I have found that the working out of my salvation and my perceptions of theology to be most beneficial and enlightening. I am both challenged and enouraged by the task that is before me as I seek to be obedient not to my own perceptions but to the Spirit of God as He leads me through each circumstance. The principle that sticks out most to me is the complete dependence upon God and His sovereign authority that is necessary in order to truly “walk in the Spirit.”
In formulating “my theology,” I am sobered by how closely akin it is semantically to “mythology” and am persuaded by the very import of that fact of the necessity of transforming one’s theology into one’s biography. I cannot do this until I know the very basis of my faith and theology, which I will outline briefly before I detail the practical workings-out of my doctrinal beliefs.
First of all, I will most gladly and readily accept the mantle of conservatism as it applies to my doctrine. I have come to believe that many theologians have too quickly turned loose of some valuable traditional truths just because they were too uncomfortable to defend. However, I qualify my conservative doctrine by what many would consider a liberal methodology. It is interesting that what others have considered to be a liberal interpretation of God’s Word, I simply feel is the application of God’s Word to everyday life. That is the point of divergence that I feel my particular belief system has with contemporary conservatism. In short, I believe what they believe, but for the most part, I am distressed about how little of their beliefs they incorporate into the workings of life.
Knowledge without application puffs up. True knowledge comes from the Word of God which I believe to be wholly trustworthy, divinely inspired, and completely relevant. It is on this basis which I received from a Christian, God-fearing, Bible-believing home that I firmly adhere the rest of my doctrine and its practical applications which you will find below.
From childhood to the present has been quite a journey for me theologically as I have been consistently challenged to think for myself and to “rightly divide” the Word of Truth by four different expositional preachers. Interestingly enough, only one of those “expository-type” preachers was a good pastor. That fact, in itself, and my realization of that fact, has encouraged and challenged me to pray for and seek to enhance my own pastoral gifts while adhering to a textual-centered, teaching style of preaching.
- True ministry is not how much you do but who you are. When you seem to have lost your focus and may be discouraged by apparent “lack of results,” remember that your primary mission is just to love your people. A ministry is not activities; it is not innovative Bible studies. Ministry is loving your people, simply, and wholeheartedly.
- The only time “you’re not doing enough” is when you’re so busy that you have ceased being the person God wants you to be. Remember, one of the keys to being an effective minister is letting yourself be ministered to. That means making yourself vulnerable and open to God’s surgical knife and your people’s divine perceptions.
- Desired results are not always obtainable. Definitive, hoped-for results will often disappoint you. God often works in ways that we don’t understand or works in ways that we don’t see. The best results are often invisible because we look for statistics and numbers. Our rewards and our results may not be known in this life.
- Look for smiles where there were none before. Look for a springier step in a particular person.
- Look for a realized potential.
- Look for the imperceptible, for in them are borne the greatest of miracles.
- So often we overlook God’s results and miracles because we take them for granted.
“Your clothing did not wear out on you, not did your foot swell these forty years” (Duet 8.4).
- Your people will often try and make you into someone who you are not, whether it is a former staff member or an ideal, perfect pastor/youth minister/etc. Be yourself. God called you, not your imitation of someone else.
- He has simply called us to be faithful. It is not in building a huge church that favor with God is found. It is not with having the best youth group. It is not with being the most active church in your town that you find God’s favor. It is with faithfulness. He desires mercy rather than sacrifice.
- Do not be afraid to confront sin and evil when you see it rearing its ugly head among your members. You have been appointed as a watchman over your people. The sin of one has an affect on many in the body of Christ, and if not dealt with may have devastating results. Remember what happened to Achan in the Israelite camp. Men died because of his sin. In dealing with trespasses, it is important to remember that you are doing so out of love and concern for the brother/sister and the body of Christ. If you cannot deal with an individual firmly, yet lovingly, it is best to pray about the situation until you can.
- Pray about and for all things, people, and situations. Bathe every aspect of your ministry and your day in prayer. Your best ministry comes in those times away from the church. Pray that you may be ready and found to be faithful at all times.
- Listen well to others present the Word. Then examine yourself afterwards to discover if you were busy applying the truths you heard to others or if you were busy seeing what God had for you in that particular message. After all, you were there for a reason. When taking notes, take them in first person to get full impact from them. When using second person (you) or third person (he, she, they), you can always shift the blame when reading back over them. Don’t use inclusive terms (we, us). We like to bring others into our conviction with us sometimes. No one likes to face criticism, discipline, truth, alone. Responsibility and accountability don’t apply in church notes because “I” is removed. It sounds better to say “we” or “them,” but it doesn’t apply it to “me!”
- Make your ministry one of encouragement – of your people and for yourself. One cannot expect to minister to others unless you are willing to let others minister to you. In fact, you should seek out those who will critique (constructively), encourage, pray and endorse your ministry with their own. Every minister should have a host of balcony people. Balcony people are a group of Barnabases (Barnabi?) who watch from afar, cheering you on, and shouting “bravo” when most appropriate and needed. If, in your church, no balcony people exist for you, check your ministry with that of Christ’s. Then if your results reveal sincerity and earnest pursuit of righteousness in your life, pray that balcony people may be found or a door may be opened for another place of service.
- Those crazy ideas that pop into your head during the day that sound way out or liberal may inspire and revive your ministry. Do not be afraid of innovation. Covet it and seek it. If your people are willing and earnest, anything can work if you will but try it. Sometimes the greatest opportunities to reach the lost, the misguided, and the hurting are overlooked because they require risk. But didn’t Christ risk everything to reach you?
- You will never reach everyone with a scatter-shot approach, although that is how we most often teach our classes. It seems we tend to prepare a sermon/devotional/discussion designed to bring our people to a “hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
- Take, for instance, a youth group. 6-12 grades are one of the most developmental times in a human’s life, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Relevance is difficult when teaching youth because we fail to realize the very diverse ages we are attempting to reach. That is why it is necessary, when possible, to split a youth group into small group sessions, at least junior and senior high, but dividing them by grades is the ideal method or reaching them with relevancy.
- The concept of election is essential. God, in His wisdom chose one nation out of all nations through which to bless the earth. He did not choose them because of their particular spiritual abilities or their faith. He chose Abraham, and he was willing. Willingness is the key to election. You don’t want to elect someone who isn’t willing to serve.
- Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry began in earnest with His choosing of a few men among the nation of Israel through which He would build His church. Several fisherman, a tax collector, a doctor, and even a traitor were among the chosen 12.
- The concept of election is prevalent throughout scripture, yet we tend to deny its relevancy in our churches today. We seriously go about electing deacons; however, more often than not, they are not trained and thereby function inadequately to equip the local body of believers.
- What must we do to apply the truth of the doctrine of election? It is an embarrassingly simple answer. It is the responsibility of the leader. You cannot elect a chosen few simply for the sake of election and position itself, but you must train and work them so that they may be more than adequate for the position to which they have been elected. Christ himself said, “For them, I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (Jn 17.18) In other words, it is the leader who is ultimately responsible for modelling and illustrating the path that he wants his “disciples” to tread. In I Corinthians 11.1, Paul was able to boldly say, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
- It would seem, then, that the biggest reason for small group failure in our churches today is the unwillingness of our leaders to assume the awesome mantle of accountability that is required of a true “follower of Christ.” While Titus 2.7-8 tell us that “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us,” the idea of leadership in Scripture finds its completion in the Good Shepherd principle.
- A shepherd keeps watch over his flock. He knows them intimately — well enough to notice when even one is missing, and he loves them enough to search out that one that has strayed to bring him back into the fold. In summary, more time spent with fewer people equals greater lasting impact for God as long as the leader/shepherd assumes and recognizes his accountability for the flock that he has chosen.
- Multiply your ministry through strategic, intentional one-on-one discipleship with those who are ready to enter a formalized covenant relationship with you. Currently, I am using the notebook “One on One with God” as my discipling material.
- Expect opposition. You can’t and will never please everyone all the time. Do what needs to be done. Confront problems; don’t run from them. Do not be afraid to discipline errant members. But always, in all matters of discipline and opposition, allow the Holy Spirit to guide your speech and action. “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him…” Remember that Satan is on the prowl, seeking who he may devour. Do not be surprised when his schemes show up in the actions of leaders. Leaders are targets in Satan’s divide-and-conquer strategy.
- Be bold in your witness. It is presumptuous and egotistical to think that you are doing anything by witnessing to a person. Christ loves them and died for them just as He did you. When you witness, you are not being “spiritual,” you are being obedient. God is the One at work behind the scenes to bring that person to salvation, and you are just a resource that God is using to confront that person with his greatest need – to be reconciled with His Creator. So don’t hesitate or be afraid to witness. You just never know when God has been working in a person’s life to make them want to become a Christian by confessing their sins and accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior.
- “Delegation” became one of the catchwords of American society in the late 1980s and early 1990s. How fortunate that society “discovered” something that the Bible has taught for milennia! Of course, you can bet that God will never be credited with the wisdom. Acts 6.2-4 outlines the call of a minister to preach the Word faithfully and to delegate those routine areas of ministry that should be left to the laity as their ministry.
- We have a ministry of reconciliation. Literally, the word used for reconciliation in Scripture refers to the mending of broken bones. Concentrate on being a peacemaker. You do not have to compromise your convictions to reconcile.
- The main focus of our ministry should be to bring believers to maturity. If we distract ourselves by concentrating on “side” ministries, no matter how viable, we will stunt the church. Let lay people take the helm of their dreams and exercise their own spiritual gifts, and you will inevitably discover that a number of very fruitful and exciting ministries will be born. Our concentration must be on the equipping of the saints, or in bringing them to maturity.
- You equip the saints by teaching them the “meat” of the Word of God. Too many of preachers, according to John MacArthur, are delivering “sermonettes” from behind the pulpit. He says that sermonettes are great if your aim is for Christianettes. Prepare and present to your people careful and prayerful expository lessons on the solid doctrine of God’s Word. Honor the text. It will not return void when presented truthfully. As a result, your people will be naturally brought into maturity by the miraculous nourishment of God’s Word, and all other aspects of ministry will then be a natural outflow of the believers’ maturity. Preach the Word! Do not Mickey Mouse around with life issues and subjects. Preach the uncompromising Word of God unapologetically. Be bold as Christ and His apostles were bold. If you are preaching His words, His purposes will be accomplished and not your own. Maybe that’s why so many preachers have quit preaching the true Word?! Do not confuse your message with verbose meanderings. The Word of God can and will stand by itself when you let it.
- Base all you do – in the church and out – on the principles and doctrine of the Word of God. Perhaps the greatest test of a person’s faith comes when a decision must be made, whether small or large. Is that decision made in faith upon the principles taught in God’s Word, or is it made on personal initiative and preference? You can count on God’s Word being true. If someone has wronged you in a business deal, and you know they are a Christian, you have the right as an American to sue them for renumeration. However, the Bible teaches that we should not sue other believers; therefore, we should act in faith on God’s Word, though it means “losing” or “getting cheated” in the eyes of the world.
- Trust in His Word for your personal, daily, minute-by-minute life in this world, and you will not be disappointed.
- When you become concerned about those who are not in your church, then you have begun to sense the heart of Christ beating within you. At that time, begin to preach to the empty pews — to those who are not there — and Christians will suddenly begin to invite their friends to fill them so that they may hear a word of grace for sinners.
- Discipline is essential for Christians. A church that is scared to discipline each other is a church that does not realize how much God hates sin. Much of the ineffectiveness that the church experiences today is due in large part to the lack of discipline. The world does not see any difference between us and them! Only fear of the Lord and a sense of accountability will solve that. Each church member must realize that his personal life is subject to discipline should it stray into sinful living that harms the witness of the church.
- One of the main problems that we experience is that we are too American to be Christian. We are too concerned with our “rights” as Americans and not concerned enough with our responsibility as Christians. One of those responsibilities is the giving and receiving of discipline.
Beware of the current “cult of softness,” which is the attitude that no one must get hurt, not even when they hold the most absurd religious opinions. One must look for the best in everything. Whether the person is a spiritist, someone who speaks in tongues, a Jesuit, or a modernist, please don’t upset them by talking about controversial matters! That is the new cult of softness. — Kurt E. Koch