Posted by: Philip Rushton | January 14, 2013

The Kind of Persons We Are Becoming

As a pastor I am constantly having conversations about how we can do a better job of ministering to our church and community. Most of us have a desire to make a difference. We want to have meaningful ways to serve and impact our community. There is always more we could be doing, or improvements we could make. As a result, I tend to live with a chronic sense of inadequacy.

In response to this sense of inadequacy I often try and find hope in technical solutions. If we just tried this new program, or organized things a bit differently our outcomes might be better. To be sure, we need to have these types of practical discussions. It is naive for us to say we should just pray about things and not actually do the hard work of making necessary changes to our ministry plans. However, our ability to impact the world requires more than just a technical solution.

This Saturday I had all of our small group and adult education leaders over for breakfast. We gather about 4 times a year for encouragement, training and prayer. A lot of times we have technical discussions about how to choose curriculum, how to cast a vision for our groups, how to facilitate discussions and so on. However, this time we talked about how successful ministry requires something deeper.

We considered these words from Dallas Willard:

“The people to whom we minister and speak will not recall 99 percent of what we say to them. But they will never forget the kind of persons we are. This is certainly true of influential ministers in my own past. So we must never forget that the most important thing happening at any moment, in the midst of all our ministerial duties, is the kind of person we are becoming.” Dallas Willard, The Great Omission, 124

Willard reminds us that our ability to make an impact on our world has a lot to do with our own spiritual growth. It is not enough to just start a new program, or try a new ministry technique. We need to go deeper. We need to take care of our own souls. As a group, we spent time talking about the people who have impacted us the most. Our discussion affirmed Willard’s observation. The people who impacted us the most are people of character. They were people who not only talked about God but actually lived out their faith.

This reminds me of the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 where he says:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

I find it interesting that Paul says we can do great acts of ministry like giving to everything to the poor and completely miss the point. Without love these external acts of ministry do not bring any gain. It is only when we act out of a deep sense of love for others that our actions make a difference.

In the midst of all we want to accomplish, then, let us remember that the most important thing is to for us to consider the type of person we are becoming. I am particularly encouraged by that word “becoming.” It reminds us that this is a process and a journey. We never arrive at spiritual growth, we are always on the path towards becoming more like Christ. What this means, I think, is that the priority for us in ministry is to commit to our own spiritual growth.

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