I was raised in a pastor’s home where my dad served at his last church for 23 years. Before becoming president of the Baptist Foundation of California, I served in the local church for more than 31 years. Let me share five principles that I believe are fundamental for producing exponential results in a long-lasting ministry.
A real and clear call from God.
If you don’t feel led by God, walk away. Do something else and save yourself from a lot of heartache and pain. Get over yourself if you think you are the only person who is on call 24/7 and expected to be an expert at many things. Many professions have similar and possibly bigger stressors. If you are in ministry, make sure you have a clear call from God.
A tolerance for criticism.
Criticism comes with the territory regardless of the size of your ministry – it is a fact of life. Petty criticism can often derail you. Early in my ministry, I tried to track down every criticism I heard and “fix” it. It was exhausting. You don’t have to solve every problem brought your way. However, you do have to be willing to hear and accept criticism. A good way to help manage criticism in a healthy way is to ask yourself two questions: 1. “What is true in the criticism?” 2. “What can I learn from it?”
The importance of a confidant.
Who are you completely honest with? Who do you trust with anything? Who really knows you? If you can’t name at least one person (besides your spouse), then find an accountability partner and start being honest and accountable with them. An accountability partner will encourage you when you are down and speak truth into your life when you need an honest perspective.
A relentless determination for the long haul.
I didn’t plan to stay in one church for 26 years. I faced many difficult moments that I begged God for an out. But today, I’m glad I stayed through the challenges. Every difficult and challenging situation that you endure raises your leadership to another level. Every time you experience pain or hardship your credibility and influence grows among your church and its leaders. As a result, people are willing to follow because you have a proven track record with them. With time, your influence will grow exponentially.
A commitment to work and strive for the Glory of God alone.
This should be obvious to people who serve in ministry, but pride often gets in the way of giving God glory. If we have strong attendance on a Sunday or the number of baptisms is up, we feel great about ourselves. The opposite is also true. If those markers drop, we feel like failures. Ministers must constantly remind themselves that their ministry is all about God and his glory. It is not about the admiration of people; it is about the single purpose of pointing people to Jesus.
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