I can remember the moment when I received a call from God to dedicate my life to ministry. I was attending the World Gathering of Young Friends in Lancaster, England, and I had a life-changing encounter with the living power of God. From this time on, there was no going back. The Spirit had laid a call on my life. I had a destiny to fulfill, even if I had scarcely any idea of what this might mean.
Within days of what in many ways was my spiritual birth as a minister, I thought I was ready to embark on a great ministry across the world. I felt the power of God with me, and I was ready to share my experience to the ends of the earth. I was so excited – and totally full of myself!
Things did not work out as I had imagined. Rather than sending me across the seas as a traveling missionary, God made me wait a good six months before giving me any clear instructions. And when clarity finally did come, it was to attend seminary in Richmond, Indiana – not exactly the exciting ministry I was hoping to do in Europe or Latin America! In the years following my experience in England, God steadily pulled me away from my own grandiose ideas of what my ministry could look like. Instead, he invited me deeper into humble, rooted ministry to real people.
Looking back, I can see that I have been following the pattern that J. Robert Clinton lays out in his book, The Making of a Leader. Clinton says that in the early phases of ministry, God’s primary objective is to develop the new minister, not primarily to make a dramatic impact on those ministered to. Though the ministry will usually be focused on meeting the needs of others, it is likely that the greatest beneficiary of the work will be the emerging leader herself.
As the young minister carries out the tasks given to her by God, she will be strengthened in her spiritual gifts and encouraged to exercise them faithfully. The outcome of these efforts may have a positive effect on others, but the most powerful change will likely occur in the life of the person who is learning to be faithful to God’s leading.
It’s not my place to say where I am at in my development as a minister. My efforts at faithfulness probably still have a lot to do with my own need to learn and grow. Yet, I am hopeful that as I continue to seek the purpose that God is calling me into, I am becoming increasingly fruitful in having a positive impact on those around me. Rather than being so full of myself and what I can accomplish, I hope that my attention is increasingly directed towards what God is able to do in the lives of those I seek to serve. As I work to energize and equip the emerging ministers all around me, I pray that the Spirit will give me a ministry that truly blesses others, building them up as they grow in Christ.
What is your own experience of growing in faithfulness and fruitfulness? How does the ministry you participate in impact your own life, and the lives of others? What are the ways that God is preparing you to have a positive impact on those around you, and how might you encourage others in their journey in the way of Jesus?