; falls under living. Third, “Living a Life of Prayer.”[4] In prayer we seek God, we commune with Him and ask Him to put to death in us those things that stand between Him and us, and we ask Him to cultivate and bring to life the fruit of the Spirit in us; this falls under both dying and living. Fourth, “Maintaining an Eternal Perspective.”[5] Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:18 that we “look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” As we crucify our flesh our focus moves from the temporal life we live and instead become focused on the life everlasting, this again requires both dying to self and the world and living for Christ and His kingdom. Fifth, “Refusing to Coast.”[6] We cannot become complacent and dormant in our ministry, rather we must let Jesus life be manifested in us injecting us and our ministry with a vitality that propels us forward with vigor and passion; this is living. Sixth, “Loving People.”[7] To love people we must see them as greater than ourselves (Phil. 2:3). This means we must put to death our selfish ambitions, conceit, self-centeredness, we must die to self and live for others; this falls under dying. Seventh, “A Life without Compromise.”[8] Paul says in verse 13 of 2 Cor. 4, “that we believe and so we speak,” and in verse 16 he says that “we do not lose heart.” To live without compromise is to live into the promises of God, promises of hope, of joy, of peace, of life everlasting. It is to live grounded in the Word and carried along by the Spirit, this falls under living.

The eighth essential put forth by Earley and Gutierrez is, “Loyalty to the Truth.”[9] Paul says in verses 8 through 9 of 2 Cor. 4 that, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” No matter what comes our way we stay committed to Christ and His Church, we press onward continuing to live for the glory of God. We do not let these things bring an end to us, we submit ourselves to the Spirit because we know that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The Spirit that is life gives life to us, and we stay loyal to the Truth of whom the Spirit testifies, namely Jesus the Christ; this is living. Ninth, “Living Up to Your Name.”[10] We each have a unique name that identifies us, but we must remember that in Christ we are unified, we our one. This does not mean that our individual identities are lost, but rather that our individual identities flow out of our corporate identity. For one to truly live up to his or her name he or she must recognize that it is our name, that his or her name is grounded in our name. This requires putting to death an individualism that separates, elevates, and isolates, and living out a communalism that strengthens, loves, and holds accountable; this is dying and living. Earley and Gutierrez’s final essential is, “Keeping the Obedience Bar High.”[11] Simply put, this is living according to the Word, it is living the life Christ has called us into and not abandoning the faith we claim. Jesus says that if we love Him we will keep His commandments, this is truly living.

Remembering ten different essentials and the idea behind them is difficult. Remembering two essentials and taking everything else and putting them under one or the other, or both, is much easier. I believe that as I continue in my ministry alongside my brothers and sister with whom I am journeying, I can take the principles and truths I learn that shape me and examine them to determine if they require me either dying to self, living for Christ, or both.

 

Methods of Ministry

While all of this theory on how and why to do ministry is great, there has to be a practical methodology. The meaning, motives, and essentials of ministry must eventually culminate into actually doing ministry. At LOJ Ministries we have three methods that work in tandem with one another when it comes to practical implementation of our ministry model. We practice love and humility through prayer, teaching through doing, and cultivating a culture of service.

Love and humility through prayer is the first of our methods and establishes the foundation of which we build the other two. I like to say that prayer ought to be the foundation, roof, and walls of one’s life and ministry, everything else should be housed inside a life of prayer. If we truly love someone, or ones, we will make it a point to commit those persons and our relationships with them to God in prayer. We will petition God to bless them, heal them, teach them, guide them, discipline them, and establish them in Him. We will seek God first in prayer before we insert our own opinions and criticisms into those people’s lives. Out of love we will consider others more significant than ourselves and continually lift them up in prayer, which will in turn redirect our hearts toward God’s will for their lives instead of our own. In this our love for those persons will grow as we come to see them through God’s eyes and not our own. It takes humility to put others before ourselves in prayer, to lift up their needs first rather than our own. It requires humility to think on the lives of others and to call down blessing upon them when our own lives may be riddled with pain and darkness. The more we adopt a posture of sacrificial love that places others before ourselves in prayer, the more humility will permeate our hearts, minds, and souls.

Teaching through doing is our second method of doing ministry. This connects back to the Meaning of Ministry section where I argued that a true and full education comes through experience and practice, not schooling. James K.A. Smith poses the question: “What if the primary work of education was the transforming of our imagination rather than the saturation of our intellect?”[12] Sitting in a classroom learning about Cultural Intelligence provide one with a bunch of information, going to Nepal and living in the Nepali culture transforms one’s being in the world, it reshapes her understanding of people and customs, family and culture. We mentor and train those who come to work for and with us, but we do that by placing them right in the mix of things while keeping an outstretched arm available for them to grab hold to as we walk them through. We can inform a person endlessly about theology, sociology, philosophy, etc., but until they actually have to live those things out how much do they actually know?

Cultivating a culture of service is our third method of doing ministry. Through prayer we develop an attitude and posture of love and humility towards others. We are taught through doing so that we do not simply speak about it, but we be about it. This love, humility, and practice flow into an ethos of serving others rather than our own interests. In meetings with churches and other Christian organizations I instruct all of my people to ask one question, and one question only: What do you need and how can we serve you? LOJ’s mission statement is: “Strengthening churches and Christians around the world to transform their communities.”[13] Our mission statement makes it clear that we have no agenda to build something of our own, we seek only to empower churches and Christians to fulfill their callings, to influence and metamorphose their communities. We cultivate a culture of service by not starting with the thinking of how can you help us achieve our goals, but instead how can we serve you that you might satisfy your mission.

 

Conclusion

Ministry, in Greek διαχονεω (dee-ak-on-eh-o), means to serve. We serve by educating and mentoring those who are coming along behind us, we show them how to practice the faith and be shaped by those practices. We serve by demonstrating how the Gospel is suffused throughout every minute part of one’s life, that it is life. We serve by calling a person into a kingdom of people who are dying to self even as they live the life Christ has infused them with. We serve by praying for other, instructing them through transformational doing, and by cultivating an ecosystem of service to others. St. Gregory the Great, towards the end of his book offers the following advice and insight:

“For almighty God perfects, to a great extent, the minds of spiritual directors but leaves them partially imperfect, so that when they radiate with extraordinary virtues, they may lament with disgust their own imperfections and never take pride for their great achievements while they continue to labor against minor things. For because they are not strong enough to conquer these little things, they should never dare to take pride in the good works that they have done.”[14]

 

John Piper’s sentiment when he says “Brother’s, we are not professionals,” fits nicely with St. Gregory’s insight. We are mere men and women who have been called to the great task of leading by serving others. We are flawed and weak, inadequate and ill-equipped. It is Christ in us who accomplishes these great things, we must be willing vessels, for we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not us (2 Cor. 4:7).

 


[1] Pope Gregory I, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopulous, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press “Popular Patristics” Series, no. 34 (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007) 29.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Containing the Old and New Testaments, New classic reference ed., ESV text ed., 2011 (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2011).

[2] Dave Earley and Ben Gutierrez, Ministry Is: How to Serve Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, Tenn: B&H Publishing Group, 2010) V.

[3] Earley and Gutierrez, V.

[4] Earley and Gutierrez, V.

[5] Earley and Gutierrez, V.

[6] Earley and Gutierrez, V.

[7] Earley and Gutierrez, VI.

[8] Earley and Gutierrez, VI.

[9] Earley and Gutierrez, VI.

[10] Earley and Gutierrez, VI.

[11] Earley and Gutierrez, VI.

[12] Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, 17.

[13] Taken from The Bylaws of LOJ Ministries, revised 2018.

[14] Pope Gregory I, The Book of Pastoral Rule, 211-212.

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